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Afterstory, Part 1 – A Certain Ambitious King
Mountains of sand, changing shape in the wind.
Karasu sighed as he leant against the boulder that shaded him.
The boulder’s shadow stretched far across the sand.
It would be evening soon.
Under the red glow of the evening sky, a number of dead men and the corpse of a ruba could be seen.
――If only the ruba were alive.
How many times had he wished this already.
But no matter how badly he wished for it, it was fruitless unless he could revert time.
“Create oases and trade routes.”
Karasu thought back to the woman who had casually suggested this.
――Damned goddess of misfortune.
Karasu cursed to himself.
The oasis creation program had been fraught with problems from the start.
The ones responsible for the all-important task of finding the water veins were the Ottko Yuu tribe, who all hated Karasu to the bone.
It took two months of arguing just to reach a semblance of cooperation.
Furthermore, the movement across the desert made the arrijighock difficult to handle, so just that alone required large amounts of hahanero. The amount grown by the Ottko Yu tribe was nowhere near enough.
Thus, negotiations began with Jebas, the home of hahanero. Unfortunately, standing between Yohk’Zai and Jebas were a steep mountain range, and the nation known as Triht. Worse, Triht’s leader, Setsugen, was a stubborn youngster who was difficult to negotiate with.
With Setsugen constantly pestering him for firestones, it took half a year just to secure a route to Jebas. And to trade with the isolationist Jebas took another three months of top of that to begin.
Even though Karasu had been so busy he couldn’t even sleep, that damned Goddess had said,
“You’re slow. Geez, we can’t wait any longer. Whatever. In that case, I’ll just bring the Tohjian workers to Insen myself.”
Never in his life had he wanted to strangle that woman more.
But despite that, Karasu couldn’t oppose her.
While the woman had been happily enjoying her baths, Karasu had been slowly but surely advancing the preparations.
As proof of that, he had already finished constructing one oasis last month. After sending in material and men, and getting things set up, Karasu had begun working on the second oasis.
That woman had complained to him, but he had still created an oasis in less than a year. How could that be slow.
Karasu was feeling a sense of accomplishment, different to the one when he took I’Jibro.
And the second and third oases didn’t seem too difficult either. Now that he had already worked out the specifics of creating one, the rest could be created by following the same lessons.
Back when the woman had first told him to create a trade route, he had thought of it as a ridiculous task. But although he certainly did meet many hardships, things were progressing smoothly.
The control of I’Jibro was going well.
Getting the tariffs in place was close at hand too.
Everything was starting to come together.
It was probably because of this that he had relaxed and gotten conceited.
He had thought that it would be just another trip in the desert. He had already done it once in the past.
It was just riding a ruba for a bit. Hardly dangerous at all. Thinking that, Karasu had headed into the desert by himself without informing any of his men.
Who could have imagined a bandit attack with such unfortunate timing.
Before he was old enough to have his voice break, Karasu had worked as a bodyguard. He had good sense and talent to go with it, and was regarded highly by trading caravans.
Karasu didn’t hate using the sword. Neither did he hate fighting. This had not changed since becoming King of Yohk’Zai, and he had always stood on the frontlines with his sword.
Thanks to that he managed to turn the tables on the five bandits. Unfortunately, in the process he had lost the ruba that was his lifeline.
What made things even worse was that his leg had been slashed. Thankfully it wasn’t serious enough for him to haemorrhage to death, but it still made it difficult to walk in the desert.
It would be reckless to attempt travelling a distance that would take half an hour on ruba.
Karasu decided to preserve his energy rather than struggle pointlessly.
So he leant against a boulder and gazed at the half-buried corpses. He spent an hour like that.
Sparkling grains of sand in the wind seemed to paint over the corpses.
Back when he killed the merchants in order to take Huuron’s place, had their remains also been buried beneath the sand like this…?
Quite unlike himself, Karasu began to grow sentimental.
“OOOOOOOI, WHERE ARE YOU HUUUUUUROOOOOOOOOOON!”
An angry woman’s cry. And at the same time, a rectangular hole was cut into the scenery.
As usual, the woman appeared in front of him wearing only a single cloth.
It was a bother to get up, so Karasu only moved his eyes.
“You’re slow. I’ve been waiting for you,” he said.
It was a mysterious feeling.
Until just now, he never had even the faintest expectations that she would save him, but the moment he saw her face, it felt like he had been waiting for her all along.
When the woman spotted him sitting on the sand, she glared at him indignantly.
“What the hell was that!”
“What the hell… was what?”
Of course, he had a rough idea of what she was angry about. Still, he decided to pick an annoying answer.
“That! That! That thing in the dead middle of the oasis spring, damnit!”
So it was that after all. Karasu’s lips curved into a smile.
“Oh, it seems you liked it. I commissioned some famous artist from Jebas.”
After looking lost for a moment, realisation flashed on her face.
“Famous artist… Don’t tell me it was the Old Maestro!?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. That Old Maestro was an acquaintance of yours, wasn’t he.”
The woman collapsed onto her rectangular frame as she groaned “Ugugu…”
Karasu decided to finish her off.
“It was well done. It had a bit more meat on it, so it was more to my taste.”
When he had visited Jebas, in that extraordinarily luxurious castle courtyard, he spotted a statue of a naked woman bestowing a sword upon a man in armour.
He had been dumbfounded by the sight, but he quickly began to chuckle as he thought up his revenge.
“An oasis that a goddess watches over. Doesn’t it sound great? I’ve no doubt you’ll be worshipped by future visitors.”
“…It’s true that I helped out with the oasis, but why did you have to make it naked!?” she screamed.
Seeing her red face had really satisfied him. Karasu laughed happily.
“Have a look at what you’re wearing, and ask yourself that.”
Looking down at her cloth-wrapped body, her expression turned bitter.
“Plus, that old man thought that it would be better naked too. Since I felt that it would be blasphemous to misrepresent you, I readily agreed.”
“Didn’t you completely misrepresent my body…” muttered the woman.
Karasu’s laughing only deepened.
“I was just being considerate. I thought it would be pitiful if people started pointing out that the Goddess of the Spring was so much scrawnier than all the other goddesses.”
Her silent and sour expression made him smack the ground with laughter.
It was actually starting to hurt now.
His leg wound had been bothering him the whole time as well.
“Anyhow, bring it out. You have something this time as well, don’t you.”
It was only now that the woman realised he was wounded.
“Oh my. Could it be that you’re injured?”
“You should say these sorts of things earlier. Here. A flute made from the horn of a sekitoha. Apparently you can hear it from a thousand miles away.”
With that, the woman produced a large flute the size of one’s upper arm.
――Again with an incredibly suspicious item…
Whenever she appeared with an item, a lot of the time it was something peculiar.
But Karasu also noted that it was always something that helped.
When he took the flute in his hands, he noticed how light it was despite its bulky appearance.
Bringing it to his lips, he blew.
A low sound seemed to spread through the land.
It felt like it went further than a person’s voice could. But he still couldn’t imagine that it would reach anywhere near a thousand miles.
“Oi, this isn’t a fake is it.”
The women tilted her head in puzzlement.
“…W-, Who knows?”
Karasu wanted to slap the flute onto the ground.
“Well, whatever. If worse comes to worse, you can just carry me the same way you do the Tohjians.”
The women complained, “But I have to get up early tomorrow…” with an unwilling expression, but Karasu naturally paid her no heed.
Half an hour later.
Around the time he replaced his makeshift bandage with a new cloth from the woman, he heard the sounds of people coming to find him.
For a while, Karasu had trouble deciding if it was the flute or not.