The Kingdom of Yamoda was situated in the central plains of the Bakersfield Continent, a place with a particularly warm climate. With vast amounts of fertile land suitable for farming, and pastures for livestock to graze on, Yamoda was an opulent agricultural country.
Because the Kingdom had never experienced any food shortages before, the citizens of the country led peaceful and tranquil lives.
The Kingdom’s public order and safety was excellent as well.
Although Yamoda didn’t have a harbour for trade with countries overseas, as it was a landlocked country, there was long-term political stability in the state, so the roads that connected the cities of Yamoda together were well maintained. As a result, overland trade thrived and prospered within the Kingdom.
Strong economical power also allowed the Kingdom to possess a tough and staunch standing army, a deciding factor in their position as the head of the Holy Alliance of Kingdoms.
To the south of Yamoda was the Kingdom of Bagueiro, a Kingdom that believed in pagan gods. The two Kingdoms were separated by a steep mountain range, so although they had had a few skirmishes in the past few years, those skirmishes had not erupted into full blown war yet.
“Valeria-sama, you’re so much like Dimitar-sama, always yawning.”
“… nothing I can do about it. I didn’t sleep well last night.”
Valeria suppressed her urge to yawn once again and looked away from Bettina, who was already full of spirit and energy long before the sun had even risen. Karin constantly talked of how Valeria was always over excited, but Karin had obviously never met Bettina before. Compared to that pesky little girl in pink armour, Valeria was a stoic, quiet monk from the mountains.
Dimitar had woken them up 30 minutes ago with a series of noisy knocks on their door, looking fresh and ready for a new day, with no sign of exhaustion from journeying the whole day yesterday on his face. He’d already retrieved their horses from the inn’s stable, and had also made all the preparations needed for the journey ahead. Valeria could not help but think: Where on earth did he sleep yesterday?
“Whatever, who cares about him.”
Carrying buckets of water over to the horses for them to drink, Dimitar turned his head to look at Bettina and jokingly rapped her on the head with his gauntleted left hand, producing a heavy, metallic thunk.
“Ah! Why did you hit me for no reason?!”
“It’s early in the morning, so other lodgers at the inn are still fast asleep. If you have time to shout and muck about, why not help me carry our luggage and unload it onto the pack horse’s back? Seriously, think of why you’re in a suit of armour in the first place.”
After ruthlessly bequeathing the laborious task of moving and unloading luggage to Bettina, Dimitar walked over to Valeria.
Scared that Dimitar would laugh at her face, which was still drowsy and messy from having just woking up, Valeria took a few moments to compose herself and sort herself out before turning around to look at him.
“Did you see?”
“That pesky little girl’s real appearance. What does she look like? Did you see her face last night?”
Dimitar looked awfully deadpan, so Valeria thought that he was going to ask her about something serious, not about what Bettina looked like. But because Valeria also wanted to talk about that with Dimitar, she replied with a low voice:
“I didn’t see anything last night!”
“What? Bettina went to sleep with her armour on?”
“No… it was more like… I went to bed before she did…”
Dimitar looked at Valeria with condescending eyes, as if she was trash lying on the street, before clicking his tongue.
“W-w-why are you looking at me like that?!”
“I was really tired yesterday!”
“You’re so goddamn useless. And stop shouting so goddamn early in the morning.”
Although Dimitar’s attitude was quite infuriating, what he said was the truth, so all that Valeria could do was bite her lips and reluctantly keep her mouth shut.
At that moment, the lady innkeeper came out of the inn’s main entrance.
Wearing a shawl, she brushed her hair backwards, before saying in a small voice:
“My dear guests, are you ready to go?”
Although the lady innkeeper referred to Valeria and co. as dear guests, it was obvious that she was only using that to address Dimitar, as she was looking at nobody but him.
Valeria found it rather strange. The lady innkeeper proceeded to walk over to Dimitar.
“Take this, it’s breakfast that I’ve prepared for you.”
Dimitar took the bag of food from the innkeeper’s hands with an indifferent look on his face. Valeria widened her eyes in shock, and Bettina secretly — ahem, not really, all the clangs and clunks gave her away — tiptoed next to her.
“Valeria-sama! D-d-did you see that? They seem like… a couple who’ve just done it!”
“Done what…? How do you even know about that…”
“That’s not the point!”
As the two girls were having a private discussion about what had happened between Dimitar and the lady innkeeper, the lady innkeeper snuggled intimately over to Dimitar’s side, grabbing hold of his arm.
She turned her head to look at the girls.
“…. although I don’t know why you’re travelling with them, it must be tough having to babysit those two little children.”
Upon hearing that she was being referred to as a little child, Valeria unconsciously pulled up her sleeves in anger, ready to fight. If it wasn’t for Bettina holding her back, scarlet magic crests might’ve blossomed into existence on her arms, sending jets of fire towards the rude and coquettish innkeeper.
“V-V-Valeria-sama, please calm down!”
“But that damned woman dared to insult me, a Dominas–”
“I know that you’re very angry, but we’re currently on a secret mission for the Kingdom, so please, please, don’t do anything rash and stupid! You absolutely must not use magic, otherwise the mission won’t be secret anymore!”
“Did you not ask me to use magic to heat our dinner yesterday?!”
“That’s different! If we cause a scene now, we’d definitely alert the officials in town to our presence! Though they may not recognise you, it’d still cause unnecessary trouble for us.”
Dimitar glanced at Valeria with indifferent eyes, waiting for the horses to finish drinking water, before leading them by the reins over to the innkeeper.
“If we have time to spare on our return journey, we’ll come back to your inn.”
“Really? Then I’ll wait for you! You have to come back!”
The lady innkeeper put her arms around Dimitar’s neck, then kissed him with her, plump, cherry-red lips.
The lovey-dovey, intimate scene was too much for Valeria and Bettina to bear, who hugged each other whilst screaming and exclaiming at the top of their lungs in surprise and embarrassment.
“…. so fucking noisy.”
Dimitar disentangled himself gently from the innkeepers embrace, frowned, then kicked Bettina’s bum with all his might.
“Alright, it’s about time we left.”
“Don’t say that like it was us who delayed us from departing earlier.”
“Did it come across like that? I’m very sorry, Valeria ojou-sama, I hope you forgive me for my blunder.”
And with that, they were off!
“… Oi! I’m talking to you!”
Valeria shouted in Dimitar’s ear after the lady innkeeper disappeared from sight.
“What was that just now?! What’s your relationship with that unchaste, promiscuous woman?!”
“We’re just innkeeper and guest! Nothing more! Did you think that she was my long lost mother?”
“Stop talking glibly–wait, last night did you–?”
“Yeah, I slept in the innkeepers room last night.”
“Didn’t you say that you were going to sleep in someplace outside the inn?”
“… Are you stupid or stupid?” Dimitar replied with a helpless expression on his face.
“Why would I sleep outside in the cold when there’s an inn right there in front of me? Because there weren’t any empty rooms left, I convinced the innkeeper to share her bed with me. That was it.”
“Bed, you said bed…!!!”
Valeria and Bettina looked at each other, repressing their urges to scream.
“I know what you guys are thinking, and to be honest, something did happen between me and the innkeeper. But because of that, the innkeeper lowered our room rates, so you guys should be thanking me instead!”
Valeria scolded, face flushed red with embarrassment and anger. She did not know why, but she always scolding people after meeting Dimitar.
“…. what’s dirty?”
“B-b-because! You a-a-and the innkeeper… d-d-did that!!”
“Why are you calling me dirty when you yourself didn’t shower last night?”
“As if YOU showered.”
“Yeah I did. I even had the innkeeper wash my back.”
Valeria bit her tabard in anger. Dimitar’s indifference to her questions made her extremely furious for some reason.
“Alright, quiet down…. now’s still not the time when people can pass through the gates freely.”
Dimitar said, as if he wanted to infuriate Valeria even more. There was nothing Valeria could do about it, though, because what he said was true.
In order to save money on oil or candles, most people would wake up at sunrise, and go to sleep at sunset. Staying up for the night was a rare occurrence. Therefore, most of the residents of Kuromutan won’t wake up until an hour later.
Bettina surveyed their surroundings, before asking Dimitar:
“Dimitar-san, if the gates haven’t opened yet, wouldn’t leaving a bit later be a bit better?”
“If we don’t set off at daybreak, when most people are still asleep in bed, we won’t be able to cover enough distance today. We have to make it to Seriba the day after tomorrow, after all.”
“But what if the gates really haven’t opened yet?”
“Simple, use money.”
“Just don’t speak later, or you’ll make everything more complicated.”
Walking over to the south gate, Dimitar rapped on the door of the night watch’s resting room.
“… who is it? Who’s knocking on the door at this ungodly hour?!”
The door opened by a crack, and a member of the night watch stuck his head out with a displeased look on his face.
“It’s because it’s still really early in the morning that we have to find you.”
Dimitar replied, whilst unhooking a pouch of coins from his waist and handing it to the guard. In the deathly silence of daybreak, the clinking and clanging of coins was deafening.
“I’ll help you open the wicket. Quick, quick!”
“I know, and besides, I’m in a hurry as well.”
With that, Valeria and co. left Kuromutan through the wicket the guard had opened, speeding away towards Seriba under the cover of darkness.
“Do we really have to keep at this pace for the rest of the day… is the uprising at Seriba that serious?”
Valeria asked angrily from atop her saddle.
“If you don’t know the reason why we’re in so much of a hurry to Seriba, then I advise you to keep your mouth shut so that you don’t humiliate yourself. Your humiliation is my humiliation, and a bad evaluation on your part from the higher ups is a bad evaluation on my part as well. Remember that well.”
“I-I-I don’t need you to tell me that! Of course there’s no way I’d do anything to cause you to receive a bad evaluation from your higher ups. Have you not heard that I’m a renowned genius magician that only appears once every ten years?!”
“I really hope that’s the case — We’re going too slowly. I’m going to speed up.”
Bearing down on Valeria, Dimitar kicked the horse’s flank with his spur, causing the horse to accelerate towards Seriba, the town in flames of rebellion.