Yuusha no furi
96: Tax collector and departure (Arc 5 Start)
I've already taken down three of the Four Heavenly Kings.
I prevented a war instigated by the demons in the Fabrica kingdom and freed the fairy Haya from slavery. After that, I returned to Keika Village and developed it, secured a future for the elves and helped the beastfolks.
I let the Mother Earth God Lupersia descend at the harvest festival and let Lapisia meet her mother.
I've even gathered a lot of believers.

It's morning at Keika Village.
I was preparing for departure at the mansion.
I had received a report from Leo, that the vampire - the Hell King - who was living in a swamp in the southeast of the kingdom had one of the eggs.
I'll finish him off and then go to the neighboring continent.
Well, even if I say preparation, I was just stuffing some food, medicine and blankets into a bag to carry on my shoulder.

While doing so, Fal, who was wearing her habit, peeked in.
"Keika-sama. The mayor and the tax collector have arrived. They are waiting in the reception room."
"Tax collector? Thank you. I'll go immediately."
I tilted my head while I headed to the reception room, wondering what this is about.
Heroes don't have to pay any taxes.
It doesn't make sense to hinder the heroes' activities to exterminate the Demon Lord.

The sofa is facing the table in the reception room and a carpet is spread out. The interior is still rather plainly decorated.
The mayor and a man in a gaudy dress were sitting on the sofa.
The mayor stands up.
"Good morning, Keika-sama. I'm sorry for the sudden visit when you're busy."
I ask while I sit down.
"Did something happen?"
"This person is the tax collector Tiack."

The good-looking young man looks at me with a smile.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Hero-sama. My name is Tiack Milford. I came to this village to calculate the tax for the harvest, but something bothered me so I came by."

Tiack seemed somewhat aristocratic, and his behavior and manner of speech were courteous.
I on the other hand just wanted to get over this quickly since I was about to set off.

"So, what's the matter?"
"I've heard that you are selling 'talismans', right? You can't sell them at this village unless you pay the charge for the shop and the tax on the sold goods."
"I see. How much would that be?"
"I don't know how high the profit is, but it should be about 46 big gold coins for everything. With this I'll turn a blind eye to you doing business without permission."
He had an unpleasant, faint smile floating on his face. He's even implicitly implying that I should hand over some hush money.

It's not like I can't pay, but I don't feel like paying him.
I have to gather 50.000 believers to defeat the Demon Lord and what I'm doing at this village are necessary expenses, hence it would be strange to pay taxes for that in the first place.

That's why I shook my head.
"I don't have to pay this because I'm not doing any business."
"Wh-What are you saying!? I just looked and you already have a sales stand in the garden!"
"Everything I do is in order to defeat the Demon Lord as a hero. I'm not selling them in the first place. The received money are donations to aid in my activities and not profits."
"Such, bullshit... Even a hero can't say whatever he wants!"
"Heh. Then, how about we go to King Daphnes and ask him if I'm wrong or not? I don't even need an appointment to meet him."
"*Ah*, no!? ...this is..."
He has a flattering smile on his face while he is impatient.

I distort the corners of my mouth and prepare for the decisive blow.
"You don't have to hold back, you know? Well then, shall we go? You might even leave a good impression to the king if you're correct. 'The aristocrat Tiack Milford is so enthusiastic that he even turns a blind eye.' Very Well, Let's go!"

Tiack stands up while acting suspiciously.
"No~ *ahaha*. We don't have to go just to confirm that, if I just know the circumstances there's no problem *ahaha*. Then please do your best to eliminate the demons."
Tiack went out of the reception room.
The mayor chases after him in a panic.
"Tiack-sama!? --Keika-sama, please excuse me. --Please wait, Tiack-sama!"

The reception room becomes quiet.
I followed Tiack with "Clairvoyance" and "Attentive Ears" as he leaves the mansion.
"Shit, that's why I hate country bumpkins who have only their idiotic strength! They get full of themselves if you just behave a little modest. I'll remember that!"
Tiack headed to a horse-drawn carriage with big steps.

"I can only hear the howling of a loser... tell me that right to my face."
He looked like a stray dog that is driven away no matter how many times he came.
"Maybe I should tell the villagers that they should let me know if they receive harassment..."

I was thinking about these things while I went back to my room when a rectangular hole opened in the wall and a rainbow-colored light pours out of it.
The four heads tall fairy Haya comes out.
"Keika-san, Keika-san. The demon-detecting statue is ready."
"Oh--, is it ready? Is it life-sized?
"Yes-, just like the original."
"Then, please tell either Rii or Fioria to bring it to Roni Village."
"Roger-! What's with the remaining?"

I didn't know what she was speaking about for a moment, so I asked back.
"--Hm? Remaining? What do you mean by 'remaining'?"
"There are ten remaining."
"You didn't make only one?!! --Ah, I see. I didn't specify the number."
"Was that wrong? I thought that you'd distribute them to a lot of villages."
She looks at me with her round eyes.
"Hmm, just distributing the statues wouldn't automatically lead to an increase of believers. --No, rumors about Roni Village might spread and the people who want a demon detecting statue might increase. You can give them to other villages if they say that they want one."
Haya passed through the fairy door at the wall and disappeared somewhere.


The preparations were done after a while and everyone departed from the residence.
We're heading east along the irrigation channel with about twenty people.

There are my and Leo's party and beastfolks who are lending a hand to carry the huge wheels - paddle steamer wheels.
I planned to bring them to Doruas on the river.

Lapisia was paving the road at my request while we were heading to the large river for several hours.
The river is deep, about 50 meters wide and is calmly flowing.
When I looked down from the embankment, there were already eight Naga of about five meter length.
The white skin of Ieturia stands out.

"It's been a while, Keika-sama."
"You also look well, Ieturia."
Dhalia turns around and speaks.
"Everyone from the Naga tribe is living happily. I'm really grateful."
"That's good to hear. --So, as planned, please deliver these wheels to the port town Doruas."
"Leave it to us."
I and Lapisia carefully took the wheels and gently dropped them onto the water surface.
There are three Naga per paddle wheel.

The beastfolks are making noise.
"He-Hey. They're lifting those heavy wheels with just two people" "That's a hero for you..."
Leo murmurs while he smiles wryly.
"Keika-san never fails to surprise!"
"Rather than surprise, it's unbelievable."
Tilt shook his head, indicating "Good grief".

After that the beastfolks parted ways with us and my and Leo's party are boarding ships.
"Well then, Leo, I'll leave the ship modifications to you."
"Please leave it to us, Keika-san."
I had asked Leo's party to take care of the paddle steamer construction.
I can't let Haya supervise it after all.

Ieturia, who was pulling the ship that we had boarded, spoke.
"Then, Keika-sama. Shall I speed up?"
"Yes, please do so."
"Hold on tightly."
Ieturia turned her white body. The tip of her tail was slapping on the water surface.

The speed of the ship rises quickly.
The high-speed ship was slightly modified so it wouldn't shake that much.
With the addition of the downstream we advanced as if we'd glide.
Lapisia was smiling over her whole face as she looked at the scenery that was passing by at high speed.


A few hours have passed since we passed the capital.
We arrived at the eastern coast about the time when the sun was going down.

"Is it fine here?"
"Yes, it's fine."

Lapisia jumped off with a big jump. Her white dress flutters. She's followed by Minya, whose Miko clothes are waving. After that I followed.
Celica's legs were staggering when she got off.
I took her hand and embraced her when it looked like she was about to fall.
"Are you alright?"
"*Au*...the ship was shaking quite a bit..."
She murmured in my arms. She casts her eyes down and her face is red.

Ieturia comes to the water surface and speaks.
"Humans have it hard, huh..."
"It couldn't be helped since we were in a hurry."
"Shall I pick you up again a week?"
"I heard that the wetlands are three days from here. Please act on that assumption."
"Understood. Well, even if the time is slightly off, you should be able to simply stop any ship since I've told all my companions about you. --There are five a day."
"I'll do that."
"Well then, please take care."
Ieturia pulled the ship and proceeded south.

Then we headed east.

At sunset we arrived at the village of Yobu.
It's a small village with about 30 houses.
We lodge at the village headman's house.
For some reason I received a warm welcome when I told that I'm the hero.

The village headman speaks while we're having dinner.
"Thank you very much for exterminating the demons the other day." "We didn't know what would become of the harvest." "You saved the village."
He voices words of gratitude.
But I can't remember that at all.

Then the village headman spoke.
"But you're not wearing your masks today, huh."
"Eh? --Yes, we don't have to be discreet against the demons anymore."
It hit me when he asked about the masks.
--It's Leo.
I asked him to give his achievements to me, but to think that he acts while concealing his identity with a mask...
No wonder why the women at the village said things like "So this it what your face looks like, Keika-sama."

Just how much has Leo shown off during his activities?
Just by imagining that I was strangely embarrassed.
Celica's blond hair was swaying while she was giggling.