In Love With the Strongest Man

Translator: Shizukuku

Editor: Evelet

Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!

Arc 1 The Strongest Man and the Cursed Merchant

Chapter 1 Dear Customer, That’s an Issue

“Shuka-san, please buy-“

“You’re banned! I told you to stop coming here, Ideal!”

In a back alley in the far corner of a small town in a distant corner of the royal lands, I was trying desperately to get rid of a glittering man who really didn’t suit the location.

But all my efforts were in vain, and the man remained crouched in front of my stall, which was nothing more than a rag on the bare ground.

“Don’t say that. I’m confident about today’s catch,” he said.

“And I told you not to bring anything here, even if you’re confident!”

The name of the man, who lowered his eyebrows in disappointment at my words yet somehow refused to back down, was Ideal.

He was a beautiful man, with black hair that shone lustrously even under cloudy skies and captivating red eyes.

I couldn’t compare, with my lusterless brown hair and dull blue eyes.

He was younger than me, and even I, who had no interest in men, could sense his sex appeal and got nervous when our eyes met. 

He claimed to be a wandering mercenary, but he had none of the roughness that was common among mercenaries. His tone of voice was soft and his gestures were polite.

However, the light armor he wore fit his body well, and above all, his behavior was seamless.

You could imagine how skilled he was, just by looking at him.

—Even without making such observations, you could immediately tell that Ideal was good at whatever he did.

“Anyways, hurry up and leave. There is no way I can buy the pelt of a flame wolf… Those things take ten people to defeat, and usually, by the time the pelts are harvested, the fire will have gone out and decreased their value! Think about how much you could get for that while it’s still on fire and almost untouched!!!”

“Shuka-san’s asking price is fine, though.”

“I told you not to bring your luxury items to this shabby excuse for a stall!”

I felt a headache coming.

The item Ideal had so casually placed on my stall was a rare material that was difficult to carry around even with a special container.

The container, made up of thin water membranes, was extremely expensive. Even the container itself was too good for this stall.

My stall was just a poor stall with medicinal herbs that were picked in the morning and arranged on a worm-eaten cloth.

I, the owner, sat tightly curled up, my face hidden by a tattered robe, and my petite body hidden in the shadow of a building. No sane person would go near me.

It was a bottom-of-the-barrel store that I sometimes had to fill with viable garbage I scavenged from the dump to sell.

The only people who would come here were people on a budget or stingy mercenaries who wanted a cheaper price than the regular stalls.

“Anyways, I can’t buy it. Take it to another stall or the commerce guild.”

“You’re so cold today, Shuka-san.”

“I’m not cold, you just can’t read the mood. There are rumors going around about you, something about a ‘Lone Hero.'”

“Where did that come from?” Ideal asked.

“It’s because you refuse party invitations and do things like hunting flame wolves all by yourself. The other day it was a floating golem, and before that, an invisible wildcat. I’ve often heard other mercenaries talking with a mix of wariness and respect about you, wondering if you’re really that into solo hunting or if there’s another reason why you won’t party with others.”

“Haha, so that’s what they’re saying about me.”

Not even a month had passed since Ideal arrived in this town.

Nevertheless, he’d been hunting monsters that people said were impossible to defeat, one after another, and his fame was spreading throughout the town.

What I didn’t understand, however, was the fact that every time, the first thing he would do after defeating a monster was to come to my stall and bring the rare materials from those impossible hunts.

I quickly turned him away each time, telling him there was no way I could buy materials that were worth more than my lifetime earnings, but Ideal never learned his lesson and kept coming back to this dingy stall every time he returned from a fight.

I didn’t know why.

I didn’t want to know why.

This had to be his way of harassing me or something.

I can’t believe you’re being nice to me. You must be up to something, I thought.

—Still, I hoped that at least Ideal wouldn’t turn out to be an enemy.

Because as far as I knew, Ideal preferred to work alone and even rejected invitations to join advanced parties. 

In other words, he had defeated a giant, flaming wolf five times his size by himself, without the help of a party. Moreover, it was done with a single sword, and without causing any unnecessary wounds from superfluous attacks.

That wasn’t something that a normal human could do.

However, he didn’t seem to have wings like an angel or a demon, nor did he have the massive physique of an ogre.

A man who looked like a mere human, yet performed inhuman deeds with ease.

If Ideal desired it, my life would be over in the blink of an eye.

“Are you really human…?”

“What’s the matter, Shuka-san? Is there something on my face?”

“…Your face is impossibly beautiful…”

I grunted in a whisper so Ideal wouldn’t hear me.

If I were to name the most priceless item in this place, it would be this man in front of me, not the pelt of the flame wolf.

It wouldn’t be strange if someone were willing to offer a fortune just for a single night with Ideal. No, in fact, a single fortune would be far too cheap.

Ideal was strong and beautiful.

Normally one would be fearful or jealous of him, but Ideal charmed others too easily for them to feel such emotions. Just a smile from him was enough to make people of all ages and both sexes look at him.

Ideal was poison.

Especially for someone like me, who lived in the shadows, away from the public eye.

Don’t misunderstand, don’t do it, I told myself.

Just having Ideal by my side, I could almost mistake myself for someone special to him. 

I almost looked forward to seeing Ideal, who kept coming to me no matter how many times I tried to get rid of him, always without judgment.

Either it was Ideal’s whim or some kind of plot.

How could a cursed person like me be liked by anyone?

–That was how I knew that the fondness I felt from Ideal was a lie. 

* * * 

On the last day of the week, I knocked on the back door of the commerce guild because they had strictly told me to never come in through the front.

“Yes? Tch… So it’s you.”

“I’ve got this week’s sales and ledger.”

“Just stop coming. It’s not good for the guild’s reputation to be associated with trash like you.”

I presented him with a bag of copper coins and a ledger, which the guild official accepted with disgust.

I remained silent about the fact that I had been told to stop.

It was my duty as a merchant to report my sales regularly.

Normally, it should only be once every six months or so, but one time, after not reporting for about ten days, I was cursed for being cocky and beaten by several people.

Since then, I always visit at least once a week, regardless of whether I was harassed or turned away.

I was lucky if I could earn one copper coin a day, and this week my stall had only made four coins. Of the four, two of them were from sales to Ideal and the rest were tips.

“That’s it?”

The guild official snickered, not bothering to even count the coins given the weight of the bag, and he grabbed three of them as a matter of course and put them in his own pocket.

He threw the remaining one at my feet.

“Next time you show up here, I’m gonna hit you. Don’t come near me again.”

As I was picking up the copper coin, the door slammed shut in my face with a loud bang.

All I had left was a single copper coin.

Normally, you could at least buy two brown loaves of bread with that money, but for me, this was only enough to buy one unsold, hardened, black loaf of bread.

“…This copper coin is beautiful.”

I wiped the copper coin I had picked up with my robe and held it up in front of me.

It shone brightly, reflecting the light from the lantern hanging on the guild’s wall.

I was hungry.

But I couldn’t bring myself to trade that shiny coin for a loaf of bread.

This shiny copper coin was unique in a town where only filthy money circulated, and I knew that Ideal had brought it in from outside.

The coin, which he had placed directly in my hand as a tip, was the only one I knew of in this town full of dirty money.

“Hey! How long you gonna skulk around there for?”

Fatigue and hunger combined had left me dazed for some time until I was drenched with a splash of water.

I looked up and saw the guild employee looking down at me from the second-floor window with an empty bucket.

I hastily walked away. 

“…This is normal. This is how people normally treat me. That guy… Ideal is just weird. I bet he’s laughing at me behind my back.”

Telling myself I should stay out of sight, I headed back to the alley.

If anyone found me, they would throw mud and stones at me.

But it couldn’t be helped.

That reaction from the townsfolk was normal.

–There was a curse on me that made the people around me feel disgusted by me.

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