15. Werewolf (4)

「M-Marge?」

Shizuku fled when she saw us. There was something that looked like a flower bulb left behind in the puddle where she was fishing.

Coarsely chopped and soaked in muddy water, it hardly looked like food. Why was Shizuku eating something like this? Why did she run away when she saw me? I have so many questions, but it doesn’t seem like she’s moving in the right direction.

「Master, let’s find out what she was doing. By the way, what is this?」

Koe-san picked up the flower bulb in the puddle. When I saw that blood started draining from my face.

「Hand rotting grass…!?」

「What is hand rotting grass?」

「It’s a type of wildflower that blooms with crimson flowers. The roots are edible, so it’s sometimes used as a famine relief plant.」

「What is the problem?」

「It’s poisonous. If you ingest a large amount, your hands will rot and fall off. That’s why it’s called the hand rotting grass.」

It is a water-soluble poison, so if you chop it up and wash it with water, you can safely eat it. But sufficient fresh water is essential for this process. It is dangerous for a demi-human child who isn’t even given enough water to wash her own body.

So she has no choice but to use muddy water from puddles. But if you use that water too much, the smell and taste of mud will make it inedible. The only other way to overcome starvation is to be prepared to eat poison.

「That’s puzzling. It’s only been less than a day since she got her pay.」

「Yeah, it’s strange that she can’t even afford to buy bread.」

I thought that it might be because she had sick parents, or because she has to feed her younger siblings. But there are other things that should be suspected first.

「I’ll meet the man who employs that girl. Koe-san, please take care of Shizuku.」

「Understood, master.」

This was my second visit to the office.

A chubby man sitting arrogantly across an old office desk casually said this to me when I asked him about Shizuku.

「Wage? Of course I paid it. 600 yin.」

「…I heard that it was supposed to be 3,000.」

At first, I couldn’t understand what the man was saying. The man spoke as if it were a matter of fact, as if someone had asked him, “What happened to that rotten bread?” and he answered, “Oh, I threw it away.”

「Hey, give me a break. If I pay 3,000 yen, I won’t be able to do business.」

「You were not going to pay from the beginning?」

「You don’t get it do you. Listen well. That job would have taken four days for that dog. And we were going to add some more along the way, extending it to five days.」

「…Still, it should come to 1,500 after subtracting the cost of food.」

「If a bag of wheat breaks, we’ll deduct that amount. Well, if you carry that many bags, some of it will inevitably break. The net wage was supposed to be 600 yen, but she said that her skills got better and finished it all in one day. Thanks to that, I had a hard time getting her to leave with 600 yin.」

I heard it costs 300 yen for food, but that’s basically just leftover food. It shouldn’t cost any money at all.

She is made to do a 3,000 yin job at the cost of 600 yin.

This is a method for that purpose and for that purpose alone. And if she only received 600 yin… That means she gave it all to me.

「So that is why she was forced to eat that!」

「It’s pretty smart, isn’t it? It’s the first time I’ve tried “extending it by a day” and “subtracting the broken item.” I think it’s an invention. Everyone will surely follow this from now on.」

The man laughed. But it was irrational to me. If the worker has shown that they’re capable, shouldn’t you at least consider using them in the future?

「That’s a lot of work to be completed in one day. You could have paid her a high salary and kept her close.」

「Hey, that’s a werewolf, you know? Even if she can get some work done, it would have to be the end of the world before I pay someone like that a decent wage. Hahahaha…」

「…!!」

Somehow, I saw the shadows of Altora and the others overlap with the man in front of me.

However, it seems that you can sometimes understand new things by taking a step back and looking at it as if it were someone else’s problem.

「………………ah.」

An “answer” suddenly appeared within me.

Why did Altora and the others try to kill me?

「Ah, I see. So that’s why.」

To tell the truth, I still didn’t understand why my old party decided to do what they did. It’s true that I was weak at the time. Even so, I never dreamed that they would try to murder me for not wanting to pay the severance payment.

Even if they wanted to kick me out or didn’t want to pay me, there was surely some other way.

If you look at it from the perspective of efficiency and common sense, their choice would result in more loss than profit. To put it simply, “It is too stupid.” At least that’s what I thought.

However, it was not even about profit or loss.

Not even morals or beliefs.

I’ve always been wondering what kind of value standards they were using when they decided to kill me.

I see now.

「So there are people like this in this world, huh…」

Appearance, mood, and the eyes of those around you. There is a type of people who throw away their morals, decency, and even their own immediate profits for such things and turn to exploitation and destruction.

People who attack others because they want money are called “villains.” They are indeed evil, but they are united in purpose and action. If you understand their purpose, you can at least have a dialogue with them.

But this is different. Their purpose and actions are at odds, but the people themselves are blind to it and don’t even notice it. Such people exploit good people, while turning the gold coins in their hands into alcohol.

The man grinned and patted me on the shoulder. His face red from the alcohol.

「This is the smart way to live. Do you understand?」

「Yeah, thank you. I learned a lot.」

I understand now.

And I will never forget.

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