10-2. The Two Earldoms
Satou's here. There's a saying, too many boatmen makes the ship climbs the mountain. It's a saying that's on my mind whenever I attend a meeting without anyone in control, but in the other world, ships climbing mountains seems to be a normal scenery.
<TLN: It's an idiom which has similar meaning with 'Too many cooks spoil the broth'.>
Our sailing ship is flying quite far on the open sea so we're not meeting other ships. Our altitude is only a bit higher than the wave crest, so the ship should look like it's sailing normally seen from afar.
That said, the ship is moving three times than an average ship, so the discerning people should notice that this ship isn't normal.
We're fully enjoying the sea travel while sometimes ignoring pirates, exploring undersea ruins, and swimming on the shores.
Since I had carefully chosen the course while looking out for ships around the area, the journey has become relatively roundabout. Halfway through, I realized that I could use illusion magic to make a reflection of the sea, but since we still had to not get too close to other ships all the same, I didn't do the idea.
We've journeyed about 1200 kilometers to the south west on the beginning of the third day. The ship is currently cruising on water surface with normal speed. It's for entering the port in the bay of the Ukeu Earldom ahead. Lulu and the others seem like they're getting seasick, but please endure it for a little bit.
There are seven galley ships that are as big as our ship, and three boats anchored in the port of Ukeu Earldom. It seems the port facilities are lacking as only four of them are in the port, while the remaining six are anchored on the sea slightly away from the port.
I also lower the anchor on our ship on the sea slightly away.
Since there's no need to drop by the port, we've decided to lower the small boat and go on a sightseeing tour in the port town. After everyone has boarded the small boat, I use [Magic Hand] to put down the boat on the sea surface. Of course I did it from the location where it couldn't be seen from the port to not make us stand out.
I leave the ship's guard to the parrot-shaped scarecrows type 8. They can't fly even though they're shaped like parrots. They can only monitor or send alert about intruders, and also doing a bit of wire manipulation. This wire manipulation can move dolls that looks like sailors, and activate trap. The dolls don't have battle capability, but since they look like people working from afar, it's quite enough for crime prevention.
I entrust Liza and Nana to row the small boat. Even though it's called small boat, it's big enough to carry eight adults.
"What kind of port town is it here?"
"It's the port of Ukeu Earldom, but we can take a shortcut to the port of Kirik Earldom if we cross that mountain. We don't have to make trip around the peninsula that extends 500 kilometers far from the port here if we use that shortcut, so it's a big time saver."
"Won't it only take two days for a 1000 kilometers round-trip?"
"Arisa, you should not think that the speed of master's magic ship is normal."
"You're right. It'll take more than a half month for a normal ship."
Liza advices Arisa. It seems to be a subject which other member has no interest in, they're playing around by dipping their hands in the sea surface. Tama desperately stretches her body from my lap while attempting to touch the water surface with her hand. She should just get down from my lap if it's so hard to take the posture.
"How long will it take to cross the mountain?"
"It's about 20 kilometers long, and there seem to be a rest area every 4-5 kilometers, so there seem to be a lot of people who get off their ships from here."
I think it'll be good if they just use magic to briskly make a canal here. They might have no budget to employ magicians though. Since it looks like it could become an important point for marine transportation between the royal capital and the duchy capital, I think there should be people who'd like to invest on it.
Since an official-like man on the port gestures for us when we've gotten close to the wharf, I lead the boat to the place where it should be docked.
"Hey, merchant-san. Never seen you before, this your first time in Ukehaba port?"
"Yes, it's my first time here."
I take the ID plate from my chest and show it to the man while lending my hand to Lulu who's getting down from the ship.
"Please excuse me, Chevalier-sama. The stagecoach heading to the port of Kirik Earldom has left the port, and the next service will be for tomorrow morning. The only inn that's suitable for noble-sama is the Lighthouse Light Inn, shall I arrange someone to take you there?"
"Ah, thanks. We're going back to the ship when the night comes, so there's no need for the inn. How much is the anchoring fee for the small boat."
"It's free for one ship. If you need guards, one can be dispatched for one copper coin a day."
The official is talking smoothly as it seems that there are a lot of nobles who have gone ashore here going to the royal capital. I decline the inn recommendation, and hire two guards. However, one copper coin a day, isn't that too cheap?
There are a lot of beastkin working on the port facilities. The raccoonkin, and the apekin are particularly the majority. There are the small ratkins too, but they're not working for loading-unloading things, but odd jobs and other jobs that don't require power.
"Isn't it Chevalier Pendragon over there?"
I turn my head toward the voice that calls me, it's the head of the noble family whom I've visited several times in the duchy capital. His name is baron Eguon if I'm not mistaken. He's someone who commands the route for getting spices on the archipelago that's located on the straight line ahead the peninsula. It's thanks to him that I could procure the needed cumin and turmeric for the curry.
"Excuse me for the long silence. Baron Eguon."
"What a coincidence for us to meet here. Thanks to you, the sales of spices have had rapid increase. I've come here myself to reinforce the trade you know."
Come to think of it, Earl Houen said to me that there was an unprecedented cooking boom in the duchy capital.
Apparently, there will be a cooking tournament sponsored by Earl Houen in three months time. I wonder if that was the reason why I was randomly challenged to cooking contests when I was visiting the scroll workshop in the duchy capital. Since I had heard the thing about the tournament earlier, I made the empty promises that I would accept the fight if they won the cooking tournament.
"If you were just one day faster, you would have met Viscount Rendo, how regrettable."
The Viscount Rendo whom he's talking about is someone who's dealing jewelries in the duchy capital. I had visited his engraving workshop and gem polishing workshop several times. Viscount Rendo seems to be currently in a trip for his customers that are spread from the duchy capital to the labyrinth city. It seems that Baron Eguon has come to this port with a ship, he's heading toward the port of Kirik Earldom with the stagecoach from earlier.
Since it's just right, I ask the earl about earl Ukeu's and earl Kirik's personalities, and their territories information while being careful as not to get in his busy schedule.
It seems that Earl Ukeu is, politely speaking a honest person, and frankly speaking a bumpkin. His territory army is relatively strong, it seems there are only several galley ships for the marine force. They can't guarantee the safety of marine transportation then? But, pirates are like thieves that can appear anywhere in the first place. Therefore, it seems that the marine force of the territory army is reserved for the time monsters attacking the port, not for securing sea route.
Earl Kirik is a dandy and cheerful during trading, but on the other hand, he's frivolous, and skimps on money. His territory army seem to be weak, but it seems it has come to rival Earl Ukeu's force by enhancing the army's equipment and the number of personnel. His marine force seem to be slightly better than Earl Ukeu's.
Looks like the two earl's houses have bad relationship with each other. Moreover, it's not only limited to the top positions, the territories people are also competing with each other, and strifes tend to break one way or another.
Even recently, they're having an argument for the one that should bear the expense of maintaining the bridge that connects the highway between the ports of the two earldoms in the borders of the territories over the valley. And this time, it seems they're having a dispute as to whose workers should be the one that work on it, baron Eguon tells me so with a tired expression.
There's an inner gate outside of the port facilities, and beyond that is the residential area. The population is about 8000 people, and 40% of them are demi-humans. There are a lot of slaves, and most of them are for manual labors like unloading things on the port.
Probably due to the subtropic climate, a lot of the townspeople are wearing clothes with high exposures. Lots of young women are wearing wonderful clothes such as vests for wrapping their breasts, and mini skirts below. Most men are also only wearing shorts and thin shirts or naked for their upper half. For some reason, the women are busy working, while the men are taking nap and having drinking bout on the trees' shades. It's a strange scene, but that's probably just how it is in this land.
"It's like a southern country here~ let's might as well eat some local specialties!"
"Meat is nice nodesu!"
"It's said that the fish are delicious in a port town like this."
Liza has unusually chosen fish. We enter the large restaurant that's just nearby. Just like with the other surrounding houses, it's made from assembled thin logs, big banana-like leaves seem to be stacked on top to create the roof. It has no wall unlike other houses, so the openness feels nice.
After we've taken some open seats, a waitress onee-san with nice body comes to take the order. She's a beautiful southern country-style woman with black hair.
I'm told that a fish dish with an unfamiliar name, that is Gebo, is the specialty here, so I order that. Since it seems to be quite a big fish, I order only one serving. I've seen people making dried fish along the way here, so I also order grilled fish, and grilled dried fish for the next one.
I asked whether they have meat here, but since they only had water rat's meat, I ordered the grilled water rat meat only for the interested parties. I've expected the three beastkin girls to do so, but Lulu is also going for the challenge. I know that she's doing it for research purpose, but if she's going to be teary eyed, I think she shouldn't push herself.
There seemed to be abundance of fruits, so I asked the waitress to combine the fruits on a platter.
Gebo is a longtooh grouper-like big white fish boiled in a dashi that's made of the fish as the base. The dish is already delicious to eat as it is, but the waitress recommends us to eat it together with a pilaf-like rice on a rice bowl by piling the white meat on top of it and pour the broth on the top.
"The smell is a bit harsh, but it's a taste you can get used to isn't it."
"Yup, and the smell will disappear if you just put this Japanese pepper-like thing."
"Oh, you're right."
This Gebo is a hit. I can generally guess the recipe, so let's stock some fish later on. Since they seem to live on the seashore, we might even be able to catch them ourselves. I've seen the fish sauce being sold in jars earlier, I have to remember buying it when we get back.
"It's splitter-splatter inside my mouth nanodesu."
"You two eat it without complaining. Lulu, don't force yourself and eat the fruits there to wash off the taste. I will eat your leftovers."
"I'm sorry, Liza-san."
Apparently, the water rat is a miss. It's the first time I've seen Pochi and Tama not liking meat. Price-wise, the grilled water rat is relatively expensive, about as much as the mountain of fruits that Mia is grappling.
"Is it delicious Mia."
In front of Mia, there's a literal mountain of varied fruits piled up. The fruits that look familiar to me are pineapples, coconuts, bananas, kiwis, and mangos. There are also several kind of citrus family fruits. There's no apple or pear. Although there are some differences like the kiwi having red flesh inside, they're similar with the fruits in my former world. Particularly the banana and the pineapple, both the tastes and the textures are the same. The mango is a false-mango. Although it looks and taste similar, it has rubbery-like texture. Arisa who's nabbing small pieces of the fruits from the side is having an impression, "This and that are acceptable" after munching them for a bit.
After thoroughly enjoying the southern country-like town, we returned to the ship with various souvenirs. Fortunately, the scarecrows didn't seem to have any turn to shine.
When the day has darkened, I produce night fog. It's [Fog] magic. Unlike when it's used by Mia, the whole port becomes shrouded in thick fog. I circulate the fog to the mountain by using [Air Control] magic, after three hours, the fog has reached the port of Kirik Earldom on the opposite side.
I slip the ship under the cover of the fog, and cross the mountain by relying on the map.
Halfway through the mountain, the bridge on the border of the earldoms has fallen, while viscount Rendo and his retainers are dying on the bottom of the ravine. I've made sure the fog doesn't get to this area, but the bridge probably fell since the maintenance kept getting postponed. They're unlucky people.
The [Magic Hand] can't reach it from the fog, so I make our ship float still in the mid-air, and rescue them as Nanashi with black mask clothing.
Unfortunately, the horses and the coachman have died, but the Viscount and other guests are still alive, so I stealthily use [Magic Hand] to move them to Earl Ukeu's side. Furthermore, I've used [Aqua Heal] for them while hiding my figure, so they probably will survive. I put some food and water below the shade nearby just in case.
The inside seems to be in an uproar, but if they're energetic enough to make a fuss, they're probably going to be alright even if I leave them.
I go back to my ship, and finish crossing the mountain without meeting with anymore trouble this time. I keep the ship flying inside the fog, and anchor it on a small bay located on the outskirts of Kirik Earldom.