Volume 3: Chapter 174 – Leon Heart Clan (2/2)
The guest room Nikea brought the two clan members to was a house that was previously used for lodging. The two couldn’t help but wryly smile, seeing how the whole house was given to them and referred to as a guest room. It just didn’t match with the common sense of humans.
“If there’s anything you need, just inform the person outside,” Araneae said.
“Thank you, brethren,” Tauropa said.
Nikea glanced sharply at Tauropa before turning heel. “…Excuse me.”
Seeing how openly vigilant Nikea was, Zakusen wryly smiled. “At least they’re easy to understand.”
“Can you stop with the frivolous remarks?”
After confirming that there was no one sneaking around them, Tauropa sent a grim look to Zakusen.
“You’re really way too serious.”
“I think it’s about right, though, considering I’m standing before the vice leader of the Leon Heart Clan.”
When Tauropa said that, Zakusen brushed up his loose gray hair and tied it behind him, and suddenly, that frivolous attitude he has been taking until now ceased. In place of that frivolous smile was a straight smile like the 一 character, and a deep wrinkle formed on his forehead. It was the face of a man full of worries.
“I didn’t think you would actually use a pseudonym. But I suppose it’s only expected of the Lord Commander.”
“Couldn’t really stand that joking personality, to be honest, but it had to be done.”
“So, what do you think of that king?”
“…I’m shocked. Honestly, I didn’t think he’d be the real deal,” Zakusen said with a wry smile as he shook his head.
What he felt from the king was intelligence and an abnormal power. When a man leads over 2000 humans and demihumans, he’s bound to meet various people. Kings and princes from various countries as customers, renowned generals to fight alongside with, famed adventurers, and monsters or adventurers from unknown lands.
But even after everyone and everything he has met and seen, the Goblin King stood out.
“I doubted my ears when I heard he allowed the humans to escape and even gave them food, but…”
That heavy gaze during their audience with the king weighed like a barrel full of lead as it sought to discern their intentions. It was enough to make him think it above even that of the pressure emanated by an ogre.
“I think he even saw through our lies.”
“The part where we were driven away because of them? Is it really that bad?”
Zakusen smiled and replied without hesitation. “Well, maybe for you it’s fine. A few days ago, a letter from the King of Guralio arrived, asking to cancel the contract.”
“That couldn’t be about the 10 year contract, could it?”
“It’s because of the Red King. They gathered the small- and medium-sized clans and went to the south, but it seems they intend to maintain their influence in the east. They wouldn’t want a second Swallow Clan, after all. Everyone’s acting like weak cowards.”
When he saw Tauropa speechless, he continued.
“In other words, we’re not in a position to criticize others. We went to the west in hopes of making a deal with King Ashtal of Germion, but we were immediately refused. Says he can’t trust demihumans.”
“But we’re strong.”
“Right, in a full-blown war, we wouldn’t lose out to the Red King or to the Valkyria, but the leader is still young. He probably doesn’t have the confidence to protect the non-combatants, and he’d be right.”
“Dagger of Webrus… Those cowards.”
Clans needed both combatants and non-combatants to function. The Dagger of Webrus was an infamous clan known not to spare even the non-combatants.
“Did you hear? It seems the Swallow Clan was also done in by them. Apparently, it’s because their leader, Touri, was wounded in the battle for initiative. It seems the Dagger of Webrus used that opening.”
“When I heard the vice-leader himself was coming, I thought it was just one of your whims. It seems I was mistaken. My apologies.”
Tauropa lowered his head upon realizing that the organization he was affiliated with had been driven this far.
“Like I said, you’re too serious.”
The wrinkles on Zakusen’s forehead softened just a little as he wryly smiled.
“Besides, it’s not like it’s hopeless. There’s that tidbit we got from that farmer, Mattis, too.”
As Tauropa nodded, there was a feeling akin to reverence in him as he looked at Zakusen.
“That’s enough talk for now. Tauropa, what we should do now is get a good night’s rest and recover as much strength as we can.”
Because of the sudden influx of people, the public order of Germion Kingdom has quickly turned for the worse.
Out of fear of the goblins, the humans had fled to the main capital with only their clothes, but while the capital may have received them, it did not have enough food to feed them all.
Moreover, with word of the goblin invasion having spread only recently, the influential merchants haven’t had the time to prepare ample food to trade.
The public order of Germion Kingdom had worsened, but it was yet to reach critical levels. This was mostly thanks to Yuan and the other soldiers who led the refugees to safety and brought them under the management of the king.
After Gowen passed, Yuan swore to carry on his will, and he gathered the remaining retainers to ensure that the refugees could live.
Moreover, King Ashtal also opened the storehouses in hopes of feeding the refugees. so the situation was – to some extent – suppressed.
King Ashtal wished to attack the goblins even a moment sooner, but unfortunately, he wasn’t in a position to do so.
The body of the fire god that hung from the peak of the heavens shone down as if to drive away Gulland.
“Tch…” Gulland clicked his tongue as he watched the refugees with their tents outside the city walls.
Gulland specialized in attacking.
With a swing of his Blue Thunder, he would slay the enemy general with ease, while his soldiers would follow him from behind to clean up the rest.
To someone like that, it was only a given that King Ashtal’s order to defend would not be agreeable. Not only was he poor at defending, he also had to reorganize his soldiers. To make things worse, he couldn’t even rely on the king due to a lack of resources.
Because of that Gulland would have to use his own wealth, but unfortunately, he did not have enough to immediately rebuild his army. The land he was given was the barren territory of the north. If he wanted fertile lands, he would have to develop it first.
Because of that Gulland invested heavily into the northern lands, from building new roads to adopting favorable policies to peddlers, and even as the northern territory ran red, he would use his own funds to support it.
Unfortunately, all that effort had gone to waste.
Even if he were to sell all of his properties in the north, it would still be insufficient to make an army. Be that as it may, he couldn’t forgive the Goblin King. That sensation from being hit by the Goblin King lingered in his arms yet. Even though he was a human, he was forced to turn his back on a goblin and run.
It felt as if everything he’s worked for from the time he was an adventurer until he became a holy knight has all been denied.
He had no money, but he wanted an army.
If so, his methods were limited.
One method was to hire the soldiers for cheap, another would be to recruit soldiers without money. Unfortunately, the latter method wasn’t possible in the capital. That left the first method.
Many people now roamed the capital without work despite their responsibilities. Gulland would gather those people to form an army and challenge the goblins once more.
There was no other method left.
But such a method didn’t leave a good feeling. He has been leading thugs all this time, so he would have to train them first. It was a pain, but it couldn’t be helped.
He didn’t want to, but his feet moved anyway. His hate for the goblins ran deeper than his hate for training some refugees.
The patrolling soldiers were surprised to see Gulland enter the refugee district. The remnants of a defeated army were a pitiful bunch. It could be said that everything they had until now had been liquefied. They used to be so haughty, but now, the refugees used them as an outlet for their dissatisfaction. Sometimes, they would end up using force on the refugees.
But Gulland rejoiced when he saw the state of the defeated army.
“Hey, you. You represent these bunch?” Gulland asked a senior soldier who was patrolling.
“Lord Storm Knight,” he said.
Many of the soldiers of the western capital knew Gulland by face. After all, they had fought with him last year to rescue the saint.
“Commander Yuan should be in the training grounds.”
“You have a training grounds?”
“Yes, let me show you.”
As Gulland followed from behind, he couldn’t help but open his eyes wide at the state of the defeated soldiers. They were more organized than he’d thought.
“That guy Yuan. Is he Lord Gowen’s right hand man?” Gulland asked as he thought of that old warrior.
The soldier laughed. “Lord Gowen favors him, but as for being his right-hand man… It just so happens that after Commander Corseo passed away, there was no other candidate left. It’s truly unfortunate. If Commander Corseo were alive, perhaps we wouldn’t have lost so one-sidedly.”
Gulland nodded to the talkative soldier as he became thoughtful.
“But considering he’s managed to keep everything this organized, he must have some skills.”
“Ha ha ha, Commander Yuan would be happy to hear that. It’s just that… With how young he is, everyone just can’t help but want to help him. It’s the same for me. When he looks at me with those honest eyes of his, I just can’t help but recall something I’ve lost a long time ago.”
When Gulland heard that it was a young commander who was responsible for organizing the army to this extent, he was shocked, though he didn’t let it show on his face.
While still shocked, the soldier leading the way called out to him.
“Here we are.”
The soldier pointed to a young male knight. He was young enough that even as he commanded a small platoon with his upper body exposed, there was no doubting he was still a young man.
Despite that, however, the countless scars on his body showed just how much bloodshed he has gone through.
“Commander Yuan! We have a guest!”
“Who!?” Yuan asked in a loud voice as he turned around.
The soldier replied with a laugh. “It’s the holy knight, Lord Gulland!”
The soldiers in the area stirred when they heard what the soldier said, but Yuan looked at Gulland with a stern face as if he couldn’t hear the others.
“You are the one in charge here?” Gulland asked as he glared at Yuan in a condescending manner.
Yuan nodded with a stern expression. “Yes. Did the people of the western capital cause some trouble?”
Gulland was confused for a moment, but it did not take long before he realized what the man was making that stern expression for, and he wryly smiled.
“Oh, so that’s why. I didn’t come here for that,” Gulland said with a fierce smile.
Seeing that smile, Yuan’s expression became even sterner. “Then why have you come?”
Gulland looked around with a curious gaze at the refugees.
“Do you want to take back the western capital?”
The air stirred, and the refugees looked at each other with a look of both anxiety and expectation.
“…I would appreciate it if you did not tease the people of the western capital,” Yuan said.
“Oh, you don’t believe me? Well, fine. I’ll come again at the same time tomorrow,” Gulland turned around and left.
And just as he said he would, he came again at the same time.
But this time, he had with him a bag as big as him and the few remaining thugs left were behind him.
“…What are you planning?” Yuan asked while dressed in an armor and with a sword in his hands.
Gulland looked around him. The area was full of worried people and those frightened with expectation.
“Hmph,” Gulland threw out the contents of the bag he brought, spilling gold coins onto the ground.
It was a wealth enough to support a commoner’s life for seven lifetimes and still have some left over. It was such a wealth that Gulland had so casually thrown.
Everyone was speechless.
Suddenly, Gulland laughed fiercely and struck his great sword into the ground.
“I came here to buy you sorry lot!”
The air stirred and the voices resounded throughout the refugee district.
Their voices were so full of fervor that Yuan and the others widened their eyes in shock. It was as if pillars of fire were bursting out from before them.
“Can you really take this lying down!? The fact that your hometown was taken just like that!?”
Gulland’s voice resounded throughout the area and pressured the people of the western capital. Unlike Gowen’s dignified aura, Gulland’s was a powerful one that didn’t bother to hide itself even a little.
“This here is my entire fortune! I’m going to use it to buy all of you sorry bastards’ future! If you don’t want to be bought, then run! Because I’m taking you with me to the battlefield!”
As that voice caused the heavens to shake, the dying fire within the hearts of the people began to burn once more.
“The way you’re going now, the king’s pockets will eventually run out, and you will all be left to die! Your children and your grandchildren! None of you will be able to live as humans anymore!”
Though there may have been a promise with Gowen, there was still no doubt that these refugees were taking a toll on the kingdom’s treasury. Not too far off, most of these people will eventually be sold as slaves.
“That’s why I’m buying you now! I’m giving you an opportunity to cut open a path to your own future!”
Stake your life and cut open a path to tomorrow. Gulland’s words resounded with the hearts of the people. The western capital was originally full of people who wanted to reclaim the borders, so his words were easy to accept.
Yuan endured the fire that sought to rise up in his chest as he asked Gulland.
“What are you planning to do by buying us?”
“Isn’t that obvious?” Gulland asked back.
Then with a voice louder than ever, Gulland howled to the heavens. “We’re taking back the western capital! So follow me!”
As cries of jubilation resounded, Gulland raised up his right arm. Gulland reigned above the people of the western capital like a king.
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