18-31. A Boy in Labyrinth City (5)
Sunlight peeked from window gaps.
My throat's all perched up. Is it cause of the dry air?
Why--Oh right, I'm in the labyrinth city. I'm an explorer here now.
I sat up and looked around to be greeted by the boys dozing all over the cramped room.
Gon with his big build is sprawling, the lanky Keros and small yet knowledgeable Zaki squashed under him look agonized. The quiet Rasa is curling up in the corner of the room.
Shina the sole girl in our group is sleeping in the girl-only room, so everybody besides the rich Keros and Rasa only have shorts on.
I put on my clothes I took off yesterday and left the room.
Our room is one of the many rooms of the [Row Houses] built here.
After some stretching, I went to the well and joined the queue to draw a bucketful of water.
You're expected to return the bucket after pouring the water in an earthen pot left in each room.
It's a bit of a bother but since what we have on our body is all our belongings we take to this city, having this lent for free really helps.
"Hmm guess daily running regiment is off table today?"
I wash my face and pour water from my head down near the drainage channel.
"Oy! Go wash yerself in the river! Don't you waste precious drinking water!"
A staff member in charge of the well got angry at me.
Right that smart Zaki also told me this. Water is precious in this city due to its close proximity to the desert.
"Good morning, Sharon. You're up early."
"Morning. I could say the same to you, Shina."
Shina was waiting outside our room as I got back with the water.
Shina opened the door for me.
The pot is full of sands, so I poured a bit of water from the bucket to flush it out. Gonna need another bucketful to make it full.
Well, not like we're cooking anyway, this much should be enough.
"Guys, it's morning!"
Shina woke up the still sleeping four.
"The floor is so hard, I want a bed."
"No way a bed can fit this small room."
"And I'm telling you cramping five guys inside this small room is too much."
Zaki and Keros got up.
"C'mon now Gon, you too."
"Lemme sleep a bit more, mom."
Shina jolted Gon as he replied back with a spoiled voice unlike his usual tone.
I woke Rasa in the corner of the room.
He's pretty late today considering we were both usually the early risers during the journey here. Yesterday we got in the labyrinth for the first time, then got attacked by Lost Bandits before finally participating in an explorer feast, he must be tired from all that.
"I'm ventilating this room. It's stinky here."
After waking Gon up, Shina grabbed the stick to hold the window open.
I think it's not the room, it's us that's stinky. I mean, we kept these clothes for so many days since we departed the town for the labyrinth city after all.
"I'd like to wash up somewhere."
That sprinkle I had wasn't even good as a consolation.
That staff man mentioned river and all, I'm sure they won't get mad if I take a bath there, gotta ask guild staff later.
"Man, you're weird."
"Why'd you wanna wash up outside summertime?"
Gon and Zaki looked at me weirdly.
Yup, that's how it goes in my village too.
Our eccentric little sister would keep saying, 'To live healthy is to live cleanly!', so taking a bath every day had become the norm, but that only applied to our household in the village.
Gon's stomach rumbled in the awkward atmosphere.
Looks like his healthy body seeks sustenance despite wolfing down so much yesterday.
"Man, I'm starving. Let's grab some grub!"
"We've eaten up all our jerky and all, we should eat something good for once!"
The wealthy Keros agreed to Gon.
"But I don't have much on me."
"Neither am I, no sweat!"
Gon made a groundless claim to reply to Shina.
"Let's go to the food bank!"
Quite strongly worded coming from the quiet Rasa.
His eyes look glazed, guy must be hungry.
"They say you can eat for free there."
A senior explorer taught us that during the feast yesterday.
"Did you say free?! What're waiting for! Don't wanna miss it out!"
Gon ran out the room.
No hesitation when he doesn't even know where it is.
The others followed after him.
"Let's go, Sharon."
At the doorway, Zaki noticed me taking my dagger and helmet from my luggage.
"Sorry, be there."
"You're taking your dagger and helmet to the food bank?"
"Would be bad if they got stolen."
Zaka took his own dagger and put it on his waist belt.
"What? You going to eat with that thing on your head?"
Spoke Gon, so I told him what I told Zaki earlier.
"That's just nonsense. Just leave that bulky thing behind."
"I'mma take my dagger with me."
"And me, my knife."
Keros made fun of me while Gon and Shina went back to fetch their weapons.
By the way, Rasa never let go of his dagger. As expected.
"The training ground behind the guild, is it here?"
"With this crowd and this super good smell, I'm sure of it."
Lots of people have gathered at the food bank.
"Damn, can't take it anymore. I'm gonna get my food!"
"Hey you! Brats! Get in the line if you wanna eat!"
A scary faced old man roared at Gon who kept pushing his way forward.
One of the old man's leg has been replaced with wood halfway down.
He's probably a retired explorer.
Looking again, most children and old people here have missing limbs.
"Get in this line here, guys!"
Another group our age called out, so we bowed to the scary-faced old man and went there.
"The last in the line, hold onto this. When other folk get behind you, give it to 'em."
A girl called and passed a token written with something.
"『End of queue here』 is what's written."
Seems Shina couldn't read it since it's not commonly used.
Oh yeah, my little sister mentioned something about a culture with this kind of system somewhere out there, [Mimike] or something.
"What should we do, Sharon."
Zaki asked me anxiously as I was remembering trivial stuff.
"Looks like we have to bring our own tableware."
We put our luggage back in our room.
Though we only had a cup, a spoon and a bowl.
"No worries~, They'll lend you some if you don't have one~"
A passing by catkin kid came and told us that.
"Thank you. That's good news."
"Don't worry be happy~"
When I thanked her, she left after saying an unusual sounding phrase.
Wonder if it's unique to catkins?
"Oy, Sharon! It's our turn!"
Gon dragged me as I was looking behind.
Right. Time for a meal.
We borrowed tableware and got our food.
The food given was a bowl of soup with two big dumplings inside, and a freshly baked sweet bread. The bread is quite big.
"Keep moving once you've got yours. You're in the way."
We moved away as urged by the miss.
"Oy, that looks good for sitting!"
Gon picked somewhere for us to sit on.
"So good, so good, so good."
Gon had his meal while repeating the same word.
The flavor is a bit thin, but it's really tasty. Kinda tastes like the food with stock my little sister made.
According to her, she made the stock from the bone she received from hunter-san or something.
"Good stuff eh. They're made by the best pupil of the 『Legendary Chef』. From a recipe coined by the 『Maid Monarch』 Lulu-chan."
Jel-san a senior explorer called out to us.
He was having his meal nearby it seems.
"Jel-san, you're eating at the food bank too?"
"The stuff here is best for a hangover morning, see. I'm paying 'course. [Pendora] and Folk who donate here would also come every once in a while."
Now that he mentioned it, some blue mantled beastkin are eating in the corner.
"Gotta head off now. You guys taking the course today?"
Jel-san stood up while putting his empty jar in his bag.
"Oh no, ours not yet for a few days."
"Then you might wanna take a look in front of the guild after this. Employers looking for daily laborers gather there, you can look for some odd jobs. I recommend Beria porters."
Jel-san left after giving that advice.
"The soup's got potato dumpling and bean dumpling."
"There's a bit of meat too, it's so good."
Shina and Zaki exchanged words while smiling.
"Breaking and mixing them in the soup a bit changes the flavor too."
"Hee, let's see."
Rasa taught me that so I gave it a try.
The soup is good as is, but doing that really does mix the flavor and make for a fresh one.
"Really? It's so thin though. Feels like I haven't eaten anything."
Keros the habitual grumbler grumbled.
"I'm told the thin flavor is done on purpose gau."
A big dogkin wearing a blue mantle spoke to Keros.
"On purpose? Why would they go out of the way to."
Keros seemed to get cold feet, but he managed to snap back despite looking frightened.
"From what Lulu-san and Arisa told me, it's because [Having it just a bit lacking is the goal] gau. Just enough so it compels people to try out something else once they have the money to, gau."
"So you're telling me this food is a temporary measure to the end?"
"You could take it as such gau. Most food in this labyrinth city have dense flavors, so, many people found this one lacking gau."
Zaki and Rasa seem to get it.
"It would be nice if you guys can graduate soon gau."
The dogkin left after smiling affably.
Once we were done with our meal we made our way to the guild front as advised by Jel-san.
<TLN: Catch the latest updates and edits at Sousetsuka .com >
"Uwaa, it's amazingly crowded here."
On top of the huge crowd, the noise is just buzzing.
"Waste collection, five copper coins a day! Come with dirty-ready clothes on!"
"I'll pass on stinky jobs."
"But five copper coins?"
"Hiring cleaners for slaughterhouse! Daily wage of three copper coins! You can bring leftover meat with you!"
"I'll take it!"
"I wanna eat meat! I'll do it!"
"Me too, me!"
Looks like slaughterhouses are pretty popular.
Gon was tempted to take it, but Shina stopped him.
We went looking for Beria porter jobs.
"One copper coin for every ten Beria leaves! We're hiring everyone!"
"There it is! Over there!"
People of all kinds, from children even younger than us, to adults with disabilities are applying for the job.
"We're gonna do it too!"
"Sure thing! Hmm, I don't recognize your faces. First time?"
The employer gave each of us a stringed token and explained the job briefly.
"Hang this token on your neck and go to Beria fields outside city. Gathering Beria leaves without this token gonna get you arrested, so make sure they're visible. Follow the other guys for the place."
Other regulars took on the token and ran off even during the explanation.
"You know Beria yeah? Cutting more Beria leaves than you can carry gonna get ya a beating from the staff on site, careful now."
"Hmph! I'm gonna bring so many of that weed back here!"
Meanwhile, people looking for job kept coming, taking the tokens and running off.
"What's with the hurry?"
"Spot competition. The spot right outside the southern gate gets crowded quick."
My doubt got answered by the employer man.
"Oh crap! Let's make a run for it too!"
Gon ran out after hearing that.
"Wait for us!"
Keros and Shina ran after him.
"Let's go too."
Zaki and Rasa called out to me and ran.
I stopped my legs just as I was about to run.
--Never rush ahead when you're doing something for the first time. Make sure to make proper preparations and gather information first.
The thing my little sister taught me resurfaced.
Rasa and Zaki turned around asking.
"Hold it, we need to prepare and gather info."
I went back to the employer man.
"Excuse me! Is there anything I should do before heading out to Beria fields?"
The employer man grinned at my question.
"Ya can borrow a shoulder basket behind the alchemy guild. Beria thorns pack some punch, gloves gonna come in handy."
"Thank you, mister!"
I thanked the employer man and went to the alchemy guild.
You can show your explorer badge and the token to borrow a basket there. Townkids who aren't explorer can show another form of ID. We got in the line.
"Here, don't go break it now."
A scary-faced man handed me a basket after I showed my badge and token.
A boy next to this man recorded my badge number.
--Right. For Gon and the rest too.
"Please lend me three more."
"One per person."
"They're for my friends."
"No can do."
I tried to push for it and got shot down.
Apparently there were many attempts at stealing the baskets previously, so now one cannot borrow a basket without showing their badge.
"You guys make sure to return them too. Dump them on the side of the road cause it's a pain, and you lose your right to borrow one for free in the future."
The man shooed us away after telling that.
--Uphold the rules even if it's bothersome. That will help you in the long run, Niisan.
My lil' sis' word echoed in my head.
I thought she was just being nosy back in the village, but now that I'm out here in the world, her words really do carry weight to them. My little sister is amazing for real.
Carriages and caravans waiting to be let in the city are lining up before the south gate.
It's so much livelier than a festival in my village. The explorer guild yesterday was something else, but here surpasses even that.
Rasa nimbly slipped through the crowd.
Zaki and I followed with our baskets on our backs.
"Beria hunting huh. You don't look familiar, first time? Beria fields are over there. There's no monster around, but careful all the same now."
We showed our stringed tokens to the gate guard and then he showed us the general direction of Beria field.
The people carrying baskets scattered away in all directions once they left the gate, so this advice was a welcome one.
"Must be that?"
The nearest Beria field came into view.
The employer man and the guard referred it as Beria field, but it's more an overgrown bush of thorny thick leaved stumps.
"Why can't we!"
Gon and Keros are here.
Them being here despite leaving earlier, must have lost their way and went around asking.
A man carrying a spear shooed Gon's group away.
"This place is prioritized for those with bad legs! Go over there if you're fine!"
Guess it's that [Social Welfare] my lil' sis mentioned?
We joined Gon's group and went to another field.
"Here should be good yeah?"
A field with stumps with cut leaves.
More leaves are growing inside those stumps.
Zaki stopped Gon who had rolled up his sleeves and walked in the field.
"There's a signboard prohibiting gathering."
A signboard with a large X mark with some letters written below.
"Eh, no one's watching anyway."
"No, you can't. Those leaves are small too, they'll find out right away."
After telling the disgruntled Gon, we left for another field.
All the nearby fields were either hunted down to exhaustion, full of people already with no space left, so we ended up having to walk quite far.
We somehow found a Beria field with not many people around, so we settled there.
In this field, most people are working together to pluck out the leaves on a stump.
"Let's do this!"
"The thorns, they're pricking me."
Gon, Keros and Shina went ahead with their bare arms before I could stop them, they got pricked by the thorns.
"I'll do it."
With gloves on, the small Rasa lifted the leaves up and cut at the base with a small knife. It couldn't cut well.
"I'mma do it!"
Gon randomly swung his sword around.
Beria leaves got cut, sprinkling its sap everywhere.
He almost cut my leg there.
"Don't cut at the root or trunk! You're gonna ruin the next harvest!"
An adult working nearby rebuked us.
"Six of us doing this together is too wasteful. Let's split up into two groups."
Zaki suggested, so we did.
Gon took off his shirt and wrapped it around his arms. Keros and Shina would cut at the leaf bases while Gon lifted the leaves up. Keros crawled in deep while grumbling. Shina didn't complain, but she seemed afraid to go under the leaves.
"Let's do our shares too. Rasa, here use this."
"I got it."
I lent my dagger to Rasa and took up the job of lifting the leaves while Zaki and Rasa cut up the leaves.
"This dagger is really sharp."
Rasa sounded surprised to see the dagger cut Beria leaves easily.
"Ow... Even cut these leaves still hurt. Someone should catch the leaves when it fall."
Zaki suggested when the cut leaves brushed him.
Gon's group came under the same conclusion as Keros got to be in charge of the duty.
It took some time, but we managed to get ten leaves for each of us.
"This is more laborious than I thought."
"My waist hurts."
We're all covered in sands, and all sticky from Beria sap.
As we put our leaves in our basket--.
"Don't face the cut parts down. It will fetch less if too much sap goes out."
A nearby old man gave that advice.
"Mind your own business."
Gon protested back.
--Return kindness with gratitude.
Right. My lil' sis would often remind me that.
"Thank you mister! We'll keep it in mind!"
The old man waved his hand behind his back as he left.
He's pretty blunt but his kindness is real.
"It's gotten really bulky."
Our baskets are packed full of Beria leaves, less than expected.
About ten pieces per basket.
"Put mine too."
"Umm, my shares too."
Gon's group tried to stuff theirs, but each only fits two more at most.
"They're full already."
"Why didn't you bring our baskets too!"
"They only let you borrow one per person."
I explained to the complaining Gon and Keros.
"--Tch. I ain't asking you anymore!"
Gon clicked his tongue, wrapped his Beria leaves with some grass and shouldered them.
Looks like the thorns pricked his shoulder.
Gon cursed out, took off his clothes and wrapped the leaves in them before dragging them on the ground. Keros mimicked him.
"What should I do."
Shina looked around in confusion.
Guess she can't exactly took off her clothes here.
"We can split them among us, but you won't be able to bring them all."
She can bring six back with our baskets together.
"Thank you Sharon. Let's take turn carrying the basket."
"I'll be fine, take turn with Rasa and Zaki instead."
We handed over the excess four leaves to other people working here and ran after Gon.
They were having a hard time carrying the leaves back all the way to the south gate. Keros grumbled 'That's unfair!' when he found out we carried Shina's share.
I suggested Gon and Keros to bundle the cut parts of the leaves better but they barked back with, 'Shut up'.
"Yeah, these are duds. These leaves got damaged getting dragged, and a good portion of their saps are gone from the cut parts. Two dimes, and we're taking a loss here. I ain't buying them off you if you bring them like this next time."
On top of having their clothes full of holes, Gon and Keros even got lower wages.
By the way, each of me, Zaki and Rasa got one copper coin. Shina who brought back six got six dimes.
Proper preparations and information gathering really is important.
I thanked my little sister inwardly.
◆◆At a certain poor village◆◆
I could feel Rom-niisan's love while I was working on the riverside near the village.
I knew it, our fates really are interlinked.
As I soaked in happiness, I heard a heavy footstep sound behind me.
I turned around in caution.
While putting my fingers on the dagger hidden under my skirt.
"Reina-san, so you were here."
My wariness went away with the man's voice.
This man is safe.
"Good afternoon, Akindo-san. It's been a while, hasn't it?"