Chapter 30 - The Crown Prince
I froze. He was glaring at me. ‘Did he recognize me?’ I was worried that I would be held responsible for that day. Now wasn’t the time to panic. I tried to calm myself and maintain my composure.
“…You’re not ugly. But not beautiful either.”
Fortunately, he seemed to have forgotten about me. But I felt uncomfortable by his evaluation of my face. Then I pitied myself. Wasn’t I mesmerized by his look twice already? That’s right. It’s an instinct to be attracted to beautiful things. To show it was attracted was what makes one respectful or not.
“Are you sure you drafted this proposal? Marina von Harrant?” said his highness.
“Yes, your highness.”
“Interesting. I do see a signature of the person in charge, but the responsibility will also fall to you if you drafted it. Are you prepared for such responsibility?”
“Yes, your highness.” I gulped without realizing it. My career would end here if his highness finds fault in my proposal.
“Well, that’s not too bad. I have seen so many idiots that it should suffice. But I still need to test you. I’m not so certain that it is you who drafted this yet.”
“As you please, your highness.”
I was ready for any question he threw at me and answered him with a relaxed attitude. The Crown Prince then eyed me with his violet-colored eyes. Then he said in a cold voice that was enough to make one shiver, “You, as an official of Internal Affairs, administrating the entire state affairs, should be aware of problems regarding the current commerce issue, I suppose.”
“Yes, of course, your highness. Small and medium-sized merchants who aren’t affiliated with large merchant groups are losing their ground.”
“That is correct. Good quality goods are exclusively obtained and distributed by large merchants. Smaller merchants, on the other hand, lack the information and the finances to keep up with technology, so their goods become mediocre, and they end up losing their customers.”
I realized where he was going with this. I agreed with his words and pointed out what he seemed to be saying, “What you’re saying is right, your highness. I assume what you want is a way to solve that issue.”
An answer came so easily. So, I was now taking a test that had my career as a government official on the line. The question was given, and I started with analyzing the situation of the small to medium-sized merchants.
“If you allow it, here is my humble opinion, your highness. What these smaller merchants need now is a barrier to prevent monopolies from happening, and the financial support to increase their technology. Commoners, however, will find it hard to get their hands on them. Large merchants are interconnected with nobles, which makes it even harder.”
He seemed to be bored listening to my analysis of the current state. I guess that was because everyone knew what I was saying right now. Of course, this is just the beginning.
“Then all that remains is the Imperial Palace. If the palace gathers skilled smaller merchants, support their technical skills and order and purchase exceptionally crafted goods from them, their reputation will increase, which will increase their sales. Also, if we put the products purchased from those merchants out on a sale for an appropriate price against large merchants who try to maintain their control of the price, it will be difficult for those large merchants to keep the control.”
I felt like I would laugh at the Crown Prince who was looking at me intrigued, seemingly surprised by my idea of the palace’s intervention. It seemed to work, but it wasn’t enough. Don’t worry, your highness. I will not let you down.
“Also, regulation will be needed to prevent a monopoly, and we have two ways for this. One is to take over the merchant groups that have the monopoly and have the government control the group. The other is to regulate the monopoly with a certain standard, then impose disadvantageous sanctions if they don’t follow.”
His eyes became a bit more intrigued. I added more to my answer, “Also if the government continues to regulate, there will be no free competition. This will result in the stagnation of the economy, so it is vital to intervene at the right time, then release it. I think it is better to have the Department of the Treasury create a separate subgroup to oversee fair trade.”
I finished my answer, and I looked up at the Crown Prince proudly. He was looking at me with a weird twist in his mouth. So, what is your answer?
“Hmm… that surely was quite good. I can see that you’re the officer who drafted the proposal. But…”
I was elated that he did not say anything further about my answer, proof that he liked it. I knew it, but the way he didn’t finish made me curious. I looked at him again and saw a cruel smile appear on his face.
“I don’t like you for no reason,” said his highness.
‘UGH!’ I almost flinched, thinking that he might have remembered me from that day. I hid my frustration, as this might be the day I get decapitated for touching the body of a member of the Royal Family. I lowered my eyes as I pretended to be calm.
Then, he said in a sarcastic tone, “Yeah, those eyes. I don’t like them. Do you have a problem with my question?”
“My apologies, your highness. I do not have such disloyal thoughts in my mind. May I ask what it is that made you think so?”
“It’s because you answered right away as if you were waiting for me to question you.”
Well, I’m not sure if that’s what I did, but I was confident that I could answer any question that he threw at me about the policies. I looked up all the current policies and thought of resolutions before I came here, just in case.
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