Chapter 35 – Advice

 


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A silver mushroom standing still in a tranquil room.

It made Kei remember the first time he’d encountered a contractible Spirit on the field during his game days. He was just as surprised back then when the Spirit suddenly appeared before his eyes. He, however, failed to make a contract with it as he couldn’t fulfill the requirements.

Kei and Aileen approached that person slowly, frightfully even.

“Excuse us, Sir.”

The man who was absorbed in reading a file turned around.

The moment Kei saw his face, he almost burst into laughter. He appeared to be in his late fifties, and had somewhat charming features — a round face, a snub nose, and drooping eyes.

On top of all that, his hairstyle. His mushroom-cut looked so carefully tended that it actually felt contrived. Looking at him from close proximity, Kei could see that even his bangs were perfectly vertical.

However, it would be beyond rude if he laughed during their first meeting, so Kei strained his iron will to suppress his amusement.

“—Yes?”

“…Am I correct to assume that you are Mr. Valgren Kremrart?”

“Yes, I am indeed Valgren Kremrart, but who might you… Oh, wait.”

Mushroom’s — aka Valgren’s gaze shifted back and forth between Kei and Aileen.

“I seem to remember your face. Aren’t you the winner of the martial tournament’s marksmanship division? I believe you were called… Kei Nogawa?”

“That’s right. Were you present during the tournament?”

“Ah, yes, I watched your performance. From afar, however.”

He answered with a playful wink. However, Kei somehow sensed a cunning glint in his eyes. Though his hairstyle was deceiving, his intuition told him that he was no simple, good-hearted old man.

“So then, what business might Mr. Champion have with me?”

Valgren asked with a friendly smile. Pulling himself together, Kei cleared his throat and answered.

“I realize this might sound impudent, but we have an earnest favor.”

He roughly explained that they got to know about Valgren through the Encyclopedia’s Northland and Haunted Forest entries, and that they were planning to head to the Haunted Forest.

“—And as such, we thought it would be smart to ask a specialist like you for an opinion.”

“…Hmm, I see, I see.”

Valgren gave a small nod, erasing his smile as he gazed out through a nearby window.

Gentle midday sunlight spilled into the library. White doves could be seen beyond, flapping their wings as they flew away.

He silently slid a hand into his pocket and took out a pocket watch. The dial had a faint light pulsating within — it was a magic clock. He glanced at the time and closed the cover.

“Alright then, talking while standing would be awkward, so why don’t we sit down, Mr. Kei? Also, the young lady next to you.”

Immediately after he said so, Valgren promptly sat down on a nearby sofa. Following suit, Kei sat down opposite him with Aileen taking the place next to him.

It was a soft, comfortable polster sofa with a deep green coloring. The cover’s fabric was made out of smooth silk with piquant embroideries of delicate flowers. The two had already sat on these sofas a number of times, but the smooth texture caused them to reflexively brush the polster with their hands each and every single time.

“…Now, before we continue, may I ask you a few things?”

Making himself comfortable, Valgren put his hand on the armrest and supported his chin.

“Of course, go ahead.”

“First, I would like to hear the motivation behind your goal. Why did the Étranger of the Fog, or Haunted Forest entries catch your interest? Also, why did you decide to actually visit the Haunted Forest? Excuse my rudeness, but you two don’t appear like enthusiastic history students to me, and Northland is too far away for it to stem from simple curiosity. Moreover, that young lady seems to be a Snowlander, so shouldn’t she know a lot more about the area over there than me?”

His amused yet serene eyes were pinned on Kei.

“…Right.”

Kei looked over at Aileen to ask for her opinion, but she merely answered with a shrug. Apparently, she was leaving everything to him.

Kei believed that there would be no point in covering up information when asking a specialist for advice, so he decided to be honest about their circumstances to some extent.

“Well, Étranger of the Fog might refer to the two of us—”

He started to explain in chronological order while keeping the parts about the game and otherworldly elements vague. He explained that they entered a white fog and lost consciousness, only to find themselves on a grassland of this world when they woke up.

“—So we are trying to determine where we are, and whether or not we can return to our homeland. We’re expecting to find clues in the Haunted Forest.”

“…I see.”

Valgren gazed into the air as he listened to Kei’s explanation. While he was lost in thoughts, his right hand reached for the top of his head but stopped just as his fingers were about to touch it — pulling away without doing anything.

“So, in short, the two of you wish to determine a way back home, and plan to leave the duchy eventually — is that correct?”

“No, I still haven’t decided on leaving. I’m personally quite fond of my life here. But I wish to at least ascertain what happened back then.”

“I see. Does that go for the young lady too?”

“Huh?”

Aileen’s shoulders jumped when the conversation suddenly shifted to her.

“I-I… I’ll think about it after we’ve made sure whether we can go back.”

“I see…”

“……”

It was hard to say what he read out of Aileen’s hesitation, but Valgren nodded many times over.

Kei, however, remained silent.

“…Well, I roughly understand your goal now. In that case, the Haunted Forest will indeed be a place of great interest for you two.”

“So you’re saying there’s a point in going there.”

“Indeed, I suppose you could say that, yes.”

Valgren smiled faintly, lowering his voice, as if they were having a secret talk.

“—To tell you the truth, I have been there myself before. In the Haunted Forest, I mean.”

 

————— End of Part 1 —————-

 

Kei and Aileen reflexively leaned forward. It appeared that this Valgren person was not a mere scholar.

“Oh wow… I did not expect you to have gone there yourself.”

“Oh I was just accompanying the magician squad that was dispatched there in the past, but I obviously didn’t step inside. That said, something dwells within it — this much is certain. At the very least, that something is powerful enough to cause the transfer phenomenon you two have experienced. Our investigation did not reveal much, but if you two go there, you may discover something else.”

Valgren leaned back into the sofa with a thin smile.

“…So, in that sense, there is a point in you going there.”

His words, albeit reserved, were full of confidence. Kei and Aileen processed them silently.

“…So we really have to go, huh?”

Aileen finally muttered. Despite her whispering, her eyes were very sharp.

“Yeah.”

Kei, on the other hand, simply nodded. At the very least, he didn’t have any reason to oppose the idea.

“…Mr. Valgren, I think we will go there, after all.”

“Alright, that would be for the best.”

“It’s just that, I know this is quite impudent of me to ask you, but, if possible, could you teach us the best route to take?”

“…Hmm. I have no problems with that, but I do have a condition.”

Seeing his profound smile, the two reflexively put themselves on guard.

“…Oh, it’s nothing you would need to be so wary about. You two came from a place located far away from the duchy, yes? Then I believe you have some particular knowledge that I wouldn’t be aware of. If possible, in exchange for me teaching you about Northland, I hope you can also teach me some useful knowledge.”

Valgren was proposing a give and take.

“Useful knowledge, eh…?”

Aileen started to ponder with a finger on her lips. Kei also started to ponder, his arms folded.

Kei thought about various things, like science and technology, tactics, and communication through electricity, but as he looked at the blue sky outside the window, he suddenly remembered something else.

“…Mr. Valgren, are you aware of astrology?

“Astrology… you mean the divination that’s done through observing the star’s trajectory.”

“Yes. An extension of that would be the ability to tell next week’s weather with a fairly high accuracy by looking at the stars. How about that?”

“Ohh! You’ve piqued my interest.”

Hearing about the weather forecast using astrology made Valgren lift his eyebrows.

“And how accurate would that be?”

“It’s accurate enough to not err on the next day’s weather, but it involves the color and brightness of the stars, and the further you try to predict the future the less accurate it gets. Concretely, there are seven stars visible at the zenith regardless of the season and—”

Kei explained while using hand gestures. Valgren rubbed his chin as he silently listened to all Kei had to say with keen interest.

“I see, that does sound interesting. I’ve never heard about using stars to accurately predict the weather. But still… I don’t quite understand with just a verbal explanation. Could you teach me the concrete procedure while gazing at the stars when the opportunity arises? We can strike a deal with that.”

“Of course, no problem.”

“Good. Then let me give you my advice. I’m a fairly busy person, so I’m pressed for time.”

“Well… we have no problem with that, but are you sure?”

Kei felt slightly let-down about Valgren accepting it without being shown so much as a proof. Valgren tapped on his temple with his finger and smiled.

“It’s fine, I will know for sure whether it’s correct or not when I try it out. If it turns out that I was deceived, it would only make your calibers as people clear. Now, let me teach you the route that I took and the information about the nearby tribes. I believe the Northland map was on this floor.”

“Oh, we have the map here.”

Just as Valgren was about to get up, Aileen took out a folded parchment from the accessory case and spread it on the table in front of her. It was something they paid to have copied from the general Northland map accessible in the library.

“You’re well prepared. This reminds me, I never asked for your name, young lady.”

“I’m Aileen. Aileen Lobachevsaya. I’m not a Snowlander, but from a similar tribe. Best regards, Sir.”

“Hahaha, likewise.”

Valgren smiled widely at Aileen’s playful introduction. Aileen possessed an innocent smile which allowed her to easily get close to other people.

“Now, about the route, first we headed to the Buffered City Dilan’niren, and then—”

They all looked down at the map. Kei took a memo pad from his waist pouch and started noting down Valgren’s suggestions.

 

 

†††

 

 

After that, Valgren provided the two with detailed information until afternoon.

Initially, Kei and Aileen considered crossing the Aria eastwards, following the river northwards, and then detouring to the mountain range in the east as the shortest route, but according to Valgren, this route was overflowing with bandits, so it would be dangerous to travel as a pair.

Instead, Valgren proposed to follow the Bratya Highway to the north, then head east from the Commercial City Belyansk. Doing so would avoid outlaw settlements and would be relatively safer.

“This turned out more fruitful than I’d expected.”

“Yeah, but in the end I still wonder who that old man is.” Aileen muttered on their way to the inn in order to grab lunch.

Once his conversation with the two was concluded, Valgren checked his pocket watch, just to throw his eyes wide open, screaming, “I’m late!” and dashing away. As for the matter with astrology, he’d apparently send a messenger to their inn.

“That pocket watch seemed magical, huh…? I bet it’d cost a fortune.”

“The ornaments were quite something. It’d probably cost an entire gold coin.”

He wore an unfashionable robe, but they could only think of it as being camouflage. That said, with a hairstyle as characteristic as his, his identity would instantly be revealed regardless of the camouflage, so perhaps it was more like an open secret.

“……”

The two silently walked through the noisy streets of midday Urvan. Appetizing soup aromas wafted across alleys where kids ran around.

It had been a little over a month since they settled in Urvan. The familiar cityscape seemed somehow different to them now. The memo from Valgren, securely tucked away in Kei’s pocket, bore a sense of weight.

—They would be leaving this city.

That fact was, slowly but steadily, sinking into their minds.

At the end of the street, the signboard of the HangedBug — a hanging deformed beetle holding a mug in one hand — came into view. The dining room was already crowded, so the two returned to their room for the time being.

To room 203, which felt like their home at this point.

Surveying it anew, the room had gained many new things over time. That included a nail clipper, a small bowl filled with dried fruits, and even a handy side table.

Naturally, they wouldn’t be able to take everything on their journey to Northland.

“…We should really get around to sorting our luggage, huh?”

Aileen muttered with a tinge of loneliness.

 

————— End of Part 2 —————-

 

 

 

Important Announcement!
Dear readers,

as you should know, this translation is a commission and thus lives from your support (I have no ads running and don’t hide the chapters behind hundreds of cash links like some do). As such I’ve been pestering you with requests to help out nearly every chapter, almost going as far as begging.

But, unfortunately this series hasn’t performed as I’d hoped it’d do when I started releasing it here. Currently the amount of support over all time amounts to roughly a fourth of the total pay for the translator (not even counting in my own work).

If I had the money to endlessly cover losses, I’d do so since Vermillion is a great series, but unfortunately I cannot do that.

As such there will be following change to the public release rate and amount starting today:

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On Patreon the release rate will remain weekly, albeit with a likewise lowered amount per chapter part.

Please notice that this change isn’t set in stone, but can be changed at any time by you, the readers, supporting the translation effort for this novel.

I hope that some of you may consider supporting this series in earnest since it’s a great story, provided to you by a very good translator.

 

 


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