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«Under the Oak Tree (Web Novel) - Chapter 411

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Chapter 411

This chapter is updated by Novels.pl

Chaos ensued. The troops camped outside Vesmore began pouring into the city to avoid the sudden snowfall, and Riftan promptly convened the commanding officers of each kingdom for an emergency meeting.

Meanwhile, soldiers hastened to set up temporary lodgings all over the city. They stabled the horses in empty buildings. Since the army would likely have to remain in the city for some time, accommodation was the most pressing issue.

Despite the biting cold, the army repaired damaged buildings and cared for the animals. The clerics held a mass funeral within the basilica’s main chapel. Since a noble was among the dead, a proper ceremony was held even amid the chaotic atmosphere.

Maxi watched as linen-shrouded bodies were placed in crude caskets before turning her gaze to the people sitting in the pews. Soldiers muttered fearfully about the piercing roar that had emanated from the mountains, and the knights deliberated the army’s next course of action with grave expressions. It was clear that no one was able to focus on the funeral.

After looking around the chapel with a glum expression, Maxi slipped outside and made her way to the guest house. The rectangular wooden structure currently accommodated around a hundred and fifty wounded. Lighting a lamp with magic, Maxi checked on the men for fever or festering wounds. Afterward, she went to the dispensary to prepare medicine for the patients.

“I’ve already prepared the necessary remedies,” Ruth called from behind.

Maxi turned to him in surprise. She had assumed he would be in the meeting with Riftan.

“H-Have you been here all this time?”

Ruth shrugged. “I wanted to spare myself from watching the officers of the Kingdoms snarl at each other. Especially as the outcome is a foregone conclusion.” Dragging a chair next to a boiling cauldron, he sat down and started to massage his shoulder in apparent exhaustion. “The dragon has been resurrected, so a campaign is inevitable. The question now is who will fund it.”

Maxi stifled a groan. “Are they…wrangling over supplies again?”

“Well, the entire continent is suffering from famine because of the abnormal climate, and many landed nobles have already paid hefty taxes to fund the campaign to the Pamela Plateau. Since there is no question that additional demands for supplies will be met with fierce opposition, it’s no surprise the monarchs want to push the burden onto each other.”

Maxi’s face clouded when she recalled the desolation she had witnessed on their long journey from Osiriya to Dristan. Even the regions spared from monster incursions were likely struggling from soaring prices. Too many people were suffering because of the monsters.

Poking the brazier fire with a branch, Ruth continued, “The church will doubtlessly be made to pay the lion’s share. Much of the blame for the dragon’s revival lies with Osiriya, after all.”

“But…Osiriya has always been the head of the Council of the Seven Kingdoms. Would the church be able to properly maintain the armistice…with such financial toll?”

“The Church of Osiriya will be disgraced if the coalition fails to subdue the dragon, and in the end, the Council would exist in name only. Shouldering the responsibility and leading the campaign to victory is the church’s only option.”

Maxi bit her lip. That meant another war. After believing everything to be over, the dreadful news made her heart drop.

She swept her gaze over the injured soldiers scattered around the guest house. “I-I just can’t understand it,” she said in frustration. “Wasn’t repairing the barrier in time…supposed to stop the dragon from coming back? Didn’t the church estimate it would take at least a few more months for the monsters to amass enough mana to resurrect it? Y-Your calculation supported this, Ruth.”

“The monsters of the Pamela Plateau likely started to amass mana much earlier than we speculated. There is a high chance they started gathering fire mana the same year Sektor was slain. Looking back now, the temperature started to decline the same year we returned from the Dragon Campaign.”

Maxi recalled her first winter in Anatol. She remembered preparing thicker garments for the sentries in a hurry because of the early frost. It sent chills down her spine to think that the monsters had been working on the dragon’s revival since then.

“But…didn’t Osiriya claim that Sektor’s stone was stolen after the Great War with the monsters? Do you think the church is lying?”

“No, that is likely the truth. The monsters only managed to steal the stone undetected because the church was preoccupied with war in the north.” Pensively staring at the boiling pot, Ruth calmly added, “For a long time, the monsters of the Pamela Plateau reared dragon subspecies for their stones. They transferred the mana in these stones to the dragon’s heart, they would have had more than enough to accomplish their goal.”

Maxi bit her lip. Ultimately, that means the monsters had completely outsmarted the humans.

“Then…what will happen now?” she asked anxiously. “The last Dragon Campaign lasted for three years. Will this one…be as long?”

“The previous campaign only lasted so long because of the expansive barrier around the Lexos Mountains. It took us two years to break through that maze-like structure and search the extensive mountain range that stretches through Wedon, Dristan, and Arex, all the while subduing the monsters under the dragon’s command. This is different. The dragon’s barrier has long been replaced by the church’s barrier, and we know the exact location of its remains. If memory serves me right, the place of the final battle is less than a month’s journey from here.”

“But…what if the dragon is moved before we get there?”

“Impossible,” Ruth replied with absolute certainty. “Sektor is almost a hundred and seventy kevettes (approx 51 meters). It would require an astronomical amount of mana to move him. That is why dragons spend most of their lives in hibernation, and even when they emerge from their long slumber, they require time before they can be fully active. They first need to gather enough mana to move freely, a process which usually takes two to five years.”

Ruth passed before adding with less certainty, “Although we cannot be certain since there are no records on undead dragons, a resurrected dragon should not be much different from one waking from hibernation. It might even be weaker since undead corpses only retain about eighty percent of their original strength.”

Maxi felt a glimmer of hope spark in her chest. If Ruth’s assumptions were correct, Sektor would currently be in a terribly weak condition. If the coalition formed a campaign party as soon as possible, they might be able to slay the dragon with less difficulty this time around.

However, when she imagined the army facing the colossal monster, her optimism promptly dissipated.

Even if its movements were restricted, the dragon’s sheer size alone would make it a formidable foe. According to records, dragon bone was among the sturdiest materials in the world, comparable to orichalcum and adamantine. Its scales also possessed powerful magic resistance that rendered all arcane attacks ineffective.

That meant that ordinary weapons and magic alike would be useless. How on earth were they supposed to fight such a creature?

Maxi remembered the story of how Riftan had boldly run straight into Dragon’s Breath. Would he have to risk such danger again? The mere thought of him putting his life on the line like that crushed her heart.

“There is no need to fear so soon, my lady. We won’t be leaving until additional supplies get here,” Ruth told her reassuringly, noticing her pallor.

Maxi forced her stiff lips into a brave smile, “I am not afraid, I was merely…steeling myself for the battle ahead.”

It did not matter what terrible monster they had to face, Maxi told herself with great determination. Because, this time, she would not be sending Riftan alone.

When evening came, Princess Agnes came to the guest house. Maxi, who had been casting healing magic on the patients, cordially rose to her feet to greet her.

“It has been a while, Maximillian. I see you have been faring well.”

Maxi gave the princess an awkward smile. She was dreadfully haggard from getting less than six hours of sleep over the past two days, and her clothes were so heavily stained with blood and dirt that it was impossible to distinguish their original color.

Princess Agnes, on the other hand, appeared neat and attractive even in her humble garments. The sight of the princess’s lustrous blonde hair and rosy, smooth complexion made Maxi fiddle with her tangled tresses, which she had not had the chance to brush for two days now.

“Y-You…also appear well. Your Highness.”

“I barely had time to get dust on me since we arrived near the end of the battle,” the princess replied with a shrug as if she could not care less about her appearance.

With a small smile, Maxi placed the apothecary jar she was holding on a rack and followed the princess to the end of the guest house.

“You must have…attended the emergency meeting. Was there anything of importance?

“Not so much. It was more an endless stream of incoherent arguments.” The princess wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Richard Breston tried to vent his anger by lambasting Sir Kuahel and blaming the church for the whole situation. The representatives of Balto’s Southern Confederacy and Dristan’s princess also had things to say. Sir Kuahel, of course, did not bat an eye. It was a muddled mess, I tell you. I can only admire Riftan for bringing order to the meeting.”

Maxi gazed out at the dusk-filled square with worried eyes. “Do you know where Riftan is now?”

“I left him with Sir Kuahel. He seemed to have something to discuss with him in private.”

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