† † †
Now clean, Kei sat down on a chair and suddenly began to speak, 『Now then, where to start』
They were in the furthest room in the village leader’s house.
Kei and Aileen were the only ones in there at the moment. He told the others that he wanted to speak with her and they left the two alone.
Aileen sat cross-legged on the bed and cocked an eyebrow when Kei began to speak.
『…Why are we speaking in Esperanto?』
『I don’t want us to be overheard. It’s just in case,』Kei shrugged.
『So we’re using it as a code.』
『Exactly. Besides English, this is the only language we both know. Just use English for words that you don’t know.』
『Alright. By the way, can you use magic?』
『Yeah,』Kei affirmed her question. 『It seems that spirits are here too. But, the energy drain from using magic is heavy. It definitely uses your life force. I was close to fainting. Now I realize what it meant when they said that you’d die if your mana ran out.』
『That means you’ve used it already?』
『…Yeah. Just a little.』He averted his eyes.
Aileen wanted to ask him what he used it for, but he didn’t look like he would answer, so she gave up.
『——Well, let’s leave the magic talk for later. The problem right now is this world.』Kei stared directly at Aileen and forced the conversation in a different direction. 『I’ve come to the conclusion that this isn’t the game world, but rather a world similar to Demondal.』
『The reason is… Well, there’s a few. It feels too real. Sweat, blood, and everything else has every little detail replicated. Also I don’t think that the NPCs—rather, this world’s inhabitants’ behavior is AI. So on and so forth.』
『Hey, Kei. What actually happened last night?』Aileen asked, looking a little worried.
Kei gave a light sigh. 『Let’s see…』
He summarized his flight while carrying Aileen, the fight against the Hound Wolves, the use of the potion to treat her wounds, and finally their arrival at Tahfu.
『In other words, you went right into a village that just suddenly showed up and one you’ve never seen nor heard of?… That’s quite risky, don’t you think?』
『Yeah… Sorry.』He had no rebuttal.
『Sorry, I’m not trying to criticize you. It just didn’t seem very Kei-like… What happened after that?』Aileen pressed him for the rest.
Kei explained how she stayed at the village leader’s home and how they discovered that the problem was poison. He then told her that in order to determine what type of poison it was, he launched a counter-attack on the bandits.
Aileen’s face clouded over. 『The bandits… You killed them, didn’t you?』
『Yeah… Some of them, anyway.』
『Okay…』she said while lost in thought with her head down and a meek expression.
Kei didn’t know how to respond.
It wasn’t like he wanted her to feel grateful. It was the decision that he arrived at, and to him, it was the best choice. Nothing can change what’s already been done. He didn’t want Aileen to feel guilty about his decisions.
He wanted to convey that to her, but he didn’t know how to say it. Even if he did, it probably wouldn’t change how she felt.
While he was thinking, Aileen suddenly lifted her head, 『Um… Kei.』
『Hm? What is it?』
She stared at him with her wavering blue eyes and gave a shy, clumsy smile.『…Thank you. For saving me.』
Her words pierced right through him. 『…What’s with that. Well, you know—』
Kei smiled and scratched his cheek; a reaction out of character for him. No matter how he floundered, she would still worry about him, huh. Nonetheless, he was able to calm down a little, but he still had no reply.
I’m certainly a selfish bastard, Kei thought.
Kei folded his arms and reclined in his chair imperiously, 『—Praise me more!』
『Woah, your ego suddenly grew! 』
Aileen reeled back exaggeratedly, and when their eyes met they both chuckled.
『At any rate, for those reasons, I believe that this isn’t a game.』
『I didn’t truly think that this was a game, either.』Aileen shrugged slightly. 『With development, replicating reality like this in VR could be possible. But, it’s a little hard to believe that it would happen so suddenly,』she had a distant look as she grumbled and roughed up the sheets.
『I suppose so… And unlike the game, it looks like there isn’t any reviving in this ‘world’. Of course. Of fucking course not, but…』
For argument’s sake, if anyone could be respawn in this world then killing would be a much lighter matter. However, judging from the villagers’ and bandits’ reactions, that didn’t seem to be the case. Everyone—absolutely everyone, felt the same about death.
『Oh… Then we’ll have to do our best to not die…』Aileen muttered seriously as she stared at the scenery out the window.
Kei couldn’t help but think that such an obvious thing was a little strange.
The sound of footsteps shuffling closer came from the other side of the door.
“—Kei-dono. It’s Anka.”
“Oh, it’s just Anka.” Kei stood up from his chair and opened the door, inviting the old woman with her walking cane inside.
“My apologies, did I interrupt something important?”
“No, no, we just finished talking—Aileen, this is Anka, the village shaman. The one who took care of you the entire time you were sleeping.”
“Nice to meet you, it looks like I was quite a bother. Thank you.”
“Not at all, please don’t worry about it.”
“Not at all, please don’t worry about it.” She smiled at Aileen’s manners and murmured, “…How beautiful.” She stared at Aileen with the tiny eyes buried in her wrinkled face. Her eyes shone with curiosity like that of a child.
As Kei helped her into a chair, Anka offered a bag to him.
“Kei-dono. Here are the potions you left with me.”
“Oh, thanks.” He smiled slightly as he took the bag, remembering the potions they lost. Out of habit, he checked the contents. Inside were a handful of full bottles and one half-empty bottle. It wasn’t a terrible loss.
“Looks like the Tanuki kept his paws out of the cookie jar.”
“I meant Bennett.” Kei couldn’t resist telling her. If they were left with Bennett, some would definitely be gone. “Speaking of him, he told me that you treated my cheek. Thank you, again.”
“It’s no problem at all. It was a salve that I made, so it’s not nearly as effective as a potion…. Should I have used a potion?”
“No, that would’ve been a waste. I’m grateful for the treatment.”
A potion would have healed a wound this small in an instant, but it could also be used to treat fatal wounds. A salve, on the other hand, wouldn’t be able to heal something fatal. He wanted to express his honest gratitude for her understanding the importance of preserving the potions.
“Your praise is undeserved… Now then, Kei-dono.” She cleared her throat and sat up straight. “It is shameful, but I have two favors to ask of you.”
“…What are they?” Kei’s expression sobered.
He had only appreciation for this sincere and courteous old woman and he still owed her for taking care of Aileen, so if she wanted help with something then he wanted to do all he could.
But, that depended on the request, of course.
“…The first one is about the potions.” It was difficult to say, but she still said it clearly.
So that was one of them, Kei thought to himself.
Even Aileen, who was left out of the conversation, wore an expression that said, makes sense.
“Injury and illness; they kill people. Death is the inevitable fate of nature—but it’s different when a newborn child has its last breath taken by a fever…” Anka slid off of her chair and prostrated. “This year, there are three women that are expecting. I don’t know how many of their children will survive and grow up. Kei-dono, I know how valuable such a cure-all medicine is, and I would give anything for it. However, please, could you spare even a small portion? Even only enough to save the life of a weak newborn…?”
“Please stop, Anka.” Anka had her forehead pressed to the ground, and Kei helped her back up into her seat.
Kei let out a stressed sigh while she folded her arms and hung her head shamefully, looking very weak.
—The potions are their lifeline.
Even in the game, the materials and equipment needed to make High Potions were high class, causing them to be very rare. From the looks of the people in this world, the rarity of potions was even higher, and he didn’t even know the means to acquire them now.
—He had to choose between being carried away by his emotions or favoring his and Aileen’s lives. There was no need to think. The conclusion came naturally.
“…I’m sorry, Anka,” he said quietly as he let his head fall. “This… We want to hold on to these.”
After hearing this, Anka slowly shook her head with a pained expression. “No… From the beginning, I knew. It isn’t something that we would be able to pay for… Please don’t mind it, Kei-dono. It was just a request from a senile old woman.”
“Sorry…” His feelings of remorse only grew with her sportsman-like conduct. But, he held out.
The room fell into silence. With miraculous timing, before the silence could steep, Aileen asked, “…Then, what about the second favor?”
“Oh, yes… The other request may also be impudent, but,” she brightened up a little bit and looked at Aileen and Kei. “I would be honored if you could teach me the Spirit’s language.”
Kei and Aileen exchanged looks.
“…What do you mean?”
“It’s embarrassing to say, but even as the village shaman, I have little competence with the language of the Spirits. Our village hands down a text on the matter, but I don’t know if it’s even correct.” Then, cautious of anyone else being around, she whispered, “…To tell the truth, no matter how many prayers I recite for my patients, I don’t think there is any effect. I doubt whether or not the wording itself is right…”
“That’ll be easy to do if that’s all,” Kei carelessly answered. This request was small compared to the potions.
“Truly?! Thank you so much…”
Anka looked like she was about to prostrate herself again so Kei and Aileen quickly stopped her.
† † †
It’s just in case: Spoken in English (most conversation is in English, but this chapter there’s a lot of Esperanto!)
Spirit’s language: This is Esperanto, but to people other than Kei and Aileen it’s the language of the spirits.