343 Succession Continuation
"Hm? Ou, that you Raine. I been telling you to quit while yer ahead. You've got a death wish hunting alone in this forest. I bet you can marry off somewhere with your looks."
That was the gatekeeper who handled us when we departed the gate. He seems to know and care for Raine.
"This is the only thing I have left. And besides, someone needs to watch over this forest and be the first responder if anything is amiss. The guild appreciates the games I hunt here as well. I'm the only one who can succeed grandpa."
So she said despite what just transpired, danger and all. I think she really ought to think twice about her choice.
Not my place to butt in though, so no comment here.
"And you're... why are you with her?"
The gatekeeper looked perplexed to see our group with Raine.
Well his confusion is apt.
I replied briefly.
"She was attacked by Forest Seekers. We came to her rescue. We're now heading for her home to get our reward."
The gatekeeper didn't seem convinced with what I said as he turned at Raine for confirmation.
"He's saying the truth. I was ambushed by three Forest Seekers out of nowhere when I went deeper into the forest."
"Haah~, what did I tell ya. If only you listened to me, someone grandpa tasked to look over you, it wouldn't have come to that... so, changed your mind now?"
Looks like he was well acquainted with Raine's grandpa too.
The gatekeeper must be using this chance to have Raine reconsider going to the forest again.
However, she shook her head. Seeing that, the gatekeeper sighed and spoke solemnly.
"You're two peas in the same pod with that old man, aren't you. Down to your bullheadedness. That's one thing you shouldn't have inherited... Geez, what a handful."
"You done yet? We'd like to get in."
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I opened my mouth when the gatekeeper and Raine's conversation seemed done.
I have no idea what's needed for the kids to enter the kingdom. The one with 'Second Class' Pass is me, not the kids.
He stamped some paper when we first left the gate, but I'm not sure if that's enough to get an entry back.
If the kids can't get in, we're gonna have to camp out at worst. Whatever will be, will be. We can always process the games, eat and sleep next to the gate.
"...Yes, you're cleared. Please go ahead. May I ask if you wish to leave for the forest again tomorrow?"
Well, that was easy. He even asked that.
I replied while feeling a bit anticlimactic.
"Yeah, we're going out to hunt again tomorrow. These kids included."
"Then you don't have to present your pass from tomorrow on. This applies on your way back as well. However, you must be present with the kids every time."
I don't know what to say here. Didn't think 'Second Class' Pass had this much power.
"Got it. Appreciate your explanation. Then, we'll be off."
I replied while getting a bit bewildered by the trust. The kids neatly followed in a row behind me.
Raine bowed at the gatekeeper before going after us.
"So, Raine. Where's your house? Lead the way if you would."
I turned around and looked at Raine. But she's slow to react. Doesn't seem like she's doubting us, it's more bewilderment.
"T-this way. U-um? By teaching the kids about the forest, you mean..."
"This is not a good place to discuss that, let's settle down first. Besides, I'd like to process our games first thing first."
I urged Raine to keep going.
I'm not sure if she's weak willed or if she's weak to pressure. I thought she's got it together at least from watching her interaction with the gatekeeper, but it seems her mind still can't catch up what's going on yet, she lets herself keep getting pushed around.
But I'm not obliged to wait until she's calmed down.
I plan to have Raine take over everything so I'm gonna keep the pressure up until I get an okay out of her before she comes back to her sense and declines.
(If she declined though... Well, I'd drag her into this regardless.)
She could reject if I forced my way through. Or she could always ignore me.
But not when she gets dragged in. She'd become a concerned party regardless of how, leaving her with no escape route.
So I walked behind Raine while formulating a rather devious plan in my mind.
(Well, it'd have been best for all three concerned parties if she agrees to it on her own volition.)
Three parties here being me, Raine and the kids.
We arrived at an ordinary-looking hut at the end of our walk.