It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (46/85), enjoy~
Most of the rooms at the inn had been booked by Warren a while ago. Perhaps because of this, the only other guests were a couple of nobles.
Lloyd had said that the inn was not much different from the royal capital, but this inn also had the characteristics of this town, such as pachyderms of monsters on display.
In this unusual environment, Ain was immersed in the joy of just being at the inn.
After finishing his bath, Ain was already on the balcony. The snowstorm had already stopped, and the sky was calm.
Countless stars colored the night sky, and colorful auroras covered them. At first, it looked like a sunset, then it changed to fresh summer greenery, and in the blink of an eye, it changed to the blue of the sea reminiscent of the port city of Magna.
“───You’ll catch a cold, you know.”
Krone, also after a hot bath, stepped over. The firelight around her neck and collarbone was incendiary, and Ain hurriedly looked away.
“Krone, come here too. It’s so beautiful.”
Then she gazed up at the night sky, just as Ain had earlier. She looked up at the sky and let out a gasp as if in a state of debauchery.
For Ain, who was watching next to her, the sight of Krone staring at the magical scene was as artistic as a scene in a snow globe.
“The Demon Lord’s castle is located near this beautiful scenery. She never knows, does she?”
“Oh, it could be the other way around, you know. Maybe it was the Demon Lord who lived here first, and she liked the view.”
In other words, maybe the humans came later and settled here. When you think back to the picture of the Demon Lord, it seems reasonable. She had beautiful silver hair and a lovely figure. This snowy landscape would suit her.
Suddenly, Krone’s body trembled a little.
“Shall we go back inside?”
Ain put his cloak on her and led her by the cold hand to go back inside. As soon as she stepped inside, she felt a warmth seep into her skin, and her body rejoiced.
“Y-yes. Thank you…”
She seemed a little startled by the sudden pull of her hand.
She was seated on a pair of sofas and was miffed when she saw Ain heading towards the other side of it. When Ain sat down, she sat back down next to him.
“It’s still cold, so I hope you don’t mind me doing this.”
“I’d be glad to, but… no, it’s okay?”
“Fufu, thank you.”
Krone was in such a good mood; she could almost be heard humming.
The two of them sat quietly for a few moments before Krone suddenly remembered.
“Tomorrow, we have official business after lunch.”
“Oh, the feudal lord is coming to greet us, right?”
Then Krone nodded and put her hand on Ain’s.
Perhaps unconsciously, she gazed into the void and played with Ain’s fingers. The person being played with is ticklish, but he can’t tell her to stop, and it’s not too bad either.
“The person that would come to see you is the feudal lord of Baltic. His title is count.”
“He’s coming to the inn, isn’t he?”
“Yes. He wrote a letter saying he would be here around the time Ain finished his lunch.”
Then Ain can sleep well. Even though they came by train, it’s a long journey. He wanted to avoid starting in the morning if possible.
“As expected, if he had said… in the morning, I would not have allowed it.”
She smiled and said, but she was probably serious. If he had come at an early hour, she would have surely turned him away.
“But Ain could have an interesting conversation with Count Baltic. In his letter, he wrote that he heard that his brother, Kaizer, has been a great help to you at the school…”
This is what it means to be unable to keep his mouth shut. Ain’s face suddenly became tinged with surprise.
The exquisiteness of his face made Krone laugh, but it was no time to be concerned.
“…You’re lying about that, aren’t you?”
“What are you going to do if I lie about this… Geez.”
“E-eh? Instructor Kaizer is from a Count family? Why would he be an adventurer…?”
“Let’s just think about greeting the count tomorrow.”
“I think I’ll do that. I’ll look forward to seeing what he’s like.”
After enjoying the night view, the two of them went up to their room.
◇ ◇ ◇
The next day at noon, Lloyd walked into Ain’s room.
Dill was standing outside the room, guarding it, and said.
“Did you sleep well last night?”
“I slept fine. It was warm in the room, and the bed felt good.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Count Baltic should be here any minute. Ain looked at his watch and prepared himself for that.
“Have you ever met Count Baltic before, Lloyd-san?”
“A few times in the past. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with him at parties held at the castle.”
“What is he like?”
“A pleasant man. He values humanity and has a warm personality. He is also, unusually for a nobleman, a first-rate swordsman. I think he can at least take on a few royal knights.”
“Heh… I’m looking forward to talking to him.”
Just as he began to look forward to talking to him, there was a knock on the room’s door.
“It seems he has arrived.”
Lloyd went to the door, checked the outside, and gave Ain a look.
Count Baltic was already outside. After a few moments of pause, the door was opened.
The man who stepped in was a middle-aged man with a strong posture. He moved quite pleasantly, just as Lloyd had described.
“Nice to meet you. My name is Raizel Baltic. I have been entrusted with the land of Baltic by His Majesty and have received the title of count.”
After he finished, he bowed his head ninety degrees.
His romance gray hair is neatly combed, and his gray beard is masculine.
His nimble movements gave Ain the air of a trained soldier.
“Ah, nice to meet you. I, too, am honored to meet the famous Count Baltic.”
“Please, come before His Highness.”
Count Baltic followed Krone’s voice and sat down on the seat in front of Ain.”
Lloyd stood behind Ain.
“It is a great honor for me to have you come to Baltic.”
The Count of Baltic’s face was vaguely similar to Kaizer’s. The line of his nose and eyes are similar to Kaizer’s.
“This is a good town. I like the atmosphere of this town.”
Hearing this, Count Baltic was pleased and smiled.
“There are a lot of roughnecks in this town, but I’m glad to hear you say so.”
“I would like to enjoy the blacksmith shop before I leave. I hear there are many skilled blacksmiths here.”
“That’s true. After all, it is a treasure trove of monsters and mineral resources. It’s called the holy land of blacksmithing because so many blacksmiths gather here.”
“I’m looking forward to it. If you have any recommendations for blacksmiths, let me know later.”
“I’ll prepare a letter of introduction to a blacksmith then. If you have it, you can enter the store right away.”
A smile appeared on Ain’s face at the honest and grateful offer. But the word “letter of introduction” reminded him of one thing.
“Speaking of which, Count Baltic. I remembered that I had received a letter of introduction from the count’s brother, Kaizer-dono, as well.”
What he had received from Kaizer was a letter of introduction to the guild.
Ain got the letter before he went to Ist, and it’s been a little over a year now. He was told that the letter of introduction would be useful to him because he was quite famous.
“That guy gave you a letter of introduction…?”
“What’s the matter, is there something strange?”
“No, I just thought it was very unusual. However, a letter of introduction from Kaizer will help Your Highness with your investigation.”
“Yes. Not only is it unusual, but it’s the first time I’ve heard of Kaizer writing a letter of introduction. After all, he is as eccentric as he looks.”
In spite of his words, the count seemed to be enjoying himself as he talked about Kaizer.
“I haven’t heard from him in a while, but I’m glad to hear he’s doing well.”
“…I’m curious, why did Kaizer-dono leave the count’s house?”
“It was for that man’s dream. My brother and I were born here in the Baltic. So, from an early age, we longed to be adventurers and frequented the guild. Of course, we didn’t take requests, but we just enjoyed the atmosphere.”
“I was the eldest son, so I was considered a well-behaved child by our parents. But Kaizer wanted to be free. The rest is a simple story. He left the Baltic family forcefully, that’s all. I don’t have any personal disagreements with him.”
“…I thought there was a bigger problem.”
“I’m sorry for your concern. But… I believe that Kaizer was just born in the wrong house. He had his own dreams, and he wanted to fulfill them. That’s all there is to it… I’ve wasted too much time talking about it, haven’t I? I apologize.”
“No, don’t worry about it. It was quite an interesting story, even for me.”
“Thank you. By the way, Your Highness, I heard that you are planning to go to the former territory of the Demon Lord.”
Count Baltic then reached into his pocket and pulled out a sealed envelope.
“Please take this.”
Lloyd took it and inspected the contents.
“This is the recent route to the former Demon Lord’s territory. It’s a good source of information, including the recent climate.”
“──That’s a great help! Thank you, Count Baltic.”
“I’m glad you like it. But there is one more thing I must give you.”
He said this and took out an envelope that Ain had seen before. On the front was the name of a person he knew well.
“Actually, Oz-dono was in this town until a few days ago. It seems that he had come to investigate the surrounding area and was very disappointed that he had to leave before Your Highness. Please refer to the letter for details.”
“Ah, yes. I’ll get right on it.”
The letter began with an apology.
He wanted to be a part of the investigation and help with his wisdom. The letter went on to say that he had to decline due to an unavoidable appointment that had been scheduled some time ago.
He went on to write about the situation here in the Baltic.
“Heh… The monsters in the vicinity are quiet this time of year?”
“Yes. It’s only when it gets a little colder that they become active.”
That’s why it says to Ain that it is recommended to visit the former Demon Lord’s territory.
He said that with as many forces as he had heard about, he would definitely be able to travel there without any danger. With Ain’s quick wit and energy, he might be able to make some good discoveries. The letter ended with these words.
When he told Lloyd the contents, he pondered…
“I wonder if the monsters are really quiet this time of year.”
“Lloyd-sama, is it safe for His Highness Ain ── to visit there?”
“I think it’s fine if it’s just ordinary monsters. But in the past, we have observed the presence of some kind of powerful monster, so… it is difficult.”
Ain thought inwardly about what he had just heard.
(Is this about the identity of the mysterious monster that Chris-san mentioned before?)
He recalled that it was more than a year ago.
Before going to Ist, Ain and Chris went to Majolica’s store. At that time, she told him that there was a sign of an unidentifiable monster around the former Demon Lord’s territory. That’s why Chris had been against Ain going to the former Demon Lord’s territory.
As Ain was being convinced in his mind, Count Baltic twisted his cheek and said,
“Incidentally, at this time of year, it would take about four hours to get to the former Demon Lord’s territory on foot. And I don’t recommend heading to the former Demon Lord’s territory at this time.”
“W-why is that?”
Lloyd asked in response.
Leaving this conversation to Lloyd, Ain just listened.
“I’m not sure what the details are, but there have been reports of some unusual activity in the area since last night.”
Ain and Lloyd looked at each other at the word unusual.
“After last night’s earthquake, the monsters have been restless, as if they were running away from something.”
“How are the adventurers doing? Are they being cautious about hunting?”
“As you say, Lloyd-sama, all but the best adventurers seem to be out of town.”
“Hou, that’s quite swift, isn’t it?”
“There’s one thing, though, and it’s only a rumor…”
“Let’s hear it.”
“Some of the best adventurers have said that a monster from the founding era may have appeared.”
Then Lloyd’s eyebrows lifted.
Apparently, he had an idea and crossed his arms to think it out.
“No, could it be… why now…? And Count Baltic, what do you think about it?”
“I’m afraid I think the same thing as you do, Lloyd-sama.”
“As I thought.”
The only two people who don’t know are Ain and Krone. They exchanged glances, but they couldn’t find any answers.
The only thing they could tell was that there was an unsettling atmosphere in the air.
“If my concerns are correct, we must return to the capital as soon as possible… Or is that too risky? It’s also a problem for Ain-sama’s body… We can’t just leave so easily…”
“Then ─ let’s take a short break.”
“I think you should inform His Highness the crown prince of the situation if it concerns the future plans.”
Ain thanked her in his heart for giving him a helping hand at the best possible time.
“A-ah. Krone-dono is right, I suppose.”
“Then that is how it will be ── Count Baltic, with all due respect.”
“I understand. I’m going to leave now, so please tell His Royal Highness the crown prince, Lloyd-sama.”
“Yes, of course.”
Count Baltic left his seat and immediately left the room.
After confirming this, Ain opened his mouth.
“Hey, what’s going on?”
“I’ll explain it to you now. But please understand that depending on the situation, we may have to return to the capital.”
“It depends. I want to know first.”
“Yes ── as Count Baltic said, it is a monster from the founding era. If it really has appeared, it is no exaggeration to say that it is comparable to the Sea Dragon.”
“…What do you mean?”
“First of all, I would like to remind you of the Ogre that I told you about yesterday.”
It’s not possible to forget yesterday and today, so Ain nodded right back.
“And I told you the following. The Ogre that was defeated by His Majesty the First had escaped from a certain monster.”
“What? That is!”
“Yes. There’s a high possibility that it’s that monster that caused it.”
It’s the kind of monster that would make a big ogre like that run away.
Ain’s expression immediately changed.
“The name that has been passed down to the present day is “Upashikamui.” Unfortunately, there is not much information about it, only that it has huge body parts and that it is a monster that emits cold air. Some say it’s a kind of dragon.”
“How strong is it? Do you have any idea?”
“Not for sure. But… it fought the first king and survived.”
[T/n: According to mythology (kamui yukara) of the Ainu people, Upashikamui is the the god of snow.]
Ain narrowed his eyes at the fact that it had fought a hero who had defeated a Demon Lord and survived.
“Upashikamui was seriously wounded and fled from the presence of the first king with all its strength. The first king chased after it, but it escaped as if it were melting into the snow… In other words, it is a threat that Ain-sama should have returned to the royal capital.”
“So, you’re saying I should stop my official duties and investigations and go back to the royal capital?”
“Ha. That is definitely the correct decision. This is probably the unknown monster that has been observed in the past investigations.”
Maybe we should do what Lloyd-san said, Ain thought.
He crossed his arms and closed his eyes.
“I guess I have no choice.”
He felt the warmth of Krone’s hand on his arm, and the thought that he should abandon it ── this time came strongly to mind.
But at the same time, he wondered if it was okay for him, who was called a hero, to leave.
“Don’t think too hard, Ain-sama. You are the crown prince… You have a position.”
The legitimate heir to the throne should not have any mishaps, and if anything happens to him, Lloyd could be heavily punished.
But he felt uncomfortable. The word “evacuate” turned into the word “flee,” making his heart ache.
A moment later, Ain was about to open his mouth, unable to find any solid words. There was a small creaking sound, followed by a sudden tremor.
The tremors came two or three times at random, accompanied by the earth-shaking. Suddenly, the door opened vigorously, and both Dill and Count Baltic stepped in.
“‘Dill! You’re being rude in front of Ain-sama!”
“I apologize, but this is an emergency! Count, over there!”
The two of them hurriedly ran to the balcony and roughly stepped outside to look at the horizon.
Dill saw Count Baltic’s eyes narrow and a stern expression appear on his face. Immediately, Lloyd approached him, and with a reprimanding look on his face, he silently appealed to him to tell him why.
“Dill! What on earth is going on?”
“Look over there! That’s where the water train tracks were originally laid!”
But it’s no longer usable.
All that was left was rolled-up dirt, snow, and the torn-up remains of the railroad tracks.
Meanwhile, in the room, Ain exhaled as he realized the situation.
“It’s not safe to take the carriage all the way back.”
Well, what is he going to do? He smiled as he rubbed his temples.