Drawn Mochi Volume 4 Chapter 15: Around the Open Gate*6

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 What should I do?


 As soon as I started thinking about it, I felt my blood freeze.


 If I refused Mr. Argent’s offer, Fay and his family might be in trouble.


 That’s… No good. I don’t want Fay to get in trouble.



“I guess I should accept Mr. Argent’s offer after all.” (Tougo)



 I unintentionally said that. But I came to myself as soon as Ms. Croix took my hands in hers.



“Is that right? That’s not what you want. You wouldn’t be happy to go to the Argent family when you don’t want to, would you? And for Mr. Fay, if you were to go to the Argent’s house unwillingly because of him. If he found out, I’m sure he’d blame himself.” (Croix)



  Yes. That’s right. Fay is that kind of person. That’s why he didn’t say anything.


 But… I still can’t move based on my own feelings.


 So, I have to figure it out somehow. How can I refuse Mr. Argent’s offer without causing trouble for Fay?



“Well, what exactly happens when I refuse Mr. Argent’s offer?” (Tougo)


“I don’t know.” (Croix)



 I see.


 …Well, I guess you don’t know what you don’t know.



“Well, even if we think about it… I think it would be quite difficult to do it. The Redgarde territory is set up so that everything circulates within the territory, right? There are some special products that stand out, and people want to go to other territories. However, it’s not like they’re selling them, and there’s no need to buy food or anything else from other territories.” (Tougo)



 Oh, that’s right. …Although I live in Redgarde territory, I don’t know much about things outside the forest. On that point, I wonder where Ms. Croix got the information from.



“That’s why they are not that wealthy, but the lords make up for it by keeping the tax rate reasonable, I guess.” (Croix)



 …Yep. I understand that. The people who live in Redgarde territory are friendly to Fay and his family. The Redgardes ask for a lot of taxes, and I’ve heard that the taxes they do receive are returned to the people of Redgarde.



“Then, I guess the punishment for the Redgarde family is that they will be excluded by the other nobles?” (Tougo)


“…That’s all I can think of. I can’t imagine them resorting to force.” (Croix)



 I see. That means that if I refuse Mr. Argent’s offer, Fay will probably be left out of the group by the nobles. …That’s not good.



“If that happens, in the worst-case scenario, the Royal Family might intervene and crush them. Especially since the Redgarde family has the Red Dragon, they are treated a little differently than other nobles because they do. …However, they might become a target.” (Croix)



 Uh… No, if that’s the case, I can’t just not do whatever I can to help them.


 If it is just about having the food supply cut off or something like that, I can draw food and materialize it, so you don’t have to worry about angering Mr. Argent…



“…I’m sure it’s impossible to make the Redgarde territory an independent state, as long as it belongs to this country. It’s not a good idea to offend the Argents, who have the second most power in the country after the Royal Family, as long as they belong to this country. …*Sigh*, I hate this.” (Croix)



 Ms. Croix said that and let out a deep sigh. The Pipe Fox, drawn by the sigh, started to crawl down Ms. Croix’s collar, so I dragged it out. If you’re going to dive, I want you to at least do it on me.



“The most peaceful way to resolve the issue would be for the other side to refuse… I’m sorry, but I can’t think of anything.” (Croix)



 Then, Laocles said with a tired look on his face.



“Do you want to make the other side refuse?” (Laocles)


“That’s right. For example… If the situation were such that you would no longer be able to draw at all, the other person would probably give up.” (Croix)


“I see.” (Laocles)



 I see. For example, if I lost both my arms in an accident, Mr. Argent would probably stop hiring me at that point. That’s what he would probably do.



“…Don’t try to do that, okay?” (Laocles)



 Laocles glared at me a little, but of course I wouldn’t. As expected, I don’t really like being in pain. …Well, if I can’t think of anything else, I’ll do it.



“Then why don’t I lie and say I am in a slump?” (Tougo)


“Hmm… it doesn’t look promising, but I guess it’s a last resort. Well, I guess it’s a last resort. I think there’s a good chance they’ll still see the possibility of coming back and keep you.” (Croix)



 I see. I thought that if Fay simply didn’t me want to go, rather than not wanting to stop me, she would rather give me up, but… no.



“Then, if I say, ‘I’m a forest spirit,’ will he give up?” (Tougo)


“Not a chance.” (Laocles)



 …I guess it’s no good. I thought it would be best to convince them and give up.



“If the Argents finds out a forest spirit that has a human form and able to communicate, he will definitely move you to the forest in his domain… Or maybe, he will use you in some other way. There are so many things they could do.” (Croix)



 Oh, I see. Is it still no good?



“Your forest is teeming with rare creatures, such as unicorns, pegasi, and fairies. If it turns out that the forest where there are a lot of these creatures is yours, they might be included in the ‘business negotiation’. That forest is untouched probably because it belongs to a spirit that humans can’t do anything about.” (Croix)



 …Yeah. That’s no good. I need to reorganize. If people don’t know that I’m a spirit, I’ll have more power to protect that forest. Yeah. Sorry. I wish I had been a little firmer and more dignified, and that I had been able to put pressure on him like, “If you mess with me, you’ll be in big trouble.”



 While I was thinking about this, Ms. Croix suddenly said with a bright smile,



“Ah, I thought of something good. That Argent, do you want me to assassinate him?” (Croix)



 …As a sign it.


 Eh!? Assassinate!?



“Ms. Croix, that’s no good… That’s no good. Um, as expected, it’s a bit… much.” (Tougo)


“Just kidding.” (Croix)



 You were kidding? Yeah. …You’re really kidding, aren’t you?



“Well, even if I’m kidding about the assassination, it might be nice to find and exploit their weakness.” (Croix)


“Weakness?” (Tougo)



 Ms. Croix said it in a relaxed manner, that I didn’t think she had said that after saying something so disturbing, so when I asked her again, she answered while shaking her finger playfully.



“Yeah. If I do a little digging, I might find one thing that hurts. Others… For example, if you make threats like, ‘I’ll wipe out all the forests in your territory.’ How about I say it for you?” (Croix)



 …Wouldn’t that be as bad as assassination?



“Well, if possible, I don’t want to attack the other person that strongly…” (Tougo)


“… Well, I suppose you’re right. We can’t carelessly touch them and give them an excuse to suppress us by force.” (Laocles)


“Really? If all the fairies and magical beasts in Argent territory returned to Redgarde territory with Tougo, wouldn’t they be part of the attack force?” (Croix)



 I don’t know if I’m capable of doing that in the first place… I wonder if I can call at least some rats if I blow a flute like the Pied Piper of Hamelin.



 Then I thought about it for a while. But I couldn’t come up with any good ideas.



“If it’s possible, I wish Mr. Argent would understand how I feel.” (Tougo)



 I think that would be the best idea.


 But I also think that is the most unlikely to happen.



“Well… I don’t think he would be the type of person who would tell you not to pick a flower when it’s blooming. He probably only looks at flowers with the mindset of taking them by the roots, displaying them in his mansion, and throwing them away when they wither.” (Croix)


“I wish he had the heart to use them for decoration.” (Tougo)



  I know that there are people who can’t understand each other. Uncontrollable differences happen everywhere. Whether it is intended or not.


 Even if you can come to terms with each other after a lot of bloody effort, there are times when you can’t see each other eye-to-eye. It is quite common that even blood relatives cannot understand each other.



 …However, I think it is not good to neglect the effort to understand each other from the beginning.



“I got it.” (Tougo)



 I thought it would be stupid or foolish, but I suggested it.



“I think, I want to work things out through negotiation.” (Tougo)



“…I haven’t heard from Mr. Argent how he feels about my paintings, but I haven’t told him how I feel either. I’m not sure how I feel about it.” (Tougo)



 When I said that, Laocles and Ms. Croix looked a little surprised… And then smiled unexpectedly.



“Yeah. I think that’s just who you are.” (Croix)


“…we’re getting ahead of ourselves too, aren’t we?” (Laocles)



 …It’s a bit of a relief to be accepted by both of them. I’m glad. I thought they would disagree.



“Then you need to be firm and think about what you have to say. You might not be able to get the words out when the time comes, right?” (Croix)


“Yeah. I’ll try writing a letter. I don’t think I’ll be able to say what I want to say if we meet in person.” (Tougo)



 Relieved that they agreed, I immediately began to think deeper. How should I write it? I’m not good at choosing words, so I have to think a lot.


 But I feel much better than thinking about assassination or the Pied Piper of Hamelin.



“Well… If the negotiations break down, then I’ll give up and look for another path…. I’m sure Fay is also prepared.” (Croix)


“That’s right… That’s right. In that case, maybe we should consult with Fay. So, Tougo, you should write a letter to Fay first.” (Croix)



 Yes, that’s right. I need to talk to Fay before I talk to Mr. Argent.


 I’ll talk to Fay and decide what to do. If it doesn’t work out, then we can say together, “It didn’t work out!” And get depressed together. Then we’ll think about what to do next.


 Yeah. I’m sure Fay will forgive me. I hope so.


 Because Fay… is my best friend.



“Well, if that doesn’t work, then let’s assassinate the old man, Argent.” (Croix)


“Ms. Croix, uh, that’s really a bit…” (Tougo)


“Oh. I might have to do it when there’s time, right?” (Croix)



 Please, please don’t do it even when you have time…



 Then I wrote a letter to Fay.



“I want to decline Mr. Argent’s offer, but I’m hesitant because it might cause trouble for Fay. I would like to consult with you if possible.” (Tougo)



 …The Houou flies away holding a letter. At full speed, the Houou is fast. The letter will probably arrive today.


 Until I get a reply from Fay, I’ll summarize what I want to tell Mr. Argent. I will need a lot of drafts before I can write a clean letter. Yeah, I’ll be a little busy.



 …That night.


 I was writing out what I wanted to say to Mr. Argent and wondering how to put it together into a sentence when suddenly there was a rustle outside my window.


 I wondered what it was, so I opened the window… and heard the familiar sound of wings.



 I rushed outside and sure enough, there they were.


 …There was the Red Dragon.



“Fay!” (Tougo)


“Hmm? …Oh! Tougo! There you are!” (Fay)



 Fay got off the Red Dragon, immediately spotted me, and ran towards me.



“I received your letter!” (Fay)


“Yeah, um, aren’t you quite fast…?” (Tougo)


“Huh? Well, I received a letter from Houou in the Royal Capital.” (Fay)



 …The Royal Capital? Huh, wasn’t Fay in the Redgarde territory?


 When I looked back at Fay confused, he scratched his head a little uncomfortably.



“…As expected, I’m angry that the offer can proceed without the Redgarde family. Even if I sent you away and it’s too late, I’m still going to chase after you!” (Fay)



 When Fay said that… he then patted me on the back.



“So, Tougo! Let’s go to Mr. Argent’s place together! And let’s say sorry together! If he gets angry, then that’s it!” (Fay)





 Somehow, I feel better.


 If Fay is with me, I feel like I can say exactly what I want to say.



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