A certain room in Amadan’s Adventurers’ guild, on the second floor, the room receiving the most sunlight, the guildmaster’s office.
Guildmaster Steed caressed his beard while deep in thought. He sat behind his desk with his chair pulled back and legs crossed upon the table.
He was, naturally, a high ranked adventurer. Despite the white streaks in his hair, signifying that his rather advanced age, he was still in his physical prime retaining an imposing aura.
There was a knock on the door.
The door opened and a woman with a very calm atmosphere entered. It was Viviana, head of the guild’s reception. She also oversaw the guild’s offices, essentially making her the office’s head manager as well.
“Sorry to make you come here in the morning, I know it’s quite busy at this time..”
The guildmaster uncrossed his legs and turned towards Viviana. His stern expression made it seem like he was glaring at her.
Viviana did not seem to mind as she quietly returned the man’s gaze.
“Actually, after I went back yesterday, that scoundrel Coralde came to ask for ‘a little something.’ So I wanted to hear your opinion.”
The Adventurers’ guild operated at night too, in order to respond to emergencies related to magic beast attacks. There were only a few staff members active at night, but even so they could operate as they did during the day.
“A little something, sir?”
“Yeah, he came to ask for all the information we have on the All-Rounder kid. His assistant came in running, wheezing and all.”
“I don’t know who was in charge, but we did ask to provide some sort of identification, I hope?”
In this world, personal information was handled rather loosely.
Even so, in guilds and such organizations, information was never disclosed without a clear reason for the request.
“Of course. If we didn’t, a certain manager would have our heads on a platter…ah, this hasn’t been reported to you because I told the staff to keep quiet, okay? Don’t go scolding them now, rather you should praise them. They came to see me first thing in the morning to report it, since they thought it was unusual.”
“Could you please get to the main point?”
Under Viviana’s chilling glare, Steed’s shoulders dropped and he laughed dryly.
If I said something like “those stinging eyes! I want more!” my wish would surely be fulfilled…is what Steed thought as he continued.
“Now, to the main point. The messenger said that the kid’s information was needed for ‘his registration at the Creators’ guild’. What do you think?”
Viviana’s brow furrowed. Her collected atmosphere gained a more forceful feeling.
“That’s quite unthinkable…is what I would like to say, but we’re talking about that Coralde. I can only think that he has specific goals and methods to do that.”
Viviana spoke as she continued thinking, while looking nowhere in particular.
“I am not too knowledgeable about the subject either, but I believe that one does not need a master to be recommended to the Creators’ guild. Coralde is currently pushing to hire creators directly, so he probably studied the Creators’ guild’s regulations in detail. I don’t believe that he would attempt a fraudulent registration.”
“Hiring creators directly, huh…what purpose would that serve? Merchants just need to buy what creators make, don’t they? Those creator fellows destroy the stuff they make when they don’t like it, or use up materials for the sake of “experimenting” or whatever…if you hire them directly, they’ll waste your money like that, won’t they? It all looks like a waste to me.”
Guildmaster Steed was, crudely speaking, a “muscle brain.” He wasn’t exactly apt at figuring out the hidden motives in this kind of situation.
“On top of that, they say that he even hires half-assed novices thrown out by their masters. I just don’t get what that bald tightwad is thinking.”
The guildmaster gave up thinking and raised his arms in surrender, then threw himself back on the chair.
Viviana, a finger on her chin, was thinking. It was a small gesture, but it had a kind of sensuality to it.
“There are certain rumors about that All-Rounder which might tie into this… Would you like me to continue?”
“Go ahead. That’s the reason why I called you here.”
The reception department was the guild’s information center. Naturally, they handled the flow of information within the guild. Furthermore, as they often interacted with adventurers, they had the chance to gather all sorts of information. The guild placed its members in restaurants and bars, not only to keep an eye on the often rowdy adventurers, but also to take note of the conversations heard in such locations, which was a task carried out by the reception department.
“The magic potions used by the Hero Party Crack of Dawn were made by him, or so the rumors go. The party members kept it hidden, so no adventurer knows for sure, but there are a few reports confirming this.”
After this preamble, Viviana continued.
- Many witnessed the boy buy materials for magic potions.
- In recent years, no one saw Crack of Dawn members purchase any magic potions.
- Some have witnessed Crack of Dawn members use magic potions in an extremely lavish manner.
Based on these reports, Viviana concluded that Roa was capable of creating magic potions, a talent that Coralde noticed and made him decide to hire him.
“Hm? Hmm? I see now. There’s still stuff missing, but I guess it makes sense. I’d like some more information though.”
The guildmaster thought for a few moments, then rummaged through the documents on his desk and fished out a sheet of paper.
“You’ve heard that Crack of Dawn undertook a request this morning, right? The extermination of the Silver Golems in Norfar valley. They’ve requested a carriage, so make sure the coachman is someone chatty and shrewd.”
Viviana gave a small nod.
“Coralde and the kid are also coming here today, to meet the escort party. Could you join in the meeting and try to suggest they go to the Aldon forest?”
Viviana, again, placed a finger on her chin, pondering the guildmaster’s orders. Deciding that he couldn’t have been thinking too deeply, she settled on the easiest, crudest possibility.
“The Aldon forest is next to Norfar valley. You wish for me make it so the Hero Party meets with the All-Rounder boy, is that it?”
“Exactly. If Coralde requests one of our carriages too, tell the coachmen to ‘accidentally’ bump into each other. Make sure Crack of Dawn knows nothing about it, nor the party that took Coralde’s request.”
The crude possibility Viviana thought of turned out to be the truth.
“We need information. The fastest way to do it is to have them talk. It would be ideal if we could make them talk in the guild, but Coralde is going to be together with the kid to keep an eye on things. We’re going to try it during the mission, when the bald eagle isn’t around.”
It was a crude plan, through and through. Viviana had no reason to object however.
“Understood…but, is it worth it to do so much, just for this?”
Certainly, it was intriguing. But even if an All-Rounder, thought to be useless for the guild -who, in fact, had been of little to no use for the guild until then- was snatched up by Coralde and made into a member of the Creators’ guild, the Adventurers’ guild had nothing to lose.
Viviana hadn’t even know of the boy’s existence until then. Was it really necessary to spend time and resources investigating him?
“I just don’t like it all, dammit. It feels like the bald tightwad is playing us like a fiddle…but more than that, I feel that if we let this go unchecked, something serious is going to happen to Amadan’s Adventurers’ guild…yeah.”
Unlike the guildmaster’s usual boastful persona, his last words were spoken with little confidence.
“Anyway, the first ‘Hero’ in 18 years from our town is involved, right? There’s no harm in being cautious.”
The guildmaster turned his voice lower, but as he normally spoke rather loudly, his tone was now that of normal conversation.
“You know, listening to you made me think…the All-Rounder kid is not making any “forbidden drugs”, is he? That party’s servant beasts have always looked weird to me…they were too strong to just obey people’s orders like that. They have a gryphon with them for heaven’s sake!!”
The guildmaster ended up shouting, rendering all his efforts to keep his tone down useless.
“If you wanted a magic beast like that exterminated, you know how many people you’d need!? I heard that it’s not really strong, so maybe it’s still young, but even so it should be a lot stronger than a human. Besides, that party’s tamer used to be an archer! No matter how lucky he got, there’s no way he could tame a monster like that!”
Steed was definitely dissatisfied with the situation, as his voice grew even louder.
“If the All-Rounder boy made “illegal drugs” to control the beasts’ mind, though…it could work. The materials are supposed to be found in the magic beasts’ forests, so if you know how to, you can make them. But if that’s the case, our “Hero” becomes a huge sham. The whole guild would be in danger!!”
The guildmaster’s fists slammed on the table.
Viviana was used to it, though: she continued looking at him, not moving an eyebrow.
“I’ve never been able to really trust those tamers in the first place. They all say different things about magic beasts! Some say that you have to make it clear who’s stronger, others say that you’ve got to trust them, some that they can communicate, that they can hear their voices, that it’s important to give them a name…it’s a hot mess.”
The overexcited guildmaster finished the remaining tea in his cup. Viviana, whose mood was the complete opposite of his, simply observed him.
“Why not go ahead and have both parties die in an accident? It might be safer to have them disappear before any scandal comes to light.”
Her voice was ice cold.
“…what? There’s no way we can…wait, you just tested me now, didn’t you!?”
The guildmaster noticed Viviana’s observing gaze and shouted at her.
“Testing you, sir? I would never dare. I simply proposed to eradicate all the seeds of doubt.”
Viviana replied plainly, without losing her composure.
The guildmaster brushed back his whitening hair with his hands, sighing, to calm himself down.
“No need to think that far. First we should check if there really are problems or not.”
“Yes, understood. I will make sure the coachman is knowledgeable about servant beasts and drugs, so they might be able to make a judgement about that to..”
“Yeah, you do that.”
“Is that all, sir? I will go back to work, then.”
Steed watched Viviana bow and leave, then mumbled to himself.
“That woman’s too damn scary…”
Even so, he seemed somewhat amused, perhaps thanks to his hearty personality.
In Crack of Dawn’s mansion, the thief Serge and tank/warrior Olun were searching the magic potion racks. The following morning they would leave for the Silver Golem extermination mission, so they would have to buy potions if they didn’t have enough.
“Looks like there are enough healing potions. We need insect repellants too, put them in the magic bag.”
Serge checked the labels on the potion bottles and their numbers, as Olun filled the bag hanging from his muscular arms. The magic bag, while expensive, was the most common magic item. It made any item inserted inside smaller and lighter, easy to carry, as well as the opposite.
It would not affect human hands nor could it be used on living beings, but could easily store almost anything else.
Many thought it was a relic of the fabled space magic, but it actually used a combination of several kinds of magic to create a phenomenon mimicking space magic.
In simpler terms, it was a bag that could contain much more than it seemed.
Not only did adventurers crave one, but merchants, hunters, fishermen and all other professions did as well. It could be considered the ultimate magic tool.
Having a magic bag meant to be relatively successful financially, so it had become a status symbol for all professions.
The Creators’ guild held the recipe to make one, which was guarded tightly.
Many tried to study magic bags and learn how to recreate them, but no one had succeeded. Some theorized that it was necessary for mages, alchemists, clerics, and other jobs to work together at the same time to craft one.
There were several other examples of organizations that managed to create something very popular and keep the recipe for themselves. The most famous example was the Supreme God Church’s Holy Water, the Farmers’ guild’s Prosperity Seeds and Sprouts, and the Merchants’ guild’s Appraisal magic tool.
The Adventurers’ guild’s Subjugation Collar and Barrier could also be considered part of this category.
The Appraisal magic tool could instantly identify the characteristics and quality of any item, so it was also very useful to creators; the Subjugation Collar was also often used by farmers and transporters, to use magic beasts as labor. It was also popular among other unusual groups of people.
“All the healing potions and insect repellant are in the bag.”
“You put them all inside?”
“What? Did I take too many? Should I take some out?”
“…well, I guess more is better than less. Thanks to the magic bag, weight isn’t an issue either…”
When Crack of Dawn reached the top 100 adventurers’ ranking, they exchanged a smaller magic bag and all of their funds to buy a new one, as a celebration.
The new bag cost about 200 golden coins: an amount that would take 20 years of a miserable lifestyle to save.
It was large enough to contain a small house, so there would be no effect in putting in more potions than usual.
“What about the antidotes?”
“There aren’t any poisonous beasts in the valley, so let’s only carry one for each member, just for emergencies. We have Bonne with us anyway.”
“There’s only one monster repellent left… We’ll have to stock up.”
“There’s a “monster repellent – base liquid” here though? Can’t we use this?”
“We just need to thin it a bit and we can use it. Yeah, put that in too.”
Olun continued putting the magic potions in the bag, almost emptying the racks.
Average adventurers would be shocked by the quantity, but, since they had saved on creation costs thanks to Roa’s efforts, Crack of Dawn members had probably forgotten the actual value of magic potions.
“…Bonne was in a really good mood. Almost disturbingly.”
“…we’ve become a Hero Party and her hated All-Rounder is gone. It’s been nothing but good things these past few days. Of course she’s in a good mood.”
“Guess you’re right.”
While they talked, the short-statured thief Serge continued rifling through the racks, checking and handing Olun potions, who promptly put them in the magic bag.
“Since we’ve become a Hero Party, she’s once again a candidate for Holy Woman too. Because of a conspiracy plotted by her father’s enemies, she was deemed to be “unfit to become a Holy Woman” and kicked out of the church with the pretense of ‘training’, right? So she became an adventurer and had her share of troubles… so of course she’s happy.”
“Yesterday her father came bearing gifts, right? Hugging and dancing with her in the entrance like that! He must have been really happy!”
The two became too focused on talking and their hands stopped moving. Thinking about what happened the day before, they were staring off in the distance.
“The gifts he brought were crazy too!!”
“A real golden “Statue of the First Hero!!” Did you see how the carriage tilted when they took it down!? How much does that thing weigh!? I’m scared the floor’s going to give out!!”
“He went and bought this mansion for Bonne, even got us a maid -though not a live-in one-…rich people are really different, man. He even promised that he’s going to give us more backing from now on!!”
Crack of Dawn’s mansion was initially a rental. When Bonne joined the party, her father bought the mansion for the party, since he couldn’t allow his precious daughter to rent a house to live in. He then said that the fact there wasn’t even one maid was unthinkable, so he hired a maid out of his own pocket.
For the party, it was one good thing after the other, but for the All-Rounder Roa there was nothing to rejoice about: his misfortunes instead increased exponentially.
First, the purchase of the expensive magic bag meant that he wasn’t useful as a baggage holder anymore. Olun’s marriage also meant that his wife would take over the chores. Lastly, the maid’s arrival meant that he had even less to do around the mansion.
Roa wanted to be useful to the party in any way possible, so he focused on creating magic potions and taking care of the servant beasts. These two tasks became the core of his work.
However, the party members already had sufficient earnings from their adventures adding the financial backing from Bonne’s father, they came to the conclusion that they could just buy magic potions and feed the servant beasts, so Roa’s two tasks were basically meaningless.
Thus, the useless servant boy so focused on these meaningless tasks, lost even more value in their eyes.
“Hey, quit slacking off!”
Serge and Olun’s chat was interrupted by the voice of the party’s tamer, Eric.
“Oh yeah, sorry.”
“I have to go out to buy supplies at noon, remember. Make sure you’re done by then. One more thing, the maid can’t take care of the servant beasts after all. She’s too scared to even approach them. We have to look for some servant to do it.”
…why don’t you do it yourself then…?
Serge and Olun were both about to react in the same way, but stopped. There was a risk that the ungrateful task would be left to one of them, so they quickly held their tongues.
“….after we kicked him out, it’s been one pain in the butt after the other.”
Olun’s offhand comment caused Eric’s expression to turn sour, but it lasted merely a moment.
By “him” Olun meant Roa, naturally. Roa would completely take care of the servant beasts, plus there was no need to pay him. He would also do all the preparations they were currently busy with.
It wasn’t only stocking magic potions: Roa would keep their equipment in the best condition too. All they would have to do was to leave on the set date.
“We all accepted that we would have more stuff to do and money to spend, didn’t we? Besides, our esteemed sponsor (Bonne’s father) also said that someone not blessed by God like him wasn’t fit to be in the “Hero”’s party.”
Among the teachings of the church, nothing said that “those without talent were not blessed by God”.
“Talent is a manifestation of divine blessings” was a popular line of thought: because of this, it was undeniable that there were those who adopted beliefs such as that. One of the major supporters of this faction was in fact Bonne’s father.
Because of their deep connection to Bonne and her father, it wasn’t too strange that the other Crack of Dawn members were infected by this kind of thinking.
“In any case, you better finish up here before I have to go out.”
Eric’s words were tinged with irritation.
At the same time, the servants’ beasts’ hut was very quiet.
The straw beds were scattered and filthy, the mood somewhat somber.
The magic wolf twins were still cuddled in a ball, sleeping, but the gryphon was standing firmly, its eyes wide open, staring at the mountain of “Crispies” in front of it.
<….a few days are but an instant, compared to the time I have lived…a mere instant…nothing I cannot endure…yes, I shall endure until the brat returns…he can be quite something if he tries to, I say…until the situation becomes clear, I will not do anything that could cause him trouble…I will not…will not…endurance is a vital trait…vital…trait…I will not…will not…I am a good boy if I try…>
The gryphon’s voice echoed in the silent hut.
<Grandpa, stop mumbling…>
Failing to notice the twins’ complaints, the gryphon continued mumbling.