Editor: [__], SenjiQ, Tzmoh, Vrryou
Chapter 19: Exchange
When Rio returned to the forest with additional rations and camping equipment for Latifa, the two of them set off towards the east.
It seemed that Latifa was only ever taught『Body Strengthening Magic (Hyper Physical Ability)』.
It was a useful magic but not without its problems.
First off, it operated differently than Rio’s body strengthening in such a way that the user’s body would become strained after prolonged use.
Furthermore, it constantly consumed magical power so it was quite inefficient.
Though, this was a problem shared with body strengthening via Spirit Arts as well.
In that respect, since the Beastman tribe possessed stronger and more flexible bodies, their affinity with『Body Strengthening Magic(Hyper Physical Ability)』was much better than that of the human race.
Rio also noticed that Latifa had an overwhelming amount of magical power, allowing her to continuously strengthen herself for long distances.
Although Latifa could match Rio’s maximum speed when his body was strengthened, her stamina significantly fell short of his.
After 30 minutes of continuous running, she would start gasping for breath.
Rio slowed down to a pace which Latifa was comfortable with so she could catch up.
Despite time being of the essence, they still took proper rests.
「Here, have some water.」
Using Spirit Arts, he filled a canteen he bought for her with water and handed it to her.
「Thank you, desu.」
Latifa drank the water, with gulping sounds coming from her small mouth.
Rio also drank some water from his own canteen while seating himself before Latifa.
*Guu* A cute rumble was heard from Latifa’s stomach.
When Rio turned his gaze towards Latifa, she vigorously shook her head.
Rio could only wryly smile at her behaviour.
「So it’s already time for lunch? …Here.」
Using a knife, he divided the bread from the bento he received from the landlady back at the inn and offered half of it to Latifa.
However, Latifa only stared at the bread in his hands in bewilderment.
Her eyes restlessly darted between Rio and the bread in his hands.
「What’s the matter?」
「Me, eat, okay?」
She sought his permission with a frightened look.
Latifa had been conditioned to constantly guess her master’s mood.
She was trained in such a way that unless a clear order was given, she was prohibited from doing anything.
Even when a meal was presented to her, she could not eat unless told to.
She was disciplined in such a way.
Her master would always become angry whenever she did something without his explicit permission, so out of fear of being punished, Latifa would always seek permission before doing anything.
In a way, it was a means to shield herself from abuse. Such a reaction became ingrained into her mind and it persisted even after she was released from slavery.
She had only just gained her freedom and chose to immediately follow Rio so this kind of instinctive behaviour was only natural.
「No need to feel reserved. It’s fine for you to eat.」
Although Rio did not understand that Latifa’s dependency stemmed from the psychological abuse she received over the years, he assumed that she was accustomed to receiving orders and gently urged her to eat.
Latifa timidly brought the bread to her mouth.
After she ascertained the taste, she quickly began wolfing down the rest of the bread.
The meal was not luxurious by any means. However, for her, who had lived her entire life as a slave, it might as well have been a feast.
「Hic, hic hic, hic, hic.」
Latifa bursted into tears while stuffing her cheeks with the bread.
「I won’t steal your food so eat slowly, it’s bad for your body otherwise.」
Rio soothingly patted Latifa’s back as she ate.
「Hic, Onii-sama, hic, taunted me, hic, everyday, with food, hic.」
Recalling all her meals until now, Latifa’s crying became more intense.
Just what kind of treatment did she receive during her meals?
Rio grimaced when he tried imagining it.
When Latifa buried her face into Rio’s chest, he simply patted her head quietly whilst waiting for her to calm down.
「I’ve heard that the beastmen are a race who value their brethren. Latifa will surely be welcomed there. There is no need for you to worry anymore.」
Rio was troubled by what he should say to alleviate Latifa’s worries and stop her tears.
「I— Is that really true?」
Latifa looked up at Rio with expectant eyes.
「Yeah, I’m sure of it. It’s a far better place than any human country.」
Averting his eyes from Latifa, Rio gazed into the distance.
「Well then, the sun hasn’t set yet so we should keep moving. I’m not sure how long it’ll take us to reach beastmen territory so we’ll have to keep moving.」
In order to try and take her mind off her worries, Rio urged Latifa to set off once again.
Staying where they were would not accomplish anything.
Moreover, his body felt restless.
Latifa gave a slight nod while looking at Rio.
For the next several hours, they continued running with occasional breaks.
They ignored the majority of the monsters they encountered.
Their progress would be significantly hampered if they stopped and dealt with every single one of the monsters.
「We’ll be resting here for the night. Wait here for a minute.」
When the sun started to set, Rio discovered an overhang suitable for setting up camp and signalled Latifa to stop.
He collected leaves and branches from the nearby trees and skillfully constructed a makeshift tent.
Although a tent made from wild plants would make most modern people feel hesitant to sleep in, it had many advantages in a world teeming with monsters and wild animals.
The tent easily blended in with the surrounding greenery.
Besides, it also masked its inhabitants’ odours to an extent.
Furthermore, nights were cold in the forest and changes in the weather were unpredictable and spontaneous.
Even if it rained, it would be difficult for water to leak through the leaves of a tent created from foliage.
Just being able to stave off the wind and rain would greatly reduce their fatigue.
The area inside was surprisingly comfortable since the tent could breathe through the numerous tiny gaps between the leaves. Unlike nylon tents, a fire could be maintained inside without worrying about the smoke building up.
Latifa watched in awe as Rio set up their accommodation in the blink of an eye.
「Dinner will be ready soon. You can wait inside, I’ll call you when it’s ready. Since you have sharp sense of smell, if you notice anything strange, tell me immediately.」
Confirming that she understood him, Rio left the camp.
Usually, while camping outdoors, cooking that produced a strong aroma was undesirable, but Rio was accustomed to flavourful meals from his previous life and had no intentions of eating a dull meal.
Therefore, he did both his cooking and dining in an area away from the camp.
After finding a suitable location, Rio began to cook.
He added water produced using Spirit Arts and salt into a pot.
Pasta was to be tonight’s menu.
He heated the pot over the fire created by igniting some branches he gathered beforehand.
Simultaneously, he poured water into a slightly smaller pot that could fit inside the other pot to boil pasta.
The seasoning he used was a combination of spices he purchased from Almond.
Edible wild grasses that were gathered during his journey were also added to improve the nutritional balance of the meal.
He washed the wild grasses while waiting for the pot to warm and then, using a knife, cut them into bite-sized portions.
After he finished chopping the wild grasses, he cut the dried meat into thin slices.
In order to avoid having monsters with a keen sense of smell approach him, he regulated the air currents using Spirit Arts to disperse the smell.
The dish he made was quite extravagant, something not even nobles would be able to dine on while in the middle of a journey.
Sensing that somebody was approaching, he turned around only to find Latifa making her way over, lured by the smell.
Her nose twitched every so often.
When she noticed Rio looking at her with a wry smile, her face reddened in shame.
「Here, it’s soup pasta. The seasoning is something I came up with, though.」
He offered a container containing the soup pasta to Latifa.
Although Rio preferred his food to be spicy, he did not add any spiciness this time since Latifa might not be able to handle spiciness well.
「…『Spaghetti』? This, it’s『Spaghetti』, right!?」
Recognizing the contents of the container, Latifa could not hide the astonishment in her voice.
「Ye— Yeah… You can eat it.」
Rio replied in slight bewilderment.
Having obtained Rio’s permission, Latifa began eating her pasta with sparkling eyes.
She skillfully wielded her fork, using it to coil up the pasta, as if she already knew the proper way to eat pasta.
Rio could not help but stare in awe at Latifa.
Pasta noodles were not an ingredient native to this world.
She also called it『Spaghetti』.
It was doubtful that she was taught how to use a fork as a slave as well.
And yet, she knew how to eat pasta.
(Could it be she’s also… a reincarnator?)
It was definitely a possibility.
Now that he thought about it, just the other day, he also discovered the existence of another reincarnator.
But to meet a fellow reincarnator like this…
Rio was baffled on such a chance meeting.
「Hafu, hafu hafu~」
Latifa was frantically eating the hot pasta.
「It’s hot so don’t eat too quickly or else you’ll burn your tongue. Look, you can dip the bread in to soften it. It’ll also help cool down the soup.」
Rio taught Latifa how to eat the bread that was as hard as a preserved biscuit.
Following Rio’s recommendation, Latifa ate the bread soaked in the soup and her face broke out into a euphoric smile.
Rio had difficulty gauging Latifa’s mental age.
Judging from their interaction thus far, no matter how he saw it, it seemed like her mental age was not too far from her physical appearance.
It seemed that she had a limited amount of societal experience from her previous life.
（Perhaps it’s an act… No, there’s nothing to gain from doing that. Perhaps she was still a child in her previous life…?)
After mulling over the issue, Rio arrived upon a single conclusion.
It was quite likely that his hypothesis was correct.
Rio thought about Latifa’s situation while slowly eating his pasta.
If he guessed correctly, Latifa was at most, an upper-grade elementary schooler who one day, suddenly became a slave.
Although he did not when Latifa regained her memories, he was certain her age was still in the single digits.
Simply adding her current age to her previous life’s age would not produce an accurate representation of her mental age either.
(If that’s the case, can someone like her understand reincarnation?)
Rio could only imagine the cruel fate that had befallen Latifa.
His own situation, while not great, was still much better than her’s.
Although starting out as an orphan was quite undesirable, for better or for worse, he received a proper education, allowing him to gain an understanding of this world.
While he was framed as a criminal, at least he did not have his freedom stolen from him like a slave.
In addition, his mind had already matured allowing him to understand the absurdities of this world.
However, Latifa was different.
A young child living a prosperous life in modern Japan was abruptly deprived of all her rights and treated like a pet.
The abuse she received was probably more than anything he could imagine.
She must have undergone inhumane training for her to become a heartless assassin.
Still, perhaps she had already accepted her life as a slave before she regained her memories.
The reason was that she was born into slavery.
However, once she regained her memories of her former life, it was no longer possible for her to accept a life of slavery.
She would want to be free, to return to her former world. It was likely that was how she felt up until now.
Rio speculated that Latifa bore so much mental suffering that it could not even be considered a trauma anymore.
She lacked a free will as a result of being raised as a slave.
From the beginning, the concept of freedom was completely foreign to her.
However, she regained her memories and through that, a sense of free will.
Could it be considered a misfortune or a blessing?
（Is that why she’s so emotionally unstable…? Damn it.）
The more Rio pondered about Latifa’s circumstances, the more disgusted he became.
Latifa was absorbed in eating Rio’s cooking.
Perhaps it reminded her of her former life, but tears began welling up in her eyes.
When Latifa finished drinking the last remaining bit of soup, she began licking the bowl in regret.
Rio scooped a second helping into her now empty container.
Slightly lowering her head in gratitude, Latifa resumed her meal with a delighted expression.
No longer in the mood to eat, Rio finished what remained of his portion and poured the remainder of the pot into Latifa’s container.
In the end, Rio opted not to reveal that he was also a reincarnated person to Latifa.