Chapter 288 – Read Each Other
“I can’t take these terms.”
“Do you think you are in a position to say you can’t?”
I am fed up with the strangely bullish attitude of Antonius-dono. What is this bullish attitude when he has just had his entire force gathered at the border fortress annihilated?
“I know what your trump card is. We have excellent mages in our country. It is a magic device―or rather, a magic weapon―that uses magic sparkling stones, isn’t it?”
I was surprised. Did they realize that it was a bomb using magic sparkling stone that caused that destruction by examining the destruction marks on the fort?
“If that is the case, I don’t understand why your country is taking such a strong stance?”
“A magic weapon using magic sparkling stones cannot be mass-produced so easily. Once the seed is cracked, there is nothing to fear. You lack the troops and manpower to occupy and maintain control of our cities. So you have no choice but to face us with a small elite force with advanced weapons. There is no need for us to accept such conditions when we know you are on edge. Don’t you think so?”
Haha, I see. They think it is impossible to mass-produce magic sparkling stone bombs now that they know what they are. We who consumed our trump card for the sake of threats are regarded no longer as a threat. So that’s what they think.
“I see, I see. The magic sparkling stone is not something that can be obtained easily. So even if we show you that we can make the fort disappear, there is no way we can wipe out other towns and villages in the same way, and since you know we don’t have many soldiers, you are not afraid of us. That’s what you’re trying to say, huh?”
Perhaps sensing something disturbing in my attitude, Antonius-dono and his colleagues look at me as if they are staring at something creepy. Hahaha, I’m going to knock their socks off.
“By the way, have you ever seen the real magic sparkling stone, Antonius-dono? And the rest of you?”
I reached over to the tabletop and pulled out a magic sparkling stone from my inventory. I picked out a selection of them, some as small as the tip of a pinky finger and some as large as a ping pong ball.
“I can’t give it to you, but you can pick it up and inspect it. Please take it in your hand and see what it is to your heart’s content.”
Saying this, I pushed the magic sparkling stone, which had become a small pile, forward. Antonius-dono extended his trembling hand to the small pile and looked at the magic sparkling stone in his hand. The magic sparkling stone itself takes in the magic of nature, amplifies it, and emits light. It is not polished or anything, and there is no formula engraved on it.
“R-ridiculous… these, such an… impossibility.”
“What you see in front of you is real, and you should honestly admit it. Let’s be clear. It is true that we have few soldiers. But that does not mean that we cannot destroy your country. We have the option of wiping out tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions more lives in order to cut off the fear of retribution.”
“B-but then, why…?”
“Why not destroy the Duchy of Dihart as quickly as possible, you ask? Or maybe the Holy Kingdom?”
Or both? Antonius-dono did not respond to my words and remained silent, dripping with greasy sweat. With a careful hand, he returned the magic sparkling stone to its place in the pile.
“We just want to get our home and our people back and live happily ever after. That’s why we fought to regain the Merinard Kingdom, and we will not tolerate those who try to invade our homeland again. But we don’t want to repay them for what they’ve done to us. Does that answer your question?”
“…Oh, I understand perfectly well. I’m sorry, but may we speak privately for a moment?”
After I said that, Antonius-dono left the meeting place with the delegation of the Duchy of Dihart in tow. Yesterday, the Tigris Kingdom built a tent camp, and it seems that a tent camp has already been prepared, too. Hence, they probably intend to discuss the situation there.
“Kosuke-sama, are you sure?”
“My abnormality will be exposed sooner or later. If I am going to be exposed anyway, it would be better to do it in a spectacular way. Once the Kingdom of Tigris and the Duchy of Dihart are taken care of, all we have to do is pay attention to the Holy Kingdom in the east.”
To the south, there is only the Great Omit Wilderness, which is half under our control, and the Black Forest, where the elves and Grande’s family live. To the west, there is a small group of nations that requires some attention, but further west, the Dragonis Mountain Kingdom is keeping an eye on the small group.
While friendly, they are not as trustworthy as the elves of the Black Forest. But even so, as long as Grande and I are in the Kingdom of Merinard, they will not lose their friendly attitude toward the Kingdom of Merinard.
If we can make a non-aggression pact with both of the two northern countries, it will be a great flower circle. Even if not, we can achieve our goal if we can get the Kingdom of Tigris on our side and use it as a check against the Duchy of Dihart. The worst that could happen would be to annihilate major cities so that neither country can wage war for the next ten years… Well, I don’t want to do that.
“I think it would have been better to let them settle down and fold up?”
“I’ve been thinking about that, but I think that Antonius-dono is probably a pretty careful and smart guy. When he sees such a large pile of magic sparkling stones, he can imagine how bad it is.”
Magic sparkling stone is, of course, a strategic commodity with tremendous performance as a material for magic tools, but more than that, it is also an absurdly expensive precious stone. Even a piece as small as the tip of a pinky finger is worth a mansion. What if it were as big as a ping-pong ball and without a scratch? Its value would soar. He would probably think that owning enough of it to build a small pile is a threat not only in terms of its value as a magical tool but also in terms of financial power.
Maybe he is reading too much into it and thinks that we have more magic sparkling stones? Or maybe he would think that there are other hidden resources. Or maybe he would think there really is one. Well, actually, there are. There are mithril in large quantities, and other magic iron, magic steel, black steel, and so on. And to top it off, there are magic crystals that can be literally taken out of the vein holes as much as we want. And a mountain of other gems.
“I wondered if it might work in our favor.”
“The original idea of pushing it through is not going to work. If we push it too far, we could really end up with several cities being cleared like the fort.”
“Wha…!? That’s impossible! There is no way we can accept such a proposal!”
When Lord Ansam, the internal affairs officer, heard my words, his face turned bright red, and veins appeared on his bald head. Oh, oh, you’re howling at me so easily without even knowing my concern.
“You saw that little pile of magic sparkling stones, right? They can use any number of disposable magic tools to clear a fortress. It takes only half the size of the tip of a pinky finger to clear a fortress with a magic sparkling stone, you know? The magic sparkling stone there alone was enough to clear an entire city in the duchy, and there was still more than enough left over. There’s no telling how much they have stockpiled in total.”
“But that doesn’t mean――!”
“Well, listen. How much do you think all those magic sparkling stones are worth?”
“Huh? You can’t put a price on that! It’s equivalent to buying any number of the Duchy of Dihart… I see!”
“That’s what I’m saying.”
In other words, it’s not that they’re in need of money. To be precise, they don’t want money. Since there is no cession of territory in the conditions, it is safe to assume that they have no territorial ambitions either. If that is the case, what they are really looking for is a mutual non-aggression treaty or a trade treaty.
“They probably intend to have a full-fledged war with the Holy Kingdom. So they want to cut off the fear of retrospect.”
“That means that their conditions for us are stricter than those of the Kingdom of Tigris…”
I nodded to the words of Lord Liddell, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and then took over the rest of the conversation.
“They are probably trying to get the Tigris Kingdom to give them preferential treatment so that they can keep our country in check.”
To take it a step further, it is believed that the Duchy of Dihart will follow the Holy Kingdom to the end. The current royal family has the blood of the Holy Kingdom in it. It is only natural that they would think so.
“…You don’t seem to know much about the inner workings here.”
“It is an emerging nation for some reason. It’s a new country, and I don’t think they can handle that much in less than a year since it was established.”
I heard that Seraphita-san, the very pretty elf lady, has been asleep for 20 years. Her knowledge must be old, and above all, they must be so focused on domestic control that they don’t have the energy to turn it over to the outside world. And yet, only their military and financial power is extremely strong. What a distorted nation.
“It would be better to keep things quiet while extracting as many concessions as possible…”
“Are there any cards we can play?”
“As with the Kingdom of Tigris, there is no way but to offer subhuman slaves…”
“The damage to domestic agricultural and mining production would be immeasurable. As I recall, the Kingdom of Tigris paid them for ten years, didn’t they?”
“I believe so.”
“Worst case scenario, if we can get the same ten-year payment, even if the amount remains the same… how about if the slaves are handed over in stages instead of all at once like in the Kingdom of Tigris?”
“Is that acceptable?”
We were able to come to a common understanding that it would be better to change our initial policy of rejecting their demands to a policy of aiming for a compromise in the most amicable way possible, and we shared our wisdom in order to protect the national interests of the Duchy of Dihart to the maximum extent possible.