Vermillion - Chapter 31.1
On the following day, after Kei and Aileen had regained their energy with a full night’s sleep, they decided to visit the Cornwell company for a change of pace.
“Why hello there, you two. I hear you’ve got business with me?”
A little while after making the two wait in a room, Holland showed up, looking quite busy. They had heard that the caravan would head back to Satyna in a few days, and he had apparently come over to ask about their business while using some spare time during the preparations for the journey.
“We’re terribly sorry for bothering you while you are busy, but as a matter of fact――”
Despite feeling a little awkward, Kei still explained their current situation — the fact that they could not pass the first rampart as they did not possess citizenship nor permit.
In response, Holland blinked a few times, shocked. Then he revealed a wry smile, responding, “…My goodness. You did not know about the citizenship?”
“…Nope. Unfortunately, we had no one around us who could have told us.”
Kei answered bitterly, folding his arms, resulting in Holland deepening his smile.
“Oh dear, forgive me for that. I went out of my way to hire you two as escorts because I had orders from above. I — and probably all the other merchants — were convinced that you had connections.”
“Ah no, I wasn’t trying to complain or anything.”
Seeing his humble apology, Kei realized that Holland had interpreted his earlier statement as sarcasm, and quickly followed up on it.
“Anyway, Sir Holland. What should we do? I think we can somehow handle stuff like taxes, residence, and so on, but it sounds like we still need citizens to write us letters of recommendation to obtain citizenship ourselves.” Aileen quickly joined in before the atmosphere could turn awkward.
“Ah… yes, the letters.”
“Could you write one for us, pretty please?”
“Unfortunately, no. Officially, I’m a resident of Satyna, so it’d be kinda hard for me to be a citizen of Urvan, you see.” He answered Aileen’s playful request while shrugging in a similar joking manner.
“Ah, okay. Too bad. Though maybe, I mean only if you can, it’d be nice if you could introduce us to someone who could help us.”
“Hmm. Considering it’s you two we’re talking about… I have a much better method to offer.” Holland grinned and lowered his voice. “Actually, I’ve heard they’re planning to very soon hold a martial tournament in Urvan.”
“…A Martial Tournament?”
“Yes, warriors from the Acland Dukedom, as well as the surrounding countries, gather and pit their valor against each other. The champion of the tournament will be awarded the Best in Duchy title, but even those who rank among the winners will be given monetary prizes and awarded honorary citizenship among other things…”
“But that means we’ve got to fight again, doesn’t it?”
Kei nodded in admiration while Aileen’s expression darkened. The fact that Kei had to duel a hot-blooded idiot over her was still fresh in her mind.
“Well, in Kei’s case, he could just show up in the marksmanship section. Unlike in matches fought with swords, spears or on horseback, the participants won’t have to face each other directly in this section.” Holland answered with a smile, having accurately grasped Aileen’s worries.
“Since it’s called marksmanship, I take it there’s more than just bows?”
“Yes. The last time the tournament was held was about 15 years ago, but back then, all kinds of ranged weapons, from bows, crossbows, and even slings, were lumped together in marksmanship. After all, all of them basically share the goal of hitting a target.”
“That said, the prized ranks were filled with archers and crossbow users, whereas sling users had a hard time getting through the preliminaries.”
“You’re saying the rules make it disadvantageous for them?”
“No, it’s simply because not many people around here use slings. As a result, their overall level can’t be compared to that of archers. I mean, while it’s true that poor villages still rely on slings, soldiers and hunters generally prefer using bows.”
Slings were also less flashy than bows and crossbows, so only few would go out of their way and take part in the tournament, according to Holland.
A sling was a simple stringed weapon that used centrifugal force to throw rocks and lead balls. It was easier to make than a bow, and it had the huge advantage that it could be used on the spot as ammo in the shape of rocks could be found almost everywhere. At the same time, slings could exceed some bows in range, and their power was nothing to scoff at either.
As you had to swing a sling around for the throw, it needed some training, but this was rather easy to achieve, so outlaws preferred using slings in the game.
A sling allowed you to throw fist-sized stones over a long distance, and as the projectiles themselves packed some weight, even armor would not protect one from suffering a certain level of damage if hit. A sling attack could break bones, damage internal organs, or even break arms. And since it could be wielded with one hand, unlike a bow, it offered the big advantage of having a free hand to equip a shield.
Though they were hard to use on horseback, they could prove to be more destructive than bows under some circumstances, especially if used in a group. In short, slings had the potential to overpower bows when limited to the force of their impacts.
—Be that as it may, there were exceptions among exceptions that could surpass them, such as Dragon Stinger which could penetrate not only plate armor but even shields.
Now that I think of it, PKers sure liked to throw stones at me…
Kei thought fondly back on his time in the game.
Hearing throwing stones may seem like a joke, however, stones thrown by players skilled in the utilization could virtually be labeled as cannonballs. Particularly when it came to players specializing in stealth, their throws used to be extremely menacing to say the least, and even Kei with his practically maxed out passives had been shot down off his horse on more than one occasion.
Alexei, whose weak point was said to be passives, would have most likely met an even worse fate…
As Kei was thinking that, there was a knock on the door which pulled him back to reality.
“I brought tea~”
A dark-skinned girl carrying a tray with mugs entered the room. It was Holland’s daughter, Edda.
“Ohh, how have you been?”
“Good! Big bro… and sis, it’s been a while!”
Edda smiled innocently at Kei. She said a while but only three days had passed since they met last. But within these few days, Kei’s relationship with Aileen had clearly deepened, and they also went around visiting various offices. These last few days were filled with many incisive events, resulting in Kei feeling as though the period he had spent with the caravan took place a long time ago.
As she put the cups on the table, a thought flashed through her mind, and she slipped into Kei’s arms. Watching her smoothly flop down on Kei’s lap as if she had always belonged there, Holland started to scold her a little, asking her to leave so as to not disturb their conversation, but Kei calmed him down.
She was just a child, after all, and also someone he knew. He felt it would be a little cruel to kick her out right after she brought them tea.
He did not hate her, and Aileen also liked kids so there should be no issue with this. Making up his mind like that, he turned his head to the side, just to see Ailee flashing a beautiful smile filled with an adult’s confidence. Edda, on the other hand, was facing Aileen with slightly puffing cheeks.
Oh, what do we have here? Kei felt a strange sense of danger from the situation, but before he could follow this train of thought, Holland’s voice interrupted him.
“At any rate, Kei, if you take part in the tournament, winning is a foregone conclusion. I’ll get in touch with the branch head too. Since you’ll need an Urvanian’s recommendation as a condition to enter the tournament.”
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“A recommendation again?”
The corners of Kei’s lips went up, forming a sarcastic smile. Seeing how they went so far on insisting with the recommendations, Kei could do nothing else but laugh at it.
“Well, it’d be bad for the city if a bunch of ruffians flowed into the city, using the tournament as pretext. The branch head also wanted to meet with the person who took down the Grande Urs, and it won’t hurt you to build some connections with one of the influential people around these parts, right?”
“Not at all, that sounds like a great proposal. Thanks. Really, I can’t thank you enough.”
“You’re welcome. But well, I plan to leave Urvan in about three days… So I’ll arrange for a meeting within the next two days.”
“Think nothing of it,” Holland replied with a friendly smile and took a sip from his teacup.
“…Big bro, are you planning to appear in some tournament?”
“Yeah. In the martial tournament’s marksmanship section.”
Kei nodded at Edda’s question, who looked at him with sparkling eyes. It wasn’t a duel, but a simple target shooting contest, so he felt pretty relaxed about it.
“Oh, that’s amazing! When will you take part?”
Edda asked while clambering about on his lap, but he did not know how to answer, and thus asked Holland for help with his eyes.
“Err, Sir Holland, do we know the exact date?”
“So far I’ve heard that the start of the tournament will be announced in a few days. Considering the time that’ll be required for the participants to gather in Urvan…I’d say you can expect something around a month.”
Kei and Aileen looked at each other.
It was a longer period than they had expected. However, it was maybe reasonable if you also took into account how long the participants from all over would need to get to Urvan after the announcement of the start date.
What should we do until then…?
Kei pondered. It has been a little more than two weeks since they came to this world. It was a very short time compared to the twenty-something years of his life, but these days had been by far the densest days among them all.
But now that they had reached Urvan, their first goal, he felt as lost as having been tossed smack down in the middle of a vast plain after suddenly being confronted with a month-long downtime. As soon as he saw Aileen looking absentminded next to him, he realized that she was probably thinking the same.
“By the way, what business do you two have in the library? I’ve met many people who wanted to check out the ducal library, but no one was so determined that they’d even attempt to get their hands on a citizenship.”
Holland asked them in a casual, smooth way. But hidden underneath his apparently inoffensive question was the implicit inquiry why they had to go this far to enter the library.
He glanced at Aileen, who shrugged in response as if to say, “isn’t it fine to tell him?”
They haven’t been acquainted for long, but after journeying together, they knew that Holland was not one to entrap people. It was a different question when it came to the quality of his personality and the possibility of a bad influence coming out of it, but Kei judged that it was better to come clean here, and opened his mouth.
“…Actually, the two of us are Outlanders that came from a distant land.”
Thus he started to explain things in order, while keeping the parts related to the game and their original world ambiguous. He told Holland that they had entered a white mist, before suddenly blacking out, just to wake up in the grasslands of this side.
“…And thus we planned to look up various information in the library. About what happened to us. How far away from home we are. And whether it’s possible for us to go back.”
Thinking back on it, they had already talked about this in Tahfu before. Kei thought there was no harm in mentioning it again while he picked up his cup from the table. A mellow fragrance tickled his nose — Oh, could this be chamomile? He made a guess. In the past he drank it in a VR shop on some occasions.
“Well now… That was quite an extraordinary story.” Holland stared outside the open window while brushing his beard.
Just like that, he kept pondering for a while, but eventually he faced the two again, as if he had given up.
“…But well, I suppose it’s possible, considering it’s you two we’re talking about.”
This world was extremely similar to 【DEMONDAL】. Be it magic, miracles, supernatural phenomena, all of them were accepted as objective facts here. Their story about being transferred to this world was certainly wild, but still nothing that could be denied as impossible.
————– End of Part 1 ————