Tatsumi, after accepting the herb collecting request from the [Elven Resthouse], returned home with Calcedonia temporarily.
After taking out his equipment from the attic storage room, he put them on one by one with the help of Calcedonia.
A hard leather armor, a round shield, and a one handed sword.
All this equipment was what Calcedonia sent him.
They were pretty high-grade equipment, as Calcedonia wished they could help Tatsumi in times of danger, even if just a little, whilst he’s on a monster hunter mission.
Of course, they weren’t of the highest grade but for a newcomer, these were more than good enough.
Tatsumi also equipped other things such as a knapsack, a small pouch, a water canteen, a knife and a machete. After finishing he had Calcedonia double check just in case.
“Yes, everything’s as it should be. But again, please be attentive at all times okay?”
“Yeah, I get it. By the way, are you going to stay home?”
“If I accompany you than your movement speed will lessen no? And it’s only a herb collection request so I’ll stay home and prepare for dinner.”
“Is that so. Well, I don’t think it would be that much of a problem if I transfer while carrying just Calcey but… the food you make is delicious so I’ll be looking forward to it.”
“I-If you say it like that…that…it makes me happy…”
Calcedonia blushed with a happy smile after she was praised by Tatsumi.
But the fair maiden kept it a secret that at that moment she imagined herself in his embrace, being carried like a princess in his arms.
“Then, I’ll be off.”
“Yes, have a safe trip.”
The distance between their lips closed until it became a kiss.
Tatsumi was walking on the highway going through the town of Levantes.
The sun was still high up. The place where the targeted herb grew was about 10 minutes away if he constantly used instant transition after leaving the town.
Tatsumi, who judged that to be the case kept on walking on the snow shoveled highway.
Tatsumi noticed that he was being tailed by a number of people.
Tatsumi pretended to look at the wares on the roadside stalls of the great highway and with a sidelong glance, he confirmed that among them, there were a few monster hunters he saw in the [Elven Resthouse].
I see. They probably want to investigate just how I was able to find the herbs in such a short amount of time.
Just like Eru said, the pay for herbs in this season is unexpectedly good.
When it becomes cold the amount of herbs that grow becomes less no matter what, and even if they do grow they grow under the piled up snow. So it takes great effort and time to find them.
That’s why the prices skyrocket in this season.
Of course, there were people who collected the herbs before the snow fell and preserved them but there were many herbs which would lose their medicinal property if not fresh so, in those cases, there was no choice but to leave the collection as a request.
And that was exactly the contents of Tatsumi’s current mission.
The monster hunters who were tailing Tatsumi right now probably wanted to figure out how Tatsumi would do it, and then imitate him to make a killing in this season where the herbs’ prices had skyrocketed.
Well, it’s their freedom to follow me… but I’ve got no obligation to let them follow me right?
Tatsumi was wearing a fur jacket to combat the cold, but underneath he was storing up his mana.
To steal another’s skill is because of one’s desire to improve oneself and is by no means an evil. Tatsumi himself was aware of that.
But that doesn’t mean they would be able to imitate Tatsumi’s transfers even if they wanted to, and Tatsumi had no obligation to go along with their pace.
While steadily walking towards the south gate, Tatsumi took caution of any movement behind him.
Maybe they had no intention of hiding their presence from the start, they were following Tatsumi matching his pace a few long steps behind him.
Now then, just how long are they planning to follow me…
After reaching the gate, Tatsumi released all his stored up mana at once.
Recently, there’s been a new monster hunter, a young one who’s been frequenting the [Elven Resthouse].
Well, though he still hasn’t taken on any formal requests, there’s no harm in calling him a new monster hunter; something like an apprentice.
But the fact that this newbie was more intimate with the master of [Elven Resthouse] rubbed some of the regular customers here in the wrong way.
These regulars were folks who all were charmed by the master’s lovely face, and came here on a daily basis to accept requests.
But of course, they were all aware that the master was a widow, and she still had lingering feelings towards her late husband.
Putting these guys aside, there were many who confessed their feelings to the master of this bar, but not one could make her nod in acknowledgment.
She had always treated the relationship as [The master of a bar and her customers]. No one could ever break this barrier. She treated them sometimes with kindness, sometimes with harshness.
And because she was like that, they believed in her, some even started to worship her.
And obviously, when she became all intimate with that newbie the people who literally worshiped her didn’t feel too good.
Among them, there were people who asked her what her relationship with him was,
“Hmm, let’s see… Well, he’s someone from the same country as my husband so, I guess I feel some closeness with him… And besides, if I had a child… If I gave birth to my husband’s child then that child might’ve grown up to be like him. Thinking that, I just can’t leave him alone…”
Like a mother looking over her son. Like an old auntie’s mental state when looking after a relative’s child, saying that, she laughed.
Seems like she had no sensual love for that lad. Understanding that, the devotees heaved a sigh in relief.
But even so, when she at times talked to that newbie in a language they didn’t understand and laughed merrily, it caused the flames of jealousy to ignite in their chests once more.
Furthermore, this newcomer always had a beauty by his side.
Judging from the same earrings they were wearing on their ears, they were engaged.
And seeing him talk with the bar master while having a beauty like that in his arms, it was like adding fuel to the already burning fire. And after they learned that the beauty was the fabled <<Holy Maiden>> of the temple of Savaiv, the amount of oil poured into the flames of jealousy increased by several folds.
But even after all this not one of them tried to directly attack that annoying newcomer. Well, of course, there were people who at least thought of doing that but none of them tried to practically carry it out.
The master of the [Elven Resthouse] deeply hates fights between the regulars. If someone did surprise attack the newcomer in the bar and the master heard of it, she would definitely ban the assailants from entering the bar for life.
And besides, anyone would notice that the newcomer wasn’t some fresh blood.
Certainly, he looks inexperienced. But he definitely wasn’t an average amateur. If one attacked him, he would definitely counter-attack hard.
Moreover, the <<Holy Maiden>> of the temple of Savaiv was beside him.
The <<Holy Maiden>> who was the only relative of the supreme pontiff of the temple of Savaiv. Even by accident, if one attacked her, that was the same as turning the whole temple of Savaiv into an enemy.
A fool who would attack even while knowing all this, certainly there wasn’t one among the regulars of the [Elven Resthouse].
But still, among the master’s adherents, there was a bunch that didn’t find her relationship with the newcomer amusing.
And they by chance heard that the newcomer was going on a herb collection request today.
“…… That guy, taking a herb gather mission in this season… ain’t he just a fool?”
“Ah? What, ya don’t know? That new guy, he took a herb search test from the master before and completed it in like, a crazy short time.”
“In this season? How?”
“Dunno, that guy didn’t even tell the master.”
“I bet the <<Holy Maiden>> used some kind of magic to help him right? She must’ve melted the snow with a fire magic or something.”
“No, the <<Holy Maiden>> was here at the bar at that time. He went alone. So she’s unrelated. And besides, if a flame was used to melt the snow then there’s also a possibility of the herb burning too.”
They both looked at each other in confusion and tilted their heads. They couldn’t even find a clue on how the newcomer came back with the herb in a short time.
“Hey… How about following that guy and finding out how he did it? If we can somehow imitate that, then in this season, we could make a killing right?”
“That’s sounds goods. The prices of herbs in this season aren’t something to laugh at.”
After deciding that they will tail the newcomer, they started to discuss the method.
The newcomer wasn’t donning his equipment today. So first he should return home to prepare for the request.
If it’s herb gathering, then the location should be near the forest in the south. Of course, he would exit from the south gate.
Judging that, they waited by the main highway leading to the south gate and decided to follow him after that.
And just like they thought, they saw the newcomer equipping his gear and carelessly walking down the road leading to the south gate.
“So what now? Should we secretly follow him from here?”
“What? We could just openly follow him from here. Trying to mimic other’s techniques isn’t always a bad thing. And we monster hunters are people who live by copying other people’s’ skills right?”
Deciding on their objective, they started to follow the newcomer with a fixed distance.
After confirming that he left the south gate, they also followed suit.
Though the plains were piled up with snow, the south gate which had numerous people coming and going every moment had none.
They thought that after passing through the gate, the newcomer would stick to the road as much as possible and head to the forest. But when they noticed the figure of the newcomer was nowhere to be seen, they opened their eyes wide in surprise.
“H-Hey!? That bastard new guy, where the hell is he!?”
“There’s no mistake that he passed through the gate!! Maybe he’s hiding somewhere near here!?”
“H-Hey!! I-Isn’t that the newcomer!?”
Looking at the direction one of them pointed at, they could certainly see the silhouette of the said newcomer.
“H-How did he get that far…. It hasn’t even been that long since he passed through the gate right…?”
“And, I don’t see any trails of him walking on the snow… He would at least have to part the snow here if he wanted to walk that far, but where’s the trail…?”
“W-Wha! Hey… That newcomer… Isn’t he gradually getting further and further away…?”
Saying that, as they once again looked at the newcomer, his figure was indeed getting smaller by the second.
“How the hell is he moving so fast in this snow……?”
In the end, all they could do was to stand there stock still and watch the back of the newcomer get further and further away.
Tatsumi, who arrived near the forest using the usual <<Instant Transition>>, started using his magic to remove the snow and take pictures of the herbs that were underneath with his cellphone to compare them with the ones Eru showed him before.
Certainly, this time, he couldn’t finish it as fast as before because he had to gather a certain amount of various varieties of herbs.
But he was able to patiently repeat the same task over and over again, finally managing to collect the amount Eru told him to.
He carefully separated the herbs by their type and put them in his bag as to not damage them.
“… A job well done. Now all I got to do is to return to the bar and pass them to miss Eru.”
He looked at his wristwatch and judged that there was still quite some time left until sundown.
At the entrance of the forest, Tatsumi took a little rest while he sat on the trunk of a fallen tree, exposed to the wind and snow.
He took out the bento prepared by Calcedonia from his knapsack and ate it. Then he gathered some stones to make a makeshift kitchen. He took out a saucepan and put some snow in it before placing it on top of the makeshift stone stove.
He used the aria of <<Ignite>> to light a fire and used that to melt the snow in the saucepan.
“…… Thinking back, it really was a good idea to get Calsey to teach me the <<Ignite>> magic.”
Recently, Calcedonia taught Tatsumi a number of handy spells that could help him greatly in everyday life.
But well, the only magic he could use practically now was the [If you use it, it’ll definitely come in handy!] magic <<Ignite>> after a hard training session with Calcedonia.
Tatsumi who had no aptitude for the <Fire> system magic couldn’t even cast the most elementary <Fire> magic <<Ignite>> unless he tried a few times, and the magic consumption was also great. But this <<Ignite>> magic which could substitute a lighter really was convenient.
Tatsumi used the hot water melted from snow to make some tea. After drinking the tea to warm his body up, he returned to Levantes.
On the way, he passed by a number of Monster hunters who were in dire distress trying to cross the snow-covered plains and used his <<Instant Transition>> to return to Levantes.
Tatsumi returned to the [Elven Resthouse].
After he opened the door to enter, he saw Eru with a troubled expression.
“Erm, Tatsumi. After you left there was this new person who came in to be a monster hunter but…”
Eru glanced towards the back. Tatsumi followed her gaze and saw a bizarrely dressed man standing there.
He was taller than Tatsumi by quite a bit. No doubt he crossed 180cm. He might’ve even crossed 190cm.
He was standing there without any openings. Even though he was wearing a fur overcoat, you could easily tell he had a forged body underneath.
But what caught Tatsumi’s eyes was his bizarre appearance.
His black hair and black eyes were of no surprise to Tatsumi, but it was Tatsumi’s first time seeing someone with ashen brown skin, 4 eyes, and 4 arms.
“…Maybe…He’s a Shade……?”
“Yes. He said he recently left the Shade village. If it’s okay with you, can you form a duo with him for now? Of course, if you end up thinking he is incompatible with you then you can dissolve the partnership anytime you wish.”
“Yeah……Well, I don’t mind but, does he know about me?”
“I said the same thing to him just now, that Tatsumi is a novice Monster hunter.”
Maybe he heard what they were talking about, the Shade came towards Tatsumi and Eru.
The glint in his four eyes was sharp, as he looked at Tatsumi with an appraising gaze.
Though Tatsumi felt a bit unpleasant because of the four eyes, it was no doubt that the Shade was still as calm and composed as ever.
That shade, after stopping in front of Tatsumi, rudely started to observe him.
Then, showing a grin on his face he said with a low resounding voice.
“… So you are the Tatsumi boy the mistress told me about? Humph, you look more capable than I thought~”
And with a wink.
The Shade youth than skillfully closed just one of his four open eyes at Tatsumi, who was currently dumbfounded at his unexpected tone of speaking.
“I’m called Jadokh. Let’s get along from now, ‘kay Tatsumi boy?”
The first demi-human shade Tatsumi ever met. And also his first monster hunting teammate candidate.
A shade with four eyes and arms, with an appearance of a handsome onee*.
(*ED note: The “onee” 「オネエ」 here that this is referring to is not “big sister”「姉」 but an effeminate man. Picture someone like O.D. from Gatchaman Crowds or Alice from Rakudai Kishi no Eiyuutan. I couldn’t come up with a similar word in English that didn’t come across as a slur, so if you have any ideas, let us know.)