14-22. Snow Kingdom (3)
Satou's here. There are many cases where a deed that appears eccentric seen from outside has its reason when you go inside. Nevertheless, whether that is valid or not is another question.
"....Is dis heavn'?"
The girl woke up in the bed and muttered.
>[Eastern Country Language] Skill Acquired.
I got a new skill, but since it sounded like a dialect of Shiga Kingdom, I could understand the meaning properly.
I don't intend to activate the skill but I'll use Translation magic to correct the nuance.
The girl looks at me while looking puzzled.
This girl is the village girl who was saved by Pochi when she was attacked by a large monster in Kiwolk Mountain, Rocket Wolf.
Since her woolen clothes got dirtied by the Rocket Wolf's blood, she's wearing a cotton dress right now.
I wonder if she was stranded in the mountain, she was in Starvation on top of Weakening state, so I made her drink nourishment magic potion and let her sleep in the mountain lodge.
She was enjoying the bed with half-asleep eyes until awhile ago, but it seems she's finally woken up.
"You're mistaken. This is a lodge near your village."
It seems she has realized her misunderstanding, the girl hurriedly gets up from the bed but then she gets an anemia.
I quickly support her and put some cushion behind the girl.
"For now drink this and calm down."
"Delicious... It's like the summer honey water."
The girl is slowly enjoying the citron tea I gave her.
This is a sweet tea made by boiling citron marmalade.
I picked this one since Zenzai would be a bit hard to swallow for her.
"We've brought the milk porridge that Lulu's especially made!"
"Ankake Hamburg Steak too~?"
"Meat is necessary after all nanodesu!"
"Nn, white bread."
The youth troupe brought the meal when the girl was drinking the citron tea.
Even though her stomach should be good now after drinking the nourishment medicine, meat is probably still hard for her.
That worry seemed to be unnecessary, the girl quickly ate up the milk porridge and put the small Ankake hamburg steak intriguingly into her mouth while looking surprised with the softness of the white bread.
The meat used for this hamburg steak comes from Rocket Wolf that tried to kill the girl.
It didn't have gamey smell even though it was carnivorous and tasted like beef, everyone starting from the beastkin girls highly praised it.
I'm thinking of hunting them later, just enough not to make them go extinct.
After filling her stomach, the girl seemed to recall something, said her thanks to me and Pochi, and then she apologized.
"U-um, I'm sorry for eating greedily without saying my thanks. My name is Pipine of Nadare village."
"I'm Satou of Shiga Kingdom."
I probably won't meet her again once we send her to her village, so I didn't tell her my house name and peerage.
"Eh~, you should have said that you're a retired crêpe merchant from Echigo there~"
"Pochi likes people who appreciate dried meat more than fish nanodesu."
<TLN: crêpe=chirimen, dried sardines=chirimenjako. Mito Komon reference.>
The youth troupe mistook Arisa's words, derailing it to a strange direction.
"U-um. Is Onii-san a slave trader?"
"No, I'm not. I'm just a traveler."
After I denied it, Pipine looks dejected.
I don't think she's selling herself--feeling intrigued, I try searching her village.
--What is this, 90% of the village are in Starvation state.
Apparently, it'll be dangerous if she can't get food by selling herself.
Moreover, I wonder what this mean, many villages in this country are in similar states.
It makes me remember the old Muno territory.
"Why don't you tell us if you have something troubling you? I might be able to help you, you see?"
The girl hesitated for a bit, but it seemed she was at her wit's end, she talked about the village's distress and appealed for some food even for a little.
"Please! We don't have any money in our village, but there are nine unmarried girls including me. If you sell us as slaves in Shiga Kingdom, then the money for the food will--"
"Calm down. For now, let's go to your village as we have some extra supply of food."
I persuaded the girl and we decided to go to the village with the youth troupe.
We're using a snow boat I've made for the noon play. The main body looks like a canoe made of ice, the jib sail receives the wind to make it move.
"Pochi has become one with the wind nodesu!"
Our girls seem to like it very much, but the girl's having a face cramp and keeps silent due to the unexpected speed.
A Snow Leopard attacked us in the middle of the way, but it misread the snow boat's speed and landed behind.
It'd be troublesome if it chased us, so Tama brought the Snow Leopard down with an icicle shuriken.
Before long we saw houses between the snow.
Looking from the distant, Nadare village is a small village built on a mountain slope with only around 70 people.
There are big joint barns along the one-story houses buried in the snow, but not even one has any livestock inside.
Mysteriously, there are only a few men, the women consist of the 80% of the villagers.
Snow had begun to fall from the sky when we arrived at the elder's house.
"Satou-sama, I give you my gratitude on behalf of the villagers."
The village elder and the villagers fall prostrate in front of me.
The villagers have escaped danger by taking nourishment magic potions and liquid food, people who can move have gathered in the elder's house.
I've given them enough food and salt so they should be fine until spring.
Mia has also cured the sick people with her magic.
"This may not be much, but they're items that the villagers have assembled. Please take it by all means."
The elder presented various woolen clothing and accessories, wood ornaments and combs, bronze swords, arrowheads etc.
There are some peculiar design carved on the swords and the arrowheads.
"They're peculiar aren't they. Does this have some kind of meaning?"
"This is a groove for varnishing paralyzing poison to hunt snow leopards and bears."
The swords have peculiar design with no guards, and the grips have carving that also act as anti-slip, it looks to me that they'll be popular as a handicraft.
"There are various pattern on these woolen stuff too."
"Ndaaaa. Do you know who made these woven and embroidery ndaaa."
An old woman with wrinkles talks while tracing the embroidery with her finger.
There are patterns handed down for generations in each house, and making a new pattern until you're married seems to be a proof of adulthood.
I'm glad that I've saved the village.
I'd like to preserve these art and culture.
While having sweet potatoes the villagers made, they begin to talk about this country.
"Yes, the winter didn't always continue for two years like this, until then, every year, there were always some stirs with the neighboring Kogeoku Kingdom. "
The men of the village decreased every year since they got drafted every time there was a war.
According to the tourism book, wars do happen regularly with the neighboring country.
"It's nice if there's no war, but we can't grow weed to feed the yaks with all this winter."
"Yeah, we can't raise fish on the river and the pond too."
"I sure yearn for spring and summer although they're only two months."
They've done well to survive in such an absurd environment that continues for two years.
The winter most likely continues on because the City Core isn't controlled well.
The reason why the village barns are empty is because they turned the yaks that they could no longer raise into food.
"This village was famous for the yogurt dish even in the Royal Capital y'see."
"I'd like Satou-sama to eat it."
"The yak's milk sake too."
Looking at the map, it seems there are herds of wild yaks in a monster dominion outside of Kiwolk Kingdom.
There's no meaning in the present state, but once the winter somehow has passed on, the yogurt dish and the milk sake might be revived.
I want to assist them as a vice minister of Tourism Ministry.
First, I need to investigate the cause of the prolonged winter--.
"--Snowmen are bringing food?"
"What the hell is that crazy rumor?"
Such rumors were exchanged whisperingly in a bar in the downtown of the sole city of Kiwolk Kingdom which is also its Royal Capital.
This Royal Capital has escaped starvation by eating food made of bodies of a monster called Murder Kelp that live in the lake nearby.
It seems the villages and towns near the Royal Capital and along the main road have received that benefit, but there's not enough to distribute them to every villages.
Moreover, since the Murder Kelp frankly tastes bad, it seems the few wealthy people in the Royal Capital are importing food from foreign countries using a large amount of money.
Murder Kelps seem to be a monster as weak as Demi-Goblins, but there is not insignificant number of people who died after getting dragged into cold water.
"Oy, young man."
When I was listening to rumors and drinking sweet potato liquor with the Murder Kelp jerky as the appetizer, the barkeeper jerked his chin, prompting me to look at the entrance.
A small man who showed up from the entrance sits down beside me.
Hearing the secret word, the small man sighs.
This man is a secret agent of Shiga Kingdom, he's been collecting intelligence in Kiwolk Kingdom.
With the information the prime minister taught me, I got in contact with the barkeeper to call this guy.
"It's not good here, come with me."
Guided by the man, we arrived at a storehouse after advancing through a narrow alley outside the bar's back entrance.
There were some hoodlum-looking men but after a glance from the small man, they returned to their foolish talk without paying any attention to me.
Once we've arrived at the man's hideout under the storehouse, I was finally able to gather information.
"What do you want to know?"
"Do you know the reason why the winter continues on in this country?"
"If we're to believe the talk of the downtown bunch, it's because the 『Blizzard Spirit』 and the 『Grim Ice Ghost』 are having a quarrel in the 『Ghost Valley』."
I want to see that for a bit.
"Oy, don't take the joke seriously. In reality, it's because of the queen."
The king of this kingdom lost his life in the war two years ago, so the first queen has taken the throne.
The prince who should be the heir is still 9 year old.
Still, [Because of the queen], that means it's not that she can't do the job well, but she's lowered the atmospheric temperature using the City Core power on purpose?
"You know the reason right?"
"At first it looked like it was to prevent the invasion of Kogeoku Kingdom, but--"
I see, tremendous snowfall should have made the march impossible.
It's quite a fantasy-like battle.
"--But now it seems the purpose has changed to money-making."
The small man loathsomely drink the water with melted Murder Kelp.
"We haven't finished investigating the how, but it seems they're able to artificially create Ice Stones by making the winter continues on. They've made big profit by exporting those, that's the main rumor."
Apparently, it seems he can't contact the secret agent in charge of the infiltration.
Ice Stones are a material needed for refrigerator magic tools and Ice Wand for battles, Shiga Kingdom can only produce it from Selbira Labyrinth and a few mountains.
On top of having little yield, there is no stable source of supply that can satisfy the demand, so it's always priced high.
"And, the main export destinations of that are our Shiga Kingdom and the Weasel Empire at the eastern end."
I see, stopping the winter unilaterally would be bad huh... This is bothersome.
I'll ask merchants that deal with Ice Stones and the people in question in the royal palace.
"Thank you for the information."
As a replenishment for his fund, I put a small bag with small jewels in place of cash and also several sake bottles, smoked beef and cheese for the appetizers as a bonus.
"Ooh, unlike the contact so far, you know the stuff. I'm sick of Murder Kelp and sweet potato liquor you see."
The small man who's pleased gives an additional information.
"If yer' going to meddle with the royal palace, then you should be more careful with the Light Snow Princess and Winter General than the Ice Queen."
<TLN: Winter General aka Fuyu Shogun in Japan, https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/冬将軍 >
What? What are those chuunibyou-like names....
"Master, we've finished delivering the food to the last village."
"Thank you for your work."
The identity of the snowmen bringing food from the rumor in the bar are the snowmen golems I've made and Arisa and Mia carried by them.
With this there should be no one who dies of hunger for the time being.
"Master, hunted mainly Grey Wolves and Black Fang Bears, so I report."
"Master, we also have a treated fur of snow leopard."
Next, the vanguards who had come back to the lodge reported.
The snow leopard's fur feels very nice, I'll make one for everyone later.
Of course for Aze-san and the others too.
"Master, I've finished the prototype for 『Ration』, would you be willing to sample it?"
"Yeah, I'm going now."
We might meet starved people like this next time, so I asked Lulu to develop preserved food with good nutrition.
Strangely, the main ingredient is Chlorella, the same as Murder Kelp that appear in the Royal Capital.
We made the Giant Kelps that multiplied in the trench near the Underwater City into fine powder and put various dried things and crushed meat of Sea Serpents, making it into a cereal that could be carried.
"Un, it's nice. I won't get tired even if I eat this for a long time."
The degree of completion is such that you wouldn't have thought it only took a few days.
It just needs more flavor variations next.
We might also need to develop a version for allergic people.
After praising Lulu, I go to meet Zena-san, Sera, Lady Karin, and the princess who are leveling up in Selbira Labyrinth.
I've got them to collect ingredients in the Flying Eater (Fish) and Hopping Octopus area while also raising their levels.
I enter the Teleport Gate that goes to the hunting ground in the labyrinth.
"Ka-Karina-sama! Please don't go too forward."
Lady Karina drops her Pole Mace clad in purple lightning on a giant fish that looks like it could swallow a man whole.
Even though Zena-san warned her, Lady Karina thrust herself into the center of a monster herd.
She's too reckless even though she has Raka's defense and Sera's protective magic.
"Shield Golem, go three steps ahead. Great Sword Golem, stop the monsters attacking Karina-dono!"
The princess covers Lady Karina using 12 golems like they're her limbs.
These golems move by magic supply from a specially made Command Rod.
The efficiency is a bit bad, but experience points collected by the golems will be shared to the Princess, so she can level up from a safe place.
"Bow Golems, time the attack when Lady Karina retreats--shoot!"
The four rear guard golems shot spear-sized stone arrows, skewering the Hopping Octopus into a triple dango.
".... ■■■■ Multiple Air Cutter"
At the same time as Lady Karina pointed at the ceiling, Zena-san's intermediate wind magic thoroughly uprooted the Crawler Shells that were approaching on the ceiling.
"Yes. Living Doll-san, go."
Answering the princess, the Brownies who are in charge of the dismantling use the Living Doll to gather the monster bodies from the battlefield.
Sera who found me came to me the foremost.
Besides Lady Karina, they were rarely ever wounded, so it seems her turns as a healer rarely appeared.
Normally, she acted as a support using a hand-me-down magic gun from Lulu and light magic she learned from the [Blessing Orb].
Leaving the dismantling group and the golems behind, I take the entourage of Tourism Ministry back to the airship.
Lady Karina is not a member of the Tourism Ministry, but I'll have her act as a guard together with Zena, disguised as [Lady K]. Formally, she's diving into Selbira Labyrinth together with Pendragon Team after all.
Now then, shall we go visit our first foreign country as the vice minister of the Tourism Ministry.