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Chapter 9 – A Break Before Entering The Forest
The next day, after a good rest, Lusha and I were swaying in a carriage on the way to the Apricot Forest. The carriage was drawn by two horses, it was of simple construction with a basic roof. There were three rows of seats, made for up to nine people.
It was a good idea to sit in the back row and take a leisurely look at the scenery. Since there were no passengers other than us, it was like we’d chartered a luxury cruise. It’s big enough, but since the chair is poorly made and the road is also bad… the ride couldn’t be called in any way pleasant.
「I don’t think I could ride for even one more day…」
Lusha looked at me, asking, “What’s wrong?”
「It’s not a big deal, just my butt hurts.」
「Sure, it’s bumpy, but carriage rides are always like this, you know.」
Lusha, who was apparently used to it, had a good laugh at my expense. The most vibration I’d experienced before was a train, so this was going to take some getting used to. No matter how tired I might get, sleeping in this thing is impossible.
While I frowned, Lusha pointed at my bag.
「Why don’t you lay down and use the cushion you bought as a pillow?」
「Oh, there’s an idea.」
That would definitely be an improvement.
I nodded and took out the cushion from my bag (now a magic bag!) and laid it under my butt.
Well, it certainly seems a little better…
Lusha took out a cushion of her own to sit on. With that, our seated comfort levels had been substantially improved, and we were all smiles for it. It would be quite a while yet before we arrived.
◆ ◆ ◆
I was roused by a particularly rough bump. Did we hit something big, or has the road gotten bad again? The shaking had become especially harsh, and Lusha called out to me.
「Hiroki, we’re here!」
「Jeez, at first you couldn’t stop complaining, but now it turns out you slept just fine! Though I’ve actually been sleeping, too.」
I thought I’d never be able to sleep, but I seem to have done it no problem. It might be because I’ve been so tired lately. As I stretched to flex my stiff and sore muscles, my joints held a symphony of cracks and pops.
When I got off the carriage, the forest stretched ahead as far as the eye could see. It had an almost pleasant atmosphere, and the trees were bright and healthy. Some of them were even bearing fruit, with small squirrel-like animals desperately trying to pick at it.
Looks like there are quite a few animals. No monsters yet, though.
「It’s a bright forest. We left town early this morning, but it’s already evening. Should we just rest here for the night and head into the forest in the morning?」
「That sounds better.」
I agreed with Lusha’s suggestion and got the tent out. We already had some ingredients to cook a hot dinner, but for that, we needed a campfire.
「Lusha, I’ll gather some kindling for the fire.」
「Alright! Be careful.」
「No problem, I can avoid anything.」
Lusha laughed and sent me on my way.
Just because I can avoid everything doesn’t mean I’ll go that far. At most, I might need to go fifty meters in. By that point, I expect to start finding small-fry monsters, like slimes or something.
「But first, 【Shield】.」
With this, I’ll be fine even if something does manage to hit me. I went ahead and picked up some dry branches and other suitable kindling that could burn well. It didn’t seem to have rained much lately, since most of the trees and leaves looked to be on the dry side.
「Is it because this is right at the edge of the forest? There are no monsters, and it seems pleasant, but… oh, medicinal herbs are here, too?」
I suddenly noticed some healing grass. I remembered picking that as my first major request in this world. Even though I have a healing skill, I’ll pick some of it on this occasion as well. If we don’t need it, we can sell it to the Adventurer’s Guild.
「I don’t want to leave it behind like last time. Should I give some to Lusha too?」
We already have a few kinds of potions, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep any recovery items we find, since now we can carry a lot of luggage with the magic bags. When I returned from picking up medicinal herbs and kindling, Lusha had already prepared a meal for me.
「Oh, welcome back! How’d it go? Wow, you found a lot, huh?」
「Since I happened to see healing grass, I gathered it along the way. There’s some for you as well.」
I gave Lusha the healing grass, and I immediately started preparing the campfire.
It was easy. First, I piled up some large stones to form the foundation, so we had a place to put a pot. Then all I needed to do was put the kindling and branches I collected in one place and use the magic stones for fire-starting that we got from the old blacksmith. The stones burned reasonably hot, so the campfire was self-sustaining in no time.
「All right, it’s done!」
「It’s perfect timing, too!」
Saying that, Lusha showed me the meat skewers which had been prepared and seasoned with salt and pepper. Impressive, Lusha-san! That’s a simple, manly dish.
「Well then, I’ll make the soup.」
「Thanks! I’ll go ahead and prepare the beds while the meat’s grilling.」
With a happy mood, Lusha went in the tent. With it just being a simple tent, it was easy to tell the material used for it was thin and not very strong. I thought it might be nice to buy a new strong tent when we have the money for it.
And so, I made some soup. It was just a simple soup, with simple ingredients, like onions, a few kinds of vegetables, and mushrooms. The nights were cold, so it would be ideal if we had fresh soup to keep us warm. Well, that’s one reason… the main one is I’m not particularly good at cooking.
「Sorry to keep you waiting~.」
「Oh, that was fast.」
「I just put out the cushions and stuff, that doesn’t take long.」
「Hahaha, you have a point, there.」
Certainly, there’s not much that really needs done. The meat had just finished grilling and the soup was cooked. Then I heard a voice from the forest saying, “Something sure smells good!”
「Hey, the shop fairy!」
Coming from the forest entrance was a shop fairy carrying a big backpack. She kept a bright smile on her face, but never took her eyes off the food we’d prepared.
Are you hungry, by any chance?
「I was going to do business in this forest, but to think I’d run into a familiar face! Good to see you.」
The shop fairy sat down beside me and laid her backpack down. I guess we’re having a meal together. I couldn’t help but smile and offer her a serving.
「Why, thank you! But it’s not right for me to take it for free! Let me share some meat with you.」
Lusha’s eyes gleamed when the fairy mentioned meat. The fairy took a substantial chunk of meat from her backpack, likely weighing a kilo or more. She deposited it directly on the grill, so it was clear how she wanted to prepare it.
「Do you want any soup first?」
To make room for grilling the meat, I set the soup aside. The fragrant smell tickled my nose in no time. What kind of meat is it?
To be honest, it was hard to think of the shop fairy’s meat as coming from a pig or cow. Was it better not to ask? I was curious either way…
The meat was finished cooking before I could decide, and the fairy sliced it. Lusha immediately took a bite before being visibly overwhelmed by the flavor. “It’s delicious!”
「This meat comes highly recommended!」
「I thought it was because of the seasonings, but I guess the meat itself tastes good. It’s so delicious…」
If it’s that good, what kind of meat is it? Thanks to the shop fairy’s words, I got a little hyped for it myself and took a bite. A thick gravy spread through my mouth in an instant. It practically melts in your mouth. Probably the best mystery meat I’ve ever had.
「Well, I’m glad you two liked it. The handkerchief you gave me last time was very high-quality.」
「Oh yeah, that happened. For sure, it’s one-of-a-kind.」
If you went to Japan, you could buy tons of them easily, but it would be impossible in this world.
「That’s why I waited to sell this meat, so I could treat you to it instead!」
「Thank you so much. It’s my first time eating this kind of meat.」
When I frankly give her my thanks for letting us eat it for the first time, the shop’s fairy nodded smugly while saying “It’s good, isn’t it?”
「But if you’re also dealing with food… Would you happen to deal with apricot grass?」
「Ahh, selling ingredients and materials is actually against my principles, you know.」
I figured as much, it seemed she really didn’t deal with apricot grass. Though I was disappointed just thinking about it, Lusha kept asking direct questions.
「Then why did you sell the meat?」
「She’s got a point there, meat’s an ingredient, too.」
Lusha was absolutely right, but the fairy just shook her head, saying it wasn’t quite that simple.
「You can eat meat as soon as you cook it, but you can’t eat herbs as-is, can you?」
「Well, that’s also true.」
「I’m sorry I can’t satisfy your request.」
「No, no, it’s okay.」
The shop fairy took another bite of meat.
「If you wanted to request a finished product, I can do that.」
We were free to place an order, but that kind of service must be expensive.
「I… would like to have a curse potion made from apricot grass.」
「Oh, the curse potion! I don’t have any in stock right now, but do you want to buy them? The price varies depending on market fluctuations, so I don’t know what it’ll be next time.」
I wondered what to do. To be honest, not knowing the price makes things difficult. The King might give it to Ren since he’s a hero, but I didn’t want to go asking the King for money… I didn’t know why, but my pride just wouldn’t allow it. [ED: Might be the fact his people threw you in prison and tried to murder you, idk]
「Ahh, I only need to be ready for it when I see it. It’s not like I can somehow buy it directly; curse potions only show up occasionally.」
「Is that so? Then, we’ll have to trouble you with it.」
I asked the shop fairy for help, but it could take quite a while for her to find any bottles of curse potion. So, Lusha and I were still going to the forest the next day. The search for apricot grass would continue.