༺ Nemea’s Cat (3) ༻
When I came out of the store, the sun was still shining brightly on the street.
I had no way to know the exact time, but looking at the sun’s placement in the sky, it’s probably around 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
“May Mars bless you, my friend~ you too, little one~”
Nemea, the witch, waved at both me and Luna as we left the store. Moments after, she closed the door without leaving us the time to answer her back.
The moment she was out of my sight, I was finally able to heave a sigh of relief. It really felt similar to the experience of coming back safely from a straight trip to the wolf’s den.
“Hassan, you can’t trust that woman.”
Luna, who had been in a bad mood after being exposed to Nemea’s relentless teasing, finally opened her mouth and uttered those words of caution.
Her narrowed eyebrows and stuck-out lips, forming a cute pout, told me all I needed to know about her first impressions of the witch.
I couldn’t help but ask.
“That woman is too suspicious. She’s not an ordinary person. She must be a monster in disguise!”
Damn it, what are you even talking about again?
“Why do you think so?”
“Her chest is the size of a human head! No one in Ideope had such a big bust. She is surely a bad person.”
I don’t know what kind of calculations she went through in that dull head of hers to determine that a big-chested woman equated to a bad person. Maybe Luna, who was showing some symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome, thought it was a matter of course.
“She’s the one that’s paying us, don’t needlessly badmouth her.”
Although we were already far from the vicinity of the store, I was still afraid the witch may have heard us.
It wouldn’t be weird since she called herself a witch. Maybe she was using some kind of magic I wasn’t aware of to overhear our conversation? For a witch, that felt like a plausible scenario.
“At any rate, I just don’t feel good about her. Can’t we just give up this job and do something else?”
“Oi, you think I have a lot of friends that can provide quests with a reward of 2 silvers? Does it look easy to you? We still need money to eat, you know.”
“And you want us to do that just because you don’t like that witch?”
Luna shut her mouth completely after I pointed out the unreasonableness of her argument with a harsh scolding.
She probably had a lot she wanted to say but couldn’t find the right words for them, or maybe she was just sulking and didn’t want to talk anymore.
My sister usually kept her mouth shut whenever she got angry.
Like a turtle that retreated into its shell, I would see her tongue hide behind the confines of her sealed-shut mouth. From then on she would start acting like an iron fortress that rebounded every attempt at striking a conversation with her. Well, that’s how it usually went with that troublesome sister of mine.
From experience, I knew that the best course of action is to leave such a person alone for a while.
So, we walked down the street in total silence, no words were exchanged between us.
The situation was a little bit uncomfortable but I had to stay strong here. If I relented now, she might get used to the idea of sulking to get what she wants. I shouldn’t try to soothe her anytime soon. Well, that’s how it should be.
Anyway, our new destination was clear. The witch said that her cat, or the hell whatever she was raising, would probably be frolicking around in an underground aqueduct.
Underground waterways were a very familiar place to me as I used to go in and out of them when I was living my life as a slave.
Of course, that was back in Kalkata. But, I didn’t see any reason why it would be any different here in Sodomora.
They all were damp and smelly places with enclosed corridors that made you nauseous just thinking about them. Lepers and vagabonds of all forms infested its every corner, spread all over like a horde of plaguing rats, laughing gloomily with shriveled and dismal eyes that had lost all hopes in life. They were the kind of people who didn’t mind going to any and all lengths for the most minuscule of benefits, as they had lost any attachment to life. Going fully prepared to such a place was strictly advised.
“Hey, you’ve said that you’ve been here for a few months. Do you know any general store around here?”
I asked her, thinking that she would have stopped sulking by now. But, contrary to my expectations, she didn’t respond a single bit, merely glancing at me with eyes that seemed to express that she was still angry with me.
If it was my sister, I’d have started rubbing her hair while sweet-talking her. “You’re so annoying,” she’d have replied while feeling slightly shy and embarrassed.
“There’s one there.”
As if sensing my discomfort, Luna reluctantly spoke in a high-pitched voice that did little to hide her annoyance.
『Ruth’s General Store』
That’s what the sign was showing.
A bell started ringing in a high-pitched tone when I opened the door. The first thing I could see inside the store was a cloud of dust blasting out of it and all sorts of rubbish and junk stacked all around in messy piles. This indeed feels like a general store, alright.
It was just like that small general store that you could see in almost any neighborhood or the mini stationary store in front of your primary school as a kid.
“Who is it?”
Asked a middle-aged man with thick muscles as he trudged out of the store. A necklace with a square plate reflecting a bluish tint was hanging around his neck.
It was the identification tag of the adventurer’s guild. A tag that exhibited his identity as a bronze-tier adventurer.
He looked like a clerk or maybe the store owner? But it seemed that he was also an adventurer.
Luna really took me to the right place this time. They even had things that we would definitely need and some that I didn’t even think of before but would be useful on our journey, nonetheless.
“What do you need?”
“We’re going down to the underground waterways. We need torches and preserved food, do you have them?”
“Ah… Right. The underground aqueduct. A lot of people are heading there these days, I have everything you need.”
The bronze-tier middle-aged adventurer handed me a package that looked as massive and heavy as the military gear I used to wear during my time of service. The volume was rather big and the weight quite significant, it seemed to contain many things. I wasn’t sure if all of it was necessary or not.
“A torch, wood for making bonfires, dry rations, water, bandages, insect-repelling herbs… I swear by Lord Mars that nothing necessary for your trip is missing.”
“Can I check what’s inside?”
“You’re free to do so as long as you do it under my supervision.”
“Give me a minute…”
After asking the owner’s permission and opening the package I could see all kinds of necessary-looking items as he had informed me.
When it comes to items that were bundled in a bag, some bastards in Kalkata would often replace the goods with stones. Taking that horrible experience into account, I couldn’t be careless. But by the looks of it, it seems there wasn’t such a thing in Sodomora.
“How much is it?”
I asked after packing all the things again.
“It’s only 50 coppers.”
50 coppers — a little more than I thought.
“You think it’s a little expensive, right? But there’s a reason for this. I’m charging you 10 more coppers for a raincoat.”
“Yes, this city’s underground waterways are poorly managed, putrid and turbid water fall from all directions, flooding the corridors. You’ll end up drenched from the stray splashes or direct showers if you don’t wear something appropriate, especially this pink-haired girl…”
The shopkeeper glanced at Luna.
“You can’t go there without shoes too. If you buy sandals, I’ll sell them to you along with two raincoats for 50 coppers, making a total of 1 silver for everything.”
Damn, 1 silver. Although I was getting 2 silvers from this quest it also meant that 1 silver coin from my reserve funds had to be used too which drastically reduced the gains for this quest.
Feelings that I was somehow being deceived began building up in my heart, right until the owner hammered the final nail into the coffin that was my feelings.
“Listen to me before you regret it later. You’re from the Mars Guild, right? That’s the only guild that accepts Samaritans as far as I know. I’m from there too, so I’m selling it cheap, as consideration for a fellow guild member.”
Just as I was humming in hesitation, Luna closed the gap between us and spoke quietly in a whispering tone.
“I don’t need sandals, Hassan. I like walking on my bare feet.”
To be frank, I’m not sure if she walks on her bare feet because she likes it or because she can’t afford to buy shoes. But, in any case, I think that Luna needed sandals too.
No matter where you have lived previously, the sewers weren’t a place that was sanitary enough to walk on barefoot.
And because feet were also called the second heart for humans, close attention must be paid to them.
“Sigh, 1 silver. Alright, I’ll take it.”
“Wise decision, Samaritan, you definitely won’t regret it. I don’t know why anyone bothers visiting these underground waterways. Still, if you find anything that looks useful, bring it here. I’ll buy it from you.”
Although it felt like I was cutting off a part of my own flesh, parting with my precious fund reserves, I still decided to agree to his deal and pay one silver for the underground waterway exploration package, a pair of raincoats, and sandals for Luna.
The term ‘Raincoat’ was very appropriate since it was just a hood that was attached to a sack or some straws hewn together… maybe. I wasn’t too sure about the materials, as they looked all kinds of weird.
Of course, I didn’t have any right to complain since most, if not all, clothes sold for less than 1 silver were this crude and sloppy.
“What do you think?”
I put on the ragged coat and then asked Luna that question. She narrowed her eyebrows and then casually replied in a leisurely tone.
“You look like a murderer.”
“How about me, Hassan? It’s a little long, isn’t it? Don’t I look dumb in it? I sure feel dumb, at least.”
The raincoat that barely fit me, was long enough to reach Luna’s feet.
She looked like a kid that was wearing an adult’s clothes. It was very funny to look at. But, even though it was a bit regrettable, in a way, I also felt relief that her body was now a lot less exposed.
Luna’s usual clothes attract way too much attention. They were perfect to provoke unnecessary quarrels or cause troublesome incidents. It would be a lot better for us today if she dressed properly like this.
“It looks good, don’t worry. Are the shoes fitting?”
Well, I say shoes but it felt more like sandals with two strings strapped on a thick leather plate. Although it wasn’t much, the difference should be enormous compared to walking barefoot.
Luna looked at her feet and then replied in a slightly annoyed tone.
“I feel a bit heavy wearing them. Maybe, because I’m used to walking barefoot. But… I like it. You didn’t have to buy them for me, though. S-So, thank you, Hassan.”
Her gratitude left me a little dazed.
Even though I had lived for almost two decades and a half I was still a little clueless as to what kind of expression I was supposed to make after someone praised me or showed their appreciation.
“I’ll pay you back later.”
Or so she said while smacking her lips in resolution.
“How cute, it’s good to be young. Now that I think of it, me and my wife also explored this and that together when we were your age. Well, take this, it’s a map of the underground waterways issued by the Sodomora government office. It would normally cost 5 coppers but consider it a free service.”
Free service? Damn, I never thought I’d get a favor from others. This is such a nice shop.
I need to memorize the location of this store. I’ll definitely come here again to stock up on items before adventuring.
“Check this out! It’s a water puddle! It’s so comfortable to walk on it with shoes.”
Luna began running around the mud and the still water puddles to the point where the newly-bought shoes were all wet from the mud and water. Seeing her doing that while wearing an oversized raincoat made her look exactly like a little kid.
“Well, that’s the point of buying shoes. You’ll be able to walk over irritating terrains and substances without having to feel any of them. It’s really convenient that way.”
“Oh! S-So it’s like that, huh? You’re even smarter than I initially thought you to be, Hassan.”
Was this really a matter of being smart or not? I felt like I was being teased rather than praised, damn it!
After running around for a long time, Luna finally came back to my side and calmly followed me to our destination.
She seemed to be feeling so good that it swept away all the negative feelings she had for me following the argument we had, just after leaving the witch’s house.
The only thing I could think about after seeing this was that in addition to showing symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome she seemed to be showing signs of ADHD as well. Will I be able to heal her by slapping her a little as I did with Daphne?
I was seriously considering that option while wondering if the terrifying mother of the night, Knox, would appear again if I did slap her.
“Look here, Hassan. I think this is it.”
Luna, who was vigorously walking beside me, suddenly said with a really discouraged tone.
It seems that the cause of her loss of enthusiasm was what she was looking at right now. Luna was staring straight down at a dark and gloomy-looking hole in the middle of the road.
According to the owner of the general store, this was the entrance to the underground waterways.
The strange, slightly eerie sound of the wind coming out of it was like the wails leaking out from the depths of the abyss. I felt like I could hear the cry of beasts and the screams of people if I listened carefully.
Although Kalkata’s waterways were disgustingly dirty they didn’t feel as menacing as this one. Damn, do we really need to go there?
At that time, Luna came closer while blankly peering into it. She then softly whispered in a quivering tone.
“…Those who dared to come here… Abandon all hope!”
“It’s what’s written in Pluto’s underground ruins. From ancient times, many underground places have been discovered to be connected to Pluto’s ruins. M-Maybe this is one of them.”
Luna took a deep breath after muttering out that disturbing piece of information.
I felt very nervous because, although we were just stepping into an underground aqueduct, it felt more like stepping into the gates of hell.
“Didn’t she say the cat was named Whitey? Won’t it come out if we just call it?”
“Oi, no matter how much you want to avoid going inside, isn’t that too far-fetched?”
“You never know, it just might work. Whitey, Whitey, are you here? Answer me if you are…”
Luna screamed into the hollow halls of the dark hole and listened carefully, praying for a response. But, no answer came back, shattering her naive hopes.
“Th-This is weird, why isn’t it coming out.”
“Of course, it won’t come out if you say it like this. You need to use cat language, you dummy.”
“Is that so? Meow, meaow!”
Damn, should I really be forming a party with her?
Remember guys, big-breasted women are not to be trusted. Or so would Luna say, not that I’d disagree with her… Anyway, thanks for reading and see you later. I had a lot of fun translating the next chapter, it’s gonna be a blast.
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