Chapter 88: Getting to Know People is Always Harder When there’s Extra Pressure to Do it.
“Then, Safr, I’ll buy this sword off of you, and you can have my backup.”
Eeeh… so easily?
What just happened?
Let’s see… I was forging a sword for an inexperienced adventurer (that I wasn’t too thrilled about doing), but it turned out to be more work (and expenses) than that kid thought it would be, and then an older adventurer walked up to the inexperienced adventurer and conned him.
Seriously, that’s what just happened.
With a “You know, the blade’s not too bad, but…” and “You still need to pay for a grip and hilt” and the like, Gurtis just managed to get a steel sword, almost master-work quality, traded for his backup weapon.
Maa, I guess, in the end the sword is going to be used by someone who appreciates it better, so I can’t complain.
Gurtis can’t stop laughing after Safr returns to the lodge.
Seriously, what a bad person.
“Ah, so easy, it’s the first time this entire trip I’ve been happy that kid is such an idiot! I would have even considered trading my main weapon for it, too.”
Fumu fumu. I’m kind of relieved that he only said he’d consider trading his main sword. I had mixed feelings about giving that kid my sword, but I’d also have mixed feelings about giving it to someone who trades his weapons around like he’s an MMO character as soon as he finds a new one.
“It’s really great! Just …”
Gurtis gives me a look out of the corner of his eye.
Ah, I know what you want…
Without directly looking at him, I keep my eye on the blade I’m polishing and say,
“The grip, is it? I only have wyvern bone prepared on me, so it might cost a bit…”
“W-wyvern- ah… no, that’s fine. In that case, I wouldn’t be surprised if that doubles the price. (at least).”
Gurtis mutters that last bit quietly.
Un, he wasn’t expecting to have to pay for high ranking materials, huh?
Maa, double the original price is fine.
After all, he’s not the only one getting something out of this. I’ve also learned a valuable lesson, and it’s one that I will engrave into my mind.
Choose your customers carefully!
Ragnall stifles a smile as he comes into the big, communal kitchen/dining hall.
It’s about Morning Watch now, although there are no bells here to ring the time.
“So, how did it go?”
That’s all I feel like saying.
Seriously, I don’t care if it sounds stuck-up, ‘I only take commissions that I feel like doing’ is starting to sound like a great thing to get in the habit of saying.
Ragnall chuckles quietly to himself before asking,
“So did that group leave bright and early this morning? You could have postponed finishing it last night, you know.”
“Un, but it was better for them to be able to leave earlier this morning…”
“Hm… Are you saying you were just trying to be considerate for them, or are you secretly saying it was better for them to leave as soon as possible?”
It was more like, ‘please leave me alone as soon as possible’. But for some odd reason, I totally don’t feel like admitting that to Ragnall. Hmph.
“Well, you’ll be meeting more and more people like that, so get used to it, I guess. You don’t have any experience with dealing with bad customers, so I was a liiiittle worried.”
Ragnall yawns and lazily stretches out.
“Extremely worried, I see.”
That was sarcasm, by the way.
But, ah, yeah. Hm. It might very well be true that I don’t have any experience with customers I dislike, huh? When I think about it …
Un. Aside from blades made purely for practice, I might not have made a blade for anyone I didn’t know personally.
My face goes a bit dark when I realize that.
“… Do you think this is going to be a problem? For me. In the future.”
“Hm? What? Not knowing how to deal with bad customers? Nah. You can make so much money off of one sale, that it’s okay to be picky about who you sell to. In my opinion.”
“There was that option too. I see.”
Ragnall is basically saying it’s okay for me to smith only when I want to and only for people I want to smith for, huh?
What a pretentious thing. To only do the things that interest me, only when I feel like, and without worrying about having any business sense; that’s practically at the level of having a hobby! And I could actually live off it? And luxuriously, at that!
Very few people even in modern day Japan could hope to be able to do something like this.
If Grandfather could have come here to this world, I wonder how he would have done – ah, no.
That train of thought might be irrelevant, huh?
While watching Ragnall do some exaggerated stretches, I also rotate my arm a bit and try to stretch my neck.
My shoulders got a little stiff last night, since I was rushing the job so much, and it was pretty late so I just went to sleep like that.
It was only bothering me a little bit, until Ragnall came down and started showily stretching, so I was able to ignore it, but now…
It feels so stiff!
Luckily for me, thanks to Light Magic it won’t be stiff for too much longer.
Because I found out Light Magic is actually pretty similar to that ‘Chi’ in fantasy wuxia-style novels, I’ve been training myself a lot like the protagonists of those novels.
Whether or not it’s the correct way to be using Light Magic is something I don’t know, since not too many of the races in Nyl City can use Light Magic. Because of my preconceptions of “chi”, I might be limiting my abilities with Light Magic.
That’s another one of the reasons we’re heading towards elf territory…
Supposedly, certain elves have passed down the ways of Light and Dark Magic since the beginning of time… so the legends go.
It would have been good to have Seimei-san, who appears to only be able to use Dark Magic, come along as well, but … maa, he has other things he wants to do, so it can’t be helped.
Anyway, by circulating Light Magic through my neck and arms, the stiffness melts away in no time.
If only it could do the same for when I’m riding the red dragon…
“So I heard from Hibiki that we’re staying here for some time, but what’s the reason behind it?”
I ask Ragnall.
“Hum… that’s right. Orvowel wants to give Numinor – the owner of this waystation – time to think about what he needs to buy from him. In that time, Orvowel also hopes to sell to any travelers who might be coming through here. Ah, and he hopes to buy cured pelts, leather, and smoked meats off Numinor. Although I don’t think there will be that much to buy.”
“Is that how it is… what should we do, then?”
“I wonder what we should do.”
Well, I guess this is what an escort quest is like.
At least, it’s nice to be stopped with nothing to do at a really nice waystation with so many facilities.
Although I can’t say I’ll be able to further my smithing any at the … uh … “forge”, there’s a hot bath (although it’s communal), clean bedding, and good, warm food.
While I was thinking,
“Actually, there is something…”
Hm? How rare for Ragnall to look conflicted.
“What is it?”
“That’s… hm. Well, what do you think about Ms. Hibiki?”
“Uuun… it’s hard to say. It’s kind of difficult for me to understand what she’s thinking sometimes… and I feel like there’s kind of a wall there.”
I don’t know really how to describe it. Even though she asked me to call her without “-chan”, at the same time it feels like she’s raising a barrier between us and her, so it’s a little weird for me.
How do I say it… it feels like she kind of doesn’t have much character.
Even though you might say we’d only been traveling 2, 3 days together, I feel like being with someone for every single hour of those days should at least let you know SOMETHING about them, like hearing complaints about if they can’t sleep, or feeling like uncomfortable in the cart, or whatever.
But Hibiki tries to stay out of sight as much as possible… at first I thought it was because of her thief character, but honestly, it feels like she’s just keeping to herself, just watching us, just … well, like I said, she’s kind of … distant.
“A wall. Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. I’m kind of worried about her, honestly. I don’t think it’s good for her to stay behind that wall, if you know what I mean.”
No I don’t. What’s with that?
“How should I explain it… Right, we rescued her just two weeks and some days ago, right?”
“And then we’ve all been busy, preparing for the trip, right?”
“I’m just worried she hasn’t had enough time to really process everything that happened, is all. Y’know, sometimes even tough guys can’t get over the tough times that happen to them.”
Ah. I understand now.
I mumble under my breath.
At first glance, Hibiki-chan appears really withdrawn and introverted, but now that I think about it, it’s not exactly like the stereotypical quiet, wallflower character you would expect. Instead, it’s an abnormal withdrawn, like she’s always being super cautious of her surroundings, even with the people she seems to trust most.
She might not be having nightmares (that I know of) or any sort of blatant physical reactions (that I can tell), but … yeah, I can’t deny that she might be trying to remain detached from things around her to avoid thinking about what had happened.
Although a typical Japanese high school girl, for the past two months, with no warning at all, Hibiki had been enslaved. For those two months, without being able to act for herself, she had no idea where she was or how she got here. Her basic rights were taken away without warning, even before she had a chance to orientate herself to the situation.
Although she wasn’t treated horribly by her captors, I don’t think she was treated nicely either.
It’s not strange that anyone would come out of something like that with PTSD.
I ruffle the hair on the back of my head.
I’m annoyed at myself for not being more concerned for Hibiki-chan’s mental state.
Ragnall tilted his head.
I shake myself out of my thoughts.
“Ah… yeah, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder … it’s basically an … illness, I guess, that happens when you go through something really horrible or life-threatening. Little things can trigger flashbacks, and remembering what happened can make living normally hard… something like that?”
“Heeeh… So people in your country know it’s something that can happen to people.”
“It’s not the same here?”
“If someone can’t put something that happened to him in the past out of his mind, he’s too weak. That’s how most people think of it.”
I see. … Hm?
“Ragnall, you don’t think of it that way?”
Ragnall looks down a bit, with a bitter smile.
“Hm… I wonder. Well, you see lots of things when you’re always at the front lines.”
Front lines. Although Nyl City was peaceful, I forgot that this world’s countries seem to always be warring with each other, either publicly or otherwise. Ragnall… was a mercenary before he was an adventurer, huh?
“Anyway, I was thinking it might be a good idea for you to talk to Ms Hibiki alone for a while.”
“… Un. I understand. It won’t be good to make her deal with it all by herself. But, why me, alone?”
“Eh? Because girls can talk to each other more openly, right?”
Except she already knows I’m not a real girl!
… Maa, fine. Now that you’ve brought it up, it would be a lie to say I’m not worried about Hibiki-chan myself.
Un. Even though I have no training as a therapist, let’s do this.
The only thing that concerns me is,
“So how do I get her alone to talk about this?”
Hai, right, I knew you wouldn’t know either.
As we were agonizing over it, soft steps pitter-patter down the hall, and Hibiki emerges from the hallway.
I don’t know when she went to sleep last night, since she was already in bed by the time I noticed, but she still looks sleepy.
With a certain deva’s blessing, she looks like a normal, though very beautiful, Japanese girl. Even though it might not be exactly how she looked in Japan, it is still way more ‘normal’ than her extremely gorgeous, Korean-game-character modeled VRMMO game avatar.
That game avatar is now her ‘actual’ looks.
Either way, the just woke-up look, even with her modified-to-be-‘normal’ looks, still gives a lot of impact.
Ragnall’s eyebrows are rising…
Ah, I bet he’s also thinking about what it would have looked like if she wasn’t transformed.
… Nn. I agree. It is both a shame and a relief that Hibiki is transformed right now.
Anyway, all those thoughts only flash through our heads for a few seconds before we go back to our morning as usual.
“Good morning, Hibiki. Sleep well?”
“Un. Um… is there anything we have to do today?”
“Apparently not. We were just wondering about what to do while Orvowel does business.”
“Then… is it okay if I go foraging?”
Although we both have the same reaction, Ragnall actually voiced his.
“That’s fine, but is there something you need? We should have all the supplies we need.”
“Uh-uh. That’s not it. I’m, um, interested in herbs and flowers … um…”
“Ah, so that’s it. Hm… alright, Jun will go with you!”
Hibiki is startled by Ragnall’s sudden decision. But, well,
“That’s right. As long as we don’t go too far, is it acceptable to leave Orvowel and Leimon by themselves?”
“We aren’t being paid for time spent at a stop so it should be fine for all of us to go, but it’s also true that something could happen, so I’ll stay behind.”
“I see. Then it’s decided what we’ll be doing for now on?”
Looks like Ragnall and I are on the same page.
But really, he’s going to push it all on me…
Meanwhile, Hibiki just blinked, still a bit dazed from just waking up; not to mention the really sudden turn things took just now.
“Eh? … Ah… eh?”
Un. I have no idea what any of these plants are.
Can’t be helped, there aren’t any monster plants on the side of a mountain like there are in Labyrinths. Not many magical ones either…
…Ah. I swear it’s not because I’m thinking something like it’s a world with magic so everything should be related to magic, okay? It’s more like, everything in Nyl Labyrinth was related to magic, and that was all I learned in the over-two-months that I’ve been in this world.
Of course there was going to be normal plants and animals, away from those overwhelming magic environments.
It’s just, even though I say ‘normal’, it’s not like I knew much about plants back in Japan either so I’m pretty much useless when looking for herbs. All I can do is hang around Hibiki.
I mean, I know I’m supposed to … somehow talk about how she’s feeling and stuff, but you don’t want to do that just out of nowhere, right?
Hm… How should I do this?
“So… Hibiki-ch – Hibiki, you were you into, uh … flower arranging, or gardening back in Japan or something?”
I’m EASING into the topic, ok?
Hibiki hesitates a bit before she kind of glances at me out of the corner of her eye.
“No… more like … kind of like … um… aromatherapy-like things and homemade herbal remedies, kind of?”
What. She’s being super evasive, but is there really anything weird about being interested in plants?
It must have shown on my face, because Hibiki averted her glance and said,
“I was … studying herbology magic in my school’s Occult Club…”
… Somehow something kind of unexpected came out.
Eh? Uh, um… eh?!
“I-is that so… well, good luck.”
I’m so surprised that I end up saying something kind of stupid.
No, well, usually girls, no, people in general, study herbs and stuff because they want to go green, or they like gardening, or whatever. I was in no way prepared to hear ‘for the Occult Club’ as the reason.
So what, like mixing random stuff together over a big, black pot and chanting or something?
Something tells me that image isn’t correct at all.
Hibiki turns back to documenting the plants that she gathered, and I go back to quietly looking at her.
That was unexpected.
So Hibiki was in the Occult Club in her school. Somehow that completely changes my image of her.
Hibiki’s actions are so subdued, I thought she was more like a well-bred lady, but it looks like I was just making up my own idea of her.
To be honest, it’s a little hard to get a sense of what she’s like.
“So like … potions and stuff?”
Ah, I ended up saying it anyway.
“Um, well, something like that… But in the end we just did stuff like perfume and aromatherapy. I kind of want to invest more into it. And in this world, there might actually be magical effects.”
Oya? Hibiki seems to be more talkative about this subject.
“Heh. That’s cool. You’ll totally be able to do it. Why did you think of coming out all of a sudden to look for plants today?”
Hibiki hesitated a moment before she spoke.
“I decided … last night. Watching Jun-kun working the forge I thought, ‘Ah, how cool (kakkoi)… Me too, I want to be like that.’”
“L-like what? Somehow I feel like I only showed an uncool side, being taken advantage of by clients, and then finishing it in a rush.”
“Uh-uh. Even though that side might have been uncool, somehow, watching you focus only on what’s in front of you, trying hard to make what you wanted match your expectations… it was really cool.”
… So she doesn’t deny that I was uncool about that bit. Business isn’t my strong suit at all!
While I was agonizing over that, Hibiki continued.
“Somehow, it made me want to pour myself into something that interested me, too.”
A bright, smile crossed Hibiki’s face.
Somehow, I felt that a bit of mischief and a strong desire not to be outdone was mixed into her smile.
And, somehow, I felt like I saw a bit of Hibiki’s true self made a small appearance.
<T/n: Thank you Egg, Caleix, RS, and Raist for you donations!
I’m not particularly proud of this chapter. It was a little hard to get into my chars’ heads. Perhaps, if I ever get around to scrutinizing/editing my stuff, this will be the first chapter to be rewritten.>