Chapter 0281 Gilsbach City
Five days after the Kingdom’s delegation crossed the border.
The delegation arrived in the city of Gilsbach, the rendezvous point.
The delegation was guided to a rather large inn built in the suburbs.
“I heard that it was built specifically for this mission.”
Ryo was gawking at the size of the building and its many accommodation buildings when he heard Etho say so.
“Goddamned Debuhi Empire…. That’s why they’re called an empire!”
“Yeah, although I have no idea what you mean by that, Ryo.”
“Nah, it’s just that it’s pretty classic in fantasy settings for ‘empires’ to be synonymous with ‘powerful’.”
“What do you mean by classic…?”
Niels was shaking his head as he quipped on Ryo’s classic setting.
“…Lately, I feel like Niels is starting to feel a lot like Abel.”
“Long live King Abel!”
He stood corrected. Looks like Niels was the same old Niels after all.
Ryo and the rest of the escorts would take a break upon arrival.
However, for civilian officials, mainly from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the real work would begin after their arrival.
Of course, the ‘actual real work’ begins when they arrive in the Western Countries, but before they get there, they go through several small countries, which are sometimes collectively called corridor countries.
Naturally, various negotiations take place there as well.
And the most troubling thing is that this ‘Mission’ is not just one country, but a combination of several countries.
First of all, coordination with fellow countries from the Central Nations was imperative.
The same was true for the heads of the delegation.
Among them, the heads of the three great powers of the Empire, the Union, and the Kingdom were to gather first.
“The head of the Kingdom’s delegation, Mr. Hugh McGrath, is here.”
“Send him in.”
A guard announced Hugh’s arrival, and Count Hans Kirchhoff, who was in charge of the various details of the occasion, invited him in.
When Hugh entered the room, the other two ‘heads’ were already there.
The head of the Imperial delegation, former Emperor Rupert.
The head of the Union’s delegation, former King Roberto Pirlo.
When Hugh entered the room, they were chatting.
“Thanks to that, we were in for some tough times after the war ended. Quite a few workshops in the country were demolished, and production capacity was practically crawling on the ground. It was because of the support of the Empire that the Union managed to avoid going under.”
“Oh please. The stability of the Union is synonymous with the stability of the Central Nations as a whole. It’s only natural for the Empire, as a part of the Central Powers, to provide support as soon as possible.”
When the former King Roberto Pirlo thanked the Empire for its quick support after the Great War, the former Emperor Rupert replied that it was a matter of course.
Frankly, Hugh wasn’t too happy with the story.
“But I gotta say that King Abel of the Kingdom is a very bold man. To have appointed Hugh McGrath as the head of the delegation that’ll be working in cooperation with our Union. Sir McGrath, the hero of the ‘Great War’.”
Former king Roberto Pirlo said, smiling.
But his eyes were not smiling at all.
(I knew it….)
Hugh was making a sour expression in his mind.
Naturally, he knew that it would come up.
If the snide comments were directed at just him, then it wouldn’t be a problem, but in a negotiation between top leaders like this, where national interests clash, all of these things become bargaining chips.
Roberto Pirlo, a former king, and Rupert, the previous emperor, understood all of this.
“I met King Abel in person on the battlefield last time, and well, he truly is a fine man, that’s for sure. As one would expect from an adventurer who rose to A-rank. Some call him the King of Adventurers. As the king who leads the Kingdom of Knightley, the land of adventurers, I would say that he is one of the most powerful kings in recent times.”
Former Emperor Rupert praised Abel to the point of exaggeration.
Similarly for this too, his eyes weren’t smiling at all.
Hugh let out a very deep sigh in his mind and walked to the side of the round table where they were.
“Sir McGrath, please have your seat.”
Then Count Hans Kirchhoff showed Hugh his seat.
Hugh sat down and took a deep breath.
With that one breath, he stabilized himself mentally.
Both Rupert and Roberto Pirlo understood the reason and the implication of Hugh’s breath.
Rupert raised the corners of his mouth just slightly and Roberto Pirlo moved his eyebrows a little.
They could see that Hugh had succeeded in completely letting their words pass him by.
The meeting had already begun.
“Once we leave the imperial territory, the first country among the corridor countries we’ll come to is ‘Ayteke Bo’.”
“That’s an unusual name.”
“That alone already signifies that we’re no longer in the Central Nations.”
Amon and Niels commented as Etho explained.
Harold, the swordsman and Gowan, the dual swordsman from ‘Room 11’, were nodding their heads as they listened in.
Priest Zeke, on the other hand, was looking around restlessly.
Since Zeke doesn’t often behave like that, Etho stopped explaining and asked.
“Zeke, what’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing, it’s just…. I can’t seem to find Mr. Ryo anywhere.”
Those words freaked out Harold and Gowan a little, just a little.
Amon noticed this, but decided not to say anything and instead giggled softly.
Because he could sort of understand why.
The dining room of the lodging facility assigned to the kingdom’s delegation.
The space was huge enough for all three hundred people to eat at the same time, so small meetings like Niels’ were being held here and there.
However, looking around, there was certainly no sign of the water-attribute magician.
“Ryo… I believe, came in here and then left shortly after.”
“He must be up to no good…”
Etho said, and Niels drew a conclusion out of dogmatism and prejudice.
Hearing those words probably had nothing to do with it, but…
“Since you like running your mouth however you like, Niels, I guess you won’t be having any of these?”
The water-attribute magician in question appeared with his hands full.
“Ryo, what is that…”
“Oh! Mr. Ryo, is that crepe?”
“Correct, Amon! There’s a crepe shop right next to our lodging. I tasted it, and it’s exactly the same as Whitnash’s, a perfect platinum-diamond blend! ”
They probably had no idea what he meant by platinum-diamond blend, but they could care less.
Only that if something awesome should come out of it, then it’s all good.
To begin with, it’s something that Ryo came up with randomly….
Ryo then handed out the crepes one by one.
Etho and Amon, as well as the three from Room 11.
He wasn’t about to do anything that would oppress them.
“All right, everyone’s got one!”
“Hey, Ryo! I didn’t get any!”
A certain B-rank swordsman was ranting.
“Well, since I was up to no good earlier…”
“Oh, I’m sorry, my bad. I sincerely apologize, Mr. Ryo. I am so ashamed of my ignorance. So, please let me have some crepes too!”
The B-rank swordsman succumbed before the greatest crepe flavor….
Saying this, Ryo handed Niels a crepe as well.
Upon receiving it, Niels happily bit into it with a big smile on his face.
Tasty food is justice, indeed!
After everyone had their fill of crepes with coffee lined up, Etho resumed his interrupted explanation.
“The first of the corridor countries, Ayteke-Bo, is also known as the Land of Forests. It is located in the ‘Pitch-Black Forest’, a vast forest famous for the World Tree, and there is a strong possibility of us running into Treants, a type of tree monster.”
(Pitch-Black Forest! What a chuunibyo-like name. And the World Tree too! Come to think of it, there’s one in Germany too… Schwarzwald, which translates to Black Forest! Pretty sure the person who named Schwarzwald must have been a chuuni!)
Ryo was having rude thoughts about the famous forest in Germany.
(And finally, Treant! When you talk about forest monsters, it’s gotta be the walking tree spirits, Treants, right! Now this is classic fantasy. I have never once seen them in the Rondo Forest…. I wonder why, could it be that monsters have vegetation traits as well?)
Ryo was running such botanical analysis through his mind.
And, of course, it was written all over his face….
“Yeah, he’s doing it again…”
“Wracking up his brains on useless thoughts…”
Amon noticed it, Etho pointed it out, and Niels affirmed it.
Ryo wasn’t pondering anything particularly complicated… perhaps one could call it a daily routine of his.
Beside them, the three members of ‘Room 11’ were looking a little anxious.
Priest Zeke was no exception….
On account of the statements their ‘Room 10’ seniors uttered.
Ryo… seemed to be the name of a pitiable man….
While Ryo and his friends were having a sweet meeting in the lodging dining room with crepes in hand, a reluctant meeting was underway in the lounge of the former Emperor Rupert.
But the reluctance was mainly on Hugh’s part….
“In other words… the Empire cannot depart because you aren’t done with your preparations. And so you’d like to hand over the lead role of the mission to another…”
“That’s exactly right, Sir McGrath. I am, indeed, ashamed to say this. But since my abdication, the discipline of the Imperial government has loosened… it’s utterly embarrassing.”
The former Emperor Rupert replied to Hugh’s confirmation.
Although he sounded remorseful from what he was saying, it was clear from his appearance and facial expression that he didn’t feel that way at all.
It was the very definition of ‘shameless’.
“Well, there’s nothing we can do about it if you’re not ready yet. Your Majesty Rupert has been emperor for a long time, and recently just abdicated, so, I get that there must be a lot of confusion, still.”
The previous king, Roberto Pirlo, nodded repeatedly, giving the impression of an understanding individual.
Then he mentioned his country’s delegation.
“There is nothing wrong with our delegation, but my health makes things a little tricky, you see. Since the Empire is unable, I’d like to raise my hand and ask that the Union take on the lead role, but… I guess no one can compete with time, uh.”
“No, Your Majesty, you must not be too hard on yourself.”
The previous king, Roberto Pirlo, coughed deliberately as he described the difficulties of his health, and the previous Emperor Rupert, nodded his head, looking all understanding.
(These… cunning old geezers! The marching order was supposed to begin with the Empire, then the Union, followed by the other small countries, and finally the Kingdom! And now they want to change that? The leading country is most likely to find itself in the most difficult situation. That’s exactly why the Empire opted to take on that role in the first place. And now…. even the Union is saying that it can’t do it either? In other words, they want our Kingdom to take the lead…. They’re silently working together. This is why I hate these sly old fogies! Fine, since that’s how you want to play, let’s play! I’ll lead the way, be the first to contact the small countries, and come up with a favorable deal with the Kingdom before you old geezers arrive! Shitheads!)
Hugh was screaming in his mind with a mixture of insults, but outwardly he remained completely calm.
Then he said.
“I understand. Then the Kingdom will take the lead in this mission.”