Chapter 115: The People of Kagetaka
A few minutes after Henry’s greeting, I could see a few people running towards us from the direction of the harbor.
The faint scent of salty sea water drifted towards my nose, as a group of three people quickly came into view.
From a distance, I could barely make out their appearance. The first person was a man with a plain appearance. He had overgrown, dark brown hair that reached down past his cheeks, and an unshaven face. A patch of curly, dark brown hair, wrapped around his neck and lower jaw.
His level was twenty-four.
To the right, there was a woman dressed in an old police uniform. A collared shirt and matching black pants, topped off with a shining police badge on her left breast. Her originally white shirt, was tainted heavily in old blood stains. These stains had long seeped into the fabric of her outfit, to the point where it was impossible to remove them even with soap and water. Like Henry, she had a gun strapped to her hip.
Her level was twenty-five.
Last but not least, there was a man who ran in the middle. He was wearing a sleeveless shirt, which revealed a pair of muscular, bronze colored arms. His face appeared chiseled, but worn down due to stress and fatigue. Deep wrinkles ran down the side of his cheeks, while dark circles covered his eyes. I could see a metal long sword strapped to his back. Its sheathed edge swung with every step that he took.
He gave off a sort of guild master like atmosphere, the type you’d normally find in a real fantasy world. At level thirty-five, his level was the highest out of the approaching trio.
They stopped a few feet in front of us. Their gazes were filled with a mix of caution and interest. I paid particularly close attention to the old man in the middle. His eyes narrowed as he scanned each and every one of us. For a second, my shoulders tensed up as his eyes hovered over me, before they moved on and landed on the President.
I breathed out a sigh of relief. I looked over at the remaining two. Judging by their initial reaction, it did not seem as if there was anybody with an [Identify] skill. Their status windows didn’t have anything out of place either.
As my thoughts continued to churn, the President greeted them.
“Hello, we escaped from the residential district, and saw a flyer about Kagetaka Port, so we came here.” He repeated his original greeting with Henry.
For a moment, their group was silent. The old man in the middle continued to gaze down at the President. He was a good head and a half taller than the President, so he was literally looking down on him.
After a while, he squinted, before asking, “How old are you?”
“Seventeen. I’m a high schooler.” He answered honestly.
There was a slight fluctuation in the old man’s expression. “You really are just a kid?” He asked with a tone of shock.
“Well, calling me a kid’s kind off…” The President scratched his cheek as he put on a helpless expression. “I’m certainly younger than you, but from my perspective, I don’t think I’m a kid.”
The old man ignored his words and continued to speak one-sidedly. “This Port used to be a busy place, filled with foreign business men, and various dock workers. Someone younger than twenty was a rare sight even then, much less now. Out of all the people here, there are only about three people below twenty. One of them’s a toddler.”
“The other one is my sister.” The policewoman from earlier spoke with the same tone of wonderment as the old man. Her eyes had a hint of gentleness that was more pronounced than the other two. “How did you guys survive this long?”
This topic of conversation was something I predicted earlier. We had rehearsed previously, and depending on our initial views on the people from Kagetaka, we had planned a response accordingly. Right now, I had my own ideas regarding these people, but the current judgement was left up to the President.
After a slight pause, he answered, “… Someone was protecting use before. He went missing a few days ago, so we decided to come here instead.”
Hearing this, the policewoman from earlier put on a regrettable expression. “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t think it was such a sore subject.”
“Did he run away?” The plain faced man who was silent up until now, asked with interest.
“Hey, you can’t just-” The policewoman spoke out, but was interrupted by the man from before.
He raised his hand up to cover her mouth, before he shrugged, and stated, “I’m just curious. You don’t need to be so sensitive all the time. Just trying to stay alive is already stressful enough, I don’t need you making it worse.”
“You!” The duo was on the verge of quarreling, a familiar sort of atmosphere drifted around them, as if such a scene of argument was common place around here. They would have probably started fighting had the old man in the middle not intervened.
“That’s enough you two. At least have some propriety in front of new people.” The old man tiredly sighed as he glanced at our group.
In response, the President shook his head and smiled, but remained silent.
“You kids, what are your levels?” The old man asked.
“I’m level 25.” The President responded with our predetermined response after I secretly passed on the information about his level. If you’re asking how I did that, then it was pretty simple. Three taps on the floor with my foot meant thirty. After a pause, five taps meant five. In total, level thirty-five.
“Hoh... twenty-five huh, you’re pretty strong.” He said admiringly even though he was ten levels higher than him. “Being that strong, especially after living out there is no easy feat for anyone, much less someone of your age.”
The President amiably smiled, “I’m the strongest one in my group, so I had to fight often in the front lines.”
The old man nodded his head. After a moment, a strange glint flashed across his face. He stared at our group with a complicated expression, his mouth opening and closing several times as if he wanted to say something, but couldn’t. After some hesitation, he eventually asked, “… You guys should have originated from the high school, right?”
The President nodded. “We were in class when the apocalypse happened. We spent… quite sometime there.”
“We don’t get a lot of survivors from near that area, so I don’t know what happened there, and I don’t really care, but… Do you know someone named Masaumi?”
Hearing an unfamiliar name, the President frowned and shook his head. From the dark expression on his face, I could tell what he was thinking. If he wasn’t with our group, then this Masaumi was probably dead, buried under a pile of rubble and concrete back at the school.
“No, I don’t know who that is.” He spoke, before adding in a slight whisper. “Even back in the cafeteria, there was nobody by that name…” After a moment, he shook his head, and turned back to look at the old man. “Was he a student from the school?”
The old man shook his head. “No, he was a teacher… a bit skinny, his hair is kind of curly, and he wore glasses. He… was my son.”
“No, don’t mind it. I never expected anything in the first place. That idiot’s probably…” A heavy sigh leaked out from his throat, before he looked at the President again.
“I don’t care much about what happened in the past, but since you’ve escaped here, then it’s only right to welcome you in. We’ve never once rejected any survivor that came from the city. Although your level is high, this place is relatively safe, so your level won’t matter much around here. Unless you choose to go out on your own, then having a high level is practically pointless, after all, although things are like this now, we still used to live in a civilized world, so deciding things by strength isn’t how things get done around here.”
The policewoman by his side nodded her head. She slightly bent her knees, and leaned in. The corners of her eyes creased into a pair of crescent moons as she gently smiled. “I want you guys to understand. I’ve heard a lot of things about the city from the people who trickled in here, but this place, at least in this place, I want you guys to remember the past.
“This place has rules, order, and laws, but most importantly, it’s safe.”
I unconsciously frowned. A little bit ahead of me, I could hear a slight sound coming from Hina. Her eyes had a faint wetness to it, while her lips quivered in a slight smile.
After the police woman spoke, the man with the plain face nodded his head. “My best advice here is to pretend like you’re in the past. We’ve had one too many guys trying to solve things by force, and it never ended up well for them.”
“Well, this is just an early warning. I’ll give you guys a real introduction later after you’ve come inside, and cleaned yourselves up a bit.” The old man said.
I don’t know whether it was because of our age, or because of the memory of his son, but the old man’s gaze had softened. After giving our group another once over, he turned towards the other two and nodded. The duo returned his nod, before the old man continued.
“Welcome. My name is Tojo. I’m sure it was a long trip over here, but don’t worry. This place is safe. Come inside. Henry,”
He waved his hand towards the chubby man. Henry, who saw this momentarily blanked, before he vigorously nodded and ran towards the fence.
“You guys are lucky.” Henry spoke with a toothy grin as he fiddled around with the fence. His tone had a hint of amusement to it. “If this were a zombie movie, we’d be inspecting you for bite marks. You’d probably be put in quarantine for a few days. Luckily, the only thing we have to fight against are monsters. Everything would be perfect and all, if it weren’t for the fact that bullets don’t always work on a lot of the monsters out there…”
“You…unbelievable…” The policewoman sighed, before she angrily said, “Quit trying to scare them and hurry up and unlock the fence already!”
“Alright, alright, jeez, it’s the same everyday with you.” He groaned out loud. “No wonder nobody has any interest in you. With your temper, their all afraid you’ll shoot them with that gun of yours!”
The policewoman’s temper flared up, and just as she was about to step up and kick the guy, Henry suddenly jumped out of the way with surprising nimbleness. A second later, the lock and chain fell to the ground with a loud clatter.
“Now, come inside, come inside!” Henry vigorously spoke as he jumped from side to side five feet away from the policewoman.
“Right…” Seeing, the scene that had just taken place, even the President’s usual composure was broken. He was hesitant, before he nodded and stepped forward.
Even I wasn’t unaffected by the group’s merriness. There was a certain sense of incongruity around the people from Kagetaka. Almost like they were a bit too happy, which was unbelievable, considering the situation the world was currently in.
The President swung open the fence and walked past the gates. The rest of the group slowly followed, trickling into the guarded area of the port city.
The policewoman greeted each and every one of us as we entered. She was met with varying responses, depending on which person it was that she greeted. For example, Cielle gave a cool and distant nod, while someone like Hina actually went out and hugged her.
I was the last person to enter, and the policewoman greeted me the same way like with everyone. She patted my shoulders, and gave me a reassuring smile.
“Don’t worry.” She said, “This place is definitely safe. And if anything does happen, I’ll be sure to protect you!”
Although her words were rather positive, they fell on deaf ears. At that moment, the only thing on my mind was whether or not I could steal the gun on her hip.
We were led to a small neighborhood that had less than forty houses. We were told that this place was the main refuge for all the survivors that had gathered in Kagetaka Port. This was evident by the extra layer of steel fencing that wrapped around the perimeter of the area.
While Tojo and the plain faced man went somewhere to handle another matter, the policewoman was the one who guided us to our new home. She told us many things, but most of it were inconsequential information, and came in one ear and out the other. The few important things that she did say, I committed to memory.
For one, there were only about three hundred people here. Considering the total population of the port before the apocalypse, then that was a survival rate of less than 1%, a pretty morbid statistic if you asked me. The second piece of information that I remembered was that this place had been up ever since the start of the apocalypse. That meant that the living conditions that these people experienced had stayed relatively the same ever since it all started. While we were struggling to survive in a dungeon, being hunted down by monsters left and right, the people here were protected and safe, hiding out in this neighborhood like a pack of underground moles.
The third and probably most important piece of information was that Kagetaka port had a steady supply of food, at least for the time being. There was a granary close by that held a few hundred tons of threshed grain. It was enough to feed a population of three hundred for a few years. In addition, they also had a lot of nonperishable goods stored away in bulk in the warehouses near the harbor.
Those goods were originally meant to be distributed throughout all the stores and markets within the island. Unfortunately, the apocalypse had happened, and all those goods were abandoned.
In short, this place was practically perfect, a paradise on earth.
We eventually arrived at a small house located near the far end of the neighborhood. It was a bit far from the rest of the occupied houses, and the fencing was directly behind us, but that was fine with me. Rather, I felt safer knowing we were somewhat separated from everyone else.
“You can use this place for the time being.” The policewoman explained. “I’ll go bring a few daily necessities in a while, so you all can just unwind and pack your things. Later tonight, I’ll come back and bring you to the main house. We’ll have dinner and I’ll introduce you to the rest of the survivors.”
She left while waving her arms goodbye.
“Shimazawa is a good person.” Hina spoke with a smile on her face as she closed the door behind her.
“Was that her name?” I asked uninterestedly as I unpacked the things on my back.
Hina, who was oblivious to my earlier statement, nodded enthusiastically. “I think this place is good, Hide. They have food, shelter, and people. It’s a good place for us to stay.”
“…” I thought about her words. Instead of replying to her, I turned towards everyone else. “What do you guys think?”
“I-I like it here.” A timid voice answered from near the back of the room. Judging by her tone, I could tell it was Kido’s old childhood friend.
Minakawa, who was standing right next to her, also agreed, nodding her head vigorously as she started unpacking the few things that she had brought.
"Well, I don't." Narise answered with a huff, as she placed the backpack that she had been carrying on the ground. "My Wiesse isn't here. If you hadn't had told me to leave him in the convenience store, along with a bunch of food, then this place would have been a hundred times better."
Although she had an unresigned expression on her face, in the end, she had agreed to this condition when we left. The only concession I had to agree to was that we'd go back for it before the food we left ran out.
Ignoring her, I turned towards the rest of the group.
“I agree with Hina.” Cher answered after a slight pause. “There doesn’t seem to be anything particularly wrong with the people here, at least not anything that I could see. Did you catch anything with your skill, Hide?”
I thought about the information I had gathered from [Identify]. There was nothing out of place or particularly extraordinary about their stats. In addition, nobody seemed to catch on about my true level. The people that we had come across were ordinary. They weren’t fearsome, or weak, just plain ordinary.
“What about you, Prez?” I turned towards the President. “You were the one who interacted with them the most today. What did you think?”
Hearing my question, the President frowned. He turned up to look at the ceiling, as he tilted his head in thought. After a moment of silence, he responded, “I don’t think there’s anything too hostile about the people here, it’s just that, something about them is bothering me…”
“Oh?” I raised my brow at his statement. “What’s bothering you?”
“I can’t put my finger on it, just that… something feels off.” After thinking some more, he shrugged his shoulders helplessly. “I don’t know how to describe it. How about you, Hide? Do you feel the same way?”
“…Yeah, I do.” I answered without hesitation. “At first, it bothered me too, but after thinking about it a bit, I finally figured out what was bothering me.
“The people here are too easy going. Their disposition is a bit too positive, especially compared to what we’ve experienced. I don’t know if that’s the effect of being with a large group, or having enough supplies to the point where they don’t have to worry about anything, but in a sense, it’s amazing. The fact that they can stay so easy going makes me wonder whether or not the same apocalypse that destroyed our world affected the people here in Kagetaka port.”
“Then, do you think it’s a bad thing?” Hina asked. “Their way of living, as if their still in the past, do you think that it’s really such a bad thing?”
“…” I did not answer. After some more thought, I turned towards Cielle, who was standing right next to me, and asked, “And you, Cielle? What do you think?”
“Whatever you decide to do, I’ll follow.” She answered perfunctorily.
Hearing her response, I could not help but blow out a puff of air and sighed. “Well, for now, let’s stay for a bit, and decide things later after we’ve got a better hold on the situation. Like Hina said… I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with the people here…”
Just that, if I were to point out one thing, it feels as if I’m caught up in the calm before the storm.