In Love With the Strongest Man

Translator: Shizukuku

Editor: Helen

Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!

Arc 3 True Identity

Chapter 2 “Because you disappeared.”

When I returned to the greenhouse, new tea and cups were prepared as if it were a matter of course. They really were excellent servants.

“…There’s no doubt that the village was attacked, right? And that the other party was of the demon tribe?”

“Yes. A raven brought me the news.”

Langetsu seemed to have calmed down somewhat after drinking a cup of warm herbal tea. He took out a small, thinly folded piece of paper from his pocket and presented it to me, clutching it such that I could not see it from the outside. When he unfolded it in his hand, it contained exactly what Langetsu had told me in code. If a raven, which was used by the village for conveyance, had brought it to him, then there was no doubt about it.

“They attacked under the cover of the storm. Langetsu, is the mission you’re on urgent?”

“No.”

“Then return at once. You’re fast, so I need you to connect those who escaped and are now scattered.”

“As you wish.”

Langetsu responded briefly to my instructions. Then he stood up and looked down at me with expectant eyes.

“Shuka-san will soon—”

“Ah… no, sorry.”

I covered my mouth and shook my head.

“I’m not going back, Langetsu.”

“Oh no, but why…!”

“…I’m sorry. But I’m not your boss or anything anymore. Please forget the instructions I gave you earlier. I spoke without thinking…”

I felt awkward that I’d unconsciously behaved as I would have twenty years ago. I thought I’d long since moved on from those days, but my mouth naturally moved at the crisis in the village.

“There’s nothing I can do if I go there now… With those old wounds, I can’t even move my body properly. I’ll just be a liability.”

“Shuka-san, that’s not true.”

Langetsu leaned forward. The table shook and the tea in his cup splashed and spilled. 

“It was rough, for sure, but…”

“That’s because Gokkan became the head— no, it’s because you disappeared, Shuka-san.”

“It can’t be…”

“It is.”

As I flinched at Langetsu’s words, Akane, who had been rumbling in my lap, stretched out. He bumped his head against my hand, urging me to pet him, and looked up with glowing eyes at Langetsu, who was sitting a short distance from us.

“Meow. Did the absence of Servant Number One make that much of a difference?”

“…Every time Akane speaks, I feel like I’m going crazy. I’m sure you don’t know much about the outside world.”

“Cats don’t often come to the human world, do they?”

“Oh, yes, yes. The only things that interest me are food and Mew-ka.”

The dumbfounded but caring man drew a diagram with the spilled tea in Akane’s line of sight. Four circles arranged in a cross shape, with the center empty.

“The ‘World of Man’ consists of four countries and countless smaller countries attached to them. The world is roughly divided into four major regions, including those smaller countries, and they are called the four major countries of the world.”

Langetsu drew a pair of horns in the upper circle such that it could be seen from Akane’s perspective. In the left circle, he drew a white feather, in the right circle, a black feather, and in the bottom circle, two sticks at the bottom. What the hell were those sticks?

“The north is the Land of Ogres, which prioritizes physical prowess. To the west is the Land of Angels, which loves discipline and goodness. To the east is the Land of Demons, which values power above all else. To the south is the Land of Humans, where we are now, a land of deep thought and contemplation.”

“Are those caterpillar-like things supposed to be human legs?”

“Langetsu, all species have legs.”

“I’ve gone through the trouble of explaining this, and that is what I’m hearing from you?!”

With a wry smile, Langetsu pointed to the blank space in the center surrounded by the four major countries.

“In the middle of the four great nations is the unexplored Dead Forest that refuses mankind and obstructs diplomatic relations. And this Dead Forest is—”

Perhaps unconsciously, Langetsu’s voice dropped.

“This is the land where our hometown, the Hidden Land, is located.”

* * *

The Land of Ogres, the Land of Angels, the Land of Demons, and the Land of Humans— the Hidden Land didn’t belong to any of the four major countries in the world, and few people knew of its existence. Known in other countries as the Assassin’s Guild and considered a fairy tale, the village had only one role since ancient times.

—To maintain world peace.

We secretly mediated, settled disputes, and maintained security in a world composed of four major nations and four races. A tribe of less than 2,000 people, with just that purpose. We were selfless servants who would spare no effort in order to continue to realize world peace. That was us, the Hidden Land.

* * *

“We had to hide our existence and work in the dark for the sake of world peace, without seeking honor. It was a very hard life, but with Shuka-san as the head, we all did our best. Some complained about him being so young, but most of them admitted it in their hearts…”

Hearing such an explanation, Akane twisted himself around in a very discontented manner.

“You lived in such a forest for something that doesn’t even make sense, like world peace? I can’t believe it…”

“Hmmm…”

“I understand that. Akane, I get it.”

“Shuka-san too?!”

Langetsu’s eyes widened at what Akane and I were saying.

But there must have been no one living in that village who didn’t complain about the location.

“The Dead Forest is the worst land in the world, with access to all four major countries. It’s a valley with fires burning all year round and lakes full of poison… Langetsu used to complain as a child about having to spend three hours each way to fetch water.”

“Well… securing water was really tough…” 

“Even if it rained once in a while, the water would rot as it fell, so the crops wouldn’t grow well, and monsters would attack us from the forest three times a day… There were better lands to hide our existence. What were our ancestors thinking?”

“Mew mew.” 

Akane nodded in agreement to my words. It was so fast that I could see his afterimage. Sorry Akane, you must have been pretty frustrated too…

“That’s… exactly… that’s right!”

“But thanks to its location, there haven’t been any raids from the outside for a long time. I wonder why the demon tribe attacked such a remote place…?”

The reason for the existence of the Hidden Land was world peace. Therefore, the treatment of the demon tribe, whose supreme goal was invasion and victory, had been a source of concern for the successive heads of the Hidden Land. But that was limited to world peace. There had never been an instance of the demon tribe invading the village before. 

Because most of the people in the Hidden Land were scattered outside, there were only, at most, 400 people stationed in the area. Furthermore, they regularly moved their base of operations within the Dead Forest. Through the valley of fire and poisonous water with powerful monsters, even if they found the village and invaded it, the war would not be fruitful. In other words, the Hidden Land wasn’t worth invading.

We were taught that one should be prepared for anything, but although training had been conducted in case of invasion, it had rarely been put to use, even in the long history of the country.

“That’s…”

“What’s going on, Langetsu?

“My guess is that it’s Rarigi who’s in charge…”

“Rarigi… You think it’s Rarigi?!”

“Yes, I do. I heard that there was a flurry of activity around Rarigi for several days. All the other major generals were in skirmishes with other countries, so I guess the most likely candidate is Rarigi.”

Rarigi of the demon tribe. I knew that name. He was my most trusted friend in the Land of Demons, and the person to whom I entrusted the kidnapped child. 

“That Rarigi even became a general of the demon tribe… But it’s strange. Especially if it’s Rarigi. There’s nothing in the village that he would be after.”

He was a troubled child who was so eager for strength and honor that he picked fights even with his own kind, and was regarded as a pariah even among the demon tribe. That was why he would have no interest in Hidden Land, a place where people moved secretly behind the scenes and were not well-known.

“I don’t know. I’m going to go see what happened… Shuka-san,” Langetsu came up next to me, knelt, and put his head down. “My thoughts won’t change. We need you, Shuka-san. I’ll be back in a few days. Please, think about it in the meantime.”

As soon as he said that, Langetsu’s figure flickered and disappeared.

“Hmmm…”

Rarigi’s out-of-character behavior concerned me. And, of course, the village being attacked. But I was someone who was long gone. Now I was just surviving. My body was slowing down, and even walking long distances was difficult. I even had a curse. What could I do?

“Akane.”

“Meow?”

“I… I don’t know what I should do…”

“Mew…?” Akane licked his hand and thought about it for a while, then huffed out a breath. “I don’t think you should be asking a cat that, meow.”

“I know.”

* * *

“…I mean, I was planning to ask Langetsu to find a way to break the curse, but that may be postponed.”

At the dinner table, I explained it all to Ideal in a nutshell. Of course, I kept the location and role of the village under wraps. Since I had planned to ask Langetsu to investigate the method of breaking the curse, but that had changed, I thought it was necessary to report to him whether I would be staying at the mansion or leaving.

“I see… Shuka-san.”

“Yes?”

Ideal listened quietly, only occasionally giving me a nod, and when I finished speaking, he quietly set down the dishes. I sat across from him, his red eyes gazing at me with a lustrous glint in them.

“You don’t need to break the curse, do you?”

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Stephanie
Stephanie
4 months ago

Thanks for the update