Translator: Silver Editor: Namorax
The Great Canada forest spread out over the southeastern region of the Northern Continent.
Long ago this area had been considered barren land, but the elves fled persecution by cultivating the forest through mystical means. Now the forest, and the numerous monsters inhabiting it, acted as a natural barrier that kept humans away.
However, multiple elven villages resided in this forest.
The elves’ prowess with magic and their walls allowed them to create almost fairy tale-like villages.
The village was dotted with mushroom-shaped wooden houses, and a mansion fused with a large tree stood at the village’s center.
Of all the elven villages, the one named Raratoia was the one led by Ariane’s father and the one I currently resided in.
The large residence we stood in front of was elder’s home and were Ariane had been raised.
While this tree-house hybrid was thin compared to the Dragon King’s tree, its trunk was considerably larger than the average human home. The branches on the tree rose high into the sky and the leaves cast a deep shadow over the area.
I followed Ariane as she walked into the mansion unimpeded.
Stepping into the main hall I was greeted with the sight of two parallel stairways leading up to the second floor, where the dining room was.
Inside the dining room was a woman with an aura similar to Ariane’s, and when she saw us entering the room a smile started to bloom on her face.
“Oh, you finally came back? Arc-kun said that he’d be making lunch today, I was thinking of postponing it if you didn’t return soon.”
The woman was Ariane’s mother and the wife of the current village elder.
Glenys Aruna Raratoia acted as the substitute village elder while her husband was away on business, and she didn’t look much older than Ariane.
Given the longevity of elves, in general, you couldn’t accurately judge their age by appearances alone.
In any case, trying to assign an age to Glenys was the equivalent of jumping head first into my own grave. Glenys was the one that taught Ariane swordsmanship, and in all the sparring sessions I had with her I was never able to put up much of a fight.
I offered an apology to her still smiling visage.
“Sorry, Glenys-dono. I got a little too absorbed in making the kiln.”
I originally planned to work only for a couple of hours, so I had offered to make lunch today.
I went to the kitchen in the dining room while still wearing my armor.
Humans used firewood to cook in this world, but elves were able to maintain higher living standards through the use of a magic tool.
There was actually an stove for firewood in the kitchen, but next to it was also a tool that looked kinda like a gas stove..
Since the only alternative were magic stones, it wasn’t all that surprising that firewood was the predominant fuel source.
“That reminds me, what were you messing around with last night, Arc?”
Ariane looked into the kitchen as I started to get to work.
Her eyes looked over the two bowls I held in my hands.
The two ceramic bowls contained dried tomatoes and mushrooms that were soaking in water.
“It a new seasoning I’m trying to make.”
I began removing the tomatoes and mushrooms from the bowels as I replied.
I was challenging myself to make soy sauce this time around.
Normally soy sauce was made by fermenting koji and soybeans, but the process was quite complicated, requiring precise timing and temperature management. It’s unlikely that an amateur like myself would be able to make i
However, it should be possible for me to produce a chemical equivalent of soy sauce.
The first step was to soak tomatoes and mushrooms in water.
The recipe actually required morels, but I haven’t seen those in this world. That’s why I used some aromatic mushrooms Glenys had recommended.
Visually, they resembled eryngii.
I poured the contents of the bowls into a pot full of minced chicken breast.
Next, I placed the pot over the fire to cook.
The ‘stock’ component of the arrangement was almost done.
After a slight smell and taste test, I was confident that it was a delicious stock.
However, Ariane grimaced when she caught a whiff of what I was making.
“……What is that? It doesn’t smell all that enticing……”
I started to shrug my shoulders at Ariane’s apparent disgust but stopped.
My Japanese upbringing meant that I had gotten used to the smell, but I knew foreigners compare it to steamed laundry. I guess it depended on what one was accustomed to.
Well, let’s finally make the substitute soy sauce.
Ultimately, so long as I had the amino acid and sugar I had the base needed for the soy sauce.
First there was the amino acid: I put the leftovers of the minced chicken I had put into the stock into a bowl and carefully started mixing in maple syrup, a specialty of Canada Forest, into the pot as a replacement for the sugar.
As I began to raise the temperature, the Maillard reaction started to take effect as the minced chicken and stock started browning. At that point, I added salt and liquor to the mix and put out the fire.
“Hmm, it should be done.”
I dipped a finger into the dark brown liquid inside the pot and tasted it.
While not exactly what I expected, it resembled soy sauce well enough.
Since I could only get my hands on a white-wine-like liquor, the taste harkened back to western flavors. It was the difference between soy sauce (醤油) and soy sauce (ソイソース).
Even though I didn’t use any soy to begin with.
Ariane sat nearby and held Ponta in her arms as they watched me working. They way their nose twitched showed their interest in the soy sauce.
“How is it, Ariane-dono? The stench no longer bothers you?”
She thought about it for a moment before shaking her head.
“The smell changed a while ago. How should I say…… it now gives off a pleasant aroma.”
There wasn’t a hint of rejection in her voice.
The teriyaki chicken I planned to make should suit her taste…… as I thought such things I began to soak the chicken in the sauce. Glenys suddenly noticed something and got out of her seat in the dining room.
She went down to the first floor and a few minutes later Glenys returned with someone I hadn’t seen in awhile.
“Oh, Dylan-dono. You finally returned.”
The person appearing behind Glenys’ back, after noticing Ariane and me inside the kitchen, smiled and gave us a small wave with his hand.
“Arc-kun, Ariane. I just returned a few minutes ago. It was quite the long stay in Rhoden’s capital but we were able to make significant headway as a result.”
As I’d said, Dylan Targ Raratoia, Ariane’s father and the Raratioia’s elder had finally returned.
His long pointed ears were partially concealed by his green-tinged blonde hair and his slender build was common among regular elves.
“I also brought along a guest for you two.”
There was a big smile on his face as he looked behind himself.
Ariane’s and me naturally followed his line of sight and spotted a single girl standing behind him.
“Chiome-chan!? What are you doing here?”
Ariane was surprised when she realized who the girl was.
The cat ears topping Chiome’s raven black hair and her long tail stood up a little as she lowered her head in a formal greeting.
“It’s been a while Ariane-dono, Arc-dono.”
Her tail was swaying joyfully to the left and right, expressing an abundance of emotions unlike her unchanging facial expression..
After the Southern Continent affair was settled, I returned Chiome to the hidden mountain village the Blade Heart Clan currently occupied.
Chiome’s missing brother-figure and senior disciple had become an undead and she had had the difficult task of ending his existence.
I’d dropped her off in the hidden village so that she could give her report about the whole affair.
“……Chiome-dono, are you doing alright?”
I didn’t know what to say to Chiome after our long separation, so I only asked a vague question.
It’s only been half a month and I doubted a proper funeral had been held yet.
I couldn’t imagine it would be an easy thing to come to terms with having to kill someone you loved like a brother.
Chiome turned her clear blue eyes straight at me as she offered me a slight nod.
“Yes. After I returned to the village, I gave my report to Hanzo-sama and held the funer──”
Chiome’s swinging tail dropped immediately and her head dropped when she tried to say the last bit, Ariane couldn’t even keep the worry off of her face.
“Afterwards, I left to investigate Sasuke-oniichan’s final words by tracing his steps up until his disappearance……”
After a brief pause she managed to finish her piece, she then looked in my direction again.
Sasuke’s last words…… although I didn’t hear them, she had told me he’d said: “Watch out for the Church”.
It could be inferred that the reason behind his undead condition had something to do with the Hiruku Theocracy.
Both Chiome and Ariane both agreed that when they had confronted him, Sasuke had demonstrated unusual behavior for an undead.
Normally, an undead was spontaneously raised when a corpse was exposed to large amounts of miasma.
Even then, suitable conditions needed to be met for the undead to rise, that’s the reason why the most common types of undead were the rotting zombies and stripped-clean skeletons.
However, when Sasuke appeared in front of us, he lacked any distinguishing features that would mark him as an undead.
It was only thanks to Ariane’s elven ability to see “Undead Impurities” and Chiome animalistic sense of smell that we could even tell he’d been undead.
It was only because of those abilities that they determined the skeleton under my suit of armor wasn’t undead and why I could live as I did now. If they said Sasuke had been undead, then it was a reliable assertion.
Things only became more complicated when you consider that Sasuke acted with a clear purpose despite being undead, a horde of undead appeared when we finally caught up to him, and there was that unknown monstrosity that broke out of the church.
Taking all of those things into account, it was unlikely that the Blade Heart Clan could ignore Sasuke’s last words.
“……However, a problem arose when I tried to investigation the country. According to Sasuke-nisan’s last report, he was travelling across the Febinto marsh in the northwestern part of Rhoden Kingdom in order to enter Delfuento Kingdom. We lost contact with him shortly after that.”
Ariane and I shared a look as the meaning of this visit became clear.
Chiome observed us as she continued her explanation.
“When a mission takes my clansmen on extended journeys they utilize the resources and hideout our ‘Kusa’ network has available, but the hideout had been destroyed when we arrived there.”
It appeared that ‘kusa’ was the name of the network they used for their ninja activities. If they were to loose one of them, it would become a lot harder to gather information.
“Chiome-dono, I can understand the value of a kusa, but what of the whereabouts of the people stationed at the hideout?”
A bit of worry appeared on Chiome’s face at my question.
“The teaching of the Hiruku religion is deeply rooted within the Theocracy and the three surrounding nations, it is a place where elves and my people normally don’t tread. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if they were killed or enslaved once found. That’s why the hideout didn’t have too many people stationed there. I came here because I made it there and got stuck in my investigation.”
Chiome clenched her fists as regret washed over her.
Dylan, who’d been silent till now, took over the conversation as Chiome tried to tamper down her emotions.
“Since Arc-kun has helped them before, they wanted to ask for his help again which is why they contacted me during my stay in Rhoden’s capital…… That’s the gist of it. Still, their information network and infiltrations skills are rather impressive. I almost fainted when she suddenly appeared in my room in the castle.”
The casualness of Dylan’s comment somewhat eased the heavy atmosphere.
“Hoo, does this mean our destination this time is the Hiruku Theocracy?”
Chiome’s eyes popped open when I asked that question.
“!? Arc-dono, you’ll help……? I haven’t even brought up the reward yet……”
I detected something like uncertainty in her voice as she awkwardly asked her question.
This request was different from the last request to free her brethren, this time it was about a family member…… she had a personal interest in what had happened to Sasuke.
In any case, something about his last words left me anxious.
“There are things I would like to look into as well. And if I can help Chiome-dono, I will gladly lend you my power.”
Chiome’s ears did a little pitter-patter when she lowered her head to me.