Um…the current time was 5:30 in the morning. My surroundings had already gotten brighter, but a faint veil of mist still loomed over, which gave me a strong impression that it was early in the morning. You may ask, “Did you really wake up this early?” but I was completely 100% awake.
…To tell you the truth, I didn't really sleep well, but with the morning sun starting to come out, I thought it would be the perfect time to fish some milk trout. Well, that was what I had planned…
"—I'm really sorry! Let me thank you!!!"
"Oh, no, it's fine. I didn't do that much… Um, I'm sorry but…can you raise your head? It's making me uncomfortable."
I had my set of rods in hand and was disembarking Campy when Mister Oni noticed me. He was awake now and deeply bowed his head, almost to the level of kowtowing. No, no, please stop. I really didn't do anything to deserve such! Rather, because Mister Oni ate my fish, I gained a fun-filled opportunity to fish today!!! Please, I beg you! Raise your head!!!
My desperate pleas had finally reached Mister Oni, and he straightened up. Yup…his complexion was a lot better now compared to yesterday. Good. That’s good. When camping outside, remember that replenishing your nutrients and resting is important~!
…But what was on my mind now was what he was holding… In his hand was something wrapped in what appeared to be thinly shaved pieces of bark resembling paper. Was that actual tree bark?
"Um… What's inside that bark wrapping…?" I asked.
"Oh, it's raj-lapel meat. I happened to spot one, so I hunted it. I thought I would give this as thanks for the meal and place to sleep…"
Before I could tilt my head in confusion, Mister Oni slowly opened the wrapping to reveal something that was a faint pink color inside. Was that meat…?
I was confused by this unfamiliar creature, so Mister Oni further explained it to me.
"It's a giant rabbit. Have you never seen one before? The flavor is mild but delicious. I thought it would be perfect to show my thanks…"
Oh, so it was rabbit meat! I've always wanted to try rabbit meat! …Or rather, was it okay for me to accept this…? I didn't help him because I wanted something out of it. I simply wasn't some coward who would ignore someone in need. And yet, I felt like I shouldn't accept this delicious meat for something that doesn't deserve such gratitude…
"Um… Is something wrong? You look like you're deep in thought… Could it be that you dislike raj-lapal meat?"
"Ah! No! It's not that. I just didn't think you'd thank me… Um, you really don't have to."
"No, I have to. You shared your precious food and even gave me a place to sleep. I don't think this is enough to thank you for saving my life, but will you please accept it?"
"Um…okay. Well, then, thank you…"
I finally accepted the raj-lapel meat, half because I buckled under Mister Oni's earnest look and pressure and half because I determined that this would be an endless argument. The meat was a beautiful, pink color and had no streaks on it from the veins. This in contrast to the faint line of fat made it look extremely delicious.
How can I put it…? I have plenty of food stocked up and another place where I could sleep, so on the contrary, I apologize for taking advantage of your kindness…
"That reminds me. How exactly did you end up in that state?"
"Err, well… It's a bit embarrassing for me to say…"
I had placed down a tackle box to ensure that the meat didn't get too warm when this question suddenly popped up in my head. Since this seemed like it would be a long story, we found some suitable rocks and sat down. We'll just tire ourselves out if we continue to stand.
According to Mister Oni's story, a type of small creature known as "ferrettas" treated half of his stuff which contained his food as toys and ran away with the other half while he was in the middle of bathing. The ground was littered with his things. His camping gear was covered in mud, and the foodstuff he did manage to retrieve was partially eaten and unusable. He fell from the cliff when failing to grab some fruits to satiate his empty stomach, plunged into the river below, and drifted all the way here. Moreover, the camping gear he managed to retrieve was carried away by the river. The only things he had left of his possessions were his ID and travel expenses which were safely tucked away in his undergarments. As well as his light armor and weapon he had equipped on his body…
Mister Oni sure was unlucky.
"Um… Are ferrettas that dangerous?"
"No. They have a cute appearance, don't have much offensive power, and are generally docile… But they're also full of curiosity, nimble, and clever. They also travel in groups, so if they spot something they’ve never seen before, they'll be sure to snatch it up…"
"Aah~ so this was all a result of their mischievous nature…"
"It's not a funny joke when you're the target of their play…"
And Mister Oni let quite the dee~~~p sigh with a bitter expression. Well, I guess that would be expected since he was on the verge of death from a simple prank.
Hm? Huh? Then…
"…Wait, does that mean that as of right now, you don't have your food or camping tools… anything on you?"
"….…Yeah, I guess you can say that…" Mister Oni said and dropped his head.
Ah! I'm sorry!!! I wasn't trying to put the final nail in the coffin!!! My curiosity got the better of me and I let it slip from my mouth…
"More importantly, I thought you would ask me about that first…" he continued.
"Huh? Ah! Come to think of it!!! I had so many things on my mind that I hadn't really thought about that!!!"
"…How can I put it…? Well…I'm glad that I didn't unnecessarily scare you, but I think you should be a bit warier of others…"
I don't think Mister Oni got over the shock yet as he looked up to me with his head still hanging. The horns growing out from his forehead were pointed in my direction.
…Ah!!! That's right!!! Mister Oni isn't human!!! But, to tell you the truth, because so much had happened yesterday, I didn't have the mental capacity to connect the dots between that and his horns… No, I wasn't really surprised by this, but that might have been an effect of Campy's Survival Skill softening the shock. What should I make of this…?
"…Well, it's fine. I'm Ville, a Dragul. Draguls are… Hmm… I guess you can think of us as demi-humans similar to elves or dwarves."
"Mister Ville the Dragul, right! I'm Rin! A human!
Oh! I learned Mister Oni's name. So, it was Ville. I felt like it really suited him. Draguls, elves, and dwarves… It was really starting to feel like a fantasy world now…
Also, I didn't give my surname. Well, you know how it is. In those medieval fantasy stories, those with "surnames" are usually aristocrats, wealthy farmers, rich merchants, or important people. I, on the other hand, was a clueless girl (although already a working adult) and would be questioned if I claimed to have one. I mean, wouldn't anyone want to avoid the trouble that comes with that suspicion?
When I smiled and held out my hand for a handshake, the confused Ville sighed.
"…You didn't hear me, did you? I told you that you should be a bit warier of others…"
"Yeah…but from a normal person's point of view, if you were a bad person, Mister Ville, then you wouldn't have brought me meat as thanks, explained your situation, or given me your name, right?"
"If you were a thief or something, you could have stolen my stuff and ran away before I even woke up. In this hidden area, no one would have noticed if I was kidnapped, and there wouldn't be any evidence of an attack…"
…That's right. Even if he told me to be wary, someone who diligently expressed his gratitude, disclosed his current circumstances, and was patient with me, wouldn't suddenly try to harm me… But then again, hmm… If he really wanted to, I'm sure he could easily deal with me…
I felt a bit bad for vilifying Ville in my hypothetical situation, but if he assaulted and killed me or stole from me and escaped, this inconspicuous and isolated lakeshore would make for the perfect crime scene. The case would surely end up as a cold case with the victim's body never found. He could have been aiming to be a backstabbing thief…but rather than committing the crime after gaining the trust of someone as empty-handed as me, he would have a better and more efficient shot by parting ways with me and targeting someone else.
…And above all…
"Well, I can't really explain it…but you don't look like a bad person to me…"
"…Um, well, it's true that I haven't set in stone what I should do for my savior… Hmm…"
In conclusion, I currently couldn't imagine Ville, who had a conflicted face and was frowning, to be a bad person… Well, that look was probably the biggest reason… I know that I must not judge someone that far based on looks, but he seemed like a far better person than those folks present at the saint summoning. Definitely!
I had the choice to "not trust this person", but I currently wasn't in a position to say anything.
"Um, excuse me for asking…but I have a favor I want to ask you. Will you listen?"
I readjusted my seating position on the rock and took another thorough look right at Ville's face. Sensing a change in the mood, Ville looked back at me with enthusiastic eyes.
"A favor? I mean if it's something I can do, I'll be glad to give you any aid…"
"Um… Seeing as you're traveling by yourself, you must be quite strong, right…?"
"Hm? Well, I guess you can say that. I know I just explained my huge blunder, but I'm actually a decent adventurer."
I thought that now would be a good opportunity to ask after giving it some thought. If I get Ville to take me to a nearby village or town… I can share my food and sleeping accommodations, and in turn, he'll escort me and inform me about this world. A win-win situation, yes! So…!
"An adventurer! Just as I thought, such a job exists here!!!"
"Y-yeah. There are guilds and branches in villages and towns of a certain size… Why? Something the matter?"
"No… Because of my situation, I never interacted with such people before."
But I guess so. Adventurer's guilds existed here! This world really resembled a fantasy TRPG, huh.
Since I should redirect the suspicious oni's attention, I added.
"Um, in any case… err… I will share my food and sleeping accommodations with you, so can you tell me about the situation in the cities? Naturally, until we reach your destination."
"Huh…? Uh, well, that's a really simple favor to ask. Are you sure? From what I can see, you don't have that much on you…"
"Ah. I, well… um… I have a bunch of things like a skill that allows me to identify edible things and can thus procure ingredients."
"Really?! I'm a glutton, so I'm envious of such a skill!"
I wasn't exactly lying. Survival Skill did inform me whether I could eat something, and the "bunch of things" included Campy… For a short moment, Ville forgot to blink, but he soon broke out into a hearty laugh. That's true. Survival Skill was something to envy. Although I doubt it had any use in actual combat. After all, when it came to Survival Skill, it produced a bright red alert one time when I took a short walk around before going to bed. I wondered what was happening, and when I looked at my feet, I saw some poisonous plants that resembled sharp, thick thorns by my feet. Even without me noticing, it will automatically give me these alerts!
…Campy is amazing, but Survival Skill is just as cool! Since Survival Skill didn't give me any warning alarms now, it was probably telling me that Ville was safe and trustworthy.
Well, then again. If we will be traveling together, I can't keep Campy a secret and will have to reveal it at a suitable time. But until then, let's keep quiet about it…
"Therefore, if it's not too much of a bother, I would really appreciate it if we can travel together. Due to my situation, I lack much knowledge about this place…"
"No. Rather, I want to be the one to ask you as long as it doesn't hinder you. I'll be in your care!"
A bright grin and a powerful handshake were universal signs of friendliness! At any rate, after closing our calm and refreshing discussion, I wanted to hear more from Ville as he filled his empty stomach.
Author's Note: I researched a lot to express the mood as much as possible, but I've been feeling that it's so detailed that it's conversely boring. To those readers out there, please let me know if you find this even a bit interesting.