Chapter 1: Eil of Albat
My earliest memory is from when I was 4.
I was on a stroll inside a forest with adults, then I was left all alone.
That moment, I definitely thought it.
I thought that I was going to die.
That is the oldest memory that I can recall.
It was nighttime, and there were wolves howling in the distance.
The eeriness of the forest with its rustling leaves had me shivering in fear.
And thinking about how I was deep within that target of fear, I had resolved myself for death.
The only thing that my little child mind could think of was to get home by myself.
Adults and the older children that I could rely on were all gone.
There was only me.
Thus, I had to do something about it myself.
That, I fully understood.
What I learned at that time was ‘hide your breathing, move without getting discovered by beasts, search for clues.’
I really, really wanted to cry, but held it in.
Well, the truth of it was that I cried a little bit in muffled sobs.
Just a tiny bit.
With a slight trail of sweat flowing from my eyes, I calmly, very calmly, went back the way I thought I’d come from.
I was actually not that far away from the village.
After all, I had gotten there by my own two feet in the first place.
There were no footprints on the ground.
However, there were areas where the grass was slightly flattened.
That was likely the traces of my having passed there.
Having been convinced so, I followed that, and was able to safely return home.
Thinking about it now, I was only in a grove quite close to the village.
It wasn’t even a forest.
No man-eating beasts lived there.
It only seemed so frightening through the eyes of a four year old.
——Furthermore, of the leading adults and other kids who had been coming along, not a single one had even realized that I had been left behind.
I was not a conspicuous child in the first place.
More like, I was quite the quiet child.
I grew up frequently being told ‘I didn’t even know you were here,’ or ‘you have no presence, ‘ or ‘speak up if you’re there,’ and other such.
As a result of that experience in the forest, perhaps in readiness for if I find myself in a similar situation again, the consciousness of ‘don’t let yourself get found by the enemy’ strangely stuck to me.
The ‘enemy’ was the adults after I took part in a prank with friends, the boss of the kids that was my elder sister, and my mother when she was coming after me with the vegetables that I hated in hand.
It was not that I had no presence, but that I purposely erased my presence.
In this way, I became ‘the child with a weak presence.’
After that, time passed uneventfully, until that incident that happened when I was 10.
In the village where I was born in, population is low and everyone is poor.
Therefore, even kids are considered a source of labor, to some degree.
When I became 9, ‘it’s about time’ began being brought up every once in a while.
By that time, Sis was already tilling fields at full strength, then in her free time playing around with, again, full strength.
She was the complete opposite of me, always conspicuous and active and energetic.
But it was then that intervention came in from an unexpected source.
It was from the hunter ossan who lived in the same village, Bekt.
It seemed like my parents wanted me to help out at our family’s farm, but I ended up working under the hunter living in the village.
It was all because of the weakness of my presence…… no, it was because of my habit of purposely hiding from various things.
Bekt noticed that, and saw the potential in it.
The ability to sneak up to prey.
The ability to not be sensed by prey.
Apparently that was very suitable for becoming a hunter, so he went to convince my parents to let me become his apprentice.
It seemed that I would get to eat the meat that I love much more frequently if I agreed, so I said yes on the spot.
My motive was the meat.
Just as Bekt had predicted, I very quickly awakened my talent as a hunter.
Only three days after starting my apprenticeship, I was already able to bring down rabbits and birds with my child-sized bow.
It was the beginning of a mind-whirling meat festival.
My parents, and also my unnaturally active sister, were all delighted at the meat that began to grace our dinner table every once in a while.
Naturally, I was delighted too.
“Ya~HOOOOO————!! It’s meat, IT’S MEAT————!!”
Everyone might have been creeped out by how ecstatic Sis was, but I was the most ecstatic.
I was more ecstatic than everyone else.
I just didn’t show it on the outside, but I was very ecstatic indeed.
Then that incident occurred about a year into my apprenticeship.
When we were in the middle of searching for prey in the forest, Bekt the hunter farted.
Oh, that was some fart indeed.
The sound was so explosive that it actually sent all the neary birds flying off in startlement.
Well, it’s human physiology.
It can’t be helped.
Even kids understand that what needs to come out will come out.
But I really wish he had given it more thought.
As an adult.
About the height of a child.
It was a direct hit.
The face of the apprentice who was closely following behind his mentor received a direct hit of lethal gas.
“Ugh, so smel——ah……UWAAAHHH!!”
I attempted to back up in evasion, but then realized that there was nothing underneath my feet.
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