Five days had passed since Elaya had unexpectedly vanished. It was at a level where even her tame had disappeared. If she hadn’t reassured me when she disappeared, I’d have been afraid that she had perished. As it was, I was deeply worried about her loss. I had sent some of my people to Deeksville to help them develop, but for the last few days, I had mostly moped around in my room. The girls all stopped by to try to cheer me up, but I still had complicated feelings deep down.
After working so hard to save Salicia, I had turned around and lost Elaya. She wasn’t just another woman, but someone essential to me. She was filled with a lot of knowledge about the world, and also had a strong connection to the royal family. Losing her felt a bit like losing my hand.
“Master, how about we head to the Ost Republic? The wedding is coming up in just a few weeks.” Miki offered
“I want to see Master dressed up for a wedding,” Celeste added.
“It’d help get Master’s mind off of things.” Shao continued.
Perhaps they were right. Given that this wasn’t a normal world, it might take several weeks to be able to get to another country. Even with Blue Mages and Portals, they often only made one Portal a day. You might have to wait a week in a certain village before the Portal opened for the next jump. If you had 2-3 jumps to get from west Aberis to the middle of a foreign country, it could easily take two weeks to arrive. Even then, many arrived earlier to discuss foreign matters and to form alliances.
While I was staying in Chalm, I was missing out on doing some of the most essential things an upcoming noble should be doing, forming alliances and connections with those around me. I had always been told if you wanted to get ahead in any job, forming connections was important. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any skill with that.
Just as I was about to agree with them, there was a sudden knock on my door. Faeyna poked her head in without waiting for an answer. She used to be more considerate, but lately, she had been acting bolder. She took particular joy in interrupting my personal time with other women. I think the other girls’ attitudes were rubbing off on her in a bad way.
She looked around the room, her eyes narrowing as she saw Miki, Celeste, and Shao in bed with me. Lydia was out doing some chores, and Terra was reinforcing the wall and tinkering in her shop.
“Master, a messenger is waiting at the front of the mansion.”
“Hmm? The front?”
“He won’t enter. He says his message is for all of Chalm.”
I frowned, but it didn’t stop me from putting on my clothing and leaving. The other girls dressed just as quickly and soon we were walking out onto the front yard of the mansion. A nondescript man was waiting there at the gate. As I approached him, he broke into a smile. Suddenly, he lifted a small crystal and then squeezed it.
“Watch out!” Shao put up a barrier as a surge of magic exploded from the man.
However, it wasn’t an attack. Instead, a massive form appeared right in front of my mansion, adjacent to the town square. The hulking mass was about fifty feet tall, and I recognized it. It was Lord Reign!
“Citizens of Chalm! I am Lord Reign, Count of Aberis.” His voice boomed across Chalm.
Many people cried out or screamed, but they quickly realized that this wasn’t a giant, but a projection. Lord Reign was partially see-through and flickered with magic like he wasn’t really there. He had sent a message to Chalm using an extremely powerful magic to deliver it. This must be some resource he got from Imperial Cloud Meadow. I wasn’t sure if I could break this enchantment, but I decided I’d rather listen to what he had to say since he went to such an effort to say it.
“First, I’d like to offer my condolences on the death of your leader, Lord Deekson.” He said, his voice almost sounding sincere.
“Huh?” I blinked.
Lord Reign thought I was dead? No, it made sense. I had chopped off a sliver of my soul and sent it back. I’d since repaired that soul and regained my former strength, but there is no reason he wouldn’t think the Deek he had captured and executed wasn’t the real Deek. That meant, he didn’t know that Chalm still was under my leadership, and was going off the assumption the people were in a panic and worried about their future.
“You need not worry any longer.” Lord Reign broke into a smirk. “My army is on the way to take over and occupy your city. Rejoice! I am your new lord!”
This created a lot of mumbling across the town. Some people were confused, while others were angry. Everyone here was very aware of our current relationship with Alerith. They knew Lord Reign was the enemy, and they had heard many stories about how he taxed people to death. He’s also a strong supporter of abusive slave practices. After all, the vast majority of those who died in the gladiatorial pits were slaves, and that included a lot of animalkin.
“In just under two weeks, open your doors, and allow my Knights in, and we will build toward a glorious future!” His happy expression grew to a demonic frown. “And if you don’t accept this willingly, then you’ll excuse me if I’m no longer polite! One way or another, Chalm is mine! Submit, or die!”
First, he waved candy in front of them, and now he gave the stick. It was a mixture of threats and rewards. Join him toward a glorious future, or face his wrath. Of course, there was no glorious future for anyone in this city except him. He would take their resources, enslave anyone he liked and then grow even more powerful and dangerous.
As quickly as he appeared, Lord Reign’s image disappeared. When I looked back down on the spot where the messenger had been, all that was left was a desiccated corpse. It looked like this man was a blood sacrifice needed to run such a powerful illusion.
I could hear all of the citizens talking loudly. Some were filled with panic, and others were simply worried about what would happen.
“Celeste?” I asked, not needing to say more.
Celeste wasn’t bright, but when it came to knowing what I wanted, all of the girls were experts. She used wind magic, causing my voice to boom out just as loudly across the entire city.
“Citizens of Chalm!” I said. “This message changes nothing. We knew this was coming. This is what we’ve been preparing for. Originally, we planned on attacking Alerith. I never predicted Lord Reign would be so arrogant. He thinks I’m dead, and that you are a chicken without a head. The one thing you must all remember. He was wrong! He failed to kill me, and he’ll fail to hurt Chalm.
“His arrogance will be his undoing! Not only do we know when he’ll attack, but he actually plans to come here and fight on our turf! This is our land! We’ve watered it with our blood, and tamed it with our lives. Reign doesn’t know what he’s about to walk into! This is our land, and he will never have it!”
There was the briefest silence, but then the crowd exploded into a resounding cheer. If Lord Reign had heard the exploding vigor and defiance of Chalm at that moment, he’d have been much more cautious.
“Where’s Lydia?” I asked.
I had called everyone in for an emergency meeting. Every girl was there, as was the Mayor and the Guild Master. The only ones that were absent were Lydia and Elaya. Lydia hadn’t been answering her Slave Communication, but I could tell she was close, so I just assumed she was busy. It still irked me. What could be more important than the imminent war?
“She’ll be here,” Miki reassured us.
“I just don’t understand. Why would Lord Reign announce he’s coming?” Terra shook her head.
“Is it that shocking?” I asked. “He thinks I’m dead. He’s looking to intimidate us. If he just marched in, they’d think it’s an invasion. If he announces it, then there is a chance he can take the city without a shot fired. It’s not important to understand why he did it. What matters most is that we’re prepared to deal with it. Mayor?”
“We’re recalling all the troops now.” The Mayor nodded. “Since you’ve dealt with the Bandits, a lot of pressure has been taken off of us to maintain the road to the Capital.”
Actually, I didn’t even know we had been doing that. Being a leader didn’t mean you managed every single task. It looked like there were a lot of things done without my knowledge. It seemed that we were maintaining the merchant routes to the Capital. As we grew, more people migrated here looking for opportunities for wealth on the frontier. Settlers poured in daily, and merchants were now making round trips to this city exclusively.
The city had once been too large to support the population from the small Old Chalm, but now all the buildings had been filled, and they were looking at expanding. Terra was planning to create an outer wall. The current Chalm would become the inner city, and the outer city would contain a second wall. Even the Capital didn’t have such an elaborate system, but they also hadn’t been under threat from all sides, whether it be bandits, the wilderness, or Lord Reign. Even Old Chalm is growing into a farming community to support the main cities growing need for food.
The reason they were able to grow so quickly mostly had to do with the amount of money I’d personally injected into the city. I’d already provided half of Aberis’s treasury worth of treasure, so it was natural Chalm grew at a ridiculous pace. However, was that the reason that Lord Reign suddenly had an interest in Chalm?
“If Lord Reign thinks Master is dead, then why does he suddenly want Chalm?” Miki voiced the question that had been sitting in all of our minds.
“There… might be a reason,” Astria said, somewhat slowly.
“It’s possible that Lord Reign learned about the existence of our Fairy Fountain.”
I raised my eyebrows. Although we had kept it a secret, it wasn’t like we had made a big attempt to hide it. My fairy girls had been seen all over Chalm. The original Chalm even had been known for selling the water from a fountain. Anyone who connected the dots might be able to reason that we had one. Is a Fairy Fountain really worth such an attack?
Just as I was about to say something, I felt like I had suddenly been kicked in the gut. My eyes shot open in horror as a bond connecting me to one of my women suddenly was cut. There were only two ways this could happen. The first way is if someone stole my slave from me. Even then, I would have had a chance to struggle, and it wouldn’t have been so easy. Furthermore, with my blessing, it’d be impossible! The only other option was that that they were dead!
“Master, what’s wrong?” Shao noticed my sudden reaction first.
“Lydia… she… she’s dead!”