15-Intermission 7. The Journey of John Smith
This is before the Divine Punishment chronologically.
"Yohn Fmith, tis s'far we can accomfany you."
"Thank you, Holphelp. I'll look for another caravan from here on--and also, the name's John Smith."
I said my thanks to the deerkin man.
After leaving the northern part of Shiga Kingdom, I headed west to the center of the Center Small Kingdoms together with a caravan troupe.
The highway in the Center Small Kingdoms was in bad shape compared to Shiga Kingdom's, much of it was uneven and blocked.
The most problematic thing was the monsters.
I almost died many times thanks to that.
During those times, I was 'coincidentally' saved by caravan troupes and wandering adventurers who happened to pass by.
At first I was proud of my good luck, but even I started to have my suspicion when [Stone Wolves] and [Moving Wood Bears] began to save me.
It's probably the work of the guy who gave me this arm, but I don't understand his objective.
Since he neither contacts me or restricts my actions....
"Ah, my bad. I still don't really get the language around here."
I look for a caravan heading west while ignoring a sexy female peddler with brown skin.
I can't negotiate with people who don't speak Shiga Kingdom's or Saga Empire's language.
Woulda loved Appraisal or Language skills, not even asking for cheat skills here.
"Onii-san with the flat face over there, care to have some Riuch's fried rice?"
"Whaddya mean by flat--"
I was speechless when I looked at the master of the voice.
An odd guy who looks like a plastered wall covered by moss is standing there.
I'm sure he'd be popular in a theme park.
"Onii-san, is this your first time seeing a Mosskin?"
"Ah, sorry for staring at ya--how much's for the fried rice?"
I could see raisin-like things among the unknown meat and vegetables mixed in the steamy fried rice that's being fried.
It's different from the Chinese-style fried rice I know, but it looks quite good.
"One full bowl of this is one copper coin."
"Give me two bowls."
I pay him with the warped copper coins of the Center Small Kingdoms, not of the Shiga Kingdom.
Although there are slight differences in size, copper coins can be used in most countries.
Since the rate of exchange for silver coins is different when I'm going back, I'm prioritizing using up the copper coins which worth relatively less.
"Give me the bowl back once you're done with it."
"Yea, got it."
I taste the fried rice at once.
A bit salty, but it's good.
No, maybe because I sweat a lot in the long trip this saltiness tastes irresistibly good.
The unknown meat seems to have been pre-seasoned, it adds depth to the usually monotonous-tasting fried rice.
I couldn't stop my hand from spooning the fried rice into my mouth.
Right when the saltiness about to get too intense, sweetness spread on my tongue.
--Was that raisin just now.
After getting reset by the sweetness, the stimulating saltiness and the umami from the unknown meat hit me like a brick again.
This stall owner is quite good despite his plastered-wall-like face.
It's as if he's the rumored [Miracle Chef] of Shiga Kingdom.
"This is some good stuff. Is this sweetness from raisin?"
"That's from date palms."
"My cousin is selling baskets of it at the stall over there if you're interested."
"I see, gotta buy some later."
"If you're going, you should try your luck at the stall in front of the date palm's."
Hmm, is it a dice gambling or a rat race?
Taking a peek should be fun.
I memorized the stall's direction and held out the bowl to the mosskin.
"Another bowl please."
Good food in a trip is a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.
You don't know if you'll ever get to eat it again later on.
I decided to slowly enjoy my third bowl.
Toy Rubik's Cube I'm familiar with are lined up on the stall, though they might be of a different kind since they have five square rows on each side.
"Yo, niisan, wanna try your luck?"
"Yeah! Turn this square thing like this and."
The stall keeper called me while stroking his well-groomed beard.
He lifted up a cube and turned it around, and then he played with it and made one side full of the same color.
"You'd get some luxurious premium stuff if you can get it like this on two sides and more."
The stall keeper showed various articles exhibited behind him.
The fifth and sixth prizes are of dummies instead of the real things, probably to prevent crime.
"Saga Empire's--『Appraisal Orb』, and the other one is 『Interpreter Earrings』?"
The 10 gold coins prize when you get four sides of the same color is attractive, though it's probably fake.
My funds have been running dry, this is just right.
I'm good at Rubik's Cube if I do say so myself.
But, before that--.
"By the way master, there's no way you can get five sides of the same color without getting six too right? Why do you have a fifth prize?"
The stall keeper sighed greatly at my question.
"Not all of them are as educated as you y'see."
"No well, either way isn't it just obvious?"
"That's not exactly true. If I left out the fifth prize, there'd be a lot of folks asking, 『Don't you have a fifth prize?』. Explaining to them that they'd always get six colored sides when they get five every time is troublesome, so I just put up a prize for it."
"Then that means there's no fifth prize?"
"Hm? I'll let you have it if you can get six sides on the same color."
The stall keeper put on a face like he was saying "try it if you can" while waving his hand.
That attitude only fires me up.
Let's get to the point.
"Is there a time limit?"
"Only until this hourglass drops. I'll let ya reverse it when it does if you pay me another 10 copper coins."
"As many times as I want?"
"As many times as you want s'long you have the cash."
I see, good thinking.
This would hook people who have low gambling-resistant to put out all their money.
I confirm the cash I have on hands.
Doing it on the first try is impossible.
But I should be able to get all of them with four silver coins, no, five.
"First time is only five copper coins."
"Is that fine with one side cleared like this?"
"Think of it as a service for beginner."
The stall keeper started the hourglass at the same time I started moving the Rubik's cube.
I easily cleared two sides after a few rotations.
"Whoa, ain't ya a promising newbie! You already got two sides! How bout it? You'd get one small silver coin if you stop here."
You're one to talk after letting it easy for me to get two sides.
The stall keeper raised his voices while smiling indifferently, attracting the peanut gallery around.
I'm not good with attentions, but I can't use [Burying] in this situation.
I concentrate on the Rubik's Cube while telling myself [That's a pumpkin], [This one's a cabbage] in my mind.
"Aah! He broke it off after getting four sides!"
"T-ten gold coins!"
"That guy, oh no."
I frantically move my hands while ignoring the peanut gallery.
My wallet has already been emptied.
I've got to clear all sides before the last hourglass no matter what!
"Oh oh oh, almost all the sand's fallen."
The stall keeper deliberately tried to hurry me up.
"Aaah, oh no oh no oh no."
The oh-no woman is noisy.
I held out the cube right before the stall keeper could fully declare zero.
The stall keeper's face was hardened in surprise.
"First time I see someone did it."
"●●●! You're awesome!"
Surprises and congratulations welled up among the peanut gallery.
I confirm the stall keeper's reaction while feeling embarrassed.
If this guy tries to run away, I've got to get the money I paid him at least.
"Ah! The box!"
"What the heck?!"
The cube I submitted collapsed into six-colored glittering sand.
The stall keeper snatches an obsidian ring-like thing inside the sand.
"Hahaha, this is it! This is one of the artifacts hidden inside 『Cube of Myriad Truth』! You did well youngster! These are your promised rewards. Accept them!"
The ecstatic stall keeper took out an Orb and earrings from item box-like black cross-section and threw them to me.
"I'll give you these gold and silver pouches too. Take all the remaining stuff too! ■■■■...."
I caught the things the stall keeper threw and put it inside my bosom.
".... ■ Fly"
The stall keeper floated, and flew to the southwest direction while laughing loudly.
With his lines earlier and all these mid-boss-like things he did, I don't wanna go anywhere near southwest.
I bought date palms to be my preserved food in the trips, and signed a contract to board a caravan's sand boat heading to the one of the most prosperous trade country among the western ones, Garleon Union.
After hearing that caravan would embark tomorrow, I went back to the stall that served the superb fried rice earlier, but it was already vacated.
"Excuse me, when is the stall here going to open in the morning?"
"Huh? The guy that was there just opened today. A catkin and a dogkin brats came to pick him up."
"Hmm, you think he's gonna open again tomorrow?"
I purchase sand rate skewers from the stall of this indifference old man.
Sand is gritting inside my mouth, looks like it's not well prepared.
Nevertheless, I'm not going to throw them away like when I was in Japan.
I crammed the skewers into my mouth while ignoring the taste and pour unrefined sake I bought on the other stall down my throat.
And then, next day--.
I went back to the stall street to look for the stall that sold the fried rice yesterday, but I couldn't find any mosskin after all, his cousin stall that sold date palms was also nowhere to be found.
They probably belonged to some caravan troupes and were only doing side jobs yesterday.
"I'm sure we'll meet again if fate allows."
After muttering something I didn't believe myself, I joined the caravan I'd be riding on and left the town.
"What's that, so pretty."
"Forget about it. That kid doesn't understand western countries language."
I look back at the dark brown beauties who are riding the caravan together with me.
"It's an Orb."
"Oh? You can speak western countries language."
One of the beauties said in admiration.
The [Interpreter Earrings] I got yesterday appeared to be genuine.
Therefore, this Orb of [Appraisal] is also highly likely to be genuine.
However, I feel that I'd be better off using the money I'd get from selling this kind of Orb.
This is troubling.
"A Sand Pig is coming! Anyone who can use a bow, get ready!"
"You too come here! Pebbles vomited by a Sand Pig could easily break through a plank unless it's made of iron!!"
I rolled behind the sand ship's iron plank while being hugged by a voluptuous beauty.
"That thing's sturdy! Arrows from a small bow won't work on it."
"Just shoot! It'll work as a diversion."
Diversion is fine huh.
I don't wanna leave this lucky situation where I'm being hugged by beauty, but this situation seems dangerous if it keeps up.
I part myself from under the beauty's arm in grief.
"My shotgun is perfect as a diversion."
I unwrapped the cloth hiding my gun and loaded it with some bullets.
Aim at the Sand Pig swimming in the sand.
It won't reach at this range, though not like it'd be really damaging even if it did.
But the roaring sound and the impact on the sand will be quite something, me think.
I pull the trigger after narrowing down the timing on the shaking ship.
Looks like a lucky hit grazed the Sand Pig's eyes.
"You're pretty good! I'm Miji, an archer and a dancer."
"Oh my my, Miji sure works fast. I'm Rouri, and you?"
Eyes of two beauties filled with admiration are turned at me.
"I'm John Smith. Just John Smith."
I personally thought it was a cool self-introduction, but the two beauties didn't seem to get it.
If I find myself in the same situation next time, I should try calling myself an adventure lover.
I extolled Miji's bravery, thanked Rouri's kindness when the Sand Pig appeared and presented them date palms from my knapsack.
Looks like sweets are justice even in another world.
While I'm getting surrounded by smiling beauties, the sand ship we're riding on is en route to Garleon Union.
Would it be tranquility or stormy drama waiting for me there.
The way to another world TUEEEE looks so distant and steep.
<TLN: TUEEEE is basically the Japanese version of OP.>
<TLN: Author's note below.>
The identity of the mosskin is unclear. Of course the identities of the catkin and the dogkin who came to get the mosskin are also unclear.
This is the first appearance of the try-your-luck stall keeper recommended by the mosskin. Whether he will appear again in the future or not is undecided.