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Chapter 23 – Lost Elf
“Yoshua, this is delicious, you know?”
“Oh, that’s good. You should eat a lot, and if it’s not enough, I’ll bring more.”
The beastman children were eating canned stew and thin pancakes.
I had gotten the flour from Simon, a large white bag of UN aid supplies that seemed to have been diverted. The food is piled up in the church to protect it from rain and wild animals.
There are also rice and cornflour in paper bags, which also aid supplies. I have no idea how to use the cornflour. Well, the women seem to be working hard, so I’ll leave it to them.
In addition to the food I had procured, there was also meat from birds and beasts that had probably been hunted nearby and smoked over the furnace. It looks like the food will last for a while.
Not only food but also pre-cooked food. Canned food. Cookies. Packs of mineral water of various sizes, grouped in 12 or 24 bottles.
There are also group rations, which are large group versions of military rations. The food was served in aluminum trays the size of the delicatessen at a hotel buffet and was supposed to be heated up and served in small units. If you buy them in Japan, they are expensive, and sometimes they are labeled as “collectible” to evade food sanitation laws. This is the first time I’ve seen it in person.
Since they are supplied by the black market, they are not only from one country but from all over the world. Most of the packages are in military colors, so I assume they are rations, but some are flat, some are round, and some look like they are simply enlarged commercial cans.
“What are these letters? I can’t read it at all.”
Sorry, I can’t read them either.
The square one there looks like Russian, and the one over there has an accent point, so it could be German or French. This one has an upside-down question mark, so it could be the Spanish language. Yeah, I don’t know.
“You’ll have to open it to find out. Whatever it is, they’re all food. …Maybe.”
One of the kids who had been rummaging through the pile of supplies cheered when he spotted a bag full of sugar-coated chocolate. Is that Simon’s service, too?
Yes, that’s very thoughtful. But I won’t go easy on the price.
“Yoshua, that water is sweet and delicious, but this water is sour.”
I took some and tried to drink it, but it didn’t seem to be any worse. Perhaps he was referring to the difference between soft water and hard water.
Could it be that the cat-eared boy shouldn’t be drinking hard water?
“The sweet one is spring water, and the sour one is water from a high rocky mountain. The mineral… is supposed to make the body stronger. But if it bothers you, drink other water. And everyone should too.”
“Hey, Myrril, this place is so high up; how do you get water?”
“You see those trees in the city?”
I looked in the direction she pointed, and sure enough, I saw some huge overgrown trees. Even though it was in ruins, it seemed a little unnatural in the midst of a reasonably well-maintained cityscape.
“It’s a sacred tree, ah… some kind of tree in the village of the elves, that calls water.”
“Call? Not sucking up?”
“No matter how big the tree is, the underground water vein is not within reach of its roots. Instead, it must gather water from somewhere. I’ve heard that it converts the ever-present magic called mana into the water, but I’m a dwarf, and I don’t know anything about that.”
As I got a little closer, I could see that a small water hole had been built around the base of the tree. The water seeping out of the tree was caught and stored, making it look like a drinking fountain, a water fountain, or a simple water supply.
Oh, fantasy. It’s also very simple.
“What are you staring at? Is there something on my head?”
“No, I just thought I saw a green bar…”
No, I don’t think so. It’s not like the HP bar in a JRPG. It only lasted for a second, and then it wavered and disappeared.
It’s just my imagination. That’s what I decided to think. Maybe it’s an escape from reality, but there’s no reality to escape from in another world, damn it.
“Yoshua, do you have a minute?”
One of the elves approached me.
I’ve seen this guy before. I think his name is… Yeah, I forgot. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard it before. Elves are good-looking people, but that’s why they’re so hard to tell apart. They should have ribbons in their bangs or something, like the twins’ identification signs.
“No, I don’t know yet. But one of our scouts… hasn’t come back.”
“A scout? An elf? I think everyone’s here, by the looks of it.”
The beastman who had been issued guns were all in the middle of maintenance with their cleaning kits. In the meantime, the elves and I are on watch and patrol to make sure that no one is unarmed.
The dwarves are working on machine guns and IEDs (homemade bombs, in case you were wondering).
The children are sleeping in a group with full stomachs, and I don’t know who the absent ones are.
“It’s Milka. Blonde hair, blue eyes. She’s half-human and has a tendency to rush things.”
Ah, I think there was some kind of sloppy and clunky little elf with bad eyesight wandering around, but I can’t remember.
“Is it okay to send such a girl as a scout?”
“We did not approve it, and we never gave such an order either. She just left a note and disappeared.”
I understand that she wants to be recognized and to be useful. But now is not the right time. It is only a matter of time before war breaks out, and since we are in a situation where we need reconnaissance, of course, the kingdom will have sent out scouts and advance troops as well.
“What’s that kid’s weapon?”
“A bow. It’s a short bow, but it uses poison. And a dagger.”
…Hmm. The point is, it’s almost powerless against armor.
“We’ll do the search and rescue, but I thought I’d at least report back.”
“No. If the elves leave, there will be a hole in the air surveillance network. We’ll lose our long-range suppression capability.”
The elf’s eyes narrowed. Myrril poked me from behind with a hard object.
Wait, that’s not the muzzle of a UZI, is it?
“Yoshua, are you suggesting that we abandon Milka and the others…”
“I’m not saying that. I’ll go. I’m faster than anyone, I’ve got legs to block arrows, and I’ve got weapons to protect myself.”
“B-but isn’t that the Elves’ problem?”
“No, it’s not! Don’t be ridiculous; just because elves have long ears doesn’t mean they’re any different from me.”
If someone says something about intelligence, visuals, or fighting ability, I’ll cry, so I’m going to push hard here.
“Remember. We are one and the same; we are all in this together. Even when we are in trouble, even when we die!”
“I’ll be right out. I’m in charge here. If you feel responsible for your fellow man, then you’d better do your part.”
H-huh? Why are you clinging to me with a face like you’re ready for battle, Myrril?
“Come on, let’s get out of here.”
“No, I will take the microbus, but I’ll go alone.”
“No way, no way!”
Then she mimicked me with a smug look on her face.
“Most of the time, you’re careless and naive. You can’t detect a battle in the distance by yourself, and you can’t distinguish the enemy’s shadow. You can’t even read the signs of nearby enemies, so you won’t be able to find Milka in hiding. In that case, we’ll just have to go and come back. With the noise and size of that magic tool, it would make an excellent decoy, wouldn’t it?”
At Myrril’s urging, I started the car and drove off. At the front side of the canyon, under the ramp to the city, the blocking line could not be crossed, so I stored the car. Once we had avoided the traps and were on the south side of the ravine, I took the microbus out of storage again, making sure there was no sign of the enemy.
Before getting in, Myrril squinted to look around and tilted her head to listen carefully.
I lent you those binoculars, but you don’t use them, do you? Give them back already.
She took a seat in the front row next to the driver’s seat and pointed to the southwest direction with a confident look on her face.
“It’s straight ahead.”
“Did you see Milka or something?”
“No, it was the sound of battle.”
Even sight is astonishing, but hearing? It’s almost two kilometers to the edge of the forest.
“Hurry up, Yoshua. The neighing of the horses and that metallic sound indicate that they are probably engaged in battle. The young elf doesn’t have the legs to run away from the horse or the strength to defeat the cavalry. Either they’ll chase her out like that or…”
As I started the microbus at full throttle, I heard the dwarf girl muttering to herself beside me.
“…She couldn’t even get out of the forest; they would kill her.”