While its population was lower than that of the Royal Capital of the Re-Estize Kingdom, it was larger in scope than the Royal Capital. In addition, several years of reform meant that the Empire was currently in the middle of its greatest boom in history, with non-stop innovation and a steady stream of resources and human talents coming in. The old was being torn down to make way for a promising future, and the faces of the residents were bright.
Ainz and Narberal walked through the heated, bustling city streets.
Under normal circumstances, Ainz would be gawking at everything as he walked, like a country bumpkin fresh from the farm. At the same time, he would have been deeply moved by how different this place was from the Kingdom.
However, those emotions were almost absent in Ainz.
The state of his heart was reflected in his actions, and his troubled steps.
What ruled him now was the feeling of unhappiness.
Coming to the Empire had been part of Demiurge’s plan, and the more he thought about it, the more his eyebrows — illusory as they were — knotted together.
The concept of “forbearance” was completely unnecessary for Ainz Ooal Gown, the supreme ruler of Nazarick. Neither did he need to suppress his feelings of frustration. Ainz’s word was law, and as a leader, all he had to do was speak and black would become as white. By right, there was nothing which would not go as he wished.
That being the case, why had things ended up like this? That was because he wanted to reject Demiurge’s proposal, but he could not, for various reasons.
The objective of the plan — demonstrate the power of Nazarick — was simple enough to understand, and its effects would show themselves immediately. That said, Ainz disliked it, because he felt that doing so would bring shame upon the handmade creations of his friends.
It was quite unsightly to reject an excellent plan based on personal feelings alone, and he did not want the others to feel that he was an uncharitable person in his role as supreme leader. Besides, he had no other ideas to serve as an alternative.
Objecting to someone’s proposals with nothing else to replace them was essentially picking a fight with the other party. It was not Ainz’s status as a ruler but his experiences as a salaryman which told him this.
Ainz began muttering the words he had used to talk himself down several times already.
I need to be calm. I need to cool my head. I need to be rational. If forced to choose between reason and emotion, a superior ought to select reason. The type who act on their emotions might be able to reap great rewards if they channel all their energies into their work, but for the most part it never ends well for them. Besides, it’s already—
“—The die has been cast?”
Ainz had no lungs, but he still took a deep breath, and then exhaled.
The surrounding citizens looked in puzzlement at this warrior who was suddenly sucking in and expelling the air as he walked, but they did not seem to mind.
His imposing, heroic build often drew the stares of passers-by. In particular, it was even more common for others to look at him after he had been hailed as a hero. Therefore, he paid no heed to the gazes of others unless he was putting on a show, riding Hamsuke, or some other special circumstance came up.
After repeating that cycle a few times, only a little bit of annoyance remained within him. That was when he noticed Narberal, who was trailing behind him.
“Forgive me, I seem to have been walking a little too fast.”
Ainz was a man, and the way he took large strides in armor was completely different from the way which the feminine Narberal moved in her robe. After considering her physical attributes, she was probably not having too much difficulty, but as a man, he had to apologize for walking ahead while only thinking of himself.
“Not at all, it is fine.”
“Is that so…”
Was that her answer as a servant, or did she really not mind? Ainz had no idea, so all he could do was shorten his stride while looking for something to talk about.
He felt uncomfortable about the prickly air around him just now, and he racked his brains for some way to change the mood. However, he could not think of a suitable topic.
Businessmen often used trivial matters like the weather and so on to get a conversation going. Discussing sports was not a bad idea either, but that required prior knowledge about which team the other party supported.
As Ainz pondered how to initiate the conversation, he suddenly went “tch” in his heart.
Why am I walking on eggshells around Narberal, my own subordinate? This is a rare opportunity for me to roleplay how a master should talk to his servant. That said, what should a ruler — or perhaps, an absolute being — talk to his subordinates about?
Ainz recalled his conversations with his bosses in daily life. Would those be appropriate? Ainz was confused. He was the highest authority within the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, not the director of an enterprise. Strictly speaking, he was closer to a company’s president.
No, president’s not quite right… that said, what would the King of the Kingdom say to Gazef Stronoff? If only I could use that as a reference…
That said, there was no point thinking about that now. Going on in silence like this made the mood too grim. Ainz decided to throw caution to the wind and say the first thing which came to mind.
“…Nabe… what do you think of this voice of mine?”
Ainz tapped his vocal cords with his index finger — or to be precise, the place where his vocal cords should have been. He used a gauntleted hand to press on his throat. He should have felt nothing through the metal, but there was a sensation of squishiness instead. There was also a strangely out-of-place moistness there.
“I pray you will forgive my frankness, but I do not quite like that voice. It is not because it sounds strange, but because I find your usual voice to be quite marvellous, Momon-sa—n. I understand that you have reasons which prevent you from doing so, but I cannot help but wish you would resume using your normal voice, Momon-san.”
“Is that so. I think this voice has a magnetic quality to it, and sounds quite good… Neuronist selected it from among those of 50 people, so I feel it has a certain charm which cannot be put into words.”
Ainz suddenly recalled what his own voice sounded like in a recording, and groaned quietly. However, his mood immediately re-stabilized.
“Is that so? I prefer your normal voice, Momon-san.”
“Thank you, Nabe. However, now that I think about it, I did not expect that I could make use of this…”
There was no telling if Ainz was speaking from the heart or merely rattling off pleasantries. As he thought, he poked his throat once more. He could feel the lifeform stuck there — a Lip Bug — shifting around. Perhaps it might be ticklish if he were human.
Did I just not know about it, or was it added in a later update? I can’t say for sure that not knowing about this won’t inconvenience me. It’s not just my knowledge of this world which I need to check, but my own knowledge of YGGDRASIL as well. How troublesome.
The game company wanted YGGDRASIL’s players to be able to enjoy the feeling of exploring the unknown. They wanted their players to play around and experiment with all sorts of things, so the developers produced a staggering amount of game content, and included systems that could fine-tune that data.
Thus, the unknown stretched out before the players.
They did not provide any information about the game world’s map, and they were also inconsiderate enough not to supply any news about the game’s dungeons and things such as ore mining, food preparation or the raising of magical beasts. In a world like this, one had to investigate and discover things on one’s own. In fact, even the items that one could and could not use could only be felt out through repeated trial and error on the player’s part.
There were walkthrough sites and news sites, but those sites only hosted a compilation of publicly known information or very untrustworthy rumors. YGGDRASIL was a game of exploring the unknown. Thus, any information one uncovered would be very valuable. There was no merit in publishing this valuable information for any stranger to view free of charge.
Ultimately, one could only rely on the information that one’s guild had uncovered, or information traded from a reliable guild. Everything else was useless and worthless news.
There had even been a period of time when people had left suspicious posts on message boards along the lines of “I’m leaving my guild, so I’m going to reveal all my guild’s secrets now”.
Well… some of that information had been accurate.
There had once been a guild called Three Burning Eyes
It was a guild formed by a the master of a website who ran a paid-membership information site, and they often practiced the bad habit of sending spies into high-level guilds to steal their information. However, the developers did not consider this a “bad habit”. They tacitly agreed that this was a valid means of gaining information. However, that did nothing to mollify the parties who had their information stolen.
Those high-level guilds were utterly furious, so they formed an alliance and attacked Three Burning Eyes. The alliance stationed people at the respawn points within the temples of the city containing the guild’s homebase, then began PKing the guild’s members. They then proceeded to repeatedly PK the guild members right after they respawned. Eventually, Three Burning Eyes collapsed and the guild members scattered to the winds.
In the end, they published all their information for free onto the web. That had been a nostalgic memory.
Well, there were no spies in Ainz Ooal Gown… but if that incident had not happened, perhaps we might have had more members.
That incident had caused Ainz Ooal Gown to stop recruiting. With only 41 members, they were the least populous of the high-ranked guilds.
Perhaps there might have been highly reliable websites in the last days of YGGDRASIL. However, Ainz had only browsed those sites during the golden age of Ainz Ooal Gown, when they had been in their full glory. At that time, there had been precious little useful information on those sites.
My knowledge might have stagnated there. Granted, I did pay attention to the developer updates… there must surely be other YGGDRASIL players in this world other than myself. I need to consider the danger of losing to them in terms of knowledge.
After bringing Eight Fingers under his banner, Ainz had learned much about the region surrounding Nazarick. That included a great deal of information about the Kingdom and the Empire, which was currently being put to good use. However, there was very little information about the Holy Kingdom, the Theocracy and the Republic, so he would have to carefully gather information on those places in the future.
“Good grief, the more I think about it, the more worried I get. I wish I had a more cheerful topic to think about instead.”
Ainz paused here, and then he casually glanced around.
“Speaking of which, the Empire really is quite lively.”
“Is that so? It feels about the same as E-Rantel to me.”
After hearing Narberal’s words, Ainz looked around once more.
“The streets are filled with life and the people’s eyes are gleaming. There is a certain ambience in the air, one which belongs to people who believe their lives are going to get better.”
“As expected of Momon-san,” Narberal said from a small distance behind him. However, Ainz felt embarrassed by his own words and did not answer her. That was simply an impression he had gotten, and he was not confident in the accuracy of his assessment.
Don’t tell me I was infected by Pandora’s Actor… “ambience”, I can’t believe I could say something as pretentious as that without getting embarrassed. Did I think I was a poet or something?!
In the Royal Capital, he had needed to act like a hero to some extent, so Ainz had played the role of one. It would seem he had not fully gotten out of the part yet.
The face under the closed helm turned red from mild embarrassment — although a skeletal face could not blush — and just then Ainz saw the inn which Fluder had told him about before his eyes.
This was the highest-grade inn in the Imperial Capital, and even from a distance, one could tell it was more luxurious than E-Rantel’s finest inn. If one considered the inns in the Royal Capital to have a long and distinguished history, then this inn of the Imperial Capital was a newly-opened, high-end hotel, and the question of which inn was better would be decided by personal preference.
“Alright, we can’t be sure until we go in to take a look, but I think we’ve got the right place.”
Ainz briefly felt the adamantite rank-plate dangling at his chest, and then headed for the inn’s entrance.
Much like in E-Rantel, the entrance was flanked by muscular guards in leather armor. The men cast suspicious glances at Momon and Nabe as they walked through the arch. Then, as they saw a certain item, their eyes suddenly went wide.
“Is… is that the real thing? It must be, given their gear…”
He could hear them whispering to each other.
As Ainz walked before the tense, nervous guards, they politely asked him in stiff tones:
“Please forgive me if I offend you, adamantite-ranked adventurer-sama, but may I please see the proof of your identity?”
Ainz took off the plate and asked:
“Does this inn not take walk-in customers?”
“Yes. Unfortunately, in order to maintain the appropriate tone, our establishment does not accommodate guests who have not been previously introduced. But of course, you would be an exception, adamantite adventurer-sama.”
One of the guards wiped his hands on his clothes, bowed deeply, and then gingerly accepted the identity plate like it was something fragile.
He then turned it over and read out the letters there.
“Momon… the Black-sama?”
“I have verified it and there is no doubt! Thank you for offering us the proof of your adamantite rank!”
Just like before, the guard carefully returned the plate to Ainz. The plates which denoted an adventurer’s rank were made out of the material corresponding to said rank, and this little piece of adamantite cost a tidy sum. Granted, adamantite was a very hard metal and it would not be scuffed or scratched just by dropping it on the ground, but if they misplaced it, they would have to pay out a hefty amount. For example, a Guaranperat — a crow-like bird — might snatch it away from the side while it was being returned.
This was not a fable concocted to remind them to be careful when handling valuable items. This was an actual example of what had happened in the past.
After Ainz took it back, the two guards looked visibly relieved, like a weight had been taken off their shoulders.
“Then, may I come in?”
“Of course, Momon-sama. Please allow me to escort you to the concierge.”
“I see. Then, by all means.”
The Kingdom did not have the practice of tipping. Was it the same in the Empire? Ainz thought about things like that as he let the guard lead them on.
After entering the inn, they passed through a lounge whose floor seemed to be made of large stone slabs before heading straight to the concierge.
“I have with me the adamantite-ranked adventurer Momon-sama and his companion.”
The cultured-looking man seated at the counter glanced at the guard. The guard then bowed reverently to Ainz before returning to his post.
“I bid you welcome, Momon-sama. Please accept my sincerest thanks for choosing to reside at our humble establishment for the duration of your stay in the Imperial Capital.”
The man at the counter bowed deeply to Ainz.
“No, it’s fine. I’ll be staying here for a night.”
“Very well. Then, may I trouble you to sign our guest register?”
Ainz smiled under his closed helmet, then picked up the pen and wrote.
His signature read “Momon” in the language of the Kingdom. He had practiced writing it dozens of times.
“Thank you very much. May I know what sort of room you would like?”
Personally, Ainz did not mind a cheap room. However, as usual, he could not do that.
I can’t eat, so a room without meals would be fine.
Ainz recalled several dishes from this world.
There was a green-colored fruit juice with a sweet fragrance. There was something pink which looked like scrambled eggs. There were also pieces of sliced meat covered in some kind of blue liquid. They all piqued his curiosity, but he could not eat them.
…Libido, appetite and the need to sleep. This body of mine has a lot of benefits, but I’ve lost a lot of things as well. What a shame. That said, if I still had my body of flesh, there’s a high chance I might have lost myself in my desires…
Ainz imagined himself in bed with Albedo, and his face twisted slightly.
That was because the mental image of a superior committing sexual harassment on a female employee — or worse — had appeared in his mind.
Granted, Albedo does seem to love me… this is a complicated feeling. If only I hadn’t done that back then… oops!
“Pardon me, just give us an appropriate room… by the way, since we don’t have the common trade currency, can we pay with Kingdom coins?”
“Of course. The Kingdom’s currency and the Empire’s currency has always been exchanged on a one-for-one basis.”
“I see. Then we shall have to impose upon you.”
“Very well, then we shall prepare a suitable room for you, Momon-sama. Could I trouble you to wait for a while in the lounge bar?”
Ainz looked toward the bar in question. It was very spacious and gave off a very classy feeling, and it looked like it could seat around 50 people. The chairs looked like they would be very comfortable. A bard was performing quiet music in the background.
“The food and drinks there are free of charge, so please feel free to relax at your leisure.”
One received better service if one paid more. That much was the same in any world where one went. However, this service did not please Ainz at all.
“Understood. Then, let’s go, Nabe.”
Ainz brought Nabe to the lounge bar and took a seat on a nearby chair.
There were several other guests in the lounge, all of whom appeared to be adventurers.
High-level adventurers would receive massive payments just for a single job, and their living standards would go up along to match. Living in an inn like this was hardly a problem for them.
That was probably true for any city, be it the Royal Capital or E-Rantel.
Ainz checked to see that the adamantite plate around his neck was visible to others. Letting the other guests talk among themselves and build his reputation for him was a good idea too.
Ainz felt others look at him as he perused the drinks menu in front of him.
I can’t read this…
He flipped through the pages at random. He went through the menu despite not being able to read it, in order to ward off suspicion.
Ainz had brought along the reading glasses he had lent to Sebas as a precaution, but he could not take his time using them here.
“Sebas… Tsuare, huh.”
He recalled the face of his subordinate, and quietly spoke the name of the woman whose name it called to mind.
“Has something happened to that woman?”
“Ah, no, it’s nothing important. I was just thinking about how she had adapted to all of this.”
While he had entrusted Sebas with Tsuare’s care, Ainz had promised her his protection, and as a business owner, he was obliged to pay attention to the well-being of his employees.
“I think they will be fine. Currently… the Head Maid is in confinement, so Sebas-sama is teaching her how to be a proper maid. After she learns the appropriate etiquette, she will be taught how to cook and how to perform other duties. Once we have determined what duties suit her, she will be officially assigned a position.”
“I see. Very well, it should be fine handing the matter to Sebas. Also… I think it’s about time we released those two from confinement… Albedo’s anger should have cooled by now.”
Narberal did not answer. All she did was nod her head.
Sensing a lull in their conversation, the waiter approached them.
“Have you decided what you wish to order?”
“I’d like an iced macchiatia. Narberal?”
“The same for me.”
“Pick what you want to drink. It’s fine.”
“No, I do want the same thing. Ah, more milk in mine, please.”
The waiter bowed deeply, and then retreated in silence.
Macchiatia was a drink Ainz had commonly seen in E-Rantel’s inns, and it looked like a latte coffee. The smell was reminiscent of a latte as well, but Ainz had also seen separate latte and regular coffees. Incidentally, Ainz had no idea what it tasted like. It went without saying that he could not drink it. He had tried, of course, but it had all leaked out through the bottom of his chin and he had not been able to taste anything.
However, he ended up ordering it anyway, because it looked like something which only high-class establishments would sell. He felt that it suited places like these.
As Ainz wiped away his nonexistent sweat, Ainz asked Narberal a question in a matter-of-fact way.
“…Nabe, what does macchiatia taste like?”
He had asked her because he knew she had drunk it before.
Narberal paused to think. This was probably the sort of look one would have on their face if they were thinking about how to explain the taste of coffee to someone else.
“How shall I put this. It is very much like a caffe shakerato. However, it tastes of condensed milk, so I do not quite like it.”
“…Is that so. That sounds delicious.”
Shakerato? I’ve never heard of a drink like that before. It might also be a beverage unique to this world.
“I feel it is merely passable.”
Ainz casually responded, and then the drinks came.
“Don’t mind me, just help yourself. It would be strange if both of us didn’t touch our drinks.”
He had grown used to not removing his helmet in the Kingdom, and so Ainz had completely forgotten to take it off when the drinks came. The way he said so in such a natural way felt very unnatural.
“Thank you very much.”
“Drink, then, and listen to me as you do. I plan to spend two days seeing the sights of the Imperial Capital. I hear that the central markets have a wide variety of stock, and just browsing them is quite interesting. Then, there’s the northern markets, which seem to contain a majority of shops stocking magic items. Adventurers go there regularly.”
That information had been provided by Eight Fingers, who were now under Ainz’s thumb. They had also supplied a lot of news about the underworld, but Ainz had no intention of getting involved in such matters, so he had only skimmed that information.
“We’ll proceed to the Adventurer’s Guild on the third day. I’d like to meet and get to know the Empire’s adamantite-ranked adventurers, but if that’s not possible, we’ll just take a simple, quickly-completed task to spread our fame… if all goes as planned, we will be able to leave within seven days. Do you have any suggestions?”
Narberal — who had not touched her drink, but was only listening in silence — simply shook her head.
The Imperial Capital was the crystallization of the Empire’s authority, and it contained many sights which would make a person gasp in awe. One of them made just about every visitor to the Imperial Capital exclaim in wonder. That was — the fact that just about every street was paved with brick or stones.
That was a sight which one could not see in the surrounding countries — other than the Slaine Theocracy, which was even more advanced than this place. Of course, not every city in the Empire was this way. Even so, it was a subtle yet potent testament to the Empire’s strength and power, one which had impressed the ambassadors of the surrounding countries.
Of particular note was the Central Avenue. It was a major thoroughfare of the Imperial Capital, and much like other public streets, the center was for horses and carriages, while the sides were for human traffic.
The difference was that there were safety fences set up along the dividing lines between the parts for people and the parts for horses and carriages, in order to ensure the safety of pedestrians. Street lights sprouted on either side of the road, and they glowed with magical light after nightfall. Speaking of which, many knights were on patrol, mindful of the safety of their surroundings.
A smiling man strolled casually along this road, the safest in the Empire, humming as he went.
The man was roughly 175cm tall, and he looked to be around the age of 20.
His hair was blond and his eyes were blue, while his skin had a healthy tan. His looks were hardly uncommon in the Empire.
One could not say he was particularly handsome, and his even features were the sort which would be easily lost in a crowd. However, he radiated a subtle charisma. The source of that charisma seemed to come from the faint, yet lively smile on his face, as well as his confident and open gestures.
With every step he took, the sound of chain links clinking rang forth from beneath his spotless, high-grade clothing. A sharp individual would be able to tell that it was the sound of a chain shirt.
He had a blade on either hip. Each was around the length of a short sword. They had round, fully enclosed knuckleguards, and while their sheaths were hardly exquisite in make, they were clearly not cheap stuff. Behind his waist was a mace for bludgeoning attacks and a mail-piercer for piercing attacks.
Carrying one or even two weapons was a perfectly reasonable thing in this world. But very few people would carry all the weapons needed to execute bludgeoning, piercing and slashing attack methods.
Anyone knowledgeable would recognize him for an adventurer. Anyone who was truly knowledgeable would notice that he lacked the plate which adventurers wore around their necks, and would thus conclude that he was a “Worker”.
Workers. They were those who had deviated from the path of the standard adventurer.
The Adventurer’s Guild would take on, research and assign requests to the appropriately-ranked adventurers. In other words, the Guild would thoroughly investigate the legitimacy of any job requests made of them. Therefore, the Guild sometimes rejected dangerous work — things that would endanger civilians or which were illegal in nature. Depending on the circumstances, they might even consider the requester to be an enemy. For instance, the Guild would oppose work like looking for raw ingredients for narcotics with all its might.
The Guild would also reject requests which threatened the balance of nature. For example, the Guild would never accept requests to kill the apex predator of a forest. This was to avoid the disruption to the natural order which would result from killing such a creature, such as other monsters leaving the forest. Of course, if the apex monster left the forest of its own accord and invaded human lands, that would be a different matter entirely.
In other words, adventurers were sort of like allies of justice.
However, such high-sounding ideals were not the only thing which made the world go around.
It was quite easy to imagine that some people were willing to do dangerous jobs for money. And then there were those people who simply enjoyed killing monsters.
These people — who did not seek the light of the adventurer’s life, but who thirsted for the darkness — were dropouts from the adventuring profession. They were known as Workers, and people spoke that name with mockery and caution.
However, one could not say that all Workers were cut from the same cloth.
For instance — if there was a heavily-wounded boy in a village and an adventurer who happened to be passing by used curative magic on him to heal his injuries free of charge, would the adventurer be in the right or wrong?
The answer was that he would be wrong.
The Guild rules stated that adventurers had to collect a fixed fee for such treatment, and they could not provide healing for free.
Under normal circumstances, healing magic was handled by the temples, and a patient would need to make a donation before the temples would cast a spell on him. If an adventurer disregarded that point and provided free healing, he would be taking the temples’ business.
Therefore, the temples made a strongly-worded request to the Guild to curb such activities.
If one could not accept these rules, then one would have to be a Worker.
This might sound like malice on the temples’ part, but it was because they could profit from their spells that the temples could render service unto the people without having to worry about outside interference. In addition, it was these donations which paid for the raising and training of priests, the exorcism of the undead, the development of new healing spells, all in order for people to lead safer and happier lives.
If adventurers cast healing spells for free, the temples might be forced to become more secular, and slowly abandon their ideals.
There were two sides to every coin, and Workers were no exception. It was because they poached animals for money that cheap drugs could be made, which in turn improved people’s lives.
This man — Hekkeran Termite — was a Worker, and he was smiling.
“What should I buy?”
There were countless magic items that he wanted, but in the end his top priority was defensive gear. Then, there was one more thing. It was an unrelated matter, but there was something else that he wanted.
“I’ll set aside the money for that… the rest can go to magic items for adventuring. Hm? Isn’t that the wrong way around? I ought to buy the magic items first and save whatever’s left over for that.”
Hekkeran scratched his head.
In that case—
“As a frontliner, I ought to boost my magical resistances, so I guess it’s time to draw on my savings. No, we might continue killing undead on the Katze Plains for money, so in order to ward against corpse toxins, I should be buying magic items which boost my resistance to poison, paralysis and disease.”
Magical equipment was very expensive, in particular the sort which adventurers used in combat. One-of-a-kind items could be so expensive that Hekkeran could not afford them.
In any case, the items Hekkeran wanted were not that expensive, but they still cost as much as years of an average person’s wages. Of course he would carefully consider making such a costly purchase.
As he looked forward to his shopping, his eyes met those of the knights standing by the roadside for an instant, and his easygoing expression immediately tightened up.
A tag team of a heavily-armored knight and a lightly-armored knight stood at the street corner, surveying the surrounding conditions.
Everyone knew that the temples to the Four Gods were in the vicinity, and so security was especially strict here. While he doubted that they would arrest people off the streets, Hekkeran could sense their gazes resting on the weapons at his waist.
It would be one thing if he was an adventurer, but as a Worker without any form of backing, he did not wish to go up against the knights who enforced the Empire’s safety.
The gods seemed to have smiled on him, because the knights compared his face to a wanted list, but did not stop him. Thus, he passed through the densely-packed temple district.
His guilty conscience at ease, Hekkeran looked into the distance and saw a unique-looking building ahead. At the same time, the wind carried the sound of cheering to him — he could hear bloodthirsty voices and battlecries in the air.
That unique building was the grand arena that could only be found in the Imperial Capital of the Empire. It was a very popular tourist spot within the Imperial Capital.
There was no need for him to go all the way there. He saw more than enough blood in the course of his work, and he had no interest in gambling, so one could say that that place did not interest him at all. However, it was still the biggest entertainment outlet for the common man in the Imperial Capital — the nobles preferred the theater. Given the cheers had reached all the way here, the arena must have been packed to the brim once more.
“The crowd sounds really excited; is it a final?”
The Worker team which Hekkeran led had fought a series of battles against magical beasts in the arena for work purposes. Surrenders were useless against magical beasts, so defeat meant death. Of course, battles against human beings could be fatal, but it was very rare that the day’s activities in the arena did not conclude without a single fatality. Or no, the more people who died, the more fired up the crowd became.
The most heavily-attended shows were the grand fighting tournaments, where many people died beautiful deaths.
He had no interest in this. He did feel like looking at a blood-soaked battlefield on a day off work. However, he did not fully chase the notion out of his mind, because the various events within the arena might make for excellent conversation topics.
I don’t want to step into the arena again, but it might be a good idea to ask others about the details of today’s show when I get back.
After making a mental note of that, he continued walking along a road lined with shops. Soon, he saw a familiar signboard with the words “Singing Apple Pavilion” written on it.
Apparently, a group of bards who all used applewood instruments came together to found this tavern cum inn. It looked old, but the interior was surprisingly sturdy and clean. There were no gaps in the walls to let the wind in, and the floorboards were brightly polished. Naturally, staying here was not cheap, but it was not completely unaffordable either. To Hekkeran and his crew; no, to all Workers, this was arguably the highest-grade inn around.
Granted, it could not measure up to the finest establishments of the Imperial Capital. But those places were best suited for aboveboard adventurers; they were not at all suited for Workers.
For starters, people who hired Workers generally had dirty jobs to offer. Therefore, their clients would hesitate about having to walk into conspicuous locations. However, if they set their meeting point in a place with poor security because of that, it might wind up causing trouble for them.
In addition, the fact that many other Worker teams used this place as a home base made the Singing Apple Pavilion popular with the requesters. That was because unlike with the Adventurer’s Guild, someone looking to hire Workers had to find them with their own connections. Therefore, having the Workers scattered all over the place was very troublesome for the requesters.
Another reason for the Workers to stay at this inn was because staying in the same place fostered a sense of closeness with each other, which would reduce the chances of requests where they might have to fight each other. Finally — and most importantly — the food here was delicious.
Hekkeran thought about dinner as he stepped through the door. He hoped that he would be able to have his favorite pork broth.
While he pondered.the topic, the first thing which greeted him was not his friends saying, “oh, you’re back” or “thanks for your hard work.”
“—I told you already! I don’t know!”
“No, no, if you say that, it’ll put me in quite a fix…”
“I’m not that girl’s keeper and I’m not her relative, how would I know where she went?”
“Aren’t you companions? I can’t just walk away meekly because you say you don’t know. This is my job!”
A man and a woman were glaring at each other in the middle of the bar cum dining room’s first floor.
The woman’s face was very familiar to him.
Her face lacked the slightest trace of fat and her eyes were vicious. The most eye-catching features of this woman were her ears, which were far longer than those of ordinary people. Still, they were only half as long as those of a Forest Elf’s. Indeed, she was a Half-Elf.
Forest Elves were slimmer than a human being, and after seeing her body, it was clear that she had inherited that bloodline trait. She was slender from head to toe, and her bosom and buttocks lacked a woman’s fullness. They looked like someone had welded iron slabs in place over them, and if one looked solely at her body, they might mistake her for a man.
She wore a tight-fitting suit of leather armor. The bow and quiver she usually carried were not on her person. The only weapon she had was the shortsword at her waist.
Her name was Imina. She was one of Hekkeran’s companions.
However, he did not recognize the man in front of Imina.
The man appeared to be bowing and scraping, but there was no trace of apology in his eyes. In fact, there was a look in there which annoyed Hekkeran. Still, at least he was being polite, so he had some brains.
The man’s arms and chest bulged with muscle, and he looked intimidating just standing there. People like him would probably not hesitate in using violence, but brute force was useless against Imina.
That was because Imina looked frail, but she had first-rate skills, and she was capable of easily slaughtering a mook who thought he was something.
“That’s what I’ve been telling you all this while!”
As he heard that angry, high-pitched voice, Hekkeran hurriedly interrupted.
“What are you doing, Imina?”
It was only when she heard Hekkeran’s voice that Imina noticed him and turned around. Then, a look of surprise appeared on her face.
A ranger with keen senses like herself had gotten so lost in her words that she had failed to notice Hekkeran’s presence. That indicated just how worked up she was.
The man took Hekkeran to be an unwanted interferer and questioned him in a threatening tone. The man’s gaze was keen, and he radiated an aura which suggested that he might start hitting anyone at any time. However, Hekkeran had frequently faced down vicious monsters and survived the encounter, so all it got out of him was a wry grin.
“…He’s our leader.”
“Ohhhh, wonderful. You must be Hekkeran Termite-san, then. I’ve heard of you.”
The man’s expression changed immediately, becoming an ingratiating smile which filled Hekkeran with mild revulsion.
Hekkeran did not know why this man had come here, but the fact that he had come to this inn — the base of operations for Hekkeran’s group — meant that it was unlikely that he did not know about what Hekkeran did for a living.
Perhaps his threatening tone from just now had been intended to gauge Hekkeran. If Hekkeran had flinched, the man would have continued speaking in overbearing tones.
Among Workers and adventurers, there were those people who could kill monsters without blinking an eye, but who would recoil from human beings. However, these people would only take a step back momentarily. If pressed, they would draw their weapons and they might end up killing the opposition.
We’ve just met and he’s already trying to scare me to show who’s boss… this guy… I dislike his type.
Hekkeran understood that this was a negotiation technique. It was also a very obvious one. However, Hekkeran disliked negotiations like these. He preferred to speak his mind and get straight to the point.
“…You’re being noisy. This is an inn. There are other guests around. Do you really want to make a ruckus here?”
That said, there were hardly any guests nearby, and even the inn staff were gone.
It was not that they had hidden away, because squabbles like this were like appetizers for Workers. It was simple coincidence that nobody was around.
Hekkeran stared at the man’s face. The other man could not hold up against the glare of a mithril-ranked warrior. He immediately cowered as though he were facing a magical beast.
“No, no, no, I’m sorry, but I have my reasons too.”
The man had lowered his voice somewhat, but he still wanted to continue speaking. Given the way he was still sticking to his guns in the face of Hekkeran’s glare, he must have been well-versed in the application of force — particularly violence.
Why did a man like this come here?
It was true that Hekkeran was involved in shady business, but he did not recognize this man, nor had he done anything to warrant such an attitude. Neither did he look like he was going to offer a job.
Baffled, Hekkeran decided to ease off on his glaring and directly asked him a question.
“…What’s going on?”
“It’s nothing. I just wanted to meet with your friend Furt-san, Hekkeran-san.”
There was only one person Hekkeran could think of when the word “Furt” came up.
Hekkeran did not feel she would be connected to this man in any way, because she was a comrade who had been through countless life-or-death struggles at Hekkeran’s side. That being the case, she must be in some sort of trouble.
“Arche? What happened to her?”
“Arche… right, yes. We know her as Furt-san, so I couldn’t recall her name for a moment. Mm, it’s Arche Eeb ryle Furt-san.”
“So?! What do you want with Arche?”
“It’s nothing, I just want to talk to her… it’s a private matter, so I’d like to ask when she’ll be coming back—”
“As if I’d know!”
Hekkeran rudely interrupted the other man. Such was his abruptness that the other man was close to rolling his eyes in annoyance.
“Now then, are you done yet?”
“I… it can’t be helped. I’ll wait here for a while…”
Hekkeran jerked his chin at the door, and his attitude left the other man staring dumbly.
“Let me make this abundantly clear. Your face is pissing me off and I can’t bear to have you within my line of sight for a moment longer.”
“This is a tavern, I—”
“Oh yes. It is a tavern. It’s also a place where drunkards often get into fights.”
Hekkeran smiled evilly at the man.
“No need to be so tense, relax. Even if you get drawn into a fight and and get badly hurt, we’ve got a priest who knows healing magic. All you have to do is pay.”
“You’d better take more of his money, or the temples won’t be happy. I don’t want their assassins after me,” Imina added from the side, with a wicked smile on her face.
“Well, we’ll give you a special discount, so you’ll be grateful, right?”
“If you’re threatening me—”
The man’s words cut off halfway, because he saw the expression on Hekkeran’s face changing rapidly.
Hekkeran suddenly stepped forward, so close that the other man’s face filled his line of sight.
“Hah? Threatening you? Who’s threatening you? Fights are common in a tavern, aren’t they? I’m giving you good advice here and you say I’m threatening you? Are you looking for trouble, huh?!”
The veins popped on Hekkeran’s forehead. His face was that of a man who had experienced numerous brushes with death.
Cowed by his presence, the man took a step back, though he went “tch”, unwilling to concede defeat. Then, he ran for the door. He tried his best to pretend otherwise, but it was clear to everyone that he had been scared off. When he reached the exit, he turned around and spat one last reply at Hekkeran and Imina.
“Tell the Furt girl! The deadline’s here!”
Hekkeran’s low growl sent the man fleeing from the inn.
After the shouting man vanished, Hekkeran resumed his original expression. That change was so great that it was almost comical. In truth, Imina was applauding him quietly.
“So, what was that all about?”
“No clue. He only told me what he told you.”
“Good grief. If I’d known, I’d had asked him to explain in more detail.”
He grabbed his head in annoyance.
“We’ll ask Arche when she gets back.”
“…Still, I’m not too eager to stick my nose into others’ business.”
“Mm, alright, I understand. Still, you’re the leader, so do your best.”
“Then I’ll invoke my leader’s authority and order you, as a fellow woman, to ask her, Imina.”
“Give me a break, I don’t want to ask her either.”
The two of them smiled bitterly at each other.
Both adventurers and Workers had several taboos.
The first was that they could not look into or ask about each other’s pasts.
The next was that they had to hide excessive desire.
Since desire drove many people to become Workers, it was unavoidable to some extent. However, being too open about it kept the team from functioning normally. For example, if a teammate whined about money, would anyone trust him when it came to a job which involved handling a large sum of cash or when keeping a secret which absolutely could not be leaked? Would anyone dare sleep in the same room as someone who desired the opposite sex all day long? Everyone had to count on each other when their lives were in danger. At the very least, every member of a team had to trust each other.
The fact that Arche had gotten herself into trouble like this was a massive blemish on her reliability. It was most definitely not something which could be handwaved away with a simple, “there, there”..
As people who worked a job with a very real risk of death, they could not allow any factors of unease to remain.
Hekkeran scratched his head, his expression clearly reluctant.
“It can’t be helped. I’ll ask her when she gets back.”
Imina smiled and waved, and Hekkeran glared at her.
“What, are you trying to run away? You’re asking her with me.”
Imina pouted but she could only give up when she saw that Hekkeran’s face was unchanged.
“Nothing to be done about it. I just hope the situation isn’t too serious.”
“So where is she now, anyway?”
“Hm? Oh, she’s gone to collect information about the details of that job.”
“Weren’t Rober and I supposed to do that?”
After Hekkeran and the others had finished clearing the undead from the Katze Plains, they had returned to the Imperial Capital, whereupon they had received a new request. The terms of the request were pretty good for their team, so everyone was inclined towards accepting it. However, they would need to research it first.
They had agreed beforehand that their best speaker Roberdyck would investigate the details of their employer and the reasons why he had sought them out, while Hekkeran would go to the Empire’s government offices — eliminating the undead of the Katze Plains was a national enterprise — and collect the payment for slaying the undead, and then help Roberdyck in his investigations.
Imina and Arche should have been waiting here for further instructions.
“In addition, she said she wanted to investigate the conditions and history of our objective.”
No wonder, Hekkeran nodded. Arche might have abandoned her studies in the Imperial Mage Academy, but she still retained her connections. Nobody could gather academic knowledge like she could. On top of that, she could consult the Magician’s Guild for information.
“So that’s why she went running around with Rober. After all, he also knows quite a bit and has connections with the temples. Then how about your end?”
“Well, about that…”
Hekkeran took a seat as he spoke in a hushed voice.
“I know why they want Workers. Or rather, I know why you can’t hire adventurers to go to the place in question. However, the requester also said that he was looking for other teams, that much should be true.”
“Are we seriously going to work with other people? They might be ruins that nobody’s ever entered before, but is the requester sure that we’ll get big returns from it?”
“The team I asked — Gringam’s people — said so too. Heavy Masher seems prepared to accept, and we need to decide whether or not we’re accepting it by tomorrow.”
They had only listened to the details of the request, and they had not accepted it yet. While they had until tomorrow to respond, there would be additional preparations to be made if they accepted.
“And a conflict that just happens to come up now, at this crucial time… you think it’s related?”
“We can’t completely rule out the possibility that one of the other teams has a hand in this. However, we have to hear Arche out before deciding. If it’s another team up to their tricks behind our backs, it would be better not to accept. Or perhaps we ought to accept while being fully prepared for a confrontation?”
“Of course we should accept. If they have a bone to pick with us, then we’ll beat them up until the only thing they’re picking is their teeth from the floor. That’ll teach them to mess with us.”
“That’s pretty extreme.”
Imina was far more intense than her looks suggested, but Hekkeran felt that her proposition had merit.
While others looking down on them was not the end of the world, it would definitely damage their reputation. Considering Workers were one foot into the underworld, it was something they needed to avoid.
A determined light filled his eyes as he nodded silently, and then the sound of wood scraping rang through the tavern. The forms of two people stepped in through the opened door.
The first voice belonged to a girl and sounded like a whisper. A beat later, it was followed by an elegant, proper male voice. In all likelihood, he had wanted to avoid drowning out the girl’s quiet words.
The first person to enter was a skinny woman, someone who could still be called a girl.
She looked to be in her late teens. Her lustrous hair was neatly trimmed at her shoulder, while her eyes and nose were perfectly positioned. She was not so much beautiful as elegant. However, she had an inorganic, doll-like quality about her.
In her hand was a metal staff that was about as tall as she was. Said staff was inscribed with Countless inscriptions which looked like characters and symbols. She wore a loose, long robe. Underneath that were various thick articles of clothing which provided her with a modicum of defense. One could tell at a glance that she was a magic caster.
The man wore a suit of full plate armor — albeit without a full-faced helm — and over it was a surcoat stitched with a holy symbol. He had a morningstar at his waist, and a holy symbol which matched his tabard hung at his neck.
His facial features were rough, and his hair was parted. His tiny moustache was neatly trimmed and he gave others the impression of being relaxed. He looked to be around 30 years old.
They were Hekkeran’s other friends, Arche Eeb Ryle Furt and Roberdyck Goltron.
“Oh, you’re back.”
Was this good or bad timing? Hekkeran addressed the two of them in stiff tones.
“What happened to the two of you?”
Roberdyck spoke in a tone which did not sound like a senior person addressing his two juniors. Part of that was because of his character, but it was also because he viewed them as fellow, equal Workers.
“It… it’s nothing.”
“Yeah… that’s right, it’s nothing.”
The two of them looked suspiciously at Hekkeran and Imina as they waved their hands.
“Er, anyway, let’s not talk here. We’ll speak over there.”
Hekkeran’s face turned serious and he stopped fooling around. Then, he pointed to a round table deeper within the room.
“Before that, how about drinks… Oi, Imina, where’s the boss?”
Imina looked at him with a face that seemed to say, “why are you only asking that now?”
“…He went shopping. I’m minding the place for him.”
“Seriously? Then what should we drink? Anything we want?”
“Ah, I can go without.”
“…Really now. Then, mm… then we’ll begin this meeting of Foresight.”
Everyone’s original expressions were gone now. They leaned slightly in, bringing their faces close to their colleagues. They could not help it even though there was nobody else around; one could say it was a professional habit.
“Let’s verify the details of the request.”
After ensuring that everyone’s eyes were on him, Hekkeran continued speaking. His tone was vastly different from just now. He was serious when he had to be serious, just like how a team leader ought to be.
“Our client is Count Femel, and the request is to investigate a set of ruins within the Kingdom’s borders — a structure which seems to be some kind of underground tomb. We’ll be paid 200 up front and 150 after completion. Unusually enough, the downpayment is higher than the rest of the fee, and the overall amount is very large. In addition, there might be a bonus in it for us depending on the results of the investigation. However, all magic items we find will go to the Count. According to them, they’ll pay the discoverers half the market value for anything they find. Precious stones, works of art and so on will be valued and then split 50/50. In addition, the requester has also been negotiating with other Workers’ parties at the same time, and depending on the circumstances, there might be more than one team on this expedition — proving what I said earlier.”
Hekkeran shared the news he had learned with Arche and Roberdyck, and then went on to explain the details.
“The expedition will be three days long at the most, and our objective is to perform a thorough investigation of the ruins. The biggest problem is that these ruins are probably going to be filled with monsters, and we’ll need to scout out their lairs and so on. In other words, a standard ruin delve.”
Abandoned cities and the like were usually nests for monsters, and so when Workers “investigated ruins”, it was more like a “reconnaissance in force”.
“Still, the most important thing is that it looks like an undiscovered tomb.”
The mood in the air changed as that fact was mentioned.
200 years ago, several countries had been destroyed as the Demon Gods rampaged throughout the land. It was not just human kingdoms which had been devastated, but those of demihumans and heteromorphs. These ruined kingdoms sometimes concealed priceless treasures; namely, magic items. Discovering such things was arguably the dream of adventurers and Workers.
Therefore, adventurers and Workers often longed to discover unexplored ruins. And now, one such ruin had appeared before their eyes.
As he saw the gleam in his comrades’ eyes, Hekkeran yielded the speaker’s role to his two friends who had returned after collecting information.
“Also, the Count will handle transportation to and from the tomb, as well as our rations. That’s it. Now then, Arche, Roberdyck, tell us what you’ve learned.”
“—First off, Count Femel’s position in court is precarious. Apparently the Bloody Emperor has been treating him coldly. However, he is not in any financial difficulty.”
“Regarding that ruin within the Kingdom, Arche and I did some research, but we haven’t heard of any ruins in the area, or any cities in the past. Since it’s a tomb, there ought to be some information about it left behind… Frankly speaking, I have no idea why there would be a tomb there. The only thing in the area is a small village; perhaps we could learn something if we asked around. What do you think?”
“Can’t do that. We were asked to keep our movements secret. The requester said that we were not to eliminate witnesses, and he hoped we would not have to do so.”
“—Of course, that region is Crown-controlled territory. If we act rashly, we’ll be making enemies of the Vaiself Royal Family of the Kingdom.”
The fact that they were delving into a ruin in a foreign nation was practically a crime, which was why they had not hired adventurers, but Workers.
“In other words, this is the usual dirty business, am I correct?”
“Yes. However, there are some sensitive issues.”
“Indeed. the Empire’s Workers causing trouble in the Kingdom will lead to all sorts of problems. If things go badly, it might even affect the Count himself.”
“In that case, there’s only one more problem left.”
“That is, the origin of the information about the tomb, am I correct?”
“Indeed. It smells fishy, no matter how you slice it.”
“Does it? It’s near the Great Forest of Tob, right? What if they found it while cutting down the forest?”
“—That would be strange. Look at this.”
Arche opened up a map and circled a certain location.
“The exact location is unclear, but it ought to be around this area.”
Her delicate finger slid over the map’s surface, and then tapped twice.
“—And then this is the village, though it’s so small that perhaps it might be better to call it a hamlet instead. I don’t think a village like that could clear-cut a forest.”
“Indeed. A small village ought to have a hard time clearing a dangerous forest… Perhaps the Kingdom cleared it for some national enterprise, but there’s nothing nearby which would offer any national-scaled benefits nearby, and more to the point, no news about it has leaked out.”
The four of them were worried. They did not know if they should accept this assignment.
Since they did not have an Adventurer’s Guild to back them up, they had to thoroughly investigate the job themselves, starting with their employer’s background and the location of the job. After that, they had to check out the details of the job itself before they could accept it. Even after doing all that, they still ran into trouble time after time.
Their jobs were a gamble with their lives as the stake. No Worker could do the job without telling themselves that no amount of checking was enough. If they sniffed out a hint of danger which they could not handle, then they would have to refuse the job, no matter how good the terms.
“…I’ve done some checking on the payment side, and as for the deposit…”
Hekkeran put a metal plate on the table. If they rejected the job, they would have to return it to the client. Various tiny characters were inscribed on its surface.
“—I checked the credit plate with the Imperial Bank, and it’s been fully paid up. We can exchange it for cash at any time.”
Credit plates were a guarantee of payment from the Imperial Bank that functioned like a cheque.
They were intricately made as a countermeasure against forgery. Their drawbacks included being tedious to use and the fact that one had to pay processing fees to use them, but there were many advantages to them.
The Adventurer’s Guild usually handled this sort of thing in other countries, but the country itself guaranteed this in the Empire.
“That means it’s not a trap… alright, the truth is, I had the feeling that the other side was serious from the moment I got this plate.”
If they were planning to set a trap, then there would be no need to pay such a large deposit as a hiring fee — of course, the opposition might have done just that to catch people off-guard, but Hekkeran did not know this noble and had no quarrel with him.
“Stop. Imina, I’m not finished yet. I hope you can be a bit more flexible in your thinking.”
“Fine, fine, fine. Then tell me something. There’s a few questionable points about this job, like how the employer’s hiring several teams. Why is that?”
Imina had a point. It would be unwise to use more than one team for a time-critical task, after considering the time needed to contact each of them. It defied explanation.
“—I’m not sure. Frankly speaking, I don’t know why they’re in such a rush to check the place out. I haven’t heard of any emergencies involving the Count or anyone related to him, or any ceremonies to be hosted in the next few days. If you really wanted me to give an answer, maybe he’s afraid of someone on the Kingdom’s side finding the ruins? And maybe hiring multiple teams was to increase the chances of success?”
“Say, Hekkeran? Didn’t you ask Gringam about all that?”
“As if he’d tell me that much! Just asking him if our client hired him took a lot of effort, and I had to keep our own info from leaking out.”
Hekkeran shrugged, indicating that he was out of ideas.
“—There’s another possibility, which is that someone is going up against the Count.”
“That’s possible. If that were the case, then the rushed investigation and hiring a lot of people would make sense. Right, right. Apparently, something big happened in the Kingdom recently, but it doesn’t seem to be directly connected to the ruins near E-Rantel…”
“Tell us about it too, Rober.”
“I didn’t learn too much about it, only some rumors,” Roberdyck said, and then he launched into a muddled explanation of the disturbance in the Royal Capital. Collecting more information would have taken time, but he lacked reliable information now.
“Hm~ doesn’t seem related, yet it seems related too. In any case, what Arche said is most likely. Plus, Rober agrees too.”
“Assuming that’s the case… considering the client’s planning to hire multiple Worker teams and the fact that we’re working in the Kingdom’s territory, are we going to end up competing with a lot of officially-hired adventurers from the Kingdom? If that’s the case, then we’re just wasting our time no matter how much info we gather within the Empire’s borders.”
“We also need to be wary of teams hired by another client — in other words, traitors. I don’t want to end up getting stabbed in the back by our own side just as we think we’ve completed our task.”
“Traitors or adventurers. If I had to choose, maybe adventurers might be better. At least you can reason with them and keep things from blowing up too much.”
“After all, we might actually end up killing each other if it’s between Workers.”
“—What do you plan to do, leader?”
Everyone had said their piece. All that was left now was to try and figure things and and predict how they would go.
“Before I decide, I have something I want to say… or rather, something I want to ask. This is vital.”
Hekkeran took a deep breath, and beside him, Imina sighed.
“Arche, a weird man was looking for you.”
Arche’s face was initially blank, like a mannequin’s, but at that moment, her brows twitched. Judging by her reaction, Hekkeran was sure that she knew that person.
“That guy said something at the end… what did he say?”
Hekkeran turned to Imina, and she immediately shot back a look which said, “What are you playing at?!” In the end, she realised that Hekkeran really did not remember, and she replied in a tired tone:
“Tell the Furt girl! The deadline’s here!”
“Or something along those lines.”
Everyone’s eyes focused on Arche. She paused a beat, and then spoke in leaden tones.
“—I owe him money.”
“You owe him?”
Hekkeran exclaimed in surprise. Of course, it was not just Hekkeran, but Imina and Roberdyck who were shocked as well. The money they made as Workers was evenly divided among them, so they knew exactly how much each of their colleagues earned. When they thought about the payment they had received, it was hard to imagine she would end up owing someone money.
“How much do you owe?”
“—300 gold coins.”
After hearing Arche’s reply, everyone looked at each other again.
This was an astounding amount when one considered the amount of money a regular person made. Even Workers of their caliber could not earn that much money in one go. The total payment for this job was 350 gold coins, but that was for the entire team. After deducting necessary expenses and turning them into a shared fund used to buy consumable items and other team resources, the remaining money would be divided among them. In the end, each person would only receive about 60 gold coins.
Their team was quite highly-ranked among the Workers. If one went by the adventurers’ ranking system, they would be around mithril rank. Yet even a group at their level could not make that much money in one payout. How had she come to owe so much money?
Arche’s expression turned gloomy. She had probably sensed everyone’s doubtful gazes.
It was only natural that she would not want to speak of it, but she had no choice but to do so. If she decided to break off the discussion here, being expelled from the party was a perfectly understandable outcome.
Perhaps she was worried about that problem, but in the end Arche finally spoke.
“—I’ve kept quiet about this all this time because it’s a family shame… my family used to be nobles, but we were stripped of our status by the Bloody Emperor.”
The Bloody Emperor — Jircniv Rune Farlord El-Nix.
Just like his nickname suggested, he was an emperor whose hands were stained with blood.
His father — the previous Emperor, had died and left his position empty. After that, he had broken ties with one of the Five Great Nobles — in other words, the Empress Dowager’s family — on suspicion of plotting to assassinate the Emperor. After that, he killed his siblings one after the other. As though she had been caught up in the storm of death which swept the city, his mother had perished from an accident during this time as well.
Of course, there had been opposition to him. However, the Bloody Emperor had taken control of the knights and their military prowess during his time as Crown Prince, so they were no match for him. Backed with overwhelming military might, he wiped out the influential nobles like he was scything down grain. In the end, all that remained were a group who pledged loyalty to the Emperor on the surface, regardless of their true intentions, and thus he had consolidated all power into himself.
However, the Bloody Emperor did not stop there. He stripped many nobles of their social position in the name of weeding out incompetents. In contrast, talented individuals could be elevated to lofty heights, even if they were commoners, and thus he built the basis of his power upon that policy.
There were two points about all this which awed those who witnessed this. The first was the masterful way in which he had orchestrated his purge of the nobles in such a way as to not diminish the power of the Empire, despite the purge’s scope. The second was that the Emperor who had accomplished such an incredible feat was not yet 15 years of age.
Many nobles had fallen on hard times because of him. However—
“—However, my parents are still living a noble lifestyle. Of course, we didn’t have the money to support such a lifestyle, so they had to borrow money from shady places to make ends meet.”
Hekkeran, Imina and Roberdyck looked at each other.
Arche had hidden it well, but her voice was still flavored with a hint of annoyance, displeasure and anger
“—I’m confident in my magical abilities, please let me join.” That was what the tiny, skinny girl — who clutched a staff that was taller than she was — had said to them. Hekkeran was not the only one who recalled the dumbfounded way in which they had stared at her when she said that, as well as the look of shock on their faces when they had seen the true power of Arche’s magic. All these memories returned to their minds.
Over two years had passed since that day, and they had gone through many adventures together. Yet, even after making a tidy sum of money from adventures fraught with the risk of death, Arche’s equipment had not changed much.
Now, they finally understood the reason for that.
“Seriously? Do you want us to go beat some sense into them?”
“They need to hear the word of God. No, maybe they need to feel the fist of God first.”
“Maybe their ears are all stuffed up, surely punching a hole in them would be more important!”
“—Please wait. Things being what they are, please let me talk to them. Depending on the circumstances, I may have to take my sisters with me.”
“You have sisters?”
After seeing Arche nod, the other three looked at each other again. They did not say it, but they all felt that perhaps she ought to quit this job.
It was true that workers made more money than adventurers. In turn, the risks they took were very high. All of them took jobs after ensuring they were safe, but accidents they could not predict were a frequent occurrence.
If something went wrong, she might end up dying and leaving her sisters with nobody to count upon. However, everyone felt that they would be busybodies if they said any more.
“Is that so… then we’ll put your problem aside for now, Arche. We’ll let you handle that yourself… let’s return to the topic of whether or not to take this job.”
After saying that, Hekkeran looked coldly at Arche.
“Arche, pardon my bluntness, but you have no say in this.”
“—There’s no need to apologize. It’s fine. I understand that I can’t give a proper answer, since I’m in debt.”
This was what they called being blinded by greed.
“—Frankly speaking, I’m lucky I haven’t been chased out of the team already.”
“What are you saying? We’re the lucky ones to have a skilled magic caster like yourself joining us.”
This was not an empty pleasantry. This was a fact.
Of particular note was her Talent. Those miraculous eyes of hers had saved Hekkeran and the others countless times.
If one had to name Arche’s Talent, perhaps calling it the Mystic Eyes of Revelation might be appropriate.
Apparently, all arcane magic casters radiated an invisible aura of magic. Arche’s talent allowed her to perceive this aura, and understand which tier of spells someone could use.
The usefulness of being able to perceive the strength of one’s opposition needed no explanation.
Hekkeran knew of only one other person in the Empire with a talent like Arche’s. That would be the greatest magic caster in the Empire — Fluder Paradyne.
In other words, by the power of her eyes alone, Arche was in the same league as the mighty Fluder.
“Still, I can’t believe the Magic Academy would actually let go of such a talented girl.”
“Indeed, she’s capable of using magic of my tier at this age. For all we know, she might end up being able to attain the sixth tier.”
“—That would probably be very difficult. However, just knowing that the possibility exists makes me very happy.”
After the mood had cooled down again, Hekkeran clapped his hands. The clear, crisp sound got everyone’s attention.
“Now then, shall we or shall we not take this job? — Roberdyck.”
“I think it’ll be fine.”
“There aren’t any drawbacks to it, right? Besides, we haven’t had proper work in a long time.”
Workers did not get jobs often. While they had been slaying undead on the Katze Plains two days ago, that was a regularly-scheduled extermination, and it was not the same as a request from a client.
“—If you’re worried about me, I hope you won’t be that way. I have other ways to make money even without taking this job.”
The three of them looked at each other, and then Imina smiled thinly.
“As if. Think about it, this job is really good, and the payout’s really generous. Right, Rober?”
“Exactly. This isn’t for you, but the treasures sleeping in the ruins. Isn’t that right, Hekkeran?”
“Did you hear that, Arche? The only shame is that we can’t make ourselves famous by announcing the discovery of the ruins.”
“—Thank you all.”
Arche bowed in thanks, and the three of them smiled as they saw it.
“Now then, come with me to redeem this credit plate for cash, Arche. As for the two of you, I’ll have to trouble you to help prepare our adventuring gear.”
Adventuring gear included things like rope, oil and magic items. They required careful checking. The meticulous Roberdyck and Imina with her thief skills were well-suited to the task. However, the real reason was that Hekkeran was not suited to doing these things.
“Now then, let’s move. Although… Arche.”
Arche tilted her head, as though to ask “Hm?” Hekkeran spoke the question that was on his mind.
“Say, will the payment from this job be enough to clear your debts?”
“—It’ll be fine. If I pay this money first, we’ll be able to last a while longer.”
“If it’s not enough, I can lend you some.”
“Yeah, just give it back the next time we get paid.”
They would never say “we’ll pay for you”. That was only to be expected. The members of Foresight were equals, after all.
“—Permit me to refuse. I believe it is time my parents paid their own debts. All I can do is give them some time, as an act of filial piety.”
“But of course.”
The four of them looked at each other, and then they began their respective tasks.
This was a certain high-end residential district in the Imperial Capital, whose sprawling grounds were covered with old yet sturdy and luxurious mansions. Most of the residents of these venerable, yet most certainly not decrepit homes were nobles.
A noble’s residence was a status symbol. Anyone who could not bear to spend the money to pretty up their home would become the laughingstock of noble society.
Things like accessories, jewellery, clothes, homes and courtyards; all of these decorative items were military assets on the battlefield known as noble society. That was because these items were not only a sign of wealth, but also of the breadth and depth of one’s connections. Living in an austere home was reason enough for mockery. Therefore, unless they were of a military inclination and had no interest in political matters, the nobles fought tooth and nail to decorate themselves and their homes. In other words, it was like a military show of force; only people with sufficient strength could do such a thing.
If one looked around, one would notice a few things.
This place was in a part of the Imperial Capital with excellent security, and it was very quiet. However, there was another reason for the silence of the surrounding region beyond the security. It was also because many of the homes here did not feel like they were inhabited.
In truth, nobody lived in many of these mansions. They were empty houses, formerly owned by nobles who had been stripped of their titles by the Bloody Emperor and had to abandon them after they could not afford the upkeep on these dwellings.
Amidst this sea of empty residences, one mansion was still inhabited. However, the outer walls had not been properly maintained, and it would seem someone had neglected to care for the vegetation in the courtyard.
Arche’s parents received her with stiff expressions in the reception lounge of this mansion. Their faces displayed the attitudes appropriate to a noble. They were dressed in superior clothing.
“Oh, you’re back, Arche.”
Before Arche answered them, her eyes noticed the glass ornament on the table. It was an exquisitely-carved wineglass, and it radiated an air of class and elegance.
Arche’s face twitched, because she had never seen that item before.
“Oh, this is from the renowned artisan Jean…”
“—That’s not what I’m asking. We didn’t have this in the house before, why do we have it now?”
“That’s because I bought it this morning.”
As she heard her father’s casual tone — like he was discussing today’s weather — Arche’s body wobbled.
“—How much was it?”
“Oh… I believe it was 15 gold coins. Cheap, no?”
Arche’s head drooped in despair. Anyone would have done the same, if the debt they had to pay had increased again after they had paid off part of it with the deposit for the job.
“—Why did you buy it?”
“As nobles, people will laugh at us if we don’t spend money on such things.”
Her father laughed proudly, and Arche could not help glaring at him with hostility in her eyes.
“—We aren’t nobles any more.”
Those words made her father’s face stiffen and turn red
Her father pounded his fist on the table with a thump. Fortunately, the guest room’s table was thick enough that the wineglass barely budged. While Arche would not have minded it breaking, her father would not have minded either. He would simply have thought that it was an expense of a mere 15 gold coins.
As Arche tried to suppress her irritation, her father continued spewing curses and spittle.
“Once that damn idiot dies, we’ll be able to resume our noble status immediately! We’re nobles who have served as the backbone of the Empire for over a hundred years! How can he just cast us out like that? This is an investment for when we regain our status! Besides, this show of strength will show everyone that we won’t give in to that idiot!”
What a fool.
That was Arche’s opinion of her father as he snorted in agitation. “That idiot” probably referred to the Bloody Emperor, but surely he would not care about a family that was as insignificant as Arche’s . More to the point, there had to be better ways to show defiance than this.
He was like a frog in the bottom of a well, who could not see anything outside it.
Arche shook her head tiredly.
“That’s enough out of the two of you.”
Her mother’s relaxed tones brought about a temporary ceasefire between Arche and her father.
She then rose to her feet and offered Arche a small bottle.
“Arche, I bought you perfume.”
“—How much did it cost?’
“Three gold coins.”
“Is that so… thank you.”
A total of 18 gold coins, Arche calculated in her head as she thanked her mother, then carefully tucked the bottle and the small amount of fluid inside it into her pocket.
It was very difficult for Arche to treat her mother coldly. That was because buying perfume or cosmetics was a very sensible purchase, from a certain point of view.
Looking pretty, attending classy dinner parties and catching the eye of wealthy nobles. A woman’s joy was to be married, get pregnant, bear children and raise them; that was very proper from a noble’s point of view. Investing in cosmetics for that objective was hardly a mistake.
Even so, she felt that buying perfume was too much when the family was in such dire straits. More to the point, three gold coins was enough for a plebeian family to live on for a month.
“—I’ve told you several times, don’t spend recklessly. Only spend the minimum amount necessary to get by.”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you! This is a necessary expense!”
Arche tiredly looked at her father, who was so mad that his face was covered in red spots. They had argued like this several times in the past, and it had ended inconclusively each time. It was partially Arche’s fault that things had ended up like this. If she had put her foot down earlier, perhaps things might not have ended up like this, and she would not have given Foresight trouble.
“—I won’t be bringing money back any more. I’m taking my sisters and leaving this house.”
Her father began panting heavily upon hearing her calm voice. At least he’s smart enough to know what’ll happen to him if nobody brings home the bacon, Arche thought coldly.
“Who do you think brought you up so you could live the way you do now?”
“—I’ve more than repaid that kindness.”
Arche’s pronouncement was simple and final. The money she had given to her parents was a sizable sum. In addition, that money had been earned through adventures. It was the money that should have been used to become stronger with her companions. While it was true that everyone was free to spend their money as they saw fit, there was a tacit understanding that most of it would go towards strengthening themselves.
What would Arche’s friends think when they saw how she hardly bought new equipment?
Not strengthening her wargear meant that she would remain weak forever.
However, the members of Foresight had not said anything to Arche. Arche had taken their kindness for granted.
Arche turned a burning stare on her father. Under her unyielding gaze, her father shrank and turned away, That was only to be expected. Arche had walked the edge of death countless times. She could not possibly lose to a foolish nobleman.
Arche glanced at her father once more, saw that he did not dare speak again, and left the room.
She closed the door behind her, and sighed. A voice called out to her, as though it had been waiting for this moment.
“—What is it, Jimes?”
It was Jimes, the butler who had served them faithfully over the years. His wrinkled face was stiff and nervous. Arche immediately realized the reason for that. That was because he often made that face in the years since her father had been stripped of his noble status.
“I apologize for having to tell you about this, Young Mistress, but…”
Arche raised a hand to interrupt him. The two of them felt that this was not a matter that should be discussed in the corridor right outside the receivjng room, and so they went some distance away.
Arche took a leather purse from a hidden pocket and opened up. Several different colors gleamed there. The most numerous were glints of silver, followed by those of copper, and the least numerous were those of gold.
“—Will this be enough to tide you over for now?”
Jimes took the purse from her. His expression had softened a little after seeing the coins within.
“My wage and the money for the traders… I believe it will be enough, Young Mistress.”
Arche sighed in relief. While this was just financing a debt, it ought to last for a while.
“—Couldn’t you stop Father from buying that thing?”
“I could not. The seller came with a noble he knew. I tried to remind the Master several times, but he still…”
Both of them sighed.
“—I wish to ask a question. If we terminate everyone we’re employing now, how much will we need for severance pay?”
Jimes’ eyes went wide, and he smiled glumly. There was no shock in his facial expression; a sign that he had been prepared for this.
“I understand. I will calculate the amount and report it to you, Young Mistress.”
Just then, the pattering sound of quick footsteps reached her ears. She knew who had made it even without turning to look.
The thin line of Arche’s mouth softened, and when she turned around, she saw someone running over. The other party did not slow down, simply ran head-first into Arche’s arms.
The person who had tackled Arche was a girl less than a meter tall, around five years old, and the shape of her eyes was very similar to Arche’s. The girl puffed up her pink cheeks, seemingly very displeased.
That was not a criticism of her chest being too flat after throwing herself into Arche’s embrace.
Her adventurer’s outfit used a lot of leather and provided excellent defensive strength. The cuirass in particular was made of hardened leather. Surely the girl must have felt like her face had been flattened when she charged head-first into it.
“—Does it hurt?”
Arche touched the girl’s face, and caressed her head.
“Mmm, not at all, onee-sama!”
The little girl smiled happily, and Arche smiled to her sister as well.
“…I shall take my leave, then.”
The butler departed, not wanting to disturb the two of them, and as Arche watched him go, she patted her sister’s head.
“Ulei… running around in the hallway isn’t…”
Arche swallowed her words halfway. She wanted to say that running around in the hallways was not befitting of a noble daughter, but Arche had already told her father that they were not nobles anymore. In that case, what harm did it do for them to run in the hallway?
Arche’s hand did not stop as she thought, and the girl whose hair had been ruffled into a mess laughed innocently. Arche looked around, and saw that the other one had not come with her.
“In her room!”
“I see… there’s something I’d like to tell you. Let’s go to your room together.”
Her little sister smiled happily. Protecting that smile was her job. Arche squeezed her little sister’s petite hand as that powerful emotion gripped her heart.
Arche could feel the warmth through the hand that was even smaller than hers.
“Onee-sama, your hand’s so hard.”
Arche looked at her other, empty hand. It had been cut several times during her adventures, and it was rough and hard, no longer a noblewoman’s hand. But she did not regret it. Her hands were the proof that she had lived with her friends — with Foresight.
“But I like them lots!”
Her little sister’s hands closed around her own, and Arche smiled.
The North Market of the Imperial Capital was as lively and bustling as always. However, very few of the average citizenry came here to buy things, so unlike the packed Central Market, one could browse the stalls as one walked and not bump into anyone.
Hekkeran and Roberdyck let the tension out of their shoulders as they saw the familiar sight, and they began window-shopping.
They were relaxed and carefree, as though the word ”caution” did not exist in their minds. This was because there were no pickpockets or thieves in the North Market — it might well be the safest place in the entire Imperial Capital.
“In any case, what are we buying, Hekkeran?”
“Healing items first. I hope we can get wands of [Cure Light Wounds] for the sake of our budget. Judging by the circumstances, wands of [Cure Middle Wounds] are fine too… but buy the ones that are less than half-charged. I hear we’re going to a tomb, so we might be able to use them on the undead. After that comes the basic anti-undead essentials, items to resist poison and disease. Ideally, we’d be able to find some way to deal with negative energy or incorporeal undead… Permanent items are too expensive, though, so scrolls scribed with the relevant spells are fine too. However…”
Wands were magic items infused with multiple castings of the same kind of spell, and they were cheaper than scrolls on a per-cast basis. Therefore, buying wands of frequently used spells, such as curative magic, was more economical than scrolls.
“I see. I thought you were planning to buy a gift, and that you asked me to accompany you to hear my opinion.”
“…It’s nothing. Hekkeran. Put some effort into finding something good.”
Almost everything sold in this market was junk.
For the most part, the displays were simply a bunch of items on a thin board. Few of them were new goods too; all of them looked like old or beat-up second-hand goods.
Almost all the traders here looked like they could fight, complete with bulging biceps. That, or they were dressed like magic casters who looked better suited for battle than bargaining.
At a glance, they looked like bodyguards, but the truth was that they were the bosses of their stalls. However, they were only bosses for today. They made their living as adventurers or Workers. In other words, they were in the same business as Hekkeran and Roberdyck.
What they sold here were items they had used before, or items they had discovered during their adventures, but which their party members could not use. In that case, rather than sell them to a dedicated magical item dealer or the Magician’s Guild, it would be better to find clients themselves and save themselves the expense of a middleman in the process. This approach offered many benefits to both buyer and seller. Even after factoring in the costs of paying the Merchants’ Guild to set up a stall, they could still make a profit.
For that reason, many adventurers and Workers like Hekkeran and his ilk would come to this place to look for hidden treasures. Some people even came here every day during their stay in the Imperial Capital in search of a good deal.
This was also the reason why there was little crime in the North Market. Who on earth would try something on all the combat veterans here?
The two of them browsed the stalls for a while. They were not gloomy, but neither were they glad.
“I’ve got nothing.”
All the items on sale here were items which Hekkeran and the others did not need or which they could not use. Perhaps if the two of them were low-level adventurers or freshly-started Workers, they might be something they could use, but unfortunately, there was nothing that the pair — or even their colleagues — wanted to buy.
“What a shame, maybe it would be faster if we went to a regular store.”
“Well, we were just bargain-hunting here anyway, it can’t be helped if we can’t find anything. Ah well, humble scrimping like this is how you get your savings started.”
“Savings, huh… Hekkeran, what do you think’s going to happen?”
“If I could understand what you meant just from that, I could be a super high-tier magic caster… do you mean Arche?”
“So you did get it after all.”
“Well, I grew more confident as you went on talking.”
“So you know what I’m trying to say?”
“…You’re trying to say that this might be our last adventure, right?”
“Please don’t phrase it in such an inauspicious way,” Roberdyck smiled bitterly. “Still, it’s not too far off the mark. Arche said she was taking her sisters away to raise them on her own. That being the case, coming out to adventure again will be difficult.”
“Yeah. She’ll make good use of her talents or find some job where she can make money without adventuring.”
“Finding work won’t be hard. She’s a third-tier magic caster. While I don’t know how many people there are in her family — how many sisters she has, rather — she ought to be able to support three or four people.”
“Mm, I think so too. That’s why she could come out and say that she could raise them on her own.”
“In that case, we’re the ones who’ll have the problem. Once Arche-san the wizard leaves our team, who should we get to fill the hole in the group?”
“Perhaps we’ll be lucky and stumble across a third-tier arcane magic caster somebody left by the roadside?”
“Do your dreaming on the bed, please… If we were adventurers, we could ask the Guild to put out feelers for us… but if we’re looking for one on our own, it’s all down to luck.”
The two of them looked at each other and then sighed in unison.
There were times when one lost a friend, when a friend could not keep up with the group, or when one’s strength exceeded that of the other members of the group. In these situations, an adventurer or a Worker would leave their team. It was hardly a rare situation. Rather, actually staying with the same team throughout one’s career was the rarity; for the most part everyone would change teams two or three times.
Hekkeran, Roberdyck and Imina were the same way.
However, even if that was the case, that did not mean they could easily find an arcane magic caster — and one capable of casting third-tier spells — who was also a Worker without a team.
“How about letting a second-tier caster join and then training him up?”
“That ought to be the last resort. I’d rather avoid that if at all possible.”
“Headhunting will be hard too. People who become Workers usually have some sort of personality defect, and just grabbing someone off the road to join us will be bad if it leads to problems down the road. Like say, if they’re battle maniacs or something.”
“…From that point of view, we’re practically a miracle.”
“Ultimately, our team simply does it for money, which is a rarity. Well, Arche joined after hearing the rumors about us, so she’s kind of an exception.”
“When Arche-san came, we were thinking about who to get as our last member.”
Roberdyck gazed off into the distance. Hekkeran felt that he probably had a similar expression on his own face.
“I still remember what I was drinking back then… Arche-san came at just the right time. It even made me feel like the gods were telling us to form the team.”
“Oh, that’s amazing, my memory isn’t that clear. So what were you drinking back then, Rober?”
“Isn’t that the same as what you always drink… you really are a teetotaler. Still, it would be troublesome if you drank as much as Imina did.”
“It can’t be helped, I just don’t drink alcohol. Of course, Imina-san’s bad taste in alcohol is a problem of its own…”
“Ahh, well, you’re the sort who changes color from red, blue and then white the moment you down a cup of wine. If not for that antidote spell, I have no idea how the first time you drank would have gone.”
“Maybe I wouldn’t be here now, but someone else. People have died of alcohol poisoning before,” Roberdyck shrugged. “But back to the topic. If Arche-san leaves, what do you plan to do? ISmit possible that you might dissolve the team?”
“…If we can’t get enough members together, then we won’t have a choice. Adventuring with three people is just too dangerous… or do you want to go back to being an adventurer?”
“I don’t want to go back to those days of begging the temples for permission to save someone. I’d rather retire instead.”
“Retirement, huh… that might not be a bad thing.”
“I’ve got a sum of money saved up, and I hope I can find my way into a job where I can help the weak and become a source of strength for others. Maybe I could go to a frontier village and be a part-time priest as I plow the fields. How about you, Hekkeran?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
The corner of Roberdyck’s mouth curled up.
“…It might not be good to decide on your own.”
Hekkeran did not understand the meaning of Roberdyck’s words for a moment. In the end, he finally understood what the other man was getting at, and Hekkeran’s face twitched.
“Kuku,” he smiled evilly. “You thought I hadn’t noticed?”
“Ahhhhhhh~! It’s not like that, I wasn’t hiding it from everyone on purpose! Think about it, I just couldn’t find the right time to tell you guys, right… so that’s what you meant by the gift.”
“Who confessed first?”
“Oi, Rober! Look over there.”
Hekkeran was pointing at a pair of people who were inspecting the merchandise within a luxurious tentage.
One of them was a warrior in jet-black armor. A crimson cape descended from behind him, and there were a pair of greatswords crossed at his back.
“That was a sudden change of topic… alright, so be it. I’ll ask you about it later. Hmm, his equipment looks top-notch; if he’s as good as his gear, then he ought to be a mighty warrior indeed. Is that someone you know with new weapons or armor?”
“I’m not sure, but I have the feeling I’ve never seen that person in the Imperial Capital before. I mean, do you see that girl beside him? I think he’s blocking her. I’ve never seen her before.”
“Yeah, the angle was bad, so I didn’t see her. So, who’s prettier, between her and Imina-san?”
“—Enough of that! How am I supposed to answer that question?! …Though frankly speaking, that girl there is prettier.”
“Imina-san is a beauty in her own right! And of course, they do say that one’s beloved is the fairest in one’s eyes, so if even you think that way, Hekkeran… I see, the two of them are travellers, or adventurers from foreign parts. They might also be a team that’s just shifted their base of operations to the Imperial Capital.”
“Still, they’re buying daily-use magic items, isn’t that strange?”
The luxurious-looking tent was festooned with all sorts of magic items. However, those items were not the kind which adventurers or Workers would use, but rather, they were items intended for use in daily living. For instance, a box that generated cold temperatures within itself and kept food fresh, or a fan that could create air currents to keep people cool.
Many of these items had been innovated 200 years ago, by a Minotaur known as the All-Talk Sage.
That warrior came up with ideas for all sorts of devices, but he did not have the ability to make them, and he could not explain why these items had to look the way they did or what principles drove them, hence his nickname.
However, the man himself was an absolutely top-notch warrior, who had left a hole slew of unbelievable tales behind him, such as the ability to call forth hurricanes with a swing of his axe or create earthquakes by slamming it into the ground and so on. In addition, he had become famous by elevating the status of humanoid races from food to slaves within the Minotaur nation.
The fact that adventurers — who typically lived in inns — would actually take an interest in these daily-use magic items which had been designed by such a demihuman, was quite unusual.
“It’s not like it’s that strange. The Empire’s magical technology is quite advanced, and these items are cheaper than in other nations. They’re probably thinking that it’ll be worthwhile to bring them home, even if it does take a bit more effort.”
“Ah, I see. Yeah, that’s definitely possible.”
“It’s weird from our point of view, but if you consider it from a traveller’s perspective, it’s hardly strange.”
“Mm, indeed. From that angle, I can understand why they’re picking them out so seriously.”
The armored warrior seemed to be carefully fiddling with the magic item. He opened and close the doors, picked it up and then turned it over. One could almost see the sweat forming on the salesman’s forehead.
“We should probably shop for our stuff as earnestly as he does.”
“You have a point.”