Chapter 33

Lowpool saw an increase in the number of visitors.

A large stream of people flowed in, which caused its original population of 3,000 to increase exponentially. It was a stark contrast to the condition of the town three years ago when it only saw people coming and going from within Bellint Gate.

The whole situation had taken a 180 degree turn a few days ago.

Although it wasn’t perfect, the law and order of the Pendragon Duchy were restored. Everyone was relieved to hear that the bandit group led by Del Geoffrey was snuffed out and the monsters that were active over the past three years went back into hiding after sensing Soldrake’s threatening presence. They hid in the deep mountains and lakes, places where human hands could not reach.

As the mountains, villages, and the roads became safer, villagers opened their gates and set out from Bellint Gate to travel far and wide. The villages that Alan Pendragon personally visited were the first to venture out, and other neighboring villages soon followed suit.

A good number of residents who had previously fled from their villages in fear of bandits and monsters finally returned home. The number was so great, that it exceeded 1,000 people in less than ten days.

A mass movement of the peoples had begun.

However, it took a lot of time and effort to rebuild civilization from its ruins. To re-plant and grow crops, farming tools were needed, as well as seeds and farmhouses.

Tools, lumber, and bricks were required to rebuild the villages.

A food shortage was to be expected as a problem in the future.

To resolve these issues, the returning residents picked some people to bring the issues to the ‘only person’ that had the power to make changes. That was all they could do.

Moreover, the residents of the existing villages who managed to keep afloat for the past three years also sent their representatives to visit the same ‘someone’ that could solve their issues.

That ‘someone’ was Alan Pendragon, and that ‘someplace’ was where Alan Pendragon resided, Conrad Castle.

***

“Wow! This is really Lowpool? It’s a lot more than I thought!”

“It used to be even bigger and livelier. On the market days, the streets of Lowpool were filled with all sorts of stalls. Many merchants came from across the land, and it was hard to find an inn with an empty room. Well, since the old family grave’s been opened, I’m sure it will return to its former glory soon…”

Bilbo spoke in reminiscence of the old days. He was a man who had traveled to and from Lowpool when Duke Gordon Pendragon was still alive years ago. He looked at the village with a nostalgic look.

“Still! I think it’s at least five times bigger than our village. Wow! Look over there! Soldiers of the Pendragon family! Look, Chief Bilbo!”

The young man’s eyes shone with awe as he looked at the passing soldiers that were armed with spears and shields and walked in orderly formation. He had already seen soldiers when he passed Bellint Gate, but it was a different experience seeing elite soldiers. He felt admiration and jealousy at the sight of the soldiers.

“Do you think all of those soldiers accompanied His Grace on the trip to reclaim the mausoleum? I heard that each of the soldiers defeated over twenty monsters and even won the battle against a hideous black mage that controlled a skeleton army! Maybe I can try to become a sold…. Ouch!”

Bilbo smacked the head of the excited young man and blared in his ears.

“You scoundrel! We have enough to worry about with our village, become a soldier my ass! Stop spouting nonsense and keep walking!”

“Yes…”

The other members of the party burst out laughing at the conversation between Bilbo and the young man. After being scolded by Bilbo, the young man trudged forward while pouting.

After walking for a while along the main road of Lowpool, the spires of Conrad Castle became visible in the far distance.

Whistle!

“Wow!”

Bilbo and his accomplices were taken aback. They had already seen Conrad Castle from afar before they entered Lowpool, but its size was even larger upfront.

Of course, its appearance was also beautiful and dominated the buildings around it.

It was only natural that it was so grand as it was the castle of a duchy, one of the five in the entire empire.

The party slowly crossed the drawbridge of the castle. Even though it was early in the morning, a line had formed on top of the bridge.

“Next.”

Bilbo walked forward under the direction of the guard and took off his hat.

“Your name, and your business in the castle.”

“Bilbo, Sam Bilbo. I’m here from Riverbelt.”

“Riverbelt? Oh, have you started rebuilding the town there?”

“Yes, we only have about forty people right now, but we’ve been building our houses and keeping maintenance of the village since fifteen days ago.”

“I see. Well, you can report the specifics to either His Grace Alan or the general. Next.”

“Yes, yes. Then take care.”

Bilbo and his party entered through the gates of the castle with their heads bowed. There were already quite a few people gathered in the courtyard of Conrad Castle.

Bilbo slowly glanced at the faces of the people.

They were mostly representatives of the villages that existed outside of the gate, and they carried mixed expressions of hopes and worry. Their hopes stemmed from the desperation they had in coming to seek His Grace Alan’s aid, and their worry was due to the concern of whether they would be able to receive help.

“Huh?”

Bilbo’s expression changed.

Among the people, there was a group with discontent faces. Bilbo recognized one of those people and slowly approached him.

“Hello there, Chief Robinson.”

“Hmm? Oh, if it isn’t Bilbo? You’re here too?”

Bilbo extended his greetings, and Robinson, the village chief of Pala Village, responded in kind. Bilbo had resided in the town of Pala for a few years.

“Yes I was summoned, and we also need some help in rebuilding our town.”

“Ah, your hometown is Riverbelt, am I correct? So, how many people have gathered there?”

“Around 40 people. I’m assuming we’ve welcomed some more newcomers during the time I traveled here. Everyone’s very enthusiastic about rebuilding the village.”

“That’s great news. Hmph! But I don’t know if it’ll keep on going well.”

“Yes? What do you mean by that…?”

Robinson spoke in a low voice, and Bilbo tilted his head in confusion. Robinson looked around at the guards standing in the courtyard and spoke in an even lower voice.

“I’m afraid that they are going to rob us of our things on the pretense of helping us.”

“Hmm.”

Bilbo’s face dimmed at Robinson’s words. He could understand where Robinson was coming from.

“As you know very well, the duchy has done nothing for us in the past three years, wouldn’t you agree? The Village of Pala was erected by our own hands. We were the ones who created the shared farmland. We were the ones who protected our village by training our men. And now they send soldiers to our villages and what are they going to do? Probably rob us of everything we have, under the pretense of compensation for protecting our villages. We can’t just let them do whatever they want.”

“W, what do you mean we can’t let them do what they want? What are you planning to do?”

Bilbo asked in a worried voice while glancing at the soldiers.

“I’ve already talked with two other villages. The Bearville and Setin Village chiefs decided to support me on this. Including our village, we have a population of over one thousand. Even the duchy shouldn’t be able to take us lightly with that number. What do you think? You have a small number, but why don’t you take our hand on this?”

“Well…”

Bilbo hesitated at Robinson’s words. He was worried. Although the mausoleum was reopened, if there were no workers, then all was for naught. The duchy would require a huge number of workers, and if the three villages united against them, it would cause quite a headache. If Bilbo decided to throw in his lots with them, then it could result in a handsome benefit for Riverbelt.

But Bilbo quickly shook his head.

“We won’t be joining you on this. We are small in number, and we need a lot of requests immediately.”

“Is that so? Well, do as you see fit.”

Robinson shrugged and turned his head. Riverbelt wouldn’t be a huge addition anyway, as their population wouldn’t be much more than a hundred with all the returnees.

‘Huh! He used to be such a nice guy…’

Though he felt bitter inside, Bilbo decided to trust in his instincts. Moreover, according to the story of a soldier he met in Bellint Gate, His Grace Alan Pendragon…

At that moment, the door of the palace opened and a servant came out.

“The representatives of Pala, Bearville, Setin, and Riverbelt, come in.”

“What? All at once?”

The representatives had entered one by one until now, but suddenly they were asking four different villages to come in at once. Robinson tilted his head in confusion.

Furthermore, the village representatives that had gone in earlier had not come out yet.

“His Grace Pendragon doesn’t have much time, and the four villages are all located near each other. He wants to see you all together. Bring in everyone you brought here as well.”

“Y, yes. Let’s go in everybody.”

At Robinson’s words, around twenty people walked into the palace.

The great palace of Conrad Castle was truly beautiful. To call it splendid did not do it justice. Eight large pillars supported the high ceiling of the palace, and a magnificent chandelier hung, emitting a golden glow and lighting up the entire palace.

Guards stood on both sides of the palace which had a red carpet laid down on the middle of the floor. The atmosphere of these soldiers were on a completely different level from the soldiers that were seen patrolling around the streets.

The twenty people walked cautiously behind the servant, led by Robinson and Bilbo in the front. They had to forcefully resist the urge to look around here and there, completely intimidated by the soldiers who were holding halberds.

At that moment, the other village representatives that entered prior to them passed by.

“Huh?”

Bilbo narrowed his eyes as he glanced sideways at the faces of the other representatives. For some reason, their expressions were pale.

“Excuse me, chief.”

“Hm? Oh, I’m sorry.”

Bilbo hurried his steps at someone’s words.

“The blood relative of the great emperor, ruler of the glorious land of Pendragon, the receiver of the White Dragon’s protecti..”

“Why don’t you stop with that now?”

A cold voice cut off the servant’s introduction. Bilbo and the other representatives instinctively knew who the voice belonged to.

“Y, yes.”

The servant carefully moved to the side of the palace.

“Why don’t you all raise your heads.”

Bilbo and the three other representatives carefully raised their heads at Alan Pendragon’s command.

‘Huh!’

Their eyes were bathed in surprise. It was clear that the young man, who was sitting on the high throne and looking down at them with arrogant eyes, was the rumored Alan Pendragon.

His appearance was more handsome and elegant than they had imagined. But Bilbo quickly bowed his head again unlike the others who were staring at Alan Pendragon in awe.

‘He is not a normal man…’

It was only for a short period, but he felt it when their eyes met. This man could decide the fate of the four villages with a wave of his finger. Alan Pendragon’s eyes and temperament did not belong to a regular 17-year-old boy.

He also noted the faces of the other representatives who were exiting the palace after meeting with the son of the duke...

“Pala and Bearville and Setin have come at my calling. Riverbelt came of their own accord.”

“Yes, your grace.”

A middle-aged man, who was standing below the throne and slightly to the side, answered. They recognized General Melborn, who was in charge of the duchy’s affairs. The representatives had seen him several years ago. Of course, it wasn’t any less stressful to raise their heads in front of a General Melborn, who was a Baron, as they were only ordinary citizens.

“I have summoned you all here today for a reason. As you well know, the mausoleum has been opened, and everything has started to return to normal. Therefore, we are going to be adjusting and maintaining everything, including your taxes.”

“Yes, your grace.”

“I’ve heard that the original tax was 50 percent. It must have been a hard time struggling with this for the past three years, so I’ve decided to reduce it to 30 percent for the next three years. Besides, if anyone works at a mine or a mill, they will receive the same payment as before, and I will evenly distribute 10 percent of the profits gained to the villages. You can create as much farmland as you wish, but half of the crops will be taken as tax. Seeds will be provided free of charge. If you have any complaints or other thoughts regarding the matter, please feel free to tell me.”

Alan Pendragon’s voice was calm and gentle.

The offered conditions were quite good. They could make a living from the old conditions, but now they were offered lower taxes and 10% of the production from the mines and the mills.

They could wave goodbye to the worries of not having enough food or feeling unsafe. Thus, Bilbo kept his head lowered and didn’t come forward.

But Robinson shared a few glances with two other village heads and slowly raised his head.

“I would like to once again congratulate you on your success with the White Dragon, and I would like to offer a word as Chief of Pala.”

“Go ahead.”

“For the past three years, Pala has been living as an independent community without any aid from the duchy. We have formed vigilantes to drive off bandits and monsters. I beg you to consider our hardships and be more generous.”

“Generous… Yes, so what is this generosity you speak of?”

He still maintained a soft, calm voice.

Three years was a long time. Long enough to dilute the significance of the duchy.

Moreover, Alan Pendragon’s pretty face made him look like a pushover. Perhaps due to this, Robinson smiled and raised his face.

“I hope you will extend the tax cut to five years, and raise the residents’ wages in the mines and the mills to twenty percent. Also, if you distribute 20% of the production to the villages, I think all the residents will be motivated to work even harder. It was three long years of worrying about our lives. Please give us consideration.”

“Please consider!”

Robinson and the two village chiefs bowed their heads.

“Hmm…”

The voice of Alan Pendragon seemed to be contemplating his proposal.

A cold smile formed on his face as he looked down at the representatives of the three villages and their groups.

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