Prologue Part 1
「This is probably the entrance.」
「Yup, seems like it.」
They were in the great forest covering the southern part of Farlane. The great road connecting the large countries of Farlane and Darl ran diagonally through a tropical rainforest until it reached an area with a colder climate, the vegetation changing accordingly. This happened to be around March. As Hiroshi and the others looked at the side road leading away from this road of over 4,000 kilometers, they exclaimed to each other that this was their route. It was about half a day from the closest town of Renedo.
If one were to run for about an hour at 80 km/h from where they currently were, they would find themselves near the border of Darl next to the Sharune River. Anyone who saw the vastness of this river would find themselves marvelling at how on earth they had managed to build a bridge along this deep river with a width of one kilometer. Once you crossed this behemoth of a river and continued for about 2 days, you would finally see the forest begin to thin out. The road made a soft curve to the northeast through the river before turning southeast upon crossing the river.
Incidentally, the roads in this world were far better maintained than the unpaved roads of developing countries, but in comparison to that of advanced countries, they were still seriously bad. This big southern road was no exception. Sure, it was impressive that they even managed to work maintenance on such a magnitude of distance, but it was still not suited for a minivan. If this were just your average minivan, equipment, and control scheme, then the car as well as the people inside would probably not be having a good time of it. Having said that, with the scale being what it was, even if they were able to pave the asphalt, it was questionable for just how long they could keep that up.
So as everyone looked at this other road leading away from the wide road that could fit three cars side by side, they felt very strange about how much of a contrast it was. It hardly even felt like a road in comparison from its modest size.
「Looks like we have to walk this one out.」
「Well, I did anticipate this.」
Tatsuya and Makoto grumbled as they looked at this side road that felt more like an animal trail. It was clearly made just for those living nearby to enter and exit, as its width didn’t even allow for wagons, let alone carriages or cars. To put it even more precisely, the day anyone even attempted to carelessly bring in a trolley, the unstable ground would ensure that it was brought to a standstill.
「Well, it isn’t like we can keep on grumbling about this, so let’s hurry and get ready to go. I get the feeling that we won’t reach our destination until at least three days from now.」
Tatsuya and Makoto grudgingly nodded after hearing Haruna’s realistic observation.
「What do we need, then?」
「First we need bug repellant all over us, otherwise there are plenty of insects that will bite us in this area.」
「And unlike Wulls, there are a lotta ones that carry weird diseases.」
Hiroshi agreed with Haruna as he handed out special bug repellant to everyone. When they heard about the disease part, everyone got to rubbing in the ointment, making disgusted faces all the while.
「Now all we need are the tents ‘n mosquito nets, but now probably ain’t the time to take ’em out.」
「Hiroshi-kun, take out your compass and map.」
He did as Haruna had asked, taking out a map that had a rough sketch of only the forest and road as well as a compass.
「Sensei, I’d like a hatchet or sickle.」
He handed Mio a sickle. He held a handaxe (using it in place of a hatchet) as he led the way.
「Mio-chan, I think it might be good for you to tie up your hair.」
「As we go.」
Haruna suggested to Mio as she put her hair up with accustomed hand movement, and Mio followed suit with fairly accustomed movement. Even if she could enchant the sleeves and cuffs of her clothing, there wasn’t anything that could be done about the hair.
「I’ll put the car away.」
Tatsuya called out before promptly stowing away the minivan into a capsule. For whatever reason, the shape of the capsule greatly resembled the design from that one manga where you gather seven balls to grant your wishes. Hiroshi had clearly made it look that way just for his amusement.
「It would be great if we could set up camp somewhere along the way…」
「And if not, we’ll at least reserve some space for sleeping bags.」
「I guess that’s what we’ll do……」
The power of nature in this great forest was overwhelming for people trying to move around freely. Even if it wasn’t totally undiscovered, that didn’t change the fact that it was a place essentially unknown to humans. Also, even though they had taken a roundabout path to the southern part of the big road at the speed of 80 km/h for 8 hours every day, it had been more than 3 days before the forest began to show itself. When you also factored in the monsters that lived here, it was probably impossible to conquer the entirety of this forest with only this amount of technology.
There was no mistake about it: The construction and maintenance of this southern road was a great feat. It was hard to even visualize just how many years it would take to open up the land in this forest. From what they had seen along the way in the little inn towns that they passed by, all they had to do was look at the memorial monuments in each and every town to realize how many months and sacrifices it took in order to construct this road. The directors who got the road built were almost unmistakably people who possessed the extra skill for construction.
Being a road with much traffic, there were also three large inn towns. However, the populations did not even reach 100,000, so it wasn’t like they were contributing much more to the clearing of the land. Either way, it wasn’t hard to tell that opening the land had been no easy task, even without looking at all of those monuments.
Of course, even calling it a road with much traffic was a stretch. If you compared it with the scramble intersections in Japan’s big cities, the population density was far lower, which meant that even if you did drive a car at around 80 km/h, you most likely would not bump or crash into anyone.
It had now been two weeks since they had left Wulls, signalling the beginning of the second week in March. The Japanese had at last stepped into the intimidating realm of the great forest.
「But you know, I kind of feel used to camping in the forest……」
「Yeah, that’s because practically all of our jobs involved doing something in the mountain or forest……」
Tatsuya and Makoto grumbled as they prepared the encampment after having finally found a reasonable clearing to pitch tents. Since coming to Farlane, the two of them had always tagged along with Mio on harvest expeditions into the mountains and forests, making them well-adjusted to walking along the animal trails.
Even for Hiroshi and everyone else, the forest was typically where they would go for activities. Stones that made glass and cliffs from where iron ore could be excavated could usually be found near the rivers and mountains within the forest, and the most important item, medicine, was at its highest quality and quantity in the forest.
「I can purty much tell that people camp here from time to time.」
「And maybe because of how close it is to the road, there aren’t many brutal monsters to be seen.」
Hiroshi surveyed the surrounding vegetation and ground while Haruna noted various things on the map, compass in the other hand. Although the forest looked exceptionally green from the outside, upon stepping inward you could tell that it was much more colorful. This was essentially proof that this forest was truly showering blessing after blessing on its inhabitants, as well as probably the fact that there were many people who came into the forest because of that very reason. Then again, the forest was also merciless to intruders that became too greedy.
「What did Teres say?」
「If you travel along the largest animal trail, you’ll come out next to a river, from which you continue walking along upstream and you should eventually find a settlement, providing you have sharp eyes.」
「I’m sure she couldn’t help it, but no matter how many times I hear that explanation, it just sounds so darn sloppy.」
Makoto asked for confirmation from Haruna, who repeated the correct information. Hiroshi simply sighed at how lackadaisical it sounded. In fact, there weren’t very precise maps to be found in any country, so it really couldn’t be helped that the explanation was lackluster. So in that sense, the explanation was quite easy to understand.
「If they live in a place like this, I guess it’s reasonable to say they’re an insular society?」
「Who knows? According to Teres, it’s more like people in the city have a complex about going outside, but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean that they don’t want other people coming in……」
「……Yeah, you’re basically picking a fight with all the archetypal elves by saying that～」
Makoto sighed and grimaced at the same time when she heard what the hired elf girl had said at the workshop. To be honest, she could somewhat tell that Teres herself seemed like a country bumpkin who had adjusted to life in the city. Even in Nora’s case, despite having nearly become someone’s slave, she was neither prejudiced against nor reluctant to associate with the human race. Finding it strange, she had talked to both of them, who had said:
「Out of every person I’ve met so far, there have been far more people who have been nice to me, so I didn’t really see it as fair to have prejudice because of one or two experiences.」
「There are plenty of bad eggs amongst the Mora as well. Besides, if all of humanity really were that bad, then I wouldn’t have even made it far past the village.」
In general, Farlane’s pastoral culture of working hard to eat was, albeit unusual for a large country, probably very beneficial for them.
「Well in any case, even if we wander a bit, we should be able to get back. We just need to pay heed to any monsters and then proceed at our own leisure.」
「Yep. We still have more food than we can eat, and if anything goes wrong we can simply have everyone at the workshop send us food and water.」
Everyone laughed in response to what Haruna said because they knew just how handy shared enchantments were, and they were ready to use it to the fullest. Even for returning, they could simply use either a teleportation stone or long-distance magic, so being lost for a week or two wouldn’t put them in a pinch at all.
Humans are beings that can deal with some inconvenience in a relatively composed manner, providing that they have plenty of food and not too many insecurities. This particular group didn’t even have any particular limitations over their journey. Half a year (in this world’s time) had elapsed since Tatsuya and the others had been thrown into this world. There was no point in getting concerned now that they had been here this long. Small adventures like this one should be enjoyed to the fullest.
Right now, they were all of that opinion. Of course, it went without saying that stepping foot into the southern tropical rainforest to search for elf villages (of which the location is unknown to most people) would not qualify as a “small” adventure in any sense of the word.
The lack of common sense amongst Hiroshi and his group was truly astounding.