Currently, the only exception to that was Lime, and all that being said, Hiroshi listened to her requests quite often. Of course, he did tell her when something was a no-go.
The problem here was that Fum and Lime were only two years apart. Fum was barely turning 8 years old for her birthday in September. While she was responsible for her age, Fum was still at the age where she wanted to receive attention.
「Boss Man saved our lives, so I’d rather not make him carry a burden just because I want something.」
The way they met was one thing, but it wasn’t like Fum wasn’t attached to Hiroshi too. Maybe she didn’t have romantic attachment like Haruna or Mio did, but she did revere Hiroshi from the bottom of her heart as a good father, a good brother, a respectable guide, and the person who saved her life.
That was exactly why she resisted any urge that occasionally came in to want Hiroshi to pamper her, instead acting as a sensible elder sister.
「Fum, you know you can be a little more selfish, right……」
「I’m the older sister, so I’ll leave that stuff to Lime.」
「Fum, children don’t need to hold back like that.」
Fum attempted to act tough, while Teres and Nora admonished her. Although a certain amount of self-reliance was necessary from the household she came from, there was no reason to be this patient.
「Hey Teres, Nora, can I ask you something？」
Makoto, watching this interaction, suddenly noticed something and spoke up. From Fum’s behavior and Teres/Nora’s expressions she had felt something slightly off.
「What is it, Makoto-san？」
「Is it something Nora and her friends would know about？」
「We’re not in the workshop very often so I don’t know, but has Fum actually been getting attention from Layla=san recently？」
The two of them turned around, and Makoto whispered her question in a low voice so that Fum didn’t overhear. They both returned silence in response. At this point Makoto pretty much knew what was going on.
「Tatsuya, can you go？」
Tatsuya, who had just used oxygen ring on a sneaky raketen ape to take it down, nodded at Makoto. He hadn’t been participating directly in the conversation, but Makoto had used the guild card to convey this conversation to everyone. There was no one here who didn’t get the significance of Teres and Nora not responding, based on what had happened here so far.
「Haruna, Makoto, help.」
While they had decided on what to do, the obstinate Fum wouldn’t give in so easily. Therefore, Tatsuya had asked Haruna and Makoto for assistance.
「Ok, I’ll disassemble it.」
Still, it was unprofessional to just leave the raketen ape’s body sitting there, so Tatsuya left Mio in charge of that. In many ways, it was a convenient resource for Fum and the others’ training, so she had no intention of wasting so much as a drop of blood. The explosive projectile inside its body was especially useful for many different joke items, so she had to make sure that was secured as well.
「And now we have it.」
Fum, who had been focusing her attention on Lime and her harvesting the oveel, did notice Makoto, who had snuck up on her to grab her. Seeing Makoto successfully capture Fum, Haruna helped lift her up. It’s easy to mistake their appearances as fragile, but both girls had enough muscle mass to swing around Hiroshi’s heavy maul with ease. Lifting up Fum by herself was a cinch.
「Let’s just say even if Hiroshi-kun isn’t possible, Tatsuya-san is an option.」
「Now be a good girl and let Tatsuya carry you.」
Fum momentarily forget to resist when Haruna and Makoto spoke. Not letting that breach in defense go uncontested, Haruna and Makoto swiftly set Fum down on Tatsuya’s shoulders as he was squatting down.
「Alright, up you go.」
「I don’t have an issue if all I have to do is carry you on my back. You’re a kid so you really don’t need to be so reserved.」
As he said that, Tatsuya took safe steps as he joined in harvesting the oveel.
「Sis, you’re so high uuup~」
「Well, Fum is older than ya, plus Bro’s a lot taller than me.」
Fum was on the short side for her age, but being two years older than Lime, she was still bigger. Combine that with Tatsuya, who was around 10 cm taller than Hiroshi, and of course Fum’s head would end up being higher up than Lime’s.
「Now let’s grab a buncha these suckers.」
Hiroshi prompted, and Fum and Lime picked out well-ripened fruit to divide among the group. Putting their noses closer, the fruit had a sweet scent and appeared to be delicious. The size as slightly bigger than an adult’s clenched fist, but smaller than Lime’s face.
Harvesting this fruit in droves, which could be classified as a melon and subsequently a vegetable, eventually everything within their reach was gone, and Fum and Lime got down from the shoulders they had ridden on with satisfied expressions.
「Did you get your fill？」
「I’m glad to hear that.」
Fum responded with a beaming smile of joy, and Nora had the same expression on her face.
「Teres is way older than any of us, which makes sense why she wouldn’t be, but what about you, Nora? Are you not jealous？」
「They spoil us a whole bunch before we leave the nest. I am no longer at the age where I miss my parents’ attention.」
Nora responded to Mio’s question with a composed expression. In actuality, the mora tribe’s children left the house at age 12, but before that point it was customary to pour a torrent of love over your children and make all preparations necessary for departure, so while she may have felt lonely at first, getting to this point, Nora was not lonely at all.
And of course, whenever she got the opportunity to meet her parents, both sides showered love and affection on one another with no pretense.
「But I do feel a bit of pity for Boss Man and Tatsuya-san to take the place of a father figure.」
「Neither of them look the age to be having kids that old.」
「Tatsuya-san would make a bit more sense, but Boss Man’s age range is definitely not the age to have big kids like that.」
As they looked at the men and Lime (almost like parent and child)m Teres and Nora sort of felt like lamenting the overwhelming absence of male figures in Azuma Workshop. While they didn’t necessarily seek romantic work partners, they did want something a little fresh, in many ways.
「Oh yeah, Haruna?」
「Don’t think you think Hiroshi and the others look like mothers with their children when they’re next to each other like that？」
「……Mm～、I would want children at some point, but I still haven’t thought that far ahead, I guess？」
Makoto asked Haruna in more of a teasing tone, since she knew how Haruna had been as of late, while Haruna replied with a fairly serious response. Apparently she was thinking about these sorts of things pretty earnestly.
「I sort of get that a mother isn’t quite the same thing, but I feel like I’m not quite up to par with raising children, so probably when I really become an adult, y’know.」
「Haru, if you’re not up to par then we’re out of the question……」
Just as Haruna casually raised the bar, the other girls able to have children let out groans. Fum watched this with a slightly puzzled gaze. She was already quite capable, but in this case, still a child.
「Well, that aside, looks like we’re getting close to the destination.」
Looking ahead of where Haruna indicated, suddenly an open area spread in front of them.
「And now it’s right on the dot for noon, so let’s eat first ‘n then gather.」
「This really is a picnic, huh.」
Haruna said, smiling awkwardly as per usual when they reached the grassland halfway up the mountain. Spreading out a carpet and opening up the lunch boxes could not be anything other than a picnic.
「Well, it’s the real deal after we eat our lunches, so it’s cool if we make this a picnic.」
When Hiroshi said that, Haruna simply figured it was fine if they had some enjoyment. She briskly opened up her lunchbox.
「Wow, another impressive portable lunch on our hands.」
The lunches consisted of sack-style onigiri with numerous well-garnished side dishes. When he saw this, Tatsuya let out a voice of admiration. Then you had people like Mio with her eyes glued to the contents for the past minute. The octogals had already snatched up some of the lunchbox food earlier, so they did not come out at this moment in time.
「I tried packing in a staple menu.」
When she heard Tatsuya’s voice, Haruna explained with a strangely triumphant face. The contents consisted of deep-fried wyvern, garbarensia meatballs, fried komao shrimp, rolled eggs, piled potato salad, etc; an overall staple menu as long as you were fine with what was in it.
「Alright, time to firmly chew ‘n firmly harvest.」
「What should we do？」
「Pick out some monsters ‘n tie ‘em up. There are some things I want all around here that are monster materials.」
「Now that we have our direction decided on, let’s eat, mate.」
At Hiroshi’s call, everyone said “itadakimasu” in unison. After this, everyone gathered up a mountain of materials, returned to Stiren with beaming smiles, going to Crest Cave along the way, introducing the craftsmen to Kakashi and lightly instructing them in the basics of refinement and forging. With the ingredients gathered and a new itinerary in technical education set for the craftsmen, yet another preparation for going to Lorren was set.