Before long Oiva caught up to him. The young boy, stopping in the middle of a dark alley, is showing a difficult facial expression knitting his eyebrows. It became troublesome, eh? Oiva judged.
“Ok, what happened? Do you have something that could help?” (Oiva)
“You are the one from before…” (Marko)
His face shows complete surprise. It means he didn’t expect adults to help him. I guess that’s only natural for this young boy, Oiva can agree with that. He isn’t a normal child after all.
“It’s Oiva. I heard the scream of a woman just now, was it a companion of yours?” (Oiva)
“… I’m Marko. It looks like the woman, who came with me from the village, was kidnapped. No one in the vicinity told me anything about it even if they heard something. Do you have some clue, sir?” (Marko)
“That person, once again…” (Oiva)
Oiva clicked his tongue within his mind when he heard that they came from a village. It is unexpected for him considering the young boy’s outfit. In that case it’s quite bad. If it’s people from this town, it will be possible to have the soldiers at the police substation get involved. By doing so it usually gets resolved somehow. However, for outsiders… and in addition to that, villagers, it will become a nuisance. Their treatment by the administration is rather crude.
Furthermore it looks like the criminal is a man who has backing. If it was a standalone crime, the guys of the back streets, starving for some pleasure, would likely openly show their curiosity. The people in the surroundings don’t want to get involved in such incident and are ignoring the boy. In other words both judged it to be too troublesome to get involved with it… Oiva interpreted it this manner.
“May I also hear the circumstances? Those will also alter the direction we move and how we resolve it.” (Oiva)
As far as I understood it, the boy’s group apparently came here for business transactions from a village in the borderland. There are 3 of them, a man for carrying the luggage, the boy and a young woman as chaperon of the boy. Her name is Hanna. It appears to be the woman who was kidnapped. The party reserved a cheap inn in the outskirts to have a bed for tonight. The boy, being lured by the sounds of the dojo, went out, but the woman, being worried that he might be hurt, apparently chased after him.
“Although she was told to not follow me since I would return soon…” (Marko)
“Then you are to blame. If she is poking her nose into your business out of anxiety, then you basically don’t have her trust. The words of a guy that can’t be trusted are taken lightly. Furthermore, for a woman, I guess? She has feelings. So she will also follow you.” (Oiva)
“… I didn’t consider it properly.” (Marko)
For an instant his eyebrows twitched, but he doesn’t let such things like regret and impatience to be seen in his expression. Rather it is a grim expression. A premonition of anger can be sensed within that small body. For Oiva this is a strange display. He doesn’t behave as if he is worried about his female guardian.
“However, you travelled quite the distance. This ain’t the nearest town, you know?” (Oiva)
“It is related to the market price for the trade. The business itself was concluded successfully.” (Marko)
“Can you also tell me about this business partner of yours?” (Oiva)
“It’s the Mountain Wind Company. We also brought a letter of introduction from a peddler along.” (Marko)
Oiva knew the name of that company as well. It is a store doing proper business. They don’t do such things as scheming to cheat rare customers from remote regions behind closed doors. In this case it means that it’s a non-premeditated crime.
(Have the town’s people seen her getting snatched, I wonder? When it comes to targeting young women…) (Oiva)
When he also considered the place in addition, there were only two possibilities remaining in Oiva’s mind. The first is a person among the nobles in their mansion in this town. It is a baron known for his lewdness. Since I hear that he has a liking in plucking wild flowers, it isn’t weird for him to try sampling a village girl if he happens to see her walking the streets at night defenselessly. The other one is the boss who controls the gangsters in this area. As they are a gang meddling in slave trading, they will do it. I guess someone like a village girl with no connection in the town is an easy prey.
“I’ve got a few ideas.” (Oiva)
“I won’t reveal it to anyone. I will even reward you. Would you tell me?” (Marko)
He hasn’t a mind of depending on others, clearly to the degree of that itself being refreshing. It is normal to think that there is no way for a child to deal with a criminal, no matter what kind of person they are, by himself. But, Oiva thinks, maybe if it’s that young boy, it might be possible to somehow put an end to it.
(I want to see it. This thought might be reckless after all, but… it seems interesting.) (Oiva)
Oiva returned his sight to the broadly smiling boy with his blue eyes directly looking up to him.
“If it’s a bastard that has the determination to kidnap a village girl traveling the streets at night without caring if he is seen, then there are 2 in this neighborhood. Of the previously mentioned, there is only the whiny Birappo and Bertrand (T/N: >> Berutoran <<), who is a former Eberian mercenary. Bertrand does various bad things and the gangsters of this neighborhood obey him.” (Oiva)
“Do you know where I can find them?” (Marko)
Since he asks without taking any time, it seems that tonight will become considerably flashy.
“Of course. There is a bar they are using as hang-out. I will guide you there.” (Oiva)
“… Is that alright with you?” (Marko)
“I’m very thankful for your help, but won’t it become troublesome for you?” (Marko)
Even while he shows consideration, the young boy’s eyes are possessing a light as if a chilling glimmer dwells within them. I haven’t misjudged him after all. This young boy is concealing something terrible. And I have no doubt that this will manifest in this troublesome situation tonight… Oiva sensed his nostrils spread widely.
“That’s just fine, right!? I don’t know how many gangsters have gathered there. That reminds me that I’m linked by fate with that asshole, Bertrand.” (Oiva)
“Are you acquainted with that boss character?” (Marko)
“He was there at that day the moment the hero was killed.” (Oiva)
“That battlefield, huh?” (Marko)
“Ah. There ain’t no need to worry about this matter. I’m a man who even survived that place of death. In a certain sense I’m stronger than the hero!” (Oiva)
I have ended up talking about this matter in exaggeration which is out of character for me. Oiva felt embarrassed right away. The young boy can’t help but show a considerably astonished face. Even while stuttering such things as 「No, well…」 and 「Well then, let’s go?」, Oiva showed a small amount of pride. That’s why he didn’t realize. He completely failed to hear it, he failed to notice it.
“Didn’t you lose spirit due to that? … I heard it was something wonderful.” (Marko)
It wasn’t visible to anyone, that smile like a crescent moon in its last quarter. Blue flames leaked out. That is the acknowledgment given by the carved seal. On this day, in this night, Oiva Otara was marked down by the black-haired, blue-eyed boy. Whether this is a blessing or a curse might depend on the differing judgment of the people.
At the time to come when Marko will be well-known for his prestige of possessing military strength across the entire continent, the name Oiva Otara is going to be identified as the sole veteran general. He will have many nicknames such as brave leader with fortitude, the impregnable general, tenacious mountain and so on. He will become known as a man that kept standing in the places where the most severe of battles rage on. He will have a preference for bloody battles.
Whether the person himself desired this or not will also become an aspect dividing the opinions. However, the only thing that is quite certain, is his opportunity of meeting Marko that night in early winter.
Now let’s return to the main subject.
Without noticing the blue light looking at himself with fiery eyes from the back, Oiva ran on the street. The town is already dominated by the night. Apart from the main street, the back streets are covered in darkness full of places where one’s line of sight doesn’t reach. The people living in the tenement houses are also frugal with the little amount of fuel they have. Their appearances have somewhat become timid and they smell of mold.
The root is also the same for the bar they reached before long. It is exposed to the night air without even concealing the wild atmosphere. It feels as if that store’s appearance is shadowed by an impression of desperation. The man, standing at the store’s front, isn’t a customer puller. Looking with a fleeting glance at the sword affixed to the waist of the man, Oiva silently put his breath in order.
“Who are ya? … If ya didn’t come to sell that brat, get lost.” (Man)
Even while showing a slight faltering due to Oiva’s stature, the man threatened him like this. His character is bad, but even so it’s his work, I guess. Oiva, who tried to answer, was held back by a hand and Marko made a single step to the front.
“Please lead me to the place of your boss. I want to talk to him regarding the kidnapping of a woman.” (Marko)
“… Aa?” (Man)
“It is pointless to hold a conversation with a stooge who doesn’t understand and doesn’t listen. Let us pass.” (Oiva)
“Uo, oi, you bastard.” (Man)
Marko avoided the extended arm and went inside. Fast. The man had his arms bound behind his back. Even while Oiva is surprised of this defensive body movement, he followed Marko. Let’s see if the store interior is as wild as its outward appearance. The ten-odd ill-bred men and the several women, apparently serving the customers, forwarded their attention to the newcomers causing the hustle and bustle of merrymaking to suddenly stagnate and quiet down. Although they realize the situation as well, they are plainly pretending as if they don’t, while standing on tip-toes stretching their backs. They are observing Marko.
“Please call your boss. I’d like to speak with him about the kidnapping of a woman.” (Marko)
He emits a voice as if clearing away the mist of liquor smell. The entire common surroundings had blank expressions. And then these warped into an explosion of laughter. A barrage of vulgar words is tossed at him. Even the man, carried by Oiva, laughed spitting saliva once again.
“Are ya some prince-sama comin’ to reform the world?”
A drunken man tried to grab Marko’s nape of the neck, he ended up missing. On the contrary, he has already proceeded several steps into the store. Someone stood up and tried to obstruct his advance. Even so, it isn’t in time. Fast. He swiftly and quietly goes towards the stairs leading inside.
“Oi, you. Hey, wait!”
Most likely the boss, Bertrand, is at the second floor. Oiva concluded this at that point. The two men, standing in front of the stairs, have the best physique amongst the men in this place. Even their attires are good. The swords, they placed within reach, have a look of being used for a long time. I guess they are guards. Those two, having picked that place, told Marko that Bertrand was past the stairs.’
Without having the time to draw their swords, those two screamed. Scattering blood from their faces, they are staggering. In that gap, Marko swiftly ascended the stairs.
(What! What did happen!? Didn’t he just walk!?) (Oiva)
He tried to follow him in a hurry, but as expected the two giants wouldn’t let a second intruder pass by. He is surrounded promptly, but even including Oiva himself, no one does anything since they are somehow bewildered. They aren’t able to process the strange thing, that happened in front of their eyes, in their minds.
“F-For now… let’s go with this!” (Oiva)
Oiva swings the man, he was carrying, abusing him as a pole. This was the second strange occurrence tonight for all but Oiva. A human isn’t that light. Are they overawed by the intensity of raising a sough similar to the buzzing of a whip? Oiva finally arrived at the stairs without without even needing to fight.
“Since we are just going to talk, don’t follow us, ok? Here you go!” (Oiva)
At the top of the stairs, the man… with a messy, muddled face unknown whether by tears or drool, was thrown down at the completely exhausted people. This caused consecutive sounds of things crushing, angry voices and screams.
“Thank you very much. Please continue to treat him well there.” (Oiva)
It is Marko. Looking at him, he faces off someone at the other side of a table pretending to not see the close-by Oiva. With nothing but a single light on top of the desk, it is a lot gloomier than downstairs. Bertrand sits in front of the swaying, orange-colored light. His finely chiseled, manly features are bordering to wildness with his hair and beard growing as they please. Both sides’ brows are wrinkled as if curdling. The sluggish pupils are hollow due to alcohol.
(Bertrand of the Green Cloth… As usual he is making a face as if just about everything is amusing.) (Oiva)
Oiva is a several-times acquaintance of Bertrand. Although I faced his good-for-nothing face at all our meetings, the worst one amongst all our encounters was the first after all, I guess. The time was 7 years before now. The place was the boundary between the Asuria Kingdom and the Eberia Empire, the Plain of Wandering Calamity. The location where the Asuria Kingdom’s side slowly deviated. It was in the vicinity of the place where the hero died in battle as is known nowadays.
Like this we met as fellow soldiers of opposing military camps.
Oiva as the blacksmith specialist of the campaign’s army directly under the hero. Bertrand as a mercenary, hired by the Eberia Empire army, trying to destroy them. At first the situation was hell for Oiva. But, after General Salomon’s support, it changed into hell for Bertrand. With the death god continuing to swing its scythe at the plain of death, the two crossed their swords.
At first it looked like Oiva would be killed beneath Bertrand’s sword. In the end it looked like Bertrand would be killed beneath Oiva’s sword. Without settling it, it ended with both barely keeping their lives within the chaotic battle.
“A tossed coin? … It’s the second time I see this.” (Bertrand)
Oiva was startled by the heavily spoken words of Bertrand. While kicking a man trying to come upstairs and having him fall, he watches Bertrand. His right hand is wet with alcohol and fragments of ceramics are sticking in it. I guess he has tried to throw a sake bottle or a sake cup at Marko but was intercepted before he could do it, huh?
(Tossing a coin… I see, kurautsuwa, eh?) (Oiva)
Kurautsuwa is the general term for hidden weapons, secret possessions and weapons used to take someone by surprise (T/N: Shurikens for example, in western civilization it would be a fake arm with a spring-up knife). Oiva knew about the utility of using such things as tiny swords and iron needles. However, a coin is unexpected. Alongside solving the riddle of the guards being repelled earlier, he recalls the laceration on the forehead of the man he had kicked to make him fall. He was surprised by the power of a small child throwing it.
“I’m going to ask only one more time. Did your henchmen kidnap a village girl this evening?” (Marko)
He has calm voice. However, every single word is carrying a cold-hearted declaration of war. Mysteriously the sounds of battle are embedded into the child’s voice. Oiva already didn’t consider it to be strange.
(Although I ain’t gonna see anything but his back from now on, undoubtedly for his eyes it is different, it is different.) (Oiva)
He will probably get angry if I told him that I came here just to see this. While thinking about such matters, Oiva continues to create an avalanche of people by repeatedly sending them flying with a kick. It already doesn’t suffice as threat for the crowd below. However, since it is an irritating situation, isn’t it more preferable to destroy the stairs? At the time he was struck with an idea, that sound reached his ears.
“A… ua… impossible…” (Bertrand)
It is Bertrand’s voice. I see. But, is that really Bertrand? His eyes, nostrils and mouth are opened widely in an unsightly way. Possibly even the ear holes? He is reaching out both his trembling hands in order to use them for embracing himself, and yet his hip uselessly gives way.
It is an unbecoming appearance for the swordsman Bertrand, a merchant known for his remarkable ability. It’s even impossible for the gangster boss, Bertrand. It’s a Bertrand unknown by anyone… but, for Oiva it is a Bertrand he recognises. At that place of death… at that unique inescapable situation where everyone was exposed to the wind of death… this is for sure the Bertrand he saw at the end.
As he already gasped for breath, that man’s mouth recited four sounds. Then he became silent. There wasn’t even anything transmitted through the air. Therefore Oiva didn’t hear it. He wasn’t able to see it.
What did you see, Bertrand? And, what did you say? Oiva doesn’t understand.
The four sounds revealed the name of a person.