“Please wait a moment. Let’s talk calmly.” [Carm]
“Like hell we will! That’s exactly how you people swindle others out of their money and house!” [Man]
“Yeah! Yeah!!” [Crowd 1]
“It’s because of you people that people have been driven out of their houses!”
“And you’ve been pestering this store to sell its land for a while now too!”
The angry bellows of the first man was the impetus that drove the other men to also bellow angrily.
People driven away from their houses? Pestering the store to sell its land?
“Boss. I’m probably thinking the same thing as you.” [Carm]
“They’ve obviously mistaken us for someone else.” [Yurdum]
Various problems have been occurring in town recently, and it seems this part of town is no exception.
But while the criminals they’re talking about might be active around here, we have nothing to do with them.
“I more or less understand what you’re saying, but we’re not responsible for those crimes. We are from the laundromat at the eastern part of Gimuru, Bamboo Forest.” [Ryouma]
“The owner of that store has also replied to our letter, saying that we could drop by anytime.” [Carm]
We firmly denied their previous accusations, and after the boss gave the name of our store, I explained to them that the store owner here has also replied to our letter.
“Bamboo Forest? Isn’t that that store?” [Crowd 1]
“Yeah, our workshop enlists their services too.” [Crowd 2]
“The madam replied?” [Crowd 3]
“Come to think of it, there’s a rumor going around that that the owner of that store is a kid… Huh? Seriously?” [Crowd 4]
Looks like there are people who know about our store.
As voices raised from the crowd, the hostility toward us lessened, but…
“Don’t let them fool you!!” [Man]
That man from before yelled again.
“Some land sharks misrepresent themselves to be from a real store, wanting to discuss a deal, when in fact they’re just greedy to grab some land!” [Man]
“Y-Yeah!” [Crowd 1]
“But that store seems to be making a killing, though.” [Crowd 2]
“Right? You could at least let them talk.” [Crowd 3]
“Fool! Remember! Just how many people have been swindled because they were willing to lend an ear!? Even the guild refused to do anything when a contract was involved! At this rate, the madam and her children will be left out in the cold without any way to feed themselves! Can you guys still face the boss with that!?” [Man]
The faces of the people gathered grew darker with every word the man spoke.
Perhaps, some of these people have also been swindled before.
The guild not intervening is a bit concerning, though.
“You might be a child, but if you’re going to lay your hand on this store, I’m not going to show you any mercy! I’ll beat you up so you never feel like starting anything here again!” [Man]
This is bad. They’re not listening to us at all.
“…even though…” [Ryouma]
“Huh? Boss—!?” [Carm]
I couldn’t quick pick up what the boss was muttering, but when I turned to him, I was shocked by his eyes.
From time to time, the boss would become depressed because he remembered something, but I’ve never felt anything this dark and heavy before.
“Boss? Is something the matter?” [Carm]
“Not at all. It’s just that when I see this situation like this, I can’t help but feel disappointed… Of course, I’m sure everyone has their fair share of troubles, but… Like this, what’s the difference between the townspeople and thugs?” [Ryouma]
There was a deep dejection and disappointment mixed in with those words.
Well, I do understand why he feels that way. In fact, I agree with him, but…
“What was that, you little brat!?” [Man]
Saying that here is like pouring oil into the flames.
Yurdum immediately rushed forward—
“!? Are you sure?” [Yurdum]
—But the boss stopped him.
“This is merely the result of me giving voice to my own thoughts, so it’s only right that the one to deal with this also be me. You just protect Carm-san, Yurdum-san.” [Ryouma]
“You’ve got guts kid.” [Man]
“Because I haven’t said anything wrong, so there’s nothing to correct either. There’s no need for it.” [Ryouma]
The atmosphere grew even worse because of that, but the boss didn’t stop.
“A group of adults gathered together, then started showing off their weapons and even threatened people with their loud voices. They refuse to talk properly, and they won’t even try. So I wondered to myself, just how are these people different from the thugs that cause trouble throughout town? The thought came up, so I said it. Is there something wrong with what I said?” [Ryouma]
“T-This little brat…” [Man]
Boss, I agree with you, but you don’t have to say it over and over.
He might be talking politely, he even appears uninterested, but his words are sharp.
“Yurdum, I think I get it now. That tension you were talking about yesterday.” [Carm]
“Great, so how do you deal with it?” [Yurdum]
“…I don’t know. He usually just brushes off anything you tell him with a smile. This is my first time seeing him like this.” [Carm]
We should probably pull him out of this situation by force if we have to—
“By the way, is the person by that door the owner of the store?” [Ryouma]
I was so preoccupied with the boss and the man that I didn’t notice her at all.
The door to the store the men were crowding had opened a little, and a young woman could be seen peeking. She’s probably the owner of the store.
“W-What are you doing, Madam!? Please go back inside!” [Man]
“Umm… I…” [Owner]
“Can we ta—” [Ryouma]
“Don’t butt in when people are talking!” [Man]
“Do you mind if we talked?” [Ryouma]
“Don’t worry! I’ll protect you and your children!” [Man]
The owner of the store glanced alternatingly between us and the crowd of men.
All the while, the noisy man desperately called out to the perplexed owner.
In the end, the owner went back inside her store.
At that, the boss looked at us.
“Let’s go back.” [Ryouma]
Uhh, what happened to the earlier exchange?
Suddenly, the boss wanted to go back as if he had lost all interest all of the sudden.
Even the man picking a fight with him was confused by his sudden change.
“Huh, ah? Hey!” [Man]
“Ah, my apologies for intruding. We’ve already ascertained the intentions of the owner, so we will be taking our leave now. We probably won’t be coming back here again, but if you still have any complaints, then please schedule an appointment through one of my employees.” [Ryouma]
“Ah, excuse me, it means to promise a meeting. I won’t run away or hide. You can even bring that thing in your hands with you, I don’t mind. But if you try to scare my employees or my customers, if you try to hurt them, know that I will be dealing with you and thoroughly.” [Ryouma]
There was a quiet but overbearing power hidden behind those words.
“Yurdum-san, let’s go.” [Ryouma]
Fortunately, the boss was just walking leisurely, so it was easy to catch up to him.
“Boss. What happened all of the sudden?” [Carm]
“Carm-san. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to give up on acquiring that store… It’s already lost its appeal. We’ll have to search for another store or simply put up another branch.” [Ryouma]
“I agree, but there’s also no need to rush it. Let’s think this through again from the start.” [Carm]
…With that the boss went completely silent.
One of the boss’s bad habits is that he tends to think too much, but considering how sharply he dealt with that situation earlier, it might be worse this time around.
I can understand why the boss is angry, but normally, the boss just lets those things pass.
He’s not ignoring the things he normally ignores?
Is that proof that he’s been driven into a corner?
“Boss. You seem really tense. Is everything alright?” [Carm]
The boss wordlessly denied being tense, then after reflecting on it a bit, sighed and then spoke.
“I see. It seems I have been a bit too tense.” [Ryouma]
He acknowledged it.
“If there’s something on your mind, I can lend you an ear.” [Carm]
“It’s not a problem right now. I just wanted to be careful. And this might sound like I’m talking badly about someone behind their back, but if for example, the store didn’t have Carm-san but that woman instead, I wouldn’t feel safe leaving the store to her.” [Ryouma]
“I completely agree with you. Putting it mildly, just as the information we’ve gathered says, her store is only able to continue to exist because of the support of the people around her.” [Carm]
The boss nodded. It seems we share the same opinion here.
“It’s true that I’m rarely in the store, but as the owner of my store and the person above my employees, I believe it is my duty to ensure the stability of the store’s operation as well as the safety of the employees.” [Ryouma]
It seems the boss believes that I’m capable of making that happen whereas that woman can’t.
This is probably what he means by ‘being able to entrust the store’ to me.
“But unforeseen and unreasonable things happen when they’re least expected. Regardless how careful one might be, as long as we’re humans, the word absolute doesn’t exist… It takes only a moment for us to lose something. A moment of thoughtlessness, a moment of carelessness, just one moment to lose something important forever… That’s not an uncommon story either.” [Ryouma]
Words that sound like they belong to an old man with a wealth of experience.
The boss naturally said such words and then wryly smiled.
“In order to avoid the unexpected as much as possible, we need to take extra care, or at least that’s what I was thinking, and before I knew it I’d ended up more tense than usual.” [Ryouma]
“So you really can’t calm down with the town like this?” [Carm]
“I can’t refute that, but this is an issue with my personality. You, me, the townspeople… We can all feel the worsening
public order and we’re all trying to deal with it in our own way. I’m not doubting the effort made by the authorities or by other people, but no matter how many measures are taken, there are still people who think ‘it’s not enough’, right?” [Ryouma]
“That’s true.” [Carm]
“I want to be careful too, or rather, thinking like that is simply a part of my personality, so I’ll have to rely on your continued support from here on out too.” [Ryouma]
The boss said with the smile of someone who’s just pranked someone. There was no point in telling me that after all this time.
“But of course. That’s why I’m here.” [Carm]
When I said that, the boss smiled again and said, “I see,” then continued walking back to the store.
That heavy atmosphere from before was gone from his back, and his stride seemed a little lighter.