“Oh Loren. What business are you here for today?”
Sitting behind the reception desk at the Adventurer Guild was Ivy, a receptionist Loren had met multiple times before.
He wanted to go to one of those other counters with capable-looking receptionists; he had a bad feeling about this one. But if he left now, it would mean to blatantly announce to everyone that he was avoiding Ivy. So, he put on a forced smile and went to stand in front of her desk.
Loren had chosen this counter by accident. All the other desks had adventurers queueing before them, and while he had been waiting for his turn in one of the queues, this counter had suddenly opened after being closed since he had arrived. He had tried coming here for no particular reason, but he wondered if Ivy had opened her counter after seeing him in the other queue. He eyed her warily. Loren considered Ivy as someone he needed to be cautious around, but he wasn’t sure if she knew his thoughts or not.
Ivy showed him a smile, either for business or just to be sociable.
“I want to add a member into my party.”
“Oh, you’re finally cancelling your current partnership?”
Ivy sounded a bit surprised, and Loren frowned at her words. He didn’t understand why she had mentioned partnership cancellation while he had just said he wanted to add a new party member.
It was Lapis who answered his question.
“So if we add another member to a two-member party, it means we’re cancelling our partnership?”
“I don’t particularly want to stop our partnership.”
Loren replied, and Lapis broke into an extremely happy smile.
Ivy watched them somewhat jealously then turned her gaze towards Gula, who was waiting at their back.
“Is that your new member?”
“That’s right. I’m Gula. Nice to meet you, I guess?”
Ivy asked with a hint of suspicion in her tone, and Loren dreaded that they had been caught somehow. But after pondering about something for a while, Ivy simply unfolded a sheet of paper on the desk.
“Well then, please fill in this form. Can you write?”
“No problem. Just leave it to me.”
Gula nodded and borrowed a pen from Ivy, then began to fill in the form. Loren was watching her and thinking about how he had done exactly the same in the past when Lapis secretly whispered into his ear.
“Loren, you also did this before?”
“Yeah. Doesn’t everyone register here?”
“Yes, Loren, so you can write.”
The truth was, reading and writing was a skill on its own. There were just a few people who were educated enough to be able to do it. Loren had been properly educated by his mercenary company, so he could write by himself. His leader had believed that if one couldn’t read his own contract or fill in his own form, then he shouldn’t have worked as a mercenary. Loren had only realized that his idea wasn’t a conventional one at all after resigning.
“Lapis, you don’t seem to have any problem with it.”
“I’m a priest, so of course I was properly taught to read and write.”
“Gula doesn’t seem to have any trouble either.”
Watching Gula smoothly write down her name, Loren spoke. Noticing that Gula was about to write her last name after finishing her first name, he lightly poked at her. She looked at him with a puzzled expression, but when he tapped at the name field on the form, she realized that she was about to write down her full name, the name of an Evil God. Smiling wryly, Gula stopped at her first name and moved to the next field.
The next field was place of birth. Gula contemplated for a moment, then began to write. Just then, Loren asked her in a small voice:
“What are you writing here?”
“Well, my birthplace, of course. Black Magic Kingdom of Nuuna.”
Ivy was watching them whispering to each other with suspicious eyes. To avoid her finding out, Loren stepped on Gula’s foot under the desk. When she screamed because of the pain, he used his hand to cover her mouth and pulled her away with a forced smile.
A distance away from the counter, Loren smacked Gula’s head, who looked like she was about to complain.
“What are you doing?”
“You’re such an idiot. Don’t tell me you don’t understand what will happen if you write down the name of that place?”
“Ah right. But that’s really where I came from though?”
“Do you want to have another blow? I can serve you a few punches until your Gluttony is satisfied.”
Loren clenched his fist this time. Flustered, Gula looked at him. Still she didn’t know what to write.
But Loren himself didn’t know much about places’ names either, so he looked towards Lapis, asking for help. Lapis sighed impatiently and whispered something into Gula’s ears.
A short while later, Gula seemed to have understood whatever Lapis had tried to tell her. She walked back to the counter looking fully satisfied and continued to fill the form.
“I told her a more suitable place name to use. It might seem suspicious, but they don’t have the means to verify it, so it’ll be alright.”
Watching Gula, Lapis said.
If Lapis said that it would be alright, then it would be alright. But Loren still felt a bit worried, so he asked:
“She’ll have to fill in age and occupation too, right?”
“I told her to write something reasonable; 21 years old magician.”
It was understandable for Gula to lie about her age. If she was to write down her real age, it would be some crazy number somewhere in the hundreds. Rather than that, Loren was a little surprised that they had decided for Gula to be over twenty years old instead of a younger age like eighteen.
“I’m registered as an eighteen years old priest, by the way.”
“It’s a reasonable estimation, I guess?”
According to Lapis, despite the longer lifespan, demons still matured at the same rate as humans, so that number wasn’t a lie. As Lapis was a priest of the God of Knowledge, an officially-recognized one at that, she couldn’t lie about a single thing in the form.
“Is it that easy to become a priest?”
“That’s because I’m excellent.”
Lapis nonchalantly said. She was indeed excellent though, so Loren had nothing else to say.
“What about you, Loren?”
Looking at him with interest, Lapis asked. It took Loren some time to recall what he had written in the form.
“A twenty-two years old swordsman, I think.”
“That also seems reasonable.”
Loren thought about how he had registered with rather vague information.
He had written down a number that had seemed appropriate for his age; the truth is, he didn’t actually know how old he is.
He was an orphan that had been picked up by a mercenary company. He didn’t know his birthday, or how old he had been when they had found him. He had been told to be around that age by others in the company, so he had registered as such; Loren himself didn’t even know if he was actually older or younger.
As for his birthplace, he had chosen the Republic of Portaria.
He had heard from his company leader that it was an isolated country in the northernmost part of the continent with hardly any interaction with other countries. It seemed to be often picked as the birthplace of people with special circumstances, since nothing could be verified. That was why saying you were from Portaria was no different from saying that you had something to hide. In Loren’s case, since he didn’t know anything about his birthplace, he still had an excuse even if he got caught lying.
“Did you also tell Gula to use Portaria?”
“If she tells people that she’s from the North with that appearance, won’t they think that she’s not right in the head?”
By appearance, Lapis meant how Gula bared both shoulders and stomach and didn’t even remotely look like she knew how to dress for the cold. But Kapha was in the southwest of the continent and enjoyed the warm climate; dressing like Gula wouldn’t make one shiver in cold unless it was winter.
“She feels the heat more because she comes from the north – it can also be interpreted that way, can’t it?”
“It’s not like I didn’t think of that, but does Gula even care about heat and cold?”
Loren tried to imagine Evil Gods being affected by weather like heat and cold, but he immediately gave up – his imaginative power wasn’t high enough for that. If push comes to shove, all he could conjure up was the image of Gula laughing nonchalantly standing in a blizzard wearing that skimpy outfit.
“As long as she doesn’t write down the name of a country that perished long ago, then anything is fine.”
“That’s right. It’s not important information.”
In the end, Loren and Lapis reached the conclusion that whatever country would be alright. Gula briskly approached them just then. It seemed like she had finished with the registration; a copper identification tag was dangling on her chest.
“The Adventurer Guild was so stingy. Someone as strong as me should get the iron rank like Loren at least, don’t you think?”
“It’s the rule, so there’s nothing to do about it. I mean, considering you as an iron rank still sounds like a joke anyway, so copper or iron doesn’t matter here.”
Ability-wise, it wouldn’t be strange if an Evil God like Gula was given the highest rank in the Adventurer Guild’s ranking system. But the rule was for all adventurers to start with copper rank at registration, and there was no exception unless something truly exceptional happened. Gula being given the copper rank was nothing strange.
In the first place, Loren had thought that Gula couldn’t be sorted into ranks like copper, iron, or silver anyway, so whatever rank she started with didn’t matter. She still remained discontent after what he had said though.
“I want to be in the same rank as you guys. This feels like I’m being left out, doesn’t it?”
“You’ll rank up pretty quick anyway. Just bear with it until then.”
“That said, will you be willing to work with us when ranking up, Gula?”
Lapis asked with her tone also being discontent somehow. Gula answered her with a cheerful smile:
“Until death do us part. Is it ok for me to stick with you guys?”
“It’s a huge trouble. Mainly because of the food expenses.”
Lapis said coldly. Gula made a sad face while snuggling up to her, but the latter pushed her away, looking truly annoyed.
Loren urged them to leave to discuss their plan from now on. He couldn’t decide whether they were getting along or not, but he’d hoped that they wouldn’t cause troubles at least. As they followed him out of the door, trouble arrived.
Gula bumped into another adventurer who was passing by. Gula immediately apologized, but the other adventurer grinned broadly after seeing her and her companion.
It seemed like the seed of trouble had come from another party instead. Loren had that hunch, and involuntarily facepalmed.