The Elf Girl’s Daily Wage
The day’s tasks were almost done and it was dinner time.
We were sitting on the wooden floor facing one another as we ate dinner.
“What is it, Master?”
“Are you really OK with being paid in food? It’s enough?”
She was currently eating canned salmon spine meat.1 Her tastes were surprisingly eccentric.
“Of cooourse!” the elf girl replied merrily.
“It’s just…I can’t help feeling like I’m running a black company2.”
“A black what now?”
“Um. How do I explain? Umm. Basically, it’s when a company profits by, like…exploiting its employees?”
My ambition in this other world was to get everyone to smile. It was definitely not for me to profit over everyone.
“Well, I don’t really know what a ‘company’ is, but you’re not exploiting me, are you, Master?”
The elf girl cocked her head to one side.
“Well…I don’t want to. That’s why I’m talking about paying you, right?”
“But if I got money, I’d just buy canned food? So I’m good with a day’s worth of canned food. That’s three meals a day, three cans per meal—so if I get nine cans per day, it’s plenty. According to the elven ways, it’s evil to take more from the forest than you need.”
“This isn’t a forest. And anyway, you were branded a heretic and thrown out of the elf village.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t recall anything of the sort,” the elf girl bluffed.
She was a pseudo-elf with two human parents. An elven knockoff who liked meat so much she had been run out of the elf forest.
Those of the elven race were apparently supposed to subsist on fruits, vegetables, nuts and wild plants. An elf who started the day with a cup of fruit juice was a proper elf. An elf who gobbled down meat was a total failure.
“Ohh. I get it.” I nodded.
The elf girl cocked her head. Her golden hair fluttered softly. It was a needlessly adorable gesture.
“Uh, why it was nine cans.”
“Didn’t you ask for nine cans at first?”
“Uh-huh. I did.”
“But you’re getting seven now, right? Isn’t that too little? Aren’t you hungry?”
“Why are you so nice all of a sudden, Master? This isn’t like you.”
“Wait, exactly what do you think I’m like?”
“Maybe like a…demonic master?” the elf girl said adorably, cocking her head.
Yep, definitely right to call her ‘the idiot elf.’
“Anyway, it’s OK because I make up for having too little by eating the snacks we sell here when you’re not around.”
“Don’t eat those!”
“If I don’t, I’ll collapse again inside the shop.”
“Your fuel efficiency is awful! And when have you been eating them!?”
“Almost every day? It’s been easy, Master, because you’re an idiot who can’t keep track of money, so you’ve been surprisingly slow to catch on.”
“Is—is that so?”
Hm. Well. Actually. I hadn’t been paying much attention to what was in the cash box.
I couldn’t exchange any of this world’s gold, silver or copper coins for Japanese yen at that pawn shop, only the gold nuggets.
“You haven’t noticed being short the cost of two bags of snacks every day. You wouldn’t notice even if I filched money, would you?”
“Nah. You’re not doing that.’
“How do you know?”
“Because you’re an idiot. Someone who was actually filching wouldn’t out herself like that. A clever person would cozy her mark along and do it behind his back.”
“Aww. Flattery won’t get you anywhere.”
“That wasn’t flattery. Really, it wasn’t.”
“Anyway. No more taking snacks. Don’t eat them behind my back, OK?”
“OK, from now on, I won’t eat them behind your back, Master. I’ll eat them right in front of your face.”
“Don’t do that either. We’ll discuss your salary. So it’s a rule. Snacks are off limits.”
“Aww. But snacks from that world are all so salty and delicious?”
“Those snacks you call ‘tchips’ or whatever.”
Well, they were salt flavor, after all.
Which reminded me—salt was a valuable commodity in this world, wasn’t it? And so was sugar. Meaning, ‘salty’ and ‘sweet’ would both make for delicious flavors.
“But I didn’t get those snacks for you. They’re for the kids.”
Compared to canned food, the snacks were far more bulky.
There were various ways to measure load capacity—weight was one factor, but volume was another important one. For instance, no matter how light it was, I couldn’t bring over much of something like styrofoam.
I could stuff a can of food into the bottom of my backpack. But one bag of chips ate up several times the room.
Plus, chips were popular with the kids.
I hadn’t been bringing them over for the idiot elf’s sake.
Maybe I needed to seriously start looking into some transportation options.
Like, experiment with crossing over while pushing a cart or something.
What about a hand truck? What about pulling a granny cart behind me? Or go larger scale—if I could come over pulling something like a bicycle cart, I could bring in considerably more at a time.
Currently, I was using a large mountain climbing backpack. The amount I could haul one one trip was limited to about the volume of a small refrigerator.
Given that I could probably manage to carry up to one hundred kilograms in weight, it was usually volume that exceeded my maximum tolerance.
“So anyway, Master. You’re an idiot, aren’t you?”
“Don’t you look smug. Tell me where that came from.”
“Well, lately I’ve learned to read some simple writing. That bag there says ‘puh-tay-to tchips’, right?”
“So you can’t even read your own world’s writing, can you, Master?”
“How do you figure that, Idiot Elf? They’re called ‘chips’ for short, you know.”
“OK. If you say so.”
The idiot elf was smirking again, curse her.
Without a word, I went over to the stockpiled items in the corner of the shop.
There were some cans of food there that I had bought earlier and brought over as a ‘present’ for the idiot elf.
While I had blithely told myself it was a great idea at the time…
…after a while, I had thought it over and decided it was just too crazy after all.
So I hadn’t given her the ‘present’ yet.
“Anyway, about increasing your daily wage by two cans…”
I brought a few cans back.
I placed several in front of the idiot elf.
“Which do you want? You can choose whatever you like.”
The idiot elf was very interested in the varieties she had never tried.
“These ones with the pictures of beasts, is there beast meat inside?”
“Ehh, something like that.”
“But they’re bigger than the others.”
“One can is one can.”
The idiot elf went straight for the cans that were considerably fatter and taller than the others.
I knew a greedy-guts like her wouldn’t be able to resist their size.
The ‘beasts’ drawn on the cans were dogs. Pictures of doggies.
“What does this mean? Where it says ‘muh-chur main-tuh-nanss’ and ‘puh-pee com-pleet noo-trish-un’?”
Wow. She could read that.
She hadn’t been kidding when she said she had learned to read.
“That means the contents are meant for youngsters or for grown ups,” I answered.
Well. It wasn’t a lie.
“So I should go with ‘puh-pee com-pleet noo-trish-un’?”
Apparently an elf girl three or four times as old as me still considered herself a youngster.
Well, at first glance, she did appear to be around fifteen. A ‘legal loli.’
“I’m not sure, but…I don’t think they’re that different overall. One just has more fat or protein.”
“Oh, I know! I have a great idea! Since I can have two cans, I’ll take both of them! I’m brilliant, aren’t I!?”
“Yep,” I agreed with the idiot elf. Strenuously.
“I’m going to try them right away!”
The idiot elf popped the cans open.
She started with the ‘puppy complete nutrition.’
“Whoa! It’s meaty! Super meaty!”
The idiot elf gobbled down the canned food.
A doggy in a commercial couldn’t have done better.
“It’s delicious! And there seems to be a little bit of grain in— Ohh! This is an all-in-one meal, isn’t it? It’s OK, right!? If I eat only this!?”
“Yeah, the nutritional balance is supposed to be perfect.” I nodded.
Surely there wasn’t all that much difference between an elf’s body and a dog’s?
I had read somewhere that humans could eat dog food. Not that I wanted to try.
“Drrish! Drrrisshisss! Mmm! Mahffrrr! Iff drriiishssss! Nnfrrhfhrr! Hnnrf!”
“‘Eat’ or ‘talk’: pick one.”
The idiot elf went silent. Apparently ‘talk’ had lost.
And yet. And still.
This was… What was I doing?
Oh, well. She was happy, after all.
But… What was I doing?
The idiot elf, no longer quietly gobbling down the food, suddenly began to poke me in the arm.
There was a plate with a tiny dollop of dog food on it.
“It’s for you, Master. Because this is too delicious.”
“No, you eat that,” I said. Of course I said that. I couldn’t not say that.
The elf girl narrowed her eyes in pleasure and this time made no bones about hogging it all.
Was this really OK? Really? Really?
Oh, well. Whatever.