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The head of secretary; Datt, pushed his glasses up with his middle finger, and talked to Hajime with a composed tone.
“I’ve roughly heard the story. It looks like it isn’t a lie that there are many witnesses. Although I think you’re overdoing it… … well, let’s just say it’s within a permissible range because they didn’t die. For now, before they wake up and give their side of the story, I assume you’ll be staying in Fhuren. So, I want to verify your identities and your contact address… … you won’t object if it’s just that, right?”
What’s implied was, ‘I won’t concede more than this, you know?’, so Hajime replied to the head of secretary Datt while shrugging his shoulders.
“Aa, I don’t care. If that pig still tries to complain, then it’s me who wants to be called. I’ll try a more polite method of persuasion at that time.”
Hajime didn’t refuse him, then he presented his status plate to the still amazed Datt.
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“Our contact address, well we still haven’t decided where to stay… … You can just ask that guide. We are going to stay at the inn she recommends after all.”
Because Hajime turned his gaze towards her, Rishee twitched then dropped her shoulders with a resigned look because she’d still be their guide.
“Fumu, that’s okay… … “Blue” huh. Even though the guy that lies there is “black”… … how about the status plates of the ones over there?”
Even a little, Datt was surprised when he saw Hajime’s status plate displaying the lowest rank of an adventurer; blue. However, because he heard it was the two women that defeated Leganid, he thought the girls were the stronger ones and asked Yue and Shia to submit their status plates.
“Well, Yue and Shia… … these girls lost their status plates and we still didn’t ask for a reissue. Look, isn’t that expensive?”
Hajime casually said that lie. Although there’d be no problem to let them see the pair’s abnormal strength, if possible he wanted to avoid the details being known.
“But, even if I can’t clarify their identities, it’ll be preserved in the record, so if you frequently cause trouble inside the guild, you’ll be blacklisted regardless of who’s the culprit and victim. If possible, can you pay the guild for a replacement?”
From Datt’s tone, it seemed it was necessary to verify their identities by all means. But, if they got the status plates, then the two’s peculiar magic would surely be displayed in the skill column before they could conceal it. That, along with the magic from the Age of the Gods that’d surely be displayed. It would definitely cause a ruckus. Although it’s possible for Hajime and his party to just mow down everyone who tries to harm them during the ruckus, they wouldn’t be able to stay here any longer. Hajime thought about a lot of troubles that would somehow come. Having read his thoughts, Yue talked to Hajime.
“… … Hajime, letter.”
” ? Aa. That letter huh…”
Because of Yue’s words, Hajime remembered that he had received a letter from Catherine of the Brook branch when they were about to leave Brook town. She said to show it to the one who managed the guild when they got into trouble in the guild, because it could help them. A mysterious letter.
If the letter was useless, according to the circumstances, Hajime considered to immediately leaving the city. Then he fished out the letter from his chest pocket and handed it to Datt. Because he only heard half of what Catherine had said, he didn’t know the contents. That’s why Hajime immediately regretted not checking the contents first.
“Although I don’t know if it’ll act as a substitute for our identification, I was told to hand this over to the one who manages the guild by an acquaintanced member of the guild staff when we got into trouble.”
” ? An acquaintance in guild staff? … … Let me see.”
From the quality of Hajime and his party’s clothes, they didn’t seem to have any problems with money, that’s why Datt felt doubtful about his attitude that refused to replace the status plate, but they passed him a letter instead. When he opened it, he earnestly read it and floated a fish-like expression.
Following that, he turned to look at the face of Hajime and his party and the letter many times while he repeatedly reading the letter’s contents. From his figure that read the letter with wide opened eyes, he was trying to determine if the letter was genuine. Before long, Datt folded the letter again and carefully put it again inside the letter’s envelope, then he turned his gaze towards Hajime and his party.
“If the letter is real it’ll certainly serve as your identification… …I cannot decide by myself if the sender is real. I’ll confirm it with the branch head, so will you wait in another room? It won’t take much time. I’ll be back in ten, no, fifteen minutes.”
Because Datt’s response exceeded his expectations, “Seriously, who on Earth is Catherine?”, Hajime and his party were slightly taken aback
“Well, I don’t mind if it’s that much. I understand. We’ll wait.”
“Let the staff guide you. Well then, later.”
Datt called the staff at the side and left a message to guide them to another room, then he immediately disappeared into the guild, taking the letter with him. The designated staff asked Hajime and his party to relocate. Hajime and his party began to walk accordingly while being perplexed, but with a voice filled with anticipation rang out.
“Umm~, what should I do?”
It was Rishee’s. ‘If you still have to talk with the guild, can you excuse me?’, was what her eyes said. She obviously wanted to quickly separate from a seed of troubles, like Hajime and his party.
Hajime, with an expression as if it was natural, nodded and frankly replied.
“Wait for us… … don’t run away, kay? Aren’t you a pro?”
“… … Yes.”
Rishee dropped her shoulders and moved towards a seat inside the cafe. Her back said that although it was unpleasant work, she already accepted it, and the atmosphere of an upstanding member of society’s pathos drifted in the air.
After Hajime and his party were guided into the reception room, exactly after ten minutes, a knock came from the door. Hajime only answered with a word, then the door was opened. What appeared were a sharp eyed male in the latter half of his thirties, with blonde hair that was made into a swept back hairstyle, and Datt, from before.
“Nice to meet you, I am Ilwa Chang, the head of the Adventurer’s Guild — Fhuren branch. Hajime-kun, Yue-kun, and Shia-kun… … is it okay to call you that?”
After a simple introduction, the branch head; Ilwa confirmed the names of Hajime and his party and requested a handshake. Hajime returned the handshake while replying to him.
“Aa, we don’t mind. Our names, is it from the letter?”
“Just as you said. It was written in sensei’s letter. She seems to favor… … paid you a lot of attention. Your future is promising, but because you have a predisposition for trouble, if possible she wants us to take care of you, is the letter’s content.”
“Predisposition for trouble… … Huh. Trouble certainly continued to happen in Brook. Well, that’s okay. So, essentially will that serve as our identification? Or are there other questions?”
“Aa, Sensei already wrote everything here so there’s no need to question you further. She certainly has the eyes to discern people’s characters. She even purposely wrote this letter, so I’ll let this letter be your identification.”
Apparently, Catherine’s letter was really useful and let them meet the one who managed the guild. He seems to have close ties with Catherine, to have even called her “sensei”. Shia, who sat next to Hajime, had been especially helped by Catherine, so she was interested in the story and timidly talk to Ilwa.
“That’s~, who is Catherine-san actually?”
“Nn? Didn’t you hear from the person herself? She was the Guild Master’s head of secretary in the guild’s headquarters located in the Imperial Capital. Afterwards, she became the one in charge of training everyone related to guild management. Currently, of the 5 branch heads sent to each town, 60% are her pupils. I am also one of them, so I can’t go against her. Because of her beauty and pleasant character, at the time, she was a madonna-like existence to us, in certain ways she was also an adored big-sister-like existence. Afterwards, she married and transferred to the guild branch of Brook town. She said she wanted to raise her children in the country. Her marriage announcement was like a bolt from the blue. It became stormy after that. If you ask where, the guild in the Imperial Capital that is.”
“Haa~ she really is an amazing person~”
“… … Catherine’s amazing.”
“Although I had thought she wasn’t an ordinary person… … I never thought she was such a central figure. Rather, even though she was so popular… … Currently… … No, it’s better if I stop here.”
Hajime and his party came to admire her when they learned of Catherine’s true colors. It seemed they had always imagined her as an important person. Moreover, Hajime was somewhat looking at the distance, remembering the cruelty of time.
“Well, that’s that, if there are no more questions, is it okay for us to go?”
Originally, they came here only to verify their identity, so Hajime tried to confirm with Ilwa if it was over because staying any longer would be meaningless. However, Ilwa’s eyes shone and said, “Can you wait for a little longer?”, as he tried to stop Hajime and his party. It somehow gave them a bad premonition.
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Ilwa urged Datt that stood next to him and an application form was presented in front of Hajime and his party.
“Actually, I’ve expectations for your help, I want you to accept one request.”
The moment Ilwa requested something of them, Hajime tried to decline as he stood up from his seat. Although Yue and Shia also followed after him, they stopped their feet when Ilwa spoke his next lines.
“Fumu, isn’t it fine to at least hear the story for now? If you listen, I think I’ll turn a blind eye to this affair…”
What was implied was, “If you won’t hear me out, I’ll make you go through the troublesome procedures for this affair, you know?”, something like that. Using the testimonies from the surrounding people, even though Hajime and his party weren’t guilty of what was done to Poom and Leganid, what they have done was excessive self-defense. So according to the regular procedures, the guild would judge them fairly by hearing both concerned parties and this procedure would take quite some time. As a result, even if Hajime and his party weren’t in the wrong, on the other hand, they would spend time like fools until the necessary procedures were finished and the decision came. Also, if they escaped from these procedures, they’d likely be black-listed. In the future, that’d be troublesome because they wouldn’t be able to use the town’s guild facilities.
Hajime stared at Ilwa for a while, then he didn’t say “I’ll accept the request”, but “I’ll hear the story”, because he thought it’d be okay to at least hear him out to avoid the trouble, then he sat on the seat.
“It looks like you’ll listen to it. Thank you.”
“… … as expected of a big city’s guild branch head. You’ve a good character.”
“Not as good as you though. Well then, the contents of the request is written here, to search for a missing person. A party of adventurers that accepted a request to investigate the northern mountain range area have not returned, so the family of one of the adventurers put up a missing person search request, something along those lines.”
Ilwa’s story if summarized, went something like this.
Recently, there were sightings of groups of demonic beasts in the northern mountain range area, which is why the guild made the investigation request. The northern mountain range area is a mountain that, once crossed, would lead you to an uncivilized area. Although not as strong as the demonic beasts inside the Great Dungeons, there are strong demonic beasts that only high-ranked adventurers could handle. It just that, besides the original members of the party that accepted the request, there was another member that tried to forcefully accompany them. By some happenstance, he eventually became a temporary member of the party.
This person was the third son of Count Kudeta; Will Kudeta. Count Kudeta always secretly made someone follow his son that had a tendency to rush out as an adventurer, just like a runaway. But because of this investigation request, the contact with his employer was lost, as it was unusual he was perplexed and put up a search request.
“Although the count had already tried to use his family’s power to form a search party, too many problems kept popping up, which is why he put up the search request to the guild. Well, it was just put up yesterday. Because the missing party was considerably skilled, if they couldn’t handle this, it’d just result in another disaster if accepted by regular Adventurers. That’s why the big-guns should be the one to accept it. But unfortunately, such adventurers are all out on missions. Therefore, for you to come here with such timing, I want you to accept this request.”
“From your statement, we don’t have the required strength, so wouldn’t that be useless? Unfortunately, I am a “Blue”-rank, you know?”
What Hajime implied was they wouldn’t accept it because they didn’t have the required strength.
“Didn’t you instant-kill a “Black” called Leganid? Also… … for someone who easily searched around inside the Raisen Grand Canyon, do I need to say more ?”
” ! How did… … the letter? But, I didn’t say anything…”
No one had heard the story of Hajime and his party searching around the Raisen Grand Canyon. Therefore, unless it was from the letter, there was no way for Ilwa to know about that. But, he was doubtful about how Catherine learn of this. While Hajime puzzled it over in his head, Shia timidly raised her hand.
Hajime turned towards Shia with a suspicious look.
“What is it, Shia?”
“U~mm, I inadvertently told her when we talked… … Teehee?”
“… … I’ll punish you later.”
” !? Y-Yue-san said it too!”
“… … Shia, you traitor.”
“I’ll punish both of you later.”
Apparently, the culprits were Yue and Shia. Hajime declared to punish them, and the two were passively drenched in cold sweat. Looking at their appearances with a wry smile, Ilwa continued his talk.
“Although the probability of them being alive is low, it’s not zero. Because the Count is my friend, I want you to begin as soon as possible. What do you think? There’s no one but you here. Will you accept it?”
Ilwa’s attitude was as if he was begging him, the guild was simply responsible for the commission, but he included more emotion in this. For him to be a friend of the Count, it’s possible he’s acquainted with the missing Will. So he personally felt anxious for his safety.
“Even if you say that, we already have a destination for our journey. We are only here because it’s along the way. We won’t go to the northern mountain range area. So, allow me to refuse.”
Hajime, even though it’s a matter of the life and death for a noble’s third son, unhesitantly refused him. However, maybe he foresaw that, Ilwa immediately proposed a reward faster than Hajime could stand up from his seat.
“I can increase the reward, you know? Although the reward listed in the application is in the form of cash, let me add more appeal to you.. I’ll promote your guild rank. If it’s your abilities then becoming “Black” is okay.”
“Well, I don’t care about money and rank, that’s why…”
“Then, in the future, when you have some trouble related to the guild, I can be your support, how is that? To have the guild head of Fhuren branch’s support, you’ll have influence inside the guild you can brag about, you know? You and trouble are pretty close after all. So, isn’t it good as a reward?”
“That’s a big treat for me. Aren’t you putting in too much effort for a friend’s son?”
Toward Hajime’s words, Ilwa’s expression crumbled. It became an expression full of regret.
“He… … Will accepted the request after I recommended it. I was also the one who passed the talk about the investigation request to the party. Even if you said there’d be an accident in the investigation, I thought there’d be no problem if he was with a party that had the required strength. I meant no harm. Will was not suited to be a noble, and he had yearned to be an adventurer for the longest time… … but, he didn’t have the disposition. Therefore, if he were with strong adventurers, then he could go to dangerous places. I only wanted him to realize that it was impossible for him to be an adventurer. He was already attached to me at a young age…. … that’s why, even though I wanted him to give up after this request…”
While he heard Ilwa’s monologue, Hajime thought about it slightly. It seemed there was a thicker relationship between Ilwa and Will than Hajime thought. Although he had said that with a clarifying face, internally, Ilwa must be clinging to the last straw of hope. Will’s odds of survival would become closer to zero as time passed. Having proposed such unreasonable rewards showed that Ilwa was in a hurry.
Hajime was also fed up with making excuses for Yue and Shia’s identification every time they came near a town. That’s why it’d be convenient to use this person’s name in order to access a town’s facilities from now on. Moreover, he had zero intention of catering to the Church of Saints or the Kingdom, and someday he might be labelled as a heretic. If that happens, it’d become extremely difficult for them to stay inside a town. That’s why it was a nice thing to have a personal connection that could clear that hurdle.
So, Hajime thought that if he wanted the support of a big city guild’s branch head, in this case, they must tell him their circumstances and forbid him to speak of it, so they could use him in times of inconvenience. Because he seemed extremely intimate with that Will person, if they brought him back alive, Ilwa couldn’t be ungrateful to them.
“Although there’s no need to think about it because you already said that much… … I have conditions.”
“Aa, they are not something difficult. I want you to give status plates to Yue and Shia. After that, promise me you won’t tell anyone about what’s written there. Furthermore, even if it isn’t related to the guild, I will use all of your connections, for our convenience. These two.”
“If you can’t, then pretend we never talked about this. We are going.”
Because of Hajime who tried to stand up from his seat, Ilwa and Datt displayed expressions filled with impatience and agony. Although the first condition was not a problem, his second condition essentially meant that he wanted the Fhuren guild branch’s head to be the limbs of a single adventurer. Because he had his own responsibilities, he couldn’t immediately accept it.
“Can I ask why you demand that?”
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“There’s no need to be that negative. They aren’t unreasonable demands, you know? It’s just that our existences are peculiar, that’s why when marked by the church… … No, from now on, I am sure we’ll be marked, so at that time I only want to use you to make it easier for us. It’s also good if you just become our allies in times of trouble. For example, not refusing us to use the facilities when we become wanted…”
“Is it certain you’ll become wanted people? Fumu, personally, your secrets make me anxious. Although Catherine-sensei said you’re not bad people… … now that you mention it, Shia-kun over there has marvelous physical strength, and although I didn’t see it, from the report Yue-kun has conjured a never before seen magic spell… … your secrets must be along those lines… … following that, you said that you’ll sooner or later be marked by the church… … you also didn’t try to hide it, and it looks like you are already prepared for that… … it’ll surely be hard to move into towns when that happens… … that’s why to make it easier for you…”
As expected of a big city’s guild branch head. He quickly thought inside his head. Ilwa thought about it for a while, then he matched his gaze to Hajime’s having decided what to do.
“I absolutely can’t support you when you ask for help for doing a crime because of ethics. So, I’ll hear the details of your request first, only then I’ll judge what to do. But, I promise I’ll at least be your ally… … I can’t concede more than this. What do you think?”
“Well, if it’s like… … I’ll accept it. Also, it’s okay for the reward to be given after the request is finished. I’ll bring back the young master dead or alive, is that okay?”
For Hajime, it was his first priority to obtain the status plates for Yue and Shia. It’s unnatural for them to not have status plates because it’s somehow always being requested to be shown, this was his first reason, and ultimately to make an excuse every time they came to a town was troublesome.
The only problem was that the person who prepared the status plates at the beginning would make a commotion, so he wanted to avoid it, but Ilwa’s existence solved this problem. However, even if he made a verbal promise as the condition, there are still doubts. Sooner or later, the peculiarity of Hajime and his party might come to light, so it was not preferable because he might change sides immediately. That’s why Hajime said to give the status plates as a reward after the request was completed. Whatever Will’s shape was, Hajime would gain the answer from his afflicted heart, and he could calculate if Ilwa was good or not.
Ilwa was also able to guess Hajime’s intentions. With a bitter smile, he felt relieved finding someone who could accept the search request.
“Truthfully, although your secrets make me anxious… … that’s, I’ll wait for you to finish the request. Just as Hajime-kun said, no matter what shape he is in, I want you to find traces of Will and the other… … Hajime-kun, Yue-kun, and Shia-kun… … Please take care of it.”
Lastly, Ilwa looked at Hajime and his party with earnest eyes, then bowed his head. A big city guild branch’s head bowing his head to adventurers. It wasn’t something usual. It was because he was Catherine’s pupil that his goodness as a person oozed out.
Having seen Ilwa’s appearance, Hajime and his party stood up and without any eagerness, they lightly answered him.
“… … Nn.”
Afterwards, they were given the downpayment, and a letter of introduction for the lakeside town at the foot of the mountain range area. They also received information about the investigation request that was given to the adventurers, and finally Hajime and his party left the room. Batan, the door was closed with a slam. Ilwa stared at the door for a while, then, “Fuu~”, let out a big sigh. Inside the room, no one spoke a word, then Datt anxiously spoke to Ilwa.
“Branch head… … Is that okay? Such rewards are…”
“… … Will’s life hangs in their hands. I can’t ask anyone besides them. So, it can’t be helped. Furthermore, they already agreed that I can judge first whether to lend them my power or not. There’ll be no problem. Also, their secrets…”
“What’s displayed in the status plates will be an “inconvenience”, is it…”
“Fumu, Datt-kun. Did you know? Herrlich kingdom’s Hero party, it seems all of them have unexpected statuses, you know?”
Datt opened his narrowed eyes wide because of Ilwa’s sudden story.
” ! Branch head, the summoned ones… … you mean one of them is “God’s Apostle”? But, from their tone it seems they are opposing the church, isn’t the Hero’s party managed by the Church of Saints?”
“Aa, it’s just as you said. But… … around four months ago, it seems one of them died inside the Orcus dungeon. He fell into the Abyss along with a demonic beast.”
“… … don’t tell me, that person’s still alive? If you said four months ago, isn’t the Hero’s party still full of novices? Although I don’t know what it’s like at the bottom of Orcus, to survive that…”
Datt couldn’t believe it as he shook his head, and denied Ilwa’s guess. However, Ilwa who somehow gave out an interested expression and once again glanced at the door from which Hajime and his party had left.
“That is true. But, if that’s so… … there must be a reason why he didn’t rejoin with his companions and even went on a journey, right? Just what did he see in the bottom of the darkness, just what did he obtain?”
“Just what… … that is huh…”
“Aa, no matter what it is, surely, it’s something worth making him decide to oppose the church. To put it frankly, he’s determined to even oppose the world.”
“For me, I want to make connections with such a peculiar man by all means. For example, even if they are chased by the church and the kingdom, right. Rather, Sensei might have guessed that, that’s why she purposely gave them this letter.”
“Branch head… … please be sure to know when to quit, okay?”
“Of course I will.”
Towards the story on such a large scale, Datt became dizzy, even so, as Ilwa’s head of secretary, he didn’t forget to advise him. However, Ilwa was deeply in thought when he heard Datt’s advice only replied in half absent-mindedness.