The next morning, before dawn, everyone is already awake and patrolling around the village.
Angeline, who is quite lively, cheerfully climbs her favorite hill and from there gazes at the whole village. She still exhales white smoke, but the landscape of the hill is clearly greener.
After returning home and having a light breakfast, everyone folds the blankets they used for sleeping and returns the straw to the barn. They also clean as much as they can, and verify that the chimney is off. That chimney hadn’t gone out in quite a while. In the last few weeks, it had burned practically every day.
After they are finished, they put their luggage in the carriage. However, there are not as many things as when the girls returned to Tornela. There are no souvenirs they want to take back to Orphen.
Belgriff takes one last look inside the house to see if anything has been left behind. But everything seems to be fine.
"It’s been several years since I left the village for a long period of time. "Says Belgriff as he touches the walls of his house. "I’ll be gone for a while. Wait for me, okay?" As if responding, a slight squeaking sound is heard. Belgriff smiles, knocks the wall and leaves the house.
There is a thin cloud in the sky that was not there in the morning, and it seems that a thicker cloud is approaching from the north and a cold wind is blowing, as if the joy of the recent spring had weakened in the village.
When the old adventurer goes out into the garden, he encounters a small farewell group that is talking to the girls.
The young men of the village seem to lament that the girls are returning to the city, they have depressed expressions and are making a big fuss. Anessa scratches her cheek with a wry smile and Miriam is chuckling a little. They don’t really seem very interested in boys.
None of the young people talk to Angeline, whom they’ve known since childhood and whose father terrifies them. However, Angeline doesn’t seem to care. She sits in the carriage, smiling, and watching as her friends try to appease the young men.
Seeing this, Belgriff feels a little uneasy about whether he will ever see his daughter get married.
"You’re a busy guy, Bel!" says Kerry as he puts his hand on Belgriff’s shoulder.
"Haha, yes. It’s a strange feeling."
"Please be careful and come back safe. I’ll take care of the fields."
"Yes, thank you. That’ll help a lot."
Belgriff smiles, pats Kerry on the shoulders and slowly climbs into the carriage. His muscular pains still afflict him and he can’t move easily. Fortunately, there is plenty of space in the carriage because there is not much luggage. At that moment, Angeline approaches him cheerfully.
"Daddy, are you ready?"
"Okay, time to go~."
"Yes, yes, time to go."
When Anessa moves the reins, the horse slowly lifts its legs and the cart begins to move. Belgriff leans out of the cart and talks to Kerry.
"Well, it’s time to go. I’ll leave everything to you in my absence."
"Of course, enjoy your trip and come back soon!"
"… It’s not like I’m going on vacation." Belgriff smiles and scratches his cheeks.
The carriage leaves the village, moves along the outer plain and gradually enters the mountain path. The road is bad, so every time the hard wheels step on a stone, the carriage shakes. However, it seems that the trip is faster because now they do not have excess baggage.
But still, they have to get out of the carriage and push from behind when the slope is too steep. Horses, too, are living beings, and they will not move if they are forced to overexert themselves. Belgriff hopes that the carriages will be able to move more easily once they begin to fix the road.
As they distance themselves from Tornela, the clouds become thinner and the weather improves. There is no trace of those dark clouds approaching from the north.
Belgriff goes to the back of the carriage and sits there. To protect himself from the sun, he quickly assembles an awning.
Belgriff goes to the back of the carriage and sits there. To protect himself from the sun, he quickly sets up a tarp.
Anessa holds the reins of the carriage, while Angeline and Miriam sit on both sides of Belgriff and have been grooming with their beard ever since. Since he’s never bothered to do this kind of superfluous stuff, he can’t help but feel a little strange. Also, as it tickles him, Belgriff can’t relax.
"This beard always . And it’s very soft."
"Interesting~. Mr. Bell, do you always groom your beard?"
"Well, I’ve never cared about that sort of thing… But, hey, you two, you’re tickling me."
But no matter what Belgriff said, the girls continued their work with smiles on their lips. Realizing that he has somehow gotten more daughters, Belgriff sighs deeply.
The horse is not galloping, but it is still much faster than a person on foot. At this rate, they will reach the village of Rodina when the sun is setting, or perhaps a little earlier.
Rodina is the closest village to Tornela. And although it is not very large, it has a huge forest nearby that allows them to collect acorns, and pig breeding thrives in the area. The quality of the smoked meat, sausages and pork fat is high. The village of Tornela buys these products and in return sells wool, part of the crops, goat leather, among other things, to the villagers of Rodina.
But this relationship is not merely commercial. There is also a kind of cultural exchange when Rodina villagers visit Tornela during the Autumn Festival.
For Belgriff, however, this is just the second time he has left Tornela, counting the time he traveled to Orphen to become an adventurer. Somehow, it’s like he has never left Tornela. The old adventurer knows every corner of his village, but he doesn’t recognize what lies beyond the mountain path. His memories are too old to remember anything clearly.
Maybe, just maybe, if he were a couple of years younger, Belgriff would feel different.
The sun gradually leans westward and the shadows become longer. Although you can feel the warmth of spring during the day, the night wind makes anyone start shaking. And today, the wind seems to be blowing from the north.
Belgriff changes his position many times because, despite having some cushions, he finds it uncomfortable sitting the same way for a long time. The same seems to be happening to the three girls, as they also change their position, but less frequently than Belgriff. However, Anessa, who has handled the reins from the beginning, is sitting still in the front seat.
Belgriff can feel the difference between him and the girls as adventurers, and he can’t help but smile wryly. It’s been a long time since he sat in a carriage and traveled that way. At best, he has only traveled to his barn with a wagon full of wheat and potatoes on harvest days.
"You are indeed accustomed to traveling. It is amazing." When Belgriff says this, Angeline’s face lights up.
"Fufufu. We’re amazing, aren’t we?"
Angeline smiles widely and then rests her head on her father’s shoulder. When Belgriff puts her hand on the girl’s head, she closes her eyes and relaxes her expression. The old adventurer smiles bitterly when he realizes that his daughter’s spoiled attitude has not completely disappeared.
Miriam looks at that scene with an envious expression. She takes off her hat and holds it in her hand, then she rests her head on Belgriff’s shoulder, just like Angeline.
"You’re too cunning, Angie~. I’m great too, aren’t I, Mr. Bel~? Please, pat my head."
"Well, I don’t mind…"
Does a pat on the head really feel that good?, thinks Belgriff. But since there’s no reason not to, he puts his hand on Miriam’s head and she smiles satisfactorily.
"This feels good~."
"Is that so? But what about your pretty ears? They could get cold with this wind…"
When Belgriff says that, Miriam starts giggling. "Fufufufu~! That won’t happen. It’s okay to touch, my hair is quite soft~."
Although it is not very long, the delicate, smooth hair completely covers the ears and is quite pleasant to the touch. It is very well cared for. This way, the wind won’t be a problem. However, when Belgriff realizes that they are talking about this kind of thing, he can’t help but feel a little embarrassed.
"Sorry, I think I said something inappropriate…"
"Not at all~! But thank you for your consideration. Fufufu~."
Miriam rests her head on Belgriff again as she continues to laugh. At that moment, a finger touches Miriam’s cheek. It’s Angeline, and she appears to be a little angry.
"Miri… Don’t be so clingy with my Daddy."
"Mmm~, it’s not good that you’re trying to monopolize him~."
"But he’s my Daddy."
"That’s unfair! You don’t mind having one more daughter, do you, Mr. Bel~?"
"Wh-what do you mean?"
"Hey, you can’t say that kind of thing to Daddy… Besides, if you want to be my sister, you must defeat me first."
"Wait! That way I will never be your sister~!"
The two girls begin to poke each other’s cheeks as they continue their incomprehensible discussion. Belgriff decides it’s best to run away and crawls to the front of the carriage.
"Those two get along very well," he says as he stretches his aching muscles. Anessa smiles from the driver’s seat.
"Yes, it’s as if they couldn’t help it…"
"Miss Ane, are you tired? Do you want me to replace you?" suggests Belgriff, but Anessa turns around and smiles.
"It’s okay. I’ve enjoyed doing this from the beginning."
"Mmm… Do you like animals?"
"That’s right. Well, the truth is, on our travels, I always end up with two big beasts… I guess in the end, I got used to it." As she says this, Anessa looks back with a wry smile at her two companions, who were still playing in the back of the carriage.
These three get along very well. It’s a good thing Angeline could find such good friends. Belgriff thinks with a smile on his face.
After they ate a light lunch and let the horse rest, they continue their journey, and finally enter the acorn forest. Even though twilight makes visibility bad, they can easily find clearly the path that people constantly use, as the dried acorns made a loud noise when the carriage wheels run over them. Pigs usually don’t eat the shell and that’s what’s left on the road. In addition, they can detect the smell of pigs in the air.
When the sun is about to set and the shadows are about to cover everything. They can finally see the wooden fence that surrounds the village.
"Here we are. This is Rodina."
"Hah, it took a long time~."
With the carriage still moving, they stretch their numb muscles. It’s a pretty nice feeling after the long trip. After talking to the young guard, they enter the village. Unlike Tornela, there are groups of thieves who occasionally appear nearby, so security is quite strict.
Inside the village, there is a small inn where merchants looking to buy pork go. That’s where they plan to spend the night.
"It’s been a long time since I’ve been here… Nothing is how I remember it," Belgriff says from the top of the carriage as he scratches his cheek.
"How long has it been since you left Tornela, Mr. Bel?" When asked by Anessa, Belgriff scratches his head with a wry smile.
"I hadn’t been out in over twenty years."
"Hahaha, that’s incredible. So, it’s been a long time."
"Yes… it’s kind of curious."
Belgriff had imagined that he would spend the rest of his days within the borders of Tornela. However, Angeline began to propagate the nickname ‘Red Ogre’ to describe him, and it spread so far that even Helvetica Bordeaux heard it, making her visit Tornela and propose the plan to fix the way. Which brings us to the present, where Belgriff is traveling with his daughter and her companions to deliver a letter.
And now, his journey starts anew. Belgriff remembers how, when his daughter left to become an adventurer, he couldn’t help but have mixed feelings. Life is quite strange.
The inn is not very crowded, but there are still some merchants and travelers. A peculiar smell of burnt fat floats in the air, probably someone is cooking pork. There are a dining room and a bar on the first floor, where guests eat their food.
In the back, there is a , and on the second floor, there are several private rooms. The current clients probably don’t have a lot of money, as the private rooms on the second floor are almost empty, and the communal room is almost full.
Belgriff suggests that the girls take a private room while he rests in the communal room, however, there is fierce opposition from the three adventurers.
"There’s no way we’re doing that, Daddy!"
"That’s right, Mr. Bell~. Please don’t say such gloomy things. Right, Ane~?"
"But there’s only one bed in the room and it’s not big enough for four people."
"No problem. Miri and Ane will sleep on both sides of the bed and I will sleep with you in the middle. We’ll hug each other to save space."
"… You’ll end up cooking me alive*."
"But it’s cold at night, isn’t it~? I’m sure we’ll sleep better that way."
"…Ms. Miri, do you really think we could all sleep comfortably together in that bed?"
Needless to say, Belgriff’s body is enormous. He doesn’t have unnecessary fat, but he is quite tall and his muscles are quite developed, so his size is much bigger than that of the girls. Besides, the bed is not that big. If the three girls squeeze into it, they could fit one way or another, but if they want to include Belgriff, well, that would be practically impossible.
At that moment, Angeline’s face lit up, as if she had just had a revelation.
"Then, Daddy and I can sleep in this bed and Miri and Ane can go to the communal room…"
"Hey!" Belgriff shouts as he . "You mustn’t think only about yourself."
"Mu~… I’m sorry."
After a heated discussion, they decide to opt for the first proposal, Belgriff will stay in a communal room and the three girls will take a private room. In exchange for that, Angeline demands that they stay together until bedtime and hugs Belgriff’s arm firmly while pouting.
They dine together in the dining room on the first floor and then talk while drinking a little. Angeline, who seems happy to travel with her father, has a strong drink and ends up completely numb and wobbly. The other two girls are in the same condition.
They’re still young, Belgriff thinks when he sees that warm scene. It’s as if all the dignity of high-ranking adventurers has disappeared from the girls’ faces.
As the night progresses, they decide to go up to their room to rest a bit. Angeline, who can’t stand on her own, seems happy that Belgriff is carrying her. Instead, the old adventurer frowned at the pain he still felt in his muscles, but somehow he manages to put Angeline to bed and then sighed relieved.
"Well, good night."
"Get a good night’s rest, Mr. Bell."
Belgriff leaves the room, receives a blanket at the reception and heads to the communal room.
The fireplace is burning red and cushions are scattered everywhere. There are many people in various outfits, some are lying down and others are asleep, others are still awake and talking, others are drinking, others are playing cards.
Paying special attention to where he puts his feet, Belgriff finds an empty place and sits down. Despite being far from the fireplace, he doesn’t feel cold, probably because of the number of people around him.
Belgriff slowly removes his artificial leg and places it under a cushion.
There are many travelers inside the room and if a person leaves their belongings unattended, they may run the risk of being robbed. In private rooms, people can leave their things where they want, but here, even an artificial leg is in danger.
When he sees the situation, a man who is drinking next to Belgriff starts talking to him.
"You have a prosthetic leg."
The man looks like an adventurer. At first glance, he appears to be in his mid-thirties. His stocky body looks well trained, and his arms are thick. The opaque brown hair is beginning to thin, but a dark, thick beard covers the lower half of the face. His expression is hard and coarse, but his eyes reflect a certain sense of kindness.
"Yes, I’ve had it for a long time," Belgriff says with a smile.
"When you came in you moved so naturally, I barely noticed it. But then I heard the noise it made when it hit the ground."
"Haha, I guess I lack practice. But I was lucky to keep my knee. If I didn’t have it, surely my movements would be even stranger."
After saying that, Belgriff shows the movement of his knee to the man, who squints his eyes in surprise.
"Even so, you must have tried hard enough to move so easily. It’s admirable. Well done."
"Thank you. Belgriff says somewhat embarrassed as he scratches his cheek. Then the man offers him the bota bag in his hand.
"Would you like a drink? Or maybe you don’t like wine."
"I will accept it. Thank you."
Belgriff receives the bag and has a drink. It’s not the best wine he’s ever tasted, but the taste is nice. The taste for some reason reminds him of his days as an adventurer. Belgriff gives the bag back to the man, who looks at it with a smile and continues the conversation. Apparently, the man has a talkative personality.
"As an adventurer, I enjoy traveling to various countries. But I especially like to meet strong martial artists.**"
"I have traveled all over northern Estgarl. I have visited Orphen, Erbren, Asterinos. Before arriving in Rodina, I made a stop in the Bordeaux territory, and the adventurers there were great. Especially a girl named Sasha, the younger sister of the Bordeaux. She left a memento engraved on my arm, her power almost made me bite the dust. As far as I know, she’s in the AA Rank, but eventually, she’ll reach the S Rank, it’s just a matter of time."
The man nonchalantly tells the story of his encounter with Sasha. And as expected, she continues to increase her skills. Belgriff is listening quietly as he laughs from time to time. The man continues to drink his wine.
"I also heard some rumors in Bordeaux, about a sword master living in Tornela. He doesn’t have a habit of leaving Tornela and neither does he seek fame. They call him the ‘Red Ogre’ and it is said that his swordsmanship lives up to that nickname. Do you know him?"
A cold sweat forms on Belgriff’s forehead, but he manages to force a smile.
"N-No… I don’t know him…"
"I see… that ‘Red Ogre’ must be someone incredible. Apparently, he is Sasha Bordeaux’s master and she has never been able to defeat him. And if that weren’t enough, he is the father and master of the ‘Black Haired Valkyrie’ the heroine who defeated the Demon King. I never imagined that such an impressive person lived in the far north of the Empire of Rhodesia."
"… Is-is that so?"
"I really want to see that swordsmanship with my own eyes, that’s why I’m traveling to Tornela. I’ve heard that the ‘Red Ogre’ has red hair and a prosthetic leg, just like you. That’s why I spoke to you in the first place. Ha ha ha!"
"Ha ha…yes, it’s a strange coincidence… I’m sorry, but I have to get up early tomorrow," Belgriff says with a dry smile, and lies down with a blanket on his back.
"Yes, I have to get up early too." Says the man and begins to snore immediately.
Belgriff closes his eyes with a sense of relief, seeing that the man is not only, kind but also thick-skinned.Footnotes
* He actually refers to a defense mechanism of Japanese bees, .
** The man is using an archaic form of the pronoun ‘I’ (Sogerashi, 某), as far as I know, this pronoun was used by the samurai.By the way, some of you asked me if there’s a place where you can support the site. So, I opened an account at . If you want to support me, you can do it there, every bit will be deeply appreciated. Cheers!