Finished with the inspection of Village of the Pond, we moved on to Village of Medicine.
The Village Head of Village of Medicine turned out to be an old granny who was the herbalist for the previous generation. She is both popular with the residents and also quite sharp.
Having learned from last time, I sent Irudo ahead first to fully explain the situation before I arrived, so the negotiations with the Village Head went quite smoothly.
“Though our village is this small, we’ve also been frequently harassed by bandits. If you will protect us from them going here forward, then we would gladly accept your rule.”
“Indeed, let’s both do our parts well.”
The population of Village of Medicine is around 130, so their lifestyle is also pretty tight. Just like with Village of the Pond, I promised them safety and improvement in living standards, then also told them that I won’t be collecting tax for the near while.
Of course, the Village Head and villagers were all overjoyed.
“I’m really sorry, but we actually have one more thing to ask of you……”
What the small-statured grandma pleaded while shrinking her body was ‘subjugation of the undead.’
Apparently, recently the dead bodies of soldiers have suddenly started to wander about the forest at night. There have been no casualties of yet, due in part to the location being quite a distance from the village, and also because they do not actively seek out and attack people. However, the place where they appear is right beside a precious medicinal herb gathering spot, so it is causing the village some trouble on the financial end.
“We have nowhere near enough money to hire adventurers…… and neither are we paying taxes to the city or Carbanera Knight Order, so……”
So well, after saying that much, of course it falls to me, the feudal lord, to take care of this.
For someone used to a modern Japanese city, nighttime in the forest is almost frightening merely in how dark it gets.
However, I can still dimly see my surroundings. Part of the reason is due to the white moonlight filtering through the gaps in the foliage above. Also, our targets are also glowing faintly from phosphorescence.
There are about 20 of ‘them’ picking their way through the woods with uncertain strides. The fact that they are grouped into 2 loose columns only increases the creepiness of the sight.
According to the Warrior Priest Torad, the yellow phosphorescence covering the bodies of the dead are the actual main bodies of the wights.
They’re equipped with ragged armor, shield, and sword or spear. With their mummy-like dried up bodies, vacant stares, and intermittent moans, they are truly the walking dead.
“Oh army of the departed! This land is the territory of the living!”
Torad stands square in the path of the marching wights, then raises the holy symbol of the goddess he serves.
After he finishes chanting a passage from scripture, a dazzling light descends upon the group of undead.
“In the name of the Goddess of Winter, Ashuginea, begone, you wights!”
“…… Fushuu…… Uguruu……”
“Ooo, it’s Turn Undead.”
Sedam, Jiruk, and I stand ready to support him at a moment’s notice. At the sight, my voice involuntarily slips out.
Bathed in the divine light, the yellow phosphorescence clothing the wights’ bodies seem to evaporate, growing ever thinner until eventually disappearing. Having lost their phosphorescence, the bodies crumple one by one as they return to being mere corpses again.
“…… I have finished confirming. All undead in this area have been wiped out.”
Without a moment’s delay, Leiha activated an area search for enemies, then reported to me.
I am a bit over-excited from seeing the power of a Warrior Priest for the first time, patting Torad on his burly shoulder several times.
“Well done indeed. With this, the misgivings of the inhabitants of Village of Medicine should be allayed.”
“Thank you. But well, it’s just that……”
The Warrior Priest looks tired but also slightly sad at the same time.
When he uses Turn Undead, it apparently causes him to come into contact with the memories and souls of the targeted undead.
“They were soldiers gathered 10 years ago to fight against Shadow Demons. It seems that the appearance of the nest several days ago was what caused them to reawaken.”
…… Even undeads think of Shadow Demons as enemies, is that how it is?
It’s true that if I compare these wights to Shadow Demons, I feel a lot more hatred towards the living from the latter than the former.
The answer to the question of “what exactly are Shadow Demons?” seems to have grown even farther away after tonight.
The next day.
“S-, so tired……”
“Ze ze…… ze……”
“You guys’ paces have become uneven! Irregardless of the speed, you can’t do that! One breath per step! Also, don’t change the distance of each step!”
We are going through a shortcut that leads to our final destination, Inner Village.
The three youngsters who were suddenly conscripted from Village of the Pond are currently being instructed by Jiruk while walking.
This isn’t really punishment or harassment. According to Jiruk, it’s the basics of marching practice.
He had apparently been in an army for a while, so for now, I’ve made him their commanding officer and entrusted their education to him.
“80% of a soldier’s job is to walk. However, if the entire army cannot walk the same distance in the same amount of time, then it becomes useless! Starting now, I’m going to pound this into your bodies!”
When I hear ‘a soldier’s training,’ images of assaulting something with swords and spears come to my mind. The real thing turns out to be quite different.
At this rate, even if we increase the number of soldiers to around 50, I think Jiruk can still handle them,
Fortunately, we reached Inner Village before the three new recruits fell over from exhaustion.
This being the smallest village with a population of 120, and added to the fact that it is the most isolated among the three, I had expected it to be quite poor.
In actual fact, the houses here look to be mere dugouts, but the people here have significantly healthier faces and bodies.
According to the Village Head, all of the hunters in this village are quite skilled, so nobody is troubled for meat and pelts.
“Conversely, we are short on vegetables and fruits…… and medicine as well……”
“I see. I’ll give it some thought. For now, just by building a proper road connecting this village to the castle, there should be some improvement.”
“Ohh, thank you very much.’
The Village Head is a black-haired buff man, as if to emphasize how pro of a hunter he is. Just like with Village of Medicine, I sent Irudo ahead to explain everything, so there were no misunderstandings here and the talks went smoothly.
“Eventually, after the road is finished and the village begins to have a bit of financial leeway, we will bring a portion of our hunted game to the castle as tax.”
“We would be thankful for that. Oh, also…… if there are any who wishes for it, we are looking to hire soldiers to work at the castle. Do you have any youngsters who might be interested?”
It’s not that I gained the taste for it after the incident at Village of the Pond. I’m asking because I’m sure that skilled hunters would definitely be of great help from here on.
“So this is not a forced conscription? I’ll call out to them…… but I think you probably shouldn’t get your hopes up too high.”
“Is that so. Well, this is not compulsory, so don’t take it to heart.”
Guess people in this village are living relatively satisfied lives. Though a side of me is relieved, thinking about how I now have the responsibility of protecting them makes my stomach feel heavy.
Having learned our lesson from the trouble at the start, we decided to not stay at the village.
To that end, I quickly ended my negotiations with the Village Head and we immediately departed for the castle.
Right before we left the village, however, one young man rolled out in front of me, causing me to stop in my tracks.
“M-, my lord!”
After gesturing for Leiha to step back from the position in front of me that she had wordlessly assumed, I called out to the young man who is prostrating on the ground.
“Thank you for your permission! I am called Nocks, and I live in this village! Please hire me at the castle!”
“Nocks…… is that so.”
When I take a better look, his skin is pale and he looks much skinnier than most of the others in this village. He is bowing repeatedly with a desperate expression on his face.
I look sideways towards the Village Head, as this was different from what he’d said, and I see him nodding as if he’d understood something.
According to the Village Head, this young man had sought shelter in this village ten years ago during the night, together with his merchant father. As the merchant had done a fair amount of trading with the village, they couldn’t decline his request out of hand and so agreed to shelter the two of them. However, the father soon died of illness, and the son has continued living in the village as somewhat of a freeloader.
“I tried to learn to hunt, but I don’t have the needed physical stamina. I’m currently helping the village out with miscellaneous tasks, but…… I don’t want to cause them trouble any further.”
“…… Well then, what can you do?
“Umm, I can read and write and…… do a little bit of math.”
“Alright, you’re hired!”
“I, I’m very sorry. To stand in the way of my feudal lord Margils-sama himself……”
“Hmm, don’t worry about it. It’s true that I’d felt bad about how much work there was that only Irudo could handle. I’ve made up my mind to hire you.”
“Thank you very much! I’ll work as hard as I can!”
Currently, Irudo is handling the negotiations with the dwarves on top of management of the castle and calculation of everybody’s wages, so his share of the work has been quite severe. Having an assistant who is a local should help lighten his load to some degree or another.
After all, even the Village Head also gave his guarantee, saying that “Nocks is absolutely hopeless at hunting and manual labor, but he is quite clever, so I’m sure he’ll be of use to you.”
And with that, even the third village became mine both on paper and in actuality.
Though its size doesn’t give me much expectations in the way of tax return, well, I suppose that would depend on how well I manage it from now on.
For now, I’ve gained 3 soldier candidates and 1 assistant for Irudo, which was a happy miscalculation.
As for Irudo himself, he had immediately headed towards Lelis with young Nocks in tow. It’s for hiring soldiers to protect the castle, and also for procuring the equipment for said soldiers.
…… That guy really is quick on the uptake.
On our way back, our steps have grown a lot lighter. But suddenly, we see a black shape approaching from the front.
The shape turns out to be the youngest of the 4 dark elf sisters that I had tasked with the protection of the castle, Sasara.
“My lord! Leiha-nee! …… Re-, I have a report!”
This is bad news for sure. As I’d lost my voice from an overwhelming sense of foreboding, Leiha replies in my stead.
“At the moment, the castle is being blockaded by an unidentified military force. They number around 30. They called themselves wa-, ‘War Tribe’!”