60. Havlin Village (1)
Tom and Lulu needed craftsmen, as well as those who were adept at farming and animal rearing. Fortunately, an easy solution to both their farming and ranching needs was the existence of the human settlement known as Halvin. Their farms were located outside the city’s walls, while the animals were kept inside due to wild demons.
‘We should be able to take anyone from here.’
However, their ‘procurement’ needed to happen quietly, and there were eyes everywhere. Tom had hoped to start with one or two people, and covertly steal away a dozen or so over time, but he realized he was far too conspicious for that plan to work.
‘Then, what’s the play?’
Pillaging was the easiest method. He could completely obliterate this place using the demon army and kidnap the humans.
‘… But doing that would bring us further from our goal.’
Another method was to persuade them using words and have them willingly start farming for the Demon Kingdom. This option was the most ideal, but there was no way it would go over so easily; “persuasion” was just another word for “kidnapping”. Not to mention, the atmosphere of this place was hostile. Trying to get a word in may be enough to merit their ire. Kidnapping them without using deception would be a challenge.
Lulu spied the villagers, who all averted their gazes. They whispered amongst each other.
“… Those bastards, did they come here knowing full well?”
“But… we can’t be sure!”
“If that’s the case…”
The villagers glared at Tom with intense gazes, causing Lulu to flinch. It was his first experience with humans. Lulu knew them as an overwhelmingly cruel species, and he felt a pang of fear in his chest.
“…?! No, it’s nothing.”
Lulu strengthened his nerves; he didn’t want to inconvenience Tom any more than he had to. To the keen senses of a Moon Rabbit, the intense atmosphere was extremely uncomfortable.
The village was silent, the surrounding gloom and chill pressing down on Tom. He took a step forward, and someone who appeared to be the village chief approached him. He was an old man in his 70s, walking while trembling, and supporting himself with a cane.
“W-welcome! It’s truly been a while since we last had a guest! N-not to mention, a Holy Knight…! We are honored! Now, now! Come this way…! I-it must have been tiring to come all this way… Please have some tea!”
He spoke with the widest smile he could manage, but it wasn’t hard to tell that it was superficial. The chief’s voice trembled and he was drenched in a cold sweat, making it feel too forced. He continued his performance, trying to entertain Tom while also attempting to glean his true intentions for coming here.
“Then, I’m a bit tired, so I’ll accept your hospitality.”
Tom allowed himself to be led by the Chief as he peeked around.
This place had an inn? The Chief had just said that it had been a while since they’d last had visitors, but that didn’t seem to be the case. It looked like there were many people gathered here.
‘Several of them could pass for mercenaries.’
Their gear was shabby, but had the look of hired arms or adventurers. They lingered around the inn, peering at Tom and Lulu from the corners of their eyes.
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