Chapter 1, Part 2
He felt many sharp gazes piercing into him as he walked along the road.
For Tohru, who was very sensitive to that kind of thing, it was incredibly bothersome, but he understood that in addition to being a newcomer, he must look incredibly out of place, so he couldn’t really complain.
He involuntarily let out a sigh.
To his left and right, as far as the eye could see, there were only clusters of shabby houses, a countless number of old, dilapidated buildings lined up side by side. If there hadn’t been any people in them, they would have looked completely abandoned; fissures in the walls had set in and the paint was peeling, and those were the ones that were better off. There were other buildings that leaned dramatically to one side, and water-repellant cloth had been stretched across the crumbling ceilings to defend against rain and wind. It was dangerous, of course, but the ones living there probably didn’t have luxury of worrying about that.
However, the atmosphere on the road around Tohru was not one of deterioration. By no means was it one of luxury or elegance either; there was only air that smelled of mud and earth, and it teemed with life that was a bit unsavory.
Especially the black markets that were often around here.
There were many pedestrians in this area, and, as one would expect from the area, the stores were so trashy you couldn’t even call them “stores”. Both men and women could be seen peddling odds and ends that anyone would hesitate to call “merchandise” atop wooden boxes, including garbage, edible wild plants, and unidentifiable animal flesh. Mixed in with these adults were children in shabby clothing, laughing loudly while running around. Each residence had a pet pig to help dispose of food scraps, and these were also running along the road, oinking and making noise in the same way as the children.
The kingdom was in shambles.
The district had been burned down.
It was bereft of friends and family.
Nevertheless, in order to keep living, they had to keep moving. It wasn’t like they’d reached the point of throwing their lives away and ending it all; they continued to sip from the mud and chew on roots of trees. There were strong-willed people in this underdeveloped place, and amidst all the disorder was a district brimming with life, where talk of hope existed.
For this reason, someone like Tohru definitely stood out—always despondent, with no ambition, and dragging his feet melancholically like a slave.
Tohru was sauntering through the city of Del Solant, specifically the south district where the refugees resided. Fortunately—well, whether or not you could actually call it a good thing was questionable, but the wars had lasted for a long time, so in this area there were lot of abandoned houses for people to move into. People had drifted here from other regions and provinces after being victims of war damage, so attempting to refurbish the houses to settle in wasn’t an unusual prospect. The wandering strangers residing in this district were obviously foreign and didn’t have very pleasant faces, but they weren’t violently ostracized. Because something resembling worldwide peace had finally arrived, the masses had come together to form a kind of mutual aid. Everyone was in the process of rebuilding.
This was a period of post-war disorder.
Ordinary kingdoms, from feudal lords and nobles to knights, were busy rebuilding the nations, so they had no time to be concerned with the needs of common folk. The lower class had to live without relying on the assistance of the upper. The atmosphere in this district had come about to be one of having to protect their futures, no matter what.
Tohru and Akari’s shabby house was also within this district.
Expelled from the village where they had been born and raised, after only half a year of being vagabonds they had found themselves in this city of Del Solant, naturally drifting into the crannies of the district of refugees.
It was just the two of them living in the house—the whereabouts of their parents, relatives and the like were all unknown. Shortly after the wars had ended, their entire clan had scattered—no one even knew whether they were alive or dead. When they left their hometown, they had taken with them as many household belongings as possible; in many ways, they could probably be considered a brash bunch of people. They were much the same as the refugees in this district in that they were incredibly strong-willed individuals, and perhaps it was that quality that had allowed them to struggle to make a living.
“Oh, it’s Tohru.”
An old lady sitting on a roadside bench weaving a wicker basket noticed Tohru and called out to him.
He had forgotten her name, but he recognized her face. He remembered having seen it once or twice while living here. She meant well, but she meddled in others’ affairs–from the mediation of matrimonial disputes to performing simple jobs, she would use her wealth of life experience to micromanage the lives of others living in the district.
“It’s quite unusual to see you outside.”
“Guess so,” Tohru responded noncommittally.
One could imagine what her next remark would be.
“Don’t let Akari-chan do all the work. You should do some too.”
That’s none of your business—Tohru gulped down those words that were about to emerge from his throat.
It was true that he wasn’t working, but that was because Akari was the breadwinner for both of them–even if that wasn’t the most desired outcome. This was because Akari was strangely ignorant in the ways of the world, and as a result her earnings were lackluster at best. It also didn’t help that they were mingling with the refugees, so getting decently-paying work was especially hard.
That was why getting a meal this morning had become such an issue…
“I’ll do some soon…if I feel like it.”
Tohru waved his hand lightly as he passed the old lady by.
He didn’t have any occupation.
It wasn’t like he was currently in between jobs or training to find himself more work either. He had actually registered for work at the guild just for the sake of it, but up to now, he hadn’t actually taken any jobs. He had no money and made no conscious effort to better himself–in short, he was the perfect specimen of a useless human being.
And so, his sister starting to go after him with her hammer was a perfectly natural thing–well, maybe going that far was a bit much, but there were probably many who wouldn’t blame her for taking such measures. However, for Tohru, who was about to be killed, none of this was very desirable.
He didn’t say it to anyone in particular–perhaps he actually said it more to himself, muttering in a cynical tone of voice. Turning around and checking that his trusty hatchet was still on his waist, Tohru set out past the district of refugees and towards the south gate of Del Solant.