Chapter 1 Adventure Start
Section 2 A Small Encounter
“All right, we’re going out to buy the supplies we need. You two stay here and make sure to properly prepare for the trip.”
Toslin left those words before leaving together with Rose. Carol and I were left behind in our room, and we both got started on packing together. With that being said, I don’t have much in terms of baggage. As long as I have a change of clothes for the trip, that’s good enough for me.
“Hey, Carol. Is there anything else I should bring with?”
When I asked, Carol sat down in front of the fire.
“Nn~ Not really? As long as you bring a change of clothes and your equipment, Toslin and Rose will prepare everything else.”
I’m just the ordinary daughter of a bookshop owner, so even if we’re talking about equipment, all I have is a short sword my parents gave me for self-defense and and some old, beat-up leather armor. I have a dagger as well, but because I don’t know how to use it that well, I feel like I’d only be increasing my baggage by bringing it.
“You really do love that.”
The words just kind of spilled out of my mouth when I saw the comb currently in Carol’s hand. It’s rare to find a tortoiseshell comb in a mountainous region like this, and Carol would sometimes pull hers out and carefully polish it with a clean cloth.
“Yep. Actually, this is a gift I got from Toslin. You, your hair’s always getting frizzy, so make sure to comb it every day.”
Carol giggled while playfully imitating the way Toslin talks.
“Toslin is always strict with appearances though. Is it because she’s an elf?”
“Toslin is strict on everything. She’s always scolding me for something.”
In an act of self-awareness, a bitter smile floated across Carol’s face.
“And yet, the two of you get along so well.”
“Eh~, you think?”
“I do. It’s like you’re sisters.”
As I said so, Carol’s head tilted to the side.
“Hmm. I wonder. I’ve never had any sisters, so I don’t know.”
“I have a younger sister, so I can kind of understand why Toslin is always being so mindful. Carol is like a younger sister……….Oh yeah, I could comb your hair for you if you’d like.”
“Eh, really? Yes yes, do it do it. I love having my hair combed.”
Every time I ran the comb through her hair, Carol’s ears would twitch and her tail would shake. She probably doesn’t even realize she’s doing it, but the gesture is so cute it makes me want to hug her from behind. But there’s something else I can’t help but to have on my mind while I think about how cute she is. Until now, this small body has been through more hardship than I can imagine.
“Hey Iris, are you going to be working in a bookstore for now on.”
Carol randomly murmured her question while staring at the fire in the stove.
“Yes, perhaps I will.”
“Perhaps…….. So you’re not very sure yourself.”
“It is what the Goddess bestowed after all.”
I made a weak smile as I watched the orange flames sway and shake as well. A vast majority of people get baptized in the church when they turn ten years old. At that time the Goddess reveals to you your occupation. This is the future for the majority of people, but there are those who choose not to follow it. There are some people who aren’t baptized to begin with. Such people are left to discover their own path.
“Besides, I never thought about being anything else. Since long, long ago, my father, grandfather, and his grandfather, there’s always been a bookshop owner from my family in that town.”
“Huh~. Is that so”
“It is. So one day, I just started assuming I would succeed the bookstore as well. My parents surely think the same way.”
“Don’t you hate it?”
“I like books, so I don’t hate it. Now, turn you head forward.”
Carol’s hair is quite fuzzy, so in order to smooth it out, you need light strokes. Every time I comb through, a sweet smell like milk drifts up, and couple that with the warmth from the stove, I was starting to feel sleepy.
“I want to show Iris a whole bunch of things. Hey, do you know about the sea? It’s so big, and the water just keeps on coming and going, coming and going, coming and going. And when you lick the water, it’s really salty.”
Carol took pride in her stories as she mixed in hand gestures to go along with her words. I kept quiet for the most part, only adding in a word here or there to let her know I was still listening.
“Hey, does Iris know why sea water is salty?”
“Long ago, back when this world was what we now call the Primal World. The sea is where the tears the Goddess shed dripped into. That was what was written in a book I read once before.”
“Tch, what do they know? Toslin told me it’s because of all the people who are breaking a sweat while playing in the sea.”
“Ahahaha………..that, might be just a little disgusting………”
“Nn, but………it was really beautiful. Yeah………really very, beautiful.”
Carol’s voice was starting to trail off because of the warmth of the fireplace and the comfort of having her hair combed.
“I see. Then I’d like to see it someday too.”
“Right. Then at that time………I can guide you……… We’ll go south…….. Toslin and Rose will come………..and Iris will………….right?”
Carol started leaning into me as her body lost power. I held Carol from behind and started stroking her hair. And soon enough, all I could hear was Carol’s slow, leveled breath.
The next day, we left the Shining Hen with the late morning sunrise. We placed our baggage onto a wagon which we attached to a reliable horse-like animal called a dolinp. This child here was Goldmund who I mentioned before.
Dolinp’s are different from horses in that they’re covered in snugly hair similar to a goat, and they have thicker, sturdier limbs. They also carry some splendidly large antlers. Dolinps are a wonderful all-purpose animal that can not only be used to pull wagons, but also have its hair trimmed for yarn. Cheese made from their milk is also popular and well known for being delicious, but we unfortunately can’t make any from Goldmund since he is a boy.
“It’s great that we have some nice weather.”
After great pains, we started down a relatively less snowy road and departed from the town of Rifront. In most spots the snow reached up to our waists. However as long as we stick to the highway, we should have significantly less trouble because of how packed down the snow has become from other people walking on it.
“That’s so. This too must be thanks to the Goddess’s benevolence.”
Rose looked up towards the blue sky while walking with Goldmund’s reins. Unlike back at the inn, Rose was now wearing some leather armor over top a robe knitted from dolinp hair (most likely knitted from yarn made out of Goldmund’s shaved off fur) which has high anti-blade resistance…………..and finally there was an iron breast plate that really made her look like a warrior priestess.
She also had a heavy spiked mace hanging from her waist and was carrying a large circular shield on her back. By the way I once tried carrying her mace, but it took all of the strength in my arms just to lift it. I remember then watching as Rose swung that heavy thing with one hand and realized I was looking at a real adventurer right then.
“Aaaaah~, I wanted to see the dragon”
Walking next to Rose, Carol was mumbling about her disappointment. Carol’s appearance wasn’t much different from what it was back at the inn. The differences would be the two daggers visibly resting at her hips and the dark leather armor she was wearing. She also had on a black skirt, black spats, and a worn out dark green cloak. The colors are meant to help blend into the darkness of the night, but they really stand out in this world of white we are in right now.
“You’re still saying that? Is that the only thing you can say now?”
Toslin called up from her spot in the back, watching the wagon to make sure nothing fell out. Today Toslin is wearing thick silver plate armor with a huge two-handed long sword strapped to her back. It looks a little unusual since elves normally prefer more light-weight equipment, but it seems like that sword and armor are something passed down from her ancestors so it must have something to do with her family. Although the idea is the same, it is a type of inheritance very different from my own.
“Where are we going?”
Speaking about myself, I’m carrying my simple short sword you can buy anywhere at the small of my back, and I’ve coated my leather armor in the scales of a snow snake to increase fire resistance. I had a strong, thick skirt that was covering most of the lower half of my body. It’s too cold for just that though, so I put on some knee-high socks. I’m also wearing wool underwear, but that’s a secret. I have my rucksack and leather boots as well which are something I always wear during the winter. Right now I’m walking beside Toslin.
“The neighboring village, Relton. Well, even if we call it a neighbor, you’d have to camp out twice before getting there with all this snow. But we’re putting a rush on this job, so we should only have to stay the one. We just keep following this road east, then turn north at the first fork………..I wonder”
Toslin looked down at her map. The road extending east from Rifront is the beginning of the so-called highway, and it extends all the way to Osnell. The legend goes that this was the route the Hero Ranroot led his allies down in order to defeat the Primordial King Osnell during the Illyarian War a thousand years ago.
Right now we are following the same path that a great hero once took, but whereas he was off to slay a dragon, we are…………..um, what are we going to do?
“Hey, Toslin. I know this might be a bad question, but what’s our job?”
“Oi oi, I explained this before we went to bed yesterday. Are we getting another Carol?”
“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean”
Carol turned around to protest, but it might as well have been an inconsequential breeze for Toslin.
“Relton village specializes in producing drowsy shrooms, but the delivery date’s passed and the goods haven’t come in. So our job this time is to head to Relton and see what’s going on.”
Rose gave me a detailed explanation as I was left slightly troubled with the reaction I got.
“Well, this is an easy job, and if it wasn’t for all the snow, there’d be no reason to ask us. So let’s get it done quick and head back.”
I see. So that’s it. Drowsy shrooms are a type of mushroom you can find around this area, and the spores apparently have some kind of hypnotic effect. They’re used mainly for medicine when processed, but this can only be done during the arid winter.
All of the medicine that is to be used over the year has to be made in this two to three month period. Given that fact, I would think our work here would be really important. Toslin is sighing over how easy our job is here, but my heart is pounding.
Here it is. We might not be facing a dragon, but we are still performing an important job as adventurers with no way of knowing what we’ll face. I’m going to step foot into unfamiliar territory where everything I see will be beautifully shining.
I turned my gaze to our wagon. The wheels were making a heavy rattling noise as they passed over a rut in the road. Goldmund is managing to pull a few days worth of our luggage by himself. I’m surprised how strong he is.
“Rose’s home must be amazing. They let you bring such an amazing child like this with you.”
Rose had entered a monastery before going off on a journey like this, but before that she was apparently a noble lady whose family owned land farther north of here.
“Actually, that’s not the case. I’ve raised this child ever since I was young, and I brought him with me when I left my home for the monastery.”
“Huh? Really? You never mentioned that before………”
Toslin was astonished and looked over at Rose. Carol and I blinked in surprise and waited for what Rose would say next.
“That’s because nobody ever asked me before. But, I believe Goldmund is very pleased with how things turned out. Right?”
As Rose stroked his head, Goldmund whinnied and nodded.
“You, are really okay with that? Well, I suppose he does belong to you, so you won’t get arrested.”
For just an instant after Toslin’s question, Rose’s smile clouded over in a way that made me think of early spring.
“That’s right……..but I’m sure for the people in that house it was a good thing to have him gone, and as a child I was only allowed to keep him as a pet after I promised to take care of him myself. So there was never really a choice to leave him behind…………”
Rose’s sweet smile returned when she was done. Toslin wiped the end of her nose.
“Ah……….things have been hard for you………..”
“No no, I’m actually quite blessed. By entering the monastery, I was able to come by many things that would have been difficult otherwise, and most important of all, I was allowed to meet all of you. I think, this is something I could have never gotten for myself even if I had stayed in that mansion and kept all my wealth.”
“Is, is that so? It’s fine if that’s how it is then……… But to be able to say all that without getting embarrassed.”
“Toslin is quite pitiful too right? You’re the only one in your family who can’t use any magic at all, so now you’re on a journey like this. If it wasn’t like that, wouldn’t you be a knight back in your home country right now?”
“Hoh, so Toslin comes from a knight’s lineage.”
This topic had come up several times before, but this was the first time I was hearing this part of it. Is that why she has such a splendid sword and armor?
“Ah~ well……….. More or less, it’s a pretty ancient lineage.”
“That’s why it was only a matter of time before a weirdo like Toslin was born.”
The back of Carol’s head got beamed by a snowball Toslin threw.
“Don’t call me a weirdo. I might not have any magic that my family is centered around, but I have a strong body to make up for it.”
“Ouch ouch. But you get what I mean. The loneliness from being the only one who is different. Now come, jump into my breasts and cry as much as you want.”
Carol spun around and held out her arms to accept Toslin, but what she got instead was an oversized snowball right to the face.
“But hey. I don’t think there are any breasts there for me to jump in to.”
“What was that!? There are, and they’re getting bigger every day.”
Carol threw her own snowball towards the back of the wagon. However, that amount of snow wasn’t any problem at all for the Toslin wearing full plate armor. On the other hand, Toslin was able to throw as many snowballs as she wanted, and on this narrow road, Carol got hit by every single one of them until she was bent over backwards.
“Wai………..ho, wai………..I surrender, I give up………..pua, wai……………”
Finally Carol was driven off the highway, and after falling into the deep snow around, Toslin covered her in snow.
“I’ll come back to pick you up once spring starts, so just hibernate there until then.”
“Wha, am I supposed to be a flower here?”
“That’s right. We’ll measure how long Carol’s tail has grown once spring is here. Hopefully it will grow better than Iris?”
Toslin looked at me as she joked.
“Wha, what are you so suddenly saying? Compared to Toslin I…………..don’t have any”
“Oh, what don’t you have? If I have some extra on hand, I wouldn’t mind sharing some with you…….”
Walking ahead of us, Rose turned back and said that to me with a carefree expression, and Carol started laughing while clutching her stomach.
“AHAHA, Rose that……….great, that’s great! Iris, you should definitely accept. Ahaha!”
“Huh? Iris, what is it you are missing? Please feel free to confide in me………..”
“That, it, it’s fine, really. I’m fine with what I have, huh? No, I’m not satisfied, but, that doesn’t mean…………”
“Quit hesitating and just go for it! Nfufu, Ahahaha!”
Carol burst out into a fit of laughter while rolling around in the snow. Most of our day from now on was probably going to be filled with Carol’s bright laughter.
“Look……….I don’t really care or anything, but……….”
Toslin turned a pitiful gaze towards Carol and sighed.
“Carol is the one missing the most here. In that place, do you understand?”
At that time, it should go without saying that Carol’s laughter stopped right there.
After about three hours had passed since we started on our way, a fork appeared in the road going north or east. Toslin checked the map and compared it to our current location.
“Yes. This way is definitely north.”
“Which way which way? Toslin’s words can’t be trusted.”
Carol walked to the back of the wagon and stood next to Toslin.
“What was that? You’re usually terrible with directions. Even though you’re a thief.”
“Ahaha, but I’m better than Toslin.”
The Toslin and Carol duo just had one major weakness, and that was the fact that they weren’t very good at reading maps. After all the entire reason why they both came to Rifront was because they were lost.
“N-Noisy, shut up. It’ll be fine if Iris takes a look.”
Toslin seems to be self-conscious about her issues with directions and can’t fight Carol on the point too strongly.
“Ummm, this is, yes………..the map definitely shows a big rock causing the road to change………but, this way’s north.”
“T-That……? Eh, really?”
Toslin looked at me and then back to the map again and again. There was clear laughter in Carol’s eyes as she watched the face Toslin started to make.
“Toslin………you’ve never gotten east and north mixed up before right? Right? I know I’ve never gotten that wrong before.”
Carol was about to burst out into laughter any moment now.
Toslin hung her head as it slowly grew into a bright crimson.
“H, Here. We know the way, so shouldn’t we hurry ahead? It’s stopped snowing, and we have to find a place to camp tonight while the weather’s good”
“We’re going then? Which road are we following?”
Rose called back from the front where she had stopped Goldmund from moving while holding onto his reins.
“Ah, please head to the left.”
At my word, Rose led Goldmund down the northern road. Once again our heavy wagon began to move. The road extending north was slightly narrower than the one going east, but a bigger problem was how much fluffier the snow was. This alone proves there haven’t been any carriages coming through here lately.
“Hey hey, Toslin? Where was Toslin trying to go? Perhaps you wanted to go to Osnell? Hey but, what were you going to do in the capitol? Is that where our job is?”
Just like that Carol kept frolicking around in a circle acting as if she had seized a demon by its neck…………
“Knock it off!”
*BAM* until Toslin’s fist was brought down hard on Carol’s crown.
“KYAaaaaaaa! That hurt, Owwwwwwwwwwww!”
Carol did a somersault through the air and crouched down in the snow.
“Now stop playing and get walking. We have to get to Relton by tomorrow.”
“S, Seriously, stupid Toslin! Violence is wrong!”
Toslin making a mistake and Carol poking fun at her for it…………. A scene I’ve seen dozens of times over the last six months is now once again unfolding in front of me.
“Say something to her Iris! Toslin’s awful”
Recently she’s been trying to get me involved, but more often than not Carol isn’t very sympathetic.
“Mm, yeah. Now let’s stand up and walk.”
“Iris too! Awful, stupid Iris!”
Leaving behind that sharp parting remark, the only person she had left to go to was Rose. And once Rose heard that Toslin and I were bullying her, she replied………
“Oh, is that so?”
And since she knows how to handle Carol so well, she then pulled out a piece of candy and handed it over to her.
“Yeah, that’s right! Wow, this is delicious.”
All of the anger that had been built up quickly melts away, and Carol’s head is filled with only the sweetness of her candy……….
“Wait! I’m not the same Carotayle who is going to do a dance for one piece of candy! Until something is done about Toslin’s tyranny, I’m not moving from this spot!”
That’s how it was supposed to be, but it looks like Carol is learning.
“That’s troubling. I thought we’d have lunch after we walked a little longer, but……….”
“Eh, food? Ah, walking? How much is a little longer? Hey hey, how much?”
But she’s still a child. While tugging on Rose’s sleeve, Carol was once again making merry.
“That should do. Let’s keep going until we can see the forest’s entrance and then take a break.”
Rose pointed her finger forward, and Carol turned back towards us with sparkling eyes.
“Let’s go let’s go, what are you waiting for! The faster we walk, the faster we eat!”
“Yes yes. You don’t have to tell me what I already know.”
“Well then, let’s make some sandwiches together for lunch today.”
Toslin and I watched Carol go, and we laughed. Carol was in high-spirits and was now energetically running through the snow.
However, the lunch Carol was looking forward to would have to be postponed.
“Hold on for a moment Rose.”
Having jumped ahead of us in order to arrive at the forest all the quicker, Carol suddenly stopped in her tracks, pausing for a second before running back to us. This forest is called the Swansea Forest, a place where dense greenery grows even during the winter. The farther you delve in, the more the sun gets blocked by the forest ceiling and the darker it gets. That’s how it got its second name, the Pitch Black Forest. Locals carry lamps into the forest even during the daytime……….at least that was what was written in the book Safe Travel Near Osnell that I borrowed from the library.
“What’s the matter Carol?”
When Rose stopped Goldmund, she suddenly had an index finger put over her lips.
“Shh, keep quiet. Do you hear something?”
We all started listening when Carol asked. However the only noise I could hear was the sound of the wind brushing past the forest leaves. The snow is absorbing any other noise. I glanced over to Toslin next to me, but she looked like she didn’t hear anything either.
“I’m not hearing anything.”
At Toslin’s answer, Carol threw her gaze back into the forest, her ears twitching ever-so slightly.
“There’s something there. People, but no there are too many of them. I wonder……….I’m positive they’re running on two legs……… There’s a lot of them though, and they don’t weigh much……….except for one that is really heavy. There’s something else, it’s……….a person’s voice?”
“A person? What do you mean?”
When I asked, Carol placed her hands behind her ears.
“Just a minute…..um, heh……..heh……..? Heh, they keep repeating the same thing over and over. Heh………..heh, me…………help me, I think?”
We all raised a hysteric voice together. Is there someone in the forest asking for help? Maybe they’re being attacked by monsters?
“Then we go. Goldmund, follow me”
Rose tried to charge forward with her spiked mace in hand.
“Just wait Rose”
Carol stopped Rose before she could go. When something like this happens, Carol’s expression always becomes terribly calm. She’s staring at the forest with a cool look on her face, completely unlike her usual childishness.
On the other hand, Rose always tries taking the initiative and jumping straight into battle. Her usual prudent, caring expression changes into something tougher and more daring. A strong sense of piety and justice causes her to act before she thinks.
“Now now, we’re not going to be able to save anyone if we recklessly charge into a place where we can’t see anything. So Carol, do you know where?”
Toslin spoke up, acting as if you had added Carol and Rose together and then divided them by two. Pinning down Rose’s urge to immediately run off, she worked to figure out what exactly was going on.
“I, I I, I should……..”
I can’t be the only one standing by myself, clinging to Goldmund’s warm fur.
“So they’re there. With Goldmund we…………hm, ah………..it doesn’t look like we’ll have to do anything.”
Toslin’s long ears twitched. I still can’t make anything out, but it seems like Toslin is starting to hear the same things as Carol.
“What is going on? I still cannot hear anything. Is somebody still asking for help or are they safe?”
“Mm, they’re safe they’re safe. They’re heading right for us at a tremendous speed.”
“Hm, are they really human? So fast………….they’re coming right at Rose! From the left!”
Suddenly I was able to hear a person screaming from the direction Toslin was pointing at.
“He, HELP MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! These, goddamn idiots! What did I ever do to you!?”
“It’s not a human! Eh, what is, a fairy?”
I stood and stared when I heard Toslin’s words. I can’t be sure because they’re still so far away, but I’m positive they aren’t human. They’re much too small to be a person. They were also flying above the snow using the wings on their back.
“It’s my first time seeing a fairy at this time of the day………..”
As they got closer, I started being able to make out more details about what was coming over here. Emerald hair and wheat colored skin. She was wearing a bright green dress with frills looking almost like her body was wrapped in an assortment of tied together leaves. I never saw one in my hometown, but sometimes I’d catch a glimpse while I was in Rifront. From a distance I had watched as they did a group dance over a frozen spring. This is the first time I’ve ever heard a fairy’s voice.
“Idiots, you’re so stuuuuuuuupid! I’m seriously going to beat you to death! I’ll beat you to death and use your corpses as compost!”
But, it’s mouth is far worse than what I had imagined it to be. The ones in the book I read had a much more civil tone.
“Let’s go Rose, Carol!”
Toslin shouted while drawing the long sword from her back. Afterwards, tons and tons of little black things appeared from behind the fairy. What are they……….they’re shaped like people………..and they’re certainly running on two legs, but they aren’t human………these are…………
I hugged Goldmund and screamed.