3 – 5
“There was a disaster in Grenze!?”
Alois’ office, deep into the afternoon. Camilla repeated the words she had just been told in abject shock.
Alois glanced up at Camilla from behind the massive pile of reports on his desk.
“More specifically, it was between Grenze and Einst. At some point where their two manaveins intersected. We don’t know exactly where that epicentre is just yet, though.”
There were all sorts of letters and reports on the extent of the damage stacked up in front of Alois. She couldn’t read the roughly scrawled handwriting in the messages, but somehow Camilla knew that this was something far out of the ordinary.
The disaster had occurred the morning before. Camilla remembered being rudely awoken with a start as what felt like an earthquake shook the foundations of the mansion. Half asleep, she had originally thought that it was Alois exercising, but after seeing the general panic amongst the mansion’s servants afterward she realized it was something else.
As soon as the earthquake hit, Alois sent out riders towards the major mining towns. Then, he waited anxiously for a full day. And now, Alois was gazing at the reports in front of him, his face twisted bitterly.
“It really was due to an accidental explosion in the manastone veins after all. However, the miasma is still thick. I don’t think the danger has passed yet.”
“An explosion… Just what do you mean by that!? What of Grenze!? The orphanage!?”
“I don’t have the full details yet. But from what I can gather, the damage hasn’t spread that far. There were some collapses around the mines and a few houses fell down, but thankfully there have only been reports of light injuries so far.”
Camilla breathed a sigh of relief at Alois’ words, but she still felt gripped by that same anxiety. Houses falling down and injuries. Camilla was worried that the people she had gotten to know there might have become caught up in things.
The old woman who ran the orphanage and those cheeky kids. Even those disagreeable maids. Were they all safe?
As Camilla’s gaze dropped to the floor in her worry, Alois continued.
“I’ll also be going to assess the damage and offer some help to what victims there might be. I also need to investigate the source of this incident as well. Just where along the veins did the disaster start? That’s something I need to find out.”
Alois’ magical power was useful at times like this.
Typically, searching for the manastone veins and their roots was a job given to a person with strong magical power. Because of their deeper connection with the magical energies being given off by the vein, they can follow the fluctuations in the magic of the manastones.
That way, they can pinpoint just where the magic and miasma was at its strongest. In the old days, if someone was trapped underground in a manastone mine due to something like a cave in, it was standard practice to break open a manastone. That was because the sudden release of large amounts magical energy could be followed by a magic user on the surface.
Conversely, miners in the dark can be guided by a magic user on the surface releasing magic. When it came to mining operations, there were always two such people. It was an unbreakable rule to have one magic user above the ground and the other under.
This time, however, the search wasn’t for a person trapped underground, but the epicentre of this incident. That doesn’t change the fundamentals of the task, though. By following the flows and fluctuations of the miasma that hadn’t dissipated, he would be able to find the point of the accident.
Especially since this time, the accident happened in a spot where the manaveins from Grenze and Einst intersected. With these two different types of miasma coming into collision, it would be difficult to be able to ascertain one from the other.
For this investigation, someone with strong magical power was necessary. In addition, it would have to be a person with a very strong handle on their powers, so that they wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the thick miasma themselves.
The only person who could truly be qualified for such a task was Mohnton’s strongest magic user, Alois.
“I’ll be leaving once I get the final report. That should be a few days from now. Once I set off, I might not be back for a while. I know it might be inconvenient for you, Camilla, but whilst I’m gone-”
I’ll be relying on you. Before he could say those words, Camilla interrupted him.
“I am going to go as well!”
“…Have you been listening up until now?”
Alois looked at her dubiously. His face was a mix of amazement and incredulity, a mask of emotion that was hard to pin down with a single word.
“Even though the damage so far was minor, there is still a large amount of miasma and I cannot guarantee that it will be safe at all.”
“I heard you. However, I will still be going with you, Alois.”
“I’m going to investigate and console families that have lost their homes. It’s not a sightseeing tour.”
“I too have no intention of playing around!”
Camilla strongly denied Alois’ insinuation. Having a thoughtless jaunt at a time like this was absolutely not Camilla’s intention. She needed him to at least understand that much.
“Grenze is a town that I came to know. I have no intention of getting in your way, but if part of your reason to go is to console people, then it wouldn’t be strange for me to be there alongside you, would it!?”
Even if Camilla still has her qualms about it, officially she is supposed to one day be Alois’ wife. It was not uncommon for noble couples to visit strife afflicted areas in such a way.
Besides, visiting as a couple could project a better image to the people of the land. The sooner the better, too. Since it gives the people there the impression that they’re so well thought of that the lord of the land rushed there as soon as he could, alongside his partner.
Of course, when the disaster is a massive catastrophe, there were issues with that. When even a single person who cannot pull their own weight is a burden, there is no place for a noblewoman in her long and elegant dress to come along. In such a case, their consolation visits would have to wait until the situation had calmed down.
However, going by Alois’ words, the damage this time was not so extensive. Therefore, it shouldn’t be any problem if Camilla came along. If anything, he should be pleased that she would.
Yet despite Camilla’s thoughts, Alois’ expression remained grim as he shook his head.
“I am not just travelling to Grenze. In fact, I will definitely be stopping in Einst before moving on to Grenze.”
Grenze was the northernmost town in the territory. The capital where they were now was in the south. Einst lay squarely in between them. To travel to both these places from the capital, one would inevitably visit Einst first before moving on to Grenze.
But, that wasn’t the only reason he intended to visit Einst first.
“Camilla, if you really wish to visit Grenze, you would have to pass through Einst first. In any case, Einst is the priority right now. Otherwise, I may have problems convincing the elders in Einst.”
The frown on Alois’ frog-like face became even more pronounced.
Einst was the second largest town outside of the capital in Mohnton.
It used to be the largest.
‘Complicated’ is the word that was often used to describe the town under the dominion of the Meyerheim family, entangled as it was in deeply rooted history and traditions.
When it came to manastone mining, it actually had a higher output than Grenze.
The town could be described as modest and chaste, far removed from the rough and tumble style seen in Grenze. It followed the customs handed down generation to generation from the time that it was a criminal colony’s mining outpost, so although it had now developed into a large town, you would be hard pressed to find anything resembling festivities there. There were no bars, either. The restaurants were as quiet as a place of worship, with the patrons simply eating their meals in silence. Clothes with ostentatious or evocative colours were frowned on and brightly coloured flowers weren’t ever grown there.
It was a town that was focused purely on the mining and export of manastones. Yet that town, modest and honest to a fault, was stripped of its pre-eminence by the vitalization of Grenze.
The influential men in the town were hardly comfortable with this, either.
Grenze was flooded with foreign merchants. Grenze was a hive of boozing, debauchery and violence. Grenze’s development was due to Alois. All of these things went hand in hand, and they disapproved of them all.
However, supplanted as it was, a mining town of that size could hardly be ignored. Mohnton was a land that relied on manastone exports for its main source of revenue, after all. If Einst threw their toys out of the pram, nearly half of the manastone exports would be in jeopardy. The blow to the economy of the Duchy would be unthinkable.
Moreover, Einst had a high amount of influence on a number of surrounding smaller towns. It had a deep connection to the House of Meyerheim also. Most of the town’s influential men were directly under the patronage of the family in one way or another. If he moved carelessly in this manner, it could be considered an insult to the Meyerheims themselves.
Einst was strange in that it had both an inferiority complex about and a sense of superiority to Grenze.
The focus of the Montchat family had to be on Einst. Even if Grenze eventually surpassed it in revenue, Einst would still have to be the first priority, if only because of its political importance.
Therefore, visiting Grenze first would be a huge mistake. He couldn’t let Camilla only visit Grenze alone either. Anything that Grenze received, Einst would have to receive it first.
“Einst is a very insular type of place. They don’t exactly have a great impression of me, either. Camilla, it may be uncomfortable for you there.”
“For such a ridiculous reason!?”
Camilla shook her head without hesitation as Alois tried to talk her down. She felt even more determined to go now.
“Did you truly think I would stop wanting to go simply because it was ‘uncomfortable’!?”
She hadn’t felt much other than being uncomfortable ever since she got here. How much discomfort does he think she has actually gone through up until now?
Even so, nothing would get solved if she just fled from the things she found unpleasant, whether she liked it or not. In the first place, Camilla had never thought something like ‘I don’t want to go to Einst, only to Grenze’ at all.
If Camilla married into the Montchat family, she would inevitably have some sort of relationship with Einst. Therefore, no matter what, she’s determined to go.
– What’s more…
Something stirred in Camilla’s heart. She remembered something that the cook Günter had said to her.
Alois had originally faced great opposition when he sought to revitalize Grenze. Ernst was a town that felt hard done by the development in Grenze as well. If their relationship with Alois wasn’t smoothed over now, even though ten years had already passed it would only get worse and worse.
They would surely regard Alois with coldness. Perhaps it would even be worse than the treatment Camilla received.
“Lord Alois, even though you will surely suffer some unpleasantries during the trip, you still intend to go don’t you?”
At Camilla’s words, Alois bent his mouth into a hollow smile. Perhaps he was smiling in self-derision? He sighed as he finally responded.
“…I am a lord, after all.”
“Then, isn’t it my role to support you!?”
Alois’ quietly spoken words were swallowed up by Camilla’s determined shout.
As Alois blinked in surprise, Camilla stood up tall with her hands on her waist and her chest puffed out.
Even more than all that… Camilla wanted to cut Günter down to size just a little bit.
Just what exactly did he and Alois do when they were alone together?
Was he really trying to sell himself as the only person truly supporting Alois?
Camilla’s pride couldn’t permit something like that to slide.
Edited by: ApoPie