A Banquet with the Black Catkin
ED: Position now vacant. Taking applications. The test is tough. Apply if you dare.
The black catkin were fired up. They continued excitedly conversing with one another as we made our way back to the village. Content wise, their conversations were rather serious. They were earnestly trying to form parties and learn more about areas in which they could hunt evil beings. Schwarzekatze’s surroundings were almost completely devoid of monsters, so their only choices were either to head towards the capital or set sail for Gilbard, the continent Fran and I had just come from.
I’m glad they’re motivated, but I’m also kind of worried. They’ll probably die if they push themselves too hard right off the bat. We might’ve stirred them up a bit too much.
“Might be a good idea for you to hang around Schwartzekatze and train these guys up a bit.”
“But then won’t make to auction.”
Fran shook her head disapprovingly.
“Yeah, I know, but I’m kinda worried they’ll go out and just get themselves killed without actually getting anything done, y’know?”
“Can’t stay. Need to keep promise.”
“I’m not really sure if you can call what happened making a promise. I know Gallus left us a letter and whatnot, but we never sent him a reply. We technically didn’t promise anyone anything.”
“Well… if you say so.”
Fran firmly rejected my suggestion and left no room for negotiation. She could get surprisingly stubborn when it came to things like this. The young black catkin hated being wishy washy. She’d always stick to anything she decided on without so much as a second thought. There was no point in arguing with her, so I gave my metaphorical shoulders a shrug and laid off.
I wanted her to take care of the other black catkin, but I wasn’t about to make her go back on her word. The strength of her resolve was one of the most charming things about her, after all.
The black catkin that’d accompanied us in the assault began bragging about their exploits the moment we returned to the village. They talked about how they’d killed goblins, and how they’d witnessed Fran’s heroic display of strength. Each and every single one of them had their voices filled with both pride and fervor. Even those that’d decided never to fight again spoke well of the encounter.
Witnessing the invigorated youth, the village’s chief bowed to Fran.
“Thank you, Black Lightning Princess.” His voice dripped with gratitude and delight.
“I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done.”
“Not big deal.” Fran shrugged.
“It is to us. Our tribe has finally gained the vigour and determination it lacked. None of this would have been possible without you. I must thank you for everything that you’ve done. You make us proud to be black catkin.”
“Good,” said Fran, with a nod.
She stopped for a moment to open up her dimensional storage and extract a portion of its contents. Specifically, she took out all the armour she’d just looted off the goblins.
“This, can leave here?”
All of it was made out of iron. As far as veterans were concerned, the stuff was useless. But it was still pretty damned good compared to what most fresh adventurers could get their hands on.
“Sorry, I don’t quite follow. What do you mean?” The chief scratched the back of his head as he gazed at her with a clear look of confusion.
“Y-You’re offering to give it to us!? We couldn’t possibly accept it. I’m sure it would make a fair amount of money if sold, so you’d best hold onto it.”
“Not big deal. Have enough money.”
“A-Are you sure? Can we really have all of it!?”
“T-Thank you so much! I’ll make sure the villager’s youngers put it to good use!”
“Nn. Good. Then this too.”
“Y-you’re giving us all that!?”
The chief’s eyes practically bulged out of his sockets as Fran dumped a bunch of the equipment we’d been keeping around in her storage. We’d looted it from the corpses of goblins, bandits, pirates, and everything else we’d killed on our journey. Most of it was busted up, but none of it was beyond repair. The leather stuff could just be stitched back together, whereas the metal stuff could be melted down and reforged.
The reason we hadn’t sold it any of it was because the guild only dealt in monster parts. Armour and the like needed to be taken to stores and merchants, and neither Fran nor I had really wanted to go through the trouble of selling it all.
“Don’t need this. Can’t be bothered to sell. Would be glad if you took.”
“Thank you! Thank you so much!”
The chief began tearing up. He’d interpreted Fran’s actions as generosity, and her words as a pretext.
He seems really moved. It’s kind of a shame that Fran was actually telling the truth. She only decided to give him all that stuff because she was too lazy to sell it.
And so, the rest of the day passed by rather peacefully. That night, Schwartzekatze held a banquet. The town threw a huge party, all for the sake of welcoming Fran. Their land was infertile, so we didn’t really quite understand where they were getting the money or supplies to hold the event.
The chief informed us that he was planning to use up the village’s emergency rations. Of course, there was no way we could possibly allow that. We’d come to visit, not drain the village of its assets. We ended up supplying all the food instead. There was a lot of stuff in our storage. We had meat, vegetables, grains, eggs, and fish from all over the place.
At first, the black catkin had been hesitant to use our foodstuffs. In fact, they’d even tried to refuse, but Fran eventually forced them to comply by explaining that she really needed to clean up the gigantic mess that was her inventory. She told them that she had so much food it would literally be impossible for her to ever finish it all, and that she needed Schwartzekatze’s villagers to help her polish it off.
Again, the chief ended up choking back tears of joy. He’d thought of Fran as a sort of hero from the very start, but now, he’d begun seeing her as something even more than just that.
The chief’s wife had actually taught us a recipe for a traditional black catkin stew. The taste was apparently kind of mediocre, but I still found it rather interesting because of the way it was made. It’d been cooked in an oddly shaped pot. The large vat was thick as a wall, and had the overall shape of a balance ball. Cooking in it had warmed up the entire room, likely due to something along the lines of the far infrared effect.
The meat and root vegetables that filled the pot softened extremely quickly. The village chief’s wife had added two main seasonings: salt, and a fermented seasoning that kind of resembled soy sauce. She then just let the pot sit above an open fire and let it stew, occasionally stirring until it was thick and syrupy.
All in all, it turned out like something along the lines of a Japanese-styled stew. I decided to not only memorize the recipe, but also improve on it going forward so I could make Fran a tastier version of the soup that’d fed her people for generations.
The chief’s wife had been curious about our recipes as well, so we taught her how to make stock, specifically from bones and vegetables.
She hadn’t been the only one cooking up a storm. Many other villagers had joined in as well. There ended up being a whole ton of food, as one would expect from a banquet. All the villagers were super excited to see the sheer amount they had to eat.
They kicked off the banquet by practically worshipping Fran. Many of the black catkin danced as they sang the songs they would always repeat when faced with hardship.
At first, the atmosphere had almost been solemn. But as the hour passed, people started getting drunk. They cheered up and started getting all festive. They drank together, sung out of tune songs, and danced in a jolly manner that starkly contrasted the reverent atmosphere the banquet had started with.
Though many were dead drunk, the villagers failed to forget their appreciation. They started crowding around Fran; everyone wanted to thank her at least once.
They all left the circle as soon as they spoke their words of appreciation but the number of people gathered around her didn’t decrease in the slightest. In fact, more and more started lining up and crowding around her as the booze started getting to them.
“You okay, Fran?”
“Nn. Fine.” She seemed happy.
Right, to her, this must be a dream come true. She’s always wanted to evolve, both for her own sake, and for her tribe’s.
The many black catkin continued to sing throughout the night with smiles on their faces. Fran stayed quiet, and her expression remained as usual, but I could tell that being the centre of attention had brought her joy.
I really want to encourage Fran to hang around for a bit longer, but I know she won’t change her mind. I’ve no doubt she’ll tell me that she wants to leave in a few days. But you know what, it’s fine. All that matters is that she enjoys the time she spends here.