|Author: Kisasaki Suzume||Original Source: Syosetu|
|Translator: Mui||English Source: Re:Library|
Three days had passed since the battle at the northern region of Mount Kuguse.
Lucella, Tim, and Wein volunteered to help with the city’s cleanup. Although they weren’t asked to do it and had no obligation, they couldn’t just stand idly by.
The city of Kugutfulm was submerged in muddy waters. While most buildings were still standing, the ground floors of the flooded structures were in shambles. It was one thing if the second floor survived, but there were some people who lost even their sleeping spaces.
In response, the city’s inn association decided to provide unaffected rooms as temporary shelters for the victims.
The former luxury hot spring inn, Rock Lizard Inn, where Golden Helmet operated from, had closed down. Nevertheless, they agreed to help by offering their undamaged second-floor guest rooms as a refuge.
As they were getting everything ready for the accommodations, Viola, who had left the city with Monica, returned.
The plain and unadorned high-class carriage stopped in front of the inn’s entrance, then swiftly dropped off Monica and Viola before disappearing like a gust of wind. It was an effort to be inconspicuous, but it only added an aura of mystery.
“Heya! It’s been three days.”
In the hallway, where the dry mud clung to the first floor, Viola, donning her usual practical and unassuming robe, greeted Lucella with her typical casual wave and nod.
Meanwhile, Monica held onto Viola tightly, wrapping her arms around Viola’s waist.
“Um, what’s going on here?” Lucella asked.
“This belongs to me,” Monica answered curtly.
“She won’t let go,” Viola explained further.
In contrast to Viola, Monica’s attire exuded elegance and luxury, yet it blended in seamlessly with the city’s surroundings.
Her dark red dress appeared simple at first glance, but upon closer inspection, the craftsmanship was impeccable… exceedingly so. The kind of quality that made one reluctant to imagine its price.
Dressed in that elegant ensemble, Monica clung to Viola, holding on firmly and unwilling to be separated.
“Well, things happened.”
Tim and Wein, carrying two makeshift beds each, also joined in welcoming Viola.
As Monica clung tightly to Viola, her grip seemed to tighten slightly, perhaps due to shyness.
Viola raised two fingers firmly.
“I’ve got two stories to share. One about ourselves and one about the kingdom. Well, let’s start with the more urgent one… Setulev is likely going to declare war on Maltgartz.”
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Viola’s words were direct. Even first-class adventurers found themselves momentarily stunned.
“It’s still confidential information… but on the same day we defeated Marquis Angus’ army in the northern region of Mount Kuguse, we received a message from the Gufare Union. ‘Let’s fight together against Maltgartz. Once we break through this, we will cede the current Angus territory to Setulev,’ it said.”
Each of them was left speechless in their own way.
Lucella mentally recalled the world map. Maltgartz was enormous. Just the Angus territory adjacent to Setulev across Mount Kuguse was almost as large as Setulev itself, and in terms of population, it was said to be even larger.
“They move fast, and they don’t care about appearances.”
“If this goes through, our territory will almost double.”
“For Setulev, it’s an unprecedented offer. Considering it as a lifeline that controls the flow of goods and people, what we stand to gain is immense.”
“With the current situation, cutting territory from Maltgartz seems realistic. And considering the output of the Wisdom Eye Vortex they might be able to govern it themselves. Of course, it would require rebuilding the Regalia Line.”
It seemed like either a heavenly arrangement or a devilish trick.
Maltgartz had grown weary of the prolonged conflict and was eager for a swift resolution, resorting to their worst option. However, the Gufare Union also wanted to conclude the battle quickly, and this presented the perfect opportunity for them. They might have been willing to pay a slightly higher price for the bait.
Lucella couldn’t help but find it dirty.
“The higher-ups always get most excited about wars that allow them to conquer territories, don’t they? And now, they have a perfect pretext for starting the war, which can also garner support from the citizens. In other words…”
“It’s about to begin.”
“Of course, you’re not entirely unaffected by this, Lucella.”
“……Yeah, I suppose.”
“The reason Gufare acted so swiftly might be to utilize the ‘Dragon of Mount Kuguse.’ With you and Miss Kafal allying with it, Mount Kuguse has become an impregnable fortress. If Setulev applies pressure from there, the balance of the war will tilt in Gufare’s favor. You see, even a perfectly balanced scale will tip with just the weight of a single feather.”
Lucella felt as though the sooty smoke had settled in her chest.
In the short term, it seemed highly improbable for Maltgartz to mount an attack on Mount Kuguse. Julian’s plan hinged on stealing the Regalia from Setulev, and Marquis Angus’ forces had been decimated, excluding those who had been dispatched to the eastern anti-Gufare frontline. It was hard to envision other lords willingly diverting their forces to aid them.
Regarding their immediate goal of safeguarding their way of life in the mountain, they had, for the time being, achieved success. It was difficult to claim that they were in a dire situation that demanded fighting for their safety.
Taking a long-term perspective… in other words, considering it from the dragon’s perception of time, getting involved in a war would bring more risks than rewards.
Engaging in human conflicts would yield benefits for the next ‘mere’ few decades. Human affairs operated on a human scale, and since humans died before dragons, the situation would inevitably change.
Amidst all of this, Lucella understood that deep-seated within the people remained not gratitude, but rather resentment. Even if a nation vanished, its essence could persist, passed down through generations.
It was only natural for a dragon whose territory was encroached upon to retaliate with untamed violence. Well, perhaps many in the world would accept that. However, what would come next? How would a dragon who made political distinctions between friend and foe, akin to humans, be perceived?
If Setulev were to acquire control of the north side of Mount Kuguse, it might offer more comfort than being under Maltgartz’s rule. Nevertheless, even that could be a fleeting moment in the grand scale of a dragon’s lifespan. After both Setulev and Maltgarz had vanished, only resentment might endure.
This wasn’t a certain forecast of the future but rather a concern. The consequences of becoming entangled in the war could bring either prosperity or catastrophe… and it remained uncertain.
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However, there was no room for choice. The Gufare Union was resolutely pulling Lucella and Kafal into the conflict, and Setulev was likely unstoppable.
“I don’t want to be used or manipulated, but that’s not the essence of the matter. What I truly desire is to protect the place where I can live with Mom. That’s why I’ll stay by her side. If I end up getting involved in the conflict, I want it to be as a dragon, not a human. While coexisting with humans is possible, I won’t be swayed by their notions of good and evil or their circumstances. I’ll only focus on safeguarding my nest and territory.”
Emotionally, supporting Setulev was tempting, and it seemed like the better choice at the moment. However, the approach must be carefully considered, more than she had initially thought…
“Hey, are you planning to stand here and talk forever?”
Monica, still clinging to Viola, interjected with a hint of annoyance. It was almost like a demanding request, yet also a subtle reproach.
“…Have you all still not had lunch? If so, let’s go out and get something to eat. The market that was swept away has been restored, so there are options available.”
Viola took the lead in concluding the scattered discussion.