Chapter 28: Heaven’s Way (2)
The next morning, the two headed straight for the main street. On their way, Mosla realized that Lucid knew nothing of the city (or the continent of Debussy as a whole, to be more exact) and explained a few things here and there. For example, this city was called “Nox,” and the most isolated city in the Republic of Buono. As such, it hadn’t always been so big. By all means, it had little political, commercial, or even military value. The only reason it had been able to flourish this way had been solely thanks to the people.
In the past, Nox had only been a stopping point for adventurers seeking to climb over the Great Mountains, but when the then ruling prince began his reign of terror, the people had been forced to flee. Many of them inevitably found safety in the isolation of Nox, and this was how the city came to be so populated.
“Why here? Couldn’t they have gone to other places?”
Mosla scratched his neck and continued to explain. “Well, there’s two reasons for that. The first is that it’s hard to get to the city from the principality. There’s a swamp, the “Labyn,” named so because of its size and natural resemblance to a maze. I don’t know the details, so don’t ask. Anyway, they said it took two months to get through it. It’s not impossible, obviously, which is why people were able to get there, but it still kept law enforcers away. They just weren’t willing to tread through Labyn to chase after citizens. That’s the first reason. The second reason is that it’s in a good spot to get to the Great Mountains. This is the only place without any monster dwellings at the foot of the mountains, so if people ever come to take them away, they can just run away into the mountains.”
As more people gathered, rumors about the town began to spread throughout the entirety of Debussy, leading to more and more refugees flooding in. Though they were all from different backgrounds, they were united through the fact that they had all escaped with nothing but the clothes on their backs. This allowed them to work together in expanding the town, with the promise of a new, better life. Of course, soldiers had marched to retrieve all the escapees, but for the reasons Mosla had described, they faced great difficulty even approaching the town. The few soldiers who had made it through Labyn were in no state to return to the principality, either due to the rain blocking their path, or because of their extensive injuries.
“People got hurt?” asked Lucid.
“Well, that’s what I heard. Of course, this all happened a long, long time ago, and it’s all been passed down by mouth throughout the generations. We don’t know how accurate this all is.”
All they knew was that people from all over the continent had gathered into the town, slowly expanding until it reached today’s size. Even after the tyrant had been removed from power, most of the population chose to remain in the town, despite the fact they were now free to return to their old lives. Moreover, Buono’s policies had changed as well. They named the town a “Neutral Border Territory,” granting them amnesty as long as they paid their taxes regularly. The policy was implemented by officials who thought the city could be of use to the principality, given that its size would yield a fair amount of tax money, and was well received by the townspeople. As such, the principality was rather busy sending officials to oversee the management of the territory.
“But I thought it was hard to reach.”
The first officials who had been sent had had quite the terrible time trying to reach the city. However, “where there is a will, there is a way,” and with the combined forces of unnamed people, the swamp area had been mapped out, though perhaps that was a bit of an overstatement. The map showed no details, only a path that led from the town to the outside. After the arrival of the first official, construction began to raise a bridge over the swamp, which is why people could come and go as they pleased without worrying about Labyn. This in turn led the people to raise walls around the borders of the town, to protect themselves from the occasional wild beasts and monsters who came down from the Great Mountains. In the end, the people had established one of the top three biggest cities in the Principality of Buono.
“The reason for this massive wall is that the town expanded enough to be a full-fledged city.”
The people then named it “Nox,” so that it could become a city that brings hopes to others.
“Of course, there might be more towns like yours that just aren’t known to the public, but Nox is officially the closest city to the Great Mountains. It also has an active trading system since there are many merchants from both the principality and neighboring countries. That’s why it’s no longer seen as the refugee town it once was.”
Mosla helped Lucid inquire about the peasant town. Some of the food vendors seemed to remember the townspeople, but no one knew about their disappearance or whereabouts. Once the hunter brought the disappointed Lucid back to his house, he began to lay down some options for the future.
“For now, you should stay here. It’s not easy for a child to live alone in the city, especially not with injuries like yours. So just rest here while you heal.”
Lucid seemed confused by this proposition. “Why? Why… Why are you going so out of your way to help me?” He asked.
“… Even if this is no longer a refugee town, there are still a lot of people who run away and find shelter here. I’m also one of those people. I really can’t go into detail, but I also ran away to this place.”
“But… I didn’t run away.”
“Yes,” Mosla answered, chuckling. “I believe you now. But that’s not what matters. Anyway, I had a wife and a child, before coming here. He’s around your age.”
“Why aren’t they here with you?”
“We ran into trouble on our way.”
That was the last thing Mosla said. Though Lucid was young and still rather naïve, he knew what this meant. He chose to remain quiet, as he had no idea how to respond. Mosla simply sat there, holding on to his cup, looking neither sad nor agonized. He looked calm, which in many ways seemed worse.
The next morning, Mosla climbed up the mountain again to resume his work as a hunter, though he also gathered herbs and firewood. He had left Lucid at home to rest, but the child instead chose to use the time to ponder over magic. Now that he was able to recreate fire and praete (slipping magic), he looked for other forms of magic he could potentially work on.
Two months later, Lucid had recovered enough to accompany Mosla into the mountains. New flesh had grown over the wound at his shoulder, leaving a scar, and he had no issue moving the joint at all. His ribs had also healed enough, whether due to the healer’s medicine or the natural course of time. Lucid had been the one to plead to Mosla to let him accompany the hunter in his endeavors. He simply wasn’t comfortable with the current arrangements, staying home and not doing anything at all to help. Mosla had agreed on the spot, and though he was concerned about the boy’s injuries, he was surprised to see that Lucid had no issue following along.
The hunter taught the young boy how to set traps for animals and distinguish the many herbs, and after two more months, Lucid felt comfortable enough in his knowledge to gather herbs while Mosla set traps around. And though Mosla had been surprised at the boy’s ability to hike mountains, he had been most taken aback at the marketplace. They had gone to sell furs and herbs when Lucid began to adeptly sum the various costs. Children well versed in math were no longer a common sight. Everyone could do one-digit calculations, of course, but higher numbers required more complicated knowledge. Yet Lucid, barely ten years of age (at least going by his looks), even multiplied without the slightest hesitation.
“You gave us 24 Coopers for a bundle.” Lucid had explained. “We have eight here, so you have to give us 192 Coopers total.” The merchant had been nothing short of fascinated, asking all sorts of questions and delighting every time Lucid answered them correctly. “Goodness,” the merchant said, “why don’t you work for me instead? Doesn’t that sound better than hiking up that mountain every day? I’ll have to see how you do, of course, but with your calculating skills, I could definitely give you some extra money. How about it?”
Even Mosla thought this was a good offer. Regardless of how good he was at it, Lucid was still much too young to be working in the mountains, and it would be much better for him to work at the store, with the merchant. Lucid took some time to consider the merchant’s words and Mosla’s encouragement, but it wasn’t a hard decision at all. Even Lucid agreed that doing calculations would be much more fun than going up the mountains. Moreover, he had a debt to Mosla that he had to repay.
“Don’t work him too hard just because he’s a child.” Mosla said to the merchant. “I better not see you mistreat him in any way.”
“Don’t worry, I would never harm him. He’s got talent, a rare talent. Besides, I have a child around his age, too. I’ll take care of things here, so you go do your things. I’ll even give you extra money whenever you sell us herbs.”
Though Lucid was only a first grader, his math skills were closer to those of an upperclassman, and being told that he had talent for doing such basic mathematics made him both happy and somber at the same time. Happy, because his skills were being recognized, but somber at the reality of this world’s standards of living, as well as the realization that this level of knowledge was so hard to come by here, even though he had achieved it so easily in the other world.
Lucid had been placed in charge of managing the supplies in a rather chilly storage room. It had been arranged by both the merchant and Mosla, as they thought that dealing with customers wasn’t quite fitting for such a young child. Besides, keeping track of supplies was the best way to fully utilize the boy’s skills with numbers, which rivaled those of trained and seasoned merchants. That was the merchant, Shapiro, thought was best.