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‘This is so awkward.’
Joonbum looked at the strangers with awkward silence. The food and drink he prepared were all gone already and with no common language between them, he didn’t know what to do. Even the people looked awkward.
‘What should I do now?’
Just when Joonbum thought about what to do next, the sound of munching stopped him. Everyone turned their heads as if it was a good chance to break the ice as they looked at Galfus who was eagerly chewing on the arm of a monster. Pree-an ran toward Galfus and shouted to Howen.
“Chieftain, Kawiqunin! Four of them.”
“Yes, but there are some strange wounds on these corpses.”
Howen’s gaze glowed as he turned from the corpses to Joonbum, who blushed at the sudden attention. The man seemed too weak to be a warrior. He was pretty tall, but that was it. His hands were clean without any calluses or scars. He didn’t seem to have the usual signs that farmers or hunters had. Even his skin was cleaner than the white patch he was wearing on his cheek. There were no wrinkles or imperfect tightness that could be found in commoners.
With his plumpness and huge belly, he had the typical look of a wealthy noble.
‘Is he a noble?’
Howen heard stories of nobles who would run away and hide in the mountains, away from their own crimes. The area was also filled with unbelievable items. It was such that no commoners would ever imagine getting their hands on. Even the clear glass cup and transparent jar were not things that were easily obtainable.
‘But he’s too friendly.’
More questions brewed in Howen. The Ainos were never hostile against humans, but even with that fact, the man was too friendly.
As Howen was deep in his thoughts, his men turned to Joonbum with amazed looks on their faces.
The startled Joonbum accidentally chewed his tongue and flinched.
“Excuse me, sir!”
The Ainos men shouted, retreatingly at Joonbum and Joonbum was startled at the shout of the unknown language. There was a moment of silent awkwardness. Joonbum grew thirsty and realized he was hungry.
He remembered he did not eat enough due to serving his guests. At that moment, his belly rumbled as if it was waiting for it. Everyone’s eyes gathered at Joonbum’s protruding belly. The belly that earned Joonbum his nickname Pig rumbled loudly.
Joonbum’s entire face flushed with shame. He shouted.
“Why don’t we eat first? Shall we?”
Joonbum put charcoal onto the fireplace and brought a torch, starting a fire. A hissing sound and flame came out of the torch, lighting up the charcoal.
“It can’t be!”
The men around him gasped at the sight that they had never seen before. Joonbum’s shame disappeared at their reaction.
‘Bet you never saw something like this before.’
He felt a new sense of joy coming to him as they were astonished by his work. Joonbum raised the wired mesh that was installed for cooking as the charcoal fire grew. He opened up the fridge to bring out pork meat and some handmade sausage. He also brought out mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, pineapples, apples, green onions, and green potatoes, slicing them down to bite size before putting them on the mesh to cook. Oil dripped from the meat as the fire popped. As the pork belly and neck meat were nearly cooked, their smell blended and spread with the sweet smell of veggies and fruits warming up.
Joonbum’s belly rumbled as one of the men swallowed his empty throat. Joonbum burst into a smile.
‘Let’s feed them first.’
He decided to do the talking afterwards. It was time to deal with hunger.
Joonbum’s hand moved quickly as he sprinkled salt and pepper on the meat and brought out new dishes. He also opened the cooler and took out a coke, water, and a pack of beer out onto the table. He also picked out some snacks to be had with the beer. The table was filled and the atmosphere started to loosen up. One of the men came toward Joonbum as he prepared to pick out the meat from the fire.
“I will carry it.”
Joonbum could not understand what he said and watched him. The men smiled awkwardly but he was calm.
‘I guess he wants to carry it.’
The man pointed at the cooked meat and then the plate. Joonbum was sure that he was right. The men nodded as Joonbum seemed to understand what he saying and asked to carry all the veggies also.
Joonbum mumbled in excitement. He finished preparing the meat, chopped it up, and brought it to the table. He then handed beer to all five men.
He shouted and repeated the word multiple times before he opened the lid. The men followed Joonbum and opened their lids also. When they opened them up, Joonbum bumped the bottom of his beer against another man’s beer right in front of him, then drank.
After that, it was a breeze. The awkwardness soon disappeared as they enjoyed the food and drink as they liked. As the alcohol consumption grew, their laughter grew also.
Joonbum watched the men as they ate. It was clear that they were not like the elves he’d seen in the movies. These people called themselves the Ainos. They once again, introduced themselves as the drinking started and called themselves Ainos, pointing at all of them. By repeating the word Ainos, it was obvious.
There were some similarities he found to that of an elf. They were thin and slim like those elves, but not thin enough to look weak. Joonbum found their slender figures to be filled with something solid inside. The most striking part of them was their eyes.
All their eyes had a bright green base color with a mixture of black and brown in it. It was as if the pupil had a strain of black and brown on a green background. He was sure that he had seen something similar before.
‘Hmm.. where…? Oh. The marble!’
He remembered all the marbles he used to play with during his childhood.
They also had a variety of hair colors. There was blond, platinum, brown, bright blue, and green. There were only five of them, but all their hair colors were different. They even looked different from one another. One had a cold look, one looked rough, one wore the impression of a young boy, one looked stiff, and one had soft lines.
‘At least they’re not handsome.’
That was the part he liked most. They weren’t handsome like most of the elves in the movies. It was perhaps the reason why he became generous enough to share his food.
‘Death to the handsome people.’
He drank his beer away with the thought. The next thing he noticed was the clothing. The Ainos were wearing armor made of various types of leather. It seemed to have started with fresh leather pieces, but wore out over time.
‘I don’t think they lack the leather to make new ones.’
The old armor was patched with more layers of leather where it was needed.
‘It looks cooler that way.’
It certainly looked much nicer. He examined it more carefully, and found that the armor was full of scratches and damages everywhere. There were some newly inflicted damages also. The armor was also filled with deep dark marks that hadn’t been wiped off.
‘Is it blood?’
He thought for a while but then shifted away, chewing on the snack.
The next thing that caught his attention were the necklaces that these men wore. Various-colored ornaments hung on their necks. They were made from some kind of claw as if they were trophies won from the battles with animals. It resembled those Native American people from the movies he’d seen.
Joonbum then moved onto next thing he noticed. It was their weaponry. They had two daggers wrapped around their waists and short axes hanging on their backs. Medium-sized swords hung from their waist down to their thighs. The swords were wrapped with leather to protect themselves and they were strapped to a heavily-decorated leather belt. There was also a leather strap that connected the bottom end of the sheath to the thigh.
‘I guess it’s easier to move around through the forest that way. But isn’t the sword a bit short?’
Joonbum pondered, but he soon understood why. The forest was full of obstacles, with various tree branches and bushes. It would be hard to swing a sword around if it was too long.
‘I could be wrong though.’
Joonbum laughed and noticed a beautifully engraved bow. It wasn’t too big in size but it seemed like it had aged well. It had some kind of an elegant feeling to it due to its engravings and its deep color from the aging that went well with it. Perhaps the arrow that was shot onto the table was from that very bow.
A man shouted at Joonbum who was lost in thought. He looked up and saw the youngest-looking Ainos repeating the word beer with a reddened face. He lifted his hand, acting as if he was drinking. Joonbum nodded and went to get more beer.
All the Ainos watched as Joonbum brought new beer, except one that had a hard look on his face and warned the men in silence.
‘He’s probably the leader.’
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