Episode 111. A Rapidly Changing Political Situation

Though she had overcome the aftereffects of the energy drain, Aria Eisen still looked to be in poor shape. Her previously golden hair was now white like that of an old woman’s, and her young face seemed to have instantly aged 10 years. Any ordinary person would have lamented the loss of their youth, but the mage, focused only on her experiments, was different.

Her eyes shone at the thought of her impending experiment and showed no signs of despair. Curious, Seon-Hyeok carefully asked her for her thoughts, and her response shocked him.

“It’s common among mages.”

He was surprised to hear that it was a common occurrence for mages to rapidly age or lose body parts as a result of their experiments. He had known that mages were not normal, but it was at this moment that he realized they were all truly insane.

“Let’s get started.”

Hearing her words, Seon-Hyeok summoned his spirits, his expression suggesting he was resigned to his fate.

‘Master!’

The three earth spirits rose from the ground and welcomed their master without understanding his inner turmoil. Seon-Hyeok looked between them and Aria Eisen, trying to recall his pre-prepared excuses.

“Oh! They’re really similar to the arbeiters. Actually, since arbeiters are the manifestation of these artificial and natural forces, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“Hm?”

His expectations were completely off the mark. Aria Eisen calmly focused on gathering data for her experiments, even after seeing the spirits resembling her. Seon-Hyeok gave her a moment, wondering if she had not noticed the striking resemblance, but the mage remained calm.

“It’s as I expected. Maybe it’s because they’re earth spirits, but they seem to be a perfect fit for the arbeiters. I think it would be better to use the low-tier spirits than the mid-tier spirit out of consideration for the stability of the experiment. What do you think?”

“Hm?”

He could not respond right away, as he had been deep in thought observing the mage desperate to begin the experiment. Unable to stand it any longer, he blurted out.

“More importantly, don’t you think it’s strange?”

“What is?”

Maybe she really hadn’t noticed?

He breathed a sigh of relief at her response, as she belatedly commented.

“Ah, the spirits look familiar. They’re a lot like me.”

That was it for her reaction.

“Hm. Let’s see. First, I’ll open the core…”

Seon-Hyeok looked at Aria Eisen with a dazed expression as the mage once again became immersed in her work.

This mage. She really is dull.

He knew that mages did not care about matters unrelated to magic, but he had not expected it to be to this degree. He sighed, once again realizing just how little mages cared about the matters of the world.

Shaking his head, he explained the situation to the spirits.

‘It sounds fun!’

‘I want to do it!’

The spirits made a fuss, each volunteering to participate.

‘With this, I won’t have to wait around waiting to be summoned!’

‘Yay!’

The spirits shouted in excitement and rushed towards the arbeiter. Once they approached, however, they all disappeared, as though sucked into the construct. Surprised, he looked towards Aria Eisen, and she, too, looked back in bewilderment.

“The experiment has already begun.”

She gave an embarrassed look, saying that the core has already been opened for the spirits.

“Then?”

“All three spirits have been synchronized with the arbeiter.”

Seon-Hyeok imagined that the experiment would be a grand affair, but it ended in an instant. The experiment concluded with all three spirits unintentionally becoming one with the arbeiter, and he found himself at a loss for words.

Even as he was devastated by the development, the spirits were shouting excitedly from inside the arbeiter.

‘Wow! Master! It’s nice and cozy in here!’

‘What’s this? It’s amazing! I feel full of energy!’

He was not sure what the spirits had done, but the arbeiter’s haphazard shape began to change.

At the end of it all, the arbeiter grew to be a giant nearly three meters tall. The giant construct also resembled Aria Eisen.

The experiment using the arbeiter was a massive success. After being synchronized with three spirits, the construct grew to be several times stronger than before, with much more natural movements. It also boasted surprising strength, easily lifting up a boulder that twenty humans could not.

“Oh!”

He felt a huge dissonance seeing the giant arrogantly lifting up a massive boulder, but those watching cheered at the incredible power. It was only Seon-Hyeok who remained unable to laugh.

“It’s more than I expected!”

Seon-Hyeok shook his head as he looked at Aria Eisen, shouting excitedly about the success of the experiment, and the arbeiter.

“What did you just say?”

“Once synchronized, it’s impossible to extract the spirits unless we destroy the arbeiter.”

He felt blindsided. It was not one, not two, but three spirits now become permanently conjoined with the arbeiter. Among them was even a mid-tier spirit, Nasita.

He looked at Aria Eisen in bewilderment, but she showed no signs of remorse. Rather, she seemed motivated by the successes of the experiment and eager to synchronize additional spirits and arbeiters in the future.

“My spirits…”

Seon-Hyeok kicked the mage out. He was stunned and at a loss for words. It was natural – he had lost three spirits in the blink of an eye.

But regardless of his feelings, it was true that the arbeiter would be of immense help for the large-scale civil engineering projects planned for Rheinperle.

The arbeiter’s strength was not limited to its power and bottomless stamina. At times, it even exhibited the powers of the earth spirits. It was not only an excellent worker, but also closer to a fully-materialized spirit.

“I’ll focus solely on the production and improvement of arbeiters from now on.”

Having found enjoyment in its production, Aria Eisen declared that she would fully devote herself to their creation.

***

While the Rheinperle territory enjoyed its rapid development thanks to the improved arbeiter, the Noctein-Griffindor war intensified. The rumors that Seon-Hyeok heard were terrifying, and he wondered if the conflict would escalate into something massive.

It was in this situation that a command was given to the Western Army, the forces responsible for defending the frontier from the Nocteins.

“As soon as the Nocteins enter an all-out war with the Griffindors, the Western Army will cross the border and occupy the lands surrounding Fort Kalstein.”

Though he was not currently in command of the Western Army, he was still affiliated with them. As such, he likewise received the order.

Seon-Hyeok swore. He realized that the conclusion of the previous war was little more than a stepping stone to an even greater conflict. It was evident that the Adenburg royal family planned to use this opportunity to completely root out its greatest enemy, the Noctein Kingdom.

Then again, the Adenburg Kingdom had already conquered Fort Kalstein, providing a pathway into the Noctein Kingdom, and had dealt significant casualties to the soldiers stationed in the area. It was the perfect situation to inflict further damage to the Nocteins. In addition, the Noctein forces would be dispersed at this time, as the Griffindor elites would be causing chaos on the opposite border.

If the Adenburg Kingdom wanted war, there was no better opportunity than at this very moment.

“Why is it always the western border! We could wage wars to the north and the east!”

His complaint was simply that the western territories, which had barely regained stability after repeated conflicts, would be plunged into yet another war.

“But didn’t the royal family say that you don’t have to participate in this war?”

“Of course they had to say that - that is, if they have a conscience. I’ve been a part of three different wars in the past three years. Even now, my body and bones ache when it rains.”

That was an exaggeration. Of course, there was no way a dragon rider chief like himself would be in pain whenever he dealt with inclement weather. He just wanted to express how sick and tired he was of war.

Julian gave a bewildered look upon hearing the man ranked 50th in Gradus complain and exaggerate.

“So you really won’t participate in this war?”

Seon-Hyeok could not respond right away. After all, the royal family had made a very tempting offer.

The Adenstein royal family was aware of the financial difficulties he faced as a result of feeding his dragon subspecies, and thus, they promised a massive reward for his participation in the war.

“Ugh. Am I really going to be dragged into yet another war?”

The territory was still underdeveloped, and the mining operations were to be a long-term project. He had been made aware that flooding the market with ores would result in a massive decrease in price, and thus, there was a limit to the amount of money they could bring in each month.

Of course, that amount of income would normally be sufficient to live in abundance, but the problem was that there were three dragon subspecies draining his resources like parasites.

Even at this very moment, these monsters were devouring the territory’s cattle and pigs, and now, there were limits to how much livestock they could bring in from neighboring lands. Noticing their excessive needs, the neighboring lords had begun increasing their asking price for their cows and pigs.

“The royal family has offered to buy iron and silver at a fixed price regardless of what the market dictates. It’s an offer you absolutely must accept.”

“Even if the price is my participation in this war?”

Antoine Montaigne shut his mouth upon hearing his question. No matter how much he was focused on the territory’s finances, the old scholar did not want to suggest that the lord be thrown into a battlefield for the good of the territory.

“Ugh.”

“Take some time to think about it. After all, the royal family didn’t give you a deadline either.”

“That’s true, but it’s better the sooner I decide. The royal family won’t want me to test the waters like that.”

They did promise a massive reward, but nobody could guarantee what would happen once the war began. If the public perception was that he joined the war after the situation became favorable, the result would not be to his liking.

In the end, he decided to put his decision on hold for the time being, but agreed to reach one as soon as possible before sending the territory’s leadership away.

However, the time for a decision came sooner than he expected.

“The Nocteins have sent in their knights. Likewise, the Griffindors deployed their knights and elite troops, as though they had expected this to happen.”

Seon-Hyeok’s expression grew grim as he heard the news from Fort Kalstein.

“And the royal family? Is the will of the royal family unchanged?”

Now that the Noctein Kingdom was willing to deploy their knights, there was no chance they would discriminate between their eastern and western borders. In essence, it would not be surprising to see an enemy knight in battle, should he choose to participate in this conflict.

“His Majesty’s will is firm.”

Despite the risks, the Adenstein royal family was insistent. They were finally determined to cross swords after all this time avoiding an all-out war.

“They wouldn’t risk the losses if we would be fighting on even terms, but right now, the Noctein forces will be at half strength, considering they will be dividing their knights between the two fronts.”

Seon-Hyeok groaned upon hearing Asha Trail’s words. Ultimately, the royal family had decided that the potential gains from this war were much greater than the losses in knights that might occur.

“Ugh. So the royal family had no intention of returning Fort Kalstein regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.”

Watching the events neatly fall into place, he realized that plans for this war had been made far in advance.

“So what will you do?”

Everyone turned to him, awaiting the lord’s decision.

“Now that the Nocteins have no choice but to go all-out, the casualties of this war will be incomparable from those preceding it.”

He would no longer be the undisputed powerhouse on a battlefield where knights unleashed their murderous sword energy and mages poured out powerful magic.

“Whether or not you decide to participate in this war, the war will be taking place. In the event of an all-out war, the Noctein Kingdom will send in their knights to disrupt the border territories, and the Rheinperle territory will naturally become a target. After all, the Drake Knight is the individual responsible for humiliating the Nocteins the most in their long, storied history.”

Asha Trail’s words were convincing.

“No matter what you decide, you won’t be able to remain a bystander in this war.”

It would be better to actively participate in the war rather than wait around passively only to have his territory be devastated by foreign assassins.

He finally reached a decision, and he summoned Aria Eisen.

“I have something to tell the princess.”

In case of emergencies, he had prepared communication stones in advance. Upon accepting the mysteriously shining jewel, Aria Eisen immediately began preparing to cast the long-distance communication magic.

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