--This takes me back.
I was bemused at myself for finding the scenery in front of me nostalgic.
I mean, I don't have many fond memories of this place.
"Is your belly aching nodesu?"
"Oh no, it's nothing."
Tama and Pochi who had run off to chase a rabbit came back and pointed at my belly.
The face I had as I took the view might have worried the two.
"Is this your hometown, Liza?"
"No, this was where I spent a year after the destruction of my village."
There are charred remains of what seem to be houses.
It was Master who found this weed-infested place indistinguishable from a distant.
"Do you know your way around from here?"
"Yes, I believe I can find my former village from here."
I recalled my hazy memories to retrace the way back to my village.
I had only taken the road once, and I probably lost sight of it on the swaying back of my mother and big brother, but Master and Tama found traces of a path.
And we arrived at last.
At the place where Kishresgalza Village was.
"It's full of water below grass-san nanodesu."
I was completely taken by the view before me that I couldn't hear the voices of Tama and Pochi getting excited over the wetlands.
There's nothing but wetlands here.
There's no mistake.
Here is the place.
The outlines formed from mountain ridges and the flow of Shigaruza River tell me.
This is where my village was.
Even after getting burned down to nothing, nature keeps on thriving in Shigaruza Wetlands.
"This place is Liza-san's village?"
"There's nothing remaining but I have no doubt it is."
"I see, so this is where Liza-san was born and raised."
"『Mountains and river flourish in ruined country.』 was it?"
"Ah, did I mention that before?"
Arisa affirmed awkwardly when I cited a poetry I heard her saying once.
Looks like she's being considerate.
"Lotsa frogs-san too nanodesu."
Tama and Pochi are going after animals living in the marsh at their own pace.
"Pyon pyon, nanodesu."
"Nn, in unison."
""Geko geko, pyon pyon, geko, pyon pyon"" "Nanodesu!"
Tama and Pochi are singing in chorus matching with Mia's impromptu performance.
That reminds me, I sang a lot in my childhood too--.
"Lizarin! Over here!"
Somarin, my childhood friend called me by my childhood name.
Adding the word [Rin] to your long name is common with childhood names for girls.
"We're fishin' for frogs today!"
"Eeh, I'd rather crayfish though~"
"And I want pond snails!"
A cheeky boy Zalton, and a timid boy Mozton were together with Somarin.
I often played together with these three since childhood.
"""Lizarin, what about you?"""
And then leaving everything for me to decide, they're the same as ever.
I personally love the feel of crayfish in your mouth, but always picking that one up isn't fair to everyone.
"Once we set up traps for pond snails, let's catch some bugs as live bait for the frogs. Then we can use those frogs' legs to fish for crayfish."
"That's Lizarin for ya, so greedy."
"We'll need Water Grass if we're making traps."
"Then let's go to the Longear creek. We can catch live bugs there."
We all merrily went our way to play which also worked as food gathering.
We quarreled among ourselves sometimes, but we would always make up the next day.
At dusk, the men came back from fishing, riding their huge bamboo-leaf boats.
The one swinging a spear greatly in the center is my father. He's together with Older-niisama and Younger-niisama.
The men headed for the wharf.
When father hugged me with his huge body, I could smell the scent of sweat and wetlands that were unlike the waterside.
The young me would feel a sense of relief from that scent.
"Lizaryu, today we feast once more."
Father, Older-niisama and other young men lifted up a Lotus Alligator.
I was overjoyed enough to dance on the spot at the very rare sight of meat.
Father and the young men broke into smiles when they saw me.
The village wasn't prosperous, but it was full of laughter.
I frantically chewed on the slightly gamey and nicely chewy Lotus Alligator skewers.
Even the usually talkative ane-sama and my little sisters were absorbed in their portions of this feast.
Father, mother, and grandfather are watching over us while having some themselves.
The portion of Lotus Alligator alloted to our house was scraped down to the bone, and just as we were enjoying the side dish in the form of frogs and crayfish, father called out to grandfather.
"We came across strangers during the hunt."
Grandfather stopped his hand as it was carrying a flat cup of sake to his mouth and looked at father with stern eyes.
"Were they hoodlums banished from Meshresgalza or Redmoshgalza?"
"No, it's not scalekin. It was Squirrelkin and Rabbitkin."
"...Beastkin. That's unusual."
To the me at this time, the only beastkin I knew were ratkin and weaselkin who would come to peddle their ware sometimes.
Since there were no squirrelkin or rabbitkin in the wetlands, my images of them were off.
"They lost their villages in war."
"Do they wish to live in these wetlands?"
"Yea, they asked, but that's impossible for those guys. Long fur is ill-suited for wetlands. I told them to go to western forest or the northern coast."
"Those would be better for long fur indeed."
"Old man, the war between weaselkin and beastkin must be really spreading."
"That's just an idle talk of wandering peddlers. Take it with a grain of salt."
"But folks from neighboring villages said there were skirmishes to the southeast."
"--Dear. You too father-in-law, please save that talk for after meal."
As a child, I couldn't understand their conversation, it only brought anxiety instead.
I remember feeling relieved when mother interrupted them.
Things were peaceful for years afterward.
However, worrisome rumors gradually spread from outside the wetlands.
As if pushed by those rumors, villagers rebuilt the village's railings into something sturdier, more and more young men participated in the bow and spear training.
"Lizaryu, it's too early for you to learn spears."
"I want to learn the way of spears like ani-sama."
"Come here Lizaryu, I shall teach you myself."
Grandfather shaved down a stick into a wooden spear for me to use in practice, since the standard-use one was too heavy.
The instructions and practices I did during this period shaped me today.
I learned a lot of things besides spear from grandfather.
Great-grandfather was the village's hero that challenged the [Fort of Soldiers].
My two big brothers idolized him and spoke about wanting to challenge [Fort of Soldiers] themselves one day.
Father and mother were against it.
"Grandfather, I also want to challenge [Fort of Soldier] once I grow up!"
"You will now huh, then you've got to surpass your father at least."
"--Can't it be uncle?"
Unable to imagine I could ever surpass father, the best warrior in the village, I reflexively named my quiet uncle whom I considered detached from fighting.
"Oh come on now, Lizaryu."
Uncle who overheard us had a pitiful look on his face, the other men laughed.
The child me also laughed together with the adults, but I now understand how rude I was being. I want to apologize to uncle if I ever get to meet him again.
"Worry not, brother-in-law. Lizaryu's just got to be the best spearswoman in the world. Then you'd become a legend as the first wall Lizaryu overcame."
"Oh, that sounds nice, eh? Lizaryu, you gotta give it yer' all and be the best in the world."
This time everyone smiled as I replied back innocently.
Nostalgic peaceful days.
I could recall it vividly even now.
<TLN: Catch the latest updates and edits at Sousetsuka .com >
Nightmare raided the village evening of that day.
"It's a raid!"
"Burn the bonfire! They've got mages too!"
"Help! My boy is pinned under the house!"
Between the roaring sounds were the shouting of clansmen and screams of the women.
"Mother, I'm scared."
My little sisters and me could only hug our mother in fear with teary eyes, fearing the extraordinary situation happening outside.
"Zaraton, Zajiton, carry food on your shoulders. No need for spears! Bring shields!"
Dragged by father outside our house, the village I knew was no longer there.
Hyuru hyuru, the whistles of reaper resounded.
When the whistles ended, loud roars and vibrations shook my body, faraway ground got blown apart.
The cloud of dust produced was so much higher than a house's, destroying houses hit and leaving red splatters on people.
It was truly a scene from hell.
I know now.
That was the technological forces of Weaselkin.
When I told Arisa about it, she said it was an attack from anti-aircraft guns and mortars.
After narrowly escaping the village with our lives, a new trial awaited us.
『Kill the men! Capture the women and children as slaves!』
Small foxkin mercenaries jumped out of the tall bush reed.
Father and grandfather's spears turned many foxkins into sea of blood.
They worked together with young men who managed to fled the village.
『Skilled one! We've got a skilled one here! Bring out beastkin slaves!』
A beastkin swordsman bigger than father began cutting down the young men.
"I see that you are a famed warrior. State your name."
『I'm a slave. I've no right to name myself. Just someone who failed to protect his country, reduced to a mere hunting dog of the weasels. What I wish is to fight a worthy warrior and die in the battlefield.』
『That shall be done--en garde!』
The fierce exchange between a spear and a greatsword was such that other people even forgot their own fight.
Father was strong.
I remember the spearsmanship he showed during this fight even now.
『You're pretty good, lizard.』
『Same goes for you, longfur.』
Once father and the beastkin were done readjusting their breaths, they spontaneously rushed out toward the second clash.
However, the second clash didn't last long.
A bolt from a crossbow shot from a point-blank range inside the bush hit father.
Mother and uncle stopped me as I was about to rush out to father who knelt down.
『Damn you foxes! How dare you sully a fight between warriors!』
The enraged beastkin cut down the bowman and slaughtered more than 10 mercenaries before his slave collar took his life.
"Now's our chance. Break through the siege!"
Everyone ran out with father's order.
I was carried on uncle's shoulder, closing my eyes as I prayed for a peaceful morning.
However, that peaceful morning never visited.
In the dark, father lost his life to the poison arrow, grandfather was killed protecting big brother.
From what we gathered from surviving villagers and young men scouts, our village had been occupied by at least a few hundreds weaselkin soldiers.
We met with folks from neighboring villages along the way who testified that their villages had also met similar fates, thus everyone concluded that it was not the work of a bandit gang, the Weasel Empire had invaded for real.
"Let's abandon the village and cross the mountains."
Everybody made the choice to go with uncle's suggestion, better than getting enslaved by weaselkin.
It was a difficult march.
We advanced on untrodden paths, pushing our way through bushes while sharing what little food and water we had.
We would occasionally encounter foxkin mercenaries, but the young men repelled them away.
Our number dwindled down little by little from fatigue and wounds.
When we reached the coast after crossing the mountain, we were greeted by a danger zone ruled by monsters.
We avoided the coastline and went north along the sea.
Just as we ran out of food, and started contemplating whether to risk fishing with monsters abound, someone extended out a helping hand.
『Lizards, where you going?』
Squirrelkins called out to us from above trees.
"We are! Please tell us somewhere we can live at if you know!"
The squirrelkin replied to uncle from above trees.
『Got it. We tell.』
『We're indebted to lizards.』
『Never forget food debt.』
"So you guys really are squirrelkins from that time."
Some years ago, uncle, Father and the men had shared their food and gave information about new lands to some squirrelkin who had lost their village to war.
With the cooperation of the dutiful squirrelkin and rabbitkin who were living close by, we managed to build a hidden retreat.
It was a safe zone, but monsters were rampant right outside the retreat, we spent days of hunting and gathering while fearing for our lives.
Those without stamina succumbed to illness and starvation, and even strong young men suffered defeat to unfamiliar monsters in a foreign land, losing their lives.
We spent such a harsh life for one year.
Just when we got used to it somehow, the pursuing foxkin got to us.
They weren't looking for us, but it was all the same to them.
Raided in the darkness of night, we went scattered in all directions, and even uncle who was with me until the end let himself become a decoy to allow me flee.
As I was hugging my knees alone inside the forest, I suddenly smelt something nice.
Tempted by the smell, I walked toward it and saw a unit of beastkin camping in an open space near the road.
As someone who could only distinguish between foxkin, squirrelkin and rabbitkin then, I didn't notice that they were a unit of weaselkin.
"Missy, want some?"
"...Can I, really?"
"Yea, yer' a kid, don't hold back now. Eat a lot."
Unable to think straight due to hunger and fatigue, I ended up taking the weaselkin's offer.
I couldn't even afford to savor my first meat in a long time as I fell asleep to the drug.
When I woke up, I was chained up in an iron cage fastened to a wagon.
"Have you come to? They used the same adult dosage of sleeping drug to children huh."
The one called out to me was a lizardkin onee-san from another village who was also living in the hidden retreat.
"These guys are weaselkin slave traders. They hired mercenaries to hunt us escapees down, and then sell us to Shiga Kingdom to the west and the small human country group to the south."
"Have you seen my family?"
"I saw your uncle getting cut down by mercenaries. Your little sisters and big brothers who were covering them chose to fall off a cliff than getting caught by--"
I couldn't recall what the onee-san said halfway through.
My mind must have been shut because of the shock.
What thawed my frozen heart was my fellow slave, bearkin Abe, and Leopardhead Chita among others.
The slave life was so bad my life in the retreat looked like paradise in comparison, but I could endure it thanks to other fellow slaves.
Warmth came back to my heart as I took care of Tama and raised Pochi who couldn't even talk. The me at that time could have never imagined we would get saved by Master in the Devil Dungeon and went on a journey around the world.
"Piled up another~"
"For Liza's sake nanodesu!"
Tama and Pochi are piling up stones on a cliff that overlooks the whole village.
That's the gravestone for the people who lost their lives here.
"Master, discovered an airship so I report."
Mia and Nana looked up at the sky.
"Oh it's got a crest. Lulu, can you see?"
"Un, it's a bit small, but that's Echigoya Firm's crest."
"Faster than scheduled huh."
Master who heard Lulu's reply waved at the airship.
"You knew about it, Master?"
"I didn't think they'd get here today though."
The airship flew down and landed on a relatively flat plane in the wetlands.
As it lowered its ramp, a familiar face peeked out.
"Young master ssu! We brought 'em here ssuyo!"
"We've brought you the goods. Should we lower them down first?"
With the red-head Nell leading the way, the small girl Rouna riding a Stone Wolf got down the ramp.
"Nell-san, let the people on board get down first."
"I got it ssu! Sumina-neesan, off boarding order!"
"Coming right up!"
Several demi-humans got down the airship. Many of them are lizardkins, who are suited for wetlands.
Lots are emaciated, but none had a slave collar or wore rugs.
A woman ran out of the lizardkin crowd.
We hugged each other in a nostalgic reunion.
I can't believe I'd ever meet my childhood friend again, I last saw her in the village, she wasn't there during our march to the hidden retreat.
Tears fell down my eyes due to the unexpected joy.
"Liza is crying nodesu."
"Zip it down now you two, now's not the time."
"Nn, watch over."
"Yes, Mia. I have got a plenty of handkerchiefs here."
"I'm so glad for you, Liza-san."
I could hear the girls from a distance.
"Liza, look to your right."
Master whispered to me while pointing at the airship.
I'm lost for words.
People who shouldn't be here are there.
"Younger-niisama! Ane-sama! Shiririn! Shizarin!"
Zajiton-niisama, Wejirin-anesama, older little sister Shiririn, and younger little sister Shizarin are there.
My family whom I was told to have thrown themselves off a cliff are right here in front of me.
I celebrate the reunion with my family.
"Would be nice if you don't forget about me."
Uncle who was supposed to have been cut down to allow me flee is even here.
He's lost one of his arms and one of his legs, but he's alive.
"I'm real good at playing dead, you see. Was a bit of a bet though."
Uncle shrugged his shoulders teasingly.
"These good folks of Echigoya Firm bought us out of our slave status."
"That's not exactly correct. We simply did as ordered by Sir Pendragon."
Stone Wolf girl Rouna spoke while handing some kind of document to Master.
"Thank you so much, Master."
"I would have looked for them sooner if I had known you had family left."
'I'm sorry', our kind Master apologized.
"Not at all. I mean, I'm truly grateful."
I was afraid to look for my family and friends, I ended up doing nothing.
I was afraid that if, despite so much funds and connections, the result was a confirmation of my missing family and friends's death.
"I sure would love to lower the goods now. Those who aren't in tears or eager to have a reunion, do your job please."
"Rouna, I can't believe you could say that now. I'm in awe."
"You tell me ssu. That's impossible for me ssuyo."
"I can't agree to that evaluation, somehow."
I said my thanks to Echigoya Firm personnel who helped with the work.
Once the girls had lowered the goods, they went away with the airship, saying they had another goods to deliver.
"Master, since you're getting all these people here, are you planning to?"
"Yup, we're rebuilding Liza's village as well as restoring demi-human settlements that were destroyed by the weaselkin."
Master cast his magic, then a gigantic sturdy rampart emerged followed by a lot of houses inside it.
My family and people who were brought here seemed to think it was Mia's magic, they praised her, "As expected of elf-sama!"
"Village... We can live here once again with our family."
The Weasel Empire that destroyed our village is buried under salt now.
"I have prepared a year worth of food supply and a place to live at, also hunting and fishing tools as well as daily necessities. Please make the tools you need yourself from the goods. Echigoya Firm will send an airship here every once in a while, make sure to order the stuff this village cannot cover then."
"Our utmost gratitudes to Pendragon-sama's benevolence."
Uncle bowed his head at Master as a representative.
"Give your thanks to Liza. I wouldn't have even thought about this if not for Liza."
"Thank you, Lizarin--no, Liza. I express my gratitude on behalf of our clan."
"Raise your head, uncle. I would have lost my life back then had uncle not thrown yourself to protect me."
If I died back then, I wouldn't be here now.
"More importantly, we've got a village-opening party to start now!"
The party started by Arisa's lively voice continued on the whole night.
I spent that entire night talking with my family and Somarin as if to bury the blank period. They went through a lot, but ane-sama managed to find her spouse. Younger-niisama as well.
My little sisters and Somarin would surely meet their spouse and give birth to lots of children too.
We stayed in the village for about half a month, hunting down all the dangerous monsters around the village.
Naturally, uncle and everybody who had lost their limbs got them regrown with Master's magic potions during our stay.
"Are you really going, Lizarin?"
"I am, Somarin. I have a role I need to fulfill."
"Uncle, please take care of everyone."
"I understand. Stay safe, Liza."
I informed them that I would be back within a year, then I got on board Master's airship.
"Liza, I don't mind if you want to stay there, you know?"
"No, I am Master's spear after all."
In order to carry out that pledge, I shall stay by Master's side always, fighting off his enemy.
"Pochi is here too nanodesuyo!"
"Tama too, happy set~?"
"Yes, we're all in this together."
Pochi, and Tama, and everyone else, let's enjoy ourselves adventuring with Master.