What I was wearing now were the clothes I had acquired(also known as stolen) from the corpses. But this physical evidence might be the ruin of what had seemed like a perfect crime. And so I decided to offer some information as part of a plea bargaining.
“What is it?”
It was difficult to say.
“Speak up now.”
The village chief’s eyes seemed to narrow.
“The clothes that I’m wearing. They are from the corpses. I was only in my undergarments when escaping, and I was cold. And I also thought that I would attract attention if I wore white in the forest…”
The chief looked at me for a while. Then he closed his eyes and sighed.
As for Gein, he waved his hand as if this was nothing.
“Everyone loots from the dead. Think nothing of it.”
“Well, I’m not impressed. So, do you have Desto’s clothes?”
“Desto? What did he look like?”
“He had gray hair and brown eyes. And he was a little taller than you. Not thin, but not fat either.”
“He also had a scar on his right hand.”
I didn’t notice any scars on his hand…but the driver had gray hair.
“I think this is his jacket.”
I took it off and handed it to them. The air felt quite chilling.
The chief took it and gave it to his wife.
“Mefica. Show this to Melissa so that we can be sure.”
She accepted it without a word and left the house.
“Now, Ajifu, was it? How many of these bandits were there? And how were they armed?”
“There were six of them, and they all rode on horses. Three had spears and three had swords. Their clothes looked like fur that was haphazardly wrapped around them.”
“Six riders, eh…? Mister Nyle, this is too much for the village to handle.”
Gein said with a grimace. But the chief stopped him.
“Well, wait. Ajifu. Was that really all of them? Where was their base?”
“I’m sorry. I only saw six on the road. And it’s not like I was taken to their base, so I don’t know if it exists or if there are others.”
“Hmm. Unfortunately, we can’t trust you completely. You might be one of them, and betray us in the middle of the night. That being said, we’ll talk about that after Mefica returns. By the way, Ajifu. Have you eaten?”
“No. To be honest, I feel like I’m about to faint.”
I had been sent to this world right before dinner, which was around midday in this world. So I had missed two meals already. And then there was the nervousness of having to fight and the long walk. I felt dizzy.
“I see. While it won’t be much, you can eat here if you like.”
So saying, the chief brought some bread and soup from the kitchen. The bread was very dry, and the soup was cold and seasoned with nothing but salt. It would not have been considered good under normal circumstances, but it tasted delicious to me.
All the tension that had built up in my heart since my arrival seemed to dissipate. And when I let my guard down, tears started to well up in my eyes.
“Hey, hey. Surely it’s not good enough to make you cry?”
“What? Are you insulting my wife’s cooking?”
“No, I didn’t mean it like that…”
“I’m sorry. I suppose I felt the kindness and I…”
“Oh, so you mean it doesn’t actually taste good?”
“No, it is good.”
The three of us looked at each other and laughed. They weren’t bad people, from what I could see.
As we talked, Miss Mefica eventually returned.
“It is definitely Desto’s. Melissa cried when she saw it. I think I should watch over her a little longer tonight.”
“According to Ajifu, it sounds like Rudy wasn’t killed. Isn’t that right?”
“Yes. The boy was tied up and put in the back of the carriage.”
“They are likely thinking of selling him as an illegal slave. If we hurry, we might be able to rescue him. What happened to Desto is unfortunate, but you should do what you can to comfort Melissa and tell her to be strong.”
Miss Mefica nodded firmly and then left.
“I doubt the bodies will still be there by tomorrow, but it’s too dangerous to go and investigate it now. But as there might be something remaining, I’ll send some people out to go and look first thing in the morning. At the same time, we’ll have to send out a request to the Powarso Adventurers Guild. After all, we have to report the failure of the escort mission as well as receive the payment for breach of contract.”
I raised my voice, and the two looked at me.
“If you’re going to make a request at the guild, could you use this as part of the payment?”
I took out a gold coin from my pocket and put it on the table.
“But that’s a gold coin! I’m surprised the bandits didn’t take it from you!”
“If it’s a request to kill more than six bandits, then it will cost three pieces of gold at the very least. While I appreciate the offer, are you certain?”
I nodded firmly. After all, it wasn’t my money to begin with.
“Now, considering the situation, we cannot allow you to roam free until the bandits have been properly dealt with. That means you will have to sleep in a locked shed at night. Understand?”
“Of course. As long as I have a roof over my head. And…I know this might sound arrogant after all you’ve done for me, but I have a request.”
“What is it? Say it.”
“I have no money, no belongings and nowhere to go. I will do anything! So can I stay in this village?”
I pushed my forehead into the table and asked with all the earnestness I could muster. Some might say that I looked bad, but survival was important.
Going along with them and registering at the guild, participating in the raid and finding a treasure in their hidden base. It’s the start of a new life as an Adventurer! No…that was ridiculous!
“Hmm… While it’s true that we lack working hands… Well, I will consider it once the bandits are defeated.”
“Thank you! I’m very grateful!”
Gein then took me to what looked like a storage shed.
“A pot will be brought for you, so you can do your business in that.”
It was pitch black after he closed the door, but I was so exhausted that I fell asleep as if collapsing.
The next morning, someone hit me until I woke up. I was then fed some bread and soup, and then a rope was tied around my waist so that I could guide the others to the bodies.
Just before leaving the village, we encountered some children that looked like they would be elementary or junior high school age. Gein said to them,
“There may be bandits in the area, so don’t you dare go anywhere close to the forest.”
He warned. But the children replied lightheartedly.
“Should they really be left alone?”
“They are fully-fledged hunters in their own right. They know how to stay away from danger.”
He said. This world was like Sparta, huh.
We arrived at the spot with the bodies without meeting any bandits. The bodies were gone. It was as if they had never been there at all. Apparently, they had been eaten by monsters, and slimes ate whatever was left after that. However, as a few items that had belonged to the three were scattered around, they were able to be retrieved. But even slimes could melt metal with enough time, and so the gold coins were gone.
When we returned to the village, we bumped into the boys who were on their way back from a hunt. They were carrying a horned rabbit. Not only that, but the rabbit had a new slash mark on its left cheek.
“Did that happen while you were all hunting it?”
“No, it was already there. Right?”
“Yes, it wasn’t us.”
They said. And I couldn’t help but exclaim,
And I clutched onto it as if nothing could stop me.
They then asked me what I was doing, and so I told them of the heated battle that had been waged the previous day.
“That’s a lot of emotion over a Horned Rabbit.”
They all laughed. Apparently, it had been defeated with one arrow and a single stab with a short sword.
While I wasn’t completely satisfied by this conclusion, at least I was right about it being called a ‘Horned Rabbit.’ It was too predictable.
Apparently, the bandits were defeated after that by the hands of Adventurers, but as there were not enough Adventurers to deal with every request, there were other incidents occurring at the same time. Upon realizing how dire the situation was, the neighboring town of Powarso had its guild call in a D-rank party for support, as they were in the area. But they had to wait for their arrival, which was why the whole thing had taken longer than expected. Well, I now knew that Adventurers had ranks here.
While they had even destroyed the bandit base, it seemed that young Rudy had already been sold.
And though they continued to search for clues, finding a slave who had entered the shadow market was considered impossible. Melissa cried for days after that. She could be heard from outside her house, and I felt terrible.
It wasn’t as if I could have done anything. But in my heart, I kept muttering, ‘I’m sorry.’
In any case, the bandits were dead. And so I was able to work in the village.