The white-robed men searched each person one by one. They took extra care when searching people who were wearing hats or loose clothing as they could be hiding their animal ears or tail underneath.
Most 『Beastman』looked exactly like humans and the only difference was that they had animal ears and tails. It was very easy for beastman to hide those features so it was very hard to differentiate between them and humans. Although rare, there were also beastman who had both human and animal ears called 《Four Ears》.
The white-robed men turned their line of sight at Hiiro and co and started walking towards them. Hiiro could see that Arnold and Muir were anxious and he swore that he could almost hear the sounds of their heartbeat.
It had nothing to do with Hiiro so he remained calm as always but the same could not be said for Arnold and Muir. The men were still heading towards them.
Arnold clenched his teeth, slowly put his hand onto his sword and prepared himself for the worse. Arnold thought about going wild in the plaza but then two people caught his attention. They looked like a parent and child pair; both were wearing hats and showed the same suspicious behaviour as Arnold.
(It can’t be…) Arnold thought.
The sounds of a person running could be heard. That person skilfully slipped passed the white-robed men.
“Hey, I’m running away!”
The child who ran away from the plaza was wearing a hat and looked to be around the age of a primary school student.
White-robe: “It’s that one! Catch it!”
The child desperately tried to escape but unfortunately there were just too many opponents. In the blink of an eye her path was blocked off and she was caught.
White-robe: “I won’t let you escape!”
Child: “Le-let me go!”
The child struggled and hit the man’s arm. While she was struggling her hat fell off her head and it became evident that she wasn’t from the 『Human Race』. On top of her head sat a pair of animal ears, the symbol of the 『Beastman』.
“She’s a 『Beastman』!”
“Hey, don’t let her escape!” The white-robed men exchanged words.
“Hey! Let me go!”
“She’s struggling, that Brat! Huh, this!?”
“Hey, if you’re having trouble just stupefy her.” As soon as one of the men said those words, someone appeared in front of the white-robed men.
“I beg of you! Please let her go!” A woman wearing a hat appealed while kneeing on the ground with her head down.
“Who are you?!” One of the white-robed men asked with a sharp gaze.
“Mu-mum! I told you to run away!” The child cried out. She was a girl judging from her voice and expression. The girl wanted to give her mother a chance to escape by attracting the attention of the white-robed men. But she had failed. Her mother wasn’t the type of person who used their daughter as a sacrifice while they escaped.
Hiiro had also seen those two earlier and like he had thought they were a parent and child duo.
White-robe: “Mum? Oi, take off your hat!”
The hat was taken off the mother and there sat a splendid pair of animal ears, just like the little girl.
White-robe: “According to the report there were two beastman. It’s these two. Alright, let’s bring them along!”
The mother and daughter were forcibly dragged into the wagon. The people around the plaza were stunned that two 『Beastman』were captured.
Despair overcame the mother and daughter and they looked as if they were walking to their deaths. Feeling pity for the pair one of the citizens spoke up,
“Hey! What did the mother and daughter do wrong? That child’s still just a kid, you know?”
The white-robed men stopped moving upon those words. One of them moved towards the citizen who had spoken up.
The white-robed man grabbed onto the citizen’s collar and raised him up into the air with one hand. Then he said unpleasantly in a threatening voice,
White-robe: “You shouldn’t say anything else. I won’t kill you if you do, but I can cause you pain.”
“Uh… Ah… Wah… I get it…” With his neck constricted, the citizen barely managed to squeeze out his words as he grimaced in pain.
The white-robed man threw the citizen onto the ground, glanced at him with cold eyes then turned to return to the wagon.
The other citizens around them wanted to protest against the violence of the man but no one was willing to speak up. They were all afraid of ending up like the citizen from before.
Since the white-robed men had already found what they were looking for, they didn’t notice Arnold or Muir and the two let out a sigh of relief. But then an unexpected incident occurred.
“Ehh ~, this girl has a tail ~. That’s weird~!” A voice spoke out, not so far from Hiiro. He turned around to look and saw a child pointing at Muir.
Hiiro’s gaze landed on Muir. No, to be more exact, it landed on Muir’s tail. Muir was so tense that she had put excess strength into her tail and it came out from underneath her clothes. Unluckily, a nearby child had seen her tail and pointed her out.
Arnold instantly paled and turned around to look at the centre of the plaza. There he saw the white-robed men who had got into the wagon, ready to leave, look towards them.
“You over there! Don’t move!”
Arnold immediately carried Muir in his arms and was ready to flee. However the street was blocked with people.
The white-robed men who were waiting around the plaza proceeded towards Arnold as if ready for a pincer attack. Muir quickly tried to hide her tail but it was already too late, the white-robed men were already advancing towards them.
Muir: “I, I’m sorry, Uncle… I’m sorry!”
Arnold: “It’s not your fault! We should escape from here!”
The surrounding enemy was already approaching them. Helplessly, Arnold drew the great sword from his back.
Arnold: “Don’t leave my side, Muir!”
“You guys go examine that person… No wait, it’s already obvious since that person drew his sword.” One of the white-robed men said while smiling and also drew his sword from his hip. The other white-robed men did the same.
Hiiro pondered over what to do. He had begun travelling with the two under strange circumstances and it didn’t go any further than that. But it was also a waste to lose such a great source of information here.
(But there’s a lot of them…)
Hiiro tried counting the white-robed men with just his eyes. Since Hiiro had been fighting monsters, he was now accustomed to fighting. Nevertheless his level still wasn’t that high.
Even if Hiiro used 《Word Magic》, it took time to write the characters. Since there was an overwhelming number of opponents, it would be difficult for Hiiro to provide Arnold with any assistance.
Besides there was one person amongst the white-robed men that had a different atmosphere. It was the person who had been giving out orders, and that person was now approaching Arnold and Muir.
He was a man in his 30s with a beard and a scary face. He was a handsome dandy man with sharp eyes. He looked like those villains that would appear in the middle of movies.
The man wore a black eye-patch over his right eye and his special trait seemed to be the samurai topknot on his head. Hiiro pondered over whether to call him Eye-patch Bastard or Topknot. Hiiro decided to stick with Topknot since it suited the man perfectly.
Hiiro knew that the man wasn’t ordinary by his appearance but he could also feel it as well. If this was a one-on-one fight, Hiiro would be able to somehow manage with his magic. But it was just suicide against this number of opponents.
Hiiro clicked his tongue and didn’t move from his spot. Arnold probably thought the same as Hiiro since he was remained vigilant while staring at the man.
Topknot: “Hoh, we can kill you here, but the only one we have business with is that beastman over there. It doesn’t seem like you’re a beastman.”
Arnold certainly looked human, since he didn’t have any animal ears.
Topknot: “It isn’t good to protect the beastman.”
Arnold: “Eh! You’re being so narrow-minded!”
Topknot: “… What?”
Arnold: “What’re you saying?! Whether you’re a beastman or a human, all that matters is that you’re living!”
Topknot: “… It matters.”
Topknot: “At least on this continent, 『Beastman』are just as detestable as the 『Demonkin』.”
Topknot: “Their very existence is disgusting.”
Arnold: “Th… That…”
Arnold: “The fact that they exist in this place makes me want to vomit.”
“You’ve rambled for too looooong!” Arnold snapped and swung his sword straight at the man.
The man also drew his sword and easily blocked Arnold’s attack.
Topknot: “What incredible power!”
Arnold had put more force into the sword than expected and the man was surprised.
“Kyyaaaaaah!” Muir’s distressed voice resounded throughout the plaza. Arnold gasped and immediately turned around, there he saw Muir being captured by the enemy.
The man tore the hat off Muir’s head and her animal ears were exposed. The citizens started to make a ruckus. Topknot looked towards Muir and muttered, “So she was a beast.”
“Urgh?!” Arnold received an impact from behind and dropped his sword; the sword fell to the ground with a clang. The man sheathed his sword, looked down at Arnold and said,
“You shouldn’t throw away your life. Since you’re a human.”
Topknot: “Take her with us.”
“N-noo! Uncle! Unnccclee!” Muir screamed and cried while being taken away. Hiiro still couldn’t make any moves yet so he just closely watched the scene.
Arnold’s conscious began to fade and the last thing he saw was his beloved daughter getting forced into the wagon.
Arnold: “Muir… Damn it… Damn… It…”
Arnold: “Arg… Argh…”
When Hiiro saw that Arnold had finally regained conscious he sighed and said,
“Are you up?”
Arnold: “… Where is this…?”
Arnold still hadn’t completely regained consciousness and stared at the ceiling in a daze.
After the white-robed men had left, Hiiro couldn’t just leave the unconscious Arnold in the middle of the plaza so he carried him to the inn.
“We’re at the inn. Sleeping for two hours is just too much.”
Arnold: “Two hours… Two hours… For two hours?!”
Arnold suddenly bolted up and tried to get off the bed.
Arnold felt a sharp pain on the back of his neck as if he’d just received an electric shock. He immediately hit the back of his neck and his body stiffened up. He tried to get off the bed but couldn’t and dropped back down.
“Looks like you were hit pretty hard. You’ve got a bruise there.”
A black bruise had formed at the back of Arnold’s neck probably because he was hit with the sword’s hilt.
“Kuh… That guy…” Arnold managed to say while grinding his teeth. He rubbed the back of his neck while desperately trying to get off the bed. He looked around for his sword and equipped it.
“Where are you going?”
Arnold: “Obviously, I’m gonna go save Muir!”
Arnold was unsteady on his feet since he still hadn’t fully recovered. Hiiro sighed at Arnold and said,
“That’s fine, but do you know where they are?”
Arnold stopped upon hearing Hiiro’s words. Arnold’s impatience showed through even though Hiiro could only see his back. Muir was that important to Arnold.
Arnold didn’t have any information on the white-robed men so he didn’t know their whereabouts.
Arnold: “If it’s only been two hours, they couldn’t have gotten far! If I look everywhere, I’ll find her!”
“That’s an inefficient way of doing things.”
Arnold: “Then do you have a better plan?!”
Arnold suddenly came towards Hiiro and grabbed the front of his collar. Arnold was frustrated and blinded by rage.
“Let go of me.”
Hiiro had punched Arnold in the stomach. Arnold dropped to his knee and held onto his stomach.
The pain calmed Arnold down and Hiiro sat onto the bed.
“You won’t accomplish much if even I could land a hit on you.”
Arnold: “I, I know that! But even now Muir is… By those guys… Kuh…”
Arnold became enraged again. Hiiro realized that there was some kind of deep connection between Arnold and those guys. Since Arnold had been on the human continent for a long time it wouldn’t have been odd for him to butt heads with those guys.
“Who on earth are they?”
Arnold: “… Are you gonna lend me a hand, Hiiro?”
“I’m not that kind of person.”
Arnold had expected that kind of answer from Hiiro and clicked his tongue.
Arnold: “Then there’s no reason to tell you!”
“I want to know. So tell me.”
Arnold: “I refuse!”
“… Did you forget, Old Man?”
Arnold: “… What?”
“You were unconscious at the plaza, Old Man.”
“Should I just have left you, who looked like a dead frog, lying there?”
“Who do you think dragged you here?”
“Urgh… Hah, got it. But, we don’t have the time to talk right now. I wanna hurry up and find them!” It was only natural for Arnold to say that. There was nothing more important to Arnold than Muir.
Hiiro knew that from the time he’d first met them, the interactions at the plaza also made it more obvious. So in order to give Arnold some peace of mind and to proceed with the conversation, Hiiro decided to tell him some information,
“… Don’t worry. They’re still in this town.”
Arnold brought his face closer to Hiiro and Hiiro glared at him while trying to distance himself.
“He-hey is that true, Hiiro! Is Muir still in this town?”
It would have been fine if Arnold’s eyes only shone with expectation. But his eyes were bloodshot and his nostrils were flaring. At this rate, Hiiro was going to be attacked by a pervert.
“Ah, the rumour is that they’re meeting with someone here. They’re staying on the east side of town, because that person hasn’t arrived yet.”
Arnold: “If that’s the case, we should go now!”
“Wait a second.”
Arnold: “What is it?!”
“I gave you information, on top of that, I even dragged you here. So compensate me, Old Man.”
Arnold: “Guh… But Muir…”
“It’s not that long of a story, is it? Do you have time to hesitate, Old Man?”
Arnold: “Urgh ~ Fine! I got it! Listen carefully.”
Arnold began talking about the white-robed men out of desperation.
The organisation’s name was 《Beast Cage》. Its purpose was the control and elimination of beastman from the human continent. The members of the organisation all held some kind of prejudice against beastman and loathed them.
They wandered the continent in search of beastman and when they found them, they acted according to their principles. This time, they seem to have obtained information on the mother and daughter and came to this town in order to catch them.
Arnold had also been caught by them in the past and was sold as a slave. It was just as Hiiro had thought, they had butted heads before.
Since Arnold understood better than anyone how dangerous the white-robed men were, he wanted to rescue Muir as soon as possible.
There were many people who excelled in battle in beast cage. Arnold had already experienced first-hand how strong and frightening they were. The white-robed men had to be exceptional in order to capture beastman, who had higher physically abilities than humans.
It was an organisation where the strong gathered. There were many other skilled adventurers in that organisation, just like the man who had defeated Arnold.
“I see, so they travel the continent…”
Arnold: “… Hey, oi, aren’t you uninterested in other people? What piqued your interest this time?”
It was only natural for Arnold to ask that question. Ever since Arnold had met Hiiro, he had always insisted that he wasn’t interested in other people. He didn’t even feel prejudice towards Arnold and Muir, who were beastman. To Arnold, Hiiro didn’t even seem human, since he knew nothing about this world’s common sense.
It was strange for Hiiro to become interested in the《Beast Cage》, an organisation that he’d only just met. Then Hiiro answered Arnold’s question,
“Hm? I’m not really interested in them.”
Arnold: “Hah? But you asked about them!”
“I’m interested in the book they have.”
Arnold: “… Hook1)Japanese word play.?”
“It’s book. Book. Why would I be interested in a hook? Stop messing around.”
Arnold: “M-my bad, my bad. So you’re talking about a book. Why’re you bringing it up now?”
“They had books in their wagon. I saw some of the book titles, one of them was called 『Gourmet’s Travelling Journal』, which I really want to read.”
“But, there was one book I couldn’t confirm. I was only able to read『World’s Best! Girl’s…』. I thought I could guess what the title was by listening to your story, Old Man.”
Everything was to fulfil Hiiro’s desire. Hiiro never changed. Arnold felt relieved and shocked at the same time.
Arnold: “Girl’s… Hey… It’s that right? Can’t you guess it?”
“Well, they travel the world so it’s hard to say. I want to look at the contents…” Hiiro said seriously.
Seeing that, Arnold became uncomfortable and was conflicted about whether to leave Hiiro behind or not. But instead he asked Hiiro,
“He-hey Hiiro, that’s everything, so can we go now?!”
Arnold wanted to save Muir as soon as possible. Hiiro hummed in agreement and stared at Arnold.
Arnold: “Wh-what is it?”
Hiiro thought for a while. He could separate from them and travel alone but then he’d lose valuable information about the beastman continent. Arnold was also quite knowledgeable when it came to food and knew how to cook plenty of delicious things so he would also lose the chance to eat Arnold’s cooking.
If he stayed with them, he could continue to eat delicious food. Of course he had more freedom when travelling alone but staying with Arnold and Muir had more advantages.
Hiiro was also curious about the book, such a thick book would surely contain information about this continent. Since the book had sequels, it should contain an abundance of information on this world. Hiiro was overcome with the urge to read it.
It was certainly bothersome to lend Arnold a hand since it was highly probable that they would have to fight with the extraordinary man who had defeated Arnold.
(I should take advantage of the commotion and steal the book…)
They hunt beastman so even if he did rob them, Hiiro’s conscious would be clear. While thinking that, Hiiro nodded and got off the bed.
“He-hey Hiiro…?” Arnold had stayed silent this whole time but when he saw Hiiro stand up, he called out to him.
“Alright, let’s go steal that book, Old Man.”
“Muir’s the priority here!” Arnold voice echoed throughout the inn.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Japanese word play.|