The rumor of the 「Red Crow’s」 destruction didn’t become official, but it seemed to have steadily permeated to everyone.
After my hometown became famous as the 「Man-Eating Dungeon」, about half a year passed.
The end of the year came, and the new year arrived without any celebration, but there was nothing in particular that changed here.
Either way, there weren’t any battles or anything usual during winter as both Humans and beasts become quieter during this time.
Besides, it’s not like I was idly wasting my days during this half year.
I saved up magical power, and I also did research to strengthen up, but the biggest thing was that I started to organize the vicinity.
There was only one goal, to move out……Or rather, simply make preparations to escape.
After adding Shiro the Thief and Sara the Magician as one of my retainers, I tried to avoid carelessly increasing my retainers.
There were several reasons for this, but it was simply because the guests that come would decrease.
Well, it’s not like there are many travelers in the season of winter, but the annihilated……or rather, the 「Red Crows」 that I annihilated, the fact that they were a fairly well known group of ruffians was also a cause.
How they were repelled and, moreover, changed into demons was spread about as gossip, but it seemed to have a bigger effect than I expected.
Even among the fugitives that were introduced to me by Gustave, there are some that come asking about that.
They might accept it if I talk to them about it, but I avoided talking about the finer details.
The fact that information is a weapon is something that I myself realized all too well.
The most important thing was for mysteries to remain mysteries, and once a mystery is explained, and only an obstacle in the form of a possible solution will remain.
My hesitation to increase my retainers was also for that reason.
……Actually, there are also those that requested 「I want to turn into a demon」 while not knowing the situation.
These types of people were sent away by threatening them with 「there is a high probability that you will die, do you still wish to continue?」, but I also need to think of how else to chase them away.
It’s not like the information from Gustave reaches me all that frequently.
There are times where the guests with letters of introduction bring information from him, but he comes directly to me only once every several months, and if the mercenary group goes to war, it was normal for there to be no news at all during that time.
That Jii-san isn’t a guy that would die from being killed, but it was also probable for him to just die from some careless action somewhere.
If he did, there was the possibility that the current me would be completely cut off from information on the outside world.
That’s why, it was dangerous to rely only on his information.
For that reason, I decided that after winter ends, I myself would go out afar sometimes.
In these times, travelling peddlers aren’t all that rare.
Since the public order couldn’t be called good even as flattery, the major companies assembled caravans and increased their numbers, which reduced the risks.
And then, there were also small merchants on the individual scale that would dare to take the risk and aim for profits.
A peddler’s social status was assured through a license issued by the Merchant’s Guild, the Feudal Lords of various places, or even the Church.
After obtaining a license from relying on Gustave’s connections for that purpose, it was easy to feign my social status and travel.
Watergate City Abram was in a distance that would take a week from my dungeon, and was a large city in the vicinity of the area.
It was a city that a person called Margrave Abram governed, and was the biggest within this vicinity……it seems.
Even so, if one were to look over the entirety of the country I was raised in, even if it is called a large city, its size is average, and it seems that there are still other cities that are larger than this.
On top of that, within my knowledge, even this country, among the four other countries on this continent, was in a size that placed it around the middle of the spectrum.
Moreover, since it is in dispute with the eastern major power with the hegemony on the line, honestly, it didn’t feel real to me.
My hometown was in a remote region that was close to the national border with a foreign country, but since it is located on the western side of the country, we don’t have much of a relation to the war.
The relationship with this neighboring country isn’t bad, and ever since I was born, there hasn’t been any imminent military action.
Then again, this is a remote region for both countries.
It would be a different story if the mine development were to make a step forward on a large-scale, but in truth, there probably wasn’t any profit to be made if they were to go to war.
I was born, and am a bumpkin that hasn’t gone all that far out from my birthplace.
When I was a child, my mother took me to a town with a population of about 500 people for two nights and three days, but that is the furthest I’ve gone in my entire life up until now that I can remember, as well as the biggest city that I can remember.
To go to a large city that was several dozen times bigger than that, even though I know about it in my knowledge, it’s overwhelming to see it in person.
……Even though I made a gentle expression, after about one hour after entering Abram, my behavior was probably the very picture of a country bumpkin.
「Eliott-sama, if you keep on looking around restlessly like that, you won’t look like a merchant.」
That was the third time I was chided by Astarte like that since we entered the city.
She wasn’t in her usual nun-like outfit, but was wearing clothes that made her look like a travelling minstrel.
I was in a merchant’s outfit and Astarte had the appearance of a poet.
Since she really was my subordinate, I said 「shouldn’t you wear a merchant-like outfit」 to Astarte, but since she anticipated that I clearly wouldn’t look like Astarte’s superior once we entered the city, this time she purposely changed her outfit.
That decision alone seemed to be the correct one.
The image of a well-travelled female poet travelling together with a bumpkin peddler might be rare, but within this large city, it wasn’t something that looked that strange.
Well, in actual fact, Astarte isn’t all that accustomed to traveling, but she was far better at it than me.
Once we stayed at the inn with just the two of us, they guessed on their own that we had that kind of relationship, and I was grateful that they didn’t look into it all that much.
If this were a rural town, it wouldn’t turn out like this.
It could be seen in their eyes that they would meet you with a barrage of questions like where you came from or what kind of relationship you had.
True to its name of Watergate City, Abram had a large river running through the center of the city. Appropriate for a city with a deep relationship with water, the one that gathered the most faith in Abram among the various Gods of the Church was the River Goddess. The River Goddess should be a divinity affiliated with the forces of light among the Gods of the Church that gives protection to mothers and young women.
The one worshiped at the Church is the divinity that is the chief God and that leads the Gods of Light. According to the books of foreign countries that I read recently, compared to their religion called monotheism where they accept the God of Light and deny the other Gods, it seems that this form of worship is called polytheism where they worship a group of Gods.
In addition to the River Goddess, the Flame War God that gathers faith from mercenaries and metallurgy craftsmen, and the Large Tree Virtuous Elder that has popularity with the nobles and intelligentsia, there is an abundant variety of Gods that the Church acknowledges that give protection to various fields.
……Nonetheless, I haven’t had any good memories of the Church since long ago.
Besides, I am half Demon, and I now control demons as a Dungeon Master.
There is no way I would receive grace from some God.
In Watergate City Abram, these abundant water resources are put to practical use, as there are a great number of waterways that run through the city, as well as water wheels that use them for power. And then, the gigantic water gate that controls it all at the source is probably the main feature of this town.
Also, several large waterways run from Abram towards surrounding farming villages. And downstream from Abram, there is a belt of rich cultivated land that spreads out as a remote region……is what I know from my knowledge, but then again, it’s different after seeing it with my own eyes.
After arriving at the town, there was a thin waterway and so many water wheels that I didn’t know what they were used for. It looks like there are many ways to use them other than for grinding.
According to what I’ve heard, Watergate City Abram originally only had urban areas only on one side of the river, but after it came under the rule of the current Count Abram, large-scale riparian works were performed, and as a result, the city spread out to the other side of the river that was undeveloped in those times.
Since it had expanded this much from all of his work, the person called Margrave Abram is probably a great man in his own right. Doing various things, after we did a light look around the town, we secured a place at an inn in an area that looked like it had good public order and took a rest.
When the two of us went down to the bar and got a meal, I listened in on the contents of the conversation at the neighboring table.
「It looks like the Church is finally going to make a move.」
「Ahh, on that Man-Eating Dungeon, right? I heard that the young lady of the Feudal Lord’s is taking command. That is something to appreciate.」
「Still, why is it her……Certainly, she does possess the qualifications as a Temple Knight of the Church, but I thought that she doesn’t have any military service records?」
「We probably wouldn’t know about it, but isn’t it some political transaction? Count Abram is probably being soft on his very young niece.」
「Well now, there’s no telling if she really is his niece. She might unexpectedly be his biological child that a woman from somewhere had given birth to.」
「Oi oi, even if that’s just a joke, if the garrison hears you, they’ll take you away, you know? Well, if she possesses talent that succeeds that Count Abram’s blood, then I personally welcome it.」
……The words 「the Church is making its move」 is a phrase that I can’t just overlook.
They are words that Gustave often warned me about, and the forces of the Church include this country as well as the surrounding countries, so they are extraordinarily strong.
「Eliott-sama……That really is worrying.」
「Yeah, I’ll try asking someone about it.」
While I am a bumpkin, I was originally in the service business.
I’m experienced if it’s about having harmless and inoffensive conversations with travelers
and peddlers, and I bore in mind what a peddler might have an interest in talking about.
「Excuse me, may I ask you a question? I’ve just arrived in this city not too long ago, but are you having a somewhat dangerous conversation?」
「Oh, what is it, Nii-san?」
「No, well, I overheard you talking about a topic like a war would be happening. ……As a novice peddler, that kind of topic worries me.」
「What’s this, Nii-san, you’re away from home even though you’re so young…… Moreover, to be travelling together with such a pretty Nee-chan, I’m so jealous.」
「No no, she is just someone that I just coincidentally ended up coming here together with. I am unfamiliar with this area, and am having her help me out. Are you all people of this town?」
By the way, Astarte is actually unable to initiate this sort of colloquial conversation, and this comes as a huge surprise to me. She just might have been a noble before she was turned into a Demon.
In exchange for treating them to a drink, I was able to hear some fairly good information from them.
About how Gustave’s mercenary group was recruited to a skirmish that broke out at the border with the neighboring country and was currently absent.
About how Count Abram, who was the governor of Watergate City Abram, was of old age, and that his biological children generally died young.
About how his few remaining blood relatives just aren’t popular with the common people.
About how his niece that was entrusted to the large city’s temple was called back a few years ago, and that she was assisting in the Count’s government affairs.
About how that girl was like the common people, how she would go into the city sometimes and do administrative work, and that she seemed to be popular with the common people.
……Though, since I understood that they favored this niece, I should listen to them while taking their story with a grain of salt.
About how that niece officially received an investiture from a chivalric order that was affiliated with the temple, and was a Temple Knight.
And then, what was most important was, about how my dungeon was designated as dangerous by the Church and seemed to be officially targeted for subjugation, and……About how the Temple Knight that was Count Abram’s niece was chosen to be the commander of those troops.