Thank you that you’ve waited for such a long time. I will now raise the curtain of the second chapter.
I want to go into the main story right away, but before that I will have you allow me to insert several prologues.
The time is several years after the decisive battle over Bolnis.
After a certain young man and a girl meet…
A light drizzle fell.
Clouds like spilled, diluted ink spread across the sky as light rain continued to fall down without pause. This rain that had suddenly began last night finally slowed down into a drizzle as of this morning, but as of yet there’s no sign of it stopping.
The location is the abyss of a ravine.
The water flowed down from the mountains that rose in the north after turning into a swift current, but before it proceeds towards the gentle-sloping hills stretching out beyond this point, the stream stagnates here as if taking a brief respite. This place usually boasts of a calming atmosphere, with the area being surrounded by trees. However, there was currently large amounts of water, dyed light brown due to the mud, streaming through the ravine with an audible rumble.
Two people had collapsed on the coast of that abyss.
One of them is a man with a strangely small yet stout build. His height is no more than that of a human child, but his arms and legs are as thick as logs. What covered his head in its entirety is a large helmet that had a shape similar to a metal cylinder. Currently, the face visor is open. Visible within is a characteristic dumpling nose located right in the middle of his face and a thick beard covering the lower half of his face.
It’s a dwarf.
One of the seven races living on this Seldeas Continent. It’s a race that has set up its dwelling in caves and mines, and professes its faith in the Earth Goddess. It was a race known for its stubbornness and toughness, but that dwarf, who exposed his feet starting from the knees to the muddy stream, had already ceased moving.
Ahead of the dwarf’s two arms, which looked as if he was raising them in celebration, lay another man.
Going by his height, he looks like a human youth in the latter half of his teens. However, his face that was stained with mud still has features pronouncing the innocence of a boy rather than a young man. A headband that had a detailed crest drawn onto it was firmly coiled around his forehead, which had his wet, sticky, black hair clinging to it.
One was prone to regard the youth as having already died, but his chest is faintly moving in tact with his breathing.
However, at this rate the youth will likely follow the dwarf’s fate in the near future.
At that moment. Feet that wore tattered leather sandals stepped into the pool of water in front of the youth’s eyes. He continued to breathe weekly, seemingly about to stop at any moment.
Due to the wet sound of the muddy water being stepped on and the stimulus of water drops hitting his face, they young man leaks a small groan while still unconscious.
The sandal-wearing feet shivered with a start and backed off. However, once they realize that the youth is still unconscious, they approach with a really timid gait.
“…Are you alive?”
What fell onto the youth’s cheeks alongside the raindrops was the voice of a girl.
Once the youth opened his eyes faintly, he saw a rocky surface illuminated by orange-colored light. And he hears the sound of fire bursting open with a crackling from nearby.
His thoughts don’t clear up, as if his mind had been overlapped by a haze.
For a short while he carefully listened to the popping of the fire as he blankly stares at the rocky surface, but soon he became awfully aware of his throat being dry.
Tearing apart his clotted lips, he wrings out a voice.
In response he sensed some kind of presence moving near-by.
“Big Sis Erika, this person, it looks like he woke up.”
A somewhat shrill and childish voice was audible.
After a short time the opening of a water bag is abruptly pressed against his dry lips. And, no sooner than him forcibly pushing his lips apart, water poured into his mouth through that opening. His dry throat reflexively makes gulping sounds as he chugged the water, but was unable to drink up the amount that is rudely poured in, a bit ending up entering his trachea.
At once he wards off the the water bag with his hand, twists his upper body so that his face is turned towards the ground and coughs violently. After having a coughing fit for quite some time, once it finally calmed down, his dim consciousness became clear.
“Th-…This place is…?”
Once he surveyed the surroundings, he saw this place was at the bottom of a massive rock that was thickly overgrown with vegetation, protruding out of the mountain surface. Once he looks upwards, he realizes that the rock is a natural shelter that covers the area just like an awning.
Suddenly a voice addressed the young man who was confused as to why he was sleeping in such a place.
“So you survived.”
The surprised youth turns in the direction from where the voice came as if flipping around.
And then he doubted my eyes.
The ones he saw there are beautiful girls.
“Despite having a meager-looking body, it seems only your bad luck is strong.”
The one who threw those bitter words at him is a girl who looks to be the oldest among the girls.
Her age is roughly in the middle of her first decade. She has round eyes with slightly raised outer corners, just like a cat. A small nose with a pointed end. Charming, small lips. All of these were perfectly arranged within her face, shaping it into a beautiful whole. Her admirable blonde hair, which is similar to threads spun out of pure gold, is soiled by the dirt of travel. Her face was also stained with spots of mud and filth, but it’s not at a level that would harm her beauty.
Also, speaking of beauty, even the three girls leaning in close to her didn’t lose out to her. All of them are little girls that are slightly past the age of 10, and are still immature, but that only adds to their loveliness. They are just like dolls made by dwarven artisans while putting all their efforts into it.
But, what attracted the youth more than their beauty are their long, pointed ears.
Without a doubt, they’re elves. A beautiful race that lives in the forest and believes in the Wind God.
However, due to these words spoken unintentionally by the youth, the girls’ bodies tremble slightly.
It gave one the impression that the girls were afraid of the youth recognizing them as elves.
A girl, who embraced a leather water bag with her arms and who very likely was the one to make him drink water earlier, turns towards the eldest girl while glaring with a grim stare at the youth and says something dangerous,
“Erika, it would be better if we kill this guy after all.”
This time the boy’s body stiffened after becoming startled.
Due to that, the girl called Erika stops stirring the open-air fire with a branch she held in her left hand and looks in the direction of the youth.
Erika didn’t approve of the girl’s proposal. However, her wariness tells him that she won’t overlook even the movement of a single finger, and moreover, a look of strong disgust was distinctly visible on her face.
The youth, who had this unwarranted spite turned at him, asks while flinching,
“W-Who are you people…?”
The clothes worn by Erika were probably first-class cloths in the beginning, but now they are stained with mud and dirt, and had become worn-out and tattered all over, without any shadow of their past state visible. While pulling up the big fur, which she had put on in order to cover half her body from her right shoulder as if to hide the clothes’ state, Erika asked back in reverse,
“Back at you, who are you? From where the heck did you pop out?”
“F-From where, you ask…”
Thereupon the youth suddenly came to his senses and once again surveyed his own surroundings.
“Where is this? Why am I in such a place!?”
“What are you saying at such a point in time?” Erika is utterly amazed.
It was as plain as day that she thought him contemptible for being an unthinkably stupid guy.
“You don’t remember? You collapsed and fainted at a riverbank which had swelled with water due to the rain.”
“Yes. However, you have good luck, don’t you? Because you fainted, you didn’t swallow much water. Otherwise, you would have likely drowned.”
Several scenes cross the mind of the youth like flashes, who had repeated the words of the girl as if he were a parrot.
Inside some deep mountain. Rain that had begun to fall intensely. A heavy rumbling in the ground similar to the growling of a mountain.
And, the foothold that suddenly crumbled away below his feet. His own body that was thrown down a cliff.
“True! My foothold collapsed all of a sudden and I fell into the river below, after that…! T-To where have I been washed away!?”
Finally remembering his own circumstances, the youth panics, but Erika coldly shot him down with the words, “You believe we know that?” Without holding back at all towards the youth, who was dumbfounded with his mouth half open and obviously being at a loss, Erika interrogates him,
“So, just who the heck are you?”
Due to Erika’s question that implicitly included that it won’t end well for him depending on his reply, the youth, who snapped out of it, answers with a cold sweat,
“My name is Kiza—”
At that point the youth suddenly hesitated to continue. He placed his hand at his forehead in a panic, confirming that the headband is still there, and then took a breath in relief.
“Is something wrong?”
The youth flaps his hands towards Erika, who asks that with a suspicious look, and explains,
“E-Excuse me. I had a slight headache from having hit my head.”
He was washed away by a raging river. I can’t believe that he’s completely unhurt. But even so, the way of the youth’s talking just now was odd.
“So, you are called Kisa?”
The youth tilted his head to the side in confusion as if he didn’t understand what she’s saying.
“As I said, is your name Kisa?”
“—! Y-Yes, you are absolutely right!”
After widening his eyes as if he had suddenly realized something, the youth, who introduced himself as Kisa, frantically nodded his head.
The speech and conduct of the youth called Kisa are too fishy. It’s obvious that he’s trying to hide something.
However, I don’t know what that might be.
If I conjecture from his way of talking just before he started to get agitated, it seems that he’s hiding his own identity.
However, after thinking that far, Erika smiled bitterly.
Just how does it help him to hide his identity from us?
‘Going by Kisa’s current appearance of looking at us with eyes similar to those of a frightened rabbit, he doesn’t seem to be a renowned soldier or a chased outlaw whatsoever. Besides, if he’s a human, he’s probably at a good age, so addressing himself with I 1 is just as if he’s a rich boy of some noble or wealthy merchant family.
However, considering that, I can’t sense any mannerliness from his behavior that speaks of the usual arrogance of despising others.
For a human who very likely won’t do us neither harm nor good, I can’t imagine him to have a background that he must hide from us.
In that case, I wonder just who the heck this guy is?
What Erika’s intuition told her at the moment when she thought that was that he’s a Lost Child.
It’s a fact that he had been washed down by the river, so he probably doesn’t know where he is right now. But, even if that’s not true, for some reason he looks like a lost child that’s on the verge of crying with its body trembling in fear after suddenly being abandoned in an unknown area.
As she was considering this, Erika’s sleeve is pulled. While keeping her face turned to the front in order to check on Kisa, she shifts just her eyes sideways. Thereupon she saw the little girl, who held onto the water bag, pinching her sleeve.
“This guy is too suspicious. I think we should chase him out or kill him.”
Erika agreed with what the girl was saying.
However, she can’t feel any danger from the youth’s overly weak behavior, even if it is indeed shady. Rather, it’s at a level where it would be absurd to be cautious with that guy as opponent.
Due to him currently peeking their way while being fearful, Erika snorted lightly and loosened her wariness towards Kisa.
“Well, okay. — My name is Erika. These children are Ilsa, Nina and Paula.”
Erika points in order at the little girl holding the water bag and then the two little girls hiding behind her. At the moment when Erika twisted her upper body half to the back to do so, the fur that hung down from her right shoulder slipped down.
Right at that moment Kisa widens his eyes slightly.
Below the fur he could see a crossbow with an arrow nocked in that she firmly held with her right hand while pointing it his way.
The body of Kisa, who realized that he would have been shot with that crossbow if he had tried to act rudely, trembles with a shiver even though it’s this late in the game already.
Noticing that, Erika lightly laughed in scorn and said,
“How long are you going to expose that seedy-looking skin of yours? If it’s your clothes, they are drying on top of the stone over there.”
Looking down on his body upon Erika’s words, Kisa finally realized that he was naked and screamed.