74. Chapter 74
“You’re back? …It seems like you’re okay now.”
Walm decided to change clothes and make a big difference, but realistically there were few places he could go. But, for now, he had given up the option of staying in his room from the morning.
“Thanks to you… I want water.”
Walm didn’t feel it when his brain was paralyzed by alcohol, but now he was very thirsty.
“Water? Which one?”
Gangut extended Walm’s drinking options without hesitation. An obvious suggestion, considering what he thought of Walm as a person based on Walm’s action this past year.
What kind of person do you think I am?
This time the owner of the bar widened his eyes at Walm’s words, as if he had seen a wraith.
“Just water…? Are you still sick?”
Hearing Walm, who didn’t choose the alcoholic drink, Gangut couldn’t help but worry about him and had no choice but to make a joke.
“I’m going to stop drinking.”
Walm managed to smile with a completely stiff facial muscle. Still, it was more appropriate than the expressionless, tense face.
“That’s, a serious illness.”
With a shocked expression, Gangut extended his hand and disappeared into the kitchen. A short time later, he returned with a porcelain container. He decanted the contents into a wooden cup, and Walm moistened his throat.
“Can I have some food?”
“It seems you didn’t want just a side dish this time.”
Gangut went back to the kitchen. After some time, he returned with plates on the tray. Thick slices of bread, soup with turnips and beans, pickled shredded cabbage and some intestines filled with shredded sheep meat. The only seasoning used was salt.
Walm slowly brought the food to his mouth, and chewed it before sending it to his stomach. It had been a while since he had eaten a proper meal. His stomach protested painfully against a non-alcoholic guest. Nevertheless, Walm, who had finished eating, drank a sip or two of water.
Gangut stood by like a waiter.
“It’s so empty in the morning.”
“Of course. You’re the only customer who came to drink in the morning.”
“What’s wrong? You’re giving me creeps.”
Squinting his eyes, Gangut looked suspiciously at Walm.
“Is there a job that makes money?”
In this foreign city, Walm had very few acquaintances. Of them, it was only this bar owner whom he could consult.
“Are you really asking me…? Well, umm… At the time of the Great Outbreak, there was an increase in soldiers due to the need to strengthen the border, but now the people in the buffer zone are suppressing that. Some time ago there was a rumor about increasing the personnel for the Mithril Mine, which was a hot topic, but no recruitment of workers, even now. So that leaves only… adventurer?”
“I hate adventurers.”
Said Walm bluntly.
Walm didn’t have good memories of adventurers. The adventurers, who became the only acquaintances after dancing together in the deadly line, had also decayed at Dandurg Castle.
“You should keep it moderate. Most of the shops are run by adventurers. I’m also a former adventurer, you know?”
Walm didn’t know that Gangut was a former adventurer.
“I’m sorry… Is there anything else?”
“Well, there is. But not a decent job.”
Gangut let his gaze wander slowly from Walm’s toes to his head.
Although Walm struggled to correct his facial expression, his beard was growing “so alive”. Not to mention, he had just cut his own hair. Yes, he was aware of those all, that his style might be not the greatest, but still, it was surprising to him to be looked at with such a suspicious face.
“So caring for your customers, aren’t you?”
Walm jokingly raised a voice of protest.
Immediately Gangut stopped opening his mouth. That didn’t mean he accepted the protest, he just seemed to be thinking about something.
“…You, have really changed, huh? Well, if I know some nice jobs, I’ll introduce them to you. For now, I’ll bring you more food, so think ‘bout it slowly.”
Among the lands of the Archipelago, at one place, sounded the angry voice of Viscount Edgar de Dalimarx, head of the Dalimarx family, which held the border with the Demon Territory and the collapsed Highserk Empire.
“Don’t joke with me! First letter and already an ultimatum? From the very beginning, they never felt like negotiating with me!”
Edgar’s anger, even after throwing an open envelope on his desk, didn’t subside. The contents were to accuse the Dalimarx family and one of the remnants of the former Highserk Empire, who had banded together to strip the Demon Territory, of being unjust and to urge them to transfer the right of the land they had reclaimed.
“It’s the responsibility of the human race to scrape off the Demon Territory. And you’re telling me, that what I’m doing is unjust? Isn’t it the land where the Meisenav Family’s forces have challenged in the past and failed? We’ve already set up a camp there and even the digging has started.”
There was a river that extended from the Demon Territory into the Meisenav Territory, and from this river could be collected sand-like, finely dispersed magical silver (Mithril). It was said that the source was a Mithril Mine located upstream, and this was the reason why the Meisenav Family was eager to conquer this part of Demon Territory. Nevertheless, the way was blocked by powerful monsters, and they decided to escape.
It was the Great Outbreak that struck humankind that changed the situation. A year ago, when the mastermind, the ruined Ferrius, changed the habitat of those monsters, while the remnants of Highserk soldiers did their best to hold the Mithril Mine, Edgar proposed to dig the magical silver together.
Some people in the house were blinded by the magical silver, and many wanted to eliminate the Highserk soldiers and run the Mithril Mine alone, but Edgar shut down those opinions.
Despite losing most of their territory, the spirit of Highserk soldiers who kept the former southern border, the Highserk Southern Front, from the brink of collapse was indeed unusual. Even though they were only about on a scale of 1,500 people, there was a risk of suffering enormous damage to whoever dared to attack them.
After some twists and turns, Edgar financed the troops and managed to reach the Mithril Mine along with his unsung neighbor, the Highserk remnants. It was unforgivable that now, when the time had come to taste the fruits of the labor, a foreign power wanted to seize it.
Neither Dalimarx nor Highserk took over the previous expedition route used by Meisenav. They reached the Mithril Mine in their own way. Completely, it was an exaggerated allegation.
There had been much harassment since ancient times, but direct combat had always been refrained from. But this letter was an ultimatum sent with certainty while the soldiers were gathered to be ready at any moment.
From ancient times, all ages and countries, were crazy about magical silver, which could produce enormous profits.
To keep the mine going, in addition to supplying the miners, it was necessary to maintain a powerful force. It was true that excess treasures would ruin one, some would even do an obvious act of aggression.
Nevertheless, at this moment, even if Meisenav hung their heads and begged for mercy, it wouldn’t change Lord Edgar’s clear decision.
“They’ve already gathered soldiers, and the scale is well over 6,000.”
“It seems, they’ve also hired mercenaries and two well-known adventurers.”
Edgar confirmed the current situation in his vassals’ report. The Meisenav Family was superior in both territory size and title. The Dalimarx Family could only prepare about 2,500 soldiers even if all were summoned.
The good news was that the Highserk side responded that they would send 500 volunteers to defend the mine. Highserk couldn’t send any more soldiers than that because they had to use most of their forces to maintain the defense line to their former territory, which had turned into the Demon Territory.
“It seems that opening the battlefield is the only option.”
Whether war or forced submission, the movement of people in the Central Region had always been sluggish unless there were sudden developments such as raids or uprisings in cities. Most of the fighting was over the sovereignty of the land and was instigated by families such as the Meisenav Family, those who endeavored for money and contributions. Edgar never hoped for the Central Region to turn into a place where money was haggled over everywhere.
“My Lord, we should definitely refuse!”
“Count Meisenav is afraid of getting overtaken by us financially, since we’ve got the Mithril Mine. That’s why they’re taking this ridiculous move.”
If Edgar followed the suggestion of the Meisenav family and showed an obedient attitude, he could still make a profit of about 10%. In this case, however, the recovery of the high initial investment would be uncertain, and the co-administrator of the mine, the Highserk soldiers, would definitely resist.
The Northern Countries were once considered second-rate nations, but when it came to war, they were different. Edgar had witnessed the strength of the Highserk soldiers all year. If he made an enemy of them, he would lose more or the same number of soldiers, and there wouldn’t be enough people to contain the Demon Territory.
And if he showed weakness, he would be abandoned by the vassals.
Of course, Edgar wasn’t so pacifist as to want to give up the Mithril Mine he had worked hard to acquire.
Edgar, gritting his teeth, stood up quietly, but gave vent to his anger without hiding anything.
“It’s a war!! Start summoning the soldiers. Don’t spare any money. Let the greedy Meisenav Family see the result of their actions with their own eyes.”
“Let’s do it!!”
“I’ll discipline those greedy Meisenav with my sword.”
Having received a reliable answer from his vassals, Edgar regained his composure. The Great Outbreak had shown him the calm, but he didn’t yet know the disturbance it had caused.
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