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The wind carried the sound of rustling leaves over the open land.
The plains. Green land that extended as far as the horizon.
Small fluffy clouds drifted across the beautiful, endless blue sky.
…Sure is peaceful, thought Kei ambiguously as he scanned the area with a sweeping gaze from atop Sasuke.
The scenery was gentle and relaxing. Very relaxing.
However, something in his chest felt like it was smoldering with unease.
That feeling coiled around inside him, prickling at his heart.
The calm wind blew once again, but Kei’s heart was still clouded.
Then, in the corner of his vision he saw a small brown figure squirming about in the bushes. “…Found it,” murmured Kei.
Mandel sat on his horse next to Kei, and at Kei’s words his expression showed his amazement, “Again…? You’re too fast.” He smiled dryly. Tied to his saddle was a rabbit already drained of blood.
Kei lightly kicked Sasuke’s flanks and nocked an arrow on his bow.
The rabbit perked its ears up and poked its head out of the brush at the sudden sharp sound, looking around to see what the noise was. Then the arrow stabbed through it.
It let out a short squeak before dying and all of its nearby friends took off at full speed.
“The wind’s blowing, you know… How—well, at this distance it’s doable.” Mandel put his hand to his brow and sighed at Kei’s nonchalant report, lamenting his pride.
They rode their horses forward and picked up the rabbit, laying on its back as if its feet were kicking the sky.
“Sorry about that,” Kei said as he pulled the arrow from its torso, causing blood to spurt out. Right away, Mandel pulled out a knife and cut its throat.
As Kei watched the blood gushed out and spilled onto the ground, in his hands he felt the warmth of the tiny creature fade away.
“…This should be good enough.”
Mandel took the rabbit from Kei, “Yeah… We should head back to the village,” he said as he looked over the plains while tying the rabbit to the saddle.
It was now morning. The bandits came to Kei’s mind. Originally, they were supposed to already be gone from the village.
But for some reason—he was rabbit hunting in the plains.
† † †
Last night, when Kei realized that some of the bandits got away he thought of what to say to her as he made his way back to the village leader’s house.
Without knocking, he opened the door and walked into the living room, “Hey, Aileen, I have—“
“Onee-chan, open wide~.”
“Mmm~, this is really good!”
“Careful Jessica, it’s going to spill.”
“Aileen-sama, there is plenty more, so please eat as much as you’d like.”
Bennett wore a warm expression while Jessica sat on Aileen’s lap and fed her dinner and Cynthia stared at the three of them affectionately. They looked like a family, happily sitting around the table—
“Ah, Kei! Welcome back!”
She had bread crumbs stuck to the corner of her mouth, and with her innocent smile Kei was at a loss for words.
“Welcome back. Kei-sama, would you like to eat as well? You probably haven’t eaten yet.”
Urged on by Cynthia, Kei sat down across from Aileen. Next to him, Bennet noticed the sword at his side, but looked away and didn’t say anything. It looked like as long as his granddaughter was there he would rather play the grandfather than the calculating village leader.
…I guess he can’t say anything about it in this situation anyway. For now, I’ll just accept her offer, Kei thought to himself. He realized how tense he was and gave a small sigh.
“Here you go. I hope you like it,” she said as she smiled and indicated at the plates on the table. It was vegetable soup with biscuits and pickled pork that was warmed up by the fire.
“Kei, Cynthia’s soup is amazing!”
It was a simple meal, but it was nutritionally balanced. Its sweet fragrance filled his nose.
Even so, he still had absolutely no appetite.
Kei crammed the food into his mouth without really wanting to and without savoring the flavor. He was moved not by feelings like, it would be rude to not eat, but rather, he needed to eat while he could.
Cynthia quickly cleaned up the dishes and then left to take Jessica over to Cronen’s house. Now the only ones left in the room were Kei, Aileen, and Bennett.
“Village leader, of the goods from the bandits, I’ve been given this sword and the silvers. In exchange, your village can have everything else.”
“Ho… Well now.” Hearing Kei’s offer Bennett looked surprised and then stroked his beard while he murmured, “That’s a good deal…” But rather than happiness, his eyes held suspicion. Why would Kei give me such a deal? Bennett tried to figure out the motive behind it.
“The village has done a lot to help us out. This is the least we can do,” without exaggerating too much Kei lied through his fake smile. ‘The truth, it’s cheap in comparison to our lives,’ sounded worse.
“…You’re too generous.” He nodded, perhaps he was persuaded by Kei’s show of good will.
Aileen interrupted, “Wait a sec Kei, don’t you think only taking the sword and coins is too generous? Stuff like armor would be too bulky, but shouldn’t we take some things like arrows or everyday items?”
He had already secretly taken some of the higher quality arrows during the retrieval, but she was right about the everyday items.
With a troubled expression Kei looked at Bennett, who seemed to be choking down a laugh. “Oh my. This young lady has her head on straight, doesn’t she, Kei-dono?”
“Although I do understand your feelings. How about we just say it’s part of your profits?”
“…Thanks.” Kei lowered his head sincerely. It was only natural to be embarrassed after exclaiming with a cocky look that he would only be taking the sword and money.
Kei’s expression caused Aileen to burst out laughing, and even Bennett smiled sympathetically as he tried to hold back his own laughter.
A peaceful quietness fell over them once the waves of laughter died down.
Aileen rested her chin on the table and muttered, “From here on… what should we do?”
“Actually, about that,” Kei spoke up, as if he’d been waiting for it to come up. “I was thinking that we should go to Urvan.”
“…Wai-, Urvan exists!?” Aileen accidentally yelled, but when she looked at Bennett she quietly gasped and clasped her hands over her mouth.
Other than raising an eyebrow a little, Bennett didn’t show much of a response.
The word exists may come off as slightly strange for the people of this world.
“Village leader. I’m sorry, but would we be able to see the map?”
“Yes, of course.”
Kei took the map that Bennett pulled out and showed it to Aileen. He explained Tahfu, Urvan, Kitene, and other geographical points as well as the map being ten times the scale of the game’s map.
Fixated on the map, Aileen put a finger to her lips thoughtfully. “I see…”
“In my opinion, we should leave early tomorrow morning and head toward Urvan. What do you think, Aileen?”
He’d successfully grabbed her attention.
If he kept pushing her and didn’t tell her the real reason, they might be able to get out of here soon. But, his expectations were betrayed.
“…Sorry, Kei. But the truth is, well,” she looked apologetic, “—I can’t really use any of my strength.”
With that, they concluded they would stay in the village for another day or two.
She wasn’t in pain and her mind had cleared up completely, but perhaps due to the after-effects of the poison, she felt heavy and tired easily since her strength hadn’t returned to her. Thanks to this, they were forced to stay longer.
“If possible, I’d like to rest a little longer. If we went like this, then I’d just be pulling you down, Kei…”
“So that’s how it is…”
In the bedroom, Aileen was lying on the bed with a downcast expression.
They were left alone in the dimly lit room. Kei was unsure of what to do.
Aileen even had to steady herself by using the wall as she weakly shuffled her way from the living room to the bedroom. With one look Kei saw her condition was still serious. Right now, her physical strength was worse than that of a normal person. After a few steps she became uneasy. Jessica might even win out in terms of strength.
Originally, I planned for both of us to ride Sasuke, but if we had to fight someone then it would be problematic if Aileen couldn’t move on her own. She wouldn’t be able to fight or even go and hide somewhere, Kei thought.
Leaving was too much of a risk in her current state.
Of course, it would be better to leave before the bandits counter-attacked the village, but her rest was also necessary.
Leaving tomorrow would be too tough, I suppose. Kei sighed and gathered his thoughts. “—That’s how it is.” He raised his head and smiled brightly. “Well, let’s just see how it is after one or two days. Staying in bed for almost a whole day must have weakened your body. It might even be a side effect of the potions. Just rest up and you’ll be better in no time.”
“Y-yeah.” Aileen blinked in surprise at his suddenly positive attitude. “…Well, I guess you’re right! I’ll rest and get better soon! With that, I’m going to bed, Kei!” She smiled and slid the covers up to her face.
—For now, he’d leave the matter of the bandits aside.
That’s what he decided.
They may get caught up in the attack, but there was no point in worrying Aileen. If she did worry then it may slow her recovery, too.
Therefore, he wouldn’t make her worry. While he justified it with good intentions, he knew that the decision was actually for his own selfish reasons.
…Well she should just focus on getting better. I don’t know what will happen from here on out anyway.
He patted Aileen’s head and then stood up.
“I’ll be heading back to Cronen’s house… Good night.”
“Okay, good night.”
Kei blew out the candle and placed his hand on the door knob before spinning around. He suddenly remembered something.
“Oh yeah, Aileen. I forgot to ask since the old woman came here, but it’s about magic. You have some catalysts, right?”
“Huh…? Before we came here I had plenty to use, at least. But can we really use magic?”
“Let me have them. You can’t use them now anyway, right?” He shrugged and stared at Aileen. “Once you get better you should try it. When you say plenty, how many is that? How many times could you use 『Manifest』?”
“『Manifest』, huh… That uses quite a few… With all the catalysts and my mana, it should be around twice.”
“…I see. Well, I guess that’s how it is.”
In other words, they could use『Track』two times. Including what Kei had, three times.
Though we would be better off preserving the catalysts…
Even if he tried to『Track』the bandits that got away, it was highly unlikely that he would guess which equipment was theirs out of all the items gathered. Aileen’s catalysts were easier to obtain then Kei’s emeralds, but they weren’t something you could find in a small village. It would be better to hold onto them rather than gamble them away.
“Why did you suddenly want to ask about catalysts anyway?” Aileen tilted her head.
Kei gave a half smile and lied, “We haven’t decided on the route, even though we said we were going to Urvan. I was just thinking of things to prepare and it came across my mind.”
“…Oh, okay.” Persuaded, Aileen looked up and yawned before she fell onto her side. “Good night… Kei.”
“…Good night. Aileen.”
Kei closed the door.
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