The date was April first.
We were greeted by a group of visitors not long after we got up and to work.
「Good morning Miss Fran. I found a few people to fill that salesperson job you mentioned.」
Colbert had brought with him a group of three female adventurers.
「Nice to meet you.」
None of the three seemed to make light of Fran despite her being a child. They all bowed as they greeted her in the manner an adventurer normally would when associating with an employer.
「These guys are all a part of The Scarlet Maidens, a D ranked party.」
Status Level: 21/99
Flame Resistance: Lv 1
Crisis Detection: Lv 1
Sword Techniques: Lv 2
Sword Arts: Lv 4
Herculean Strength: Lv 1
Shield Arts: Lv 3
Commerce: Lv 2
Cooking: Lv 3
Black Steel Shortsword
Spirit Tree Wood Buckler
Iron Ant’s Helmet
Iron Ant’s Leggings
Trap Spider’s Cloak
Bracelet of Minor Poison Resist
Race: Half Beastman (Red Dog Tribe)
Status Level: 23/99
Flame Resistance: Lv 1
Bow Arts: Lv 3
Presence Detection: Lv 3
Negotiation: Lv 2
Shortsword Arts: Lv 2
Flexibility: Lv 2
Arithmetic: Lv 3
Cooking: Lv 3
Trap Disarm: Lv 2
Trap Sense: Lv 2
Toxic Rat’s Shortsword
Spirit Tree Wood Bow
Black Dogman’s Leather Armour
Black Dogman’s Cloak
Lesser Sub-dragon’s Shoes
Bracelet of Enhanced Detection
Status Level: 20/99
Flame resist: Lv 3
Staff Arts: Lv 1
Fire Magic: Lv 3
Arithmetic: Lv 4
Medicinal Herbology: Lv 3
Mixing: Lv 3
Magic Circle: Lv 3
God of Wisdom’s Divine Protection
Spirit Tree Wood Staff
Magic Silkworm’s Cloth Armour
Black Dogman’s Cloak
Fang Boar’s Shoes
Spirit Bear’s Leather Magician’s Hat
Bracelet of Lesser Paralysis Resistance
Adventurer ranks could be sorted into one of two types, individual ranks and party ranks. Fran ran solo, so she only had the first type, which as one could expect from its name, was solely based on her own abilities.
Party ranks, on the other hand, were based on the group’s overall combat potential. D ranked parties, for example, mainly consisted of adventurers with individual ranks in the E to F range.
As with the case with individual ranks, party ranks were assigned by the guild. They’d look at each member’s individual ranks alongside their functions and the party’s overall balance before assigning the most appropriate letter grade.
The party is often ranked higher than the individual members within it, but that isn’t necessarily always the case. An example of this would be the one Cruz guy we did that joint operation with back in Alessa. All three of his party’s members were ranked C, but the party wasn’t given promoted to B because they didn’t exactly qualify for the next tier up. In other words, three fully fledged C ranked individuals were still considered weaker than a single B ranker.
Kladd, the spiky haired dude that led Dragon’s Roar, was in a situation that was both a bit similar but also completely different at the same time. He and his party were both classified as E rank despite the latter having five members in total. His party was denied promotion for a multitude of different factors. The first was that the other four members were all ranked F, and the second was that none of its members used anything but spears. Honestly, if that was all it was, then the guild probably wouldn’t have minded ranking his party up, but there was also the whole thing about him having a bad attitude.
Normally, you’d think that someone that went solo would be stronger than a party given that they shared the same rank, but that often wasn’t the case at all. Each member of a party had their own individual strengths. Putting those together alongside the element of teamwork could allow the party to have better performance than a single more powerful individual.
The Scarlet Maidens seemed like a pretty good party at first glance. They were pretty well balanced in the sense that they had both a vanguard and rearguard. Moreover, they apparently also had a pretty good reputation, so they, unlike Kladd were allowed to rank up to D.
One interesting factor was that all three of their members had skills that related to either math or business, which was honestly pretty rare amongst adventurers.
「I’m Judith, the party’s leader.」
A girl with long, blue hair approached Fran and extended her hand out for a shake.
「I have a decent amount of sales experience. My father was a peddler, and often took me with him to work during my childhood. I have both the cooking and commerce skills.」
I see, so I guess that means it’s possible to pick up a skill by watching someone else use it for an extended amount of time. She probably got her cooking skill because she’d go on journeys with said father. I didn’t really see any reason not to hire her, especially given that she was both beautiful and polite.
「My name is Maia. I’m in charge of most of the party’s chores.」
The next person to speak was a redhead with a bob cut. The fact that she spoke at a relatively slow pace seemed to contradict the fact that her skills were mostly thief-like. Apparently, she took care of all the party’s cooking and prep work. She’d even polish everyone’s armour. Her skills more or less indicated that she was a veritable jack of all trades. She had Cooking, Negotiation, and even Arithmetic. She was also fairly pretty, so I once again saw no reason not to hire her.
The last of the three girls seemed resemble Fran a bit. She was relatively young, wore a white robe, had black hair, and seemed not to change her expression when she spoke. The only thing that really differentiated her from Fran was the fact that her hair went all the way down to her waist. And of course there was also the fact that she wasn’t nearly as cute as Fran was, but that was just a given.
One her skills really caught my eye. Magic Circle allowed her to engrave a spell onto a piece of paper or something for later activation, possibly in the form of a trap. It looked really interesting. I really wanted to get my hands on it.
Lydia and Fran stared each other down for a bit, but neither had even the slightest change of expression.
The atmosphere ended up getting all awkward until Fran decided to give her head a bit of a tilt.
Lydia suddenly dropped onto all fours whilst hanging her head in shame.
「What the! What in the world are you doing, Lydia?」
Judith seemed to be surprised at her companion’s sudden action.
「I lost. The whole expressionless personality I had going was just a facade, but her? She’s the real deal.」
「If the rumours are true, then she’s got me completely outclassed. She’s already a master swordsman, and can apparently even use flame magic despite being younger than me.」
Huh… So they know that much about her? I guess she’s quite a bit more famous than I’d anticipated. Is that a good thing though…? I honestly can’t tell…
「I’m nothing but a downgrade. The only thing I have over her is the length of my hair.」
「Y-You’re taller than her too.」
「That’s something that’ll probably change the moment she goes through puberty.」
「B-But you have The God of Wisdom’s Divine Protection. That should at least let you stand out a bit, right?」
Divine protection from the God of Wisdom made it easier to level up skills related to the accumulation of knowledge, which, to adventurers, was pretty god damn useful.
The party’s leader was already working hard. She had to explain the skill to Fran whilst praising Lydia and helping her to her feet.
「I have to be able to use Arithmetic in order to draw magic circles, so I can help with anything involving math. I can’t cook, but I have the Mixing skill, so feel free to leave any compounding-related tasks to me!」
「A-Anyways, we’ll do our best if your willing to hire us.」
「We really will!」
They didn’t seem to be lying about doing their best, and they’ve even got Colbert backing them, so I’d say I don’t really have any reason to refuse.
We negotiated with them a bit before arriving a final fee of five thousand Golde per person plus free meals for all three days. I’d thought it was actually a bit on the low side, but they seemed to find it decent given that the job was pretty much completely devoid of danger. My sense of monetary value seemed to be a bit off given that Fran and I often dispatched magic beasts with ranks far higher than our own.
Moreover, they were actually more interested in the free food than they were the Golde. It seemed that the only reason they wanted the job in the first place was because of how much Colbert had hyped up my cooking, which in turn really made me wonder if all his acquaintances happened to be foodies or something like that. Oh well, either way, they’re willing to put in the effort, so whatever works, I guess.
Colbert leered at the three girls with a look of envy.
「I-I know that all you don’t need anymore salespeople, but do you have any other sort of vacancy?」
The tuna lover interjected with a bit of a nervous tone.
Hmm… let’s see… I can’t think of anything in particular…
「I’d really just like to help out, so you don’t even need to pay me. A-As long as you cover my meals.」
Okay, honestly, that was pretty worth. A B ranked adventurer was offering to help us for nothing but free meals as compensation. I didn’t really see any reason not to keep him around just so he can handle whatever happens to pop up.
「Got it. Will hire. Responsible for handling all miscellaneous tasks.」
「R-Really? Hell yeah!」
「We three also look forward to working for you!」
And so, we managed to get ourselves a group of three salesgirls alongside someone to handle pretty much everything else.
We were almost done all our preparations too.
I’d already long finished making everything; the dough and filling were all completely prepped and ready to go. All that was left for us was put it together by wrapping the latter in the former and frying it. It sounded like there was very little left to do, but the final steps were actually quite tiring and time consuming in and of themselves.
Fran literally had the attention span of a cat, so I pretty much ended up having to do it all myself.
That said, she obviously wasn’t just sitting around and wasting time until I finished. She and Urushi were actually in the midst of a bit of some indoor training. They couldn’t actually mess everything up by going all out, so instead, they focused on manipulating their magical energies in order to draw a series of three dimensional images. The nature of the exercise made it look more like they were playing around than training, and honestly, knowing Fran, I’d say she probably wasn’t even actually trying to train. She’d likely decided to do the exercise because she thought it was fun. Seeing the two of them like that almost made me feel the urge put out a few snacks for them or something.
I was about to grab her some milk and cookies, but ended up stopping because I suddenly felt a bunch of people approach the building we were in. Fran and Urushi seemed to have felt it as well, as both stopped what they were doing and instead started to focus their attention on examining our surroundings.
『Looks like we’ve got ourselves a few guests.』
And uninvited ones, at that. There were actually two distinct parties. The first had several people in it. Its members had tried to hide themselves whilst surrounding the building and slowly sneaking closer and closer towards us. The other consisted only of a single person. Said single person was approaching the building in a much more natural manner.
『Hmm.. I’d say we hold off a bit. We can’t actually be sure that they’re here to harm us.』
We’ve no idea what they’re after. The party of one was approaching via the back door, so I decided to have Fran check what he was up to before making any moves?
I was thinking that he was going to do something suspicious, but he actually just ended up giving the door a knock.
Fran called out to the person whilst readying herself for whatever was to come.
「I know it’s a bit late, but I was hoping to ask a favour.」
「Yes. I was hoping that you would be willing to hear me out about something.」
I was a bit curious as to what was going to happen, so I took a quick glance out the door’s peephole.
The dude standing outside looked like your typical textbook merchant. He didn’t even bear the slightest resemblance to the dirty sleazeball he really was. That is, appraising him informed me that he was a total scumbag.
His job was Swindler, and he had both the Intimidation and Falsehood skills. Yup, he was definitely as guilty as could be. He wasn’t all that strong or anything like that, but his skillset made it so that I’d probably end up saying yes if anyone was to ask me whether or not I found him difficult to deal with..
「I would very much prefer if you let me inside.」
「Can’t tell me now?」
「I’d really like to discuss the topic at length if possible.」
I went over to the window and began peering outside as Fran continued to question the man. His supposed companions were hiding themselves within the night, but I managed to find them regardless. I had both presence detection and night vision, so I more or less saw them as clearly as I would’ve during the day.
The conclusion? They were pretty much all just small fry. Our enemies were comprised of a group of burglars alongside a single Lv 25 assassin.
In other words, our assailants were villains that the world would be better off without. I was more or less already completely sure of the fact that they wanted to attack us. In fact, they were technically already in the process of doing so given that they were trying their best to surround the place. We could probably already claim self defense even if we jumped into the crowd and busted them all up before letting them actually try something. We didn’t even need to keep them around seeing as how the swindler dude could probably tell us everything we wanted to know.
『We’d probably end up with a mess on our hands if we let him get away.』
And so, I decided to just casually start by getting rid of the people surrounding us.
『Fran, let him in so he can’t get away. I’ll dispose of all his companions in the meantime.』
「Nn. Got it.」
「Thank you very much for your understanding!」
「Don’t mind if I do.」
Urushi circled around the swindler and blocked off the exit the moment after he stepped through it. The wolf was currently in his mini mode, so he didn’t look nearly as intimidating. Even so, the swindler basically had no capacity for combat, so seeing the “dog” seemed to worry him a bit. Naturally, he didn’t go as far as to react by changing his expression, but I did catch him throwing Urushi a quick sidelong glance.
「Hahaha, that’s a cute little doggy you have there.」
Fran promptly locked the door as she responded in order to pressure the swindler even further.
I, on the other hand left the building before he so much as had the chance to see me. I used Short Jump to instantly teleport behind the assassin. I then cast Silence, lopped his head off and shoved his corpse inside the dimensional storage. The whole thing had gone much more smoothly than I’d initially anticipated. He had Crisis Detection, so I figured he might be able to react to me, but I managed to dispose of him before the skill even went off.
I picked up the pace and began to repeat my prior actions. I had to be quick about it. The burglars had presence detection, so they would eventually realize that their allies were being picked off.
However, in the end, weaklings were weakings. Four of six assailants died before any of them even noticed that something was off. The last two didn’t seem to have the capacity to immediately figure out what to do, so they too soon fell to my blade.
After finishing them all off, I teleported back into the building. Specifically, I ended up choosing to go to where the storefront was in order to avoid being seen by the swindler.
「—is what I would like to procure.」
My timing turned out to be pretty good. The swindler had just so happened to start getting down to business to moment I went back inside.
「Yes. I would like to procure from you the potion box you picked up at the pirate’s hideout.」
「There’s no point in feigning ignorance. I’ve already had the matter investigated. Would you mind selling it to me for ten thousand Golde?」
Oh come on dude. Aren’t you being a little too stingy? There was over a million Golde’s worth of stuff in there you know? And you’re trying to get it for just ten thousand? Seriously? Come on…
I couldn’t tell if he was looking down on her or just planning to get his hands on the thing through some sort of less than decent method.
Given that he had his subordinates surround the building, I’d say it was more likely than not the latter.
「Don’t know what you’re talking about.」
「As I said just a few moments earlier, I’ve already had the matter investigated, and so, there is no point feigning ignorance.」
「No idea what you’re talking about.」
「Sigh… how obstinate. Taking the offer would have been to your benefit.」
The atmosphere around the man suddenly changed from that of a merchant to a much more intimidating air as he activated his skill.
「Refuse to talk anymore. Leave.」
「I won’t be leaving without the potion box.」
He’s pretty much kicked Intimidation into full throttle. Any normal girl would’ve already been scared out of her wits by now.
「Already said don’t know what you’re talking about. Mentally deficient?」
「Don’t get cocky now, little girl… You’re just a D ranked adventurer. You won’t get away with just a few scratches if you dare disobey us.」
The man merchant like mask finally shattered in its entirety.
「That’s my line. Mere swindler. Shouldn’t be cocky.」
「I’ll make you regret those words, girl!」
The man turned towards the exit whilst making his declaration. He was probably going to go order his subordinates to attack, but it obviously wasn’t going to happen. The card he was trying to play was the one he’d thrown away the moment he entered the building.
「Oi, what’re you trying to pull here?」
「No escaping. Won’t let you get away.」
「Did you really think that my subordinates would just sit there if I didn’t end up returning to them?」
「Will allow you to call them. Try it.」
「Very well then! Hey! It’s time for work you bastards!」
He shouted incredibly loudly. His subordinates definitely would’ve heard him had they still been alive. It went without saying that he assumed they were, so he ending up standing there for a few moments whilst awaiting their arrival.
He waited and waited, but not a single one responded to his calls.
「W-Why aren’t they…」
「Men outside dealt with. By Master.」
「Impossible! You had a companion!? That wasn’t in the reports at all!」
We then used lightning magic in order to paralyze the swindler before tying him up and getting ready to make him tell us everything we wanted to know. It’d normally be pretty difficult to actually get information out of anyone with the Falsehood skill, but I just so happened to have the ability to render it completely invalid through the Principle of Falsehood.
「What are you planning?」
「Information. From where?」
「Why would I t-zzaazzjhakjazyhuazza!」
Fran gave sent a weak electric shock running through the man’s body, which in turn caused him to scream and convulse for a few seconds. This time around, we’d decided to go with a mix of electricity and Fran’s bare hands because I didn’t really want to have the kitchen all covered with blood.
「Will ask again. Information about me. From where?」
「How would I k- zjlkahkjdfhjksdhfjkzzzzz!」
Fran made the shock last a few seconds longer this time around. She once again repeated the question, whilst also grinding one of his hands into the ground with her feet.
It took about an hour to get him to crack, but we did manage to get the now haggard looking, teary eye man to divulge everything he knew. Unfortunately, the process that led us there ended up getting his tears and drool all over the floor. Yeahhhh, I’ll probably have to clean that up later.
「To confirm. Working for alchemists?」
Long story short, he was hired by an alchemist that went by the name Zerais. Apparently, said alchemist was a rogue that’d been expelled from the guild as a result of some sort of violation. He was currently working on illegal research, and was being funded by some sort of outside sponsor.
The potion box we’d picked up was originally something that Zerais had ordered. It ended up getting lost in shipment as a result of the pirates we’d “become friends” a few days back. Zerais was desperately looking for the potions within said box because they were extremely difficult to obtain.
We asked the swindler about Zerais’ precise location, but it turned out that he didn’t know about it because he wasn’t exactly what you’d call high up the chain. Someone else had ordered him to do this, and that was all. Luckily, we did at least manage to get him to tell us where one of his organisation’s bases of operation was.
Turned out it was the place Urushi had followed the hoodlum back to.
Huh, what’s up with that?
So the mansion or whatever was probably related to Barbra’s lord in some way. In other words, the building and whoever owned it had their feet dipped in both the world of stealing recipes from orphanages and the world of rogue alchemists Like, what the actual hell?
We’re going to need a bit more info before we can actually figure everything out. I really wanted to just break into the building, but that was pretty risky given that the residence was more likely than not ultimately related to some sort of noble.
「T-That’s everything I know! I swear it!」
「P-Please, just let me go…」
Yeah no. That’s not happening.
I quickly put telekinesis to use and gave the man’s neck a good old one eighty degree twist.
『Welp. Looks like this whole thing’s just turned into one big ass troublesome mess.』