Invitation to Death
Editors/Proofreaders: Ferro-chan, TaintedDreams-dono, Namo-chan, Sky-senpai, Rocky-mon, JcqC-sensei, Nigel-kyun, Zacky-kunPart 1
The capital of the Baharuth Empire, Arwintar, was located slightly to the west from the center of the empire. The Imperial Palace, home to the reigning monarch with the nickname Blood Emperor—Jircniv Rune Farlord el Nix—stood in the heart of the city. Surrounding the palace were the universities, the magic academy, various administrative offices and other important facilities which spread out from the center of the capital in a radial fashion. Truly, it was a city worthy to be called the heart of the Empire.
Although it had less inhabitants than Re-Estize, the capital of the Kingdom, the Empire's capital was much grander in comparison. Not only this, due to many years of reform, the Empire was currently experiencing the largest surge of development ever recorded in history. New things were constantly being introduced to society, which increased the opportunities for merchants to explore new markets. A constant influx of goods and talents had since been seen in the Empire's capital. For the citizens living in the capital, it was truly a time of hope and opportunity.
Within this noisy and lively city, Ainz walked with Narberal by his side.
Under different circumstances, Ainz would probably have wanted to spend some time to explore the city, like a country bumpkin coming to a metropolis for the first time. After all, there were many differences between the Empire and the Kingdom.
However, Ainz didn't have the leisure to look around right now.
His movements were gradually starting to reflect his thoughts, slowly becoming more and more erratic over time.
The feelings enveloping him from within could be described with a single word—Unpleasant.
The more Ainz thought about the purpose behind this visit to the Empire, which had been planned by Demiurge, the more he frowned, despite the face being an illusion.
For Ainz Ooal Gown, the absolute ruler of the Great Tomb of Nazarick, the word "endure" should not be in his vocabulary. There should be no need to suppress his emotions. Ainz's words should be absolute, where white would become black if he declared so. There was no reason for things to be otherwise.
Yet the current situation still ended up this way because Ainz couldn't find a valid excuse to dismiss Demiurge's proposal.
The overall objective was—showcasing the strength of Nazarick. It was very easy to understand Demiurge's plan, and the results would also be immediate. On the other hand, what Ainz didn't like was that it felt as if he was about to throw mud on the things carefully built by his past comrades.
However, to reject such an amazingly thought out plan just because of his personal emotions would be a shame. Also, Ainz didn't want others to think that he lacked the magnanimity to accept proposals made by another individual.
To dismiss the current plan without suggesting any alternatives was something that Ainz, not as the supreme ruler but as a member of society, felt was unacceptable.
Ainz repeated the things he thought previously once more in order to calm down. There was a need to cool his head. Between logic and emotions, choosing to go with logic should be the correct choice. Even though those who were driven by their emotions would sometimes achieve extraordinary results, most of the time they were simply irrational. Not only that...
"...It's simply too late to back out now! Kaaa!"
Ainz inhaled and exhaled deeply using his non-existent lungs. And showed no concerns to the city guards and townspeople that cast odd glances in his direction as they walked by.
Due to Ainz's naturally tall and awe-inspiring figure, he was already the center of attention. This became even more so after he was exalted as a hero. Not attracting any attention would be strange. Because of this, Ainz had gotten used to ignoring people's gaze, even more so after he started riding Hamusuke.
After taking multiple deep breaths, Ainz was finally able to reduce the feeling of unpleasantness to a minimum. Only then did he notice the amount of effort that his subordinate, Narberal, had to make in order to keep up with him.
"My bad, I might have walked a bit too fast."
The walking pace required in order to cover the same amount of distance between the footsteps of a man wearing full body armor such as Ainz and the robe wearing Narberal was completely different. It wasn't hard for Narberal to keep up due to her physical capabilities, but as a man, there was still a need to apologize for not being considerate of his walking pace.
"No, I do not have any complaints."
"Is that so..."
Ainz couldn't figure out whether the reply was a typical response that servants gave their masters or if Narberal really didn't mind. While slowing down his pace, Ainz searched for a topic to discuss.
Ainz felt somewhat embarrassed for the unapproachable atmosphere he had been radiating moments ago. As such, in an attempt to improve the current awkward mood, Ainz desperately tried to think of a topic to discuss. However, nothing good came to mind.
He thought about meaningless conversation starters that salespeople often used, such as talking about the weather. Talking about sports was also a good choice, but one had to find out which teams the other person rooted for first.
Considering whether or not to start that kind of conversation, Ainz started mumbling deep in his heart.
Why do I need to be this considerate to someone like Narberal, who is just a subordinate? Well, since it turned out this way, I might as well use this opportunity to practice master-servant dialogue. That being said, it must befit the status of a ruler. What do people with absolute power talk about with their subordinates/servants?
Thinking back on the everyday conversations that took place in Ainz's old company, something like that should be fine, right?
Ainz was the supreme overlord of the Great Tomb of Nazarick, not some senior executive of a company. If a comparison had to be made, he would be more like a company president or a CEO.
No, it's still a bit different from a president... Speaking of which, what's the conversation like between the King and Gazef Stronoff? It would be useful as a reference.
Even if that was the case, they had already gotten to this point. If they went on like this, the mood between them would end up too heavy to bear. Ainz ended up forcefully opening his mouth.
"...Narberal ...What do you think of this voice?"
Ainz pointed to his voice box, or more accurately, pointed to the place where his vocal cords should be. He pressed down on the area where his throat should have been with his gauntlets. He expected only the metallic sensation of his gauntlets, however, there was an elastic feeling, giving out an uncanny impression that his throat really existed.
"Truthfully, I don't think this voice is good. Although it doesn't sound strange, I still think the usual voice of Momon-sa...san sounds better. While I understand there is a reason behind doing this, I admit preferring to hear your old voice."
"Is that so? I quite like this voice... Neuronist selected it from amongst fifty people. There's an indescribable charm to it."
Suddenly, thinking back to the time when Ainz listened to a recording of his voice, he quietly muttered something and calmed the sudden turmoil in his head.
"Is that so? However, I still think Momon-san's original voice sounded better."
"I am grateful to hear that, Narberal. Speaking of which, I had no idea that I could also equip this..."
Unsure whether Narberal's response was merely courtesy or her real thoughts, Ainz once more reached towards his neck, feeling the creature that was attached to his throat—the Lip Bug—wriggling.
Normal people would definitely find it itchy.
Is it that I simply didn't know, or did the rules somehow change? Lacking information on these kind of things could also pose certain dangers in the future. Not only about this world, but the knowledge from YGGDRASIL also needs to be relearned.
The game YGGDRASIL was designed with the intention of letting players enjoy exploring the unknown. Because of this, there was a need to test a variety of different things, which resulted in the development company investing huge amounts of resources to in order to create the system.
As such, the players were able to encounter a completely unknown world.
Not even mentioning the lack of information on the maps given at the start, dungeon related knowledge as well as information on mining, cooking, monster breeding e.t.c... everything was unknown to the players. It was the kind of world where players were forced to discover things for themselves. To make it clearer, even things such as what could be equipped and what couldn't required the trial and error of the players themselves.
Although there were raid and information websites, the data posted on these sites was already well known, or information that simply wasn't credible. YGGDRASIL was a game designed for its players to explore. Gaining knowledge was like finding treasure. There was no benefit in informing other players for free.
Hence, the only information that could be trusted came from within one's own guild, or from trades made with other reliable guilds. Everything else was simply useless third-rate information.
There was also a period where the forums were flooded with suspicious threads that began with "I'm planning on leaving my guild, so I will release all their information".
Well, there was most likely some real information released amongst those…
There once existed a guild called "Three Burning Eyes".
It was formed by the owners of a site which charged its members a fee each time for accessing information, and specialized in sending spies to join other, higher-ranking guilds in order to steal information and other such dubious acts. The Gaming Administration did not punish such deeds and it was quietly accepted as a means of acquiring intelligence. However, the guilds who had been stolen from were much less forgiving.
What happened was that those guilds formed an alliance and attacked "Three Burning Eyes". After capturing the respawn point inside the guild's base and the respawn points of the temple in the surrounding streets, the alliance began to PK the guild members from "Three Burning Eyes", and when they resurrected, PKed them again, not letting even a single one go. They kept this up until "Three Burning Eyes" disbanded and all its members scattered.
And in the end, the most memorable part was when they made their information site free to access. How nostalgic, Ainz thought.
Well, there were definitely no spies in Ainz Ooal Gown... However, if it wasn't for that incident, maybe we would have had more members…
Because of that incident, the recruitment process for Ainz Ooal Gown had been halted, and the guild was formed with 41 members, which was the minimum number required for a guild to be considered as high tier.
During the final years of YGGDRASIL, the chances of reliable information being made public on the web was rather high. However, the only time that Ainz really focused his attention on information sites was during the golden period where "Ainz Ooal Gown" was at its peak. The amount of useful information was really limited at that time.
My knowledge of the game most likely peaked at that time. Although I still paid attention to the announcements made by the Game Administration... this world likely contains YGGDRASIL players apart from myself, thus I need to also consider the risk posed from having less knowledge than them.
Through the captured members of Eight Fingers, Nazarick was able to acquire lots of useful intelligence. However, that information largely pertained to the Kingdom and the Empire. There was very little regarding the Theocracy, the Holy Kingdom and the Republic. There was a need to further improve intelligence gathering.
"What a pain, I thought so much about it, but in the end I still feel troubled. It's time to switch to a more light hearted topic."
In order to change the conversation, Ainz mildly looked around his surroundings.
"Speaking of which, the Empire seems quite lively."
"Is that so? I felt the same way in E-Rantel."
In response to Narberal's words, Ainz glanced around once more.
"The streets are full of life and the people’s eyes are bright. It's a sign that people believe they're living well."
Although Narberal responded from behind with "As expected of Momon-san", Ainz was a bit embarrassed by his own words and didn't reply. It was only a slight feeling that Ainz had about the people on the streets, and whether it was true or not, Ainz still did not have confidence in what his eyes saw.
It's not as though I was following Pandora's Actor's lead... "it's a sign of something”. To think I could say these words out loud without shame... It's like I've turned into a poet or something.
Because he had been expected to act like a hero back in the royal capital, Ainz had gotten into a hero's mindset, and it was apparently starting to become a habit.
The face beneath Ainz's helmet showed an expression of slight embarrassment—of course it was impossible for a skull to turn red—and then Ainz saw the hotel Fluder had described to him.
Even from a distance, one could tell that the imperial capital's best hotel was far more luxurious than its counterpart in E-Rantel. That was one way of describing it, but that impression was only based on the level of facilities and the difference in style. One could say the high-class hotels of the Kingdom were steeped in history while those of the Empire were recently-opened, and if you asked which was better, everyone would have different opinions.
"I'm not sure about going in, but the atmosphere does seem pretty nice."
Ainz gently touched the adamantite plate that hung in front of his chest and headed towards the entrance.
Similar to E-Rantel, athletic soldiers in leather armor were standing guard at the entrances and exits. As Ainz and Narberal approached, the guards turned questioning glances to them. However, after focusing on a single point, they hurriedly looked away with wide eyes.
"A-Are they the real deal? I think they are the real deal, judging from the equipment they have... "
Hearing the whispers that came from his comrade, the other security guard tried his best to stand still and hide his nervousness. However, as they closed the distance, his tension was obvious, but he was nonetheless capable of speaking politely.
"My apologies, adamantite-rank adventurer-sama. I'm very sorry for the inconvenience, but may I please see your identification?"
As Ainz handed over his plate and asked, "Does this hotel only accept members?"
"Yes, in order to maintain the reputation of this hotel, we only accept regular members or those with referrals. However, adamantite-rank adventurers are an exception to that rule."
Wiping both hands with his sleeves, the other security guard carefully took the identification plate that Ainz handed over as if he was afraid of breaking it. Turning it over, he read out the words carved on the back.
"Verification complete! Thank you for giving me the chance to hold an Adamantite plate!"
His attitude when returning the plate was still as careful as before. The plate that served as proof of an adventurer's status was made using the same type of metal that corresponded to the rank of the adventurer. Even though the plate was fairly small, the cost of making an adamantite plate was astronomical. While the plate might be extremely hard to break, the possibility of accidentally losing it was still there. For someone like the security guard of a hotel, the thought of having to compensate for the loss of an adamantite plate was simply unbearable. The security guards had heard of many stories where adamantite plates had being lost before. Such as when trying to return the plate, a Crane-Parrot—a type of bird—would fly by and snatch it up. Stories like these weren't told to make people pay more attention, but were actual events which had happened before.
A look of relief bloomed across the faces of the two security guards once Ainz took back his identification plate.
"Now then, may we enter?"
"Yes, Momon-sama. Please allow me to lead the way."
"Is that so? We'll be under your care then."
Tipping wasn't a thing in the Kingdom. Hopefully it was the same in the Empire. Ainz couldn't help but think about these kinds of things while being shown in.
After walking through a spacious lobby with marble-like floor tiles, they reached the reception counter.
"Announcing the arrival of the adamantite-ranked adventurer Momon-sama and company."
Sitting behind the reception counter was a man with the appearance of having received a proper upbringing. After being acknowledged, the guard turned towards Ainz and bowed respectfully before heading back to his post.
"Welcome, Momon-sama. For choosing to grace us with your presence during your visit to the Empire, I wish to express our very deep gratitude."
The receptionist bowed deeply towards Ainz.
"No, please don't worry about it, for now I wish to stay for one night."
"Understood. To begin, please sign here at the guest register."
Ainz smiled underneath his helmet. Having practiced writing down his name using the language of the Kingdom countless times, he flawlessly signed the paper after picking up a pen.
"Thank you very much. Now what kind of room would you prefer?"
For Ainz, all rooms were the same whether they were cheap or luxurious. However, as usual, he had an appearance to maintain.
It's not like I have a need to eat food, even if the accommodation didn't include complimentary meal I'd be fine with it.
Ainz suddenly thought about the foods that existed in this world.
A green-colored juice which smelled irresistibly sweet and delicious, a pink-colored food that looked like scrambled egg, carefully sliced cooked meat covered in a bluish liquid which made the meat look more tender and juicy. Every one of those mentioned dishes stimulated Ainz's curiosity, but unfortunately he wasn't able to eat them.
...Libido, appetite, and the desire for sleep. Despite the numerous benefits of having an undead body, many other important things were lost. How unfortunate. But on the other hand, the possibility of becoming immersed in bodily desires would be too high if I regained my human body.
Having imagined being in bed with Albedo, Ainz ended up tilting his head.
A boss that sexually harasses female employees—that was the image that appeared last in Ainz's head after his earlier imagination.
Even though Albedo proclaimed her love to me... how complicated. If only I didn't mess with the... oh!
"Sorry for the delay. Any room that is fitting of our status would do. ...By the way, is it fine for us to pay using the Kingdom's currency?"
"That is not a problem. The exchange rate is one to one to begin with."
"Is that so? I will leave it in your hands then."
"Certainly. I shall begin preparing a room suitable for Momon-sama. In the meantime, please take a rest in our lounge."
Ainz saw that the arrangement of the chairs in the lounge were separated into small groups where the distance between each group was quite far apart. More than fifty seats luxurious enough for high ranking officials were available. Just the appearance alone made the chairs seem extremely comfortable. There were even minstrels softly playing music in the background.
"Everything in the lounge, including food and drinks, are complimentary services, please put yourself at ease and enjoy them."
In any world, as long as a certain amount of money was put in, corresponding amount of service would be returned. Even so, the services being returned here did not please Ainz at all.
"Understood. Come, Nabe."
Ainz entered the lounge with Narberal and chose the nearest chairs to sit down on.
There were a few other guests also resting in the lounge. The majority of them were adventurers. If high ranking adventurers could complete quests that paid generous rewards, their living standard would naturally increase as well and they could afford to live in hotels like this.
Regardless of where they were, be it the Kingdom capital or E-Rantel, all adventurers led the same lifestyle.
Ainz made sure that the adamantite plate hanging around his neck was visible for the others to see, so that they would become the topic of conversation amongst the guests at the hotel. It wasn't a bad thing to raise one's profile through this method.
While being conscious of the attention he was getting, Ainz opened the menu that was next to him.
Can't read it…
Ainz slowly flicked through the menu, even though he couldn't read, to prevent others from finding out.
Although Ainz brought along the item that had previously been lent to Sebas which allowed one to read any language, in the current situation, it would be weird to suddenly take it out and use it.
"Sebas… and Tsuare..."
The image of Sebas along with Tsuare popped up in Ainz's mind when thinking about whether or not to use the item.
"Is something wrong with that woman?"
"Ah, no, it's not a big deal. I was wondering about how she is adjusting."
Although Ainz had handed everything to Sebas, he still had the obligation to ensure Tsuare's wellbeing since he made the promise to protect her.
"I don't think there's any problem. At the moment... because the head maid is currently under solitary confinement, Sebas-sama is personally teaching her the skills needed as a maid. After she has learned an adequate amount of proper etiquette, she will then study cooking and a few other types of work. We plan on teaching her a bit of everything until we discover what work she is most suitable for."
"Is that so? Well then, it should be fine leaving it to Sebas. Also, it's about time to release those two from confinement… Albedo’s temper should have cooled off by now."
Narberal lowered her head without saying a word.
Noticing that their conversation had ended, a waiter quietly walked towards them.
"Have the two of you decided on what to order?"
"I'll have iced Makyatia. What do you want, Nabe?"
"I want the same."
"It's okay to order something that you like."
"No, I want to have the same drink. Oh, and also, I want milk to be added to mine."
Having received the orders, the waiter bowed deeply, and left quietly.
Makyatia was a drink that looked similar to latte, and Ainz often saw it in E-Rantel. It smelled like latte as well. However, since latte and coffee also existed in this world there must be some difference. Nevertheless, Ainz would never find out because he could not consume any food or drinks. He had previously experimented by attempting to eat and drink, but the only results were that everything spilled out from below his chin without tasting anything. Not a single benefit was found.
The reason why Ainz chose this drink was because it was only served in high-class establishments. It was probably the most suitable choice for the current setting.
While wiping away non-existent sweat, Ainz thought of the most pointless question to ask.
"Nabe... what does Makyatia taste like?"
Knowing that Narberal had tried the drink before, Ainz curiously asked her.
Narberal made an expression that showed that she was thinking. It was the kind of expression one would make such as when being asked what does coffee tastes like by someone who has never tried it once in their life.
"Hmmm... If I had to describe it, I would say it tastes similar to Shakerato. Except it leaves behind an aftertaste of condensed milk."
"...Is that so? Sounds delicious."
Never heard of a drink called Shakerato before. Is this perhaps a type of drink that only exists in this world? The possibility of that seems high.
"It's not bad. Only so-so." Narberal replied.
Just as Ainz responded to Narberal with a "Hmmm", the drinks that were ordered arrived.
"Don't mind me and drink up. Otherwise it'll be weird if neither of us touched our drinks."
Having becoming accustomed to wearing his helmet all day long, Ainz did not notice the unnaturalness of not removing his helmet despite drinks being served in front of him.
"It's fine if you drink mine as well. Anyway, listen up. For the time being, the plan is to first tour the capital in the next two days. I've heard that the amount of goods they sell at the central market is unbelievable. It's definitely worth taking a look. Also, they sell magic items in the center area of the northern market and adventurers frequent that place."
This information was acquired from the captured members of "Eight Fingers". Although most of the reports received were related to the black markets, Ainz didn't have any plans on visiting them. He only knew of it from glancing at the reports provided.
"The third day is to visit the Adventurer's Guild. If possible, I would like to make connections with some of the adamantite adventurers of the Empire, if not, then let's simply complete our current tasks and head home. Overall it should take around seven days. Do you have any other suggestions?"
Narberal, who stopped drinking halfway, listened in silence and shook her head.
The capital of the Empire, often regarded as the manifestation of the Empire's power, contained many aspects which surprised people. One of them was something which the majority of travelers that arrived at the capital were amazed of—that every road in the capital was covered by bricks and stones.
Amongst the surrounding countries—even within the technologically more advanced Theocracy—the thought of having to cover the roads of an entire city in stones would make most cower. Of course it wasn't possible to do the same for every city within the Empire, but the fact that the capital of the Empire was capable of achieving this further reinforced its might. It was something which often made the diplomats from other countries sigh.
Especially the design of the roads; when one walked on them, one would immediately be able to appreciate their elegance and practicality.
Unlike the typical roads seen elsewhere, the roads in the capital were segregated into separate lanes where the ones in the center were the driveways for carriages and the lanes on the two sides were the sidewalks for pedestrians.
To ensure safety, the sidewalks were raised higher from the ground and were protected by a fence. At night, street lights which were placed in sets on the side of the roads lit up, powered by magic. Furthermore, platoons of knights regularly patrolled the streets to ensure the peace.
On one of these roads within the Empire's capital, a young man could be seen humming and smiling as he strolled leisurely on the sidewalk. The man was maybe 170 cm in height, and looked around twenty years old. With blonde hair, blue eyes, and a healthy skin color that suggested he had regularly been exposed to sunlight, the man's features could only be described as common throughout the Empire.
He was not the pretty boy type. If put in a group of ten people, the man would definitely not stand out. However, an indescribable charm radiated from him which seemed to attract other people. It might be because of the invigorating smile on his face, or his confident way of walking.
With every step he took, a metallic jingling which sounded like it was caused by the friction of chains could be heard from beneath his clothes. Knowledgeable observers would realise that it was the noise made from wearing chainmail.
Two swords hung from his waist. From their length, they seemed to be short swords. Parts of the handles were completely covered by the hand guard, with the blades hidden in the sheaths. One could tell that they were definitely not cheap. And finally, a mace and a yoroidoshi were stored behind his waist.
[TL-Note: A Yoroidoshi (鎧通し) is a variant of the tanto and lit. an “armor piercer”. For more information, click here.]
Possessing two weapons was considered normal for this world. However, it was quite uncommon to see someone with weapons which could be used to slash, pierce, and make bludgeoning attacks.
To an average person, the man would seem like an adventurer. However, the well-informed ones would be able to tell that he was a worker simply from the fact that adventurers were required to wear metallic plates around their necks.
Worker. This word was used to describe people who left the career path of an Adventurer.
The work given to adventurers was directly provided by the Adventurer's Guild, where the content and difficulty of the tasks were thoroughly investigated beforehand. Only the ones that were deemed suitable were assigned to adventurers and had corresponding ranks according to the difficulty of the task. In other words, work that were deemed inappropriate such as ones that might endanger the safety of the public, or the law-breaking kind of work like investigating the plant materials used in the creation of narcotics. Those kind of requests would be instantly rejected by the Adventurer's Guild.
Also, work that might damage the ecological balance of an area was also rejected. For example, the Adventurer's Guild would never issue requests involving the removal of monsters that play certain roles in an ecosystem. This was due to fear that the removal of the monster might trigger the collapse of the ecological balance in an area, which might result in hordes of other monsters leaving their habitats and causing damage to human settlements. However, if said monster left its habitat by itself and entered human territory, it would be treated as a separate matter entirely.
In other words, adventurers were friends of justice.
However, the world did not operate on that principle alone.
Regardless of how one described things, there were people who were willing to take on high-risk work simply for the reward. There also existed the kind of people that simply enjoyed slaying monsters.
These people, when compared against the adventurers that stood in the light, preferred to stay in the darkness. The "dropouts" amongst the adventurers. That was what some people called them.
However, not all workers were the kind of people that were previously mentioned.
Hypothetically speaking, if a young village boy was heavily injured and an adventurer group that was capable of performing healing magic happened to pass by, were they allowed to cast the spells to save the boy?
The answer was no.
There was a rule that strictly forbade adventurers from using healing magic on the common people unless a certain fee was paid to the adventurers.
This was because the common usage of healing magic was restricted by the temples, where patients were required to come to the temples and pay a certain fee in order to receive healing. If the adventurers ignored this system and freely went around healing people, the temples would become unable to feed themselves.
For this reason, the temples had strongly pressured the Adventurer's Guild into enforcing this regulation.
If adventurers were unable to obey the rules, then they could opt to become a worker.
Although this made the temples seem like the bad guys, this was not without good reason. Due to the influence of magic on the daily lives of people, magic could be considered as another political tool for power. In order for the temples to provide benefits to the people without becoming controlled by politics, the only source of income they could receive would be from the people. In exchange, the temples provided healing, cleansing of the undead, as well as researching and developing new healing spells.
If the adventurers ignored the regulations and used their healing spells freely, the temples would be forced to become more secular, and their initial ideologies would become corrupted.
As such, there were always two sides to a story. Without light, there would be no shadow. The existence of workers could be described in the same way. For money, they were willing to ignore regulations and often make a mess of things, however, there were also cases where they had brought benefits to the people, such as the creation of cheaper medicine.
Having said that, this was the kind of profession this man had—Hekkeran Termite.
"Hmm... what to buy?"
There were simply too many magical items Hekkeran wanted. For the time being, he should probably focus on defensive items first. After that, there was one more that he wanted due to special reasons.
"First I should deposit the money... the rest will be used to buy the magic items needed for adventuring. Eh? Got the order wrong. First buy the items, and then deposit the rest."
Hekkeran scratched his head.
If it's like that—
"As the vanguard, I need to have more magic resistance, maybe it's time for me to take out my savings as well. No, if for some reason I still need to rely on subjugating undead from Kattse Plains to make a living, it might be better for me to buy items which make me more resistant to poison, paralysis and sickness."
Magic items were highly valued in this world. Especially the ones that were useful during battle were highly sought after by adventurers. If it was a first-rate item, then he would simply give up on buying it.
For the time being, the items on his mind were not the extremely expensive ones. However, it would still require years of saving in order for an average person to purchase them. That was why he was taking his time to properly think things through.
His relaxed face, which couldn't contain the smile behind his excitement suddenly became tense the moment he sighted a group of knights currently standing by the side of the road.
The group composed of light and heavy-armored knights were standing guard at a road junction. Due to the Temple of the Four Great Gods being in the vicinity, the amount of patrols in this area was considerably high. Although these knights wouldn't just suddenly start questioning normal people who were simply passing by, Hekkeran could still feel the gaze of the knights gathering on the weapons that he was carrying.
It might be alright for adventurers, but for workers like Hekkeran that had no backing from any organizations or persons of influence, it simply wasn't wise to get into conflicts with knights tasked with protecting the Empire.
As he had hoped, Hekkeran walked by without incident. After checking his face with the list of wanted criminals and not finding any match, the knights made no further movement.
Having made past the territory of the temple, he finally relaxed and set his sights further ahead. A huge building came into view, and along with it, the sound of cheering, battle and the thirst for blood.
That unique building was the Grand Arena, which only existed in the capital of the Empire. It was also one of the most iconic buildings in the capital.
For Hekkeran, who had seen enough blood spilled during work and had no interest in gambling, the arena was a place which held no meaning to him. However, to the populace of the capital it was one of their most important sources of entertainment. Even from where he was walking, the cheering could be heard. It seemed the arena was completely packed today as well.
"Is it the finals? The excitement is really high."
In the past, Hekkeran had brought his worker team to the arena, where they had to fight continuous hordes of monsters. Because monsters did not accept surrenders, losing would result in death. Of course, it wasn't like casualties didn't occur during battle between humans.
On a typical day in the arena, it was very rare to not see a single person die. If something like that did actually happen, the pressure exerted by the audience was strong enough to kill someone, since the events with many deaths were very popular.
Among these events, the one with the highest casualty rate was therefore the most popular one, the Grand Combat Tournament.
He had absolutely no interest in seeing such bloodthirsty scenes taking place, and had no desire to visit that place. However, events that happened in the arena were hot topics that people often talked about, so there were always reasons to go.
I'm not planning on entering today, but when I get back I should probably ask for the highlights. It seems like the matches that took place today are quite exciting.
While trying to memorize the plans that he made, Hekkeran started walking towards an area that contained variety of shops. Soon after, he saw the familiar sign which said "The Singing Apple Pavilion".
The shop was said to have started with the gathering of bards who built their instruments using the wood of apple trees, but now it was a bar and an inn. From outside, the shop seemed a bit outdated, but the interior was surprisingly tidy and in good condition. It kept the cold out. The floor was kept well polished. The quality of the shop was actually quite high but not overly expensive. To Hekkeran and his comrades, no in fact, to the majority of the workers, this shop was regarded as the best inn without a doubt.
Although it can't be compared to the top-class hotels in the Empire, those type of hotels were better suited to the adventurers who stood on the public stage.
Firstly, the work given to the workers usually required discretion. Eye-catching hotels in public places weren't convenient at all for the kinds of people that required the services of workers. But at the same time, they couldn't always meet in shady locations and conduct their business there.
Next would be the need for multiple teams of workers to stay in the same spot at the same time. Therefore inns like "The Singing Apple Pavilion", which were much more discreet and where guests could discuss things in private, were ideal locations that met the clients' needs. Due to the fact that workers did not have the support of an organization like the Adventurer's Guild, the clients were required to search for worker teams themselves. It would be very troublesome for everyone if the workers stayed in different places.
Furthermore, from the perspective of the workers, staying near each other brought about a sense of camaraderie, as well as the benefit of avoiding conflicting jobs that would cause unnecessary bloodshed. And last but not least—which would also be the most important reason—the food here was really nice.
While thinking about tonight's dinner, Hekkeran opened the door to the inns. If it was his favorite pork stew, he would be very happy. Having these kind of thoughts as he entered, the words that he heard were not the typical "Welcome back" or "Good work" which he expected but
"—I've already said! I don't know!"
"No, no, even if you say that..."
"It's not like I‘m that girl's guardian or her relative. It's impossible for me to tell you where she is."
"Aren't you comrades? I can't simply take ‘I don't know' as an answer and leave. This is my job after all."
On the first floor of the inn, in the center of the dining area, a man and a woman stared at each other.
Hekkeran knew that woman well.
Though her eyes radiated an intense ferocity, the feature that stood out the most were the pair of ears which were far longer than those of a normal human. That said, her ears were still only about half as long as those of typical elves. That's right, her race was half-elf.
Elves tended to be slimmer when compared with humans. It seemed like the woman here had also inherited this trait. Her whole body was very slim. Be it the area around her chest or her waist, there were no visible curves on her body. She was as flat as a board. From afar, it wouldn't be surprising if people mistook her for a man.
Clad in neat leather armor, without the typical bow and arrow on her, the only weapon she had right now was the short dagger on her waist.
Her name was Imina, and she was one of Hekkeran's comrades.
However, Hekkeran was unfamiliar with the man currently arguing with Imina.
Although he appeared to be groveling in front of Imina by lowering his head, not a single shred of sincerity could be seen in his eyes. In fact, the feeling present there was disgust. At least for now, it appeared that he was trying to keep things civil.
The man's arms and chest were packed with muscles. His appearance alone could force anyone standing in front of him to give him what he wanted. While he didn't seem like the type of person who relied on violence to get things done, Imina was still capable of handling him if he did.
Even though Imina didn't appear to be very strong, deep in her body dwelled a strength that was enough to take care of thugs who only relied on their muscles.
"Didn't I already say so from the very beginning?"
Noticing that Imina's voice was starting to become strained with emotion, Hekkeran hurriedly interjected.
"What's wrong, Imina?"
Hearing the sound of a familiar voice, Imina turned her head and was surprised when seeing Hekkeran.
For a ranger like Imina, who excelled in perception and awareness of her surroundings, not noticing Hekkeran's approach showed just how distracted she had been earlier.
"...Who the heck are you?" asked the man who was viewed as an intruder by Hekkeran.
Having met his gaze, Hekkeran felt that the atmosphere between them was on the verge of coming to blows. However, for someone like Hekkeran, who had survived countless life and death situations, the gaze was nothing compared to the intense stares of ferocious monsters.
"...That's our team's leader."
"...Oooh, so this is the renowned Hekkeran Termite-san."
Hekkeran was disgusted by the sudden change of attitude.
Even though Hekkeran didn't knew the purpose behind the man's visit, if he came all the way to what was considered by Hekkeran's team to be their stronghold—the inn—the chances of him not recognizing Hekkeran were non-existent.
Perhaps the harshness in the argument from before was to measure the extent of what Hekkeran was capable of. If Hekkeran displayed even a slightest hint of weakness, the man probably would have proceeded to use intimidation next.
Amongst workers or adventurers, there were always those who were capable of slaying monsters but rather timid towards humans. Even then, the most they would do would be to take a step back, but if things were pushed too far, it would definitely end in a bloodbath.
Even though we just met, he's already like this... This guy... is definitely the type I can’t stand.
While it was true that this was one of the commonly used methods for negotiation, it was a method Hekkeran didn’t like. He would much more prefer it if the other party got directly to the point instead of going about in circles.
"...Could you be a little quieter, please? This is an inn, and you're disturbing other guests. I'd be much happier if you could do that."
Although he was saying that, not a single guest could be seen nearby. Just where did all the people go? It wasn't as though they hid themselves away, the guests of this inn were already quite used to this kind of talk because the majority of them were also workers in the first place.
However, it was truly a rare occurrence for this place to be devoid of people.
Hekkeran glared at the man using a strength on par with mithril-ranked adventurers. As though confronted by a monster, the man wilted.
"I-I… I'm very sorry. I did not intend to do that initially."
After managing to calm his voice down, the man attempted to speak once more. However, he instantly became quiet again when he saw Hekkeran's glare. Judging from his reaction, it was clear that the man was used to this kind of work, where violence was a common occurrence.
What's a guy like this doing in here?
Although the type of work that Hekkeran's team did was under-the-table business, he didn't recognize this man, and Hekkeran had no idea why he had been sent here. He simply didn't fit the profile of someone who came bearing requests.
It bothered Hekkeran, and he ended up weakening his gaze and asked the man directly.
"...Just why on Earth are you here?"
"About that, I'm looking for a person that Termite-san also knows, Furt-san."
Hearing the name Furt, the image of a person appeared in Hekkeran's mind.
Even so, was hard to imagine that she would have any connections with this man. That was Hekkeran's conclusion.
"Arche? Did something happen to her?"
"Arche... Ah! That's why. I got confused just then, but we're both talking about Furt-san here, Arche Eeb Rile Furt-san."
"And!? Did something happen to Arche?"
"No, no, I only wish to discuss something with her... The content of the discussion is private, that's why I wanted to know when she would return."
"As if I would know that." Hekkeran replied sharply.
For someone who was never direct when speaking, the man was briefly stunned by Hekkeran's words.
"If that's the case, the conversation is over."
"I-It can't be helped then. If that's the case, I'll have to wait here."
Hekkeran gestured to the entrance of the inn with his chin. Hekkeran's attitude shut the other man up once more.
"I will make it clear, I don't like you at all. I simply can't tolerate guys like you within my sight."
"But this is the tavern area, I should be able to..."
"Ah, that's right, isn't it? This area is indeed the tavern. But don't forget this is also the place where drunks get into fights," Hekkeran smiled at the man. "But you don't have to worry. Relax, even if you become gravely injured, we have a priest here who’s capable of using healing magic to heal you. As long as you pay the right price, that is."
"It can't be helped that we have to charge you extra. Otherwise the temples would become very annoyed. We definitely don't want to attract any assassins sent by the temples," said Imina. A grin was visible on her face. "Well, at the least we'll give you a discount. Remember to thank me for that, won't you?"
"—And that's what's going to happen."
"If you plan on threa—"
The words coming from the man halted midway, because he saw the dramatic change on Hekkeran's face.
Hekkeran took a step forward, all the way until the distance between their faces was a fist away.
"Hah?! Threats? Who's making threats? Is it such a big surprise that bars have fights? What the hell, I give you good advice for living a long and healthy life and you say I'm making threats? Are you trying to start a fight?"
Hekkeran's current appearance was something only people who had faced death could possess.
Confronted with the pressure coming from Hekkeran, the man took a step back. He clicked his tongue for a bit and then reluctantly walked towards the entrance. Although he wanted to hide the fact that he was frightened, one look at his back was all it took to confirm it. As he reached the entrance, the man turned his and shouted at Hekkeran and Imina one last time.
"Tell that brat from the Furt family! Tell her the deadline is approaching!"
Hearing the iron in Hekkeran's reply, the man quickly scurried away.
As soon as the man disappeared, Hekkeran's expression quickly returned to normal. The change was sudden enough that onlookers might have thought that the entire scene had been nothing but an act. And then, Imina started clapping, as though he had really pulled off a great performance.
"So, what that all about?"
"I don't know. He only told me as much as he told you."
"Damn, I should have listened more before getting rid of him."
Hekkeran held his head in defeat.
"Just wait and hear it from Arche once she gets back."
"...But, it isn't good to pry too deeply into things."
"Well, even though what you said is correct, you're still the leader. Do your best!"
"In that case, I will use my authority as the leader to order you to ask her about it. It would be much better if a fellow woman like you were to ask her about it, don't you think?"
"Come on, give me a break, I don't want to ask either."
The two of them smiled bitterly at each other.
There were a few rules in common between adventurers and workers, where certain things were simply not done. The first would be to uncover a teammate's past. The second would be to display excessive desire.
In the case of the second rule, to some extent, excessive desire was unavoidable due to the fact that many people chose to be workers for personal gains. However, even that had a limit. Too much desire could cause a team to lose its coherence. For example, it was difficult to trust teammates who were constantly grumbling about money. Letting teammates watch your back during dangerous moments was a fundamental part of teamwork and unity. As such, all teams needed a minimum level of trust between each other. But how much could you trust someone who was known to be greedy when you take on a high-risk, high-reward job?
Currently, it seemed like there were problems relating to Arche, which would affect her reliability. That simply wasn't a matter which could be easily overlooked.
During the course of their jobs, they would be putting their lives in each other's hands. As such they couldn't afford to have even a trace of doubt in their teammates.
Hekkeran shook his head, while displaying his reluctance on his face.
"Looks like it can't be helped, then. I'll have to ask when she comes back."
"I'm counting on you~."
Hekkeran narrowed his eyes at Imina, who was smiling and waving her hand, and said, "Don't think you can get away. You also need to come talk to her with me, yo."
"Eh, ehhh..." Although Imina clearly wanted to refuse, she gave up as soon as she saw the determination on Hekkeran's face. "Oh well, it can't be helped. Hopefully it isn't anything big..."
"Anyway, where did Arche go?"
"Eh? Ah, she's gathering the information behind that job."
"Aren't Rob and I in charge of that?"
After returning from Kattse Plains, they received a new commission, with pretty good terms for the nature of the work concerned. As such, they began the preparations for taking the job.
Originally it should have been Roberdyck, who was best suited for this sort of thing, to research the background of the commissioner as well as the compensation. Hekkeran was to head to the Empire's Administrative office to collect the payment for their undead subjugation—all work related to eliminating undead on the Kattse Plains was treated as government work by the Empire—and at the same time, use alternative methods to gather similar information as Roberdyck.
Imina and Arche should have waited at the inn.
"It wasn't just that. Rob needed help investigating the history and conditions around the area of operations."
Hekkeran nodded his head, as a look of understanding dawned on him. Although Arche had dropped out of the Imperial Magic Academy, she probably still had some contacts there. She was probably more suited at gathering academic-related information and she could also visit the Magician's Guild to collect additional material.
"So that's why she went along. Rob is also quite knowledgeable, and has connections to the temples. Anyway, how did it go?"
Hekkeran made a sound as he sat down into a chair, and spoke up.
"Although the request was only offered to workers, the content of the job isn't anything bad. The reason why they chose to hire workers this time around is probably because the location of the job is somewhere adventurers can't go. However, just like the client said before, it seems like they've made contact with other teams as well."
"Are we really working with other teams? Even if it is said that the ruins they discovered appear to be untouched, for them to be willing to invest this much without any definite gains seems a bit..."
That Greenham guy—from one of the other teams that were contacted—was saying the same thing. But in the end, 'Heavy Masher' seems to be planning to accept the request. If we don't decide by tomorrow, things might become troublesome."
So far Hekkeran's team had only listened to the contents of the request, and they had yet to accept it. Although they promised to give the client a reply by tomorrow, if they were going to accept, they would have to start preparing immediately.
"And then, at this important juncture something else comes up… Are the two somehow connected?"
"We can't rule out that it was done by another team that wanted to make a fortune with this, but I think we should still wait and listen to Arche's explanation before deciding. If it really is some scheme started by another team, do we back out or carry on?"
"Of course we continue. If they plan on starting a fight, then we just need to keep whacking them until none of them dares to mess with us again, ‘till we knock all their teeth out."
"That sounds quite excessive."
Although Imina seemed overly harsh on the outside, Hekkeran also thought her approach to solving this problem was a good one.
While it wasn't too big of a deal to be looked down upon, their reputation would also drop if they backed out. Losing reputation was something that those in the worker profession wished to avoid.
At the same time a fiery determination burned within Hekkeran's eyes, a squeaky sound of doors opening came from the entrance. The figures of two people walked into the inn.
"We have returned!"
The first voice was somewhat whiny and belonged to a girl, followed shortly by the voice of a man whose eyes were filled with righteousness. The momentary pause came from the hesitancy of covering up the soft voice of his female companion.
The girl that first walked in was not too thin. The words “young beauty” would describe her the best.
With an appearance between fifteen to seventeen years old, the girl possessed a face with delicate features and shoulder long hair. Hers was an elegant beauty, but every now and then, she also gave the impression of being a lifeless doll.
Her hands grasped an iron staff that was around the same height as herself. The surface of the staff was covered with symbols and runes that could have been words or pictures. The girl wore a loose robe, and under that, sturdy clothes which offered quite a bit of protection. She was obviously a magic caster.
The man was wearing full body armor—although he had taken the helmet off—and over the armor was a surcoat embroidered with the symbol of a crest. A morningstar hung from his waist, and a necklace bearing the same crest as his surcoat laid around his neck.
With a neatly arranged hairstyle and a well-trimmed beard, the man gave off a hearty impression. Appearance-wise, his age seemed to be around 30.
These two were the comrades that Hekkeran and Imina were waiting for, Arche Eeb Rile Furt and Roberdyck Goltron.
"Ooh, welcome back!"
Could this be described as good timing or bad timing? Hekkeran thought while turning around to greet the two with a hard voice
"What’s wrong? Did something happen to the two of you?"
Roberdyck used a tone that did not display any seniority to the two of them. One of the reasons was due to personal choice, the other was because of the mutual equality between workers.
"Th-there's no problem."
"Tha-that's right. Just as Hekkeran said."
Arche and Roberdyck both watched as the two of them waved their hands in denial.
"Umm, speaking of which, this isn't a good place to talk, how about we go over there?"
Being done with joking around, a serious expression appeared on Hekkeran's face as he pointed towards a circular table at the back of the tavern area.
"Before that, err. About the drinks—Oi, Imina. Where did the owner go?"
"...Out shopping. I'm watching over the place for him."
"Is that so? Then what should we do? Is it fine for me to casually take out a bottle or two?"
"—I'm fine with not drinking."
"Ah, I'm also fine, thanks."
"...Is that so? In that case... then let's start the meeting of ‘Foresight'."
The relaxed expression on every member's face vanished. At the same time, they leaned their weight onto the table, bringing everyone closer together. Although there weren't any other guests at the moment, this sort of behavior had become an old habit that was hard to break.
"First, I would like to confirm the content of the commission."
Once he made sure that he had everyone's attention, Hekkeran continued. His tone and expression were completely different from before. As the leader of the team, it was necessary for him to act serious and maintain dignity when the situation called for it. That was only expected of a leader.
"The client this time is Earl Femel. The content of the request is to survey some ruins—most likely an underground tomb—discovered within the territory of the Kingdom. The compensation consists of a down payment of 200, followed by another 150 after completion. The quality of the contract and the total amount offered as reward is extremely high this time around. Not to mention that there's going to be a bonus at the end based on the results of the investigation. All magic items discovered during the investigation will belong to the Earl; however, the person that discovers them will receive an additional bonus of half the market price of the magic item. As for things like gems and precious metals, artworks and other treasures, after their value is verified, half the amount will be given to the discoverer. Also, they've made contact with other worker teams as well. Based on how events might unfold, it's most likely going to become a joint operation—alright, I think I've said enough."
After sharing the information he obtained with Arche and Roberdyck, Hekkeran returned to the content of the commission.
"The maximum duration is three days. The aim is mainly to explore the inside of the tomb. The important part to note is, it's suspected that we might encounter monsters during the investigation, but the type of monsters that we might encounter are currently unknown. From the looks of thing, this commission really seems to be just a simple investigation."
It was very common for monsters to use abandoned ruins at the outskirts of human civilisation as their lairs. As such, the "survey" tasks given to workers tend to be regarded as a reconnaissance by fire.
"The most important aspect about this commission is that it seems like the tomb is unexplored."
The moment that was said, the atmosphere surrounding the group changed.
Two hundred years ago, during the time of the Demon Gods' unrest, many kingdoms perished. It wasn't just human kingdoms that were destroyed, countries composed of demi-humans and other heteromorphic species perished as well. The ruins of these civilizations often contained many priceless treasures—the possibility of finding magic items was also high.
Finding these treasures was a dream shared by both adventurers and workers alike.
As such, unexplored ruins were something that adventurers and workers all wished to find. And suddenly, here it was, right in front of their eyes.
Having confirmed the excitement within the eyes of his comrades, Hekkeran passed the ball to the two that went out for intelligence gathering.
"Finally, the provisions required for the trip to and from the site will all be
covered by the Earl. That is all the information that I've gathered. Next, Arche, Roberdyck, tell us the findings of your investigation."
"—In that case, I'll start. Earl Femel's standing within the palace isn't very good. There are rumors that the Blood Emperor is giving him the cold shoulder. Also, from what I've gathered, it seems that he isn't in need of money."
"Regarding the ruins discovered within the territory of the Kingdom, both Arche-san and I have tried researching the past history of recorded civilizations. So far, we are unable to find any records of ancient cities being built near the site of the ruins. If it indeed is a tomb, we should have been able to find clues left behind in books... Truthfully speaking, I can't figure out why there would be a tomb built at that location. Only a few small villages exist near the area, perhaps it would be better to search for information there?"
"It can't be helped. We've been ordered to keep this operation has secret as possible. The client wishes for as few witnesses as possible, in other words, we shouldn't be making any unnecessary movements."
"—Of course, that region belongs to the Kingdom. If things gets exposed, we might end up becoming enemies of the Kingdom and the Vaiself family."
Exploring the ruins discovered in a different country, this kind of borderline illegal work was the reason why workers were selected instead of adventurers.
"So in other words, what we're doing is just plain old dirty work?"
"Although it can be seen that way, there's still a slight delicate issue."
"That's right. If the Empire's workers are caught inside the Kingdom, the Earl will definitely get dragged down along with us."
"Which brings us to the main question."
"Where did this information on the discovery of the ruin come from?"
"Yeah. No matter how I think about it, it's strange."
"Is that so? Isn't it fairly close to the Great Forest of Tob? Perhaps it was discovered during logging."
"—Weird. Take a look at this." Arche opened up the map and pointed towards a circular spot. "Although the details aren't very clear, but spots like this..." Sweeping her tiny finger along the map, Arche indicated their objective.
"—There's also a village here. However its size is really small. Perhaps it's better to describe it as a hamlet. I don't believe a village like that is capable of creating such large clearings within the forest."
"That's correct. The chances of these clearings being excavated by such a small village is highly unlikely. Especially if the forest is inhabited by many dangerous monsters... It's much more likely to think that it was done as a government project, but I can't see any reason why the Kingdom would want to excavate that part of the forest. In the end, we're still lacking information.”
The four of them became more troubled after this. Should they accept the request or not?
Unlike adventurers, who had the backing of an entire guild, it was absolutely necessary for workers to properly investigate all details regarding the offered work before deciding. First, they had to thoroughly investigate the client's background and his connections, then the work location. Finally, based on the details gathered from the description of the job, a decision is made on whether or not to accept it.
Even after having done all of that, sometimes it still wasn't enough. If one wasn't capable of doing this, then they should quit being a worker. No matter how good the payment for the job might be, it would be better to reject it if you couldn't wash away the dirt that ended up staining your hands.
"...I've confirmed the payment already, this was given for the initial deposit—"
Hekkeran placed a metallic plate on top of the table. The surface of the plate was inscribed with countless different small glyphs and runes. Although he was given the plate, he would have to return it if they decided to reject the commission.
"I've already checked it with the Imperial Bank. The sum has already been credited to my account, it can be converted into cash any time."
The metallic plate was a type of guarantee that was used by banks within the Empire, in a similar role as a cheque.
In order to prevent counterfeits, the plates were made with great care and delicacy. Although it the creation process was extremely long, and would definitely incur additional fees for people to use, the advantages still far outweighed the drawbacks.
In other countries, this sort of thing was usually handled by the Adventurer's Guild; however the metallic plates used in the Empire were guaranteed by the government itself.
"From the looks of things, it doesn't seem like a trap... well, I knew they were dead serious the moment they paid the deposit."
If it was a trap, there shouldn't have been a need to pay such large deposit. However, it might just have been made to let people think this way, although Hekkeran didn't believe that he had somehow offended the nobleman enough to merit a trap specifically to target him.
"Stop. Imina, I haven't finished yet. Please, keep your thoughts a little more flexible."
"Yes, yes. Let's hear them then. About this job that's offered to us... it seems that they're quite pressed for time, however, there are still points I don't agree with. For example, hiring multiple worker teams, what do you make of this?"
Just as Imina pointed out, considering the amount of time it took to contact multiple teams, it would have made more sense to pick the first team that agreed and rush to the tomb’s location, considering that jobs like this required great haste.
"—I'm not sure either. To begin with, I don't understand why they're trying to rush this. I also didn't receive any information on any emergency situations happening to the Earl. It's not as if there are any events or ceremonies coming up in the next few days. The only thing I can think of is that they're afraid the ruins might get discovered by the Kingdom. Hiring multiple teams might just be to raise the success rate?"
"About that, Hekkeran. Did you hear anything from Greenham?"
"There's not much to be said. I only went and asked if they were also contacted, but it seems that they were also coveting for information regarding this commission. It was hard enough not to reveal anything to them."
Hekkeran shrugged helplessly.
"—If that's the case, then perhaps there's a third party who’s also aiming for the ruins?"
"That's definitely a possibility. If that's true then it would explain why so many workers are being hired. Oh that's right, it seems that something big happened recently in the Kingdom. However, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the area close to E-Rantel..."
"Let's hear more of this, Rob."
Due to the lack of accurate information, Roberdyck could only explain what he heard in bits and pieces. Since most of the details relating to the incident were pieced together from rumors, the overall picture that was painted at the end wasn't very clear or reliable.
"Hmm, we can't say for sure if the incident is related in any ways. However, I still think what Arche said is the most likely situation. Rob also agrees."
"If that's the case then… hiring multiple worker teams, and considering that the job location is within the territory of the Kingdom, is it possible that we're likely to end up clashing with Kingdom adventurers that were sent to explore the ruins? If it's like that then there's no point in collecting further information inside the Empire."
"The other thing to watch out for is an ambush made by the teams of other hired workers. I definitely don't want to lose my life just as we reach our goal."
"We also need to watch out for ambush made by adventurers. Although speaking of this, I'd much more prefer it if it was done by adventurers. At least we can try to negotiate with them and it wouldn't be as treacherous as one set by other workers."
"If it's done by workers, then things will most likely end in blood."
"—What should we do, leader?"
The overall issues had been raised and discussed, and each member's opinions had also been voiced. What was left were a few remaining speculations before coming to a conclusion.
"Before deciding, I have one thing to say... I think there's a need for everyone to hear this."
Hekkeran sighed deeply, and Imina, who sat beside Hekkeran, momentarily held her breath.
"Arche, a strange man came and said he wanted to see you."
Hearing this, an eyebrow went up on Arche's usually expressionless face. Seeing this reaction, Hekkeran understood that Arche knew the man.
"What did that guy say at the end? ...What was it again?"
Hekkeran blatantly asked Imina. What he received in return was a stare which said "what the heck are you saying?". However, after realizing that Hekkeran had really forgotten, Imina replied in a tired voice.
"'Tell the brat from the Furt family. Tell her the deadline is coming!'"
"Yep, something like that."
Being thrown into the spotlight, Arche took a deep breath and said with a heavy voice.
"—I'm in debt."
Hekkeran exclaimed in surprise. Of course, it wasn’t just Hekkeran alone, Imina and Roberdyck also had shocked expressions. Since there were no ranks within their team, the income was shared equally. And thinking back on the amount they've earned so far, the notion of being in debt was ridiculous.
"How much do you owe?"
"—Three hundred gold coins." Hearing the reply from Arche, the three of them glanced at each other once more.
The amount that was owed was something that normal people wouldn’t even be able to dream about. It was something that even workers of their level wouldn't be able to earn in one go. Although the deposit for their current given request was three hundred and fifty gold coins, that amount was for the entire team. After subtracting the cost of maintenance as well as buying necessary equipment and items, the amount left for each member was only around sixty gold coins.
Furthermore, their team was counted among the top of the worker profession. Using the same set of criteria as assessing adventurers, they would be equivalent to the mithril rank. Even at their level, they couldn't earn that much in a go. That showed just how much of a debt it was.
Arche’s face began to cloud up as she felt the doubtful gazes of her companions on her.
She naturally wanted to avoid this conversation. However, if she didn't answer it now, it wouldn't be a surprise if she ended up being expelled from the team.
After a brief moment of consideration, Arche finally opened her mouth.
"...Since my family considers it a huge disgrace, I never told this to anyone, but... the Blood Emperor revoked my family's nobility status."
The Blood Emperor—Jircniv Rune Farlord el Nix. Renowned for staining his hands with blood.
Due to certain events that took place, the previous Emperor was forced to retire. Soon afterwards, what used to be one of the Five Great Families of the Empire, the family of the Blood Emperor's mother, was accused of assassinating the Emperor and eradicated. Things turned sour after that, where the brothers of the Blood Emperor died one after another. During that time, it was as if the winds that blew within the city carried death itself, and near the end, even his mother got caught in it and perished.
Of course, there was opposition during this period. However, this opposition was meaningless to the Blood Emperor, who already controlled the Empire’s knights during his time as the crown prince. Using overwhelming military force, every aristocrat that was capable of opposing him was cut down like wheat before the scythe. The only ones who remained were those who pledged their allegiance to the Emperor from the bottom of their hearts, and thus it ended with the complete centralisation of power in him.
However, the Blood Emperor didn't just stop there. Many leftover aristocrats soon had their nobility revoked due to incompetence. Instead, capable commoners were given the chance to rise in status.
All in all, there were two main points that surprised people the most. First was that the national power of the Empire did not drop a single bit during the mass removal of aristocrats. Second was that the Emperor who had achieved all of this was only a boy one or two years past the age of ten.
It wasn't rare to see families that lost their nobility status. However—
"—Even now my parents still live the same lifestyle as before. Of course we can't afford the cost. That's why my parents ended up borrowing money from shady places."
Hearing this, the three of them glanced around at each other.
Although the three of them hid it well, feelings of anxiousness, irritation, unpleasantness and anger passed between them.
"—I have confidence in my magic abilities. I wish to join." These words had been said by a slender child holding a staff taller than herself.
The image of a small child with an expressionless face, who was holding her staff with both hands while standing before them, suddenly came back into the minds of Hekkeran and the others. Later, the image of their stunned faces after they saw the display of Arche's strength in magic came into view in their heads, resounding with nostalgia.
In the two years that went by, after experiencing numerous adventures and having survived adventures where even one wrong move would result in death, the money that they had gained was quite a considerable amount. However, Arche's equipment had hardly changed since the beginning.
The reason for that was finally made known.
"Is that for real? Should I go and have a proper 'talk' with them?"
"I think it's about time for your parents to hear the voice of God. No, no, perhaps they should meet the fists of God before that."
"I don't think their ears haven't been pierced yet, maybe I should start making holes in them."
"—Please calm down. It's already gotten to this stage, what I want to say is, depending on the situation I plan on taking my sisters away from my parents."
"You have sisters?"
Seeing Arche nod her head, the three of them looked at each other once more. Although they didn't say it out loud, but deep down in their hearts they started to feel that it might be better to give up on this particular request.
It was true that workers had a higher income than adventurers. However, the amount of danger they faced was also much higher. Although they tried their best at making sure the work they took on was as safe as possible, the chances of encountering situations outside their calculations was still quite high.
A single slip might result in a tragedy for her sisters. However, it was pointless to keep thinking along these lines.
"Is that so? ...Then let's put this topic on hold for now. We will let you handle your current problem... Anyway, back to our main discussion topic, do we accept the offered commission or not?"
Having said this, Hekkeran cast a cold gaze at Arche.
"Arche, I don't want to make it sound bad but you don't get a say in this."
"—That’s fine. For someone who’s in need of money, I can understand that my vote would be compromised because of my debt issue."
That was what they meant by being blinded by greed.
"—Truthfully, I had thought that I might end up becoming removed from this team."
"What are you saying? After having a magic caster as skilled as you join our team, it would be a huge loss for us to simply let you go."
This statement wasn't meant to provide any comfort. It was the truth.
Arche's innate talent. A pair of eyes blessed with miracles, had helped out Hekkeran's team multiple times in the past.
If a name had to be given to Arche's innate talent, the 'All-Seeing Eyes' would probably be the most suitable words to describe it.
Arcane magic casters were constantly surrounded by an invisible aura which wrapped around their body. However, Arche's innate talent allowed her to see it directly. Not only that, she was even able to see which tiers of magic the opponent was capable of using.
The advantage of being able to gauge the power level of opponents went without saying.
There was only one other person that Hekkeran knew of within the Empire that also possessed this ability. And that person was the Empire's highest ranked magic caster—Fluder Paradyne.
Although their eyes were the only things they had in common, it showed how gifted Arche was, since she was comparable to Fluder.
"To think that the Magic Academy would let such a talented child go."
"Exactly. To be capable of using the same tier of magic as me at such a young age is simply unbelievable. Perhaps it's possible for Arche to reach the 6th tier in the future."
"—I think that would be quite difficult to achieve. However, I would be happy if the possibility exists."
Just as the previously broken atmosphere was about to recover, Hekkeran clapped his hands. Everyone's attention once more focused on the topic at hand.
"Now now, about the current request, do we accept or not?—Roberdyck."
"I have no objections."
"Why not go with it? This is the type of work I've always wanted to do."
The work given to workers usually wasn't trivial stuff. Only a few days ago, they were still on the Kattse Plains exterminating undead. Work like that was quite different compared to what was offered now.
"In that case—"
"—If it's for my sake, please don't. Even if we refuse the offer this time I still have other ways."
The three of them glanced at each other, and a smile then appeared on Imina's face.
"No way. If you think about it, the request this time isn't the typical shady work. The reward is also really generous. Right, Rob?"
"That's how it is. It isn't for your sake at all. There's probably lots of undiscovered items within the ruins. Isn't it so, Hekkeran?"
"There you have it, Arche. Though it's regrettable that we can't make it known that we're the first explorers of the ruins."
"—My deepest gratitude."
Seeing Arche lowering her head, the three of them looked at each other and smiled.
"Well then, Arche and I will go and convert the plate into cash. The two of you go and prepare the necessary items for this adventure."
The items necessary for an adventure could include things like rope or oil, as well as certain magic items. For someone with a meticulous personality like Roberdyck, and Imina possessing the skills of a thief, this sort of work was perfect for them. On the other hand, one could say that Hekkeran was simply unsuited for tasks like his.
"Alright everyone, let's begin! ...Arche."
Turning towards Arche who was tilting her head with a baffled description, Hekkeran finally said out loud what he wanted to say before.
"The income from this commission isn't enough to cover your debt."
"—No problem. This much should be enough to extend the deadline by some time."
"You can borrow the rest from us."
"That's right. You can always pay us back later using the income earned from future jobs."
Of course it wouldn't be given for free since 'Foresight' members are all equal.
"—Hold on to it for now. I've already returned most of what my irresponsible parents borrowed. But give me some time to consider things through."
"That's fine. Take your time."
The four of them looked at each other one last time before heading off to complete what they were tasked to do.
In a certain high-class residential district within the Empire's capital, that occupied a vast area of land. Since long ago, rows of luxurious mansions have been built on this land, erected in the style of the past. Walking by these mansions would bring out a feeling of historical nostalgia. One could certainly guess that the type of residents that live here were most likely aristocrats.
The mansions of aristocrats were a sign of their status. One could see it as a waste of money, but if not extravagantly decorated, they would likely become subjects of ridicule.
Furniture, jewelry, clothing, mansion, courtyard—all of these things needed to be maintained in order for one to have status amongst the upper class of society. For aristocrats, who were continuously establishing connections and cliques, it was necessary to display their wealth. Living in a plain mansion was enough reason to be ridiculed and looked down upon. Because of this, aristocrats that were interested in politics and power had to constantly decorate their bodies and holdings. Realistically speaking, this was similar to the display of strength between military forces. It was a privilege reserved for the powerful.
These were the things one would see when looking around.
Even within the capital this area was one of the most well-regulated districts, where everything was nice and quiet. However, if you observed carefully, the quietness could be a bit unnerving. This was due to the lack of human presence.
In truth, the majority of these mansions were unoccupied and empty. Due to the events set in motion by the Blood Emperor, the majority of their owners ended up being unable to sustain the expenditures of living in this district.
Among these empty mansions, there were still a few that were being used. Unlike before, the gardening was kept very rough and there were no longer servants waiting outside.
It was in one of those mansions that Arche's family lived. She was welcomed home by her parents, who bore the proper appearance of typical nobles with the rightful bearings and fancy clothes.
"Ooh, welcome home Arche."
Before properly replying, Arche turned to look at a delicately crafted piece of glasswork which had been carefully carved into the shape of a cup. It radiated an air of great expense.
Arche's face twitched due to having never seen it before.
"Oh, this is Artist Jan's—"
"—I'm not asking that kind of question. This is something we didn't have before, why do we have it now?"
"That's because it was purchased just this morning."
That was her father’s casual reply, using the same tone as if he was saying something like ‘Good morning’. Hearing this, Arche's body started shaking.
"Hmm... I think it only cost around 15 gold coins. Cheap, isn't it?"
Arche drooped her shoulders in despair. She had originally planned on using the deposit from
her current job to pay off a part of the debt, and now she found that it had risen even more.
"—Why did you buy it?"
"As aristocrats, if we can't even purchase things like this, we'll become the laughingstock of everyone."
Hearing the prideful laugh coming from her father, anger started to shine through Arche's eyes.
"—We're no longer aristocrats."
Arche's father's expression hardened at the sound of those words and his face turned completely red.
Arche's father forcefully slammed his hand against the table. Due to the sturdiness of the table, the glasswork was not affected by the blow. Although Arche wouldn't have minded if it broke, her father probably wouldn't have felt any regret. It only costed fifteen gold coins, that’s what her father would think.
"As long as that piece of shit upstart dies, our family can instantly gain back its status! Members of our family have been nobles of the Empire for over a hundred years. It is absolutely unforgivable to end our line. This is an investment for our revival! Also, this display of power is to show that fool that we haven't given up!"
That was Arche's opinion of her father, who was currently out of breath due to his anger. The "fool" probably referred to the Blood Emperor. For someone like him, Arche's family wasn't even worth consideration. If they really planned on regaining their nobility, this definitely wasn't the method to use.
Being trapped in their own small world, they wouldn't be able to see what was happening outside.
Arche helplessly shook her head.
"The two of you stop fighting."
Seeing her laid-back mother, Arche decided to call it quits with her father.
Shortly afterwards, her mother stood up and passed a small vial to Arche.
"Arche. This is perfume, bought just for you."
"Three gold coins."
"Is that so... thank you."
While calculating in her heart the eighteen gold coins that got wasted, Arche said her thanks to her mother. After accepting the tiny vial that contained a very small quantity of perfume, she placed it into her bag.
It was hard for Arche to look at her mother with such a cold gaze. At least perfumes and makeup had more practical uses than glasswork.
Properly dressing oneself up and attending high-class parties were a means for nobles to mingle together and make connections. If one considered marriage, pregnancy and childbirth to be a woman's happiness, then it was important for daughters of nobility to decorate themselves, at least from a noble's point of view.
However, even if that was the case, in their current situation, Arche's simply couldn’t afford to be this wasteful. Also, three gold coins were enough to feed a normal family for a whole month.
"—I've said this countless times already, keep spending to a minimum. Only buy what you really need."
"Exactly, that's what I said! This was necessary!"
Feeling tired of arguing, Arche simply stared at the flushed face of her father. Having to continuously remind them of such simple things was becoming too much for her. She could only blame herself for all of this. If she had used force to resolve these things in the beginning, it wouldn't have ended up this way. Also, she wouldn't have brought trouble to 'Foresight'.
"—I'm no longer going to send money home. I will take my sisters with me and live elsewhere."
Hearing the quiet words spoken by Arche, her father started to heat up once more. What unnerved her father the most was probably the loss of her income, Arche thought indifferently.
“Just who do you think it was that raised you from birth to now?”
"—I've already repaid my obligations."
Arche forcefully ended the conversation. The amount of income she had earned so far, while not ridiculously high, was still quite a considerable sum. That money had been earned during the adventures she took with her comrades, and should have been used to strengthen herself just like the rest of her teammates had done.
Seeing how she never updated her equipment, what would her comrades think?
Not having strong equipment would mean she was the weakest member of the team.
However, the members of 'Foresight' never said a thing to her about it. Arche had been spoiled too much by this already.
Arche stared intensely. Having received the full burst of Arche's gaze, her father caved in and looked away. For someone who had gone through life and death situations, there was no reason for Arche to lose to a bumbling aristocrat of a father.
Arche glanced once more at her speechless father and left the room.
Walking out of the room, Arche sighed in relief.
"—What's wrong, James?"
James had been the butler to Arche's family for a long time now. A tense expression was visible on his wrinkled face. That face had been seen very often since her family’s fall from grace.
"Although I don't wish to say such things to ojou-sama but..."
Arche raised her hand and interrupted the speech. After considering that it wasn't a butler's right to say certain things, James distanced himself away.
Arche took out a small bag and opened it. Various different lights sparkled from within. The majority of the lights were silver, followed by bronze. The least amount were gold.
"—This much should be enough right?"
Having been handed the bag, James looked inside and finally relaxed his face.
"Salary, as well as the interest for the merchants... I think I should be able to solve the rest. Ojou-sama."
Arche finally managed to relax. Although it was the bare minimum amount, it was just enough to scrape by.
"—You weren't able to stop father from buying it?"
"It couldn't be helped. The seller came with nobles acquainted with us. Although I did remind the old master multiple times..."
The two of them sighed.
"—Just a small question. How much do I need to prepare in order to clear everything away?"
James widened his eyes, and then returned a sad smile. Perhaps the reason why there wasn't any movements in his eye was because he had already seen it coming.
"Certainly. Once I finish calculating it, I will bring it in."
"—I'll be relying on you then."
At that moment, the sound of running was be heard within the corridor. Even without looking up, Arche knew who it was.
Softening her face, Arche turned around just in time to see a shadow running towards her and leaping at her without slowing down.
The figure that had leapt into Arche's embrace had a height of less than one meter. Her age was around five years old, with eyes similar to Arche's. While hugging Arche, this girl raised her face and displayed an expression of dissatisfaction with her pink cheeks bulging.
"Way too hard."
This wasn't directed at Arche's flat chest.
Arch was wearing clothes made for adventuring. The area around the chest and abdomen had been reinforced with hard leather to improve its defensive properties. Running into it would definitely feel like running into a hard surface.
"—Are you okay?"
She touched the girl's cheek while stroking her head.
"Mm, I'm fine. Onee-sama."
Seeing the happy face made by her sister, Arche started to smile.
"...I shall leave the two of you be, then" Arche expressed her thanks towards the butler that did not wish to disturb the two of them, and then turned around to once more stroke her sister's head.
"Ulei... when in the hall..."
Arche suddenly stopped speaking halfway. She was about to say that it was inelegant for daughters of nobility to run inside the house, but after having told her father that they were no longer nobles, scoldings like these were no longer needed.
During this period, Arche's hand did not stop once, though the girl whose hair had already become a complete mess did not mind at all and continue to laugh.
Arche looked around her surroundings, and confirmed that one other person wasn't here.
"Inside her room!"
"Is that so... there are a few things that I wish to speak with the two of you, let's go together."
Protecting the cheerful smiles of her sisters was Arche's responsibility. Holding Ulei's hand, a warm feeling quickly grew inside Arche. Ulei's small hands were something that even Arche's hands could fully cover.
"Onee-sama's hand is really hard."
Arche looked at her other hand. Due to injuries received from numerous adventures, these hardened hands could no longer be called hands befitting an ojou-sama from a noble family. However, she had no regrets. These hands were proof that she was living her life together with friends—her comrades in 'Foresight'.
"But I still really like it!"
With her hand tightly grasped by her both of her sister's, Arche smiled and said;
♦ ♦ ♦
As usual, the North Market of the Empire's Capital was full of energy. However, the number of customers that frequented the North Market was a lot less when compared to the central market, due to the specialisation of the sold products. As such, it wasn't difficult to navigate through the less crowded streets.
Seeing the usual atmosphere surrounding the market, Hekkeran and Roberdyck relaxed their shoulders and started browsing.
The reason why they were able to relax their guards was because they were at the northern market—it was probably one of the safest districts within the capital.
"Well then, Hekkeran. What do we need to buy?"
"First would be healing items. We'll need to stock up on those ‘Wands of Cure light wounds’. Depending on the situation, we might also need some ‘Wands of Cure moderate wounds’... Don't select any that have a low number of uses. From what I've heard, our target location is a tomb, we might need to use them on the undead. After that, we need to stock up on items that counter undead creatures, poisons and diseases. We also need to have counter-measures against negative energy and undead without physical form... Items that have unlimited usage are too expensive, so it might be better to also stock up on scrolls inscribed with magic as well."
Wands were a type of item that could hold multiple charges of a single spell. The user could keep casting the spell until the number of charges were used up. As such, when compared to scrolls that could only be used once, wands were much more valuable for certain applications, such as healing.
"Is that so? I had thought that we were here to buy gifts, and you wanted my advice."
"... Don't worry about it, Hekkeran. Let's start searching for what we need."
The stores within the northern market were all open-air markets, neatly arranged and filled with items for people passing by to see.
The items on display were typically placed on single sheets. One sheet per item. However, the majority of the items on sale at each store were only medium-quality goods. New or unknown items were rare sights here.
The majority of the vendors here seemed to be capable of handling themselves well. They either possessed powerful looking weapons or were dressed like magic casters. Compared to typical merchants, these looked like seasoned warriors.
At first glance these vendors looked out of place, but they really were the owners of their respective stores, even if it was only for the current day. During other times, they would usually be working as adventurers or workers. In other words, the actual profession of the vendors were similar to that of Hekkeran's and Roberdyck's.
They usually sold equipment or items they no longer needed, or whatever they found during their adventures. When compared to selling to merchants who specialized in magic items or to the Magician Association, finding their own customers could eliminate having to pay processing fees and thus lower the price of their items. The amount saved from this was larger than the fees one had to pay to set up their own store.
Due to this reason, adventurers and workers like Hekkeran frequented the northern markets first in order to look for bargains. Some even came everyday if they had the time.
And lastly, this was the main reason why the crime rate in the north market was low. Who would be crazy enough to cause a ruckus in a district full of combat veterans?
After spending some time looking around, the faces on the two of them were neither gloomy nor glad.
Since the merchandise on sale were mostly unwanted goods, it was hard for Hekkeran and others to find the items they needed. Although these items might be suitable for Adventurers or inexperienced workers that were lower ranked, for the two of them—even when taking their companions into consideration—there simply wasn't anything useful.
"How regrettable. As I thought, it would have been faster if we had gone to the usual place to buy them."
"I only came here hoping to find bargains. It can't be helped if we can't find anything. Well, this is only the first step for us to start saving."
"Savings huh... Hekkeran, what do you think we should do?"
"Having only said this much and you already caught on, are you a super high ranked magic caster or something? ... It's obviously about Arche."
"You already know about that."
"Well, from what's already been said I can sort of tell."
"Then you know what I wanted to say right?"
"...That this might be our last adventure, right?"
"Please don't say such phrases that might jinx us." Roberdyck laughed bitterly. "Although it looks to be that way. If Arche-san says she will take her sisters under her care, it looks like our adventures in the future won't be as easy anymore."
"Just as you said. Although one would still need to work, but it doesn't need to be only from adventuring."
"It'll be easy for her to find another job. She's a third tier magic caster after all. Family—although we don't know how many sisters she has, she should be fine if she only needs to look after three or four people."
"Ah, I think so too. That's why she probably made this decision."
"And now the problem is at our end. In case our wizard Arche leaves the team, what shall we do about our next member?"
"If only a third tier magic caster would suddenly fall from the sky."
"Please try and separate your dreams from reality... If we were adventurers, then the Guild would help solving our problem... We'll need to rely on luck if we need to search for one ourselves."
The two of them looked at each other and sighed.
Losing a comrade. Being unable to keep up. Or being the only person in the team with powers that stand out. These were the typical reasons for an adventurer or worker to leave their team. These situations weren't uncommon. It was rare for a team to have kept the same members from the beginning to the end. In typical cases, a team would have had changed its members at least two to three times.
It was the same for Hekkeran, Roberdyck and Imina.
Although having said this, arcane magic casters were hard to find—especially those capable of using 3rd tier magic. For workers that were currently companionless, the quality of their character was an entirely separate issue that also needed to be addressed.
"How about training a 2nd tier magic caster?"
"Let's make that our last resort. I’d wish to avoid that if possible."
"It's also really troublesome when choosing new members. The majority of those who become workers tend to have messed up personalities. If we chose wrong, things could get very messy, such as accidentally picking up a battle maniac."
"...Thinking back on this, we've been quite lucky haven't we?"
"It's quite a rare case for the whole team to be composed of only those who desire money. Well, Arche's case is a bit different."
"Back when Arche-san first approached us, we were just thinking about how to fill in the vacancy for the last member."
Roberdyck stared at the distance reminiscing about the past. Hekkeran felt he was thinking the same thing.
"I can still remember what I was drinking at that time... The timing of Arche-san's arrival was so great that I started to think the formation of our team was brought on by God's will."
"Heh, that's amazing. I can only remember vaguely. What were you drinking?"
"Isn't that the same as usual then? ... Looks like you really don't drink alcohol at all. Although it'll be annoying if you also start drinking like Imina."
"It can't be helped. I'm a non-drinker… Though I have to admit Imina-san's drinking habit really is a bit scary."
"Well, Rob, a single cup is enough to turn your face red, then blue and then finally white. I'm still wondering what would have happened at that time if we didn't use magic to remove the poison."
"Someone else would probably be standing here instead. It's not like people haven't died from alcohol poisoning before." Roberdyck shrugged as he said. "Getting back on topic, what do we do about Arche-san's situation? Are we going to end up disbanding?"
"... If we really can't find a replacement then that will have to happen. It's simply too dangerous for three people to go adventuring... maybe we'll have to go back to being adventurers again?"
"I just can't go along with the regulations set by the Temples. If it has to be that way then I'd rather retire."
"Retire, huh... That's not a bad thought."
"I still have the savings we earned, I'll look for a job where I can help other people or protect the weak. It's also not bad to just be a farmer in some flourishing village while studying the teachings of God. What about you Hekkeran?"
"Hmm, just what should I do?"
Roberdyck's mouth twitched.
"...Is that something you can just decide on your own?"
It took some time for Hekkeran to fully process what Roberdyck had said. After finally comprehending, he raised his head.
"Kuku..." It was a wicked laugh, "you thought I hadn't noticed?"
"Aah. Aah. Aah! Aah! No, it wasn't something that I was trying to hide. You see, the timing... Is that what you were talking about? The gift."
"Who's giving it to who?"
"Hey, Rob! Look over there!"
In the direction that Hekkeran pointed, two people were currently viewing merchandise that was on display beneath a pretty pavilion.
One of them was a warrior clad in pure black armor, with a crimson cape behind his back and carrying a gigantic sword.
"Such an abrupt change of topic... well, it doesn't matter. I'll just have to find out more later on. Hmm, such stunning equipment. If the wearer has matching skills, then he would be quite a remarkable warrior. Is it someone that we know, who managed to upgrade their equipment?"
"I'm not too sure, but at least I don't think they're from the capital. For example, see that woman hiding over there? I've never seen her face before."
"The angle from where I'm at is bad. How does she compare against Imina-san?"
"—Please don't ask me that. I can't possibly answer that! ... Honestly speaking, the woman over there is really pretty."
"Imina-san is quite a beauty too. For even her lover to be saying this... So that's how it is, these two are either travelers or travelling adventurers. Perhaps they've decided to relocate to the capital."
"However, they're looking at magic household items, isn't that rather weird?"
Underneath the pretty pavilion, rows of magic items were neatly arranged. However, unlike the magic items used by adventurers and workers, the ones on display were for everyday usage. Examples were containers that kept their inside temperature cold, basically acting like a refrigerator that prevents food from deteriorating. Or fan-like items, capable of blowing wind.
These types of magic items had largely been proposed by a minotaur hailed as "The Boastful Sage" two hundred years ago.
Even though he had proposed the creation of many items, he was unable to explain why these items needed to be in this particular shape or how they worked, so in the end this warrior was unable to create them and ended up with such a title.
However, his skills as a warrior had been beyond first-class, and left behind the legend that one swing of his axe was capable of creating tornados and splitting the earth. He was also well known for raising the status of humans within the Great Minotaur Nation from a species that was treated as food to slaves used for labor.
It was quite a rare sight to see adventurers, who tended to live in inns, looking at magic household items that were thought up by this demi-human, and had no uses for adventuring.
"It's not that weird. The Empire's magical knowledge is quite advanced. It's also cheaper than in other countries. Maybe they're thinking that even after taking the return cost into account, it's cheaper to buy them there?"
"Ah, so that's why. I see. That's a way of thinking I didn't consider before."
"It's true that from our point of view their actions seems strange, but it's not so weird if you keep in mind that they're travellers.”
"Ah, that's right. If I think of it this way then I definitely can understand."
The armor clad warrior was carefully inspecting the magic items. Opening them, then closing, picking them up, turning them around. To the point of making the merchant's head sweat.
"We should be just as serious as them when searching for magic items."