After travelling several days away from Rafen, we reach the potential area of our destination – the mine.
「That was quick, I thought it would take more time to get to the mountain nation territory.」
I thought that would be the case, more so since we’re bringing wagons along with us this time.
「In other words, it’s the maintenance of the highway. If there’s a maintained path, it would take the same amount of people two or three times faster to move through.」
After Adolph delivered his fervent speech, he sniffles. Sorry that I made you stay outside because of the many nights I embraced Celia and the others.
「No, I also can’t endure sleeping when you’re having sex beside me.」
So with that, we’re even then.
I approach the mountain again. The grand mountain range lies to the east, where the summit looks hazy and not much can be seen, and just like its child, a rocky mountain juts out to the west, where the mine is suspected to be.
Even though it’s jutting out, the mountain is still several hundred meters tall, standing out more than most mountains in the central plains. The surface is rocky and there aren’t many trees or grass growing, but the incline isn’t that steep, so it’s possible to climb up to the peak quite easily if you cut around here and there.
It doesn’t look like a regular rocky mountain and the entirety looks slightly reddish-brown in color. There is spring water flowing around the mountain here and there, but it isn’t enough to allow for full-scale farming. Plus, the water has a strange color and a strange smell.
「I saw it last time too, but it really is an amazing mine. The surface is covered with red scrap rocks though……」
The man Claire brought with her……I forgot his name. But he finds a recess in the rocky mountain and hits it with a hammer.
「If you remove one layer, there is high quality iron inside……and with just a little refinement, it will become the best iron.」
「Then, shall we dig a hole in the mountain?」
「Yes. We can retrieve a large amount of ore that way……」
He moves along to a nearby flowing stream.
「Even if you don’t enter the mountain, you can get a lot of iron sand from this stream. This land is basically one big clump of iron.」
I see, if he says it like that, it might be better to quicken the development of this place.
「Since you’re building it anyways, it may be better to build a large blast furnace instead of a small one.」
Adolph jumps into the conversation.
「If it’s steel, then it’ll be higher quality……」
「More importantly, the accumulation of a large amount of ore……」
「Not only miners……」
Adolph and Claire start to argue so Celia and I exclude ourselves from the loop. We won’t understand a single thing even if we try to listen anyways. It’s best to entrust it to someone else if you don’t understand something.
As I shift my gaze elsewhere, I see a small hut hidden on the mountain side. Thin smoke puffs out of the chimney and climbs into the air. Since I’m free anyways, I’ll check it out.
「Is that the fire nation the mountain nation was talking about ……the ones who they were trading food for iron with?」
「Yes, they said they were friendly and wouldn’t attack, but I will stay alert.」
Celia orders the escort unit to take a defensive formation.
「I don’t think they’ll attack us so suddenly, but let’s talk through it just in case.」
In the distant future, it would be ridiculous to have a dispute. If we’re going to oppose them in the first place, it’s better just to attack them first.
When I ride on Schwartz and approach the hut, what I thought to be only a few houses turned out to be many dozen huts hiding in a recess on the mountain’s surface, creating a small village of sorts. Their huts aren’t made of wood, but with a baked clay or dirt or some other unknown material.
There is smoke coming from the top of most houses and I can hear the clanking of metal. It seems that it’s true they’re a people who make iron.
「Oh, I thought you guys weren’t coming anymore recently and then suddenly……」
Probably hearing the sound of a horse’s hooves, a man covered in soot comes out sluggishly from one of the huts. That man probably mistook us for the mountain nation, who came to trade with them, but when he clearly saw the difference in armor and weapons we were wielding, he suddenly shouts loudly.
「Who are you people!? Are you plains people!? Are you coming to attack us this time!?」
The man’s shouting brought people out of the huts one after the other, but they’re just coming out to check on the situation and staring over at us.
I stop Celia from drawing her sword.
「Calm down, they aren’t enemies……they’re scared.」
They aren’t carrying weapons and there are only a few of them. It’s impossible for them to do anything to the escort unit, who are fully equipped heavy cavalry. With that said, it will be easier to talk with them if they’re slightly afraid.
「The village chief of this place……I don’t know if you call him the chief, but anyways, bring out the person I can speak with. As long as you don’t attack us, we won’t do anything either.」
After saying that, Celia and the others deliberately continue to maintain their battle formation.
The place we were guided to is a relatively larger hut, which seemingly acts as an assembly hall, though it’s still a small house which might not be able to fit even ten people inside. The escort unit is kept outside the entrance while I enter, where there is a wobbly, old man sitting down inside. His face is black with soot and one eye has been damaged.
「I am the person in charge, you can call me Flamme.」
「I’m Aegir. I’m the feudal lord below these mountains. 」
He won’t understand even if I say it, so this kind of rough introduction should be fine.
「This may seem sudden, but everyone is afraid. Could you tell me what your goal is?」
I only came because I saw the hut, but that won’t lead into what I want to say.
「We can take the iron out from this mountain, right?」
「Of course, we are living off of striking iron.」
「It appears to be so. We also want the iron. We want to dig in this area, that’s why we came here for an inspection.」
There’s no point to prefacing my statement. I don’t intend to make them suffer, but I don’t want to be too reserved either.
「……so you’re chasing us out?」
「No, I won’t pay you any attention if you don’t get in the way. Rather, wouldn’t it bother you that we are starting our mining?」
After saying that, I suddenly notice something strange. Since they seem to interact with the mountain nation on a daily basis, I thought for sure that they would be a similar kind of tribe, but this guy called Flamme is close to 180 cm tall and has a good physique, even though he’s old. He’s pretty big compared to most of the large men of the mountain nation, who would still be one head shorter than me.
「You are not of the mountain nation, right?」
Flamme closes his eyes and nods slowly.
「Correct, I am not from the mountain nation. It has been more than 40 years ago in the plains……and I have already forgotten the name of the country, but I was driven out by the flames of battle, chased here by bandits and picked up after collapsing.」
Flamme leads me outside the assembly hall. People have gathered and are looking at me with worried expressions.
「These are people who are also from the plains like me, the tribes of mountain nation who have perished from war or illness and other mixed races. This is a place where those sorts of people gather.」
When I look at the people here, it’s true that the difference between their stature and skin is large.
「Hooh ……how interesting.」
I thought it was because they would only die if they stayed in the mountain nation territory, but it’s a different story. But there are too few people. There are only 40 to 50 people at most.
「From what you said before, it has been 40 years since you’ve come here? It’s been a fairly long time, and yet this is quite the lonely village, isn’t it?」
Flamme smiles and speaks.
「We don’t have food. The water is also poor, so even if we can give birth, 80% of them don’t survive.」
Flamme reaches into a basket that appears to be used for food and tosses me something from inside. That thing was a large mouse, which was smoked.
「This is the best meal we have. Small insects, mushrooms, moss……we search for things we totally never thought about when we were living in the plains. Once in awhile, we would give the mountain nation iron tools in exchange for food, but they surprisingly haven’t come recently.」
Sorry, it’s probably because I gave a majority of the tribes weapons when they came under my control. It looks like it would make things worse so I won’t say anything.
「More importantly, the water that flows from the streams in the mountain becomes poisonous when you drink it. I understand that, but there isn’t any other source of water so we have to drink this. Moreover babies can’t endure this.」
What a pitiful lifestyle they’re living. They’re not a big deal in terms of their population and they’re not aggressive or anything. It probably wouldn’t make a difference if I left them alone.
「I see, now I understand. We will dig into the mountain and make iron. But I don’t have any intention to do anything to you……if you gather the iron sand though, we can give you water in exchange.」
If they’re not going to interfere with us then I don’t intend to talk with them any further. I don’t expect anything from them as a group of blacksmiths and if they can only make the crude, unrefined swords the mountain nation used in the past, they are worthless as manufacturers too. We have no choice but to gather blacksmiths from somewhere else.
「Digging in the mountain……that will be quite problematic.」
Flamme stands up and draws the sword leaning against the side.
Celia instantly draws her sword and steps forward, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to attack.
My eyes are drawn to the sword and I could clearly tell in the dimly lit room from its shine and sharpness that this item is something rarely seen even from the blacksmiths in the capital.
「Did you make this?」
「That’s right……and I will never do it again.」
I sit down once again. It looks like there is worth in talking to them one more time.
「We have been striking iron for many decades and we have something we pass down from generation to generation. We do not only make unrefined products.」
「Then why don’t you hand it to the mountain nation?」
If they periodically bring food to you, they shouldn’t have any reason to hate the mountain nation.
「It’s because we can’t retrieve the materials. There are very few trees here, and the quality of rocks on the surface of the mountain is quite poor. There is also better fuel and higher quality of iron too but……」
「Where is it?」
「Deep in the mountain……you’ll find it if you dig a little.」
「Then why not just dig for it? You’re not idiots, right?」
But Flamme shakes his head.
「If we mine in the mountain, we will cause a dispute with them. We have very few people with very low energy, so we can’t really hold our own.」
He took a breath and enunciates his words slowly.
「The ones who live in the mountain……the demi-humans.」
I leave the village and return to the place where Adolph and the others are making a fuss.
「That’s what I heard.」
「Well, it’s nice we can leave that village of several dozen people alone if we won’t cause harm to them, but it’s weird there are demi-humans.」
「Just when things are going well, you don’t want to nitpick about this stuff, right?」
Adolph and Claire sigh. I’ve never seen demi-humans before but since vampires exist, I’m sure the demi-humans do as well.
「I don’t know whether they are demi-humans, monsters, or perhaps people who live underground this time, but since we’re here, I want to settle this quickly.」
「But even if you say they’re in the mountain……」
This mountain is like a child compared to the size of the grand mountain range, but a giant’s kid is still a giant. Even if several hundred people conduct an investigation, I don’t know how many months it would take.
「It would be nice if they came out over there……the inside of the mountain is basically a cave-like place, right?」
As an experiment, I try going towards one of the countless caves and shouting loudly.
「If there is anybody living within this mountain, come out!!」
「……no way that will work.」
「As expected, this isn’t……」
Don’t say it after. I’m gonna get embarrassed too.
In addition to hiding my embarrassment, I use a hammer made for prospecting to strike at the entrance of the cave. It would be nice if they hear the echoing sound and come out.
Reacting to Celia’s voice, I jump out of the way and the ceiling of the cave suddenly crumbles. The impact of my strike was enough that it would cause a cave-in?
「To cause a mountain to crumble with a hammer……are you really a human?」
It’s just a little cave-in. Don’t exaggerate things.
Seeing as how there’s nothing else I could do, I was about to give up and decide the place where the potential city should be constructed, but I got a surprising reply.
「Heeeey–! Who was the one who destroyed the entranceeeee!!」
「Look, I got a response.」
「Everyone stay alert!!」
People start appearing from inside the cave of the mountain and we are quickly surrounded. They are holding hammers and axes in their hands.
「Is it you guys?! The ones who destroyed the entrance?!」
「Of course they’ll get angry if you break the entrance with a hammer.」
Celia and Adolph sigh.
They are holding weapons, but they are more angry than they are bloodthirsty. They don’t seem to be a particularly nasty bunch.
「Perfect timing. I wanted to talk with you guys.」
The ones who jumped out of the cave are way shorter than even the mountain nation. However, they aren’t skinny but have nice physiques, almost as if a normal man with muscles was compressed. Plus, we can understand each other’s language, so they aren’t monsters – in other words, these are the so called demi-humans.
「What? Talk? To strike our mountain like that……」
「Don’t be so angry, it’s not like we desire to massacre one another, right?」
「Of course not! We are not like those savage goblins……」
I swiftly pick up the hammer, which belonged to the man in the front who raised his voice, with one hand and rest it on my shoulder. It’s quite heavy……about as heavy as my spear.
「He picked my hammer up with one hand!?」「What the heck is this guy?」「H-hey, don’t go ahead.」
「I don’t intend for us to try and kill each other. I just want to talk about the mountain. Now, please guide us to the place where we can talk.」
I took the initiative to enter the hole in the mountain they just came out of, but it’s dark and the inside is complicated. Moreover, it’s narrow and looks like I’ll hit my head on the top.
「Idiot, it’s this way. If you move on your own, you won’t be able to find your way back.」
The man, who I took the hammer from, rushes to the front holding a torch. How nice of him, I’ll return his hammer.
「Don’t throw it, you idiot!! What strength……are you really a human……?」
「Since we have come this far, you have be resolved.」
Celia and the others couldn’t help but tag along. The other men are extremely curious of the girls and are wandering around them.
「You better not lay hands on my women. If you do, I’ll have to fight you.」
「Why would I?! Besides, large women like them aren’t my type.」
When you carefully observe the men, most of them are shorter than Leah, and not one of them are taller than Celia. What interesting fellows.
「Are you guys human?」
「We are a dwarf tribe who have lived here for a long time. From our point of view, you are the one who doesn’t seem like a human. Why can a feeble person from the plains carry my hammer with one hand?」
「That’s like asking me why I can breathe.」
「Well, whatever. You don’t seem to want to fight anyways, so I’ll take you to where Balbano is.」
「Balbano? Is that your leader?」
「We don’t have someone like a leader. Everyone lives as they please and makes whatever they please. Balbano is the wisest and the strongest, so he is the most suited to talk to you.」
Does power have anything to do with negotiations……?
When I look backwards, Celia and the others are surrounding the self-proclaimed dwarves while walking, but they don’t seem like they’d hurt anyone. They look full of curiosity as they gaze at Celia and Leah and when they try to touch them, they jump back in surprise when they get stared back. Claire is a little too big for them so they keep their distance and stare at her from afar.
Perhaps because Adolph is a man, they’re approaching him without hesitation.
「H-how can I help you?」
「Why are your legs so thin? Won’t they snap?」
「Your arms are also thin, so wouldn’t they snap if you pick up a rock?」
「You seem long and lanky and quite light. Can I lift you up?」
Seeing Adolph get bombarded with questions makes me laugh. He might as well take this opportunity to train himself a little.
We walk in the dark tunnel for awhile before we reach a large opening. The space reminds me of the cave of goblins but the surrounding area is lit up with torches and although it smells slightly like soot, the area is kept pretty clean without any rotting smells. It looks like a space where people could live adequately.
「Balbano! I brought the guy who went wild at the entrance! It seems like he wants to talk.」
The voice of the man at the front echoes in the hole and a single person sluggishly appears. He holds a large metal cup in one hand and has a heavy-looking hammer hanging on his waist. He has thick arms and legs with a long beard and is considerably larger than the other tribe members surrounding him.
「He looks like a boss to me.」
The man called Balbano slowly walks forward and stands in front of me. Well, what kind of negotiation will this turn into?
Protagonist: Aegir Hardlett. 22 years old. Winter.
Status: Goldonia Kingdom Count. Great Feudal Lord of Eastern Area of Goldonia. King of the Mountains
Troops Commanded: Private Army – Escort Unit: 50, Others: still reorganizing
Assets: 9100 gold (labor -100) Loan: 20 000 gold
Weapons: Dual Crater (large sword), Large spear
Family: Nonna (wife), Carla (concubine), Mel (pregnant concubine), Melissa (lover), Maria (pregnant lover), Rita (head maid), Catherine (lover), Myla (lover), Leah (Self-declared Sex Slave), Yoguri (NEET), Casie (ghost), Sebastian (butler), Miti (lover), Alma, Kroll
Off on their own: Pipi (follower), Luna (commander), Ruby (Luna’s follower)
Children: Sue, Miu, Ekaterina (daughter), Antonio (son), Kuu, Ruu, Rose (foster)
Subordinates: Celia (adjutant), Irijina (commander), Leopolt (staff officer), Adolph (domestic affairs official), Claire & Laurie (official merchant), Schwartz (horse)
Sexual Partners: 88, children who have been born: 9