Chapter 97 – We Would Be Able To Return Early!?
“The meeting room. How nostalgic.”
We were in the stone building that was in the center of the fortress.
After stepping inside, we were led to the meeting room that was near the entrance.
While Royg would have decorated the room with extravagant furnishings, here, there was just an odd assortment of chairs and tables that were likely from different places, and there was an old bed near the wall.
“Do you sleep here?”
“Well, if there is a monster attack, or any other change, it will be easier to react from the first floor. Now, take a seat.”
And so we sat down on the chairs that were on the opposite side of the table where Solm sat.
Shortly after, the soldiers who were in charge of cooking brought us our food. It was hard bread and mushroom soup.
Melk looked at it with a puzzled expression.
“…Can you really become full with this?”
“Surely this will give you little strength?”
Iria muttered in agreement.
As they both tended to eat mostly meat, it was no wonder that they would think like that.
However, I turned to Solm and said,
“This is quite normal. Maybe even…”
“If anything, this would have been quite decent compared to what we sometimes had to eat back in the day. There were times when there was nothing you could chew on.”
“Yes, yes. Was it Arth? That soldier who was so desperate to eat something, that he filled the soup with grass?”
“That was a terrible incident… Everyone became sick for several days and that nearly brought about the destruction of the knights order.”
“Aye. The biggest threat since it was founded. The very idea that everyone would die over such a thing… Arth was sobbing hysterically… Hah!”
I couldn’t help but laugh. And Solm burst into laughter as well.
But then I noticed that Melk had puffed out her cheeks in annoyance.
“Melk is worried. And yet you two are just sharing jokes.”
“So-sorry. But you did see that the people outside were eating a little better?”
I had seen rabbit and other meat being dried in the settlement.
So it seemed like it was just Solm wanting to be frugal.
I knew, because I had eaten the same way for a long time.
Solm turned to Melk and bowed his head.
“My apologies. However, some meat is also being cooked for you two now. Though, it may not be a lot.”
“Oh, no. We are quite satisfied with this. As long as everyone is able to eat.”
“Well, it did seem like even the people outside were not able to eat much meat. And speaking of meat…”
As if remembering something, Iria clapped her hands together.
“On our way here, we hunted a boar!”
“Aye. While we could freeze it and bring it back with us, we might as well just eat it here. And then we can give the rest to the people of the settlement. Solm. I’ll need to use this table.”
And so I stood up and moved to a different table.
I then used wind and water magic to clean the surface, and then I placed the meat of the boar that Iria had hunted on top of it.
I had cut them down to steak size so they would be easier to use. In all, it was about the weight of three people.
The soldier cooks looked at it in astonishment.
But, surely there was nothing unusual about this amount of meat?
We had dealt with much more meat when at the knights order. Perhaps they were new?
No, some of them looked familiar.
“I’ve already cut it up for you. So you can use it like this.”
“Huh? Ah… Are you certain?”
“Then we will gladly accept it. Share it with everyone, but prioritize the children outside.”
And so the soldiers excitedly took the meat away and carried it to the kitchens.
Shortly after, some chicken was brought for Melk and Iria, and so we began to eat.
As Solm ate, he asked me,
“Still, Sir Joshua. You live nearby now?”
“Yes. The village is about a day’s journey to the south of this place. In fact, it was just this morning that we set out, hoping to reach a northern town.”
“I see. And what business do you have in a northern town?”
“We simply wanted to buy supplies. We want to increase the number of crops grown in our fields. Though, perhaps we have already accomplished that, now that we have received the beans.”
The magibeans could be used for medicine as well as food. While there was no harm in having an ever larger variety of crops, this would still be a great addition to the harvest.
“In that case, if you ask the people in this settlement, they might share some seeds with you. Just like the last person, there are many here who were farmers in the south.”
“It seems…that things have gotten quite bad there.”
“Yes. Originally, after leaving Captain Royg, I had planned to rally my men here and head to the south. However, the refugees then told me that the three southern cities, Valtos, Falentan, and Rejan had fallen.”
“All three? Three of the ten cities?”
To the south, there were ten important cities along the border.
Even while I was at the knights order, I would occasionally hear about a city being taken. But they would usually be taken back by humans after that.
But to have three of them…
“Yes. Recently, the Demon King Arm’s assaults…are not just vicious, but seem to be very strategic. From what I heard, Rejan, which was known to have an impregnable wall, was taken due to an ambush from the inside. As for Falentan, it was the lord, Count Bearu, who was overtaken by a sudden madness, and opened the gates.”
“There may be some machinations at work here…”
I immediately thought of Bertos and the Minotaurs… And of Kyuby, who had been manipulating them.
That spy in the fox mask.
The one who had released the Minotaurs from their underground prison and made them fight against humans. So it was possible that he was involved with what was happening in the south as well.
And if three cities had fallen, then a fourth or fifth could as well. And then eventually…the northern cities…
When leaving, Kyuby had said something about there being work in the north. Perhaps the Demon King Army was already making a move.
“Solm… While I cannot say anything with certainty, it is possible that the Demon King’s men are moving up north. The humans might continue to find themselves at a disadvantage. Could you tell the lords that you’re acquainted with to be on their guard?”
“Understood. I’ve been telling them of the threat of the Demon King, whenever I write letters asking for their support. But I will put more emphasis on it now. Still, humans are always slow to react, and the people at the temple would not move to help us.”
Solm bit his lip angrily.
“But there are people in need of aid… I too should go south as soon as possible.”
“Solm, I understand how you feel. However, you should solidify your position here first. I will also ask the demihumans for help. If they would consider trading.”
While Iria and Melk had agreed, there were the other tribes as well.
And so I could not make that decision myself.
“Thank you, Sir Joshua. And you are right, it is not the right time to make a move. I must secure a foundation here, for living and protection.”
“Aye. And I will do what I can to help. However…if we can get everything we need here, then we’ll be able to return to the village early.”
I had expected this to be a long journey, that would keep us away for over a week. But I had acquired information about the south now, and it seemed like we could just trade here.
I muttered, and then Solm smiled.
“Hmm? Yes, it is my home…”
It surprised me a little as well. How much I desired to return to the village. That was how comfortable it was for me now.
Iria looked at me with a happy expression.
“That is wonderful. The others will be so pleased.”
“Aye, they will.”
I nodded back at Iria.
Solm had a resigned look as he saw this, but then raised his voice cheerfully.
“Ah! It seems like the boar meat has been cooked. On top of seeing you again, Sir Joshua, this really has been a good day.”
And so after that, we dined on freshly roasted boar meat.
And since it was late, we decided to sleep at the fortress that night.