Translator: Silver Editor: Kaio
「The Purpose of Preference」
In the forest where the morning fog shrouded the towering trees in a mist, the dark elf Ariane walked ahead with her gray cloak fluttering in the wind, while behind her, I followed closely so as to not fall behind.
The black cloak covering my armor had become standard attire while traveling these days. Above my helmet, Ponta gave a large yawn with tired eyes as she tried not to fall.
Early this morning, we left Raratoia Village, with us now heading for the Riburuto River that flowed through the forest of Canada.
As a result of last night’s discussion, it was decided that we would search the territories of the nobles whose names had appeared on several contracts. There were three names that appeared the most on the contract, and the name Ferris De Hoban was one that Dylan was familiar with.
The town named Hoban was governed by said noble, and since it was said to be within the Rhoden Kingdom, it was decided that we’d head for it first.
The town Hoban was apparently one of the towns along the highway that connected to the elves’ only official trading partner within the Rhoden kingdom, the Rinburuto Archduchy.
The town was a considerable distance from Raratoia. We first had to pass through the elven village Darutowa, which was downstream the Riburuto River. From there, after travelling west through the north side of the Annette mountain range, and passing through the vast forest afterwards, our first stop was the human town of Cellist.
Though using the transfer magical tool to travel from Ratatoia to Darutowa would take an instant, we decided against it as there was no way to know how the other side would react to a human learning of that secret.
I may know of the elves’ transfer magic, and furthermore be able to use it myself, but amongst the elves, only a small portion was aware of that fact, so such problems were inevitable.
Moreover, besides being able to transfer to locations I’ve already been to previously with【Transfer Gate】, there’s also【Dimensional Step】that can be used to travel short distances when the situation called for it, so I figured there would be no troubles, if any at all.
However, now in the middle of the dense overgrown forest without any roads, two people carrying bags of luggage on their shoulders along with one animal kept walking endlessly. Though in Ponta’s case, you can’t say that she was really walking…
There was a reason why【Dimensional Step】couldn’t be used.
It wasn’t possible to use general magic anymore. Ariane said that the fog that hung over our eyes, enveloping us, was the cause.
It was especially easy to lose your way within the particularly thick fog. A short distance away, the scenery became a hazy white, while anything past that can’t be seen through the fog.
With such a fog covering the thick forest and valley, the flow of mana seemed to have become obstructed, making magic difficult to control, resulting in the loss of the ability to use even the worst magic.
However, this seemed to be a problem that mainly affected humans, since the elves’ magic was directly controlled by spirits, and monsters and spirit beasts were immune to the fog’s effect.
It seemed to act like Minovsky particles…
Using basic magic such as starting an ordinary fire wasn’t a problem, so this fog may affect only sensitive types of magic.
Before long, I began to hear the sound of running water from beyond the veil of fog. Somehow or other, we reached our first destination, Riburuto River.
When we approached the riverbank, the surroundings immediately cleared up. Thanks to the wind that blew along the river, the fog was remarkably thinner compared to the forest. The view even extended unobstructed from downstream the river all the way to its upper reaches.
However, our view opening up wasn’t all good, as we caught sight of several dragonfly groups flying around the edge of the river.
The dragonflies must have felt threatened by the sudden emergence of intruders from the forest. From their jaws, a grating gichigichi sound was made while they flew straight for us.
With their their large transparent wings expanded and bodies just under two metres in length, these huge dragonflies would be daunting even if you didn’t have an aversion to insects.
“Be careful, Arc!”
Ariane pulled the Lion King’s Sword from the sheath on her waist in a practiced manner, and greeted the approaching dragonflies. Her beautiful long white hair shook with a silvery light whenever she ran, with the severed wings and torsos of the dragonflies falling down onto the ground beneath her.
On the other hand, I instinctively used【Dimensional Step】to transfer behind another one of the dragon flies that had launched an attack at me. Fortunately, the river and its banks were not affected by the fog, so I was safely able to transfer behind the dragon fly.
Due to taking a fixed distance after the transfer, I was able to rearrange my stance.
I don’t hate insects in particular, but in the past, a cockroach flew into my clothes, clinging onto it; the trauma shouldered from back then had since come to the point of me having unpleasant feelings towards insects by reflex.
I pulled the sword from my waist in one go and cut down the dragonfly that was approaching. The sword blade filled with a pale blue brilliance as I brandished it sideways, splitting the huge dragonfly right in half. Its body fell to the ground, while its wings that was filled with resilient vitality flapped noisily above the gravel of the river beach as it crawled about. While crushing it underfoot, I swung my sword at the rest of the dragonflies remaining in the air.
Before long, the dragonflies judged that they were at a disadvantage and scattered upstream, with the unpleasant hum of their wings disappearing in the vicinity.
On the bank of the river, only the sounds of flowing water and the rustling of leaves from the many trees along it, riding upon the winds, could be heard.
After carefully wiping away the insects’ bodily fluids off her sword and sheathing it, she turned around to face me and called out while approaching.
“Seems that the riverside isn’t affected by the fog. If that’s the case, we can travel downstream in one go.”
Nodding at her suggestion, and after confirming that Ariane was holding onto my shoulder, I invoked【Dimensional Step】to move downstream the Riburuto River,
The area surrounding us became clear as the fog gave way to the rising sun.
Around noon, I took a break for a short while from using transfer magic to move downstream so that we could enjoy the lunch that Glenys made for us.
Soon after, around when the sun began to decline, a mountain range to the right appeared ahead, seeming surprisingly large. The mountain range seemed to match the one that I’ve heard about called the Annette Mountain Range.
On the eastern side of the mountain range was the elven village Darutowa.
The outward appearance was roughly the same as Ariane’s birthplace, Raratoia, with only a few differences. The main difference being that there was a large moat filled with water from the nearby river that surrounded the village’s walls and a drawbridge connected to the entrance. The bridge was raised at the moment, preventing anyone from approaching the village.
There was a small plaza in front of the village’s entrance, a place in which some similar mushroom-shaped buildings like those seen in Raratoia were built.
Ariane didn’t seem to have particularly strong feelings for the landscape as she stood in front of the drawbridge and called out to the elves who were stationed in the watchtower.
“My name is Ariane Glenys Mable! I am heading towards a human town for a mission! I wish to borrow a cottage for the night!”
After her greetings, a man in the watchtower gave a fleeting glance in our direction. After talking about something to another person, the man responded to Ariane from across the moat.
“I welcome you! Your dinner will be prepared in the village! Please use whichever guest cottage you like!
Upon receiving that answer, Ariane lowered her head before turning her heel and returning to my side.
“We’ll stay in a cottage here for tonight. Tomorrow morning, once we advance through the forest west of here, the Rhoden Kingdom’s city named Cellist should appear.”
“Hrm, finally. We’ve traveled quite a distance.”
“Honestly, if you came here from Raratoia it would normally take four days by walking…”
While I follow behind Ariane as she picked out a hut, I was able to hear the slight amazement in her voice.
The flat mushroom-shaped hut she choose was comparatively larger than the others, with a thick support pillar at the center and a kitchen with a stone floor in the interior that also had a fireplace. A table and chairs for four were to the left of the pillar, while on the right by the window were four beds, with none of the other furnitures standing out.
When I placed my baggage down near the pillar and sat down on a bed, Ponta who was enshrined on top of my helmet got off, walking around with a petapeta as she checked the room. After Ponta lifted her paw, she tilted her head in confusion as she stared at the distinct pawprints she had left behind.
It appeared that this cottage probably hasn’t been maintained or cleaned in a while.
I opened the window fully and flapped the blanket on the bed to clear out the dust, sending them into the air. Trying to drive away the dusty air, Ponta’s magic created a whirlwind in the room, but it only caused all the more dust to envelop.
“Cough, cough! …Since I have to go meet with Darutowa’s elder, could you do something about this dust in the meantime?”
Ariane covered her mouth with her hand while looking up, displaying a magnificent grimace.
“Mhm. I’ll arrange it so that we can actually sleep on the beds.”
With an exaggerated nod, I took on the role as caretaker.
After Ariane left, I gave the hut another once over. I found a broom hanging beside the fireplace, and began using it to sweep the floor, dusting from start to end.
Once the dust had been cleared from the hut, I took a wooden pail and rag from the corner of the room outside with me. The sky was already dyed almost a crimson red, while the forest was turning into a deep black.
I tried searching in the cabin’s surroundings for a well but couldn’t find one, so I decided to use the water from the moat instead. In fact, there was a stairway leading to the surface of water, so I drew from there.
I returned to the hut with the wooden bucket, and wringed the rag dipped in water. By the time I was finished wiping down the table and chairs, the inside of the cabin was changed more or less into a rather relaxing space.
“Hrm, something like this…”
I crossed my arms over my chest after I threw away the dirtied water from the wooden pail outside the cottage.
Thereupon, the drawbridge in front of Darutowa’s gate lowered as Ariane made her way back. She was carrying a covered pot and what seemed to be a cloth basket in her hands.
“I got tonight’s dinner.”
She declared while showing the items that she held, her lilac cheeks flushing slightly with a tinge of red as she showed a smile with her coquettish lips. Furthermore, her white hair carrying traces of moisture fluttered in the wind, while a faint flowery fragrance drifted upon the breeze.
“D-did you just get out of a bath, by any chance!?”
In response to my tone that was much louder than usual, she nodded wide eyed in affirmation.
“Didn’t you use the one in my parent’s home in Raratoia? Humans don’t seem to have the habit of taking too many baths.”
“What!? There was a bath in Raratoia…regrettable…”
Ariane’s shocking words led to me unabashedly displaying my lowered head, while she tilted her head to one side, watching the strange scene with a discerning eye.
After coming to a different world, I have yet to take a proper bath. Still, because of this skeletal body, I couldn’t carelessly expose myself to other people.
Unexpectedly there was a bath in a residence in Raratoia…I didn’t notice at all.
I feel like cursing myself for my own carelessness.
“…Do you perhaps want to take a bath?”
“…Is there even any meaning of taking a bath with a skeletal body?”
“Impertinence! I was fond of cleanliness since the time I had a human body!”
My protests were lightly brushed aside with a “Let’s go and have our meal already”. After letting out a curt cry of approval, Ponta followed Ariane back to the cottage.
Losing the democratic vote, I reluctantly returned to the cottage.
Ariane held a covered pot filled with bean and bacon soup, while the wrapped basket contained bread and some type of red fruit inside.
While she was pouring soup into a bowl, I surveyed the room once more, but the thing I was looking for didn’t appear in my sight.
“…This cottage doesn’t have a bath.”
“It can’t be helped. Originally, this cottage was built for the purpose of housing humans who had lost their way around here.”
Towards my complaint, Ariane answered while feeding a piece of fruit to Ponta.
Fifty kilometres west from here was Rhoden Kingdom’s town, Cellist, while thirty kilometres south was the Archduchy of Rinburuto, so the likelihood of a human being chased by a monster and losing their way was high. Due to those circumstances, this cottage was built only to temporarily house lost humans.
As a result, the cottage only had minimum facilities left behind; there weren’t even the crystal lamps like those in the elven houses here.
Only an oil lamp, which acted as a sorry excuse for light, was on the table, producing an unreliable light source.
─If I had stayed in Raratoia, at this time I could have taken a bath…
While the salty taste of the bacon and bean soup entered my mouth, the trip’s new objective was engraved into my mind.