Translator: Silver Editor: Namorax
「Moments in the Fort」
Since we were part of the princess’ guards, two rooms in Fort Hill were provided to Ariane, Chiome and I.
Because the rooms were usually reserved for soldiers or offices they were rather narrow and sparsely furnished.
When I sat down on one of the bunk beds in the room, it strained under the weight of my armor and collapsed in on itself.
Since we’d been acknowledged as mercenaries that had been hired as the princess’s escorts, Ariane and I had been invited to the dinner table, but I declined. I was more interested in mingling with the soldiers stationed here.
Despite this being a fortress situated along the front lines, I was interested in seeing what they would serve to a princess, but I wanted to avoid causing another commotion in human territory.
That’s why I was eating tonight’s dinner in my room, with the full course lined up on the table in front of me.
The scent of freshly baked buckwheat bread wafted into my nose. The soup consisted of boiled vegetables and beans, and there was a piece of thigh meat.
I imagined that something rather simple would be prepared as dinner in a fortress, but apparently my expectations had been proven wrong.
According to the person who brought me my meal, those who had been doing business with the soldiers had gathered along the outskirts of the fort and built a small town and field nearby.
Thanks to that, the fort was supplied with freshly harvested vegetables and bread from the nearby fields.
“While the dish itself is rather ordinary, the ingredients are as abundant as the server suggested.”
Ariane removed her cloak and exposed her pointed ears as she sat in front of me, muttering her impression of the meal in-between spoonfuls of soup.
Chiome, who was tearing into her dinner, agreed with Ariane’s mutterings.
“That seems to be the case. My clan doesn’t have a grasp of the geography around here.”
Chiome said that after lowering her piece of thigh meat.
The Dimo Earldom seemed to control the peninsula that stretched into the Southern sea which had been originally a part of the Nozan Kingdom. However, after Lord Burnett of the Salma Kingdom conquered the connecting territory, the grand wall was built to protect them from invasion.
Another benefit from that decision was the decrease in monsters within the peninsula, allowing more land to be cultivated and explored.
However, the large wall wasn’t able to form a complete blockade.
When I asked the server about it, he managed to peel his eyes away from Ariane and answered me.
The western section of the Ruan Forest spread into the peninsula’s roots and it was impossible to build their wall due to interference from the elves.
Whenever Salma forces tried to enter the earldom through the forest they’d inevitably confront the elves. Lord Burnett didn’t want to give the Earl and the elves a reason to unite against him, so he stopped meddling with the forest.
Due to that, towns on the peninsula still needed to be surrounded by a wall as monsters were still able to invade from Ruan Forest.
If that was the case, I imagined it would be simpler to just build the wall around the forest, but things were more complicated than that.
Many people lived within reach of the shallow parts of the forest, not to mention that it stretched into the northern and southern directions. They would need a wall twice the length of the current one in order to build around the forest.
The construction of such a wall would bankrupt the Earl.
After informing us of the topography and the circumstances of the surrou
nding region, the server decided to leave. After locking the door behind him I was finally able to eat.
Ponta had already finished off her portion of soup and was asking for a second helping.
“Well, we certainly came across a bizarre undead situation rather quickly……”
I spoke my thought as I removed my helmet. Because the effect of the hot spring water had yet to wear off, I attacked by a strange sense of hunger when I looked down at my food.
Ponta was still nudging her plate forward for more, so I stripped off some thigh meat and gave it to her.
Feeling their gaze on me I looked towards Chiome.
“Chiome-dono I have to ask, that break-in Zahar-dono brought up, is that…”
“That was undoubtedly Sasuke-oniisan.”
Chiome’s brief reply was exactly what I thought it’d be.
“I was listening as well, but didn’t the witnesses only state that the culprit was a beast man?”
Ariane was, naturally, rather doubtful of Chiome’s unwavering certainty and I had to agree with her on that point.
“The high physical ability and dexterity required to break into a heavily guarded vault undetected also had me thinking that the culprit was a member of your clan, but the lack of conclusive evidence and other factors make me question the assumption that Sasuke-dono had been the perpetrator.”
Chiome took another bite from her meat before shaking her head.
“The culprit stole nothing despite successfully breaking into the treasury. That was what Zahar-dono heard, but what Sasuke-oniisan had been searching for was a 『Spirit Contract Crystal』 my clan lost.”
I recall Chiome bringing that name up before, it had been during our initial stay in her clan’s former village that she showed me a pulsating rhombic jewel.
It was a magical tool that Hanzo the First had created, a tool that allowed its possessor to make a contract with spirits. Even beastmen, who possessed a low aptitude for magic, could wield powerful spirit magic if they had one of them.
Though they seemed to utilize spirit magic in the form of “ninjutsu”, Chiome and the other great ninja all had a 『Spirit Contract Crystal』 embedded in their bodies.
“Chiome-dono, you’re talking about the thing we discussed in the village, right? If I’m not mistaken, Hanzo the First created ten of them, and your clan should have nine of them.”
Chiome gave me a small nodded as I dug up everything I had been told about the crystals.
“I think Sasuke-oniisan obtained some information pointing him towards Nozan’s treasury, so he snuck in. However, if we believe Zahar’s story, he didn’t find anything there.”
I soaked a bit of bread in the soup and popped it in my mouth while listening to Chiome’s deductions.
The slightly hard bread softened and was easier to eat.
“I see, but it was quite some time ago that Sasuke-dono broke into the treasury. There isn’t much of an interval between that and Sasuke-dono’s arrival on the Southern Continent……”
Ariane’s ears pricked up when she heard that, though she’d been quietly sitting at the table she’d been paying attention.
“In other words…… he found a clue inside Nozan’s treasury that sent him off in that direction?”
“Yes, it’s merely speculation, but……”
Chiome’s stopped eating as I answered to Ariane’s question.
That conversation had ended as far as they were concerned, and I moved on to where we were going from here.
“If we want to see whatever clue he found, we’ll have to get into the Nozan treasury, won’t we?”
Two pairs of eyes turned towards me.
“……Should we break in like Sasuke?”
Ariane tilted her head and asked that question. While breaking and entering was relatively simple with 【Dimensional Step】, if we were caught and the skill discovered, things would become troublesome later down the line.
There was a more reliable method anyway.
“No, the princess is supposed to be returning to the capital with reinforcements. When that happens, why not take advantage of that and ask to accompany them? A tour of the treasury as a reward is a relatively simple request.”
Ariane folded her arms under her large chest and her brow began to wrinkle as she thought over my suggestion.
“That certainly is a more guaranteed method…… Does it seem like the city Lille was trying to reach is in a similar situation as Tajiento?’
Chiome showed a slight reaction when she heard that name as if she was briefly reminded of Tajiento.
Honestly, we haven’t been informed of the entire situation concerning Soulia. Seeing as we were basically bodyguards abruptly hired to escort our employer to Dimo’s capital, Keen, I assume they didn’t want other races to learn the full extent of the situation.
Still, it could be guessed to a certain degree based on pieces of their conversations.
The Nozan Kingdom’s capital is currently besieged by an undead horde and those spider chimeras.
However, we need still needed to investigate the treasury located within the city.
When Tajiento became a battlefield, fires broke out all over the place, so it was up in the air whether or not the treasury would remain safe.
“After the meeting with the Lord, we must negotiate with princess Lille to have us join their reinforcements. If the capital falls or the treasury is burnt to the ground, we could lose the only clue we have on Sasuke-dono’s fate.”
Ariane nodded as she agreed with my opinion.
However, next to her, Chiome was making a difficult face.
“About that. We don’t know if Earl Dimo will actually accept the princess’ request and dispatch reinforcements to the capital tomorrow.”
Ariane to snapped her head towards Chiome when she heard that.
“The capital is the center of the kingdom, right? If an allied city is facing a crisis, wouldn’t you try to save it?”
Chiome and I shared a look at Ariane’s causal statements.
For the most part, there was a strong bond between elves, and it must have seemed strange to her to not help your fellow countrymen.
Looks like she forgot……
“If I understand the situation correctly, the Dimo Earldom and Lille’s royal family have a relationship similar to the one between the elves of Canada and Ruan Forest. Ariane-dono, weren’t you dissatisfied when you heard Canada was dispatching a rescue party?”
A complicated expression appeared on her face and she held her tongue when I said that.
“…… I see.”
“Let’s reach Keen tomorrow and plan or course of action from there. We’ll be heading towards the Nozan Kingdom no matter what happens.”
If we weren’t able to accompany Lille, it only meant that we’d be a little frustrated trying to pin down the Kingdoms location.
I looked down at my feet when I heard Ponta’s cheerful cries, only to find her pushing her plate forward again.
“You never change do you……”
I stoke the top of Ponta’s head as I said that.