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The place regarded as the most important location of the Kunugi Margraviate was Klinge, the city where Margrave Renya Kunugi’s castle stood.
Even though there existed many big and small cities on the human continent, Klinge was considered abnormal by those of an established reputation. It even went as far as Klinge being titled as the strangest city on the human continent almost immediately after the city was founded. Moreover, that status was in the process of being set in stone at an astonishing pace.
This city, which was surrounded by a wall covered in ivies and was also the city closest to the Miasma Forest, had become the center of attention, be it inside or outside the principality.
Of course a considerable number of spies had been dispatched to this city, and originally all these spies should have provided a huge amount of information, regardless of whether that information was true or not. However, after a short time those, who had dispatched spies, started to doubt their eyes, ears, and sanity. The reason being that not a single one of the spies, who had been sent out in droves, returned to their employer. Not one, all the spies sent would vanish without exception.
A man-eating city.
Klinge had reached the point that it was called as such by those living in the dark areas of society, but on the other hand, it received high praise by those living in places the sun reached.
Just going by its living environment, Klinge possessed very decent, full water and sewer services, and any building in the city could benefit from their blessings. Even if you looked at the public order, soldiers with somewhat oddly decent movements continuously patrolled the city, and slums, which you’d normally find in any city, didn’t exist here at all. The existence of poor people simply wasn’t permitted since there was work to be found at every corner, as long as one wasn’t too picky.
Above all everything else, the taxes were low.
If you were to ask how low they were, it could be described that the combined tax for three families in Klinge was equal to what one family would pay in any other city. The answer as to why the taxes were so low was simple: The treasury of Margrave Kunugiwas was currently bursting with all kinds of jewels and money.
The magic stones produced in heaps within the Kunugi Margraviate, the produce imported from the elven country, the processed goods based on the elven produce, the monster resources yielded by the fortress in the forest which Keith and the others built during their previous training session by Renya, and the lumber produced by the forest itself provided Klinge with a mountain of riches.
However, Renya, who should be the one to invest and manage these riches, had absolutely no talent in the field. On top of that, because Renya was more interested in the things he could buy with money than in money itself, Mayria and the civil officials under her were currently managing all those funds, using a fraction to pay the Trident Principality’s taxes.
Renya had no idea how much money the city was making, but it was an amount that any other noble would never be able to surpass. Moreover, as the territory closest to the Miasma Forest, its taxes had been lowered with its location as an argument, which allowed Renya to pay most of the taxes out of his own pocket, which was yet another reason for the low taxes in Klinge. Of course it’s not like he could cover all the costs by himself, so it went without saying that what Renya couldn’t cover became the people’s taxes. Nevertheless, with the taxes being less than half that of other territories, it was a natural outcome for people trying to settle down and merchants trying to get into the residents’ wallets, which they concluded to be full, to endlessly stream into the Kunugi Margraviate.
“Is it really all that bad if I just run everything over by accident?” Emil muttered with her fingers tapping the steering wheel in the driver’s seat of the car, which she had built, while looking somewhat irritated.
In response, Shion and Rona, who had been sitting in the backseat, got startled and were about to lean forward, but as the backseat – originally intended only for two people – had become slightly cramped due to Kilie having joined them, both of them ended up wriggling around without being able to move as they wanted.
On their way back to Klinge, Emil let the car fly across the well-maintained street but only in sections with few people, but as they got closer to Klinge, the number of travelers, merchants, and adventurer-like people started to increase, giving Emil no choice but to slow down the car. Driving in a situation where she couldn’t go as fast as possible seemed to be quite stressful for her. Consequently, those words just now escaped her mouth unconsciously, but if they were to change the road into a splatter scene from hell for such a reason, it would start nasty rumors about the margraviate being very dangerous.
“Should we put the car away and walk?”
Emil frowned at Renya’s suggestion, who believed that way would be less stressful to her, while shaking her head, “This way is still better than walking.”
“Please endure then.”
Even if the pace was slow, it was faster and more comfortable than walking. Given that they sent all their luggage ahead of them through the katurul-based transfer facility that had been put into operation, the group’s load was light, but since they felt that not having to walk would be quite relaxing stamina-wise and on a mental level, the three in the backseat also agreed with Emil’s bitter words.
“Rather, how about forcing them to make way by telling them that Margrave Kunugis is coming through?”
“I don’t really care much about incurring the enmity of others, but that still doesn’t mean that I want to provoke it deliberately, you know?” Renya cast a glare at Kilie who said this, seemingly thinking that she had a great idea there.
It’d be another matter if they had some kind of urgent business to attend to, but Renya didn’t have the slightest intention to wield his authority as the lord for fun. In Renya’s eyes, this way of thinking was only natural, but it couldn’t be called common for the nobles of this world. Knowing that, Shion and Rona smiled, feeling somewhat proud of him, and the sullen face of Emil turned into a wry smile.
“…What is it?” Renya was bewildered by the sudden atmosphere change in the car.
As if acting as the representative for the women in the car, Shion answered with a laugh, “Nah, we just thought that it’s very like you, Renya.”
Revealing a faltering look for an instant in response to Shion’s reply, Renya turned his eyes at the landscape outside the car, and remained silent without answering.
It’s pretty obvious that he’s wondering whether Shion’s words just now are just a simple praise or if they contain some kind of hidden meaning, Shion and the others somehow grasped but decided not to comment on Renya’s behavior in any way. With a visibly, slightly improved mood, Emil adjusted her hold on the wheel once again.
“By the way…”
As long as there was nothing in particular to talk about, silence naturally dominated the car’s interior during the drive. After Emil’s dangerous muttering, their car fell into complete silence and it slowly advanced along the road while dodging people, carriages, and wagons, but the one who broke the silence was Renya.
“Somehow I think that we will reach Klinge very soon, but how about you?”
“Let’s see…it should be anytime soon, I’d say?”
No matter how efficient and far beyond the standards of this world the car built by Emil might be, Emil’s skill didn’t go so far that she could reproduce a navigation system similar to the ones added to cars in Renya’s former world. In the first place, not being able to recreate a navigation system was completely reasonable since it’s not like they had launched any satellites into space in order to make it feasible. While calculating the direction and distance according to her mental map, Emil somehow inferred their current location by intuition.
“Are you sure the city is in this direction?”
Although the terrain could be described as plains, there were still quite a few ups and downs. Hence the city of Klinge wasn’t yet visible from their current location. However, Emil was sure that Klinge was lying in the direction pointed out by Renya according to her intuition.
“I don’t think I’m wrong, but why are you asking?”
“I see…somehow…I feel like something similar to smoke is rising over there.” Renya said while narrowing his eyes.
In response, the atmosphere in the car immediately became tense.
Since Klinge was a city inhabited by quite a few people, it was normal for smoke to rise up from the city to some extent. However, something that would cause smoke to be visible at a distance, where the city itself wasn’t in full sight yet, couldn’t be quite considered a frequent occurrence. Going with that line of thought, they couldn’t think of whatever was causing the smoke in Klinge right now as being an overly good omen.
“Ah, you don’t need to worry. The smoke’s color is white, so it’s probably water vapor.”
It’s not 100% clear yet, though.
Although they were still fairly far away, Renya judged that the smoke, which he caught sight of, wasn’t the type that would occur when something was being burned, but rather something similar to steam rising from a bath.
Unsurprisingly, it was Shion who asked back. Going by the fact that Rona also has a somewhat questioning expression, Renya perceived that this word wasn’t common in this world apparently. Going by Emil’s reaction, it didn’t seem as though no one knew of the term since it didn’t look like she had a particular problem with it, so Renya thought that there might be some who know of the term. Renya also used some time to brood over how he should explain the concept. In the end he came up with a somewhat passable reply.
“Would you understand if I told you that it’s the smoke that occurs during baths?”
“Ah, you’re talking about steam. If it’s that, I know about it, but…was there a facility in Klinge that would release so much steam that it’d be visible this far away?” Shion asked curiously, but even Renya couldn’t think of any such place.
At the very least it shouldn’t have existed when we left Klinge. In that case it would be logical to assume that something that could produce this much steam was built during our stay in the Gordonal Barony, but there’s too little information to conclude what was built exactly.
“Frau, for sure.”
“It’s gotta be Frau~”
Three people voiced out the same name in three different ways. Shion turned her eyes towards the outside with a gloomy face, Rona sighed while placing a hand on her cheek as if troubled, and Emil fell towards the front while draping her body over the wheel. All of them basically commented, “That girl again, huh?” As expected of Renya, he had to at least come to her defense here, and thus he was on the verge of saying that it’d be unfair towards Frau, who was working so earnestly for their cause. However, after flapping his mouth open and shut for a while, and then remaining silent for a further while, he closed his mouth in the end for some reason.
Seemingly worried about Renya who now had a somewhat dispirited air hanging around him, Shion bent herself forward from the backseat and tried to peer at Renya’s face from behind.
“I couldn’t find any counter-arguments.” Renya muttered with a disappointed tone while covering his face with both hands.
As a result, Shion tapped his shoulder, obviously telling him to not mind it.
Whenever some kind of big incident took place in Klinge, the ones behind it were most likely either Renya or Frau. Renya himself had fully grasped that fact. Since one of the two possible ringleaders wasn’t in Klinge right now, the possibility of it being the other one was extremely high. Going by his experience so far, Renya couldn’t find any words capable of denying Frau’s involvement.
By the way, another candidate would be Lepard, and the dark horse would be Shion. Emil was someone with the potential to jump up high in that ranking if things were to go west for her, but because of her position as a researcher, she would usually take countermeasures so that things wouldn’t totally go out of control even if an experiment were to fail, and would otherwise conceal everything in secrecy, so it wasn’t often that her name came up when these kind of stories took place.
“For starters…it’s wrong to make decisions based on nothing but speculation. Even if we know that the probability is extremely high based on past examples.”
“You’re right. It’s wrong to jump to conclusions. It’s not like the possibility that someone else is responsible is zero.”
Shion immediately agreed with Renya’s words, which he had somehow managed to come up with after some time had passed. No matter how low her ability to read the mood was, Shion apparently had scruples about delivering the finishing blow to Renya’s remark, which he had managed to squeeze out after being unable to come up with even one counter-argument to defend Frau who idolized him so dearly.
Shion tried to soften the mood at least a bit by immediately agreeing with Renya on this as she didn’t have the heart to kick him while he was on the ground already, but just then Kilie dropped a bomb.
“But, if that’s the most likely case here, acting under that assumption might also have the highest probability of avoiding the situation from worsening any further, I thi…moguuhh!?”
Apparently having a bad premonition the instant Kilie opened her mouth, Shion covered Renya’s ears with her hands from behind, and Rona, who had judged that it would be better to shut Kilie up after letting her talk for a bit, forcibly silenced Kilie by grabbing her head and pushing it into her chest.
Renya, who had his ears covered by Shion, didn’t even try to look at the state inside the car, and kept staring at the landscape outside as if not having heard anything. Kilie, who was embraced by Rona, struggled for a while, but eventually became obedient after her limbs lost all power, limply dropping down.
“Jeez, to have all this happen before we even reached our destination. This is gonna be a pain, I can tell.” Contrary to what she said, Emil smiled happily.
While stepping on the car’s accelerator with more force as she thought that it would be better for them to get back to Klinge as fast as possible, Emil drove the car off the road, continuing to plow across the grassland with its intense undulations.
As soon as the car arrived at Klinge’s city gate, guards ran up to it. Even for Klinge, the car built by Emil was unusual, but it wasn’t something that was kept completely hidden. Since Emil was occasionally taking it out for a drive through the city by herself, the soldiers weren’t surprised to see it, but because it was a machine that people, who weren’t from Klinge, would have never seen before, it gathered the attention and astonishment of those waiting outside the city for their turn to enter through the gate.
However, for four people in the car, drawing attention each time they did something wasn’t something noteworthy since they were already used to it. Only Kilie, who had relatively little experience in that area, darted her eyes around restlessly, which looked somewhat suspicious.
Among the soldiers stationed in Klinge, there wasn’t a single one that wouldn’t have been able to recognize Renya. This was something that could be considered natural since he was the feudal lord, but among the nobles, there were some who almost never left their mansions, and in this world it was still normal for the soldiers at the lower end of the hierarchy not to know what their lord looked like.
However, because Renya was frequently leaving his mansion to stroll through the city or eat something at restaurants or stalls, most of the soldiers had seen Renya close up on several occasions, and thus such a concern didn’t exist.
One of the soldiers, who rushed over, started to say when he recognized Renya, but he stopped in the middle of it, surprised by the weight and the light impact he felt from the helmet on his head. Even Renya, who was about to answer the soldier, became speechless after turning his eyes slightly above the soldier’s face. All the women except for Kilie smiled bitterly, and Kilie was bewildered as if she was witnessing something unbelievable.
“Welcome back, master ~nano.”
Any resident of Klinge, ranging from little babies to old men on their deathbeds, knew the name connected to that voice, with around 70% of them harboring heartwarming feelings, 20% feelings of respect, and 10% fear. The little girl lightly pinched the hem of her skirt, and while making the hemline draw a gentle curve, she performed a flawless bow in order to welcome the return of her master. However, Frau having chosen to do this on top of the soldier’s head wrecked almost all of the good mood.
By the way, the soldier Frau used as a foothold tightly pressed his eyes shut with a frozen expression, and stood completely still without even twitching, just as if he had turned into a statue.
I can’t imagine that she’s not heavy, Renya thought absentmindedly.
Going by the whole situation it was very unlikely, but if the soldier opened his eyes and looked upwards, or even if he raised his face just a bit, something that mustn’t be seen by him might be reflected in his eyes. Or, it might happen that his head would get stuffed inside her skirt if she missed her footing and consequently slipped on top of his head.
If any of that were to take place, he’d die. Most likely he would be killed.
The cruel nature possessed by humans was occasionally described as being so nasty to behold that it made even the gods draw back, but the soldier would doubtlessly be killed in a way so repulsive that it’d be hard to put into words and that even witnessing some of the other cruel acts humans were capable of might still be much better than watching the scene that would unfold.
Precisely because the soldier managed to instinctively understand that fact somehow, he didn’t move at all while acting as Frau’s foothold. Persuading himself that he was a statue, he was stoically enduring something that was far more dreadful than a death god to the point that he gave up his own humanity.
“Thanks for coming to welcome me. But, isn’t the place way too poor? Get off him right away. You’re troubling the soldier, you know?”
Once Renya ordered her like this while worrying that the soldier might voluntarily stop breathing any moment now if he didn’t throw him a lifeline, Frau, the reason why the soldier had transformed into a statue, casually hopped off his head like a rabbit.
For an instant the soldiers got entranced by the gentle scent of an unknown flower wafting through the air which appeared in concert with Frau’s jump, but immediately understanding just what had happened, all the soldiers turned about with a speed and force that made it look like smoke was rising from their feet, pointing their backs on Renya and the others. Their behavior was triggered by them having caught sight of the hem of Frau’s skirt that was faintly blown up by the wind pressure alongside Frau’s hair, which scattered a floral aroma into the vicinity due to the force of her jump. But then again, on top of it not having been blown up to a dangerous extent, it wasn’t as though Frau had jumped off without considering the wind at all, but sometimes the worst case scenarios came true.
What would have awaited them if they ended up drawing that possibility, which wasn’t impossible, might have been a future where they would have no other choice but to ask for a quick death. Thus the soldiers’ reaction could be seen as very reasonable.
In reality, the extent of the soldiers’ thoughts was well within Frau’s expectations. If something like that had actually happened, Frau had planned to hug Renya while complaining to him that her underwear had been seen while blushing out of embarrassment with tears in her eyes, and certainly not what the soldiers had imagined she would do.
If it had played out like that, master would have likely forgiven the soldiers since it was an accident while consoling Frau. With Frau forgiving them then, it would have resulted in the soldiers obtaining a good impression of master, who would have smoothened things over in their favor. After all, Frau can behave like a spoiled child towards master without caring about what others might think about her. It truly would have been the best plan where no one would lose anything from it. If it’s for master’s benefit, Frau wouldn’t mind showing her underwear, Frau judged, but at the last moment she gave up on it with her reasoning kicking in, Frau probably shouldn’t act so shamelessly as master’s maid.
The retort that she shouldn’t have landed on top of a soldier’s head but instead on the ground in the first place didn’t even occur to Frau, and there was no way that someone, who could point it out, existed in the Kunugi Margraviate, except for Renya.
Frau, who had executed a soundless landing while suppressing the flapping of her skirt by releasing a faint amount of mana, ran up to Renya, who got off the car, with noisy footsteps, the exact opposite of her quiet movements just now, and energetically hugged his waist.
“Welcome home, master ~nano! I missed youuu ~no!” Frau, who embraced Renya with so much force that he let a groan escape, rejoiced as she ground her face against Renya’s belly.
The surrounding people were puzzled as to whether they should stop Frau’s rubbing and hugging which made one think that any common soldier might easily faint from just the rubbing damage. However, seeing Renya shake his head, indicating that it was no issue, while accepting Frau’s body, alleviated the surrounding people’s worries. As such, the soldiers returned to their stations, and Shion’s group got out of the car.
Frau fully immersed herself in the sensation of burying her face into Renya’s abdomen, but noticing that the number of people getting off the car had increased compared to how many had mounted it when they departed, she suddenly stopped moving altogether.
“Did you increase the number of girls again, master ~no?”
“It’s not again, stop putting it like that. It sounds so scandalous.”
After pulling back her arms which she had put around Renya’s waist, Frau turned around and made a short bow towards Kilie who had gotten off the car.
“Hello, I’m the super beautiful peddler Kilie.”
Just as Renya wondered whether this was the right place to introduce them to each other, Frau responded to those words while lowering her head, “How polite of you. Thank you. I’m called the transcendentally beautiful maid, Frau ~no. Nice to meet you ~nano.”
“That’s where you compete…?”
Renya rolled his eyes, and Shion as well as Rona laughed dryly. However, Frau’s next words caused the blood to drain from their faces.
“Over there is Frau’s master, Renya-sama, the super militaristic noble ~no. And next to him are the super-disappointing beauty Shion-ane-sama, and the super-fleshly-desires beauty Rona-ane-sama ~nano.”
“It’s not necessary to introduce me, is it!? Or rather, you don’t need to throw me in the mix there, do you!?”
“Disappointing? You’re talking about me!? …Renya, what’s the meaning behind the second part of your remark?”
“Ah, somehow I was left out as if it were completely natural? Renya, since I kinda feel like crying, lend me your chest or back, okay?” Emil laughed loudly without even showing the slightest hint of sadness or such.
“Nothing came to mind in regards to you, Emil-ane-sama ~no.”
Once Frau said so to Emil without a shred of shyness, even Emil made a somewhat pitiable expression, seemingly affected by Frau’s words. “Look, wasn’t that the perfect moment to come up with something related to our relationship?”
“Excuse me for not having come up with anything ~nano. Rather than that, let’s go back home instead of standing around here talking ~no.”
Completely cutting Emil down with a smile that told everyone that she didn’t feel sorry at all, Frau tried to lead the party to Renya’s mansion, but just as she was about to leave, Renya called her to halt.
“Frau, there’s something I’d like to check with you before going back home.”
“If it’s the color of Frau’s underwear today, it’s pink with frilly lace ~nano.”
Frau declared such a thing nonchalantly, which surprised everyone around them and drew their gazes towards both Renya and Frau, but seemingly having anticipated that Frau would give some kind of silly comment, Renya remained indifferent, showing no visible change in his expression while also managing to ignore the gazes of those around him, “All’s fine as long as it’s cute. It’s not my favorite color, though. Anyway, what I wanted to confirm wasn’t that, but something else.”
Frau, who had been easily brushed off, made a slightly disappointed face, but tenaciously hung onto the bit as if unwilling to lose.
“Then, Rona-ane-sama’s ~no?”
“Black, right? No matter how you think about it.”
“At first glance, it’d be white, but I’ve somehow got a feeling that it’s light blue.”
“Pretty sure, violet. Wanna bet on it?”
For Renya all of these were quite unserious and casual answers, but the members, who had their names called out, reflexively pinned down the hems of their clothes, looked down while blushing, or laughed weakly and foolishly. Going by their reactions, it looked as if Renya hadn’t been that far off with his guesses. However, the soldiers, who had been listening to their conversation intently, mentally applauded Renya’s mental strength to dispassionately and boldly talk about the colors of women’s underwear without even minding the gazes of the spectators waiting at the gate to enter the city. It wasn’t something they could imitate even if they were told to do so.
Having been brazenly warded off up to this point, Frau, who had been unable to tease Renya, unleashed what she considered her game-changer blow in order to somehow tear down Renya’s calm facade after lightly chewing on her lips.
“I’m not wearing any, you know?”
Faster than Frau could finish speaking, and before Renya could even react, Kilie’s short comment instantly silenced the area around them, and at the same time, made it seem like time had stopped. While everyone doubted their sanity and their own ears, unable to move or speak, Kilie restlessly looked at the situation in the frozen space around her, and then suddenly said in a somewhat troubled voice, “It’s a joke. A joooke. Ha ha ha. There’s no way it’s true, is there?”
Kilie’s voice sounded extremely flat and fake, but it was impossible for Renya to check the veracity of her words. Denying Frau’s questioning look, implicitly asking him whether she should undress Kilie, with his eyes, Renya gave a deep sigh, as if trying to pull himself together, and once again stated to Frau that he wanted to confirm something after turning towards her.
“When we were driving back here, I saw smoke rising in the distance. I don’t remember there being a facility that could cause something like that when I departed. So, did something happen?”
After pondering about it for a moment, Frau suddenly clapped her hands together.
“Master, come to think of it, Klinge’s famous tourist spot was finished ~no.”
Frau’s words seemed completely unrelated to Renya’s question. While suspecting that she might be trying to dodge his question by avoiding the topic through the vagueness of her answer, Renya reminded her just in case.
“That’s your answer to my question?”
“Of course ~nano. I’m certain that you have seen the steam from far away, master ~nano.”
Hearing the term steam, Renya grimaced, looking somewhat displeased. That’s because when he combined the fact that he had made the heroes dig a huge hole for the transfer device and the information he obtained from Frau just now, that what he had seen from far away was water vapour, there was only one possible conclusion.
On the other hand, the only places that caused phenomena corresponding to that in Renya’s former world would be areas with somewhat active volcanoes. Renya couldn’t quite believe that such a phenomena would occur in an area like Klinge which didn’t have any volcanoes nearby. However, Frau’s next words downright denied Renya’s considerations.
“Once we dug the ground up, hot water gushed out ~no!”
Renya didn’t recall giving them instructions to dig that deep into the ground, but he thought that maybe it was something that would appear near the surface with light digging. While pondering about that, Renya led everybody to his mansion, in order to get more details from Frau, and to move somewhere else where they wouldn’t be standing in the way of other people.
After moving from the city’s gate to Renya’s mansion, the party rested in a parlor Frau had prepared. While Frau gallantly laid out tea and tea-cakes for everyone, Renya asked about Mayria and Croire who were nowhere to be seen. In response, Frau gave him the silly reply that Mayria was mowing the lawn in the mountains, and Croire had gone out to wash the laundry at the river.
After Frau flashed a smile that lacked any ill-will at Renya, who was fixedly glaring at her, she chose the instant Renya briefly looked away with a doubtful expression, to quickly turn around and flee the scene by dashing away. However, Frau’s attempt ended in tragic failure as Renya’s right hand, which lunged out with a movement similar to that of a flying swallow, grabbed the back of Frau’s head with an eagle grip.
While wondering how a fairy-tale from his former world found its way into this one, Renya immediately put strength into the hand holding Frau’s head. As the back of her head was instantly assaulted by a brutal pressure, Frau screamed, struggled violently, and before long ran out of strength with her limbs hanging down, powerless.
“Are you happy now? So, let’s return to my first question, okay?”
“Assaulting an innocent girl, that’s an act of savage violence ~nano.” Frau uttered with her legs and arms swinging back and forth as her body was solely supported by Renya’s grip on the back of her head.
Renya narrowed his eyes immediately. Seemingly sensing this change from his presence, Frau, who shouldn’t be able to see Renya’s face, hurriedly put power into her limps and adopted a stance of standing at attention.
“Croire-ane-sama is in the bath, and Mayria-ane-sama is swamped in paperwork, as usual ~no!”
Contrary to its location at the edge of the Trident Principality, the amount of people and goods that streamed into Klinge couldn’t be taken lightly at all. In proportion to that, the amount and complexity of the paperwork had reached absurd levels. Moreover, with the influx of marine products from the Gordonal Barony thanks to the establishment of the transfer facilities, the amount of documents which had to be processed increased. According to Frau, Mayria was drowning in work, be it day or night. Additionally, due to her appearance having become something similar to a ghost, hardly anyone other than the civil officials and Mayria’s subordinates approached Mayria’s office these days.
“It sounds like the paperwork of the Kunugi Margraviate would fall apart like a house of cards, if Her Majesty the Archduchess were to retire and Mayria were to take the throne, doesn’t it?” Rona said, as if it was entirely someone else’s problem while slurping her tea.
Renya responded to her with a faint tinge of teasing mixed into his voice, “Rona, you should take measures so that it won’t happen any time soon. After all, you’re the next candidate for the paperwork, you know?”
Renya nodded his head at Rona, who was all panicked, with a serious look.
“Why me!? Renya, do you bear some kind of grudge against me!?”
“There’s no one else qualified to do it.”
Speaking about abilities, even Croire and Emil should be able to get it done properly. However, it was unthinkable that Croire, who had a symbiotic relationship with the forests, would be suited for a work that would keep her in a dimly lit room for extended periods of time. And since Emil was very talented and very able as a researcher, having her stop that and instead putting her in charge of office work wouldn’t be beneficial.
Given that Frau was the Head Maid, she should devote all her power to that field. As for Shion, Rona had no choice but to admit that Shion was completely unfit for this kind of work, after adding the annotation “while she’s my mistress.”
As a result, Rona became fully aware, while shocked by the revelation, that there was no one besides herself suitable to succeed Mayria, according to her process of elimination.
In that case I must come up with a method to avoid doing paperwork in the future while the breakwater called Mayria is currently managing the paperwork of Klinge, otherwise my future will be an eternal hell of documents and stamps.
However, there existed a simple method to avoid that. It was to abandon anything and everything, in other words, escaping from Klinge. But, that would mean leaving Renya and bidding Shion farewell.
Rona felt that she wanted to avoid that future as much as possible. Bidding Shion farewell was unthinkable for her, she didn’t even want to consider it. And on top of that, Rona loved Renya quite dearly. Moreover, Rona, who had grown accustomed to life in Klinge, a city that allowed her to spend her time a lot more comfortably than any other city could, didn’t want to part with her current life since it was so pleasant.
Renya nonchalantly gazed at Rona’s state as she started to come up with plans so as to avoid doing paperwork. In reality, if Rona was a bit shameless, the option of staying in Klinge after rejecting Renya’s demand existed, too.
He didn’t put it in words, nor did he commit the foolishness of showing it on his face, but there was no way that Renya would tell Rona to leave just because she had turned down his demand. Furthermore, there should still be around twenty years left until the current archduchess would abdicate, as long as no problems arose. As long as they had this much time, it should definitely be possible to gather a reasonable number of civil officials with abilities above a certain threshold, but Renya deliberately chose not to point this fact out to Rona.
Cornering Rona might lead to a slight reduction in Mayria’s workload if Rona comes up with some kind of ingenious idea. And even if that’s not the case, it’s not like it’ll worsen the current situation either.
“Enough of that. Frau, you said something about hot water appearing, but just what happened? I don’t recall having instructed you to dig so deep that you’d find hot water, according to my knowledge of these things.”
Rather than depth and so on, as far as Renya knew, there was no place capable of creating hot water around Klinge. According to Renya’s knowledge, hot water gushing out after digging only occurs in places like hot springs. And Renya believed that hot springs mainly appeared in areas near volcanoes. Apparently hot springs also existed in places other than that. However, no matter how much you might say that underground water had a higher temperature the deeper it was, it should still be necessary to dig down several kilometers in order to reach a water temperature so high that steam would rise from it.
After pondering for a short time as to how she should answer Renya’s question, Frau started to speak fluently, seemingly having determined that she should explain everything from the beginning.
According to her, the heroes, who had been ordered to dig the hole, dug obediently as instructed at first. They used pickaxes and shovels. However, the scheduled size of the hole was far too big for only four people to dig manually, no matter how much greater the physical abilities of the heroes might be when compared to ordinary people. As might be expected, the first to throw in the towel was Lepard. Throwing away the shovel in his hands with the reason that he had had enough of this monotonous work rather than his body having tired out, Lepard made a certain suggestion to the other three heroes.
“Since any more of this is the height of boredom and doesn’t suit us anyway, wouldn’t it be way easier to get its shape or whatever manually fixed after blowing up the ground, thus creating a reasonably sized hole?”
Looking at it based on efficiency, it wasn’t a bad suggestion. But, Renya clicked his tongue at this smart way to cut corners, considering that this work was also supposed to serve as training.
It looks like me not being there had a big influence on their behavior, but regardless of how I look at it, it appears beastmen tend to try getting things done roughly and noncommittally.
Renya considered that annoying, but pulling himself together as it had already happened anyway, Renya focused on Frau’s explanation once again.
It was Kurz who opposed Lepard’s proposal. In Kurz’ eyes, they were told to dig, and not to blow away. Kurz’ claim was that doing something he wasn’t told to do was unnecessary, and doing something unnecessary wouldn’t result in anything decent.
“Isn’t his trust in me a bit too strong?”
“But, he’s an honest and good boy. Right?”
Even Renya didn’t feel like denying the smiling Shion’s words. While thinking that it’d be fine for Kurz to be a bit selfish seeing as he was still a young boy, according to his outer appearance, Renya prompted Frau to go on.
As always, Grün stuck to remaining neutral while calmly continuing with his work. As Grün declared his neutrality with a smile, saying that he would obey whatever they decided, the decision fell into the hands of Albert, the one with the final vote, but although it was unexpected in Renya’s eyes, Albert supported Lepard’s suggestion. Hence the heroes’ course of action was decided with two agreeing, one disagreeing, and one abstaining.
“Hmm, why did Albert…?”
Renya believed that Albert had a more prudent character, but Emil’s response made him understand Albert’s reasoning, albeit only somewhat.
“Maybe various things built up within him…? Isn’t that what you’d call a backlash of a person who has accumulated a certain level of bottled-up feelings?”
“He had been following orders while wondering why he had to do so, but beastmen and dragonoids seem to have the fundamental trait of preferring brute force approaches since strength is one of the areas where they are superior to humans and elves.” Kilie said as if adding some trivia, but everyone who listened to her agreed that it wasn’t a good idea to go along with everything and anything.
Putting that aside, now that the heroes had decided on a course of action, they had only to put it into practice. Thus a destruction spree caused by two heroes apparently started to unfold in the vicinity of Klinge.
“It looks like Kurz-kun ran away, and Grün-san also took his leave to a quieter place.”
It would have been fine if Kurz ran away because he was against what Lepard and Albert were doing, but Renya was sure that Kurz ran away because he didn’t want to get scolded by Renya if a problem occurred.
In contrast to that, Grün should have stuck around and followed the suggestion they agreed upon since he was neutral, but it was plain as day that he ran away to avoid any consequences. Renya believed that he should have opposed the suggestion in the first place then, but as the vote tally would have ended up being even in that case, and since Grün hated unnecessarily dragging out decisions, his vote was most likely a result of a self-preserving way of thinking since he would be troubled if he caused the other two heros, who had cast a positive vote, to have bitter feelings towards him by making the mistake of getting in their way.
“I have no basis for it, but I don’t think you can call the other two’s characters all that great.”
“Where are those two right now?”
Frau shrugged her shoulders at Rona’s question.
“Neither has been found yet ~nano.”
There was no need to go out of our way to search for them, but even if we tried to force a search, the probability of actually finding them is rather low, Renya judged. Just like Kurz can store away the two priestesses, who always accompany him, in that black fog of his, Kurz himself will be able to hide anywhere as long as he can store himself away as well. It’s obvious that hiding forever will be impossible, considering things like food etc., but still, I think it’s pretty clear that finding him will be a pain as long as he doesn’t show up by himself. As for Grün, he’s a hero specialized in concealment and covert actions to begin with, so it’d be a lot harder to find him than to find Kurz.
Rather, finding Grün was far more difficult since, unlike Kurz, Grün was equipped with all the necessary abilities to live by himself as long as he hid the fact that he was a hero. If things went south, it was possible that he would never be found.
In that case I’d likely have no other choice but to ask Croire to get him to come out through persuasion, Renya sighed.
“With that said, as a result of the two heroes continuing to blow up the ground…”
“They dug a hole deeper than necessary, and in the end struck hot water, is what you’re saying?”
“Before that, the earth and sand that was blown up, and the vibration of their attacks damaged the surrounding areas ~no. We’re being approached by Klinge’s residents with reimbursement demands over broken windows or tableware, and destroyed furniture ~no. Also, there were a considerable number of complaints about the noise…petitions stating that it was troublesome because babies couldn’t sleep arrived at the mansion ~no.”
“…Apologize politely, and pay for the damages.”
If heroes started to attack the ground at full power right next to a city, the fact that damage occurred due to the scattered earth and sand hitting the wall or flying above the wall and hitting buildings close to the wall was obvious without doubt. Moreover, the vibrations of those attacks were similar to the tremors caused by earthquakes. It was quite possible for tableware to fall off cupboards, windows to break, and the walls of buildings to develop fractures. Furthermore, it went without saying that the sounds of explosions would trouble the surrounding citizens if attacks of such magnitude were carried out.
“We will precisely record the reparations paid, and slap the beastmen’s and dragonoids’ faces with the bill.”
As Renya laughed with a low, subdued voice, obviously suppressing his anger, Frau roughly calculated the amount of money claimed by the residents, who had approached them until now, in her mind, and after further considering the financial situation of the beastmen and dragonoids, she found an amount that they would probably pay without complaint. In case they were unwilling to pay even a small sum of money, she would add a short comment of “My master will be angry ~no.” Either race knew Renya closely enough to know better than to ignore the threat.
“So, where are those two idiots right now?”
“When the hot water gushed out, both were drenched in boiling water, resulting in them experiencing burns throughout their bodies…they’re being hospitalized at the medical ward ~nano.”
The water seemed to be quite hot, and, in addition, it also gushed out with considerable force. While it was just bad luck for them, or rather, it was more like they were paying for their own mistakes, it meant that the two heroes got swallowed up by the boiling water, unable to evade since they had just released big techniques. Consequently, the two heroes were nicely boiled together, which goes to show their scalding friendship.
“Tell the medical ward personnel to tie the two to their beds, hindering them from moving around for a while.”
“Okay, master ~nano. But still, their actions didn’t only result in bad things ~no.” Frau continued to explain to Renya, whose anger subsided to some extent as he apparently thought that they had gotten what they deserved.
“You’re saying you built a bathing facility?”
“Correct ~no. I had someone observe the hot water for a while, there was quite a bit of it coming out but its temperature wasn’t as high as at the beginning. But since it was gushing out while maintaining a relatively high temperature, I thought that it would be a waste not to use it ~no.”
Because of the water gushing out of the recklessly dug up ground, the hole had become quite big by then, and the hot water, which had accumulated there, looked unusable as it was mixed with dirt. Frau drained this hot muddy water into a tank, which had been built by neatly joining building stones together, and by letting the mud settle within the tank in addition to installing a filtering system at the tank’s outlet, she managed to convert the muddy water into fully usable, clean, hot water.
Frau then decided to use this processed water for bathing by drawing it along waterways. The bathing facilities were quickly constructed by Frau and Keith’s group. The finished facilities were then covered by a single, huge building, resulting in a gigantic bathing facility, which was most likely the very first of its kind in the world, right next to Klinge’s wall.
Given that it was naturally impossible to allow hot water blended with mud to continuously gush out, Frau single-handedly took care of servicing the hot spring source, reaching the point where it became possible to provide clean hot water, albeit little-by-little.
It was a story that couldn’t be told to other people, but since the temperature of the water at the hot spring source was high enough that a person couldn’t touch it, which would make it very difficult to service it at this rate, Frau made sure that no mud would get into the water by stacking up stone blocks and maintaining the shape of the hole using Puchiyog-kun. Still, because the water blew out from the ground instead of seeping out from in-between rocks, getting rid of the mud completely was impossible. And thus the need for a settling tank didn’t change.
The temperature of the water that gushed out wasn’t suitable for bathing, but its temperature decreased to some extent after the mud settled and the flowing time. These processes had the completely unforeseen side effect of decreasing the water temperature to a point where it was fit for bathing by the time it was poured into the bathing area, even without adding cold water to it. Otherwise it would have probably become necessary to build a facility to draw the water used to cool the hot water.
“Were Keith and the others also responsible for finishing the hole for the transfer facility?”
If so, it’d mean that we have exploited Keith and his men quite a bit, making it necessary to give them some days off in addition to a monetary reward, or in other words, giving them a bonus, Renya thought while asking, but Frau denied this.
“Obviously Keith and the others would have collapsed if I had forced them to dig such a hole ~no.”
“Who dug it then? Don’t tell me! The katurul? If you made it do something like that, I wouldn’t know how to pay it back at all.”
I don’t think it needs money, and even if it wants food, I have no idea what it likes.
Renya couldn’t think of anything but to head over to the Gordonal Barony once more, and use himself as a tea bag.
“Even if I wanted to get that to dig the hole…Frau doesn’t know how to communicate with it ~no. The ones who dug the hole for the transfer facility were Kurz-kun and Grün-san, who had run away before ~nano.”
The common ground between these two heroes was that they would likely be caught sooner or later, even if they escaped, since they couldn’t stay away from Renya for an indefinite amount of time. In that case, it’d mean that these two, who would be trying to escape, and the other two, who acted like idiots, would be in the same situation of not having dug the hole as instructed. Hence they believed they might be able to file for extenuating circumstances when they get caught, as long as they did their best in one go and at least finished the hole as they were told.
Once they saw that their views aligned up to this point, the rest was simple. Kurz and Grün dug the hole with the instructed size as fast as they could while wrecking a considerable number of pickaxes and shovels, and then escaped.
“So what’s their reason for running away in the end?”
“They fear joint liability for the damages caused by their two comrades ~nano.”
“…I don’t feel like Kurz and Grün are related to this matter, so they don’t really need to run away…please tell them, if you can contact them.”
“I will ask the patrolling soldiers to keep spreading the news ~no.”
It wasn’t as though they had a liaison to contact the two heroes who had disappeared. Hence, the idea was to have Kurz and Grün, who were in hiding somewhere, hear about it by having the patrolling soldiers shout out, “Lord-sama isn’t angry, so come out,” all over the city, but Renya held his forehead over the fact that this was exactly like searching for lost children.
“That means that right now there’s a building for the hot spring source, which had been excavated by two idiots, outside Klinge’s wall, and bathing facilities that had been built for the sake of using the hot water. In addition, there’s one more building for the transfer facility. So, the total number of buildings increased by three?”
“Leaving aside the hole, the buildings on top were built at a truly astounding pace ~no. It was so quick that even Frau got slightly exhausted ~no.”
If they had left the hole alone, its walls would have crumbled down sooner or later since they were made out of dirt. Thus they created a wall by piling up stones and bricks towards the bottom so that it wouldn’t collapse, but this task was as difficult or even more difficult than digging the hole itself.
“Mayria-ane-sama threw a fit of anger since we needed more than three times the building stones initially requested ~no.”
“I also wondered about it when you created Klinge, but you did a really good job securing so many building stones.”
Upon Rona’s interjection, Renya and Frau averted their eyes in random directions for some reason. Seeing their reactions, Rona immediately realized that she was about to touch upon a topic that mustn’t be spoken about.
“As expected of Mayria-sama. If the next archduchess is such an excellent person, the Trident Principality has a bright future ahead.”
Rona, who probably thought that it was a somewhat insensitive comment after voicing it out, regretted the slip of her tongue. With her first comment, Rona had felt that she was about to touch upon a dangerous topic, but now, as a result, she had instead touched on a topic she would have liked to avoid herself.
Originally Shion should have become the next archduchess with Mayria not even being a candidate for the post. While believing that she should be considerate of Shion’s feelings on the matter, even if the current situation was a result of Shion declining the position of her own volition, Rona secretly took a peek at Shion’s expression who was next to her.
Shion was sleeping on the parlor’s sofa with a soft, peaceful breathing without Rona having noticed.
“You’re right, Mayria did well. I think I should reward her in some way.”
Pretending not to have noticed that Rona was troubled that she might have changed the topic way too abruptly, Renya went along with her while making sure his voice sounded as natural as possible. From Renya’s point of view, the topic that Rona almost brought up was something Renya didn’t want to expand on too much.
For the sake of building Klinge, they had repurposed several smaller rocky mountains of the mountain zone not far away from Kukrika to get the large amount of building stones necessary. Although the fact he had forced the dragons to carry the stones couldn’t be helped, Renya himself didn’t consider what he did worthy of any praise.
Given that no one had closely examined the area inhabited by the dragons, on top of the fact that the maps circulating in this world were very vague, it didn’t turn into a serious matter. However, normally such an incident should have caused a huge uproar since maps would need to be redrawn and such. Renya wanted to avoid doing that again, but no matter how excellent Mayria might be, providing something that didn’t exist was impossible for her as well. Renya wondered whether the area inhabited by the dragons might have shrunk again.
“This time it’s not just Mayria-ane-sama’s achievement ~no.”
“What do you mean?”
“While digging the hole, we ran into clay ~no. I gathered day laborers and had them bake bricks ~no.”
If they had tried to cover all of the used building materials with just stones, they would have never been able to gather the necessary amount without crushing the rocky mountains again, just as Renya feared. However, since there was something clay-like amongst the sand and earth carried out of the hole, it could be used to make bricks, which saved the mountains’ life, so to say.
Having said that, even baking bricks consumed a certain amount of resources. To be precise, in order to bake bricks a large amount of fuel was needed, even if highly efficient furnaces were used. And the main source for this fuel were the forests.
“Well, there’s a huge forest just outside the city, I suppose.”
“Yep, there’s a huge forest ~no.”
Leaving aside its nature and name, the Miasma Forest was certainly a huge forest. The amount of timber obtained from it was nothing to scoff at. Even without deliberately felling trees, simply focusing on gathering dead branches should allow one to acquire a considerable amount of fuel.
However, being able to do this was due to the fact that the wood was just laying around there. Originally the people living in this world wouldn’t really consider gathering the dead wood in the Miasma Forest just to turn it into fuel. That’s because it simply wasn’t worth the effort, seeing as you’d need to be on guard against monster attacks while gathering the wood. But, Klinge’s soldiers possessed the abilities and skills that allowed them to completely ignore this issue.
Frau, who likely thought that they had no other way to handle it, mobilized a part of the soldiers, and had them gather dead branches in order to use as fuel. By using that wood to bake bricks, they somehow managed to overcome the lack of building materials.
“Since green wood doesn’t burn well, we didn’t use it this time around ~no.”
“That’s good to hear. It’d be really troubling if I heard from the elves about how we are destroying nature.”
There should have been several such organizations in his former world, but Renya wondered whether the same applied to this world as well. He wanted to try checking back with Croire, but unfortunately she wasn’t present right now.
Going by their image, the word elf would make one think that this kind of activity might fall under their jurisdiction, but since the elves of this world largely deviated from Renya’s image of them, they might not be against deforestation.
“The hot spring allows you to recover from fatigue and has an effect on skin care ~nano.”
“You sure investigated that quickly.”
After hot water, or rather, something like a hot spring gushed out, it should take quite a bit of time until it reached a point where it could be used for bathing, and thus Renya didn’t expect that enough time had already passed for them to properly enter the bath.
Because he seriously doubted that methods to analyze the chemical composition of water existed in this world, he was surprised over the fact that the hot spring’s quality had been identified so quickly. However, since it was a world with medicines that could immediately heal injuries upon consumption, Renya changed his way of thinking in the direction that it might be possible to immediately understand the effect of a hot spring upon entering due to some kind of different world correction.
“Until your return, Frau, Croire-ane-sama, and Mayria-ane-sama have tried it out plentifully, master ~no.”
“Oh I see, a beautiful skin is obvious from the outward appearance…and you predicted the fatigue recovery by checking Mayria’s condition, huh?” Emil nodded in a way that showed her comprehension of their testing.
It might be what you’d call, “no better method to judge than actually trying it out”.
Rather than that, hearing beautiful skin being mentioned, Shion woke up, and the look in Rona’s eyes changed.
“We’d also like to test the bath out no matter what, right Shion?”
“Indeed. Beautiful skin is essential.”
“For women working as adventurers, skin care must be quite difficult.”
Upon Kilie retorting while apparently having absolutely no interest, Emil replied in the same uninterested manner, “You just gotta stop working as adventurers if you care about your skin so much.”
“That’s a different pair of shoes.”
Once Rona insisted with glazed eyes while zooming her face in on Emil without any hesitation, even Emil raised her hands as if surrendering after bending backwards, seemingly overpowered by Rona’s intensity.
“Shion, Rona, neither of you has bad enough skin that you would need to worry about it, right?”
The muttered words that spilled out of Renya’s mouth, as he didn’t understand why they were so frantic about this, had a dramatic effect. Rona pulled her face back from Emil, and started to fidget around with her face cast downwards while blushing. Shion broke into a really happy smile.
“Master, beautiful skin is one of the important, unresolved issues for any woman ~nano. You could call it a woman’s nature to desire beauty even if they are already plenty beautiful ~no.” Frau said with the air of a know-it-all, but in the end it was an issue that was difficult for Renya to comprehend. For the time being he decided to just accept it for what it was.
“Even Emil-ane-sama pretends that she doesn’t care, but in reality she should also worry about it ~nano.”
“Emil was a being whose skin could deteriorate?”
“Renya, just what do you think I am?”
Seemingly unable to ignore Renya’s comment, Emil raised her voice in protest with her cheeks cramping up, but after Renya and Frau looked at each other due to her objection, Renya replied while looking at Emil’s face, “Something I don’t quite get.”
“I concur with master ~nano.”
“Alright, can I have you two step outside for a moment? I’ll quickly show you what I think about your bullshit.”
Leaving Emil alone, who had started to crack her knuckles with a smile still clinging to her face, for the moment, Frau loudly clapped her hands together as if having remembered something.
“Oh right, master, I forgot to tell you something important ~no.”
When Renya asked as he held Emil, who had come to grab at him, in an iron claw without any panic or hurry while keeping her at bay with the difference in arm length as she swung her hands while enduring the pain, Frau told Renya what she had just recalled.
“We widely announced the establishment of a hot spring in order to draw guests to Klinge ~no.”
Making an announcement wasn’t anything especially bad. It was unclear how much of an effect it might have, but if an announcement that the number of tourist attractions in Klinge had increased were to draw people in as a result, just that would already increase the number of people spending money in Klinge. Mayria might be at her wits’ end, but there was nothing wrong about it.
“Once we did, Her Majesty the Archduchess apparently heard of it as well…and ended up visiting in person ~no.”
“…Isn’t that something you mustn’t forget?”
Renya didn’t know what business the archduchess might have with them that she would personally come all the way to Klinge from the capital. Renya could somehow predict that she might have been lured in by that thing about the beautiful skin, but either way, the information that Archduchess Lydia, the highest authority of the Trident Principality, had come visiting was news that should have been brought to Renya’s attention before anything else.
While wondering whether it might be necessary to scold Frau, who said that she forgot about it, on this occasion, Renya asked, “So, where’s the archduchess now?”
“She’s currently enjoying the hot springs with Croire-ane-sama ~nano.”
Let’s leave her alone for a while.
For just an instant, Renya thought that it might be bad to leave the archduchess alone, but once he considered it, he wouldn’t be particularly troubled even if she deprived him of his noble rank after accusing him of disrespect. Moreover, he readily decided that it might be fine to ignore her, if the person herself was in the middle of enjoying the hot springs anyway.
Even if it was wrong to do so, there was definitely no way for Renya to intrude upon the archduchess while she was bathing.
“I see. Then, since it’s like that anyway, Shion and the others can just join her in the hot spring.”
“What about you, Renya?”
“There’s no way that I can join you guys, is there?”
“The bath has a proper section for men ~no.”
“I will go there then. I have no interest in beautiful skin, but hot springs are nice either way. You guys, for now try to indirectly sound out the archduchess as to why she actually came here.”
Renya said while thinking that she might actually not have any particular business with them, and just came to Klinge to experience the skin care effect while healing her fatigue from work.
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