Most of the larger chapters don’t have an actual title. So this is just chapter 2.
Section 1 : Relton Village
“Oh yes, welcome and thank you for coming. Please allow me to express my gratitude on behalf of everyone in the village.”
The person talking here is Mister Chris, and he is the village head for this Relton village. He had wispy white hair and a thick, overgrown beard. His back was bent, and in one corner of the room you could see the cane he would need in order to walk. He was the perfect sample for what an old grandpa would look like.
“No no, this is our job, so please raise your head.”
Right now we were in the village head’s reception room in order to hear our client’s, Mister Chris’s, story. While Toslin was discussing things with him looking the most formal I have ever seen her, Carol and I were sitting back on his leather sofa.
“I am Tosrillon, dispatched here from the Warrior’s Guild. Standing next to me is my companion Rosalith, and over here is………….oi…….at least sit up straight when you’re being introduced.”
I got flustered hearing Toslin’s exasperation and quickly sat up, straightening my back. But, Carol stubbornly remained limp looking as if her soul had already left her body.
“Because……….we’ve been walking through the snow all day………and my stomach keeps grumbling and grumbling………..”
“Haa……..um, this here is Iris, and that exhausted lump is Carotayle. My deepest apologies, we did a forced march through the snow-covered road to get here as quick as we could.”
Toslin turned back towards the village head and made a bitter smile. But I saw it. Just before her line of gaze turned back towards the chief, she was giving Carol a tremendously severe glare.
“No no, we are already more than grateful that Rifront could send someone at this time of year. You all must be tired and hungry, so sit back and take a load off. I’ll guide you to the inn as soon as we’re done here.”
“Eh, really? Hooray! You get what’s going on Grandpa!”
Carol’s ears perked up, and she sat up with a start. It goes without saying that Toslin’s fist came soaring down on her head.
“You be quiet for a bit.”
“Agh………..gaaaa………..Iris……. Toslin, Toslin………..she attacked me”
“R-Right………….she did………. But, let’s quiet down for a bit. At least until Toslin finishes with our job…………..”
Still writhing in pain, Carol laid over and set her head on my lap. I couldn’t help but make a wry smile as I started petting her head.
“Hohoh. A werewolf………..right? It’s been a very long time since I laid eyes on one, but she appears to be an energetic girl.”
The wrinkles on the village head’s face deepened as he smiled while watching Carol.
“Ah, um……….Carol is……….a half. But everything is okay. She’s a really good girl.”
I unconsciously hugged Carol closer to me as I stumbled over my words. The village head stroked his long beard with his hand for a moment before soon making a gentle smile.
“Hohohoh. I think so too. When you’ve lived as long as I have, you become an excellent judge of character. And I certainly don’t feel anything bad from any of you. And above all, with a priestess traveling together with you, I can be doubly certain you’re all good people.”
The village chief’s eyes fell on Rose who had yet to open her mouth since entering the chief’s home.
In spite of his warm smile, Rose refused to look at the headman. Not only that, but she hadn’t even greeted him when we walked in.
“Um, Rose has taken a vow of chastity, so when it comes to people of the other sex……….”
Talking aside, she’s not even supposed to look a man in the eyes. One part of Illya’s teachings are that while a priest or priestess is still inexperienced, they are strictly prohibited from interacting with a member of the opposite sex. It’s so that the clergy can listen to the Goddess’s voice without being seduced by temptation………….I remember Rose told me about that before.
“Yes, I am aware. For generations my family has had faith in the Goddess.”
The headman turned to Rose and offered a few words of prayer.
“Indeed. then if it’s all right with you, I’d like to hear about our job.”
“Of course. Well then……..”
Stroking his beard again, the headman started explaining the situation to us.
“Now as I’m sure you are already aware, this village has a specialty product called drowsy shrooms. This year as always, we send out multiple shipment over to Rifront, but it sounds like our third shipment never made it. A messenger bird came to me just the other day and delivered a letter explaining things.”
“Uh-huh. So then the previous two shipments were safely delivered without issue.”
“That’s right. The wagon drops off the shipment in Rifront, and it comes back here to get reloaded……….and then we repeat the process. But the last shipment left five days ago, and we can’t get ahold of the villager who was in charge of delivering this shipment.”
“If he left five days ago, then they should’ve gotten to Rifront already even with the snow slowing them down. If they still haven’t shown up despite that, then maybe they ran away with the delivery?”
Carol raised her head a bit and came up with an idea. However, the headman solemnly shook his head denying it.
“No, I highly doubt that. That villager, he’s my son. My son………Quinn is not the type of man who would do something like that.”
“Hmm. Well then, something must have happened along the way then.”
“Don’t carelessly say things like that. Try to have some tact.”
“No, I already know the probability of that being the case is high. I’m hoping that the wagon has only broken down, and he’s trying to get it moving again even as we speak, but…… Please, help me find my son…………..”
The friendly smile that had floated across the headman’s face until now suddenly disappeared, and a grave shadow was cast down.
“Nn~………….you want us to look for him, but…………..where would we even start……..”
Toslin tilted her head to the side, clearly troubled by the request. Even when walking under normal conditions, there is a significant distance between this village and Rifront. Who knows how many days it would take if you were to search everywhere between them in all this snow.
“Um……..if something did happen, I think it would have happened near the village………but………at the very least, your son should still be in the Swansea Forest.”
Even though I was absolutely certain of this one thing, I could still only manage a shy mumble.
And suddenly everyone’s gazes, including Toslin’s, were suddenly focused on me.
“Well, because……….didn’t Toslin see it too? When we were on the highway and took the northern path at the crossroads, the snow hadn’t been disturbed at all.”
“Ah…….Ohhh…….. Wasn’t it?”
“It wasn’t. We didn’t come across any tracks from other wheels having passed through even when we got to the forest. It took us two days to get from Rifront to this village. Take into account that it would have taken him longer because his wagon weighed so much more……….maybe three to four days? We haven’t had any snow here during that time. It stopped snowing in Rifront before then at least. Is that true for here too Village Head?”
“Y-Yeah……..it hasn’t. Yes, it definitely hasn’t snowed here since then.”
“I see, good job Iris! If that’s the case, then we should be able to handle it.”
“In short, the tracks the wagon left behind should lead us right to where the delivery is. Easy peasy.”
Carol was laughing about how simple the job was going to be, but I was shivering just thinking about having to step foot back into that forest again. Because, there might be more goblins in there. While my back was quivering and my imagination was running wild, Toslin turned back towards the village chief.
“Speaking of which, we encountered some goblins and even a golem on our way here, but have there been any reports of monsters in this forest?”
“Gob-Goblins? And a golem you say? No, I’ve never received any kind of news like that before. But, it is a large forest, so it makes sense that monsters would live there………”
“I see………actually, we heard from a fairy that her village had been attacked by some goblins, and it seems like a dark elf was behind it.”
“Yeah yeah. That fairy ran away towards us, and a bunch of goblins followed after her…….”
I recalled the foulmouthed fairy. She didn’t leave a very good impression, but I still feel sorry for her. Suddenly Rose’s eyes met with mine, and we shared a bitter smile.
“A fairy………and a dark elf? It’s surprising enough there was a fairy village so close by, but for a dark elf to appear here……….”
“Yes. Which is why I believe it would be for the best if this village were to be on high alert for a while. If the fairy’s story is to be believed, then the goblins and golem we saw were following the dark elf’s orders.”
“But right now……..that’s going to be difficult……..”
The village head ran his hands through his grey hair and let out a deep sigh.
“Um, by right now you mean…….”
Toslin’s question got back a weak expression from the headman in response.
“Ah, that……. Didn’t you notice anything out of the ordinary when you walked through the village?”
“Notice something………….? What was it………?”
“Hmm~……….Nothing really. I thought it was a really small village.”
“Just because you thought it doesn’t mean you have to say it.”
Toslin lightly hit Carol’s head.
“That……….hurts, enough…………Toslin always resorts to violence right away. Ah, did Rose notice something?”
Carol put her finger to her cheek, but Rose could only give back a troubled look.
“Rose can’t speak right now, so don’t try dragging her into this. Well I give up. It’s time to hear from our staff officer Iris.”
“S-Staff officer……….I’m not such a………..maybe, there aren’t enough men to help? I only looked for a bit, but the village square only had women and children there………..”
“You’re quite observant. Actually, all of the processing our drowsy shrooms go through are done by our women, so there are almost no men in our village during winter. They all left once winter started, working away from the village, so……….in the end, we’re in trouble………..”
The village head made a pensive groan. At that time, Rose nudged Toslin’s shoulder.
Even without being able to say a single word, you could still see the extraordinary sense of justice Rose had in her eyes, and we could all tell what she wanted.
“No, it’s impossible. Goblins are one thing, but a golem as well is just too much.”
Toslin’s opinion was reasonable, and it looks like Rose understands that. However Rose’s personality won’t allow her to leave someone in trouble just as they are. She’s already completely sympathized with the village head which was why she was slowly becoming teary-eyed in front of Toslin.
“Ah, aaah…………I got it…………. I got it, so stop making those eyes at me I’m begging you. We’ll manage somehow. We’ll manage, right Carol?”
“What? I can’t make any promises, but I’ll do my best if the reward’s good. Since we already know what our prey is, we can figure out some way to fight them.”
During times like these, Carol’s composure really is amazing. The fact that she can look so cute and yet be so businesslike gives off a mysterious feeling.
“Um, I guess we’re in agreement then. How about in addition to searching for Quinn, you tack on clearing up those goblins and the golem onto the request? Of course……….the search will be our top priority, so you can just add on any monsters we kill as a bonus reward.”
“Oh, that is better than I ever could have asked. So long as you all are okay with it, then please help us as much as you can.”
So in addition to the regular request we got from the guild, we now also have the job of subjugating any remaining goblins and the golem. Putting the golem aside, goblin extermination is a job that’s been repeated many times over in the last thousand years. What kind of ecology does a goblin have that they haven’t gone extinct yet?
I often read in books that they come from underneath the soil, but that may not be totally accurate.
“Well then, that’s how it is. We’ll drop our stuff off at the inn and get everything prepared, so you two go gather what information you can at the workshop.”
Toslin made that announcement several minutes ago before taking Rose over to the inn. Right now Carol and I have intruded into the village’s only workshop where they process the drowsy shrooms. By the way, the workshop is located in the center of the village, and it is by far its largest building.
“Uwa………..this mask is stuffy………”
Before entering the workshop, Carol and I were told we had to wear a cloth mask that covered our nose and mouth.
“Bear with it, it’s just for a little while.”
The woman grinning next to us was Ryland, one of the managers put in charge of this corner of the workshop. However despite the responsibility she holds, she looks pretty young. Around thirty maybe? Like many of the other employees, she’s married, but her husband is working away from the village. “It makes it easy to stretch my wings,” she laughed, but the face she made afterwards seemed to be saying, “Well, it is a little lonely on my own.”
“So then, what would you like to hear? I doubt you’ll hear anything useful from me though.”
Ryland turned back towards us with the smile that was clear to see even behind her cloth mask. But in front of us, there was a big…………I wonder what you’d call it? For those lotteries they hold in shopping districts, somebody would turn a handle, spinning a container around and causing a colored ball to roll out? A single woman was turning the handle to a huge one of those things.¹
This giant contraption was entirely made of wood, and you had to look up to see the whole thing. Yes, the building itself was the size of a chapel, and you could fit about a hundred people in here. And yet it’s still amazing that they managed to fit in three of these machines I just described, and it makes for a spectacular scene watching these machines in the center of the room each spinning around.
“Umm, these things, what do you use them for?”
I know this probably doesn’t have anything to do with our job, but I’m really curious.
“Ahh, these things. This is where we put in the drowsy shrooms. Since only the mushroom’s spores are used for medicine, we use these machines to separate them from the rest of the mushroom. They’re pretty big right~?”
As she was explaining things the tumbler stopped its spinning, and a woman opened a door. Then another woman grabbed a shovel, scraping off the spores inside and shoving them into a crate. I see, if I had to guess, then these masks are so that nobody inhales the spores. Breathing in the spores would cause drowsiness, and that would make it difficult to keep working. Once the crate is filled with spores, it is taken away to be stored somewhere in the back.
“Well then, what’s in this box over here?”
Before I knew it, Carol had scampered off to one corner of the room and had started digging through another crate that was being kept there. This box was big enough that you could fit a whole Carol in there. Looking around there were actually several boxes similar to this scattered in different parts of the warehouse, and it piqued Carol’s curiosity. Mine too of course.
“Ah, those. They’re mousetraps.”
“Mousetraps? What kind of mice do you get here that you need such a huge trap?”
“It’s because there’s barely any food for wild animals around this time of year. Hungry mice often sneak in here and try to eat the mushrooms. They aren’t that big, but we get a lot of them.”
“Ohh, hey there’s a bunch of birdlime in here.”
“Yeah, you’re right. By the way the ingredients for this birdlime is made from the spores of the drowsy shrooms as well.”
“Eh, is it really?”
“When you heat these spores up, they melt together and get really sticky. The stuff hardens back up again as soon as it cools down again, but adding in a little beeswax makes it last a long time. We never knew about it until recently when we were trying to make some sleeping pills from the spores. Now that we do know though, we’re trying to commercialize it for extra profit.”
“Wow, that sounds like a good idea.”
“So in this village, we tell any naughty kids who are up to mischief or refuse to listen that we’re throwing them in these crates. That usually settles them down.”
Ryland gave Carol a wink as she talked.
“Was auntie told that growing up too?”
Ryland had a hearty laugh when Carol asked that with a straight face.
“Ahahaha. Yeah that’s right. You get it little werewolf girl. That’s why if you do anything bad, I’ll be sure to throw you in here too. Ahahahahaha!”
Somehow looking at Ryland, I can’t help but think that it might not be that she found this really funny so much as she just has a really loud personality.
“Muu. I never do anything bad!”
I was wondering just whose mouth was saying that, but I buried the urge to say my thoughts out loud deep down.
“Um, about what you were saying before, when shipping the spores for medicine, do they have to be shipped in much smaller volumes? Do you have to carry them in bags or pouches or something?”
“Ahh, after processing the spores into medicine, we pack and ship them in this.”
Ryland pulled out a small glass bottle that fit in the palm of her hand.
“In this room we separate the spores from the rest of the mushrooms, and then in another room we shake them again to get rid of any impurities. Then in that room over there we boil down the spores into our medicine and bottle the final product. Simple right?”
The village’s greatest workshop is too big, and it’s impossible to see the whole work process at one time. In addition everyone is wearing a mask making it impossible to tell what their expressions are, but judging by the small talk that was going on while they worked, it seems like a generally friendly and peaceful atmosphere here.
“Also then………how much product is there in one shipment? Specifically, I’d like to know how much was delivered on the third shipment if possible.”
“Hmm. Wait just a moment. Let’s see………third shipment, third shipment”
Ryland started flipping through a records book she had in hand.
“The shipment Quinn took five days ago………..150 bottles. That wasn’t that much. Usually we ship twice that amount, but we shipped less than normal that time because we weren’t sure what the conditions on the road was going to be with how much it had snowed before he left. One wagon should have been able to deliver this with ease.”
“I see……..was the wagon pulled by a donkey then?”
“Ah right. Our village uses horses.”
I write out a small memo of the proximate weight to make sure I don’t forget.
“Why did you want to hear that?”
Carol was looking over my shoulder, curious about my memo.
“Oh, I thought if we knew the weight of the wagon, we might be able to tell which wheel tracks carved through the snow were his.”
“I see, so the weight makes it sink into the snowy road? And knowing the weight can tell us how deeply the wagon would’ve sank.”
Although we knew for sure that the wagon was still in the forest and hadn’t made it to the highway, there were tracks all over the forest floor leading up to there. If we can’t narrow down our options even a little, it will be quite difficult figuring out which one we are supposed to be following.
“There’s just one last question I have to ask. Is there anywhere around this village where you could hide yourself? Ruins, or anything like that?”
This was a question Toslin told me to ask in advance. I didn’t want to dwell on it, but it’s in anticipation that he was attacked by bandits or thieves.
“Nn~, a place where you could hide……..is it? I’ve never heard about any ruins being around here…………as you can see, it’s all just forest here. Does that have something to do with this incident?”
“Yes. We will be looking for Mister Quinn, but in case somebody attacked him, we were hoping to hear about a place where he’d most likely try to take refuge in.”
“Hmm~. I’ve lived in this village my whole life, but the men would be more likely to have an answer for that………….. Ah, but……..”
Ryland’s words suddenly cut off as she suddenly fell into thought.
“But? What is it?”
“Oh, I really don’t think it has anything to do with what you’re looking for, but there were rumors that a witch was living near this village. The adults never believed in it……….well I’m saying that even though I’ve already become an adult myself, but there were still rumors about it………..ever since I was a small kid.”
“A-A witch…………is it……..?”
Someone who appears in many tales of adventure, the witch character. Generally, at least in my imagination, they’re people who set themselves up in a home far away from people, spending all their time studying magic.
“Yes. There’s supposed to be a cave west of here where the witch supposedly lived, but I’ve never seen it myself so I can’t be sure. That being said………..I’m pretty sure I heard that story from Quinn………”
Ryland suddenly got a far-off look in her eye remembering long gone days.
“A witch! A cave! I smell treasure Iris!”
“Treasure…….but we’re not here as treasure hunters.”
Ryland was laughing while I sighed, but then another employee came over and called out to Ryland.
“I’m afraid I can’t be much more help. And sorry, but it’s about time for me to head back.”
“Ah, of course. Thank you very much for lending us your time despite how busy you are.”
I bowed to Ryland as she left, but after a few steps, she suddenly stopped and turned back around.
“Um……….also……..that thing now……….about what happened to Quinn……..”
Ryland was inarticulately mumbling, completely unlike how boisterous she was before.
“I think it’s wrong. Even though my friend is missing, I’m here working like usual instead of looking for him. And moreover we’re entrusting this work with people who have nothing to do with us……….truly, I think it’s inexcusable.”
“N-No……….you have your own circumstances, and……..”
“Yeah, yeah. After all…….I’m just an ordinary housewife. With no men around, I suppose it is best to leave things to professionals if we think monsters are going to be attacking from the forest.”
Ryland was laughing, but her expression was terribly bitter. When I took a look around at everyone else in the workshop, they all had that same look in their eyes as Ryland had right now.
“Anyways……….thank you for this. And as for Quinn, please help him.”
Saying that much, Ryland bowed her head, and suddenly all of the other women in the workshop followed suit.
“Ah, y………yes. L-Leave it to me!”
My chest hurts, and I can feel my eyes getting hot………..but before long I was able to muster up a reply.
1. If you don’t know what she’s talking about, imagine a giant raffle drum, and when you spin it, a single ball is supposed to roll down a groove.