“If you go straight from here you’ll find the shores of Ratoin Lake. Take a left from there and you’ll find Shikumu. Even if you get lost, as long as you make it to the shores of the lake, you should be able to see some villages. And if you can find a village, then you’ll be able ferry a boat, so you should eventually make it to Shikumu even though you might end up taking longer than expected.” [Merchant]
“Thank you for helping me so much.” [Ryouma]
“Don’t sweat it. We need to help each other when in need. I don’t think you’ll get lost, but do be careful.” [Merchant]
“Yes! You take care too!” [Ryouma]
It’s been two weeks since I formed a contract with the genius chicken’s brood and secured for myself a supply of eggs.
Presently, I’m looking for the Ratoin Lake where the Mud Salamander is said to live. I’m looking for it so I can train myself.
“…I better get going too.” [Ryouma]
I saw the merchant, who gave me directions, off and then followed the route he told me about. It wasn’t exactly a road, though, as it was more like an animal trail.
As I started down that path, it gradually became harder and harder to distinguish it from the rest of the ground, what with the roots of the surrounding trees growing unchecked.
The path was basically made up of mud and roots. From time to time, there were stones too. It’s like the primeval mangrove forest I saw back at Okinawa once.
I walk slowly and firmly step with my toes, making sure not to miss my footing.
The main purpose of this trip is the mud salamander, but another purpose is to practice my footing when going through places with bad footing like this path.
But what I’m really worried about is the time.
The merchant earlier said to just go straight and I’ll find the place very soon, but he kept saying the same thing yesterday about the camp, and yet it still took us 2 hours. He’s probably the kind of guy who thinks it’s normal to measure the distance to your nearest neighbor in kilometers. The sense of distance of someone living out in the sticks.
For now, let’s just assume that getting through the forest takes 2 hours.
Four hours later…
A beautiful lake and an entrance to a village on the shore came to view. It took twice as long as I thought it would take.
There were trees growing around the entrance of the village. They were probably trees similar to mangroves. Processed log have been lined up and buried into the ground to create a wall around the village. People keeping watch could also be seen standing.
I walked toward the village entrance, where I saw a man about 50 years of age smoking in a daze.
“Excuse me.” [Ryouma]
“Hmm? That’s not a face I normally see around here. Are you alone, Boy?” [Smoker]
“Yes. My name is Ryouma. I’m an adventurer looking for the fishing village of Shikumu. Is this the right village?” [Ryouma]
“This is Shikumu alright, but… Oh, I remember. I heard some friend of Kai and his boys was going to drop by the town soon. Are you the one they’re talking about?” [Smoker]
“If that Kai you’re referring to is the Kai from the adventurer party ‘Wharf of Shikumu’, then yes.” [Ryouma]
“I see! In that case, wait here for a bit.” [Smoker]
Suddenly, the man took a wooden hammer dangling by the entrance and used it to hit a similarly dangling metal plate several times.
When he did, a young woman rushed out of the village.
“Old man Manda, did something happen?”
“Ah, young girl Mei. Good timing. That boy, Kai’s, guest has arrived.” [Manda]
“Ahh! That rumored guest? Where is he— You? You sure are young. I mean you’re basically a kid.” [Mei]
“My name is Ryouma Takebayashi. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” [Ryouma]
The woman bluntly voiced out her impression upon seeing me.
Considering how similar their names were, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was a relative of Kai-san’s.
“Likewise. I’m Mei. Kai and Kei’s older sister. I hear you took care of my little brothers.” [Mei]
“He just came, so he probably doesn’t know anything just yet. Show him around.” [Manda]
“Alright. For the meantime, let’s go to my house. One of them is probably there. Come on! Follow me!” [Mei]
“Yes! Oh, thank you very much, Manda-san!” [Ryouma]
“Yeah! Take care!” [Manda]
After the gatekeeper saw me off, I followed after the young woman.
The ground inside was built much better and children could be seen bustling about.
There were housewives gossiping among themselves as they drew water.
There were also elderly people who brought chairs and other tools and did as they liked while enjoying the sun.
It was a very peaceful sight.
“Is it so strange?” [Mei]
Oops. Looks like I stared a bit too much there.
“Sorry. I heard a lot of monsters have been popping up lately, so I was surprised to see this place so peaceful.” [Ryouma]
“You talking about the mud salamander? They always come around this time of the year, so we can’t exactly afford to be nervous every time. Besides, they’re only after the fishes we’ve caught. Although they might appear around the shores, they won’t bother to try and go inside the village.” [Mei]