BBYW Vol. 1 Interlude 3
Interlude 3 – The Three Rascals Climb a Mountain
My name is Dyngir Maxwell.
I am the heir of house Maxwell, the guardian of the eastern border of the Lamperouge kingdom. I just turned 13 years old this year.
I was now in a mountain located close to the border, hiding in a bush. The reason was—
“Young master, it’s coming.”
A Red Bear about two meters tall passed next to the bush we were hiding in.
Red Bears were the largest carnivorous animals on this mountain. The massive beast walked leisurely on its four legs, its bright red fur rustled by the breeze. It had all the aura of the king of the mountain.
“Just a bit more…three, two, one…gotcha!!”
The Red Bear got caught in the trap we set up in advance. The upper half of its body was stuck in the pitfall, exposing its rear end and flailing hind legs.
“Do it, Ladd!!”
Ladd, one of the men who accompanied me, shot an arrow.
The arrow hit the Red Bear near its hips.
The beast writhed in pain. It forcefully pulled its body out of the pitfall and advanced towards us.
My other comrade, hiding in a different spot, shot an arrow too.
It struck the Red Bear on its head, but its thick skull prevented the arrow from penetrating through and the arrow fell to the ground.
“Tch, it didn’t work! Please run, young master!”
“No, it’s okay. Leave it to me!”
The arrow didn’t pierce the Red Bear’s head, but it hit the beast near its eyes and succeeded in frightening it.
I drew my sword and slashed the Red Bear’s torso as I dashed past it.
Blood gushed and sprayed the ground.
The Red Bear stood on its hind legs and tried to crush me with its massive front paws.
“Yep, thank you for standing up! Now you can go to sleep!”
Standing up revealed the beast’s weak point.
I jumped in closer to the Red Bear and thrust my blade in its throat.
“Gw, gah, GRAAHHH!”
“Shut up already!”
The Red Bear fell backward.
I jumped on the Red Bear’s huge body and used my body weight to push the blade deeper into its throat.
The Red Bear swung its front paws like mad in a final struggle with its remaining strength.
I extracted my sword and quickly jumped away so that the claws wouldn’t reach.
The Red Bear struggled for a while more, but its movements gradually dulled and it eventually died.
“Looks like it’s dead.”
I shook the blood from my blade and put it back in the sheath.
“Great!! We’re having meat tonight!!”
Dancing around the Red Bear, flaming red hair swaying in the air, was Ladd Efreeta, the firstborn son of viscount Efreeta, one of house Maxwell’s retainers. He was 13 years old as well.
“Sheesh, that was chilling.”
The man wearing glasses who emerged from a nearby bush was Salm Silfis, the heir to house Silfis, another retainer of house Maxwell. Like the other boys, he was 13.
Salm took out a handkerchief from his breast pocket and handed it to me.
“Please wipe the bear’s blood from yourself, young master. I thought my heart was going to stop when you jumped at the bear, honestly.”
“Haha, come on, it was just a bear.”
“Of course I’m going to worry. After all, if something happens to you, we’ll have to take responsibility and give our lives too.”
Ladd and Salm had both been entrusted by their houses to house Maxwell.
The goal was to have them study general disciplines and military strategy, in order for them to better serve house Maxwell in the future.
Another reason was for them to build a relationship with me, the heir to house Maxwell.
“If we don’t put my life on the line like this, it won’t be a proper test of courage. The first battle is going to be a lot worse, you know?”
“For heaven’s sake, don’t be so reckless on the battlefield too…”
Salm sighed, trying to calm my ardent spirits.
The Maxwell territory would soon become a battlefield because of the invasion of the neighboring empire. It would also probably be our first experience of a real battlefield.
In order to prepare for our first battle, we came to hunt bears on this mountain, close to Fort Bryden, as a test of courage.
Incidentally, the only person I told about this expedition was my personal maid, Eliza.
I kept it a secret from my father, the margrave, so we would surely be scolded once we went back.
“Kahaha, who cares! Let’s cut this baby up, I’m hungry!!”
“There’s no way beginners like us can butcher it properly! I’ll go call people from the village at the foot of the mountain, so just wait.”
Ladd laughed heartily, but Salm reprimanded him, slung his bow over his shoulder, and headed down from the mountain.
Ladd and I watched him go, then sat on the nearest suitable rock.
“Aah, I’m starving…young master, you don’t have anything to eat with you?”
“I’d be eating it if I did.”
Salm was a polite, well-mannered man, but Ladd had an unconventional personality for a noble: even if I was the heir to the house of his lord, he addressed me rather casually.
I was an only child, so being with them felt like having an older and a younger brother: their company was very comforting to me.
“I got water though, here you go.”
“It can fill your stomach at least. If you’ve got the time to complain, why don’t you start a fire instead? So we can cook the meat after they butcher it.”
“Yeah, I guess I should go gather firewood.”
Ladd stood up from the rock and started picking up firewood.
He soon stopped, however, and cocked his head to the side.
“Hey, young master, there’s someone over there.”
“Hm? Just another hunter, no?”
“Oh yeah, I guess so. He’s got a basket, so I guess he must be picking up herbs or something.”
Ladd’s words caused me to frown.
I stood up too and looked at the person Ladd saw.
A man wearing simple clothes made of hemp was on the path we used to climb up the mountain. He was walking while carefully looking at his surroundings, carrying a large basket on his back.
“Yeah, he sure looks like someone looking for herbs. But…”
My eyes narrowed as I observed the man more closely.
“Hey Ladd. From this moment, we’re kids from the nearby village. Act like that.”
“Eh? What are you talking about?”
“Just do as I said.”
I slid down the gentle slope, landing in front of the man with the basket.
The man was naturally surprised by my sudden appearance.
I smiled in a friendly way and waved at the man so that he wouldn’t be wary of me.
“Oh heavens, boy! I thought it was a bear for a moment there!”
“Hahaha, sorry! My name’s Dyn, I’m from the village of Sacae. Are you from Ain village, mister?”
Sacae and Ain were both actual villages located at the foot of the mountain.
“Yeah, that’s right.”
The man nodded.
We came to the mountain in secret, so we were wearing simple villager-like clothing. The man would surely never imagine I was the margrave’s son.
“My name’s Zapp, and yeah, I’m from Ain. Did you kids come here alone? You’re going to make your parents worry, you little rascals.”
The man named Zapp looked at me and Ladd, who came down after me, and raised his eyebrows.
“Nah, we come all the time anyway. What are you doing instead, mister?”
“Just looking for herbs, as you can see.”
I nodded, convinced.
“Oh yeah, the Salo greens are in season, right? They really taste good in a stew!”
“Right. But I haven’t found any today, so I’m not giving you brats anything, okay?”
“Stingy! Come on, you don’t have anything to eat?”
Ladd pouted and grumbled. He didn’t have any manners from the start, so his way of speaking felt very genuine. He was very convincing as a village brat.
“I’m busy here! Get lost already!”
We complained a bit more, then stepped out of the way.
Before I left, however, I turned around and called to the man with a smile.
“Oh yeah, you’re from Ain, right mister? So you know the elder, Lukas? I heard he’s sick lately, tell him to get better soon, okay?”
“Sure, whatever, go home!”
I waved at the man as I walked away, going through the bushes until Zapp could not see us anymore.
“Pretty careless, that guy.”
“Huh? What do you mean, young master?”
Ladd looked at me, confused, and I grinned.
“In the mountains around here, the Salo greens’ season is early spring. You aren’t going to find anything now that it’s summer. Besides, there’s no one called Lukas in Ain.”
“Eh? What? Who’s that guy then?”
“A spy from the empire, I bet. In the empire, it’s colder than here throughout the year. I bet he got it wrong because you can harvest Salo greens in this season over there.”
“Whuaattt!!? Hey hey, we can’t let him go like that, right? Let’s kick his ass!!”
Ladd looked behind us, baring his fangs.
It looked like he would run off any moment, so I grasped his shoulders to stop him.
“Easy there, there might be other spies with him. It’s pointless to catch only one. Anyway, Ladd, have you ever seen fireworks?”
Ladd was clearly perplexed by the sudden change of topic.
He was still glancing in Zapp’s direction from time to time, so I knew he was still eager to run off.
“Fireworks…those burning stones from the southern countries, rights? I never got out of this country my whole life, of course I haven’t seen them!”
“Really. I’ve seen them a couple of times, actually…now I’m going to show you something similar, so endure it for now..”
I smiled broadly at Ladd.
He looked curiously at me, then nodded.
We returned to where we left the Red Bear’s corpse and found that Salm had arrived with the villagers, who already started butchering the animal.
I told the villagers we’d share the meat with them and they happily invited us to their home, where they treated us to stew.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first bear stew, then started thinking about the upcoming battle against the empire.