The atmosphere in the conference room lightened when word reached the Forestian government that the Earth Dragon had been taken care of. Queen Marquedo showed appreciation to the Forestzard Adventurers Guild executive who came to give the report.
「We only did our job, Your Majesty. Thank you.」
「So which country’s adventurer killed the monster? If they’re from Forestia, we might have to hold a parade for them.」
「We still don’t know who did it.」
「Actually, we received two reports via magic transmission. First is from the joint subjugation team and the second from Borderzard’s guildmaster.」
「Borderzard… The town where the incident occurred, right? What did the reports say?」
「The subjugation team’s chief said “the subjugation team was successful”, while the guildmaster said “the success could be credited to the town’s protective walls”.」
Marquedo glanced at her seven advisers. Representing each member of the Allied Nations, they were the queen’s “Watchers”.
「Borderzard is formerly a part of Ludancia, correct?」the queen asked.
「That is correct.」
「What do you think the reports mean?」
「Hmm. If we assume they want to show their power to you, someone from Kirihal, then I believe they’re saying “Ludancia has high walls that mere monsters can’t break through them”.」the man said in a patronizing tone.
Not even helpful at all, Marquedo thought.
「I would love to see a wall that can stop an Earth Dragon.」the Kirihal adviser scoffed.
The Ludancia adviser was about to answer back when the others stepped in to calm him down. These two’s quibbling was an everyday occurrence — to no one’s surprise — as Kirihal and Ludancia were like cats and dogs.
Heaving a sigh, Marquedo turned her attention back to the guild executive.
「Anyway, great work out there. I want you to submit a report detailing who made the most effort. The government will offer them sufficient reward.」
「Understood. Thank you, Your Majesty.」
「We can proceed with the Foundation Anniversary event as planned. 」
The guild executive bowed deeply then left.
「Does Forestia have someone powerful enough to kill a dragon?」
「What are the chances Ponsonia’s Master Swordsman did it?」
「Maybe they just mistook a Lesser Wyvern for an Earth Dragon.」
「Disappointing, if that is the case.」
The advisers continued their random conversation. Zofira, who stood next to Marquedo, didn’t seem to pay attention to what they were saying. Instead she prepared the materials for their next agenda. It appeared as though she was saying “there’s no point in asking your advisers for advice”.
「Oh, by the way.」the Rumanian adviser said.「Since you mentioned Borderzard, it reminded me of something. Apparently a spy from a foreign country infiltrated the town.」
「What do you mean?」the queen asked.
She couldn’t miss what he said. Marquedo glanced at the man who looked amused by her reaction and answered.
「Borderzard is Ludancia’s territory. I don’t know much, I’m afraid. I just happened to hear that there was a spy. There’s someone here who might know more.」
The Ludancia adviser looked flustered.
「Ah. I, uhh… yes, let’s see…」
He probably didn’t know that a spy infiltrated the town. By baiting information, the Rumanian adviser wanted to know if the man was aware of this. If Rumania’s intelligence network reached even former Ludancia territory — although the man seemed to assert that it was presently still under Ludancia — then they had an alarming situation at hand. Rumania’s influence was growing bigger.
Maybe the spy who was watching my room the other day was from Rumania, Marquedo thought.
That was most likely the case. The Rumanian adviser was probably stirring things up as revenge for their spy getting busted.
「You said foreign country, but where exactly did this spy come from? 」
「Oh, I’m honored you’re showing much interest, Your Majesty. I’ll get in touch with you once I have more details.」
Just say you don’t want to tell me, the queen thought. She didn’t say it out loud, of course. In an exchange like this, the first one to lose their cool lost.
「All right. We’re busy with the event preparations, so let’s proceed with the meeting.」
Marquedo, however, was cool, calm, and collected. The Rumania adviser looked at Marquedo with a hint of surprise in his face, since the queen usually never let her emotions show. Then he smiled, thinking she was just bluffing.
Unbeknownst to them, Marquedo possessed information that they didn’t know about — the student alliance and the mass wedding. The advisers would most likely get reprimanded back in their home nations for not knowing about these things beforehand.
In your face! Marquedo almost wanted to stick out her tongue.
Let us go back in time, right before Hikaru fought the subspecies of Earth Dragon.
It was early morning in Borderzard and Paula was nodding off inside a small tent.
「…Hmm… Huh? Paula…?」
Paula quickly snapped back to her senses and noticed Priscilla, her eyes slightly opened.
「Priscilla! You’re awake!」
「I thought… I got badly poisoned…」
「You’re okay. Everything’s fine now. Are you hungry? I’ll bring you breakfast!」
Paula left the tent.
When Priscilla got poisoned, she was prepared to die. Raised as a hunter, she knew how much poison would be enough to kill a person. And she was hit with a lethal dose. She didn’t die instantly however, and as her consciousness slipped away, she thought she was a goner.
But she was clearly alive. The sound of coughing made her turn her face.
「Priscilla? Wh-What? I’m alive?」
They both got up.
「Wh-What’s going on? I had a hole in my belly!」
「It looks like the same old squishy belly to me.」
「It’s not squishy, okay?! But yes, it’s healed. Actually it’s like I never got injured in the first place.」
Paula returned.「Pia, you’re up! Thank goodness…」
Paula brought soup and bread being distributed as emergency food. Pia and Priscilla’s stomachs grumbled as they had not eaten anything for more than a day. They had plenty of questions, but they decided to dig in first. Paula watched them with eyes filled with happiness and a tinge of sorrow.
After finishing their meal and regaining her composure, Pia asked Paula a question.
「So, what happened exactly?」
「I, uhh… can’t go adventuring with you two anymore.」
Pia and Priscilla froze. They didn’t expect those words to come out of their friend’s mouth.
「Wh-Why not? Because we’re unreliable? 」
「Please tell us why.」
「I’m sorry. I can’t tell you the reason.」
「Why not?! We survived and there’s so much more in store for us!」
「Is it related to our being healed?」Priscilla asked.
As always, Priscilla wore a blank look, but she was sharp. Pia was taken aback.
「D-Don’t tell me you sold your body for an expensive potion! Bullshit! Who took advantage of you?! Tell me!」
「No, that’s not it. I’m… happy you two are alive. Even if we’re apart, I’ll still be happy.」
I think… she wanted to add, but she didn’t. She would be going with Hikaru. What would they do? A strange feeling came over her — a mix of worry and excitement.
「You can’t be serious…」
「I see you made up your mind.」
Pia couldn’t accept her decision, while Priscilla tried to understand her. Paula knew that both their reactions, although different, stemmed from the fact that they cared and loved her. And that made her happy.
「Okay, I got it.」Pia slapped her knees.「I want to see with my own eyes this person who gave you the potion.」
「I’m the one who will protect you.」
「W-Wait! You’re getting the wrong idea! I didn’t get any potion.」
「Impossible! I’m sure it was a very expensive one. It completely healed our wounds!」
「No! You were healed because of my magic—」
Her tongue slipped.
Her friends regarded her. Paula couldn’t talk her way out of it. She grew pale.
What do I do? Hikaru-sama told me not to tell anyone!