The following morning, a somewhat dozy Makoto, who had just come out of her appointed room, sprang into full consciousness after feasting her eyes on the breakfast Haruna had prepared. She then proceeded to ignore everyone else waiting for chow time and, without a moment’s delay, positioned herself right in front of the table and patiently awaited the rice to be done.
「Good morning, Makoto. We’ve got miso, seaweed, dried fish and a small side bowl to go with the rice but I still need to know how you’d like your eggs – sunny side up? Tamagoyaki? Or maybe you’d prefer them served over rice? 」
「Served over rice! 」
Haruna let slip a strained smile as she served up the rice alongside a three-way goodie set made up of eggs, katsuoboshi and soy sauce to Makoto, who showed no signs of a hangover after yesterday’s drinking. No one could rein in their amusement at Makoto’s Makoto-like reaction
「Are you fine with Natto? 」
「Yeah, but I’ll pass. I’m having egg served over rice after all. 」
「Huh, alrighty then」
Haruna nodded back at Makoto’s words while preparing her own share of the meal. Everyone else wanted their eggs over rice so she went with the same. All of the tableware before them were hand-crafted over at the workshop by the group effort of Haruna and Hiroshi.
「Do ya’ll eat yer eggs raw? 」
「We sterilize ’em so it all good」
「Oh right of course, no problem there.」
Seeing everyone crack open an egg on top of their rice and begin to mix it all together along with some soy sauce Goivejon and Foeldan couldn’t help but poke fun at them, looking visibly disturbed in the process. Artiem also shared the sentiment.
「Back in my place there’s a whole culture around eating things raw. Over hundreds of years of experimentation the proper way to prepare food for safe consumption has, more or less, been made apparent.」
Hiroshi said, taking in a mouthful out of his thoroughly blended together meal which he appeared to delight in.
「Haru, seconds. Also let’s have omelets for lunch.」
Mio declared her demands while savoring her second serving complemented by seasoned laver. She made her preferences all too clear by devouring copious amounts of rice without any kind of reservation the moment she managed to lay hands on some.
「I’ll be having seconds. Also could I get some Natto? 」
「By Natto, do you mean those rotted soybeans? 」
「They seem like that at first glance but they’re perfectly edible, more or less. 」
Seeing Makoto throw stocking, mustard, onions and soy sauce together and dump it all over the rice without even flinching left Goivejon with a sour look on his face. A goblin’s repulsed grimace is quite an odd sight.
「Well, it might be too much asking some lot from an entirely different continent to comprehend varying attitudes towards food.」
「Aye, even folk from the same country as I eat their food differently a’ter all」
「I know right. Also, I’ve noticed that it’s mostly kansai people who refer to natto in that manner」
「It’s not like there aren’t any of us who are fine with natto. Mum and sis have no qualms about eating it, although me and daddy-o can’t stomach it.」
Whether or not one’s okay with eating natto hinges more on one’s cultural background than personal preference. The western side of Japan having little in terms of Natto production, it’s not all that puzzling that a good chunk of people can’t bear the taste. And while it’s certainly a nutritious meal it’s not like anyone should be given flak just because they can’t get it down their throat. As is natural to not attack others from a fundamentally different race from ours just for not being able to take in something completely foreign to them, the same should be applied to people from the same country as well. It’s only the exceptions like Aearis that can go ahead and eat some without any hesitation when it was placed in front of her as a joke.
「Mio, you’ve developed quite the appetite recently, haven’t you? 」
「Aye. Even back in Farlane she ate a fair bit but after getting back her intake increased somewhere around threefold? 」
「I’m a late bloomer. 」
Dancing her way out of Hiroshi’s and Tatsuya’s accusations, Mio proceeds to effortlessly gobble down a third serving of rice and a second dried fish strip. It’s a complete mystery where all that food manages to fit in her tiny body of childish proportions. Although, in all fairness, taking into consideration the nature of her recent activities it’s highly unlikely she’ll put on weight from just that much.
「There be nothing wrong with a child eating to their heart’s content. 」
The goblin and the forest giant nod in agreement as they fondly observe Mio continuing to blissfully gorge on food as though nothing else in the world mattered.
「I’ve got to say this nimono right here really hits the spot」
「You betcha. What in tarnation is this black goo though? 」
「We call it soy sauce, it’s a type of seasoning from back home made by fermenting soybeans with a kind of mold known as koji.」
The three races attention was fixated to Haruna’s explanation. It seems as though it had peaked their interest.
「That soup right there is made through the same fermentation process as well.」
「This one a’well?」
「It went well with lars’ rice so I did a little digging myself」
「This world is just full of surprises, ain’t it?」
「How ’bout I teach how to make it?」
The three’s faces light up at Hiroshi’s proposal. They believed that, since it’s possible to self-dependently collect all the ingredients, as long they knew the recipe they could make as much of it as they pleased. It was visible from their glittering expressions
「However the stock we used this time around was picked up from the sea. We should definitely get around to investigating the local produce to see if there’s anything usable out there」
「That certainly does sound difficult now don’t it」
「The taste changes drastically depending on the quality of the ingredients」
Upon hearing Haruna’s words a shadow is cast upon the once lit up faces of the three races. It’s evident from the way they reacted to the mention of stock that they’re general knowledge in that area is, at the very least, more developed than Farlanians. During the discussion concerning various usable dashi ingredients around these parts, one peculiar question reared its head.
「I overlooked it yesterday but, now that I think about it, where do ya’ll procure your salt from?」
Asked Hiroshi, genuinely puzzled as to how this many races can be residing in the forest and yet at the same time be using salt as though there was an abundance of it laying around. If there were any rock salt node caves around then it would make sense but, from what he’d gathered, there was nothing of the sort in plain sight at least. Although there was a road leading into the nearest city, the village itself was buried in the forest. Compared to a coastal city such as Wulls, salt doesn’t go for that low of a price, and considering what the elves are able to put on the table, it seems highly unlikely that they could afford such large amounts. Also taking into account the logistical problems that would arise from the quantity of goods which would have to be delivered and it looks all the less plausible that they’re being acquired through barter. Taking all of the above into consideration, one can only assume that they’re producing it themselves through some means, but there’s no salt water close by and there’s really no other apparent means of production that comes to mind.
「Salt can be extracted from the salt tree fruit」
「The salt tree bears fruit all year round and because of that we can pluck and boil them down till the moisture disperses whenever the need arises. One fruit yields around 100 grams of crystalized salt.」
「With just one tree it’s possible to supply around a 1000 people. They are treasured by the villages around here.」
Unearthly plant life, wouldn’t have expected any less from a parallel universe. Also if one licks the salt tree fruit by it itself it’s said to taste fruity. Either way it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s salt, so it’s only people tricking themselves into thinking it should taste fruity.
「So what you’re saying is that what’s missing from these here villages is a little bit of excitement?」
There’s no real reason to leave the forest when all the daily necessities such as water, salt, meat and vegetables are all conveniently within reach. As such, there’s no need to interact with the outside world more than completely necessary, but when all the necessities of life are in place people can’t help but feel a longing for some stimuli. And when it comes to someone from a cut off land, where human relations are non-existent, this is especially so. Usually, most notably in the case of elves, under these circumstances the elderly grow more and more conservative as the years go by but the village people around this area, conversely, want to leave for the outside seeking some luster in their life. Trying to imagine the full combined extent of the wanderlust that’s overtaken every village as a whole is a fool’s errand.
「Isn’t it mostly the elderly folk who are very keen on setting out?」
「Then how come Teres was over at Wulls?」
「A little while back, I say that but it’s already been 2 whole years, A prophecy had been made by Aranwen which lead to a single one of the younger generation to set off for Wulls. No matter who got the short end of the stick it would’ve ended with a dispute so they all drew for it and it was Teres who got chosen to carry out the duty.」
Everyone present had a rough idea of what Aranwen’s prophecy was and that thought made the acts of gods feel more real than usual.
「I missed the opportunity to ask yesterday but how does everyone see their relationship with Teres?」
「An apprentice and her master, right?」
「Aye. A lot went down up to this point but that’s probably the most accurate description for the time being」
「Indeedy. She went through the ropes for about three months where she spent that time sterilizing class eight potions and curry powder, also I made sure she’d be able to cook up a very special kind of seasoning. She should be diligently making something fine right about now」
Goivejon and Foeldan display mixed reactions towards the mentioning of potions.
Also every single potion, regardless of type, is known as the Farlane standard, even in elven villages. The reason for that is simple, the current herbalists of this village are but successors of the elves who once went through a period of study at the then recently founded Farlane. Having said that, although they underwent rigorous study, the best they could do was class four, even then it was somewhat of a struggle, and they all died out before the current day herbalists had a chance to be handed down the full extent of their knowledge. Because of these circumstances the uppermost class limit for mass producible potions is six.
「But did you teach her potion brewing?」
「Aye. The one to teach her was this one right there, my other apprentice, Mio」
「Even Mio can effortlessly teach up to the fifth class after all」
「Fifth class? You dun say」
Goivejon puts on a skeptical face upon hearing that keyword. Whichever way you look at it neither Hiroshi nor Mio look like herbalists who’ve mastered the art of brewing such high caliber potions.
「Alrighty, we can discuss what Teres has been up to at another time for now」
「Agreed. We should start from grasping our current predicament」
What level of potions Hiroshi and his apprentices are capable of concocting is completely irrelevant at the moment. The matter at hand that needs to be addressed right here and now are our plans of heading over to Aranwen’s temple.
「How’re the roads to the temple hanging on?」
「The main road is swarming with carnivorous plants, there’s no way we’re getting through there.」
「Wouldn’t suggest goin’ down the back road for a bunch of beginners like yerselves either, seeing as it’s a tad populated by Hunter Trees and Blood Wolves」
「Nevertheless, the back road is still the best option at the moment」
That’s quite the upsetting news. We’d heard bits of information regarding the carnivorous plants yesterday so it wasn’t too much of a shocker but to think that the back road is also going to prove a challenge is rather discouraging.
Last time Hiroshi managed to slash down the Hunter Tree in three swings but facing off from the front would provide a whole new set of troublesome challenges in the form of saturation attacks carried out by the vines and branches. Although the core of it is immobile to compensate for this it manages to masterfully camouflage itself, blending into the environment and being able to deliver swift surprise attacks at any given moment. Though it’s weak to fire in relation to all the other elements that doesn’t mean that slightly wet tree bark will catch on fire all that easily and as such fire is a lot less universally effective than say an axe for example. And worst of all, it doesn’t really have any other weak points or elements to speak of and by benefit of being a tree its defense is naturally high. A bothersome foe to say the least, although not nearly as frustrating as attempting to down one with a bow that is.
The Blood Wolf, as its name would suggest, is a massive wolf with a mane as red as blood. Despite being a wolf it is able to skillfully utilize tree branches, with a grace only matched by members of the cat family, from where it is able to incorporate a vertical element to its attacks. Its nimble movements and sharp claws are capable of completely overwhelming the average adventurer in under five seconds. Despite possessing combat capabilities several times higher than that of a poison wolf, they form and act like a pact comprised of at least ten and, at times, over twenty wolves. What’s most troubling in this specific instance, however, is that they’re going to have the backup of Hunter Trees.
While Hunter Trees are carnivorous their main source of nutrition comes from energy, either of a magical or a physical nature, both of which are stored in the blood. On the other hand Blood Wolves are, unsurprisingly enough, pure carnivores and have little fascination with blood. If the two were to engage in head to head combat the Blood Wolves would come out on top through a pure numbers advantage. But it wouldn’t even really come to that, since if a Hunter Tree was to attempt to sneak attack a monster the caliber of the Blood Wolf, by the time they got into the execution phase, the Blood Wolf pack would have already escaped out of their effective striking range. From the perspective of a Hunter Tree, the Blood Wolf makes for an exceedingly inefficient hunting target, so it makes a lot more sense for them to hunt alongside the Blood Wolves and scrape up whatever remains in their wake.
「Isn’t it a miracle how these things can be on the loose and yet the surrounding villages still manage to remain unharmed?」
「Well, there’s a magical barrier protecting it for a reason」
「Aye, plus it’s not like us goblins would ever be caught dead losing a sheer numbers match, not to mention that forest giants are the natural predators for Hunter Trees. There’s no way they’re brain-dead enough to pick a fight with us of their own volition.」
The forest giant who’s huge in stature, firmly built and excels in the handling of axes is one of the absolute least favorable matchups for Hunter Trees. After all, the forest giants couldn’t care less about getting a bruise or two, they’ll charge straight for the core and swing at it with all their might, damn the consequences. And this goes for any tree type monster, not just for Hunter Trees. From their perspective there’s nothing quite as terrifying as a towering lumberjack.
「Well since we can safely discard the back road from our list of options it’d be a good idea to thoroughly check out the front one」
「How come you’re discarding it?」
「f it was just us out there it wouldn’t be an issue but with all the others tagging along things would get complicated」
「From ya’lls perspective it would be more convenient to head through the front road, right?」
Their eyes popped wide open upon hearing those words
「No need to be so dramatic, we’re getting some rice to take back home, we’ve also going to need Farlane’s agricultural assistance so we’re fine with doing this one last small job」
「Wouldn’t that be asking for too much?」
「It’s all good, no really. Preparation will take some time, however, so you’ll have more mouths to feed in the meanwhile and hopefully that’s okay with you.」
「No worries, these past three years the harvest has been abundant. No village will starve that easily even if the population growth was in the lower double digits.」
Thus we decide on our course of action while mixing in some light conversation to ease the mood in between. For the time being, clearing out the front road is going to be our main focus.
「Now that breakfast has concluded how ’bout we check up on the state of the front path?」
「Yeah, just hearing about it doesn’t really tell the full story.」
「Sensei, what about weed killers?」
「We can see to that after checkin’. Besides, chances are the locals have already tried that, so I doubt they’ll be of much use」
Said Hiroshi as he finished up cleaning after himself and headed to prepare for adventuring. Grasping the battlefield comes before everything else.
And so, in accordance to the fundamentals of any successful undertaking, they headed out to investigate the conditions of the front road.