Chapter 205 - Together with a Dragon (2)
Kurt couldn't properly grasp the situation, but his reaction was quick. He naturally accepted the greeting of the five people and soon noticed there was a person missing.
It was Austen's guardian, Mujak. The man, who had been arrested for authorized entry and kidnapping, was nowhere to be seen.
"Where is Mujak?"
Theodore responded to Kurt's question, "Is it okay to explain that with the report?"
"Hmm, okay. Rather..." Kurt glanced toward Aquilo behind Theodore. Instead of Mujak, Kurt was much more worried about the dragon who had suddenly appeared. As though she felt his glance, there was a slight flash of light from where the dragon's body had been floating behind the party. It was enough to make people blink a few times.
People reflexively closed their eyes and opened them again. In the spot where the dragon had been, there was now an impressive-looking woman with sea-colored hair. Horns rose from her head, and her fluorescent eyes showed that she was different from humans. Despite her bewitching appearance, she gave off a feeling of oppression.
In this silence, Aquilo slightly bent her knees. "It is nice to meet you, king of Meltor. I am Aquilo of the blue clan, daughter of Surmidon and Asophos."
This was the moment when the historical tyrant, the sea dragon, met the ruler of the Meltor Kingdom. The people present realized the seriousness of this meeting and gulped while the air filled with tension. How would the king of Meltor respond to this greeting?
Unlike their expectations, Kurt's answer was quite ordinary. "The current king, Kurt Turai von Meltor, welcomes your visit. I heard a lot about you from Lord Theodore."
Aquilo gave a bewitching smile at his words. "Hrmm, is that so? Boy, you talked about me?"
"Yes, I was able to pass the crisis thanks to you."
"That is a common thing."
Theodore's answer seemed the right thing to say as the atmosphere loosened up. Then Kurt encouraged them to move into the palace, "Let's talk about the remaining story inside. It seems that there are many things to talk about."
"Then... I will follow Your Majesty's will."
Aquilo nodded, and Kurt led everyone into the royal palace. Their new location wasn't the meeting hall but the reception room used for occasional guests.
Kurt III sat down, while Blundell and Orta stood on both sides of his chair. Even if there was no chance of winning, their role as escort was to block the slightest possibility of Aquilo attacking Kurt.
Once both Aquilo and Veronica were seated, Kurt naturally turned toward Theodore. Veronica was the one in charge of the mission, but she was preoccupied having a staring war with Aquilo.
"Quattro's Captain, please report."
"Yes, Your Majesty," Theodore responded to the call.
'Where should I start?'
The memories of a few days ago were engraved in Theodore's head. Defeating Mercurius and entering the laboratory, receiving compensation from Paragranum...
Yes, he would start exactly from here.
* * *
-Before I ask my favor, I have to check something first.
-To check something?
-Yes, I have to check whether something is possible for you. I'm not trying to insult you, I'm just really curious.
Aquilo made a questioning expression upon hearing Theodore's words. He should know better than anyone else. After all, they had fought at each other's backs. So, Theodore's brilliant brain would've already understood her abilities.
If she wanted to, she could break down a city or two, or even cause floods and tsunamis. Yet there was something he wasn't certain whether Aquilo could do?
She cocked her head as Theodore spoke in a low voice, -Is it possible to revive a river on a national scale?
The blue dragon was famous for being cunning. Aquilo raised her eyebrows as she guessed his intentions.
-...Boy, are you trying to use me as a negotiation material?
It was as she said. Theodore shrugged and nodded without retreating. Desertio's death meant the desertification phenomenon would disappear, but it was another story to restore the water which had dried up over centuries.
The drought wouldn't happen anymore, but there was no future for a land which had been completely exhausted. Austen wouldn't have an opportunity to recover, and they would perish. However, what if Aquilo's power assisted in the recovery?
A high elf couldn't surpass a dragon when it came to their attributes. When it came to the supply of water, Aquilo was more effective than a high elf.
Aquilo thought about Theodore's question for a while before answering, -It is possible. Are you talking about the Pilar River? I won't be able to restore it to its original state, but I can turn it back around 10 years.
Mujak trembled as he listened to the conversation. It was natural. A miracle he had never expected was being considered right before him. They were discussing the restoration of the Pilar River, Austen's lifeblood! Now that the drought was gone, there would be no further problems if the river was restored. Maybe this would become Austen's golden age.
Mujak was thrilled, falling to both knees and bowing his head. -Sir Theodore! How should I repay this favor?! The Sultan will greatly repay you for your help!
-Thank you, but it isn't certain yet.
-Aquilo has to agree to this favor.
Mujak turned to Aquilo with a desperate expression. If the dragon refused to do Theodore's favor, this golden opportunity in front of him would disappear without a trace.
However, Aquilo just laughed at Theodore's uncertainty. -Well, I don't care. I am in need of a new lair because of you. It is the middle of the desert, but it should be okay if it is the Pilar River.
-T-That means you agree? Mujak asked.
-Instead, I have several conditions. Aquilo smiled at the anxious Mujak and raised her fingers one by one. -First, a residence to my satisfaction must be built. Secondly, what happens after the recovery is irrelevant to me. Thirdly, publicize my name through the country and make me the guardian dragon.
-Cough! Well, if it is that much...
-There is one last thing.
The third condition for the Sultan fanatics of Austen was a little annoying, but there was nothing wrong with treating her as a divine being. Mujak was prepared to nod, but Aquilo added a fourth condition.
-Apart from the boy's favor, I will charge a price every time you borrow my power. If the payment is ever overdue, I will cancel the agreement and leave.
-No, that is a little too much!
-If you think so, then don't pay. In my view, the desert isn't a very attractive place.
It was literally an unfair contract. Mujak protested, but Aquilo didn't budge. Generally speaking, this request was a favor to Theodore, and anything else was a bonus. It meant they needed to pay separately for anything else. Austen might owe Meltor, but they needed to make a separate deal with Aquilo.
After all, Austen was the only one with something to lose, not the dragon. In the end, Mujak had to grudgingly agree to deliver the proposal to the Sultan.
* * *
"Kuk." Kurt let out a small sound of laughter that he couldn't repress.
Mujak, the old fox of the desert, had suffered such a humiliation. The Sultan fanatics would face difficult circumstances in the future. The Janissaries never had any experience of Austen itself being held hostage.
Kurt tacitly acknowledged their plight and then praised the person in front of him, "As always, your achievements are beyond my expectations. Now, Meltor has completely taken the lead in an alliance with Austen..."
Austen wouldn't reject the offer. Kurt didn't know if the Sultan was foolish or naive, but he had heard that the Sultan of this era was quite smart. It was hard to imagine anything more significant than the restoration of Pilar River.
'With this, we have taken one step ahead.'
The Austen Kingdom had long been a country which intersected with the Northern powers and was located a little bit south of the border. It was only after passing through the Sipoto wilderness that one would enter Austen territory. As such, it wasn't an exaggeration to say that it was a territory which could be taken if Andras or Meltor reached out.
However, for centuries, none of the Northern powers had invaded Austen. It wasn't because Austen was too strong or because the Northern powers couldn't afford it.
The drought, which had plagued Austen for centuries, was the enemy which had fended off the Northern powers. It wasn't easy to grow crops in Austen, and there were no roads or ports which could be used as trade routes. There was no profit in capturing such a territory.
The culture of worshipping the Sultan also played a part in fending off the Northern powers. A country which couldn't be colonized was impossible to manage and was on the verge of destruction. That was Austen.
'...But from now on, that will change.'
Andras didn't know about the removal of the drought, and the value of Austen had surged.
After restoring the river and removing the threat of desertification, Austen was no longer a helpless spectator. If a little time and support were added, Austen was a variable which could become a strong ally. Unlike the borders in the North which were all guarded, a strategic advantage could be obtained if Meltor marched through Austen.
All of this was due to one man, Theodore Miller. If it hadn't been for the sea dragon, Aquilo, it wouldn't have been possible to gain leverage over Austen or end the drought.
Kurt scanned Theodore up and down with gratified eyes and called out, "Quattro's Captain."
"Yes, Your Majesty."
"If you wish for something, then tell me. You can even ask for a national treasure."
Simultaneously, the eyes of the other people present widened.
The number of people who had been awarded a national treasure since Meltor's founding barely reached the double digits. Additionally, the people who had received two or more were just two or three legends. Now, Theodore was being treated like those legends? It was unexpected, even for Kurt who always awarded achievements fairly.
However, Theodore's answer was even more surprising. "Your Majesty is very generous, but can I save that wish for later?"
"Why? I am feeling very good today. Maybe I will change my mind, and you will miss your chance."
It felt like a test, but Theodore just smiled. "Right now, I want to concentrate on myself. I was taught Sorcery by the Red Tower Master, and I feel like I got a clue on this journey."
"I see." A satisfied smile appeared on Kurt's face. "I like your attitude. I will take care of the procedures so that your training isn't hindered. Don't hesitate to ask for anything you need."
"Thank you for your consideration, Your Majesty."
That wasn't a lie. Theodore looked at his left hand as he bowed. It was true that he had received enlightenment from Veronica's teachings and that he wanted to focus on something before receiving a national treasure.
Alchemist Paracelsus's original book, the Fairy's Book...
Eating it had finally unlocked Gluttony's fifth seal. At stage 5, Superbia had been able to overpower an adult dragon. It was inevitable that Theodore was looking forward to the result. In his mind, Gluttony's information window was counting the seconds down one by one.
[Unsealing of stage 5... (3 hours 35 minutes and 12 seconds remaining)]