Rockwall Lou – V2 Chapter 6

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟔

(6)

The daily life of the “Star Guardian” underwent a drastic change.

As always, an energetic young boy, who stands guard, bursts into the assembly hall. What he wears are old goggles and an equally aged coat with a hood.

“Captain. There’s smoke.”

It’s the same line every time.

Gangi hears the same thing again.

“What color?”

“Red.”

“A big one. Where?”

Without hesitation, the boy pointed to a spot on the map spread out on the table.

“Here.”

“Southeast of the ‘Black Forest’. Close to the ‘highway’. It might become a race.”

Initially, nobody in the transport team believed him, but now no one doubts the boy’s report.

“Luo, go fetch the seniors. They should be near the well, taking care of their tools.”

“Okay.”

“Not okay.”

“Yes!”

The boy was surprisingly obedient. Strangely, it seemed like he enjoyed being commanded.

Gangi headed to the stable and hitched Pii and Mii to the cart. They had been out a lot lately, but the hippohorses (※waterhorses) are sturdy animals. Besides, they’ve been given quality hay and grains lately.

Just as he finished, the senior members of the transport team arrived. They’re all complaining about their aches and pains. The seniors got into the cart, Luo sat next to Gangi, and the women of the “Star Guardian” also gathered. There was Crozet, responsible for dissection, some elderly women, and Maasa too.

“Luo.”

Crozet warned him.

“The ‘wilderness’ is dangerous. Don’t do anything strange. Listen to the captain and behave. Got it?”

“Okay.”

He’s quite reckless, so they always have to be clear with him. Gangi thought Crozet might be a bit too overprotective, even though she’s naturally a worrywart.

“May the stars guide us. And may we achieve good results.”

The women all make the star sign of blessing. Before, nobody would have taken it seriously, but now it’s different. The seniors in the cart are all striking proud poses, showing they’ve got this.

Gangi nodded to Maasa, whose gaze he met unexpectedly, and whipped the reins.

“PIGYAAAAAA!”

Pii and Mii have wild temperaments. Opening their big mouths and spraying saliva, they started running wildly.

Normally, the transport team’s wagon would start quietly to avoid being followed, but this couldn’t be helped. Besides, Gangi believed that the “Star Guardian” didn’t have the privilege to avoid being tailed.

The wilderness road extending north from the northern gate of Arche city. This road branches into several paths leading to various regions within the “wilderness”. Their destination this time was a place called the “Black Forest”. Relatively close to the city, it’s home to many small to medium-sized “demon beasts”. The climate is stable, and it’s a popular spot among demon beast hunters.

Still, Gangi thought to himself.

The cart meant for “pursuit” doesn’t seem to be following at all. It implies that the other lookouts haven’t spotted the signal fire yet. He glanced over at the boy sitting next to him. In his youth, Gangi had also been a lookout. There were territorial disputes atop the walls that served as lookout points. The popular spots were near the elevator towers. From there, after spotting a signal fire, one could quickly descend, and do so without attracting attention from other lookouts. However, it’s hard to imagine that Luo, probably the youngest and a lookout from the minor faction “Star Guardian”, could get a good spot.

Either his eyesight is exceptional, or it’s some form of magic.

Eventually, the “Star Guardian” cart entered the “Black Forest”. It’s a peculiar forest covered with leafless trees. The ground is black, and the trees are gray. There are no shrubs or undergrowth, but tree roots jut out here and there, making progress difficult.

By this point, one could clearly verify the signal fire. It was exactly the color and location the boy had reported.

The color of the signal fire has meaning. Depending on the size of the demon beast, many carts and personnel may be required for dismantling, so its size is indicated by the color of the smoke.

A red signal fire indicates a large demon beast about seven to nine times the size of a human.

Once off the wilderness road, everyone disembarked from the cart. From here, they would lead the pack horses and push the cargo to the signal fire’s location. Luo was on the lookout duty here too, ensuring no demon beasts lurked nearby. Of course, they couldn’t leave everything to a child, so Gangi was also vigilant.

They reached a somewhat open area. Fallen trees, as if crushed, told of an intense battle. Covered by these fallen trees, a massive demon beast lay on the ground. Gangi estimated it to be about seven times the size of an adult male.

It had a prominent horn on its nose, a stout physique, and thick limbs. Its entire body was covered with a thick, tough skin. It was a demon beast known as the Canopy Rhino.

“Oh, you’re early.”

Near the demon beast, four men were resting. They wore gear made from demon beasts and had patterns drawn on their faces with the beast’s blood.

It’s a demon beast hunting party.

One cannot afford to waste time in the wilderness. Gangi rushed over to the man who appeared to be the leader of the demon beast hunters.

“It’s an impressive Canopy Rhino.”

“Hm? Oh, it gave us quite a challenge. We weakened it with a potion and then delivered the finishing blow.”

There was a faint residual pungent smell in the vicinity, probably paralyzing powder. They employ various weapons and traps to defeat the demon beasts.

“Sorry, but we’d like to take some of its meat.”

“No problem at all.”

The parts of the demon beast collected by the dismantler would be bought by the Wilderness Guild. A portion of the profits would be distributed to the demon beast hunters who hunted the target. While sharing the meat here technically violated the rules, it was a necessary compromise on-site.

The “Star Guardian” transport team began dismantling the demon beast.

Using large saws and chisels, they cut the meat and broke the bones. There are countless venom sacs and muscle strands within a demon beast, so those areas must be avoided. However, detailed work isn’t done on the spot. They merely cut it into sizes manageable for transport by cart.

During the operation, the demon beast hunters kept a vigilant watch around and provided protection. This was a privilege reserved only for the first arrivals. Once the dismantling was finished, the demon beast hunters would leave. Latecomers, other transport teams, had to quickly finish their tasks, fearing a demon beast attack. Only less valuable parts remained. In other words, there was little profit for those who came after the first.

Although aged, the skilled “Star Guardian” transport team efficiently dismantled the massive Canopy Rhino. The skin was too tough and was left behind. Only the meat from the inner sides of the hips was taken, along with the liver, which yielded a high-quality edible oil. Luo was not allowed to help. He wasn’t trusted with heavy tasks, and there were concerns about him coming into contact with the demon beast’s poison, which could be harmful if it got into the eyes or mouth.

Once a certain amount of dismantling was done, Gangi handed over the choicest meat to the leader of the demon beast hunters, signifying the completion of their task.

At that moment, another dismantler arrived at the scene. It was the transport team of “Fresh Parts,” boasting the largest scale among their peers.

“Star Guardian, what tricks have you used?”

A familiar face, the captain of the “Fresh Parts” transport team, asked with evident displeasure. The most frustrated seemed to be a young lookout named Taki, who was kicking at a tree root protruding from the ground.

Nothing is as fruitless as a quarrel between peers.

“No, nothing special.”

Gangi nodded politely and tried to leave, but Bekios and the others were making faces and gestures behind his back. They had been ridiculed many times before, so this was likely their way of getting back.

The “Star Guardian” cart, loaded only with the best parts, leisurely exited the “Dark Forest.”

Dusk approached.

As Gangi was feeding hay to Pii and Mii in the stable, footsteps approached.

“Gangi-san.”

Hearing that voice, Gangi felt a slight tension. It always felt silly.

“Maasa?”

It was Maasa who came to the stable. She was the same age as Gangi, fifty, but appeared much younger.

Although they had once been intimately involved, Gangi always considered it a mere exception. That’s what he thought.

Without pausing his work, Gangi reported to Maasa.

About the young lookout, Luo.

Theresa, the representative of the “Star Guardian,” had grown deeply suspicious, a trait that wasn’t so pronounced until she lost her voice in an incident ten years prior.

At dinner, she would try to extract information about Luo from Gangi and the elderly members of the transport team. Theresa suspected Luo to be a spy for the Bureau of Magic. Unable to get the answers she expected, she probably sent Maasa to probe further.

Otherwise, there was no reason for Maasa to visit him.

Listening to Gangi’s report, Maasa smiled. She was good at responding, which inadvertently made him speak more.

Lately, Gangi had been troubled.

But as the captain of the transport team, he felt there was no one he could easily confide in.

When it comes to peers of the same age, it’s pretty much just Maasa.

She is smart. During her apprenticeship, she was even called a prodigy.

Gangi remembered that.

Would it be alright to consult as colleagues?

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