Chapter 31 – 『Blood Maple』
After Elk and Suura-san finished bathing, we had the same preserved food and the bears from yesterday’s night and departed.
Today too in the carriage of the Trader Group were the traders and those two delinquents.
As for Elk, Zari and myself, we were riding in one of the carriages of the guards.
The reason Zari got on with us was, according to him, he wouldn’t be able to relax if those two were near him and they would also quarrel.
It was approved because he he hadn’t shown any bad attitude like those two.
On the other hand, when they yesterday joined with this squad, they started to flirt with Elk, Suura-san and other girls (though were ignored), and because of that they weren’t approved of getting on the carriages of the guards.
Incidentally, I’m still somewhat anxious about Zari……but he hadn’t shown any hostility or malice yet, so I’m just watching him carefully.
If he remained just like that, then he would just be a frivolous lad, who was sociable and easy to talk with.
While having those concerns in my mind, the group of carriages of the traders and the guards were moving through the『Crimson Forest』.
Well, because of a landslide the monsters were in a frenzy, so we had encounter with demons, but that was within (our) expectations.
I would punch them and drive them away, or sometimes kill them to get the materials, well like that we were moving forward.
Along the way,
It was around noon when everyone was having lunch in their respective carriages, while the carriage was running.
As for the menu, it was the same as in the morning.
I was spending that time within the carriage while I was having fun chatting with Elk, Suura-san and Zari too.
Especially, Zari would start up new topics, so I wasn’t getting bored……and I’m grateful for that.
When the chatting took a rest, Zari murmured absentmindedly while looking outside the window.
「We’re moving……really smoothly, more than what I had expected」
「Smooth? We have had encounter with many demons before, you call that smoothly moving?」
「Isn’t this smooth? If you think of the fact that this group of carriages full-packed with food is moving in the forest where only agitated demons are roaming」
The commodities of the trader group, emergency food of the knights, and the food we have gotten from the local procurement this morning, in short, within this group of carriages there was too much food.
For demons it would be like a buffet that was moving in the forest.
……I didn’t want to think this, but for demons, humans like us would also be food.
It would be natural for us to be targeted. And, this forest had many demons from the start.
Just what were those traders thinking, using this forest as a shortcut. Why did nobody opposed it?
I asked Zari, he told me that at first he did oppose it, but the other escorts surrendered to the dazzling persuasion of the increased reward, so it was decided by majority vote. My condolences.
And considering that fact, the pace we were getting attacked was very low according to Zari.
「At this pace, wouldn’t we get out of forest by today, platoon captain-san?」
「Sure enough. If nothing goes wrong, then by the twilight we will be out. But getting to the city will be difficult. We would reach by tomorrow morning」
「City, do you mean Volca?」
Upon asking, Suura-san nodded.
Huh? But weren’t the traders aiming to go to the neighbouring town -It was called Listal or something – , would it be good to return back?
「From what I heard, when they were in the forest, they were attacked many time by demons and lost a little of their luggage, so wouldn’t’ it be better to replenish the goods?」
「Not only luggage but also escorts. At first, the escorts were 5 including us」
「Did they got caught in the attack?」
「Yeah, the two left. But not to the underworld, they escaped during fight. From what I think that others demons might have attacked them. Or maybe, they got out of the forest somehow」
Oh my goodness……
From what I heard after that, apparently Zari fought there for completing the request, but the other two, simply couldn’t run because they didn’t get an opportunity for that.
Like that, when it became a helpless situation, they abandoned some quantity of food from the commodities, and survived the fight, soon after they were found out by us.
The trader group is in a bad condition even now. I mean in the sense they had to cut off commodities and escorts. In that case, returning to city for replenishing commodities and hiring new escorts would be natural……no, it would be inevitable.
When I thought that, right there Suura-san cut in,
「No, only we will be returning to city. The people from trader group……, apparently would return to their normal route after getting out of the forest and aim for Listal」
And due to the unexpected words, I, Elk as well as Zari leaked out a strange sound from our mouth.
Eh, what does that mean?
Do those people from the trader group plan to go towards Listal without replenishing the goods and fill the empty spots the guards had left?
「Yeah. To tell you the truth, the leader of that group told us this. That the『Escorts are fine till the time we get out of forest, after that we would head towards Listal by ourselves』 ……」
「Are they sane? Even if strong demons don’t appear on the direct route, but are they seriously willing to go without even refilling commodities and even escorts」
「I too haven’t been told anything about that, though being one of those『escorts』」
「No matter how you see it, aren’t they too much impatient?」
「Worrying about that, I too suggested them to once again complete the preparations, but they have to deliver some important luggage as fast as possible, so they didn’t hear me」
……? What might it be? They didn’t had any raw stuff with them.
If they did want to deliver it, then it would only if they were able to be alive.
「I also suggested to take some of our men as escorts, but they refused. Saying『We cannot endure for making guards, who are responsible for controlling public order to do something like this』 ……something like that」
Doesn’t that sound too much suspicious?
No matter how one thinks, it would be better to let some guards escort them but still they refuse the offer with that forced out unnatural reason and also try to go by themselves.
I could only hear those lines saying that either the cargo or the receiver of cargo is something not good.
I wasn’t the only one who thought that. Elk and Zari too made a bitter face on those sentences.
Zari……looked like he really hadn’t been told.
Naturally, Suura-san also thought that, so she tried to enquire more, but they didn’t talk anything else and the case got closed.
「By the way, Zari-dono」
「It’s about this trader group. I have only been told about that it is some sort of important cargo, but……would you, Zari-dono, happen to know what those people are carrying?」
She asked them this too, but they didn’t reply.
No, they did reply but it was, ‘daily necessities’ or ‘everything is harmless and inoffensive’, they didn’t speak anything about that important thing, so sure was suspicious.
They are also unwilling for the guards to enter the luggage carriage.
「It’s unfortunate, but even I don’t know about the things captain-san is wanting to know. I did get on the luggage carriage but mostly it is all food」
「……『Mostly』would mean, that there are luggage that aren’t food, right?」
「Yeah. There are some firmly packed boxes」
「Yes, boxes. I don’t know what’s inside of them neither did they tell me. It is tied up by a rope and fixed inside the carriage, in place of cushioning substance it is placed in jute bags, and even a smell prevention cloth has been put over it……so I think it must be something really valuable?」
「? Smell prevention cloth?」
「You don’t know? It’s a cloth that completely cuts off the scent of the thing it is wrapped against inside out. Like food with bad smell or materials from demons……and some also use it to carry corpses of people」
Hmm, something that great existed here? New thing to me.
Hearing that, the crease on the temple of Suura-san grew more. Did she found something useful in the talk?
「Smell prevention cloth? Just what are they carrying……」
「It would only mean it is something that shouldn’t be revealed and can be identified with smell, right? Didn’t you made a mistake in choosing the quest?」
Zari scratched his hand while muttering some words.
「Don’t tell me, they are really carrying corpses, right?」
「I do think so. Every box was about the size of a head of human, no somewhat more smaller」
In that case, unless they are carrying the corpse in pieces, then it is impossible to carry them. In that case, it might be possible too.
But I also didn’t think that it was the case.
As for why……
「I think it is something that has a sweet smell」
The three ask me all at once.
While making a face saying they didn’t understand what I meant.
「Minato, what do you mean……by any chance, can you smell the thing on the other side of smell prevention cloth?」
「Eh? Ah, Yeah, a little bit」
In the morning, before departing, when I passed by their luggage carriage……there was a sweet smell. Only a little smell was there to the extent that someone other than me wouldn’t have noticed it.
But because the smell was so faint that it was on my mind. Only my nose, which had been trained & enhanced, could smell it faintly.
The origin of smell was without a doubt inside carriage, but it felt like the scent came from somewhere far.
I see, because of that smell prevention cloth, the smell was faint.
「……You had good ears, but your nose is the same, eh. Just how much」
「Well if I feel like it, then I can smell and differentiate to the extent dogs can do……」
Like finding the people I know by following their trail of scent. In truth, during the time of that shitty『test』, I did something similar.
「……Thank you for giving an answer that surpasses my heightened expectations」
Oh, finally, Elk’s reproachful stare had come out. Thank you for the meal
「You’re not even a beast person, but you can do that? Really~, the world is a big place~」
Zari laughed dryly. It seemed like accepting reality was difficult for him. ……In fact, he was still half-convinced.
「……Sweet smell, something needed to be hidden and『Crimson Forest』……in that case don’t tell me……」
After some time passed, Suura-san came back to earth, she reacted to the phrase『sweet smell』which I said.
She once again asked me『Is that true?』, and after I nodded, she once again started to think.
Does she has some idea?
At that time,
SFX: GASHAAaaaNNNn!! (*breaking*)
From the carriage running in front, that sound,
And the sounds of some middle-aged man scream resounded.
By the time I realized the person screaming was the leader of the『trader group』, one of the knights came to Suura-san and rapidly spoke the situation.
Seemed like the two delinquents did something again.
They drank in the day, got drunk, and fell right into the luggages because of unsteady legs.
And in that moment something broke……seeing that the leader shouted, this much did the knight guy talked.
Did they break some high class wine, the moment I thought that,
「……Ah, sweet smell」
The『sweet smell』we were talking about right now came drifting from the front.
Just, this time it was different from the morning, it was strong enough that normal people too can smell it.
Did those two……fell and broke the『luggage』we were just talking?
At that moment,
The three people in the carriage too smelled the scent,
and the moment later, Suura-san gasped and her face color changed.
Before I could even think ‘what happened’, Suura-san jumped out of the carriage really fast.
And ran towards the front, or maybe to the place where that smell was coming from.
We three also had curiosity, so we chased after her.
When we reach the place, Suura-san was shivering her body while looking inside the carriage. Really what happened?
I looked in the same carriage from Suura-san’s right side,
There was a scene I somewhat couldn’t understand.
The leader of trader group was making a face as though world has come to an end and was sitting like his hips lost the power,
One of the two delinquents – the obese one – was standing with wine bottle in one hand while making an unpleasant face. He seemed he sobered up.
Suura-san looked all that with cold eyes,
And inside the carriage, the thick liquid, which was also the origin of smell, was spread here and there along with the jar fragments.
It was pretty dark, so I couldn’t make out what it was exactly, but it was something of bright red color. Jam?
From what I saw, I could understand that delinquent A got drunk, started playing like fool, tripped and broke the something.
Zari looked from beside me,
「……Oh this is just too bad……ain’t this『Blood Maple』?」
Said that while stuttering.
Elk came by my side and seeing the scene her face became ghastly pale and her eyes opened wide in shock.
Eh, What, what does this mean!? Explain, I need an explanation. Please!
It was the refined sap from the trunk of some sort of tree, in other words it was a type of maple syrup.
This rich and elegant substance was easy to make but also has depth to it. The person who ate it would get addicted to its sweetness, it could even make nobles with refined palate moan, it was an ingredient that dangerous.
It was a high-class item, common people won’t be able to take it, it was traded only at considerably high prices.
In addition, the place with trees having that sap grow in this『Crimson Forest』, and because their numbers are less, so it was more pricey.
They dry up upon taking excessively, so it was always regulated.
But this honey like thing ingredient also required precautions.
Like Alcohol, it also had the effects of arousing mind and raising dependency, so taking too much at once wouldn’t be good for body.
With only that it would’ve been cute, but this『Blood Maple』had a horrible nature that『If it wasn’t manufactured correctly, it would lure in the demons present in surroundings』.
Because of that nature this honey like thing had been known as something needs to be treated carefully and during transportation it also need more vigilance.
So for harvesting|manufacturing|transporting and selling, all these needed permission.
Therefore, it almost never made appearance in market.
A part of high class restaurants and nobles had monopolized only a little amount of it as a luxury item.
But there existed the trade behind the scenes for these things. to the extent that it was only natural.
The『Blood Maple』sinking the floor of the carriage in front me was also one of those items.
It was the illegal『Blood Maple』which was harvested and processed illegally, also was being transported in secret to selling
Hence, the subordinates of Suura-san were restraining them, the people from trader group.
I see, the mysteries have been solved.
The reason they wanted to part with Suura-san’s group was because they were afraid that if this thing got discovered.
That cloth……『smell prevention cloth』was used so that no one discovers it by smell. And so that it wouldn’t lure in more demons.
As for the reason they were in a hurry was because they had some dangerous people as client in the black market. So, as expected they didn’t want to delay the day of trade. Who knows what they might do, right?
One of the concern of those all, right now had become reality.
According to Suura-san, Zari and other two would be taken in for questioning, but the traders would be taken in the prison, no-questions-asked.
Well, it only meant the item was that much great and dangerous thing.
It was due to various coincidences, but like this the smuggling of『Blood Maple』was stopped.
And, by questioning these traders, they would be able to find some information on people in black market.
Well it was due to unexpected good luck, but Hooray Hooray and everyone went back happily after……
……Unfortunately, it wouldn’t go that way.
Well then, let us take a look at the situation once again.
『Blood Maple』had been scattered in the carriage.
It was thick to the extent it could have been mistaken as honey……and in proportion, its scent too was strong.
That scent, urges the instincts, arouses……and lures in demons.
Just what might happen if this maple thing had been scattered in the carriage, which was present in『Crimson Forest』, where demons were many from the start, and were also agitated due to a landslide, furthermore our route had been stopped by that landslide……
「……I’m sorry, but Minato-dono, Elk-dono, because of these idiots the situation is going to change a lot. I want your both help as escorts」
「……Well we don’t have other choices to make」
After confirming our consent, Suura-san went out the carriage,
Then said straightforwardly with all her power.
「Everyone, take emergency battle position! Change of plans, from now onwards we are needed to protect this carriage and leave this place as fast as possible!! If you don’t fight with dying will……then don’t think of living!!」
On the other side of Suura-san’s command, my enhanced ears,
……catched the sounds of severals tens and hundreds of demons coming here. I could hear their footsteps, flapping of wings and breathing sounds.
It seemed like, this whole would be turning into a battlefield.
[ET: Wow, I was just playing battlefield 4!!]