174 Chapter 152: Minerals

The elite knights that Bethany mentioned before were standing on the other side of the gate, looking down at the natives menacingly. Despite their killing intent, the natives still stood silently.

Celeste looked towards a certain person amongst the natives. It was a big man who wore what appeared to be the garments of a chief. He was also holding a strange staff decorated with the skulls of small animals. His upper body was filled with scars and tattoos.

'What is this man doing here with all his people? Are they angry that outsiders are going into their forest? Oh well, I'll go inside and get to bottom of this.'

Celeste walked past the silent natives whose eyes she could feel on her back as she elegantly strode forward.

She looked up at the towering red-armoured knights.

"My name is Celeste von Penston. Open the gates right this instant."



The knights just looked at her silently.

Celeste sighed.

"I am the city lord's—Arnold von Berkley—soon-to-be wife."

Celeste suddenly felt a wave of killing intent coming her way. The knights immediately opened the gates and jumped behind Celeste to protect her.

Celeste ignored whatever killing intent she felt. She just kept on walking.

'They reacted as soon as I said that I'm the future wife of the city lord.' Celeste giggled.

She looked around the estate. It wasn't that large. It was probably half the size of her family's home.

The servants who were working around the estate looked at Celeste in silence. They didn't even come and ask her what business she has here.  

'What a gloomy atmosphere.'

Celeste cleared her throat. She inhaled deeply.


Her voice which was enhanced with a little bit of mana reverberated. The servants gasped when they heard who she was.

One of them suddenly ran towards Celeste.

"F-Forgive us, Madam! We didn't know you were the first lady of that personage! Please do not order our punishments!" the person who appeared before her begged on his knees. His eyes held extreme fear.

Celeste flicked her hair, "I'm a little angry that no one is here to greet me. I had to speak in a tone unbefitting of a lady. Humph."

"I-I will go get that bitch—I-I mean I will go call Lady Lunaria immediately!"

"—What was that? I'm a bitch, is it?" a young girl's voice came from behind the man.

"Hieee!?" his entire body trembled. His pants were stained by urine. He could barely remain standing since his legs trembled so violently, "I-I-I!"

"Do I need to teach you another lesson? You were caught stealing gold from the wagons the empress brought to us the other day. Do you remember your punishment? I can remember my victims' faces very clearly."

"Hiee!? I'm saawggy! Pwease fon't spunish me!!!" he went on his knees and begged with clasped hands.

"Just get back to work." The pink-haired girl said with a monotonous voice as if she lost interest in a toy.

The man hurriedly left while muttering "thank you, thank you…"

"I apologize for not welcoming you personally, Madam Celeste. I did not know you would be coming today."

'That was actually really fast. Was she nearby or something?'

"Oh, my. So you're the city lord's advisor? I'll forgive you since you're so cute."

Lunaria had big red eyes, a small nose and a small mouth. Her short pink hair accentuated her flawless oval-shaped face.

'Is that horn a decoration?' there was a single red horn sticking out of her hair. Celeste thought that Lunaria was probably wearing something around her head that had the horn attached to it.

'It's rather silly for her to be walking around with a horn in her head. To each their own, I guess.'

Some people like cosplaying. It wasn't that big of a deal to her.

"….Thank you for the compliment."

"It's my fault for keeping my arrival a secret anyway so don't feel bad."

"This seems like a terrible spot to speak. Why don't we go upstairs?"

"Oh, yes. Let's—" Celeste suddenly noticed that the surroundings had changed. She was now standing in the middle of an office, "Silent teleportation? Are you a mage from one of the six Towers?"

"No. I cannot use the magic your people associate with Tower mages. I used an item to teleport us to the city lord's office."

"Hmm, is that so…" Celeste looked around the spacious office.

"You may call me Lunaria, Lady Celeste." Lunaria went towards Arnold's desk and sat down on the chair, "Now then, I have some questions. What is this about Lord Arnold having a wife?"

Lunaria's eyes sharpened with a dangerous glint. Celeste continued smiling.

"It is as I said, he is my husband and I his wife."

The engagement contract still needed Arnold's signature but Celeste doesn't care and will continue to tell others that they're already engaged. How could Arnold refuse anyway? Their marriage benefit not only him but both their families.

"The Penstons are a family from the Empire. It's a unique surname that no other nation has but the Empire. Am I correct to assume the Sword Master, Vance is your father?"

"Mhm, that's right. Why do you seem so mad about it? Do you have a crush on my Al? Don't worry, he can have as many wives as he wants to. But if any of you think of stealing him from me then I won't show you mercy."

"That is not the problem here… Forget it, I will ask him myself what's going on. Let me change the subject: Why are you here?"

"To see how the city is doing. Well, partly to have my vacation here."

"And what's that?" Lunaria's eyes shifted to the file in Celeste's hand.

"Oh, these are some things that need to be signed. Here. I can't sign them until you approve everything that's written inside."

"I'll read them later when Victoria comes back. Did you see those people out there? Oh, why am I asking such a stupid question. Of course you did. You felt their ire when you mentioned that Arnold von Berkley is going to become your husband."

Celeste's smile disappeared, "Why are they here?"

"They've made it clear to us that they will only speak to Arnold von Berkley and not his advisor. If the city lord doesn't come out then they'll use force to infiltrate this manor and take all the resources we stole from them."

"Pardon? Stole? I don't quite understand."

"That's just a conclusion I came to given how they only appeared right after we mined minerals that rightfully and legally belongs to us. But you don't have to worry, Lady Celeste. They can't defeat those two knights even if they fight together."

"Oh? You're that confident?"

"Two Level 80s against a group of level 4 to 6s. I don't have to guess which of them will lose."

'….Did she just say level 80? The highest level humans have ever reached on the continent was level 60….'

That's excluding the Warriors of the Word of God and the Great Nobles.

"You can tell their level…?"

Lunaria tapped her right temple, "It's a gift of mine. It was given to me by my master. Now then, as the future First Lady of the Penston House, and wife of Arnold von Berkley, what do you propose we do? Victoria and the Empress are out of the city to visit the Empress' acquaintances. I can't make a decision on my own without Victoria being present."

Celeste already knew that Roseria came to this city since she keeps a close eye on the Imperial Family, though she didn't know what Roseria was going to do with the gold she requested from Jurnick.

"Let the chief come in."

"…The others will demand to come along."

"Everyone who steps foot inside this estate other than the chief should be cut down." Celeste said with a cold voice.

Lunaria bowed her head, "As you command, Lady Celeste."


The natives didn't resist when they heard that Celeste was threatening to kill them if they didn't comply.

"—I did not expect a delicate young lady such as yourself to be so fierce," the chief said as he was led into the office by a knight. He didn't seem intimidated by the knight at all. Rather he looked stoic.

Celeste—who was now sitting behind Arnold's desk, on his chair—smiled gently at the man. Lunaria was standing by her side.

"So, you expected a frightened maiden when you sent a little killing intent my way? And you thought I would cower? You're nothing compared to the people I really fear."

"I apologize for what we did earlier. We feel very strongly about our reason for being here. We hope to have this resolved so that we do not disturb the peace of your settlements further."

"Sit down and tell me your reason for being here."

"Thank you, First Lady." The chief sat down and bowed his head.

"I am the chief of the Mountain and Forest People, Ugur Sunluk Okamist Jurbuk. We inhabit most of the forests and mountains near this settlement of yours. The peace has been disturbed and our resources taken."

"Resources?" Celeste looked up at Lunaria.

"They live in a delusion that the minerals that we bring back are theirs." Lunaria said to Celeste, "Ownership of this land was rightfully given to Arnold von Berkley after his father, Marcus von Berkley, purchased the land from an agency in the empire. Every official document needed to own a land that you can imagine has been passed through the imperial court. The Court deemed this land independent by order of the Emperor, Jurnick. This land belongs to only one man and has no connections whatsoever to the empire. His taxes go into his own pockets. The empress being part of its restoration process also doesn't give anyone from the empire the right to interfere in this land's activities. Your people are part of this empire because you live on its land."  

Lunaria spoke in a single breath.

"My people have lived in these lands for centuries before the first outsider village was built here."

"Oh, so we're now outsiders?" Lunaria looked at the man like he was an ant, "Do you honestly think something belongs to you if you've had it longer than others? Who are you to proudly proclaim that it belongs to anybody?"

"I am—"

"Don't answer that. This is just absurd. You want to rob this city of the potential profits of the minerals that I, the advisor, have brought to this city. Did you even think to understand why it was necessary for me to do so? Look around you. This city is crumbling. The roads are destroyed. The people are dying from famines and diseases. Crime is high yet the poor continue to live here. But you're so selfish that you want to monopolise something because you've known about it the longest?"

"What is this something you're talking about Lunaria?" Celeste glanced up at Lunaria. She had been listening to them silently until now.

The chief responded instead, "The precious minerals which our people have been using in our society for generations are being taken by your people, First Lady. We use the crystals to heal our sickly if our healer is absent from the villages, we purify our dirty water, we offer them to our lake goddess to gain the strength to vanquish our foes and erect magical barriers to repel foes… Taking that away from us will cause the mountain and forest people to go extinct before the next generation chief inherits the land."

Celeste lifted her hand when Lunaria was about to speak. Lunaria shut her mouth.

"I smell selfishness. You claim we are stealing—"

"That is not how I said it."

"But that's what you meant, no? You want to use those minerals for your selfish means—to ensure the survival of your people. I don't blame you for that. However, proclaiming it as yours and yours alone is what I consider to be selfish. We are merely using these crystals to better the lives of the people, as Lunaria said. Think about it. We can sell these crystals to various sources which will allow us to buy food for the people, materials for building and get the opportunity to welcome new businesses. The lives of the people who live in this city and the villages surrounding it will flourish. That is what we—how did you say it, outsiders, right? That is how we build a society."

"But to mine thousands of the crystal veins… It is not right, First Lady."

Celeste narrowed her eyes, "What if we just decided to chase all your people for trying to monopolize something that doesn't belong to you. What if we invaded your people with the intent to kill if they don't leave?"

"…I fear we will not be able to stop you. I am hailed as the strongest warrior in the mountains after my son left to become an adventurer. I do not see myself winning against your red armoured guards. What chances do my people have who are weaker than me? Please reconsider your decision. Yes, I understand that it doesn't belong to us or anyone else but it still belongs to the land. And we have been on this land even before these people of yours built their first settlement." The chief put his hands on the table and bowed his head, "Please do not take the minerals away from us."

"….." Celeste glanced up at Lunaria. Lunaria was looking at her with narrowed eyes.

Celeste looked back at the chief again, "That's not something we can decide on our own. The city lord owns this land, after all. You heard what his advisor said, right? It was rightfully given to him by the Empire that colonized this country; that means that this land belongs to whoever paid the most for it. Isn't colonization wonderful?"

Celeste was smiling but her eyes were cold.

The man balled his hands up into fists. His head was still lowered so Celeste couldn't see his expression.   

"Give me a moment with my fiancé's advisor." Celeste stood up and headed towards the door. She opened the door and gestured for the man to leave, "I'll have the knight call you when we're done."

"…." The chief stood up silently and left the room.

Celeste shut the door and looked directly at Lunaria.

"What's this about minerals being taken from them? The chief mentioned crystals. Care to explain what's going on?"

"…The crystals that we're mining are the key to restoring this land and making Arnold von Berkley one of the richest city lords in history. They hold far more worth than that chief and his people realize."

"I assume the city lord knows what's going on?"

"Yes. In fact, he is the one who told us about the crystals."

"Did he now… Do you have a sample of the crystals? I'd like to see what they look like."

"….." Lunaria narrowed her eyes.

"I know that you don't trust me. I'm still a stranger to you after all. My engagement to the city lord means nothing. But I can assure you that I have no hidden motives nor do I wish to sabotage whatever plan my fiancé has for his own land."

Lunaria sighed softly before pulling something out of her chest pocket. It was a small blood-red diamond.

Celeste frowned.

"These are the crystals that you hold in such high value? I run a jewel business and can say for certain these are worth next to nothing."

The crystal looked cheap and brittle, unlike the kinds of diamonds that Celeste usually works with that shine with brilliance and splendour. The crystal that Lunaria took out definitely had a shine to it but not a shine that would wow people by its appearance. Appearances are usually the first thing their customers look at when purchasing their jewellery.

"I can understand why you think so. I won't criticise your ignorance. My master was also in disbelief at first."

"Your master?"

"My master sold me to Arnold von Berkley for a certain time period. I am here with a purpose. Agreeing with whatever that barbarian native wants will be going against my reason for being here."

Celeste wanted to know where Lunaria came from but that wasn't the important thing here.

"If the other side was a bunch of greedy nobles then we could've made a deal like: They get 2% of every load that we bring back to the city. But these are barbarians who have no interest in profit. The chief claims these crystals are part of their livelihood. What do you suggest we do, advisor?"

"Shouldn't we wait for Lord Arnold to come back first? I feel like making a decision on his behalf will upset him. I don't want to sabotage the promises I made in my contract that ties me to him."

"…I know I said that we can't make a decision on our own but he's not in the empire at the moment so we need to solve this now. If he's unhappy with how things are then I'll take responsibility. So, again, what do you suggest we do?"

"Hmm… I would ignore these fools. They pose no threat to this city since we have knights surrounding the manor and guards in every district of the city. An invasion from them is unlikely. But he said something about a lake goddess. If my memory serves me right, that's a minor god like the Wind and Earth God. They were once close disciples of the Human Gods. Gods usually only have a few close disciples. They serve their purpose for one era before going to some far-off world to retire and give the next generation a chance to serve a Human God. My guess is that the lake goddess is the Water God who became estranged from her brethren when they came to this world."

"I think I've heard of some cult that worships the Sun God. Is that also a minor god like the lake goddess?"


"The chief mentioned giving the crystals to this goddess to get blessed with protection in return."

"Praying and offering sacrifices ensures their forest is protected by her power. How else do you think they survived this long in a monster infested land such as this?"

"….." Celeste sat back on the chair and leaned back. She stared up at the ceiling.

The question on her mind was:

Will the lake goddess turn on us if we take all the crystals?

Minor god or not, divine entities are powerful individuals. Celeste had no idea how strong it was but it could surely pose a threat to the city.

'What if she's actually keeping dangerous monsters from invading these lands?'

Anything was possible at this point. There could even be monster zones far more dangerous than the ones in the Mountains of Wails. The Mountains of Wails are known as one of the most dangerous places on the continent.

Also, the monster wave incident caused concern that more monsters can escape dungeons and attack the continent's people.

As mentioned before, anything is possible.

"Let's go on a little trip." Celeste said with a smile.


Celeste told the chief that she and Lunaria make a decision on behalf of Arnold under the condition that he lets her meet with this lake goddess.

She didn't want to make a decision without knowing what was going on first. If she made the wrong decision and it jeopardized the city then Arnold will blame her for it. She doesn't know what she'll do if the one she loves so dearly were to hate her.

Hopefully, she'll make the right decision when the time comes.


The group left the city a while ago.

Celeste didn't want to travel with a large group so she brought Lunaria along with two of the elite knights. The chief's people who came to the city with him were following way behind their small group.

Celeste wasn't a combatant and by the looks of it, neither was Lunaria. The knights could hold off any would-be assailants.

The group was currently moving through a dense thicket. Celeste didn't have any clothes suitable for hiking so she had no choice but to wear her shortest heels and a simple dress.

Lunaria suggested walking barefoot but there was no way Celeste would allow her pedicured feet to be stained by the earth's filth. She'll persevere even if she's walking awkwardly.

"We are almost there." The chief looked back and said.

He had been quiet ever since Celeste told him to take her to the lake goddess. He wasn't opposed to the idea. It was probably because he thought that Celeste will have sympathy for his people and no longer allow Arnold to mine the crystals.

In other words, she'll have to sacrifice the profits they can obtain with these crystals just because she felt bad for a small community of people.

'The world doesn't work that way.'

Her initial decision was to let them choose between:

Come to live on Arnold's land. They won't need the crystals to survive anymore. It's either that.


Stay in the mountains. But they won't be able to keep the crystals to themselves anymore. Any resistance will be met with force.

"How do your people survive the monsters in these forests?" Celeste asked the chief.

"The lake goddess gives us various means of protection. She can create a wall unseen to the naked eye which will turn monsters away. She can also make sounds of much bigger monsters to scare away the smaller ones. Her favourite sound is the mating call of a Leviathan, a dragon said to be as old as the Dragon God. Mating calls mean that there's two or more of the same species in one area. Smart monsters will think that there are two of maybe more Leviathans so they will never approach our land. That is how we survive without resorting to putting our lives in danger by confronting our foes."

"Didn't you ever wonder why she wants these crystals?"

"No. If she protects and blesses my people then the reason is irrelevant to us. We carry the crystals to her and she protects us. It's as simple as that."

"Carry it to her? Why can't she just collect them on her own?"

The chief stopped. He pointed towards the mountains that were obscured by the grey clouds.

"She resides in a lake between those mountains. We make the journey up those mountains every season to offer her gifts and receive her divine protection."

"Why doesn't she just leave the lake?"

Lunaria replied instead of the chief, "A minor god is unable to go anywhere they want to. If she picked a lake in the mountains then she'll stay there for all eternity or until she dies. Divine beings are given a lot of restrictions if they leave their home worlds. Has she told you this, chief?"

"No, this is the first time I am hearing of it. Thank you for informing me."

"So, she's using her powers to protect your people and this forest while being chained to one place? She must be very powerful. Does she speak the human tongue?"


'Good. Then communication is possible.'

The bushes suddenly rustled. Celeste could hear the ground being stepped on from all around their small group.

People emerged from the bushes. They seemed to be from the same tribe as the chief given their slightly tanned skin colour and traditional clothing.

There weren't just over a hundred of them but thousands looking at the group. They must've gathered together waiting for good news.

"Welcome to my home, First Lady."

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