Chapter 31: Life in the Village (1)
The following day, Rio began his life in the village where his father, Zen, formerly resided.
Thinking it would be rude to freeload, Rio offered to help around the village during his stay.
Morning began early in the village.
Rio woke up before sunrise and made his way to the Yuba house’s living room1.
「Oya, you’re up quite early.」
Yuba was already up and sat on a chair while stoking the fire.
「*Yawn* Good morning Obaa-chan~」
Still half asleep, Ruri entered the room.
「Good morning. You, have you forgotten? Rio’s also here.」
Yuba smiled wryly at Ruri whose disordered sleepwear revealed traces of her underwear.
One year older than Rio, her body leaned towards the thinner side due to the daily farm work and slight malnourishment, but it still held the feminine grace of a woman. Her well-endowed breasts could be seen peeping out from her disheveled upper half.
Ruri finally noticed the boy in front of her who had started living with them since the day before.
Although Rio had already averted his gaze, Ruri’s face became as red as a ripe apple when she realised that, even for a moment, he saw her indecent appearance.
「I— I’ll go change my clothes!」
Parting with those words, Ruri dashed out of the room.
She returned to the room after a few minutes but was glaring at Rio.
（I’m not the one at fault here but, well, it can’t be helped…）
Trying his best to avoid her gaze, a cramped smile formed on Rio’s face.
「So, since you got up so early, are you intending to lend us a hand? Will you be open to helping with whatever we need?」
Perhaps intending to clear away the awkward atmosphere between Rio and Ruri, Yuba chuckled while asking Rio.
「Yes, leave it to me.」
Wanting to escape from the awkward atmosphere, Rio quickly gave a reply to Yuba’s question.
「Well, even if you say so, what can you do? Since depending on what you’re good at, the work I’ll give you might differ.」
While only for a limited amount of time, additional manpower was secured and Yuba’s expression was that of a village chief considering how to most effectively maximize her efficiency.
「Cooking, farming, hunting, construction, compounding medicine and lastly, although I don’t want to stand out too much, I can wield Spirit Arts.」
Rio’s skillset increased substantially during his stay in the Seirei no Tami village.
He could even do construction work from the knowledge he gained from the dwarfs and compound medicine for common illnesses from training under the elves as long as the required ingredients were available.
Yuba and Ruri dumbfoundedly stared at Rio as he recited his skills one after the other.
「Well, it isn’t conspicuous since it’s not strange for the son of Zen and Ayame-sama to also be a… Spirit Arts user. Still, your other skills aren’t a lie right? It’s fine even if you don’t exaggerate.」
Being able to do something and actually producing results were two greatly different things.
Much of the work assigned to the men of the village involved physical labour such as farming, hunting and construction. They were not jobs that an amateur could suddenly start doing.
In the worst case, if Rio was just putting on airs, he could negatively influence other people’s productivity.
「Yes, there’s no problem.」
Rio answered without hesitation.
「I see. Then I’ll take your word for it. To start, let’s introduce you to the other villagers. Ruri, bring Rio along with you for your morning ingredients bartering and use the opportunity to introduce him as well.」
Perhaps because Rio’s unwavering confidence could be felt, Yuba decided to believe him for the time being.
And so, Yuba instructed Ruri to introduce Rio to the villagers.
「E~tto, okay. Then, Rio… let’s go?」
With a tinge of embarassment, likely stemming from having had her shameful appearance seen earlier, Ruri called out to Rio in a slightly bashful voice.
「Yeah, please treat me well.」
When the two left the village chief’s house they first stopped by the kitchen garden, which was raised seperately from the fields managed by the village, to harvest ingredients.
A portion was set aside for use at home with the rest being put into a basket.
「Bartering is how we exchange goods in the village. We harvest ingredients for our meals in the morning and gather in the plaza to trade with other families.」
Ruri explained the way the village operated to Rio.
Rio glanced at the previously harvested vegetables in the basket in admiration.
Although taxes were imposed on each village, only ingredients harvested from the village managed farm were taxed.
While discussing the workings of the village, the two approached the village square.
A plaza approximately the size of a small schoolyard was situated in the center of the village, lined by simple wooden houses with straw roofs on either side.
The women of the village had already assembled in the plaza and were exchanging greetings and swapping gossip.
「Good morning everybody!」
Ruri gave a cheerful greeting to all the people gathered.
When the women noticed Ruri’s presence, they returned light greetings with a smile. However, upon noticing the figure of an unfamiliar man by her side, they immediately shifted their gazes towards him.
「This is Rio. Since yesterday, he has started living with us. He’s 14 years old, the son of an old acquaintance of Obaa-chan. I brought him along to introduce him to everyone since he’ll be helping around the village starting today.」
「As you’ve heard, my name is Rio. Although I’m still lacking in many areas, please take care of me from now on.」
In an effort to leave a good impression, Rio politely greeted everyone with a perfect smile.
A courteous introduction, namely his posture and wording, was Rio’s method of creating harmonious relations.
If the other party is greeted with courtesy, they would likely also return the courtesy. It was something Rio always kept in mind whenever introducing himself.
「E~tto, nice to meet you…」
Taken aback by Rio’s overly formal introduction, the women awkwardly returned his greeting.
「You don’t need to speak so politely like a noble-sama. You’ll make everyone nervous if a boy like Rio spoke in such a manner.」
Ruri advised him as though she had experienced it before.
For the women who were constantly surrounded solely by rowdy, rough men, they found Rio highly attractive with his handsome features and androgynous face.
If such a person spoke in a formal tone, it would be no surprise for them to become nervous due to embarrassment.
「Haha, well, I’ll do my best. I’ll work on it gradually.」
Having already made his introduction using formal speech, Rio though it would be unnatural to suddenly change his speech without a good reason.
As it stood, it would be best to change it little by little.
Rio smiled bitterly while thinking so as the women directed questioning gazes at Ruri.
They were without a doubt, wondering who this stunning man was.
Ruri flinched under their gazes which were similar to that of a carnivore not allowing its prey to escape.
The eyes of the unmarried young women were especially intense.
（Ha, haha… Well, I already thought it’d turn out like this but… Uu~h, I’ll definitely be interrogated later.）
Ruri still hardly knew anything about Rio since she was still incredibly nervous about living together with him.
When she returned home after work the day before, her grandmother suddenly told her that Rio would start living together with them.
She was only told that he was the son of one of Yuba’s old acquaintances.
It was not strange for Yuba, with her extensive network, to be acquainted with somebody from outside the village, but there was still no way she could not be surprised when somebody of the opposite sex and in her same age group started living together with them.
On top of all that, Rio was incredibly handsome, courteous and composed.
The day before, when Ruri saw him by chance and offered to guide him thinking he was a visitor, she became fascinated at his handsome appearance2.
If even someone as sociable as herself became nervous, it was no surprise that the young women of the village also felt the same.
For Ruri who had only dealt with crude men until now, she was at a loss at how to conduct herself around a man like Rio.
The eyes of the young women flicked between Rio and Ruri ever since a little while ago.
Ruri became depressed when she imagined the barrage of questions that would inevitably come her way during work after breakfast.
She sent a fleeting glance at Rio.
Using only their eyes, Ruri and the women carried a silent conversation between themselves. It was only possible because they were all women and had been long time acquaintances.
Drawing glances from the young women, Rio stood by in confusion.
Suddenly, Rio’s gaze overlapped with Ruri’s.
（Uuu~h, I really can’t understand him~）
Ruri’s face slightly reddened when she remembered that she was seen in her underwear not too long ago.
Noticing her reddened face, the women, with their sharp intuition, sensed something was amiss.
Even without asking, they had all arrived at the same conclusion.
「Haa~ let’s finish today’s bartering quickly. Everyone needs to return home and make breakfast.」
Ruri made up an excuse to return quickly.
Letting out a small sigh, the embarrassed Ruri started dividing the ingredients.
She exchanged their ingredients with ingredients from other household’s kitchen gardens and the contents of their basket changed surprisingly quickly.
「Alright then, shall we return, Rio?」
After confirming that their task was complete, Ruri quickly called out to Rio who was carrying the basket containing the newly acquired ingredients.
Although the women seemed to want to talk to Rio, none of them could find an opportunity since they were all watching each other’s moves.
Ignoring the piercing glares of the other women, Ruri quickly returned home with Rio.
「Obaa-chan, I’m back!」
When Ruri cheerfully announced her return, Rio also followed suit.
It seemed that Yuba had already prepared the utensils and firewood for cooking and was waiting for their return.
「Let me help with the cooking. I was also able to obtain a variety of seasonings and ingredients during my travels so please feel free to use them.」
The ingredients were from the five years worth of food Rio received as a gift from Arthura, which also included a generous amount of seasonings.
Of course, if he took out all the food at once, it would raise questions over where he kept all of it.
Therefore, Rio decided to deceive them by moving a reasonable amount of ingredients and seasonings to his backpack beforehand.
「That’d be a huge help since we’re particularly short on seasonings.」
The village was completely dependent on peddlers who regularly stopped by the village for a supply of seasonings, especially salt.
The price of salt was quite high when compared to the prices in the city because of the peddlers’ transportation efforts. As a result, it was difficult to purchase large quantities at a time and was highly valued in the village.
Therefore, given its shortages, seasonings were prioritized over ingredients.
Even if there were an abundance of ingredients, if there were no seasonings, the food would be incredibly bland.
With that in mind, Rio returned to his room and retrieved ingredients as well as a considerable amount of salt from his Item Box. He stuffed them all into his back and returned to hall that was connected to the kitchen.
「For the time being, here’s the salt.」
A bag of salt weighting over 10 kg was removed from the backpack and placed on the table.
「Fu~n, you have that much salt?」
「Uwaa~ so much salt3, I doubt we’ll run out anytime soon with just us. Won’t this last us two years if used sparingly?」
Yuba and Ruri stared in amazement at the size of the bag.
「I also have some seasonings I made myself as well as a lot of dried meat.」
As it would be odd for a someone who had been continuously on the move up until now to have freshly harvested vegetables in their possession, Rio chose a few preserved food items and added them to his backpack.
Meat was considered a luxury so he focused on the dried meat.
「Still, I’m impressed that you were able to carry that much. Despite your outward appearance, you’re quite strong.」
While Rio was tall and well built, he had a thin frame.
Yuba expressed amazement because he did not seem all that strong with his clothes on.
「My travels alone aren’t just for show you know.」
Rio smiled wryly at Yuba’s words.
「Anyway, shall we make breakfast? Seeing that rice and soup have already been prepared, should I make something suitable with the dried meat and vegetables I brought? This would be perfect with pickled vegetables.」
Instead of bread, rice and grains were the staple foods for Yagumo.
However, as they did not perform selective breeding4, the quality of the rice and grains fell short when compared to those grown in the Seirei no Tami village.
In addition, it was much easier to reproduce Japanese cuisine in Yagumo than in Stahl thanks to the existence of a lot of seasonings like miso.
「Yosh. Then let’s gauge Rio’s skills by having him prepare breakfast. Ruri, watch over him in case something happens.」
Ruri responded cheerfully after hearing the assigned meal responsibilities and Rio began to cook.
Meals were taken twice a day in the village, once in the morning and once in the evening.
Breakfast was abundant in order to build up energy for the day while dinner tended to be light, unless there was a banquet.
「Ooh. You really can use Spirit Arts! I didn’t think you could.」
Ruri became excited when Rio ignited the firewood using Spirit Arts.
If this was the first time she saw Spirit Arts, then her reaction was quite lacking.
「Is this your first time seeing Spirit Arts?」
Rio decided to ask Ruri since she seemed oddly acquainted with Spirit Arts.
「Not at all. Actually, I can also use Spirit Arst. If it’s just in this village, then Obaa-chan can use it too.」
Although Ruri’s response was slightly unexpected, Rio now understood why she did not express much surprise upon seeing his use of Spirit Arts.
「Oh, I see. Did you learn Spirit Arts from Yuba?」
「Yeah. For some reason, our family seems to posses a high aptitude for Spirit Arts among commoners. It’s part of the reason why Obaa-chan is the village chief.」
If that was the case, then just as Rio suspected, Zen was also a Spirit Arts user.
Rio boiled the rice which was already soaked in water while he and Ruri were out greeting the villagers. For the miso soup, he poured water into a pan and added kombu and dried bonito while heating over a low flame to create the dashi5.
「You’re really used to cooking aren’t you? The men in the village could really learn a thing or two from you.」
Ruri spoke in admiration while watching him cook.
The common belief in the village was that only women performed household chores. The men could not even create basic meals6.
For Ruri who had been raised in the village, seeing a man cook for once was very refreshing.
「It’s no big deal. I wouldn’t have survived my travels if I couldn’t at least do this much.」
Rio never stopped moving his hands even while talking to Ruri.
While waiting for the dashi and rice to finish, Rio chopped the mushrooms and vegetables before also slicing up the dried meat.
「Uwaa, your skill with a knife is even better than mine…」
Ruri’s face cramped as she voiced her amazement.
Rio smiled wryly at her attempt at creating small talk.
She had lost most of her tension from before.
Rio had the impression that she was quite an open-minded individual.
「It seems like the rice will be done soon.」
Rio removed the pot containing the rice from the fire since it smelled slightly burnt.
To steam the rice, Rio left the pot as it was without removing the lid. In the meantime, he filtered the broth into a separate pot with the mushrooms and vegetables and boiled it7.
Afterwards, the sliced dried meat and minced vegetables were stir-fried together, seasoned and served on a plate.
Rio lightly stirred the miso that had begun to boil. He removed it from the fire and carried it to the hearth in the hall8.
Rio removed the lid from the pot containing the rice to reveal the perfectly cooked rice.
He scooped the rice into separate bowls and poured the miso soup into another set of wooden bowls while the remaining dishes were placed on the table.
「Uwaa, these look delicious. There’s also an additional dish thanks to the dried meat Rio brought! What a great day!」
Ruri spoke with a cheerful expression.
It seemed like she was pleased with the food’s appearance.
「If you can make all of these, then it’d be fine for you to be in charge of cooking, right?」
Yuba also seemed satisfied with the results of Rio’s cooking.
「Then let’s eat before it cools!」
When the three took their seats around the table, Ruri impatiently signalled the start of the meal.
「Mmm~! This miso soup is incredibly delicious. The taste of the dashi is perfect. This stir-fry is also great!」
Seeing Ruri float a blissful expression for every dish she tasted made Rio think it was well worth the effort he put into preparing the food.
「Aah, you really are quite skillful. That’s a relief.」
Yuba also tasted each of Rio’s dishes.
「I’m truly grateful to hear that.」
Rio smiled at their favourable impressions.
「Now then, Rio, after we finish breakfast, I’ll guide you to where you’ll be helping out. For the time being I intend to have you help with hunting, but will you be alright with that?」
In the middle of their meal, Yuba suddenly posed a question for Rio.
It was regarding the work he would start assisting with today.
「That’s fine, please leave it to me.」
While thinking what kind of life he would lead from today onwards, Rio quietly nodded at Yuba’s words.