Chapter 34: An Unwelcome Visitor
And so had the harvest season.
The women gathered the rice plants and wheat while the men followed with hoes, swinging at the now naked ground.
Among them, the figure of Rio could be seen.
The fields were plowed to remove the roots of the rice plants left behind after harvesting.
In truth, Rio could plow the fields in an instant using Spirit Arts.
However, such a shoddy method could only be done if Rio was present and it would be imprudent to deprive the villagers of their jobs.
Before he realised it, countless blisters had formed and burst on his hands.
Even so, Rio wholeheartedly kept plowing the field.
It was monotonous work, but it reminded him of the time he helped a farmer’s family in his previous life. Recalling those times made him happy in a way.
Among the agricultural reforms proposed by Rio, the remodelled farm tools were already showing results.
Some villagers were using hoes modified by Rio and marvelled at their ease of use.
The soil improvements and seeding were done on a separate, unused field so it would not be until next year for results to show.
There was still a lot of time until then, as well as a lot of preparations to be made.
「Ooi~ It’s almost time for a break!」
When work had progressed to an extent and the end was in sight, Ruri declared a rest period in a loud voice.
「Okay! It’s lunch time now. One per person, okay? Make sure to thank Rio for the salt added into today’s meal!」
Usually, there were no lunch breaks, but today, despite being limited to only one per person, salted rice balls were served.
A few of the women including Ruri gathered in the village chief’s housing to prepare the rice balls using the salt brought by Rio and the village’s supply of rice.
The married men of the village received the rice balls in high-spirits and loudly thanked Rio.
「Don’t worry about it.」
Rio responded to their exclamations of gratitude with a smile.
「Wait! You guys thank Rio too!」
With sullen expressions, the single men accepted the rice balls in silence and were harshly scolded by Ruri.
They ignored Ruri’s words, pretending to not have heard her, and proceeded to stuff the rice balls into their mouths.
Their eyes widened in surprise at the increased salt content.
However, when they remembered that the salt was provided by Rio, complicated feelings arose within them.
「Geez, aren’t they behaving just like kids? What’s with them?」
Ruri said such a thing when Rio came to receive a rice ball after confirming every villager had already received their share.
「No, well it’s only natural for them to resent me since I can still be considered an outsider anyway.」
With a wry smile, Rio made a remark in their defence.
「That can’t be true. Everyone in the village has already accepted you. They’re just sulking because they’re still children. Hey, let’s eat together. Everybody’s calling for us.」
With that said, Ruri pulled Rio by the hand over to where the married men and women were gathered.
In the midst of all the noisy chatter, the group of young, single girls who were impatiently waiting for Rio’s arrival called out to him in fiery voices and invited him to sit with them.
「You guys haven’t eaten yet?」
Surprised that none of the girls had touched their rice balls yet, Rio inquired them about it.
「Nope! It’s more delicious to eat together with everyone!」
A young girl exclaimed as such with sparkling eyes.
「That is… sorry, it seems I’ve kept you waiting then.」
Rio slightly lowered his head in apology.
「Eh~ Sayo said she preferred eating with Rio-sama over us~」
「Th— That’s not it! Ah, no! It’s not like I don’t want to eat together with Rio-sama and everybody else!」
The other girls started teasing Sayo.
As a result, Sayo became flustered and her face became beet red.
Her appearance reminded him of an adorable little animal, kind of like Latifa. [ED: ಠ_ಠ]
The others heartwarmingly watched her flustered state.
Without a doubt, she was cherished by everyone.
「Well, in truth, I also waited since I wanted to eat with Rio-sama.」
The girl who just teased Sayo spoke up.
「Haha, I really appreciate your thoughts but, next time please don’t wait for me.」
Rio answered with a refreshing smile, though a hint of irony could be felt.
「E~eh… But, Rio-sama gives off the feeling of a noble.」
「Yeah, how do you say it? It’s like he possesses a completely different aura than those other men in the village, right? Look, even now they’re glaring at us.」
「Uwah~ What’s with them? So creepy.」
「Like you know, don’t you think those guys are the same?」
「To even compare them to Rio-sama would be an insult for him.」
「Ahaha, you’re so right~」
As the sole male among the chattering girls, Rio felt uncomfortable in this situation.
He could feel the glares of the young men from afar boring into his back.
They could not stomach the fact that all the young women of the village were fawning over Rio.
「 Ah, come to think of it, it seems like the farm tools conceived by Rio are really popular!」
「Yah, my dad’s absolutely ecstatic about it.」
Working together with the village blacksmiths, the farm tools conceived by Rio were already in use by a few villagers and garnering an endless stream of praises.
It was decided that only tools that broke would be replaced with the new variants.
「Rio-sama’s soap is even better than that!」
「Just a whiff of that scent makes you feel like a princess, right?」
The soap Rio compounded and distributed to every household was also positively received.
To improve the village’s overall level of sanitation, everybody was encouraged to use soap without reserve when working outside.
The quality of life in the village was steadily improving thanks to Rio’s accomplishments.
Other than a handful of young men, the village also exhibited an extremely welcoming atmosphere for Rio.
Even though he felt slightly discouraged by the boys’ blatant hostility and the girls’ overbearing affection, Rio was sure that his relationships with them would continue to improve.
As Rio was lost in thought over such matters, Ruri, who was sitting beside him, called out to him.
「What’s wrong? You look like you’re in a daze.」
Ruri glanced at Rio’s face with a slightly worried expression.
「Yeah, I just had a bit on my mind. Sorry.」
He slightly lowered his head with a wry smile.
It was one of his bad habits where he would become totally immersed in his own thoughts.
Ruri was the only girl in the village who treated him normally without honorifics.
Maybe it was because they were cousins, even if she did not know that herself.
She was his precious conversation partner because she did not give him special treatment.
「And, did you know that by wagon, the capital is only about a day’s travel from here? Once the harvest is over, we sell whatever surplus we gathered after taxes in the capital.」
「Hee, that’s quite interesting.」
Rio expressed interest when Ruri began speaking about the capital.
「Really? I overheard Dora-san talking to Obaa-chan about it, but is Rio willing to come along as a guard?」
「I don’t really mind.」
「Then I’ll let Obaa-chan know right away.」
Ruri took off running to where Yuba was with a delighted smile.
As he watched Ruri’s back retreat into the distance, Rio stood up and resumed his work.
「Alright then, let’s continue doing our best everyone.」
The girls gave a halfhearted response to his departing words.
Afterwards, Rio devoted himself to his work without taking any breaks.
Thanks to his efforts, he was able to finish work earlier than usual.
Ruri was still hard at work producing the village’s specialty products so her return would be some time later.
Returning home early, Rio found that he had a bit of free time on his hands and decided to prepare dinner.
Yuba was also home, receiving and organizing reports from the villagers.
Not wanting to disturb them, he prepared some tea and gave a brief greeting before making preparations for dinner.
An irresistible scent began drifting out from the kitchen a short time later.
「It smells great as always. You never cease to amaze me.」
Yuba appeared in the kitchen after having finished her discussion with the villagers.
「No, it’s just that I had a bit of free time on my hands.」
Recently, Ruri had started coming home from work late.
On the other hand, Yuba was frequently needed by the villagers.
As a result, Rio took over dinner preparations in their absence.
He did not find it much of a hassle to prepare dinner for the three of them at all.
In the midst of his preparations, loud voices were suddenly heard coming from nearby.
Rio and Yuba exchanged a glance.
Yuba muttered in a dubious voice.
The voices were clearly angry.
Although arguments between villagers were not unheard of, they rarely ever happened.
Therefore, it was not unreasonable for Yuba to be somewhat perplexed.
「I’ll go see what’s going on.」
「I’ll come too.」
Saying that, the two immediately headed outside through the front door.
A small distance away, they found two groups of men glaring angrily at one another.
On one side were the young men from the village, while the other side consisted of another group of young men whom Rio was unfamiliar with.
Despite the village men outnumbering the opposing group, there was a rather conspicuously bulky man among the foreigners.
If it came to an all out brawl, that man would surely play a significant role.
And lastly, a lone girl stood in the rear being protected by the village men.
It was Ruri.
What on earth was going on there?
For the time being, Rio decided to approach them.
「You bastard, what do you mean you want to stay in the village chief’s house? Huh!?」
And there stood Shin, shouting and threatening the rather good-looking and well-built man.
「Hah, not only am I a guest, I’m also the son of the neighbouring village chief. It’s only natural for me to stay at the village chief’s house.」
The man threatened by Shin countered him with a fearless smile.
「Haah!? In that case, there’s the guest house! And you want to stay for two damned days!? Know your place asshole.」
It seemed that in confronting them, Shin had lost his temper.
「It can’t be helped, you know. Our cart broke down nearby and it’ll be impossible to repair by the end of today since it’s already nightfall.
The man addressed Shin in a condescending tone.
「So, we’ll repair it tomorrow and depart the day after that. I mean, in total, it’s not even two full days. Doesn’t that seem reasonable to you? Or are you an idiot?」
The man shrugged while directing a pitying gaze towards Shin.
「Che. Your attitude doesn’t reflect your appearance whatsoever. All the more reason for a scum like you to stay in the guest house. A worthless bastard like you doesn’t deserve to even step foot in the village chief’s house.」
「Haah!? Are you trying to act smart with me, you lil’ wimp?」
「Ha! A piece of shit like you is just after Ruri’s body!」
The other men from the village were nodding at Shin’s words.
Seeing their reaction, the man floated a wide grin.
「Aah, I see now. Such an idiot. You’re not even her lover yet you want to monopolize her? Damned morons, all of you.」
The man mockingly taunted them.
「…the hell did you just say!?」
Like oil being poured onto a fire, the anger of the village men exploded.
「At any rate, thanks to the great me1 being the second son of the neighbouring village chief, perhaps I should take Ruri as my bride to relieve succession problem of the heirless village chief and become the next village chief. Hence it’s only natural for us to deepen our relationships from here on out.」
In the dangerously volatile atmosphere, the man offered even more provoking words.
「Don’t fuck with me!」
The men of the village seemed like they were about to let loose at any moment.
The situation was at its breaking point.
Two people approached the situation and were met with an explosive atmosphere.
Rio glanced at Yuba walking beside him and saw a disgusted expression.
「Silence! Gon, what do you think you’re doing? If you’re trying to pick a fight here then leave this instant!」
Right when the outbreak of an all-out brawl was about to ensue, Yuba called out to everybody gathered in a thundering voice.
The large man, Gon, clicked his tongue.
The village men also averted their eyes from Yuba with displeased faces.
Standing next to Yuba, Rio surveyed all the men.
（That man, could it be… that he was trying to pick a fight from the start?）
Rio observed Gon with cold eyes.
His speech and behaviour all pointed towards starting a fight.
If that was just his usual attitude, then he was a simple fool.
However, if it was deliberate, then the issue lay in his motives. Either way, his character was quite an unpleasant one.
「So, if you came to pick a fight, the exit’s right over there.」
In a tone that left no room for discussion, Yuba pointed towards the entrance of the village.
「Che, won’t you listen to our situation first? We were in the middle of transporting our harvest surplus to trade and sell but our cart broke down midway, so we sought refuge in this village.」
Gon explained the reason why he stopped by the village.
「I see. There’s only one hut I can spare for you since peddlers also stop by around this time. Choose one to your liking.」
「Oi oi, are you telling me to sleep, huddled together with everybody in that tiny cabin?」
Despite already having caused so much trouble, he still knew no shame.
Rio stared at him in disgust.
「It’s only natural. I will not allow you to stay in my house after causing such a disturbance. Obediently accept your punishment. Now get moving.」
Yuba spoke in a stern voice that left no room for argument.
「Che, okay, I get it. I’m going!」
Gon answered in an utterly foul mood.
He passed by Shin, roughly brushing him aside.
When his body was hit, Shin twisted his face in irritation.
「Ha! Serves you right. And while you’re at it, do me a favour and lock yourself up in there.」
However, a provoking smile immediately formed as Shin spat out an insult.
「Huh? Wimp’s trying to get all smart with me again?」
At that moment, Gon lost his patience and his hand flew towards Shin’s neck.
He grabbed Shin’s neck and lifted him off the ground using only one arm.
Shin grabbed onto Gon’s arms while squirming in pain.
Despite struggling to break free with all his strength, Gon’s thick arm did not budge.
A look of delight spread over Gon’s face as he watched Shin writhe in pain.
Ruri cried out in panic as she quickly made her way towards them.
Seeing that the situation would take a turn for the worst if it were to continue, Rio decided to step in and help Shin.
「Stop this at once! Or I will really have you leave!」
Fortunately, Yuba stepped in, strongly reprimanding Gon before either Rio or Ruri could arrive.
Gon reluctantly released his grasp on Shin’s neck.
「Oi oi. This guy provoked this village’s guest, me, the second son of the neighbouring village chief no less.」
Having said that, Gon glanced down at Shin, who lay collapsed on the ground and rubbing his neck in pain.
「You’re the one who started this whole mess. There won’t be a third time, understood?」
Yuba gave her final warning in a tone devoid of any emotion.
「Hah… Okay, I get it. I’ll leave this worthless village as soon as possible.」
Perhaps because he was able to vent some of his frustration out on Shin, he immediately departed after leaving a few ridiculing words.
「Shin! Are you alright?」
After Gon left, Ruri rushed up to treat Shin.
「Yeah, I’m okay. Sorry.」
Shin apologized in vexation.
「It’s not Shin who needs to apologize! Sheesh…」
Ruri offered a hand to help him off the ground.
While refusing her help, Shin stood up with a somewhat relieved look.
When he met eyes with Rio by chance, a triumphant smile formed on his face.
Seeing that, Rio could only smile wryly in amazement.
Afterwards, Gon’s companions obediently made their way towards the guest house to rest without raising another ruckus.
By the time they returned home for dinner, Rio and the others had already forgotten about Gon.
「Haa~ today’s meal is also delicious~」
Ruri’s eyes sparkled at the meal prepared by Rio.
His dishes had a high compatibility with rice as proof of Ruri’s chopsticks moving faster than usual.
Seeing her blissful expression, he felt his dinner preparations were well worth the effort.
It was a noisy day with uninvited guests dropping by, but the usual peace returned when dinner was served.
At around the same time, in the cabin lent out to Gon and his companions, the rowdy lot of men were exchanging liquor.
There was a lack of drinking snacks but empty plates were strewn around the table.
「That Ruri girl’s really grown up to become quite something, right Aniki?」
A short man standing beside Gon spoke while pouring him some more liquor.
「Yeah, though she’s still just a stubborn little girl, ain’t she? I’ll make her yield to me.」
Grinning from ear to ear, Gon emptied his cup in one gulp.
Ever since he was young, Gon was short-tempered, violent, and was treated as a problem child in his village.
He recklessly abused his authority and coerced others into submission through brute strength, earning him the fear and annoyance of the villagers.
In truth, while his older brother was expected to succeed as the next village chief, Gon only wished to be slightly more acknowledged.
However, his elder brother was hesitant to openly criticize Gon which eventually led to Gon being ostracized because he was unable to handle him any longer. Before long, Gon grew up to become a deeply selfish and scheming individual.
Gon was already 16 years old.
He was well past the point where his personality could be changed any longer, willingly or unwillingly.
Accordingly, second sons and lower in Gon’s village began to gather around him like suckerfish2, forming a group of problem children.
The group became increasingly boisterous in the following years to the point where even the village chief found it difficult to deal with them.
Even his current task, to trade the excess harvest in the capital, was not originally given to Gon and his companions.
But then, backed up by his large ego, as usual, he forced his way into the trade union.
Of course, Gon and his group of misfits did not make for pleasant travel companions so a different man from the trade group had to be sent.
Nevertheless, even if it was only for a short while, having Gon and his group away from the village relieved a lot of the villagers’ stress.
Therefore, when it came time to trade their harvest surplus, the village chief would send Gon to the capital.
During that time, Gon became acquainted with Ruri and set his sights on her.
Although Gon could not succeed his village in becoming the next village chief since he was the second son, he saw that Ruri’s village did not have a successor and openly declared himself as the next village chief.
In contrast to his desires, the village chief recommended him to join the national army, not even bothering to hide his wish to see Gon gone.
It was definitely not something Gon would accept.
He would live the way he wanted to.
The key to his ambitions was Ruri.
And as icing on the cake, Ruri’s body matched his desires.
She exuded a motherly aura.
When he was small, he was brought over to this village by the village chief and met her for the first time. It was love at first sight.
In the beginning, he treated her kindly, but he was already disliked by her due to his past faults.
Still, something so trivial like that did not phase him.
He would make her submit by force.
「O— Oi, we can’t cause any trouble, you know.」
No longer being able to ignore the problem, the man in charge of public relations and leader of the group, appealed for Gon to not cause needless trouble.
Drunk on alcohol, Gon shot him a threatening look.
「Hii— Ah, no, I mean, please don’t create too much trouble if you can.」
Being glared at by eyes like that of a predator, the man could only give a pathetic warning.
「Hah, it’s not like we’re going to do anything bad. I mean, isn’t it convenient for the village when I leave? You should just focus on doing business in the capital.」
「Ah… I— It’s not like that.」
The man fumbled for words after realising Gon had seen through him.
However, that man was no longer a concern in Gon’s mind.
All he thought about was Ruri.
「Still, that old hag Yuba sure came at a bad time.」
One of the suckerfish spoke in disappointment.
「Sigh… That old hag came just when I was about to beat the living shit out of that Shin.」
Gon snorted and emptied the remaining alcohol in his cup.
「I could be staying in the village chief’s house right now and having Ruri serve me sake.」
Gon had originally planned to fake the cart breaking down and trick them into letting him stay in the village chief’s house.
At that time, he intended on accepting Shin’s punch without making a fuss.
He knew he was disliked by Ruri and the rest of the guys in the village.
That is why he tried to provoke a fight.
「Well, I’m only going to sneak in. It won’t take too long.」
Although a small amount of immaturity could still be sensed from when Gon saw her last year, Ruri had grown considerably, developing an attractive feminine body.
And now, she was ripe for the picking.
He would reach for her and completely expose her immodest figure.
Even if she resisted, he could just threaten her into submission.
Since the implicit law of “Yobai3 culture” was an accepted practice among the villagers, Ruri could do nothing but accept him as her marriage partner if he forced himself onto her.
However, Yobai culture required consent from both parties.
It was a point which Gon had overlooked.
How to enjoy her?
Hopefully, she would be careless tonight and would obediently accept his advances.
A part of his cart was damaged for this rare chance after all.
The plan was going to be carried out tomorrow night, after all the villagers were asleep.
Gon immersed himself in fantasies of breaking the stouthearted Ruri and making her cry.