The breezy wind woke me up. I opened my eyes and saw that it was almost evening. The sky had turned violet as the sun began to set already.
‘Hmmm…what is this feeling? I think I have felt it before…’ I felt something soft was touching my left side.
I lifted my head a little and looked to the left side of my body. There, I saw Sakura sleeping, facing to my body, while her left hand was hugging my stomach. Her breasts was pressing my left flank and shaking gently following the carriage movement.
Ponyoo munyuu ponyo ponyoo
‘Uwaaaahhhh…..I never know that they can move like that!!! It’s like [Waterball]!! It’s so soooft….’
I pondered for a little and finally decided, ‘Hmm…let’s leave it like this for a while…’
But then, suddenly, a voice was heard from below, “Z…wake up!! It’s your turn!”
“Unn…is it evening already?” asked Sakura as she sat up slowly and rubbed her eyes.
‘Nooooooo!!!! Cursed you Alex!!!’ I screamed in my mind.
“Yeah jou-chan… we will make a short stop here and let the horse drink and eat a little, after that, we will go again,” said Harvey from below.
“We will have dinner too, or you can have it later. But I want to eat now before sleeping,” said Alex.
“Will you go hunting again?” asked Sakura with a sad face to me.
I still lay there over the leather bed as she asked me. Then I said to her while shaking my head, “No, hard to find prey in this vast grassland, we will just eat some dried meat with bread.”
“Un..okay!! Ah how long will we rest for??” she asked again.
“Hmm, we need to wait around 2 hours after the horses finished eating,” said Harvey from below. He is a Beastmaster, so he took care of our horses.
“O-Okay!! Then I can make a mushroom soup for us!! But, where did I put my leather bag again?” She tilted her head as she tried to remember it.
“[Storage]. Here, I put it inside my Storage Ring when I found you yesterday,” I said to her as I gave her the leather bag filled with mushroom.
Her cheeks reddened as she remembered about what had happened. Then, as she took the bag away from me, she said, “O-Oh o-okay…thank you Ze-“
I put my index finger in front of my lips to warn her not to say my real name.
She tilted her head, but then just nodded.
“Oh!!! Sakura-chan will cook for us!! This is gonna be great! I am tired of man’s cooking! It’s always just meat and salt…,” said Alex.
“I missed my wife’s cooking…,” said Harvey.
“Meh…I prefer eating dried meat than wasting my money to eat extravagant thing…,” said Bernardt.
“Oh…so you don’t want to eat Jou-chan’s cooking?” asked Harvey.
“I-I never said it like that!!! Of course I do…,” said Bernardt.
“AHAHAHAHA!” we all laughed.
As the carriage started to stop, I jumped down from the carriage roof. After that, Sakura jumped down onto my arms. I sneaked a hug again for a while, but then, she pinched my side with a reddened face, so I released her.
I made a small campfire and put a metal pot over it. I put water in and let it boil; after that, I just left it for Sakura to cook. I gave her spices like salt and pepper, and told her if she needed anything then just ask.
“Oh… then I need some dried meat to put into the soup. And a flat surface to cut the ingredients,” She said to me.
Then I went back to the carriage to take some dried meat and gave it to her. She was still cleaning the mushrooms with water, so I just put it beside her. After that, I pondered about what thing I should lend her as a cutting board, all four of us never cook something complicated before after all. A disadvantage of an only men party…
I felt hopeless as I couldn’t think of anything that I could lend to her, so I went to other three to discuss it. “Harvey-san…Alex-san…Bernardt-san…do you guys have anything to substitute a cutting board?”
“”“Hmmm…””” the three started to thought about it as well.
“What about your book Bernardt?” asked Harvey
“O-Of course not!” said Bernardt. After all, books are expensives because they are written by hand.
“Why don’t she just cut it on carriage floor?” asked Bernardt.
“It will be hard to bring it later into the pot then,” I said to him. “Should we just bring the carriage closer to the pot? How troublesome…”
“Oh right!!! We can use my wooden shield!” said Alex. Then he rummaged his belongings inside the carriage and took out a round wooden shield.
“Here, just tell her to use this!” he said to me as he gave me the shield.
“I will give it back to you later!” I said to him.
“Okay!” he said.
Then I went back to her while holding the round wooden shield in my hand. She smiled excitedly as I gave her the wooden shield. After she cleaned it with water, she then took out the Holy Kitchen Knife onto her hand, and began cutting all the ingredients. Poor wooden shield, it got scratched a lot because the knife is too sharp…
‘I think I am forgetting something…but I can’t remember…’ I thought to myself as I watched the beautiful girl in front of me cooking.
After half an hour…
“Dinner is ready!!!” she shouted to us as she banged the wodden shield with the Holy Ladle.
‘Damn…she used the Sword that stabbed the Demon Emperor as kitchen utensils…” I just shook my head in disbelief as I watched her doing that.
Then, we all four men sat down on the log around the pot as she distributed the soup to our wooden bowls.
“Go ahead! Try it and tell me how it tastes!!” she shouted at us.
“”””Let’s eat!!”””” we all four shouted as we began to take a spoonful of soup into our mouths.
“Hmm…the meat becomes so tender!!” said Alex.
“Ohh….this is just like what my wife cooks back home…,” said Harvey.
“Th-This is…!!! Second!!!” Bernardt, who was speechless after he gulped down the bowl of meat and mushroom soup, immediately asked for another serving.
“Sakura, it’s really tasty…,” I said to her as I patted her hair softly.
“Ehehehe….,” she just laughed happily.
Suddenly, “AHAHAHAHAHAHA,” Alex laughed loudly.
“UUUUUUUUUU,” and Bernardt cried.
“MY!! MY WIFE!!! WHY ARE YOU HERE??” even Harvey looked like he was seeing a ghost.
“AAHAHAHAHAHAHA,” I too suddenly unconciously laughed.
We four laughed and cried repeatedly while Sakura just sat there looking at us in confusion.
“Eh..? Ah…? Au..? Wh-What happened guys?? Why are you crying and laughing? I-Is my food that bad??”
“S-SAKURAAHAHAHAHAHAHA…UUUUUUUU,” I couldn’t speak to her properly as I just kept laughing and crying.
“Hueee….,” she cried, and then ran into the carriage.
‘This is what I forgot!!! She had no idea what kind of vegetables those mushrooms were!!’ I thought to myself as I laughed and cried.
We four hallucinated, cried, and laughed repeatedly for whole four hours. Only Bernardt was longer because he kept taking more and more soup.
“Eating this tasty soup won’t kill me AHAHAHAHA eating more of it will only make me cry…UUUUUUUUU or hallucinated….AHAHAHA…nothing bad…. gulp…gulp…”
Brave merchant indeed… As long as there is profit, he will take any risks…
After I finally stopped laughing and crying, I walked to Sakura. She sat at the edge of the carriage hugging her knees and just staring at the carriage wall.
‘She is sulking again…’ I just shook my head.
“Sakura…,” I said to her slowly from behind.
But, she wouldn’t respond.
“Sakura…I am here to teach you and protect you, you know…? If you sulked and cried too much, I will take you back to Astraea!” I said to her again.
“Uuuu…No! Don’t do it…Zedediah!! I- I won’t cry and sulk! Please!!” she jumped at me and hugged me while crying.
I patted her head and said, “I’m just kidding…I won’t take you back to her…,” then I put my hand on her shoulder, let go of her hug, and stared straight at her, “but I won’t spoil you either! I promised her to make you strong! Or do you want to be protected by me all the times?”
“N-No!! I, too, promised Astraea-sama to work hard to live happily in her world!” she shook her head.
I pat her head and said, “Good girl…”
“Ehehehe…,” she chuckled again as she felt my hand on her head.
‘Uuuh…I should also stop spoiling her like this…but she is just too cute…’
But then she looked sad and gazed down to the ground. “I-I’m sorry that my cooking was bad….”
“No. It was really tasty… It was just….”
She tilted her head. “Just..?”
I scratched my head and said, “Next time let’s pick some mushroom together okay… some tasty mushroom, not the laughter, sadness, and hallucination mushrooms…”
“AH!! Right!!! I collected those mushrooms to poison you!! I forgot!!” she shouted.
She jumped in shock and closed her mouth with both of her hand. She then said to me nervously, “N-No! Nothing! I- I will go and apologize to the other three!!”
I just stood there in daze, looking at her going to the campfire.
‘Hmmm…I should stop sneakily hugging her…I never knew when she will put another strange thing into my food anymore…’ I nodded my head again and again.
I sat there on the driver seat with Sakura beside me. I held the horse rein as we traveled under the night sky.
Harvey and Alex was sleeping at the back of the carriage, holding their ears with their hand, because Bernardt was still laughing and crying loudly while reading his book under the lantern light. After all, he alone, had gulped down almost 75% of the pot that was filled with poisonous mushroom soup.
“It’s so dark…,” she said to me.
“Yeah…we can only rely on the moonlight and the lantern light,” I said to her as I pointed to the lantern above our head.
“Isn’t it dangerous?” she asked me.
“It is… but stopping is more dangerous…,” I said to her.
She just nodded at me.
“Then Z, what will you teach me today?”
I already told her to still call me Z when there are others around us.
“Hmmm…I have told you about the continent and the magical beasts. Then today, I will teach you about money and adventurer!”
“Ou!” she said as she nodded excitedly at me.
“There is three kind of money in this continent; copper coin, silver coin, and gold coin,” I said to her.
“How do they look like?” she tilted her head.
‘I can’t say to her that I am so poor that I don’t even have a single silver coin with me…I only have a few hundred copper coins…I-I never liked money after all!’
“Ber-Bernardt-san! You have some good looking coins right? Can you lend me a set of the coins?” I asked Bernardt while putting my palm in front of him.
“UUUUUUU…sure…AHAHAHA…give it back later okay!” said Bernardt as he put a gold coin, a silver coin, and a copper coin in my hand. His cry and laughter was so loud that it started to annoy me as well…
Then I put the three coin in her hand. The copper coin looked pretty simple, it was just a thin round plate of copper with a diameter of around 1 cm and a hole in the middle of it. The silver and gold coin is a little more detailed. They both were round with a diameter of 1,5 cm and stamped with a sword shape on both side.
“100 copper coin is 1 silver coin, and 100 silver coin is 1 gold coin,” I said to her.
She nodded. “…but I still don’t know how much that really is…” she said to me.
“Hmm… a lunch is 5 copper coin, one night lodging is 20 copper coin, dried meat is 3 copper coin per kilogram, then…” I explained to her the value of many different kind of things.
After telling her a few more things, I asked, “So you understand?”
“Hmm…, more or less, I think…” she said to me while furrowing her brows, trying to remember about all I had said.
“Don’t mind it, you will remember all of it when you get to town later,” I said to her.
“Here is your money back Bernardt-san, thank you for showing me,” said Sakura as she gave the money back to Bernardt.
“AHAHAHAHA No problem UUUUUU…,” said Bernardt.
“Until when, will you cry and laugh like that Bernardt-san?” I asked him while furrowing my brows.
“UUUUU…I don’t know…AHAHAHAsk your girlfriend..,” he said to me without even moving his gaze away from his book.
“Eh? What? No…eh…we are not like that yet!!” I shouted at him.
“…’yet’…?” Sakura murmured with a low voice beside me. She moved her really red face downside and fidgeted her finger.
“Eh…that is…emm…,” I don’t know what I should say to her.
“Ah right!! I need to tell you now about the Adventurer!!” I tried to change the topic.
Seeing that, she glared at me while puffing her cheeks. “Muuu…!!”
I just smiled bitterly. “[Storage]!” I took out a card from the Storage Ring and put it in front of her eyes.
She took it from my hand forcefully and observed it. It was a black card with a red border, made of special metal, with a cutted edge on the top right side of it. On the front side was my identity and on the back side was a red magic formation.
She looked at my identity on the card. “Hmm… ‘Name : Z’, ‘Occupation : Magician’, ‘Age : -‘, ‘Rank : 5’. Why is the age empty? How old are you really Z? And what is this rank?” she asked me.
“The rank is divided into 5 section with 2 level each. 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, and 9-10. When you first become an adventurer you will become rank 1. Then, you did some random missions like collecting herbs to become level 2. After you become level 2, you can take the mission of level 3 to advance your rank to 3, usually, it is to kill some low grade Magical Beast and present the magical core. After you did a determined number of level 3 and 4 missions, you will become level 4. Then you can do level 5 missions to advance your rank. And you did it like that again and again until you reach level 10.”
“What kind of missions is there for every rank?” she asked me.
“Usually it is like this : 1-2 is random jobs; 3-4 is low grade magical beasts; 5-6 is medium grade magical beasts, escort missions, and low level demons; 7-8 is high grade magical beasts, and normal level demons; 9-10 is legendary grade magical beasts and high level demons.”
“Oww…so there is grade for demon and magical beasts too…?” she tilted her head and asked me.
I nodded and said, “Yeah…, for Magical Beasts there is low, medium, high, and legendary. And for demons, there is low level, normal level, and high level.”
“How would you know which is which?”
“For Magical Beasts, usually, the stronger they are, the cooler they look like. But, besides from their outer appearance, we can also categorize them from the size of their Magical Core. The low grade magical beasts have a core as big as a copper coin. The medium grade…you already saw the size of the Magical Core of the medium grade beasts, it was the red-green one I gave you. And the high grade beasts have a core as big as an apple. Then, for the legendary grade Magical Core, almost no one has ever seen one, not only because the legendary magical beasts itself are rare, even if you meet one, you will just get killed. But from the rumor, they said that the size of it was as big as a man’s head,” I explained it all to her as she listened to me with a wide opened eyes.
“Legendary magical beasts…” Her eyes glittered.
“For example, they said that there is a Dragon King on top of the magical beasts mountain,” I said to her.
Her mouth gaped, “Hooooo…Dragon King…”
“And they said there is a Giant Nine Headed Serpent in the depth of the ocean east from the continent.”
“Can we go take a look?” she asked me.
I chuckled, ”Haha..maybe later when you are stronger…,” I said to her as I flicked her forehead.
“Muguu!! Ouuu…my head…”
I laughed for a bit as she tried to pinch me for revenge.
After she was satisfied, I gazed to the west and said, “Then we have the demons…”
“Demons look just like human. Either uglier or prettier. The rarest demon, is the demon with ordinary look,” I explained to her.
“Like you~?” she asked while grinning.
“Ugh…that hurts…you little…” I pinched her cheek.
“Ouw ouw ouw…!! Wait! Stop it! I have a question!”
I stopped pinching her cheek. “Hmm?”
“If they look just like human, then how do you know if one is a demon?” she tilted her head and asked me.
“Easy! Their body usually have a part with the same color as their element. And, even if they don’t, they still have something that is really eye catching,” I said to her.
“And that is…?” she asked me again.
“Horn!” I said to her.
“Like goat’s horn?”
I chuckled, “Haha…it depends on the demons…some have straight one, some have short one, some have curled one, some have many, some have only one. And the grade of the demons, depends on their horns.”
“Eh? How so?”
“The cooler their horn is, the stronger the power it stores. So, if you cut a demon’s horn, even though he won’t die, he will get much weaker.”
“How do you define ‘cool’ horns?” she asked me as she furrowed her brows.
I just laughed and said, “Hahaha…let’s take the Demon Emperor as an example. He look as burly as Alex-san, but twice as big as him. But, his horns was even more formidable. He had 5 horns over his head that looked like a crown, the base of his horns were as thick as your palm, and the total length of his horn was as tall as you.”
“Wow, as tall as me….but….,” she furrowed her brows even deeper, and asked again, “won’t it break easily if it’s that long? And isn’t it heavy and annoying??”
“The stronger the power a horn can store, the harder it will get. It was told that even a mithril can’t leave a mark on the Demon Emperor’s Horn. They said, only the Holy Sword has the power to cut the Demon Emperor’s Horn,” I shook my head and said, “and for how heavy and annoying it is, I don’t know, I am not a demon, and I never asked them either. Hahahaha….”
She nodded. “Hmmm, let me ask you again then…How old are you Z?” she stared straight at me with eyes full of curiosity.
‘Ugh.. so she realized that I avoided that question…’
I smiled at her and said, “Take a look at the card on your hand, you see that the edge was cutted off right?”
She looked down to the card on her hand and nodded.
“When you became and adventurer, you will put a drop of your blood onto the magic formation behind the card. Then the card is yours, but the adventurer guild will have the cutted part of the card with them. The card is special, when you die, they will shatter. So, the Adventurer guild will know when you died on a mission. Interesting right?”
“Don’t just change the topic like that!!” she shouted as she pinched my cheek.
“Awawawa…It hurts..it hurts…”
“Why won’t you tell me?” she asked me while glancing upwardly.
‘Auugh…here comes her strongest magic…’
I frowned for a while, then said to her, “Fine…I will tell you…I’m 24 years old this year”
“You lied, your face looks like 17-18 to me!” she said to me.
“That’s why I don’t like to tell people about my age,” I frowned.
“No, he lied!” a voice rang out from the back, It was Harvey’s.
“Back at Rudia city, all the woman adventurer mocked him because he was a 24 years old baby-faced virgin. Even the Brothel rejected him because he looked too young. So he begged the guild master to hide the age on his card,” Alex’s voice was heard as well.
“”AHAHAHAHA”” Harvey and Alex laughed together.
‘Ugh…damn…, that dark age of adventuring…’
“And that’s why I took this escort mission to migrate out of that damned place!!” I shouted at them.
“”AHAHAHAHAHAHA”” they just laughed harder and harder.
“Pfft…” Sakura was holding her laughter beside me.
“So you find it funny too….” I felt stressed and dropped my shoulder dejectedly.
“N-no…i-it isn’t funny at all…! Pfft.” Now I knew that she was just the type that couldn’t hold her laughter.
“Uuuuuuu…..” I miserably dropped my body down on the driver seat and grumbled.
“But you aren’t a virgin anymore aren’t you Z? She is now with you after all!” said Alex.
Sakura was startled and shouted, “Eh! No! I!”
“Yeah, yeah, it was like that for me too. My first night with my wife was also when we were on a mission together. Back then, it was full moon, we were surrounded by a pack of wolves…,” Harvey started to reminisce about her wife again.
“No one want to hear your dirty story!!!” shouted Bernardt. Thankfully, the mushroom’s effects on him were gone already.
I took a peek at her. She was gazing down in silence, but, I saw that her eyes were already starting to get teary.
“No! She is still pure and lovely!! We just met for two days! Of course I haven’t touched her at all!” I shouted at them to defend Sakura.
“””OOOH!””” said the three.
Sakura also looked at me with a surprised expression on her face.
“Hmmm… so we were wrong… You are actually waiting for the marriage…Nice thinking Z, you really need a house before thinking of marriage,” said Harvey.
“Marriage huh…I am already 30…maybe I really need to find one. Does your wife has a younger sister or something Harv?” asked Alex.
“With a bald man like you? Not even my female cow back home wants you. Ahahaha,” answered Harvey.
“Damn you!” grumbled Alex.
“I only need my money…,” said Bernardt as he gazed at the starry sky. His gaze looked somehow lonely, but why should I care?
“Eh! Marriage? That’s…” I took a peek at Sakura again. She was staring at me with her dark brown eyes. I couldn’t really read her face right now, but she just stared at me like she was waiting for my answer.
‘This is where I supposed to be manly!!’ I steeled my mind and prepared to say something really manly.
“Sakura, how old are you?” I asked her as I stared straight at her.
She was startled for a bit as she heard my question, but she then still answered, “E-Eh? I-I am 16…”
“I’m already 24, but Sakura is still only 16. So I will start to save up for a house for now! And when she is 17 and already marriageable, I will ask her to marry me!” I shouted at the three men.
“””OOOOO!!!””” They clapped their hand.
“By the way. How much money do you have right now Z?” asked Bernardt.
I scratched the back of my head and said, “Err… 300 copper or so….”
“Hahahahahaha!! Keep dreaming!!! A house in one year?? You wouldn’t even be able to buy the marriage ring!!” laughed Harvey.
Alex laughed as well, “You got to kill dragons and demons to get enough money to marry in one year, ahahaha!!!!”
“I can give you a loan…you can pay me if you work for free until you die…Fufufufufu…” said Bernardt to me while rubbing his hand like a swindler.
“Just leave me alone!! I will somehow get enough money!!” I shouted at them and threw my face away.
“””AHAHAHAHAHAHA””” they laughed again.
I looked at Sakura that sat beside me. She just gazed at my left hand without saying anything. I didn’t know what she was thinking, but I already said to her that I will ask her hand in marriage after one year.
‘Was that the right thing to do? Do I really want to marry her? Do I really know her? Does she want to marry me? Maybe she is silence because she is thinking the same thing as me?’ I asked myself.
‘No, I don’t care about her past. She is right now here with me. So, I will care for her and protect her. And I will just ask her about her feelings for me one year later. No rush…’ I said to myself.
As I stared at her, she suddenly looked at me and stared back at my eyes. She said nothing. She just came closer to me, took my arm, and nested her head there.