~ Chapter 110: Rumors and whispers (Part 3) ~
We continued to share opinions and thoughts about this tournament for a little while longer, but other than possible rules or spectating nobles, they didn’t have anything important to share. As for news from the places they traveled to, they had a lot of things to say, mostly sad ones.
Jundas was the oldest among all four of them, and he told us of how things were before the rule of King Andarkuzzi Ammerundiel Kor. Even though they had just suffered a major defeat on the Dragon Continent, they were still strong and proud. They had a dignified army and their fields were rich with crops, worked by hardworking men and women. The taxes were livable with, neither too low nor too high, and the nobles weren't picky either.
However, the new King increased the taxes and it didn't seem as though he was well informed about the state of his Kingdom. The only one who made more public appearances was her Majesty Queen Vermida Kor. She always showed concern for the people even though she came to Ten Swords as a Duchess from the Devask Kingdom.
As years went by, Jundas could almost see the way the smiles of the people faded away and the nobles grew greedy and corrupt. With the rise of the taxes, the desire of the people to work the lands went down until a lot of them couldn't even afford to sustain their lands. Forced to sell or to move away, a lot of families and lives were changed forever for the worst.
For those like Jundas, however, as long as there were monsters out there, there was food on the table. An adventurer's life was one where they had to face off against danger on a daily basis. Unfortunately, a lot of nobles didn't think about how dangerous this line of work was or how many sacrifices these people had to make in order for them to enjoy living in safety and comfort in their palaces and mansions. Thus, when he told me that fifteen years ago the taxes on adventurers were almost three times smaller than they were now, I was taken by surprise.
Right now, I was aware of the fact that the taxes we had to pay when we sold stuff to the Guild or a regular shop were sky high, but I thought they were something normal everywhere. Then again, I wasn’t that well informed with the fluctuation of prices in this country because I kept a lot of the materials I gathered for myself as I had need of them. Even so, I never heard either Risha or Kalderan complain about this.
“High taxes mean more work, and more work means a lot more monsters to kill, which leads to their numbers going down...” Jundas told me with a heavy sigh escaping his lips.
Everyone had a sad gaze in their eyes.
“Are the monsters dying out?” I asked.
“They are migrating... fleeing... and yes, dyin' out.” replied Mainer.
After I drank the last drops of ale, I placed the tankard down and then told them “As I said, the drinks are on me. Well, I need to go now, but thank you very much for sitting down with me and telling me all of these things.”
Calling over the waitress with a hand sign, I asked her to tell me how much we had to pay at this table and then paid her in full plus an extra tip as it was polite to do.
“We thank ya for the free drinks, lad! Hope you have a good night!” Jundas said with a bright smile on his face while the others cheered for me with their tankards up high.
Upon leaving the tavern, I noticed that it was already dark outside. The nights and days on this planet were far longer than those on Earth, but by now I got used to them and thanks to my new body, getting sleepy after staying awake for 20 or more hours was a thing of the past.
I wasn't feeling tired, but although I knew that I could still go on and listen for more interesting gossip and rumors, I decided to call it a night. The things I got from those seasoned adventurers were the most important thing in my own opinion. I learned how the Ten Swords Kingdom changed from what everyone thought at one point to be a good nation to live in to one where just thinking about leaving it was considered a crime.
High taxes, corruption among nobles, poverty, there were so many things happening in this country and a few of them completely slipped off both my and Kalderan's radar because they were things that only the old could remember. It never even crossed my mind that at one point, taxation on the local adventurers was three times smaller than it was right now.
To make matters worse, the King sounded like a total waste of royal blood, while the people, especially the common folk, seemed to favor the Queen, who was in fact the daughter of a foreign duke. It was a bit sad when I thought about it, but even Ildea was probably unaware of all of these changes. As someone who lived in the Royal Palace and under the rule of her father, she wasn't able to witness the country of her late grandfather, the one the people loved.
Upon returning to the inn, I found the said Princess sitting at an empty table to the side of the room. She was drinking alone a cup of fruit juice while looking out the window at the passing guards. There feeling of loss loomed over her like a dark cloud on a stormy day. No one here wanted to come close to her although by human standards she a beautiful and attractive woman. On the far end of the room, there was a certain dragon who watched over her like an imposing guard, ready to jump in the moment she found herself in any sort of trouble.
I gave the dragon a nod as a greeting and then walked over to Ildea. Sitting down at her table, I made a sign towards the waitress to come over and bring me something to drink. If you wanted to get this half-dragon drunk, you had to be a lot more creative with your alcohol and also offer a lot more quantity.
“You're back. How was your tour through this small village?” Ildea asked with a soft smile, but the sadness in her gaze was still there.
“Small? Give it another five or ten years and it might turn into a bustling town.” I replied as I leaned back in the chair and looked out the window at a passing caravan.
“There are a lot of people traveling to and from the capital, aren't there?”
“Yes.” I nodded.
“You know, while I was sitting here on my own, being guarded by a grumpy dragon in the corner.” she giggled.
“He thinks he's being subtle.” I showed her a wry smile.
Before she could continue, the waitress brought my drink. I thanked her with a nod. A couple of minutes went by without either of us saying a single word, while I slowly sipped from my tankard. It was the first time I drank ale like I would hot tea.
“You know...” she said all of a sudden.
“Hm?” I raised an eyebrow at her.
“While I was sitting here, I heard several individuals talking about what's happening at the capital. To be honest, I became well aware of some of those rumors, but I still find it so hard to accept how far my father has fallen. In a way, maybe I still wish he was the same gentle parent he was when I was young.”
“He was?” I asked and then I wondered Was this what she wanted to say before the waitress interrupted us?
“Yes, or at least that's what I would like to think.” she showed me a sad smile as she looked back at me.
“How was he?”
“Gentler than he is now. He cared about mother's words and listened to his advisers... I remember that I once picked a flower from the garden. I was probably four years old at that time, and I brought it over to him. He said it was the most beautiful gift he ever received.” she showed a soft smile. “He was lying, but to me, a child, it meant a lot.”
“Then he started to change.” I said.
“Yes... little by little, maybe the fact that the Human Heroes appeared only hastened a process that had already started years ago.”
“Do you think you could have done something to change him?”
“I don't think so.” she shook her head and then looked out the window “My father is a very stubborn man, and I fear that not even mother can properly reign him in.” she let out a sad sigh. “I'm a foolish one, aren't I?”
“Hm?” I simply raised an eyebrow and took another sip from my ale. Maybe I should just drink it normally and order actual tea? Or another? I told myself.
“I lived in the Kor Palace without so much as worrying about my future or what the people of this country lived like. While I still had power and influence, people listened to my every whims, but as soon as I was forced to leave the safety of my home, I found myself in a world of dayuk eat dayuk. A single mistake could result in my death and the people outside were more than glad to help this country reduce the number of spoiled little royal children.” she said, but I could feel the sadness in the tone of her voice.
“I failed...” she continued.
“My mother can't do anything against my father, and now this country is pushed down by my father. There is no royal heir to the throne and as a woman, I have no right to inherit the throne.” she said and tears formed in the corners of her eyes.
“Why do you still care about this country when it's out to get you?” I asked her.
Looking back at me with teary eyes, she replied “Because... not matter how much it tries to hurt me, I feel as though I'm still connected to it. I love this country, and I feel as though my destiny is here not someplace else.” she stopped and looked down. “But I can't do anything here... because… because I am a woman.” she said and looked down, clenching the hem of her dress.
This conversation was in a way related to the one we previously had before arriving to this village. Coshun told her about the matriarchy of the Dragon Continent, but it would be foolish to expect that she could so easily change the patriarchal mindset of this kingdom with ease. Maybe she realized how futile it was to lead this fight on her own? Although, if she did think that, then that was her very first mistake… To fight alone was never the answer to change a country.
“You know, the King recently invested in a foolish Ten Sword Tournament where adventurers and warriors from all across the nation will fight each other for three big prizes leading to a total of 30000 gold coins. The first place will also get any of their wish granted by his Majesty.” I told her.
“That much money... with an already dwindling treasury, it will lead us to ruin.” she said.
“What would you have done with the money?” I asked and then cast a quick glance at Coshun.
That dragon had a good hearing and although he was standing so far away from us, for him it was no different than being right here next to us.
“Having money or lacking it isn't the problem, but how it's being used within the country... The many taxes imposed on the citizens, they would need to go down. The restrictions imposed on the merchants, they would need to go away and laws that enforce their safety should be given. The people should be encouraged to come work and live here not think about fleeing away. I would probably also give out laws and gather some funds to build a Commoner Academy, where those who weren't graced by the gods to be born as nobles could still have a chance at a good education. From what I saw, I feel as though reading and writing could push this country to even greater heights.” she looked up at the sky, but there were a few clouds blocking the view of the stars.
From this side, we couldn't see the two moons Nocturnia and Nocturnis.
“Hm, but is it really such an impossible dream?” I asked her.
“Huh? What do you mean?” she looked at me with big eyes.
“You want to reform this country, but while you have some good ideas, they are nothing to laugh at. Truthfully speaking, you don't have what it takes to bring it to fruition.” I said and then drank all the ale in the tankard in one gulp. “Puha~! That was good!” I laughed.
“Then... what can I...” Ildea said and then looked down.
“In any country there's a King and a Queen. In Albeyater, the Queen handles all the things you mentioned, while the King oversees the country's protection, leads the army, and is the main support of the Queen.” I told her.
“But this isn't Albeyater.” she rebuked.
“It's not, but what stops you from doing something similar? Become a Queen worthy of respect with a King powerful enough to support her dreams, but... until then you would need to get yourself placed on that throne.” I told her and then got up from the table. “The latter might not be as hard as the first.” I whispered to her before I left.
When I walked past Coshun, I told him “Go to her.” and then went and minded my own business.
Once I got back to my room, I sent a ping to Seryanna and sat down on my bed. I looked out the window and began to think about the times the two of us spent together. There were many moments when I was an idiot, while she was far too anchored in her own fears to notice that she was pulling herself away from me. It took a smart dragoness like Kataryna to get us together, but since then, I was able to spot these little mistakes in the people around me. Where I could, I would lend a helping hand.
I was no Cupid but staying quiet wasn't my style either. Although, I really had no idea if I was just overthinking things or maybe I was right on the money. Maybe Coshun was just worried as a friend, or maybe Ildea would reject him from the get-go because he was a dragon. There were so many things that could go wrong, and it was also very possible that I may have misinterpreted the signs they gave off.
One thing I knew for sure was that Ildea was a Royal Princess who really thought quite similar to a dragoness. She didn't want to remain passive and indifferent to the suffering of her people. She wanted to step out there and claim her place with her own two hands and then use that power to nurture that which she cared for most in the world. If her good intentions were truly aimed at her people, then once her father, the King, was taken off his throne, she would be able to turn this whole country into one which would one day accept Albeyater Kingdom as an ally.
It was a beautiful dream, for me at least, but it was far too early to jump to conclusions...
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
This is the first chapter after my break! 😀
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