This chapter was a bitch to translate. A very bad case at that. Can’t believe I spent all that time edging on being insane just because of lemmas and irregular grammar. Well done sensei.
Next chapter should be released somewhere before my wedding.
Here’s your discord channel. Feel free to drop by and you might be able to hasten the translation just by pestering me for one every day.
Do your thing Deskie. Hah, I did it! Edited.
Oh and also. Credit to Kandovan for partially translating this chapter. Your effort is much appreciated.
Chapter XXI – His and Her Circumstances
“Urgent comm from Opus 03. Urgent comm from Opus 03. Requesting reply from command. I repeat——–”
“…………. This is command, Opus 01 speaking. Reception is exceedingly satisfactory. Please go ahead and state your message, Opus 03.”
“What, so it’s Uni? Is Master currently occupied?”
“Indeed. As of present, he’s currently overseeing several projects. Directing command is provisionally entrusted to me at this time.”
“Then, convey this message to Master, ‘an unexpected big game has appeared, I need reinforcement, so at the very least, please send the Opus Series over here’.”
“… How baffling. Hasn’t it been confirmed that there’s no threat in the relevant area that you can’t handle?”
“No, Uni. It’s not that it’s out of my hands. I just need more hands around here. Get it?”
“….. I see, I’ve grasped your circumstances. I will convey your message to Master without fail and get that green light for you. Please continue to carry on your original duties until the next contact.”
“Understood. Opus 03 will continue to engage in the original mission until another order is issued. Over.”
“I wish you success. Over.”
“Good grief, just stop being rash, Verche. To think you went out alone to hunt and got lost in the black forest while you were on it…”
“You’re noisy, Chaga. It’s not like I went out because I wanted to.”
Verche, who had just been released from the long, long lecture from the Elders, turned her face away from her male friend who had came to nag at and vehemently argue with her, and he did it worse than the Elders.
If one were to glance skywards, they’d notice the dazzling shine of the sun that was about to reach its zenith in the midsky. If one were to look around, they’d find roof-thatched houses of mud scattered about around the trunks of the white trees.
Birds were singing as they sat perched on the roofs of the houses and the barks of the trees, telling one’s ears that the serenity that they felt was by no means a silent thing.
The peaceful atmosphere around the place had a certain rigid order about it, despite its tranquility.
This place was the village of the Witte clan, where the Elves that inhabited the white birch forest resided.
Verche had parted with Drei after the dawn of that night had broke, and returned to the white birch forest. She had wanted to introduce Drei, her benefactor, to the village-folk, but Drei refused. She said that for Elven people, surely bringing strangers into their villages would be an offence. It would certainly be a big deal for those in the Witte clan if an adventurer—– well, actually, their slave——- were to approach the immediate vicinity of their barrier. Considering that it wasn’t once or twice that those adventurers had wrought devastation to the forest when they come to forage for herbs.
Of course, unlike unintelligent beasts, they’d only grab what they need and leave some left after, but that was only because destroying the place where those herbs would grow en masse would prove to be unfavourable for them. Should a time come when a villager would need to grab these herbs that have been harvested before by those adventurers, the herbs would end up completely wiped out. After that, there would be nothing left to do but to accept the fact that they were gone and cry themselves to sleep about it. The villagers had experienced this over and over again. While Drei did save Verche’s life, the prospect of how welcoming they would be remained doubtful.
“— So, Verche. Absolutely don’t mention anything about me to the villagers, alright?”
She made that promise with Drei as they looked at each other in their eyes.
The Elders did persistently ask her about how she went about spending a night outside the white birch forest’s barrier, to which she insisted in her answer that she hid herself in a naturally-occuring shaft there. She wasn’t sure why she had to hide her encounter with Drei to that extent, but a promise was a promise.
She sighed as Chaga called her out. For some reason she became restless as she recollected the events that happened the other day.
“Sorry, I was a bit out of it.”
“Could it be that you’re tired? …… Well of course you are. You spent a night in a scary place like the black forest all alone, after all.”
Chaga said with a gloomy look on his face.
Verche indeed felt fatigue catching up to her. But the cause of her fatigue was because she was lectured a while back. In fact, back in the forest, she was enjoying herself as much as she would in the village, probably thanks to Drei.
“Rather than that, I’m feeling bitter since the Elders forbade me to go out hunting for a while. They went as far as to take my bow away.”
“Eh? Do they normally do that?”
“‘Use this opportunity to act ladylike, like any other women”, they said. They made a fool of me, huh.”
Even recalling those words was hard to stomach in itself.
Had they rebuked her for the fact that she was still an inexperienced hunter, then she could still understand. She did chase the prey too far and ended up getting lost and all that, so in those respects she was indeed not prepared enough to go hunt alone. The adults, however, refused to admit that Verche was a hunter from the get go. And despite of that, those pieces of meat she got as a proof that she had brought a large game by herself – they happily took them all for themselves. They really did made a fool out of her.
For her, it was vexing that they took her bow away as well. She had been using that bow for the last ten years, it was her beloved bow. That bow was the very same bow that had taken down a large bear – three metres in height – a long time ago. It was easy to handle, and most of all, she was attached to it. Unlike the pieces of meat that she wouldn’t be able enjoy now, surely they’d return that bow someday, but it was hard to bury the feeling that they had taken something that was almost like a part of her body. She felt depressed the moment she realised that she’d continue to feel that miserable for a while from now on.
“Well that’s too bad. I had wanted to show you what I’ve got during the next hunt, but I guess we’ll have to postpone that for a some time.”
“What are you saying now, Chaga. You’re bad with bows, and your legs are slow.”
Verche replied without hiding not one bit of her exasperations. The whole thing was useless, even if Chaga said it only to console her. Chaga hadn’t been of much use during the times they went out to hunt together. Magic was his forte, so he could heal her if she got injured, but never had once had Verche badly injured herself during their time out. Regardless, this overprotective boy would use hyperbolic spells just to treat even the most trivial of injuries – even though she’d always tell him that “spit is enough to treat it” every time she got one.
“Ta, haha”, probably Chaga was a bit hurt as he laughed lethargically, but suddenly a look of self-confidence returned to him.
“Hang on now. Yesterday, I finally have got this promising thing that’d probably be of use to you.”
His ears twitched as he tapped his chest while he uttered those words.
From the way he said that, it was clear that he had pretty much succeeded in this endeavour of his. It was impossible for his archery or trekking skills to improve that much in a single day, so most probably, it must be that he had buffed himself with some sort of a new spell.
Come to think of it, now that he said that it was yesterday, it coincided with the day when Verche went out alone to hunt the large boar. At that time, she did feel that it was strange for him not to tag along, as it turned out he probably came up with something peculiar and concentrated his efforts in it.
“Eh? If you say that far, then I guess I’m a bit interested. By all means, I’d like to see this ‘promising’ thing myself.”
“Thought you’d say so. Why don’t we go to the plaza then.”
As soon as she said that, Chaga stood up and ran off ahead of her. Verche had to trot to keep up with him.
‘He said that he came up with something that’ll be useful during the hunts, right?’. It could be said that she felt half-expecting and half-anxious about this, moreover for some reason she recalled that thing that brought excitement to her index finger. As expected, she loved hunting after all, she reaffirmed that feeling once again.
As she was chasing his back, she could feel that her gloom was clearing up a bit.
…. At that time….
“Hey, Chaga seems to be on to something!”
“Heard it was some sort of a spell to help our hunt!”
“Reaaallly? That Chaga?”
“Chaga said he’s about to show it soon!”
Before they knew it, curious young Elves had gathered in the plaza. While Elves prize the concepts of tranquility and order, as one might expect, passion and vigour are things that youth in general cannot repress.
There were about ten of those onlookers. Every one of them was young, younger than a hundred years old, there were two girls with known eccentric interests among them.
Feeling uncomfortable due to the gazes of the surrounding eyes, Verche gently whispered,
“Hey, Chaga. People are watching, is this okay with you?”
“It’s fine. It’s not an offensive magic that’ll hurt anyone anyway.”
“No, that’s not what I mean….. I’m worried that you’ll get nervous and screw up the spell.”
“….. Verche. You, just what do you think I am—– no, just don’t say anything. I do have a rough guess.”
Chaga let out a deep sigh at Verche’s doubtful gaze.
“What are you two whispering about~?”
“So the spell demonstration thing is a pretext? This is actually going to be a confession!”
“But, just then, Verche said something first, right?”
“So, Verche confessed first?”
“Yeee, what passion!”
Somehow the conversation between the strangers went into a strange direction.
Verche shouted at them without holding her voice back.
“Shut up, all of you! As if I’d say something like that!”
“Just, what are you all getting so disappointed for…. Anyway, look, the bow and the beasts are my love, alright? I’m not missing out on my own love affair!”
“Liaar-! There should be meat along those lines!”
“Meeat, meeaaaaat! Meat-loving Vercheeee!”
“Eeei! If it’s meat then don’t you people eat it as well!?”
Among the uproar that rose all of a sudden, Chaga coughed.
“Err… can I start now?”
“Yeah, right. There’s no end to it if I keep responding to these guys anyway….”
She took a distance from Chaga who was preparing his spell, all the while feeling that even more fatigue had racked up inside of her.
The village youth, in wonderment of what he was going to do, also switched their points of attention to Chaga.
“Well then, here I go, okay? ‘Oh, brethren of my covenant. Thou hath accepted thy price, therefore in haste shalt thou appear in my presence’…..”
He continued to recite various chants for a while after that.
If what Chaga said a while back was true, then he had just learned of this spell yesterday. To achieve the perfect intended result, it can’t be helped that he had to recite the full chant of the spell.
The people around them also suppressed their voice as they watched Chaga intently. If they were to interrupt the spell here, there may be an unforeseen bad effect due to the accidental discharge of the spell.
Eventually, the spell reached its culminating chant.
“‘Come forth, my servant! —– Summon Familiar’!”
The moment he finished his spell and concluded the hand gestures, the ground shone.
With the use of his mana, the increasing light drew a magic circle on the ground. The space on its centre was bent, and something came out of it.
It was a beast. A beast of the forest, with a darkened ashen grey fur.
A wolf appeared there.
When the light dissipated and the magic circle vanished, what remained there was a single wolf, its eyes were closed and it kept its head down, as if showing them its submission.
“Oooh! What is this!?”
“Could that be…… summoning magic!?”
“Awesome! Gran and her folks must’ve taught you the spell!”
“Well done, Chaga!”
As the crowd showered him with praises, Chaga was all bashful while playing with the tip of his ear.
Then, he faced Verche’s way and showed her a smug smile.
“So how is it? I’ve a made a contract with a wolf from the forest, and it’s now my familiar. This guy’s nose is good, and it’s enough to take down a small game alone. Of course, it’ll be hard for this guy to deal with the big games that Verche usually hunt, but it’ll do just right as a beater.”
Verche kept her silence as she glanced at the wolf.
The wolf familiar, unbecoming of a beast, was showing them its submission as it meekly kept its rump on the ground. It didn’t approach her and stick its tongue out to familiarise itself with her, nor did it bare its fangs at her like she normally would expect, it just remained there motionlessly. It was almost like the creature before her was not a wolf, but in fact another being entirely.
Chaga peeked at Verche’s expression, wondering that she probably found it strange.
“What is it, Verche? You’re all silent and your face is scary.”
“Aa, aah. It’s nothing.”
“Nothing…. so you have no response to that? Sigh, even though I’ve really had a hard time learning the spell and controlling the child and all that….”
“It’s not that, I find this surprising, and I think it’s amazing. I can’t use this kind of magic and this child will surely be useful during a hunt………… I think.”
———- But, she wasn’t happy at all with it.
That was Verche’s true feeling.
This beast was taken away from its herd, stripped of its instincts, and it wagged its tail at the hunter. Rather than a wolf, it was more like a dog. No, it was more like a gargoyle, just with flesh and blood. Even in its unnatural state right now, it should at least have been able to defy the obligation to obey the Elves.
She was being finicky and on top of that, petty. She knew that. Chaga busted his butt to learn the spell for her sake, and he obtained this familiar for her sake as well, for her to be not able to at least show him she was honestly happy for those gestures were just…..
Meanwhile, one of the girls among the onlookers approached them with an interested look on her face.
“Hey hey, may I touch this child? The child won’t bite or anything like that, right?”
“Ah, yes. It’ll defend itself if you hurt it though. But if you’re just stroking it…”
“Whoa, you’re right-!”
What Verche saw there was the wolf keeping itself calm as it was being stroked by the village girl. And it didn’t end there. It actually drew its forefeet onto its belly and lied down on its back, showing her its belly. For a hunter who did face wolves repeatedly during the times they had threatened the village, it was nothing sort of an unbelievable sight.
‘Chaga…………. This thing, is absolutely not a wolf.’
Even looking at it made her sad.
Wolves were among the most beloved beasts to Verche. Yes, they did threaten her village from time to time, and they had been the match of her bow for so many times now, but regardless she respected their gallantry, their strength, their cunning, and their ability to be affectionate to their packs. It was for that reason that after she hunted them down, she’d never fail to eat their meat. The youths in her village found their meat to be smelly and unsavoury, so she would eat them alongside the earnest, old-fashioned adults, who believed that it was a courtesy to their proud prey.
But this familiar, this thing that used to be a wolf. She didn’t feel anything like that towards it. Should it drop dead, she didn’t think that she could deem its remains as ‘meat’.
———- Because this thing was no longer a wolf, it’s a tool.
———- When it dies, of course it won’t turn into meat.
———- When a tool is broken, what’s left of it is just junk.
She thought of those things, and when she deemed that she couldn’t regard the thoughts to be wrong in any way, Verche sank even more into her sorrow.
“Verche, you’ve been like that for a while, what is it? ………… Could it be that you’re not happy with it?”
“No, it’s not—-”
‘It’s not like that’ was what she had wanted to say, but she couldn’t bear to finish her words.
If she were to say that, the pride that Verche held up until now, the memory of her battles against the beast she hunted. All of that would be a lie.
“Surely she’s just worried that it’s too quiet and thus won’t be able to be useful during hunts?”
“Hahah, yeah, probably that!”
“Could it be that Chaga’s timidness infected his familiar as well?”
As such did the onlooker youths misinterpreted the sorrow that Verche showed.
It seemed that Chaga was quite angry at those words.
Unlike the usual mild-mannered man that he was, he bristled up and raised his voice.
“It’s not like that! If I order it properly and pour my mana into it, its bodily functions will improve as well. Let me show you. Its moves will be much more amazing than wild wolves, here, now, I’ll show———”
Inadvertently, Verche had restrained him with a harsh tone.
She didn’t want to see this wolf to be treated like a toy any longer. And such thought made her to raise her voice.
Chaga stared her way, bewildered.
‘Why would Verche use that tone with me?’, the fact that he couldn’t comprehend that was written all over his face
“Chaga, I’m glad that you’ve been putting effort so that you can be useful during our hunts. But… you’re doing this the wrong way.”
‘Now I said it’, Verche thought as she wallowed in regret.
Surely what she said hurt Chaga. He was proud of his spell and had learned it with great pains, just to have it repudiated by her. Thinking that, even she who had spent a long time associating with him couldn’t help but to feel bitter about it. But, regretful as it was, it was necessary.
The longer she watched Chaga treat the wolf like a tool, surely the more painful her thoughts would become. That way, the more she would want to speak harsher then than she would now. And thus she had to tell him right now, she had to tell him about how she felt about hunting and the beasts. She held that thought in her mind and continued speaking,
“Ver, Verche? What are you—-”
“Just, listen to me…………. It will be useful during our hunts, I have no doubt about it. I have seen a lot of beasts over all these years, so I can tell. It’s still young now, but in time it’ll grow and it’ll be stronger than it is now. But even if I were to use this on a hunt, I’m sure that I wouldn’t be happy about it.”
“Why… are you saying that?”
Chara replied peevishly.
The onlookers also showed their confusion at this dubious turn of events.
“Don’t you pity this child? It was taken from its pack, bound by magic——–”
“It’s not like that, Verche…. I established a equal contract with this wolf. In order so that it won’t starve when it fails to catch a prey, I supplied my mana in lieu of its food. In order so that it won’t be hunted, it obeys us. Where does pity enter here?”
“The fact that it obeys us. Being obedient to those who is not the leader of its pack, that is just not how a wolf lives.”
“I can’t understand what you’re saying here, Verche….”
She was bitter with her shoddy choice of words.
‘So I have to put it in a simpler way for him to understand. There’s just no way to put this more softly, huh.’
As she thought of that, she strenuously wrenched her face and wring out her words.
“Besides, Chaga, this is different from the way how Elves do things in my mind. Elves are an equal party to nature. Sometimes things don’t work out, we hurt each other, we kill each other. To that end, that is why we hunt. However, it is because that we stand in the firing line that we know that there is pride and joy in the act of hunting. To force a being of nature to obey us and stand in the frontlines on our behalf is not how Elves hunt.”
Verche’s brain recalled a certain glitter of silver.
There, yesterday, around the neck of the benefactor who saved Verche’s life, the thing that she wore there.
The proof of the bond obtained in exchange of the destruction of her clan.
But, that—— at the same time, to Verche, was surely the fruit of two mutually exclusive ideas.
‘I’m sorry, Drei….”
On top of the guilt of having trampled on Chaga’s kindness, there was another guilt piled up inside her.
“Asylum in exchange of obedience. That is… the same as attaching a collar on it. I can’t attach a collar on those who are equal to myself.”
Those conflicting words also disavowed her benefactor’s way of life.
“That is why… Chaga. If you can, can you please release that child from the spell and return it to its pack?”
The expression of Chaga was full of bewilderment and grief.
The efforts that he had made this far, and its result, were now being slashed and dumped because she thought the other way.
Had Chaga done the same thing to her, surely she’d be angry, surely she’d be sad.
But if she couldn’t say that. If she didn’t say that. Verche felt that she’d lose the sense of her own self.
Sure enough, to that, Chaga quietly opened his mouth.
“If. If I were to return this wolf to the forest, and then if it were to attack the village, would you hunt it down?”
“… I would hunt it down.”
“You’ll hunt it down, you’ll kill it…… and you’ll eat it?”
“I would eat it.”
“Why? Even though wolves taste bad.”
“If they were to kill us, they’d do the same thing as well. Thus I’ll do the same thing. To respect it as an equal.”
“…. But you hunt birds and deer as well.”
“When Elves die, our remains will return to the forest and fertilise the vegetations. They eat that.”
“You’re not being reasonable, Verche.”
“I’m not trying to. It’s just providence, Chaga.”
And without complying with that providence, Elven hunters – she, couldn’t hold herself true. Verche firmly believed that.
Chaga haggardly shook his head several times.
“As I thought, I just don’t understand, Verche….”
“I just don’t think that binding it with magic is crueler than hunting it down and eating it.”
“…… Is that so.”
When that word was muttered, she realised that they had failed to reach a consensus.
At the same time, she concluded that the views between the two in regard of the act of hunting were at odds with each other.
“…. I won’t ever hunt with you again.”
She couldn’t hunt with those who didn’t share that line.
It wasn’t a matter of skill, nor was it a matter of compatibility.
The matter was about the pride of the Elves that resided in the white birch forest.
…. Because their point of view differed there, she could no longer go out hunting with him.
Verche turned away from him and started walking.
She could hear Chaga’s voice at her back.
As she passed, one of the onlookers on her way exaggeratedly jumped aside.
Then, she left the plaza that way.
That day, her bow was taken away, and she had to let go of her companion that she had been indebted to.
“Chaga, don’t be so hard on yourself now.”
“Well, I guess it’s understandable after he got shot down that harshly, though….”
“But doesn’t this make it clear? That hunting freak is just not your match, you know.”
“Hey, don’t put it that way, alright!?”
The onlooker youths were now unanimously counselling Chaga, who was left behind in the plaza.
‘They’re just doing whatever they want’, Chaga thought.
‘Even though they were pesteringly mocking me a while back’.
He had been thinking as selfish as they were in a way, and he found it to be unsightly.
He couldn’t sincerely take in their consolations, and he couldn’t take in the other party’s notion. Perhaps it was that side of him that struck Verche’s nerves.
“Anyway, don’t you think that she shouldn’t have behaved that way?”
“Thought so as well. I just can’t understand what she did then.”
“As I thought, that kid is just out there.”
“She’s a woman, but she spent all her time hunting, so, well I guess I kind of saw that coming?”
The two Elven women sure said some fine things when the intended person is not around.
Chaga wasn’t a fan of these kind of people.
Though he had that kind of mask on him too, so it wasn’t his place to comment anything about it.
As he thought, he’d prefer someone who could say it like it is to the person’s face.
Someone like………….. Verche.
“Kah! Even though we already said that much, you’re still on about her?”
“Chaga is really sick in his own way too…”
“He’s just helpless.”
Even though they said that, Chaga liked what Chaga liked, so it couldn’t be helped.
Chaga had always liked Verche from a long time ago.
He’d always feel rejuvenated every time he saw how Verche moved like she was having the time of her life every time they go out on a hunt. Her profile that seemed to be about to burst every time she drew her bow, it was almost as if she was the goddess of the forest, it was beautiful.
She was a stubborn one, and since he was a drag she’d always scold him harshly over that, but she was never cruel to him, and she would never turn him away during her most prized moments that was hunting.
But, it seemed that today it had finally came to an end.
Chaga had made her angry and hurt her. He believed that what he did, he did for her sake, but it instead hurt the pride of a hunter that Verche held dear.
Even though he was the one who had wanted to keep seeing that sight when she was out hunting the most.
“Cheer up, Chaga. I don’t think what you said back then was that mistaken, alright?”
“Right, right. We hunt to protect the forest and the forest and the village. No need to add unnecessary aesthetics there.”
“What she said back then was her own savage reasoning to justify herself when she kill a beast with her bow.”
Chaga also felt that he wasn’t in the wrong there.
The number of beasts that got driven from the black forest and wandered into the white birch forest had been rising from year to year. People from the outside world had been opening the woods and pushed down the monsters to its deeper reaches, destroying the beasts’ habitat in the process. If this were to continue, the burden of the village’s hunters would increase. For that reason, using familiar to help them hunt should be seen in a positive light.
There was nothing wrong with his line of thought. He could say that with conviction.
———- ‘Really, though?’
Verche’s words still lingered in his ears.
— ‘“Asylum in exchange of obedience. That is… the same as attaching a collar on it. I can’t attach a collar on those who are equal to myself.”’
Elves are an equal party to Mother Nature, and thus we can’t bind it down, she said.
— ‘“Don’t you pity this child? It was taken from its pack, bound by magic——–”’
— ‘“The fact that it obeys us. Being obedient to those who is not the leader of its pack, that is just not how a wolf lives.”’
She wasn’t happy with how the beast was forced to yield, she said.
When he recalled those words, the conviction that he was in the right began to fade away.
In terms of hunting, her ways would always be the correct way.
The beasts, too, knew her ways well.
The wolf that Chaga had summoned as his familiar continued to maintain its posture in standby, waiting for his orders.
‘Just what does he think about this?’
‘Do you agree with me and reason, that it’s better for you to obey me and live, or do you instead agree with her and providence, that it it’s better for me to kill you instead?”
The wolf’s eyes were cold and inorganic, like a mirror it continuously reflected Chaga’s question back at him.
“Well, this is unusual. You fought with Chaga, and on top of that, you went home all dejected like this.”
So said Verche’s father at the sight of her depressed self, sinking into the bed of her room.
In his teasing tone was the certain air of his interest in this unusual occurrence.
Verche’s father was an excellent hunter, but sometimes he’d show a childish side that was unbecoming of an elf his age. Normally Verche would reply his jovialness with a wry smile, but she wasn’t in the mood for any of that today.
“So according to what I’ve heard, you fought because you disagree with his views, in regards of hunting?”
There was no spirit in her answer. Like a bow whose string got cut.
During the one hundred years time she spent living, this was the first time she sank in her feelings like this.
Her body was all heavy, as if she couldn’t move at all, however various thoughts kept going round and around in her head, she felt like fainting.
Even before her superior and her mentor in hunting that was her father, she didn’t even have the energy to raise and show her face.
Ignoring his daughter’s poor manners, the father said,
“But indeed. I thought that all you’re doing is just playing with your bow all day long, which is unlike most women – but it turns out that you do have quite the firm principle when it comes to hunting. You don’t hate the beasts, and you respect them as an equal opponent. That is indeed how an Elven hunter should be. I think that your attitude is a splendid one, one that I can’t even see in the young men nowadays, you know?”
He was praising her without exaggerating it.
Those words should’ve made her happy.
But for some reason. Her feelings didn’t lighten at all.
As an Elf, as a hunter, Verche had always acted the way she thought was the right way.
But what had been the result of that? Yesterday, she chased her game too far and was humiliated for it, she was rebuked because of it, and she had her bow taken away from her. And now she had a fallout with her long-time hunting companion and friend.
Though not very much so, now she felt that she couldn’t think of herself as a splendid hunter.
Even when she calmed her thoughts and reviewed the circumstances composedly, she would return to feel as bad as before.
Besides, she could understand Chaga’s reasoning.
Recently, the number of beasts had been increasing, and a lot among even the most proficient hunters were at loss with what to do with it. If she were to take this into consideration, while it does go against nature’s providence, that power was necessary to help the hunters to protect the village.
—— She had crossed the line.
The act of killing is terrible. Eating the meat of a beast without reasoning that it is delicious, all the while when the act of eating it is not actually necessary to keep on living is even crueler to the beast. Thus graciously forming a contract with a beast and gaining its obedience should’ve been the more compassionate choice compared to killing and eating it.
—— She had crossed the line yet again.
But the line that Verche had crossed so far into was different than theirs.
That was the reason why she trampled on Chaga’s kindness.
“Well, I guess it’s a good opportunity, eh, Verche?”
When she was deep into her thought, her father said something strange.
‘Opportunity? What opportunity.’ Will he say something like those hard-headed old people, that she may use this chance to be more feminine from now on? But, her father had just praised Verche’s attitude towards hunting. She felt it would be something else.
“I’ve always thought that you and Chaga aren’t much of a match. There’s a difference between your hunting skills and his, and then there’s too much difference between your temperament and his, too. When you have your confiscated bow back, shall we find another partner for you?”
That proposal was unexpected.
Certainly, Chaga had been a burden to her. He was piss poor both in the matters of handling the bow and pursuing the prey, and she didn’t think that he was at all enthusiastic about hunting in the first place. Just like a chick would follow its mother, the man had just wanted to stick to Verche’s back.
Instead of an unreliable partner like that, of course pairing her with another hunter would be the sensible judgement here.
From the beginning, she’d often pair up with someone else during large hunts with the villagers. Due to the Elders’ decision, those with meagre skills in hunting would not be allowed to participate in mountain hunts. All Chaga did so far was to accompany her in her small-scaled, personal hunts.
But still, she’d always continue to pair up with him.
No matter how far Verche would rush in, Chaga would always come along without fail, even though she’d always shower him with warnings and scoldings, he would always meekly accept them.
Other men wouldn’t do that. Yes, their strength and their skill in archery would surpass him. But from Verche’s viewpoint, all of them had no outstanding characteristics besides that. And despite that, the moment Verche carried a hunt and outshone them, they would always grumble in discontent, saying things like “even though she’s just a girl”. If she had the chance, she had always wanted to criticise them back, saying “even though you’re a man” to them. No matter how weak, small and miserable Chaga was, considering that he was able to hold on to his willpower only, wasn’t Chaga the manlier one here?
“……. Don’t, want to.”
And thus she gave her father that answer.
The ones that Verche could approve of were mostly older men, and they had a wife or a lover of their own. For someone young like Verche to approach them would be reproachable, both from the viewpoint of the village’s law, and the viewpoint of her own morals.
So, how about hunting with her father instead? Well, he already had a partner that had hunted with him for a long time now. It was unlikely for him to let his partner go for his daughter, and besides, their hunter pride wouldn’t allow it.
And even if though by some miracle, she was able to pass those impossible hurdles, she would still want to pair up with Chaga instead.
After what happened yesterday, she could finally understand. The one for her was definitely Chaga. She’d move too fast during a hunt, and because she was young she’d have too much impetus. That was why she chased her game too far and went astray into the black forest. In exchange for his poor hunting skills, his thoughtfulness and cautiousness made him appear like the wise of the forest. It was because that remained behind her that she was able to hunt safely until yesterday.
Besides, the first one that could admit that she was good at hunting was him. When she stole the march and brought down that bear, when others criticised her for being reckless and foolhardy, he instead praised Verche for her wit and bravery. Even though he wasn’t familiar with the fundamentals of hunting, he could understand the context of amount of preparation and plan she had to strain when she brought down the bear, just by hearing her story.
Chaga was the one who understood her the most, and he was her best friend.
And yet, the way he engaged with Mother Nature, which is important to her as a hunter of the Witte clan, differed greatly from her.
And that was why she would never pair up with Chaga again.
Even so—- Verche did not want to pair with anyone else but him.
The father’s ears drooped in perplexion at his daughter’s answer and her stubborn look.
“Look, you didn’t hear it from me, but your bow will be returned to you soon, alright? Because of the recent state of the forest, they just can’t afford to leave a hunter of your calibre alone.”
“Is that so?”
“Why would I need to lie? ………. However, there’s a condition attached to this. You are never to hunt alone. The grans and gramps do complain a lot about you, but for some reason they also hold your skills in high regard. And then, about this matter. Alas, an excellent young man had rushed outside all alone and as a result died a dog’s death recently, all they want is that the same thing doesn’t happen to you.”
In other words, they want someone to keep an eye on her.
“In that case, I’ll apologise yet again, but all the men that can be paired around my age are way too superficial to me. Taking example of what happened yesterday when I was being rash due to my ardour, they would without a doubt tag along with me. Not only would I die, my hypothetical partner would also die.”
Losing both of the village’s skilled hunter at the same time would be the last thing they want.
And that was why, Chaga, who wouldn’t let her do so, is absolutely necessary to Verche.
“Just why can you think that far now but you can’t think for yourself when you go out for a hunt? This kid….”
“It’s probably thanks to father’s blood. Your partner would complain ‘like father like daughter…..’ from time to time.”
“That bastard, just what kind of nonsense has he been spouting at my daughter.”
Then, her father returned to the original topic.
“Well, what’ll you do now? You’ll be called in if the village were to hold a mass hunt, but they won’t let you hunt outside of that. And unless you temper yourself by hunting, your skills will gradually rust. Eventually you wouldn’t be as useful during hunts and you wouldn’t be much of a hunter either.”
‘So find a partner somehow’, said her father.
Verche’s answer was resolute.
“Then, I want to be paired with Chaga one more time.”
“Huh?”, her father’s eyes went round. His ears twitched in doubt from what it had heard.
So Verche repeated herself.
“I want to be paired with him once again.”
“Don’t be stupid… Didn’t you just say that your opinion and his regarding hunting differed greatly and thus you parted with him today? But you still want to pair him regardless, once again, did you really say that?”
“Yes. I did say that. I did say what I believed was right to Chaga at that place. Eventually he’ll be able to understand my viewpoint. When he does, I wish to be paired with him again.”
“I don’t understand…. Why do you insist on Chaga? That man—–”
“That man is necessary to me.”
She realised so as soon as she said that.
‘Ah, when I hunt, if I have my bow and arrow in my hand, and him on my back, then I don’t need anything else.’
Had she just said that from the beginning, Chaga wouldn’t have done that pitiful thing to that wolf.
After he heard her daughter’s answer, her father exaggeratedly looked up to the heavens.
“Hey, Verche……… Absolutely don’t say anything like that outside, alright?”
“Of course. It’s something that I should know alone and alone only.”
“No, that’s wrong. That’s not it, that’s not it……”
He said, as he shook his head several times.
Her father’s gesture at this time was strange, and thus Verche tilted her head for a bit.
He restored his dignity by clearing up his throat. His looks changed from an amiable father to an experienced hunter in a flash.
“Well, whatever. If you’ve decided on a partner that you want to pair up with, then I won’t tell you to search for another one. However, I’m also a hunter of the Witte clan. I have no plans to entrust my cherished daughter to some mage who does not revere Mother Nature and binds down the beasts in submission. The spell goes against Elven providence, and for that reason Gran does not teach it to the children. I will not accept Chaga unless he admits his mistake and returns the wolf familiar to the forest. That is my condition.”
“That……. I understand.”
She could understand what his Father said, but nothing could enter her emotionally burdened self-awareness at this time.
Chaga had wanted to do something for the village and Verche, which was the reason why he obtained that spell, knowing that the spell was not in line with the Elven teaching. Unlike the folks who simple-mindedly rejoiced at the sight of that spell, his feelings in regard of that spell was not that half-baked. Verche could also understand his rational rebuttal against her conviction.
He might be timid, but he still wad a proud man of the Witte clan. Could he really accept what she said back then? No, in the first place, could he forgive Verche for saying that she would never go on a hunt with him ever again? She parted ways with him in front of those onlooking youths. Due to her opposing views, she had repudiated his kindness and the fruit of his endeavour while the public was watching. His pride could have been hurt, and his trust towards her could have already vanished too.
‘If…….. if I were to propose us to pair up again, and he said no, what should I do then?’
As that thought crossed her mind, her feelings that had just gotten steady earlier trembled, her body turned heavy, and her head was assailed with an uncomfortable giddiness yet again.
From what Verche knew, Chaga’s eyes were always calm and gentle. But when she tried to recall him now, only those sorrowful and bewilderment-stained eyes came into her mind. What if he were to say something like, “let’s just stop all of this” with those eyes? No, as a matter of fact, Verche might have exhausted his affection towards her and he might not give Verche such a gentle refusal. It could be that the next time they meet, he would deem her as a selfish woman, and thus his eyes would see her with scorn and repugnance.
She imagined those eyes, and it overlaps with the monocular eye of the cyclops that was looking down at her.
….. It was scary.
It was as scary when she was about to be killed by that monster yesterday, or probably it was scarier than that.
Her foundation, which she had thought to be unshakable up until this moment, was starting to crack and crumble.
She felt that her heart was contracting badly, and the entirety of her body was being folded into layers.
“Well, there’s no need to fuss over about the answer you just gave me. Just tell me if you change your mind. I can at least ask my hunting colleagues to assign their sons to go with you in turns. Just think about it slowly. After all, we’re Elves. We’ve got plenty of time.”
After he said so, her father left her room.
In that room where she had been left alone, Verche was unconsciously hugging her knees.
Her feelings were depressed to no bounds, her long ears drooped to its lowest point.
“What should I do.”
There was no strength in her murmurs.
The vigour to resist her father’s suggestion to find a new partner had dissipated, she was back into being a bow without its string.
She didn’t want to hunt with anyone but Chaga.
However, she was afraid to see Chaga once again.
No matter how hard she thought about it…… again and again, the answer just wouldn’t come.
“Rather, should I wait for Chaga to come and say something?”
That thought was the very definition of timidness itself.
However, since it seemed to be the best policy at this time, it just couldn’t be helped.
“Anyway, this had just happened. No matter how quickly I can prepare myself of what’s to come, it might not apply the same way to him. So let’s wait. There’s plenty of time, anyway.’
That’s right, just like what her father said. There was enough time to postpone her decision as long as she wanted.
“No, this is no good……!”
She panickedly shook her head.
That was not how a hunter waited. Hunters would lay in wait in their prey’s path in order to ambush them. That is how a hunter waits. Knowing that, the way she was now was like a rabbit that burrowed itself to the ground out to fear of its opponent. It was absolutely not a choice a hunter like Verche would choose in the forests.
It was the right move for her to wait. But it was necessary to have a set time limit and plan an action should that limit passes.
Otherwise she’d keep waiting indefinitely, she feared that she wouldn’t be able to bear it without ending up being bonkers.
“Let’s give it…… a month.”
Considering her own temperament, she thought that was the limit for her to keep waiting.
One month. Chaga should’ve been able to come up with something in a month. Surprisingly, he did have a stubborn side to him, so the chances for him to change his pet views were slim, though at least it would be possible for him to be able to digest her opinion during one month.
What if Chaga wanted to meet her before a month? What should she do then?
Various things flooded her mind, she felt like her head was about to explode.
She was feeling restless, and her hands were all fidgety. When she thought that she wanted to do something, something evoked in her mind, preventing her from moving for some reason she could not comprehend.
“Well, I’m not qualified to laugh at Drei like this.”
She remembered about the benefactor that saved her life yesterday.
When she was talking about the adventurer that bought her, she saw that Drei couldn’t keep herself calm, just like how she was now.
It was as if———-
“Eh, no no! I don’t think of Chaga that wa…..”
Verche shook her head to dismiss the idea that appeared in her mind.
She admitted that she wanted Chaga back as her partner, but that’s about it. That was why she wished that he’d stop doing things like making a wolf into his familiar and for him to choose the same way of life like hers, where he’d deem all creations of the forest to be an equal friend to him. Otherwise, she’d remain to be sorrow as she was now, and her father wouldn’t have him back as well——— as a hunting partner, of course. There was nothing else to it. Supposedly. Definitely.
‘…. I’m thinking too much about this, my thoughts are soaring toward a weird direction.’
While holding that swaying feeling that was beyond her control, Verche spent the night wide awake.
In the sky beyond her window, the moon was not in sight. A night of new moon when only stars would grant their light.
Under that night sky, what was Chaga doing? She wished that he’d think about the two of them and the direction that they were going to take from this point onwards, just like she was doing now.
And also Drei. What was she thinking at that moment, separated from her companions, all alone in the forest?
While thinking about the woman she had met yesterday and the man she had parted with today, Verche spent her time waiting for the next day to come in anxiety.
If things turned out poorly, it was possible for her to spend her nights like this for the whole month.
————- Of course, that was not meant to be.