Chapter 14 – Fortress on the Hiragis border (2/3)
We leisurely walked forward, checking out the state of the refugee camp on the way. Most people probably escaped with nothing but the clothes on their back. Many of them did not look too good. There were quite a few that were just lying down under the same makeshift tent with their eyes resembling the dead. They seemed so lifeless.
“I wonder if they have enough to eat?”
We could see a lot of people that seemed to have lost a lot of weight in a short time.
“As far as I know, both the Church and the empire are sending aid regularly….”
Even as she said that, Ann sounded dubious of her own words.
“We might need to consider staying longer.”
Our current objective, the Oracle we received, didn’t specifically mention anything about the people of Hiragis, however that doesn’t mean they have nothing to do with it at all. To save Hiragis, we can’t just leave its citizens in a near death state like this.
“Let me deliver Fran on my own then when the time comes.”
“Indeed. I will come along as well and we might as well make a detour to visit my family.”
The trip will go faster with fewer people and Ellie can just Teleport them back at the end. I don’t want to split the party if at all possible, but that sounds like a much more efficient way of doing things.
“Don’t worry about me. I’m not in that much of a hurry and you provide good training while I’m with you people.”
The fact that I accompanied her in those training matches for the last few days might’ve backfired on me. Well, she really became a lot more docile after getting trashed by me that one time, so it’s not really that urgent to get rid of her now.
We got through the refugee camp and reached the main street that led towards the fortress. The street was pretty wide, with stalls and stands scattered here and there along the way. The place was somewhat bustling with people.
It seems there were quite a number of people that didn’t have enough to eat, but there were many that were able to have meals at the food stands in general. Apparently, not the whole camp was starving.
“That smells good. Anyone want to eat something?”
We might be busy once we reach the fortress, so we should eat while we can.
“Better not. Places like this are expensive,” Ellie objected.
“Wouldn’t the price be mostly the same in the fortress as well?”
We could eat from the reserves in my Inventory, but it would be better if we could eat something that’s freshly prepared.
So we asked the price from a stall we came across that was selling meat skewers, but it wasn’t that expensive in the end. It seems by being on the front line, there is a steady supply of meat, so the price is pretty stable.
By the way, we procured enough empire currency while we were still in the kingdom capital. The denominations were the same; what was different was basically just the designs on the coins. The exchange rate was nearly one to one, with the kingdom currency a tad cheaper, but we can more or less treat them interchangeably.
You can even use the kingdom currency as is in larger business deals, and Adventurer’s Guilds and Merchant’s Guilds can exchange your money in place, so there is not much inconvenience to keep using one.
I bought one meat skewer to taste-test it first. It was properly flavored with salt, pepper, and some other kind of spice. The meat was a bit too hard, but it was cut into proper bite sizes, so it wasn’t difficult to eat, and the more you chewed, the more the flavor permeated your mouth.
“This is quite good. I would like everything you have on there, granny!”
There were about twenty of them currently on the roast, so everyone would get two. Even a single one had quite a bit of meat on it, so two is perfect for an in-between-meal snack.
As we were eating and waiting for some of the skewers to be ready, Sati lightly tapped on my shoulder.
“Hmm, what is it?”
Where Sati was looking, a cat-eared child was looking at us while salivating.
About seven or eight years old, I would guess? Beastkin tend to live in isolated communities, so only adults frequent cities in general, so this was the first time I saw a beastkin child. She seemed to resemble Sati quite a bit; a small and cute kid.
Until now, no one approached us due to being afraid of Syrah-chan, but it seems her hunger won out in this case.
I handed another meat skewer to Sati, who held it out to the kid. She timidly stepped closer and accepted the skewer.
She gulped audibly and was about to bite into the freshly roasted meat, but she stopped just before she did.
“What is it? Aren’t you going to eat it?”
When Sati asked that, the girl answered that she would bring it to her mother and little sister instead. Well then, two more for her then.
Then the small cat-eared child held the three meat skewers very carefully and started running. Taking a good look at her, she seemed to be barefoot as well…..
“Hey, granny, how’s business? Can the people here eat properly?”
“So-so. They don’t exactly starve, but it’s far from easy for most. I have this stall, so I don’t have to worry about food, but there aren’t many jobs around here.”
So it was exactly as it seemed.
“Also, the people who can still work have been conscripted by the soldiers, which is bad for business for me as well.”
Conscripted, huh. Of course. If they want to get their country back, they don’t really have any choice but to do that.
According to granny, they weren’t exactly forcing anyone and even gave them a token amount of money to start out, but in reality, they had even less option to refuse than adventurers could in case of an emergency request from the Guild.
“Haahh. Who knows what will happen to this place too. The big-shots say that they will be getting back the kingdom in short order, but….”
“Who knows. We’ve just arrived, so we don’t really know much either.”
There is no way I would say something like ‘Just leave it to us!’ so easily here.
“I guess there is no use complaining about it to you adventurer youngsters. Here, the last one.”
When we finished our talk and got the last meat skewer, Sati was surrounded by beastkin children. She was sitting down and listening to the children’s stories. From what I could hear, they heard about us from the kid just now. So they were lured in by the promise of food.
“Just eat that for now,” I said to Ann as I gave her the last skewer. We don’t have enough skewers left to give the children anyway, so we might as well give them some of the large amount of rice I have in my Inventory.
“Everyone, this is my master, Masaru-sama. He’s an amazing mage who’s an A rank adventurer.”
When I stepped closer to check on them, I got introduced. Then an ‘oooh’ sound came from the kids.
Though I’m not her master, but her husband.
“A-and the person with the armor back there?”
One of the kids asked in a trembling voice about Syrah-chan, who was accompanying me.
“My name is Syrah. I’m also Masaru-sama’s subordinate.”
The children seemed deeply impressed by this information. Especially since she looks like she’s pretty strong.
Well, I guess she is indeed as strong as her appearance suggests by now.
“So, why have they all gathered here?”
Though I can imagine from what I’ve managed to overhear with Aural Detection.
“They say they’re hungry…..”
The question is whether they just want some snacks, or if they’re really starving.
“Do they not get any food?”
“The rations from the empire are not enough by itself and as for the food the Church hands out……we’re last on the list.”
“Is that true?”
The beastkin kids nodded to Ann, who came over to see what was happening.
It seems beastkin tend to get chased out of the food distribution line. Even if they try to queue up at the end of the line, rarely does the food last until then. They don’t have enough to feed everyone here.
However, that distribution only happens every few days, so the relatively low number of beastkin would not pick a fight with humans because of that. The problem is with the empire’s food distribution instead, as one of the older looking kids explained.
At first, there was more than enough. There were plenty of jobs to do as well, so you could supplement it with your own earnings if you needed it.
However, two month ago, the fortress was finally repaired and the camp was fully built, so the jobs were gone. Furthermore, the workers were suddenly taken away to serve as soldiers.
Then, maybe because the number of people dropped, or perhaps to give it to the soldiers instead, the amount of food received decreased. It’s not nothing, but since they decreased the portions that were barely enough to begin with, there is nothing they could do but go hungry instead.
Even if they wanted to do something about it, they always take away the ones that are the most able bodied.
What remains are the elderly that are far past their prime, the womenfolk, and the young children.