Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
In any case, living in solitude was easy. Now I did harbor faint hopes of someday meeting an eccentric woman who would actually love me. However, I’d heard of even prostitutes disliking the company of Beastfallen, so my hopes might just remain a pipe dream.
“I wish I took a cuter form…” Grumbling over something I could do nothing about, I stirred my dinner pot.
I ended up tossing away the rabbit I planned to use as an ingredient when the witch attacked, so I had to make do with some herbs that grew nearby and dried meat that I saved for emergencies. I put some salt and some animal fat that I had wrapped up in leather inside my bag. After a little taste test, I added more salt. This should be enough. All I had to do now was let it simmer for a bit to bring out the flavor, and it was chowtime.
In the meantime, I rummaged through my bag for a compass and a map that I spread out on my knees.
Map of Wenias Kingdom (Revised Edition)
Merchants are welcome in Fomicam, where you can collect rare items from all over the world.
In the capital of Plasta, performances are held in the plaza every week on the day of the goddess.
Specialty: Juicy and tender Roasted Ebl Boar (A huge species of boar native to Wenias).
Warning: Wild Ebl Boar live in the forests. Hunting them is prohibited. Stay on the roads at all times.
I frowned after reading the last part. “It’s not like I went through the woods ’cause I wanted to. Hope you let this one slide.” Muttering an excuse to no one in particular, I estimated my current location based on the position of the stars and the place where I was attacked.
Wenias was a kingdom located roughly at the center of the continent that flourished as a stopover for travelers. Once an isolated land surrounded by mountain ranges, the kingdom created transport routes to neighboring countries by drilling tunnels through the mountains, and thereby successfully attracting many travelers and merchants alike.
Travelers were willing to pay the pricey toll if it meant cutting through the mountains, instead of going the long way around like they used to. The tunnels that they had to pass through were bigger than one could imagine—so much so, in fact, that inns were even built inside if people wanted to rest. The scene created by colorful lights illuminating the stalls and inns was phenomenal. If I were a kid, I would’ve been ecstatic.
Recently however, there were rumors spreading around the neighboring countries of a little problem. Travelers, including merchants, avoided dangerous countries so they wouldn’t get caught in any sort of conflict. Even if their lives weren’t in any immediate danger, a country in chaos meant increased bandit activity.
If that happened, Wenias, which relied on revenue from travelers, wouldn’t be able to survive. Naturally the kingdom’s bigshots began to do everything in their power to solve the problem. Their first step was to strengthen their forces by hiring mercenaries. This information spread both home and abroad, eventually reaching mercenaries like me.
So basically I was on my way to Plasta, the capital of Wenias, in search of work. When I spoke to the guards at the border, they handed me a written invitation and told me to head to the capital. They knew very well that Beastfallen would be huge assets in battle.
It was quite a hassle, however. To avoid the habitats of Wenias’ endemic creatures, I had to take a lot of twists and turns, so keeping a map with me at all times was necessary. I traced my finger over the parchment, its surface scraped and worn-out from countless rewrites.
So I originally decided to make camp here, then went through the forest, and now I’m here. That means Plasta is…
As I raised my head to confirm the direction I was headed, I froze. A hooded figure, illuminated by the fire’s dancing flames, was slurping my soup with a wooden ladle.
I let out a scream. As a half-beast, I had keen senses. Rarely could anyone, or anything, sneak up on me. Yet here I was, completely oblivious to the stranger’s presence. What’s more surprising, it was the strikingly beautiful woman from earlier—the witch—and she was eating my dinner. Even I wasn’t sure why I screamed.
“Hey, stop eating my soup!” Judging from the words coming out of my own mouth, I screamed because someone else was eating my dinner.
The witch let out a disappointed groan as I snatched the whole pot. “G-Give it back!” she yelled. “That is my food!”
“In your dreams! It’s mine!”
“You knocked over my soup earlier! Making me another one is the honorable thing to do!”
“A witch talking about honor? Now that’s hilarious.”
“Fine, then! You leave me no choice, but to use… Sorcery.”
She uttered the last word in a low, intimidating tone that made me choke back on my words. I almost forgot. She’s a witch. I should forget about the soup, grab my sword, and get the hell out of here.
“Listen carefully,” she said. “If you do not hand over that soup right now, I will bring about a famine in the north, a plague in the south, a rat infestation in the west, a drought to kill wheats in the east! Your selfishness will destroy the world, unless you give me that soup now!”
Spoken like a real witch. For some reason, however, I didn’t feel threatened at all. I was used to feelings of malice, hostility, and bloodlust, that I would be able to sense them immediately. Even if I couldn’t, my hand would instinctively reach for my sword regardless. I realized then that she was merely spouting empty threats. For a while, I was torn between my choices.
“Knock yourself out,” I said. But ultimately I chose my dinner. I couldn’t care less about the world as long I was fine. If I died, I would be taking the whole world down with me. I snatched the wooden ladle from the astounded witch and resumed stirring the pot.
The witch wailed. “D-Do you realize what you are saying? Even a demon would care more about the world! Hey, leave some for me!” She latched onto my back.
“You’re pissing me off! Shoo!” I shook her off. A groan escaped her lips as she rolled on the ground.
An uncomfortable silence descended. I stopped my stirring and glanced at the witch. She lay glued to the ground, motionless. It was quite the bizarre sight.
She can’t be dead, right? Not that I would mind if a witch kicked the bucket. In fact, that would be a cause for celebration. But I’d feel awful if she died. I didn’t really want to kill her.
“Hello?” I called out to her gingerly.
“I…” the witch murmured. Oh, she’s alive. Not only that, her whole body exuded an eerie, dark aura.
Did I just screw up big time? She didn’t seem like a threat, but she was still a witch. Who knew what she would do if I pissed her off? Trembling in fear, I pulled my body back.
“I want to have some too…” Her voice trembled, almost like she was pleading.
I felt the tension rush out from within me. She wasn’t angry at all. Give me a break. Why are you acting like some kind of a mistreated, unfortunate woman? She did look pitiful with her tattered cloak. It looked like I was the bad guy.
“I am starving,” she muttered, scratching the ground as though writhing in agony. “I spent the whole day making that soup, working hard since morning… I was really looking forward to partaking of it…”
Her words cut like a knife, and I felt deeply sorry. Me being under attack back then didn’t change the fact that I was the one who knocked her soup over. She also saved my life, technically. Witch or not, I’d be a piece of trash if I didn’t even give her a bowl of soup for that.
“And that soup is incredibly delectable,” she added. “I want to have some too…”
Delectable, you say? I see. I’ll take the compliment. For something I whipped up on the fly, I was actually quite proud of it. With a click of the tongue, I handed a bowl of soup to the witch. I lost.
I could see her face light up even under her hood as she snatched the bowl from my hand and started slurping the soup down directly from the container.
“You are such a tease. You could have given it to me from the start.”
Talk about an attitude. This is why I hate pretty women. Now a pretty witch? That’s even worse.
The witch finished her soup in no time at all. She then picked up the dried meat scraps left in the bowl and tossed it in her mouth.
“More,” she said as she held out her bowl, as though fully expecting her request to be granted.
The audacity. I frowned. Needless to say, I didn’t take her bowl.
“Why are you here anyway?” I asked. “What do you want from me?”
“While I would love to answer your questions, I am too hungry to do so.”
How could someone be so shameless? I glared at her, but she didn’t seem fazed.
I valued my life. I had no plans to fight a witch head-on. If intimidation didn’t work, I had no choice but to give in. But just giving in to her demands for free would not sit right with me.
“I’ll give you another bowl if you answer my questions,” I said.
The witch glanced back and forth between me and the bowl before pushing it onto me, as if saying “I’ll talk, so give me my soup.”
“I am in the middle of a journey,” she started in an indifferent tone. “I am looking for a man by the name of Thirteenth.”