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138. A request from the council
The Council is a collusion of the countries that surround the Great Jura Forest.
With congressmen selected from each country, a monthly meeting was held in the Ingrasia Kingdom.
If one had to describe it, the congressmen met first to control profit, and second to manage operations of their countries.
When I say profit, I mean more: damage control and monster control.
There’s also the need to balance the trade of country specialties, but because speculations and policies of individual countries often get lumped in, these discussions are often difficult.
In addition, on the agenda is aid for victims of famine and monster attacks.
Issuing subjugation requests to the Freedom a.s.sociation to mitigate future harm is also the job of the council.
Operation funds are from member countries, the amount they pay is proportional to the country’s size.
Along with this financial burden is the opportunity to increase the number of one’s congressmen. In other words, gain more say in the council. For example, a large country would need to pay three times as much, but sends three times as many congressmen.
This doesn’t have a direct effect on one’s nation, but does allow a country to show off its power.
As one’s voice in the council increases, so does the opportunity to get preferential treatment. Thus, even though one would profit from the meeting itself, there is profit to be made there.
There is also a minimum membership fee, failing to meet which results in expulsion.
Expulsion means no help during emergencies… a death sentence for smaller countries. The decision to expel a member is also made by the majority, which simply solidified the power of the larger countries.
Membership fees are expensive, and the largest Farmas Kingdom was recently destroyed.
And then there was the recent chaos regarding the Freedom a.s.sociation. As such, it’s natural for the council to panic a bit.
And now terrible news have reached the council.
There’s movement in the Eastern Empire!
This was enough to throw the council into full-blown panic.
The council, currently amidst secession and confusion, was faced with a danger capable of eliminating every country.
The one who summarized the situation was the Ingrasia Kingdom’s congressman.
For the kingdoms to be in disarray just as empire’s beginning to move, this might be the worst case scenario.
To the royalty and legislator of each nation this was a self-evident truth.
If, a certain small nation were to submit to the empire’s scheme, the other nations would follow in suit. At that time, the remaining country’s defeat would be all but certain.
3 years ago, smart countries had already begun preparations in response to the Eastern Empire’s movement. However, matching the Empire’s military might with their own did not go well.
Therefore, the main agenda of the day was the formation of an alliance against the Empire.
That day’s agenda was looking rough.
Amongst them was the chairman of the Freedom Arbitration Committee was Hinata Sakaguchi.
While a large country can sustain a standby army, a small country cannot afford to do so in times of peace.
While hiring mercenaries at times of war has been a common practice, with every nation stockpiling fighting power simultaneously, they simply ran out of people to hire.
Thus, some of them suggested that every nation should send a portion of their fighting power to form a private army under the direct control of the council
「In other words, aside from the parliament guards, the council should also have an army!
During times of peace they would be used for patrolling and monster countermeasures.
Now that the Freedom a.s.sociation is no more, it should be possible to hire adventurers as soldiers through the Freedom Arbitration Committee, what do you think? 」
This proposition was also the main topic of today’s conversation.
For some time silence dominated the council. Monster countermeasures has also been handled by paying the Freedom a.s.sociation a certain amount. The name of the supplier may have changed, but that’s about it.
Donations and support has been given to the church, from the Council’s funds.
In exchange for the aid, the committee has managed to handle monsters without relying greatly on foreign troops. As a result, monster damages has been greatly lowered as compared to previously. 
ED Note: You sure it’s not just the monsters and the church in cahoots?
Thus the congressman demanded people to patrol and a permanent standing army.
Hinata looked at the congressman in amazement, and sighed.
「So, you’re saying that the Adventurers affiliated with the Freedom Arbitration Committee, will be forced under the control of the council? 」
Hiding her tired expression, Hinata asked the congressman.
Certainly, there are funds in the council. However, it isn’t a large amount.
Previously, the council would determine payment based on the rank of the monster the adventurer would face. The Freedom Arbitration a.s.sociaion, on the other hand, subjugates monsters as part of their faith, and require no other reward.
But with the funds that the council already had, the council wouldn’t even be able to treat every citizen to a meal. To impose a duty upon free men and women for such a meager amount is akin to treating humans as dogs.
The Freedom a.s.sociation was an a.s.sociation that had no ties to any country. Therefore, by paying a certain amount of tax, the a.s.sociation had gained the right to settle in a country.
Of course, their stance is a neutral one.
When natural disasters such as monster outbreaks occur, a mobilization order per the agreement with the country would be issued, and they would cooperate with forced affiliated with the country.
However, wars are not natural disasters. There’s no reason for adventurers to join a country in a way.
Sure, directors may have changed and several adjustments were implemented, nut there’s fundamentally no change from the Freedom a.s.sociation era. Or rather, by being incorporated with the church, the organization’s strength has increased and now rivals that of a nation.
The congressman’s remark of giving the council direct control over adventurers was absolutely absurd.
However, the circ.u.mstances have changed.
The countries feared that, even if they joined hands with the Freedom Arbitration Committee, they still would be unable to repel invaders.
Hinata was aware of this.
The intelligence gathering ability of the man from the Burmund Kingdom, Fuse, was high. The details of each country’s inner workings had been reported to Hinata in advance.
Thus, she decided to a.s.sess the att.i.tude of the other party without flat out denying them.
As if facing a roaring waterfall, Hinata watched a portion of the legislators nod vigorously, and
「Precisely. As Legislator Giaban mentioned, it is natural for us to unite and face an unprecedented danger. We presume the a.s.sociation agrees? 」
「’Tis true, a good plan. As the Arbitration Committee, you can’t overlook this crisis either can you?
It’s natural for fellow humans to cooperate. Wouldn’t you agree? 」
And so on.
Probably through a secret agreement, murmurs of approval rose simultaneously.
Not everyone was included, however there were no objections from the rest of the legislators. Besides, having trouble with commandeering at times of war was a problem many countries shared.
So, many probably expect a prompt rejection, but can’t help but try to get some free soldiers this way.
But it all proceeded brilliantly within Hinata’s expectations, and in lieu with the evidence.
Now then, what to do? Hinata thought. Or rather, the answer’s a given.
Accept, or reject.
It’s easy to flat out reject them. To begin with, they’re on equal footing—they can’t be forced to accept.
Sure the point is to protect each other, but this is nonetheless a relation of give and take. The a.s.sociation isn’t so weak that they must follow.
And even if she does reject, there’s no country among them that has the authority (now) to expel a nation refusing military support. The current council simply couldn’t continue to exist if they were to lose even a single taxpayer.
Moreover, the a.s.sociation is indispensable to the council—they prevent illegal activities and suppress criminals.
Only one group has such influence as to force other countries from the council—what was known as the Freedom a.s.sociation, and what is now the Freedom Arbitration a.s.sociation.
However, if this ends with a rejection, then the relation between the a.s.sociation and the council will turn bitter.
I refuse! I want to say, but they won’t take this lying down.
Moreover, if the a.s.sociation does not cooperate with the council, then they won’t be able to match the Eastern Empire.
Being callously commanded around is repugnant, and yet it’s hard to reject this. What a pain.
Then must they accept?
This will likely be seen as the a.s.sociation’s fall from grace. No doubt within a year, the a.s.sociation will be forced to lick the Council’s feet.
This must absolutely be avoided. Considering future relations with the group of countries, an equal relation must be maintained.
Sure it’s hard, but the a.s.sociation must refuse.
But there’s no way she can simply accept.
And Thus, Hinata made a suggestion.
She suggested that they…
In response to the council’s request, I have come to the Ingrasia Kingdom.
I’ve been given a VIP treatment, they’re prepared a hotel of the highest cla.s.s. Right now, I wander in the castle town.
I brought Benimaru and Souei along. Also Shuna. It’ll be troublesome if I bring too many, but this should be fine.
Shion is busy training the subordinates, and Gerudo has taken command of various constructions.
As for Diablo, he’s been out clearing whatever remains of Farmas. He’s been saying something about gathering his protégé… whatever that means.
Well, they’ll come immediately if I call them, and it’s not like there’s work for them to do here, so I let them do as they please.
And that’s why the four of us travelled to the Ingrasia Kingdom.
We’ve look around at various shops, and Shuna was especially interested in window-shopping the latest clothes and decoration.
Benimaru has been acting vigilantly as my guard.
Souei has been lurking about, giving me reports from the shadows.
Speaking of shadows, it’s been lonely now that Ranga no longer dwells in my shadows–he’s with Gobuta.
Gobuta has been called to train with Karion, and he suddenly broke into tears, saying he was going to be killed. With a “it can’t be helped”-kind-of-feel, Ranga joined him, but his tail was clear: Ranga too was depressed…
Oh, but I’m pretty sure Ranga likes Gobuta.
And all’s swell when they are doing well.
While enjoying a meal in the Ingrasia kingdom, we exchanged opinions about the upcoming council meeting.
Shuna’s holding on to the clothing I bought her happily, and is rather talkative. It’s fun to see such a difference, compared to the sad-excuse-for-a-secretary Shion.
Doesn’t seem like she was listening to us at all though, but I don’t think it matters much.
Honestly, I actually don’t give a d.a.m.n about the council. I came out here with Shuna and Benimaru today to give them a well deserved break.
So unlike Souei who’s always on some business trip, I would like to give Benimaru and Shuna a chance to enjoy the world.
And that’s why we’re giddily discussing tomorrow’s agenda.
「So, Souei. What’s the agenda of tomorrow’s meeting?」
Souei then let us know.
Contrary to our expectations, seems like there’s a dragon rampaging somewhere, the appearance of a mysterious demon lord… or so Souei’s subordinates gathered.
Doesn’t Souei like to work hard!
Becoming something like shadow-beings, his troops were collecting information non-stop lately.So the reason for our invitation should already be known by Souei.
And by now everyone knows that I rely on Souei for info gathering.
「Well, we’ve already got the gist of it. We relied on records of country strengths and our own hypotheses…」
「Ah, spare us the details. So, why were we invited?
We’ve been treated as a national guest, but they probably want something.
I wonder is it because of the train? Do they want it in each country?
Since we would need to lay rails… it would be impossible even if they asked 」
「Perhaps, they want our help because a war is about to start?
The only ones we’re obligated to help is the Burmund Kingdom?」
「Ah, the empire. There’s that too. It’s about time huh」
Benimaru and I talked about important matters casually.
Shuna isn’t here at the moment, so no one can stop us from divulging state secrets in a café.
But thanks to a barrier we’ve erected earlier, no one can hear us anyways.
「What Benimaru said is correct.
However, it does seem that the train has also became quite the hot topic. To those who couldn’t imagine such a thing, that is. Some merchants contacted Myormiles-dono, but he’s not one that an be bought.
The main matter will be on Eastern Empire’s invasion, and possibility of Tempest’s support.」
「How unfortunate that they want our power and not the train… Well, I am planning on crushing the empire, but is there a reason for us not to accept?」
「Ay. Actually, from the information we grasped, the Empire’s forces are a big deal.
In a straight up clash, in terms of national power, we would be at a disadvantage.
It would be a different story if we forcefully mobilize every race of the Great Jura Forest, though」
I mean, they have prepared for war for many hundreds of years.
Worst case scenario, we might even be asking countries here to cooperate」
And so the conversation between Benimaru and I continued.
In reality, it would be great if we could avoid open conflict, considering that Yuuki’s there as well.
That’s because I hoped to conceal our fighting potentials like Sion and Diablo, who are currently enthusiastically strengthening themselves.
Seems like I inadvertently caused our Department heads to go into a training phase. Even Gobuta is out and about trying to get stronger.
Moreover, even if the countries never requested our support, I can’t really imagine a case where we did not join in the conflict.
「I see, there’s probably no problem right?
In this situation, the power balance is split between the a.s.sociation and the council
The council reflects the n.o.ble’s opinions, while the a.s.sociation defends the interest of the commoners……
The Council pushed to commandeer adventurers, and Hinata proposed to utilize the strength of Tempest instead.」
「Huh? They want to use us?」
「Yes, using us. However, since we’ve been recognized as a country, our forces will be left to our own discretion.
In other words……」
「Hohou. I see, isn’t it fine… wait how is that different from just being used!?」
「This sure leaves a bad taste……
Well, the other party doesn’t seem to have any intention of taking advantage of us but it’s still hard to stomach. 」
We both nodded and concluded the conversation.
With our cake after a meal, the clerk had come.
Such an alluring food.
While a sweet taste can still be prepared to some degree, sugar is still a valuable commodity.
And so, cakes are super high cla.s.s luxury goods even in Tempest.
Ah, this nostalgic taste.
Even though I ate this every day for too many days, it’s still great.
The real reason I brought Shuna here today is for the cake.
This way Shuna will remember the taste of the cake and reproduce it. My memory wasn’t enough to recreate the taste, so I had to bring her here.
「Shuna, this is seriously delicious
During your stay here, feel free to eat as much as you want. So, remember the taste to the best of your ability」
Shuna, who was puzzled by my words, tried the cake.
First the short cake. It’s orthodox, but this cake affects all other cakes. If this one’s bad, no doubt the rest will not turn out well.
Shuna took a bite out of the cake.
And turning serious, she looked me straight and nodded. She then intently concentrated on the cake.
Soon, words were no longer needed. We understood each other on a deeper level. And if she could even replicate ice cream, cake would definitely be a piece of cake.
And so we, completely discarded our earlier discussion and indulged in delicious cake.
The next day, we arrived at the venue of the meeting.
The contents are as expected. Hinata visited last evening, and gave me an overview.
As per Souei’s intelligence, the council’s objective was to utilize our forces in the name of cooperation.
However, the feeling is mutual.
And so began the clash of wits between the racc.o.o.n and the fox.