The next morning, Rio decided to depart from the inn just before sunrise.
「Thank you so much for treating the injured guest yesterday. It was thanks to you that the situation didn’t spiral out of control.」
The women who treated the injured man yesterday also happened to be the landlady of the inn. She deeply bowed her head in apology to Rio.
「No, please don’t worry about it. Things like that are bound to happen to someone like me travelling at this age. There’s no need for you to apologize.」
Rio waved his hand in reply, dismissing the landlady’s apology.
「Still, I should’ve been the one to intervene first but I thought it was just the usual quarrel so I was late in noticing the severity. I am truly sorry.」
It seemed like drunken brawls were a daily occurrence for bars.
However, judging from her words, things usually did not escalate to the point of bloodshed.
「No, I was also partly at fault for provoking them. Well, alcohol certainly played a part, but I think they reaped what they sowed for getting that drunk.」
Rio displayed a ridiculing expression as he recalled the drunk men.
Despite acting violently, they were drunk so it could not be said that they were inherently bad people.
「About that, I don’t believe they truly bore any ill will towards you. They’re usually good people. It’s probably because they really care for Chloe and saw her acting intimately with another boy of her age that, with the addition of alcohol, made them inadvertently want to tease you?」
The landlady tried to defend the men’s actions.
She was surely a kindhearted person.
However, Rio found it unpleasant to agree with her reasoning.
「Is that so…?」
Rio did not hold a grudge against those men so while he was not angry, he still held an indescribable feeling. Therefore, he gave a vague answer.
「I am deeply sorry. You also couldn’t take a bath due to yesterday’s commotion despite having already paid for it right? I’ll return your whole payment as an apology.」
Having said that, the landlady returned the total sum he paid for lodging and bathing in a small sack.
「No, it’s alright. I caused you trouble and the food was delicious too. Thank you for the meal.」
Rio refused the landlady’s offer.
「But, you still haven’t eaten breakfast yet. Uhm, can you please wait a bit? I’ll be back right away. I’ll make you a bento1 instead.」
Leaving those words, the landlady left the sack of money on the counter and hurried to the kitchen before Rio even had a chance to reply.
（She’s an honest and good-natured person but, quite naive. She’s trusting enough to leave the sack of money in front of me.）
Such was the impression Rio had of the landlady.
How to put it? The landlady’s personality strangely suited her.
Rio took a peek at the kitchen and saw Chloe and an unknown girl putting on their aprons.
When the two spotted Rio, they quickly retreated further into the kitchen.
（Was that… Chloe’s younger sister? She’s still quite young.）
From her looks, she was probably around the age of a lower grade elementary schooler.
Chloe was probably an upper-grade elementary schooler at most.
When Rio wondered if it was appropriate for such a young girl to work at an inn, he realised the hardship of inn’s landlady.
（Could it be that only the three of them work here? Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any signs of a husband.）
Upon arriving at the inn, Rio had never seen a hint of a husband figure.
He previously thought the husband shut himself up in the kitchen but it seemed like the landlady managed the kitchen as well.
Since the landlady did not seem to mind, Rio abandoned the train of thought when the landlady returned with a bento in her hands.
「I’m sorry since it’s mostly just yesterday’s leftovers, but I stuffed a lot of it into the bread. Chloe woke up early to bake it so please take it.」
「Thank you. I’m extremely grateful for this.」
Rio expressed his gratitude with a smile.
「Oi! I’m back!」
Suddenly, an evidently drunk man appeared from the inn’s entrance. When he noticed the landlady, he began walking towards her with unsteady steps.
「Honey! Again, you’re already that drunk and it’s only morning!」
「Shut upp! I only drank a teensyy bit!」
The man suddenly slapped the landlady while yelling.
Rio could only look at the scene in astonishment.
It appeared that the drunkard was the landlady’s husband.
Staying out all night, coming home drunk in the morning, and hitting his wife when criticized, Rio could not see him as a decent husband.
Rio could not bear to just stand by and watch the landlady be abused by her husband, but it was also not a place where he could casually stick his nose into.
However, when he saw the landlady crouched down and holding her hands over her swollen cheek, Rio approached her with a sigh and treated her wound using Spirit Arts.
The swelling disappeared in an instant and despite being surprised, the landlady understood what he did and thanked him with a bow.
「What? What’d you do!?」
Although the landlady’s husband did not understand what just happened, he glared at Rio with an irritated expression when he saw Rio assisting his wife.
「Stop it! He’s a guest!」
The landlady stood before her husband to block him from approaching Rio in a hurry.
（She’s going to get hit again…）
Rio was astonished at the landlady’s action.
He understood that she held a strong sense of responsibility but she was far too reckless.
When the landlady’s husband was about to hit her again, Rio parried his strike and gently pushed him onto the floor.
A faint light emitted from Rio’s hand and reason returned to the husband’s eyes after a few seconds.
「I used magic to sober you up. Are you fine now?」
Rio spoke to him in a cold voice.
「A— Ah… Sorry about that.」
The landlady’s husband apologized in a slightly bewildered voice having had his mind cleared.
「If you’re going to apologize to me, apologize to Landlady-san too.」
Rio directed a glance at the landlady as he spoke to her husband with a tinge of disdain.
An awkward apology was given.
Although he hit his wife in a drunken rage, he did not seem like a man who normally behaved violently.
「Th— Thank you so much!」
The landlady deeply lowered her head in appreciation to Rio.
「No, it was nothing. I only did it because it’d become a nuisance to the other guests if things continued. Thank you for the bento. Farewell.」
Bidding the landlady farewell, Rio left the inn before he was roped into any further trouble.
（Well, it’s not like anything’s going to change.）
Rio once again regretted poking his nose into somebody else’s problem3. Problems were best left to be settled by related parties.
He sunk into a somewhat depressed state for the rest of the morning.
「I guess I should have a manju.」
In order to forget about his worries, Rio decided to try some local cuisine that he missed out on yesterday.
The bento he received from the landlady, he was going to save for lunch.
Despite it still being quite early in the morning, the market was already open.
Morning for the people of this world began early.
Even people who were not merchants or farmers still woke up at six in the morning at latest.
The market was already bustling with numerous stalls selling breakfast. The mouth-watering fragrance of cooked food permeated the air.
「Two orders of manju, please.」
Rio handed over 10 copper coins in exchange for the two manju.
Although steam could be seen rising from the manju, its appearance was closer to that of a fried manju.
The springy texture of the dough left a bit to be desired.
Regardless, the manju exceeded his expectations as he savoured the taste inside his mouth.
The hearty flavour of the meat juices seasoned with salt spread throughout his mouth.
It was delicious.
However, the flavour was closer to that of a hamburger rather than a steamed manju.
Those were Rio’s impressions of the manju.
（I don’t know what was put in this… No actually, the seasoning is made using ginger and oyster sauce, and I think there’s a hint of sesame oil too.）
Rio pondered over why he still found the overall flavour to be slightly lacking.
It did not mean that it was not good.
He was just a little disappointed since the taste deviated from what he was expecting.
Rio knew how to make manju.
Rather, the idea of collecting ingredients during his travels to make seasonings suddenly came to his mind.
Cooking was one of Rio’s few hobbies since he lived alone in his past life and he constantly brainstormed for new ideas and recipes.
Thanks to that, although he was not well-versed in specific cuisines, he could prepare an ordinary meal as long as he had ingredients.
Apart from humans, other humanlike beings also existed as well as many creatures not found on earth. However, much of the flora and fauna were similar.
Perhaps ingredients that could not be found in this area were abundant in others.
（Should I look for some when I have some spare time?）
Rio considered harvesting or purchasing any familiar ingredients he might come across during his travels.
While thinking about such things, he arrived at the city’s eastern gate.
There was a highway that cut through the forest, but Rio deliberately veered off the highway and entered the forest.
A search warrant for Rio in the Galark Kingdom had not been issued yet but it was only thanks to his speed that he was able to outrun any possible pursuers.
If he was to move quickly, he wanted to do so in a place where people would not notice.
The forest was shrouded in mist since it was still early in the morning.
Rio began to run at a slightly slower pace than usual due to the decreased field of view.
He skillfully dodged a group of trees blocking his way despite his limited visibility in the fog.
Suddenly, Rio caught sight of what appeared to be the figure of a fallen person.
It lay approximately 30 meters ahead of him.
The person appeared to be lying face down on the ground.
（…Is that a corpse?）
While monsters and other carnivorous creatures rarely approached human settlements, they were quite common if one entered the forest.
Perhaps this was an unlucky soul who encountered such a creature.
As Rio approached the fallen person, he noticed the body was covered in a Haori-like robe.
Judging from its size, the body probably belonged to a child younger than himself.
（…A child. Did they collapse after straying from the highway? But why?）
Despite the rising feelings of doubt, leaving a person, who was possibly in dire need of help, as they were would leave a bad taste in his mouth.
Reluctantly, Rio decided to call out to them.
「Oi, are you okay?」
He lightly shook the body but saw no reaction.
When he rolled the person over to look at their face, warmth from their body could be felt through the robe.
（This person seems to be alive.）
Rio let out a breath of relief and from under the robe’s hood, he saw the face of a young girl.
Suddenly, the girl’s eyes snapped open.
At the same time, bloodlust was felt.
When he glanced at the girl’s hand, he saw it firmly gripping a long bladed knife.
1. Boxed lunch ↩
2. Written as Detoxification Magic, read as Detoxify ↩
3. He promised himself not to interfere with other people’s problems in the previous arc but this is the third time he broke it ↩