069 Provocateur p.1


Translator: yAmi

Volden City, Volden Province, Kingdom of Arquell.

Surrounded by stone walls, the Oubeniel family's two-hundred-year-old fief was an average provincial city in this historic country. With the rich harvest of the land as its main product, the city prospered, developed, and finally stagnated. It was an old and somewhat idyllic city.

In normal times, the area would be crowded with merchants buying grapes and wine, the local specialty, and farmers preparing for the autumn harvest festival.

But it was different now.

The neighbouring Federation of St. Gallen invaded from the mountain range borders. They overwhelmed and looted various parts of the province. Naturally, people had begun to evacuate in search of safety. The city, the capital of the province, was the best option for many of the refugees. The city was protected by the sturdy walls and soldiers under the direct control of the lord, and there were food rations available. Refugees from all over the province of Volden were gathering having considered these factors.

Naturally, the city had no room to accept many of these refugees. Volden's defences were originally designed to protect against wild human attacking monsters. Monsters that might sporadically come from the forests or mountains, such as goblins, orcs, kobolds, and ogres. Later, the walls were also useful against the peasant revolt. The expected number of enemies the city could effectively fight back was about a thousand at best. Even if they were to adopt a siege strategy, they would be besieged for weeks or months by an army of over ten thousand.

Yes, they had a stockpile of food. It was the season to harvest wheat, and if the city could quickly harvest the wheat from the fields before the enemy could plunder it, the city would have no shortage of food for the time being.

But there was no place within the walls for people to live.

The city was intentionally designed in an intricate manner to prevent the ease of enemy soldiers or rebels from occupying them. In addition, even if the lord has no intention to prepare housing for refugees, the city would become more complicated and narrow if he decided to demolish some buildings to make more space for housing within the city.

As mentioned before, Volden is an average provincial city in the Kingdom — or rather, in this continent, most castle cities were like that, and Volden had these characteristics too. The only exception would be the glamorous metropolis of Broussonne, the royal capital, which was the face of the country.

What would happen if a larger-than-acceptable number of people tried to squeeze into a small and messy city?

Obviously, overcrowding.

The refugees, who had been hoping to seek protection in the city, were rejected by the guards, and were forced outside the gates. They gathered together outside using whatever wood they could find to make a roof for themselves. Such temporary dwellings could not hope to protect them from the wind and rain, and they were on the brink of freezing to death during the night.

Hygiene-wise, it was the worst. There were no designed toilets, so sewage was everywhere, and the disease-carrying flies had no shortage of food. The people crouched down helplessly, with no energy to fight off the rattling of wings above their heads, and in less than a week, a contagious disease was spreading. The infants and the elderly who lacked strength were the first to fall to the scythe of the grim reaper, and there were corpses left exposed in the open.

Violence and crime were the only outlet for the anger and frustration of those who had lost their minds, and every corner had sounds of arguments. When a man saw a woman, they could care less if she was dirty or not. The women, if they were going to be assaulted anyways, prostituted themselves for small change fit for a child. Sexually transmitted diseases for these people was probably still in its incubation period, but surely it will join the list of diseases that plagued the refugees.

The refugee camps outside of the city were now havens of decadence and destitution caused by the scourge of war. This was the shadowy side of the war stories that bards sang and the boys yearned for, but which were never depicted.

※ ※ ※

So, it seems that I, Tullius Shernan Oubeniel, would have to visit such a decadent place for a job. I have to be in the provincial capital to lead the battle. It was my duty as the lord of Volden.

Of course, I was not in the least bit interested. I didn't know why I had to go into the unsanitary, unsafe, lawless slums of the city again. It was certainly not good for my health nor had any assurance of safety. It was the place I wanted to least interact with.

"If I had known this was coming, I would have left my brother as the head of the family......."

"What are you talking about, your Excellency? If he had been safe, he would have passed such a task onto you, wouldn't he?"

Stuck in the carriage, I complained idly to Victor, who was riding alongside me. At times like this, I rather he be honest and offer words of comfort instead.

"That's true, if you say so, but don't you think there's a better way to put it?"

"No matter how I put it, it won't make any difference. Putting any effort into sugarcoating it is the embodiment of the kind of waste you hate."

"I think it's beneficial enough not to kill my motivation, which I had little to none from the beginning."

"Haha......, hearing you say that."

Victor let out a sigh.

Normally, Uni would support me by this point, but I couldn’t expect that from her this time. She was not accompanying me at the moment because she was working on other missions.

......Well, let's think positively. If Laubert were here, the lecturing and teasing would be twice as unbearable. That black-hearted, stingy, gossipy man was left elsewhere to maintain the supply lines from Marlan, our home base. Though Uni wasn’t here to back me up, neither was Laubert here to back them up.

"Give it up, Victor. The devil is the one who flatters others. Of course, this devilish master must have been born with his mouth first."

—And yet another who turned enemy was Due. He was not adept at detailed preparatory work, both in terms of personality and performance, and his official position was that of my military officer. So he has been following me as an escort into the provincial capital.

I was a little miffed, so I decided to talk back a little.

"It's normal for a baby to be born through the mouth, unless it's a breech birth, right? Humans can't live without breathing, you know."

"Sigh...... keep making cryptic statements like that, and Victor will continue telling you off."

Due was still as outspoken as ever. Now that I have become a count, I am going to have to meet with more nobles than ever before. I'm sure that Due, who works for me, would have to meet them alongside me as well. I wish he would learn to be a little more reserved.

"Yes, yes, it is my fault. It's all my fault that my brother went crazy and that St. Gallen attacked us."

"Isn’t that the case.......?"

"That is quite true. It was our plan that drove your brother mad, and the plight of the enemy nation that led to the start of the war was caused by your hunting of monsters and burning of the royal capital."

I sulked a bit, having been sandwiched between the top civil and military leaders.

Whether it was a real battle or a debate, it sucks to be isolated and helpless. I decided to raise the white flag quietly.

"Well, that's true, too. ......Let's stop, there's no point in talking about this or that any more. It's my fault, so let's talk about work instead. Okay?"

"Aren't you the one who started this whole thing in the first place? ...... I’m perfectly fine with that if your Excellency fulfils his duties properly."

"Well, I wouldn't worry about that. After all, this is the moment of truth for our master. Considering the amount of money he will lose by losing or escaping, he will go for victory no matter what. If he doesn't, all the hard work will be for nothing."

"Oh. So you do understand, Due."

I was in a good mood for a moment when he said that.

"Of course, the method to achieve victory is suspicious as heck, as always."

I was somewhat thrown off. Why couldn’t we just end the conversation with a clean slate?

"Don't be so sure, this is still an operation endorsed by Margrave Doldran."

"I have a feeling that he felt the situation was so bleak that there was no other choice but to reluctantly accept it, though."
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