Chapter 204 - Together with a Dragon (1)
The Magic Contest, which was Meltor's annual event, reached its end after being three times more prosperous than before.
It didn't mean that the magicians participating in the contest were more superior than usual. This was the same event, but it was three times more prosperous because more people had visited Meltor.
It was due to the symbol of Elvenheim, High Elf Ellenoa.
Since the founding of Elvenheim and the abolition of slavery, it had become difficult to see the elves, making some people even doubt their existence.
The unrealistic beauty and presence of the high elf, who had appeared at the opening ceremony, were enough to convince them of the truth. Major figures from all over the continent had come to Meltor without much meaning, but they were forced to sound the bugle call this time.
-A high elf from Elvenheim has come to Mana-vil!
-Buds sprout wherever she walks!
-It is a sign that the balance between the Northern powers will collapse!
-She has a deep relationship with Meltor's young hero!
Rumours spread, and ships and carriages in the Central Continent headed to Meltor in droves. If even one of the rumors was true, then this was a great event which could be called the turning point in history. They might not have any influence on it, but they couldn't just sit still.
Someone came with the purpose of trying to trade with Elvenheim...
While someone else steered their ship with the intention of making a mark on Meltor.
There was also someone who took a carriage just to see the high elf's beauty...
And another who crossed the border to explore the situation of the North.
As the major powers moved for various reasons, the procession following them increased in number. One person grew to 10, 10 people to 100, and then to the thousands. Due to this, the guards at Meltor's checkpoints were busier than ever, and a lot of gold poured into the treasury.
The Magic Contest lasted for a fortnight, and various groups tangled together until the morning of the last day of the contest finally came.
However, the atmosphere of the palace was heavy.
"... Treasurer, please report the result of this Magic Contest."
"Yes, Your Majesty," the treasurer answered and walked forward after being called by Kurt. Then the Treasurer reported, "The number of visitors at this year's Magic Contest has tripled compared to last year, so the logistics have increased nearly fivefold. Even if we use only half of the budget, we will be able to complete most of our current national plans."
"What about the trade inquiries from other countries?"
"Three from Austen, two from Soldun, eight from Kargas. There are also four from the Lairon Religious Kingdom..."
Kurt's eyebrows twitched, and he shook his head when he heard the name 'Lairon.' Magicians and religious figures weren't a good match. The Lairon Kingdom would make the magicians try to worship their god, and diplomatic relations might worsen.
"Dismiss all requests from Lairon."
"I will follow Your Majesty's words."
The treasurer moved back after replying, and Kurt turned to the chairman of the Magic Society next.
The chairman of the Magic Society recognized the meaning of Kurt's gaze and quickly opened his mouth to speak. "The recruitment of magicians has gone smoothly. There are a total of 214 magicians who put their names on the conference list, and 117 magicians have been chosen to be naturalized. Among them, there are 45 people who have achieved higher than the 4th Circle. This is a little over twice that of last year."
"Not bad. What is the distribution to each magic tower?"
"It hasn't been decided yet. I don't think it can be determined until after the Red Tower Master has returned."
Of course, it was a natural report. After all, it was the privilege of a tower master to endorse the membership of a magician. Even if the elders dealt with a tower master's duties in the tower master's absence, they couldn't make a decision about personnel.
However, Kurt III couldn't help frowning at the report. "Yes, we don't have the Red Tower Master."
At this point, the people present understood Kurt's mind and acted carefully. This was because the investigation team had gone to claim the ruins and had yet to return.
Kurt had thought nothing would go wrong because Veronica was present, but he couldn't help being worried because the time they were taking was too long. He wasn't worried about Veronica. After all, since they were both pillars of the kingdom, he was one of the people who knew her best. There were few things which could threaten Red Tower Master Veronica.
If she were buried by an earthquake, she would break the ground and pop out. If she were swept away by a tsunami, she would evaporate the water. In the hearts of everyone present, the people from Andras had long since died.
The problem was with the four magicians, Quattro. If any of the prospects who were marked as successors to the tower masters died, Meltor couldn't avoid being damaged. Additionally, there was the hero, Theodore Miller!
"White Tower Master."
Kurt's voice subsided, and Orta replied, "Please say it, Your Majesty."
With a white robe and white mask... As always, the man who concealed his appearance revealed himself near the throne. Had he just entered? Or maybe he had been present in the first place.
The scary thing about the White Tower Master was that they couldn't know for sure. He had fierce mobility and had managed to defeat one of the Seven Swords. Orta was the key character behind a massive purge which had occurred when Kurt had just been crowned. Even now, Orta was still called a grim reaper by the nobles.
"Did you do what I instructed?"
"Of course," Orta replied in a cold voice and gave details of his actions, "I have completed the elimination of 20 shadows at the border of the Meuse Desert, as well as 76 operatives. I stayed around and watched the situation, but no more people showed up."
He was emotionless despite talking about killing almost 100 people. Even if the people had been experts of Andras, they hadn't even gotten a chance to use their Aura Ability. The results of Orta's guerrilla tactics were truly miserable.
According to the king's orders, Orta had cleared up the outskirts of the Meuse Desert. Kurt had been worried those on the outskirts would disrupt the return of the investigation team.
"... But why is there no news yet?" In the end, Kurt couldn't help expressing his impatience.
The king had made the selection. He had been the one who dispatched Veronica and Quattro. Kurt had the qualities of a king, and his choices were never bad. When the results weren't particularly good, they weren't terrible either. Meanwhile, the rest were good.
He hoped that his choice wasn't wrong this time.
"Your Majesty!" At that moment, the door opened, and Blundell hesitated to continue speaking.
"Blundell, what is going on? It isn't like you to hesitate."
It was as Kurt said. Blundell's white beard and hair were soaked with sweat, while his always relaxed face was filled with confusion. Kurt had asked that after seeing Blundell's expression, but Blundell then shouted in reply, "Your Majesty should come out and see it personally!"
Everyone in the room turned toward each other with confusion, while Kurt stared down at Blundell with a blank expression. He raised his body from the throne with a questioning appearance.
* * *
As a dragon flew in the sky above Mana-vil, blue scales shone among the white clouds.
It was a soldier at the watchtower who had seen the spectacular sight first. He couldn't believe what he had seen and pointed toward the sky. The guard, who was seeing a dragon for the first time in his life, didn't know what to do. He belatedly reported to the guard captain, who contacted the royal palace and the Magic Society.
However, Blundell moved faster than anyone else. 'To think that a dragon has appeared at this time! What the hell is this?'
Veronica's absence was truly great. Blundell touched his white beard desperately, but an answer didn't come out. When one read Meltor's history from the beginning, they would find there were no recorded incidents wherein Meltor had angered a dragon.
'No, isn't there one...?'
Theodore had fought with a sea dragon in the Pirate Archipelago, so he might've made an enemy of the blue clan.
However, Aquilo's case was different. The blue dragons were a thoroughly individual clan. Moreover, even if they had a relationship with someone, they only communicated with that person and didn't show much interest in anyone else.
So, why had a dragon come to Mana-vil?
"... I still don't understand," Blundell muttered. Meanwhile, the king and other nobles were dismayed by the sight.
With sunlight reflecting off its blue scales and the flexible bends of its body, the dragon swimming in the sky was beautiful enough to make anyone lose their minds. It might be strange to fly with a wingless body, but flying itself wasn't impossible for a sea dragon.
In order for wings to carry a dragon body in the first place, the surface area of the dragon should be six times its current size while its weight should be reduced to one third. Fundamentally, a dragon's ability to fly was due to its own power.
Red dragons emitted hot air to fly at high speeds, whereas blue dragons controlled atmospheric measure to steer in the air. Although a blue dragon couldn't match a red dragon's flight speed, it was more beautiful while flying.
... Of course, there were people who didn't agree with this idea.
"It feels like an earthworm wriggling! Don't wriggle around and speed up more!"
Upon hearing Veronica's rant, Aquilo's tail twitched, and she countered, 「This is my fastest speed! Do you think that a sea dragon can fly at high speeds?」
"Aren't you a pureblood dragon? I can fly faster than you!"
「Then get off! If it wasn't for the boy, I wouldn't even let you ride!」
"If so, I will get off!"
Simultaneously, Veronica jumped down from Aquilo's back without any fear.
They were hundreds of meters above sea level. It was a good height to turn humans into chunks of meat, but her robustness was greater than that of a human. Veronica didn't even use any magic as she fell down.
The marble was destroyed by the impact of falling, while the flying debris made people scramble around.
"It is the dragon's preemptive strike!"
"W-What is it?"
"Blue Tower Master, what should we do?"
As she looked at them, Veronica sighed, "Phew, they are going nuts."
So, she waited for the competent people to calm down. After hearing her voice, they belatedly realized the situation and calmed down.
"C-Cough! The Red Tower Master has returned!"
"You went through a lot of trouble. Did it go well?"
"I have no time to talk to you guys. Where are His Majesty and the tower masters?"
Veronica ignored the excited faces and found the nearby Kurt and magic tower masters. Unlike their usual selves, the three people seemed stunned. After all, Veronica had just fallen from a dragon in the sky. It was understandable that they would ask for an explanation from her.
However, Veronica interrupted them, "Just a moment, Your Majesty. Everyone else is on the wriggling worm, so let's wait until they are present to talk about it."
"W-Wriggling...?" Kurt looked up at the sky with a strange expression after hearing the world's strongest species being called a wriggling worm.
The dragon in the distant sky was getting closer.
Soon, the tail, which was shining with blue scales, landed before the party. Robes of four different colors flapped in the wind, and Quattro landed on the ground.
Then with perfect timing, Veronica and all of Quattro bent down on one knee before the king. The appearance of the blue dragon behind them was really spectacular. Five voices overlapped as they spoke simultaneously:
""We, Red Tower Master Veronica and the four members of Quattro, have fulfilled capturing the ruins in Your Majesty's name and have now returned.""