Translator: Haruchin Editor: Marky
It was only after two days that Ash and the others returned.
They’ll be back anytime now — that’s what I thought as I read a book in the rented house, when somebody knocked on the door. I’m not expecting any deliveries, and there isn’t anyone else who would visit me at this time, so it is probably Ash and Butler.
「 Welcome back, you’ve worked hard. 」
「 Mm, we returned safely. 」
Ash’s hair is still wet. She probably entered the bath, er, the tub in her house.
Az was perched on her shoulder as usual, but since he hates wet hair, he flew towards me right away.
「 You could’ve told me so I could heat the bath for you. 」
I nudged Az and he pressed himself on my finger.
「 Here, souvenirs for you… This is quite rude, but I want to request that. 」
She handed a bundle to me; probably some souvenirs from their recent expedition.
Huh? This is quite small for a monitor lizard hide, and it doesn’t look like it’s from a Horned one.
Anyway, let’s set that aside for now.
「 Didn’t you just take a bath? 」
「 I thought it’s somewhat better now, but…It’s bad enough that I want to borrow your bath, although it’s embarrassing. ] A furrow formed again between her brows. That’s a scary face you got there. Yeah, it’s really scary.
「 Ahh…. 」
I also remembered it pretty well; it had been terrible when I entered the bath in my house for the first time in a while back then.
The duration of their expedition this time was longer, and based on the number of people involved, she probably couldn’t take a swim in the river, nor have a steam bath, I guess?
「 I’ll prepare hot water right away. 」
「 Sorry, I know it’s troublesome, but I really can’t stand it anymore. Sorry. 」
I lit the kamado, then put the water that Ash drew from the well into the pot. We just have to wait for the water to boil after putting the pots in the kamado and the fireplace. Yup, maybe I could switch the water here with the hot water from my house while pretending to pour it into the bathtub.
「 I guess a thinner pot is better if it’s just boiling water. 」
All the pots I have right now are quite thick. They’re great for stewing things for a long time, as well as keeping the warmth for a longer time after turning off the heat. Still, it took quite a while for the water to boil.
「 Really, is that how it is? 」
「 Yup. 」
I brewed some tea using water from the kettle that I hung in front of the pot in the fireplace. So, what should I serve with the tea? Well, they could eat nuts during the expedition, so let’s settle for cookies for now.
I took the cookies — checkerboard icebox cookies and round, thick diamant cookies — out of the tin can.
「 Here, have some. 」
「 Thanks. Ah, sorry, but can you please not get too close? I think I still stink.」
「 No, that’s not true, but…if you’re bothered about it, then I’ll do that. 」
So, how close is too close?
A few pieces of rugged black lumps that looked like lava rocks spilled out when I opened the packaging of the souvenir.
「 Jean’s sword is made of plain iron, right? Its tenacity and strength will increase if you fuse it with some magic ore. It’ll be good if you bring it to the blacksmith. 」
Magic ore is usually found in the belly of the monsters living near swamps and riverbanks that have iron. She apparently got these lumps from a lizard that was in a swamp a short distance away from their campsite.
Maybe the monsters also gulped down iron sand along with their prey when they swallow it, and the iron would clump inside their stomach? I had a hunch that magic ore didn’t come cheap, but since she went out of her way to bring them here, I won’t refuse.
「 Thanks. How’s the forest? 」
「 Yeah… Jean, do you have an older brother? ] Ash answered me with another question after she drank a mouthful of tea. She no longer uses -dono; she probably got used to dropping the honorifics.
「 None? 」
「 I see. 」
「 What’s up? 」
「 We met someone who looked like Jean in the forest. 」
「 How was he? 」
I was inwardly flustered. Was my face seen under that robe?
「 He was accompanied by spirits, he could grab the spirits, and he was kind. 」
「 Hm? 」
「This part isn’t similar to you, but that guy gave off a strange aura. It’s as if the attributes kept on shifting. 」
Ah, that’s because a lot of spirits were doing their best underneath that robe. Yup, her description perfectly fits me.
「 One of the guys that took part in the expedition was possessed by a dark spirit, and the deeper we went into the forest, the more abnormal he became. He attacked Nina, the Gold-ranked Archer, but she fought back. From then, the spirit apparently switched to another person, but — 」
So, the Gold-rank trio were Amadeo the guy, Nina the archer, and Roza the robed girl who was also a master of recovery. As for the spirits, I call them black spirits, but they were apparently called dark spirits here. Well, whichever, it’s basically the same, though.
Apparently, even Ash and Butler wouldn’t be able to see the spirits if they hid inside the body, because the owner of the body’s aura and mana were in the way.
「 Where did that guy pick-up that dark spirit? 」
「 Did you know that there’s a war among the smaller nations ongoing in the Central Plains? 」
「 Yeah. 」
I know that there are several countries engaged in scuffles one after another. I don’t want to have anything to do with them, though.
「 It seems that Haldea — one of the countries — used a large-scale magical attack. It has been a long war so the spirits mostly kept their distance on top of there being only a few of them left, so that attack gave birth to a huge mass of dark spirits. 」
「 Is that a stupid country? 」
Hey, even if they can’t see the spirits, as long as they know how it works, they’ll be cautious, right? And since they live in this world, they probably already experienced themselves how damaging black spirits could be, in all likelihood. Then in that case, they’re far worse than Sis, who didn’t have an inkling because she never experienced that damage herself.
So, it seems like that bunch of heroes didn’t have anything to do with this, huh. Wait a sec, in that case, the Guild’s opinion that ‘the black spirits are the effects of wars’ must be correct, then? But then, I don’t think the deities were mistaken with what they told me either, so I guess both scenarios are correct.
Oh, now I’m getting fired up somehow; I want to double my efforts in naming those spirits.
「 Normally, an injured spirit’s instinct is to run away. Very rarely do they attack right then and there to get revenge. 」
「 Either way, it’s still stupid.」
「 Yeah…Haldea probably can’t expect to have a good harvest this year. 」
The hero’s contracted wind spirit pledged to do two things. First was to convince the dragon so that it wouldn’t attack the people on sea. The second was that it would nurture the small spirits with his power even without being in the forest. Because of the second oath, the wind spirit lost its power after losing the source due to the hero’s death. Based on the Snow Leopard’s story, Riche gobbled that spirit, apparently.
To this day, the underlings of that wind spirit carry the small spirits as they blow through the Central Plains. As part of the resulting natural phenomena, lands that were once barren were nurtured to become fertile black soil, and arid lands enjoyed the damp air that spread far and wide.
Thanks to that, people could, albeit barely, cultivate crops like barley; unfortunately, it would be impossible now that the number of spirits decreased. The black soil wouldn’t receive nutrients any longer, and water won’t reach the lands anymore.
「 Come to think of it, Roza-dono speculated that maybe that robed guy was a descendant of the people of Ruf. Well, Ruf’s people are shrouded in mystery, though. 」
Ash lifted the cup to her lips, but she stopped midway to say those words.
— Wow, I just studied this topic very recently.