“Truth is, there’s a job that Guild would like you to take on.”
Ivy got straight to the business. She had led them to one of the backrooms behind the counters at the Adventurer Guild, a plain room with no furniture except for the table they were sitting at. Lapis and Gula sat on both sides of Loren, and opposite them was Ivy and Tizona. Ivy was in her Guild receptionist uniform, and Tizona somehow seemed to be shrinking in on herself as if in shame. The atmosphere was rather awkward somehow.
Loren answered Ivy:
“Is it coming directly from the Guild? It doesn’t seem like a simple job.”
A designated job coming directly from the Adventurer Guild reeked of trouble. Loren didn’t want to accept it, and he frankly let his feelings seep through his voice while answering Ivy.
Ivy should have noticed, but she simply continued without a change in neither expression nor complexion.
“The job is to investigate the unexplored mountain region south of Kapha. It’s to be done within eleven days, with eight for the two trips to and from the area, and three for the investigation itself. You’ll receive one gold coin for each person, and expenses for necessities will be paid separately.”
Loren didn’t know much about geography, so he looked at Lapis for help. Lapis, who was looking back at Ivy with the same poker face expression, replied:
“You mean the large mountain range to the south, or southwest of Kapha. Its name is… It’s not named, I believe. There are a number of mountains in that area. Is there an unexplored ruin there?”
The question was meant for Ivy, but it was Tizona who answered.
“I discovered it. It’s a disguised, fort-like ruin halfway up one of the mountains. I couldn’t get close to it, but I’ve never heard of any ruins in the area, so I dare say it’s unexplored.”
“I have another question. Why is Tizona here?”
“The truth is… My mercenary company is in financial trouble.”
Tizona said with a blush and a bowed head, as if it was something embarrassing.
Loren wondered whether the company’s falling into financial trouble bothered her. Mercenary companies always scrambled for funds, and getting low on cash due to failing a job was not a rare sight, so he didn’t find this something to be embarrassed about.
But listening further, Tizona appeared to be the cause of the financial trouble herself. And so the reasons of her embarrassment started to get clearer.
“What did you do?”
“I… burned down our employer’s troops.”
According to Tizona, it had been a job they had taken just a little while ago. The battle ended up in a stalemate, so Tizona decided to use her extraordinary power to incinerate the enemy troops, yet went overboard and caused huge collateral damage. And in her case it was no exaggeration, since the number of casualties had quickly escalated to several hundreds.
They had won, so their employer hadn’t been able to charge them. Instead, her company had faced an enormous claim of compensation. Since then their business was going downhill day by day, Tizona haltingly finished her story.
“Are you a moron?”
“You’re such an idiot.”
“You’re a fool, aren’t you?”
All three members of Loren’s party said in reply. Tizona blushed bright red and answered with minimal objections:
“It couldn’t be helped! They outnumbered us, so I couldn’t use <<Roast>>!”
“It’s my blessing. It’s why I’m called ‘Hellfire Sword’ amongst the mercenaries.”
Loren wondered if it was alright to just speak about one’s blessing like that, but Tizona didn’t look particularly concerned; she began to explain what <<Roast>> was.
According to Tizona, it was a skill that could literally roast every single person within a designated range. No defense would be effective against Roast – it would thoroughly burn down everything, inflammable or not. However, it wouldn’t affect anything outside its range.
It sounded almost too powerful, but it had some drawbacks: the burning range wasn’t too large, and it wasn’t possible to create multiple zones at once.
“I had no choice but used another method to burn them down… My company noticed me using my powers and put some distance to come out unharmed. Employer’s soldiers, on the other hand, were jumbled up with the enemy troops. I knew that over time it would get more dangerous, so I thought the sooner I burn all down, the better it would be.”
“What a troublesome character…”
The method she used was still unknown, but it must have been powerful enough to be able to burn down three hundred-odd people in one go. Just as expected of a mercenary with such a nickname. Moreover, being able to burn down both friends and foes alike, further escalated her troublesomeness. For her to still use her powers despite knowing that it would affect her allies, her way of thinking was also dangerous. In short, Loren decided that she was a moron. He looked at Ivy, who had been listening in silence.
“I understand the situation, but why are we nominated?”
Smelling troubles, Loren asked. Ivy shrugged and told him the reason as if it was nothing important:
“Because it seems like you know each other.”
Seemed like the Adventurer Guild had also decided that Tizona’s story was very disturbing. And since they couldn’t get unrelated people involved, Loren’s party became an obvious choice.
“We don’t know her.”
“Well, it’s because you’re originally in the same trade as her then.”
“I used to be one. Unlike her, who is still one, right?”
Loren wondered if this meant Tizona was considering becoming an adventurer, but she suddenly nodded.
“I still want to be a mercenary. I’m indebted to our leader. If our leader resigns, I’ll follow. But that’s still a long way off.”
“Don’t tell me that the reason your leader might be forced to quit is a certain ‘glorious’ victory of yours.”
A mercenary company couldn’t operate without funds. Even if her company didn’t disband, in case they couldn’t pay the compensation to their employer, there were only two ways to go forward: either the company could sell themselves to the said employer, or it could ignore the compensation claim entirely and goes rogue.
“Actually, I’ve received an offer that, if I sell myself to our employer, our debt will be annulled.”
Loren thought that it was not a bad deal. To fill up a gap of a few hundred soldiers, a twice-named mercenary with powerful skills like Tizona was ideal.
Also, personality aside, Tizona was a beautiful woman. There was a lot of use for her aside from fighting, so trading couple hundreds of soldiers with her was a fair exchange. A beneficial one, even.
“I think in the worst-case scenario I’ll take up that offer. As I’ve just said, I’m indebted to our leader. If this can be settled with just me, then I’m willing to.”
“You don’t think that you’ll be treated nicely, do you?”
“I was told I’ll be treated as a slave. But if it can save our leader from trouble, then so be it. I was about to take up the offer when I suddenly remembered the ruins I’ve encountered during a previous job. So I decided to give it a try, as my final option.”
It was a simple story after that. Tizona had asked for a short vacation from her company, collected all the money she had been saving and used it all to put in a request at the Adventurer Guild. She was asking for some adventurers to accompany her to explore the ruin. Some of her fellow mercenaries feared that she could run away, but the leader had let her go willingly.
“To repay my debt to our leader, I want money, no matter what it takes. For that reason, I need to explore that ruin. Would you help me?”
Tizona placed both hands on the table and bowed so low that her forehead touched the tabletop. Loren watched her and considered her offer.
Getting rich by exploring unexplored ruins strongly resembled a gamble. If she won, everything would be solved in one shot.
It wasn’t a bad idea.
Tizona herself was more than a capable fighter, so she wasn’t recruiting adventurers for battles. She was smart enough to understand that no matter how potent her offensive power was, it would be useless for exploration and appraisal of the ruins. And so adventurers’ skills were required.
About the reward, Loren couldn’t decide if it was high or low. One gold coin would be too cheap if there was something in the ruin valuable enough to pay off the huge compensation. But if there was nothing inside, it would be quite an expensive gambling fee.
“Are you sure it’s unexplored?”
“The Adventurer Guild guarantees it.”
Ivy answered him and continued:
“I’ve researched it and couldn’t find any records of ruin discoveries in the given region. I can’t be sure about illegal explorations, but I think it’s very likely that the ruin is unexplored.”
The Adventurer Guild tried to keep its adventurers from going on a fool’s errand, and thus kept detailed records of all explorations. Of course, if the exploration was illegal there would be no records. However, the stolen goods still had to be sold off somewhere with information about their origins, and the Guild also possessed an abundance of such.
“What do you think? Doesn’t seem too bad to me.”
If they were to take on this job, Lapis’ and Gula’s opinions also needed to be taken into consideration. As a start, Loren asked for Gula’s.
“If we can earn money, then I have no particular objection.”
“Me neither… But if this exploration is successful, I’d like to have more regarding the reward.”
What Lapis meant was, one gold coin would be enough if they found nothing, but if they did find something valuable enough to pay off Tizona’s compensation, she would want more.
Loren thought it was a bit too greedy, but he was also curious about what Tizona would say. So he said nothing and just watched her instead.
“I see. It’s fine for me as long as I can pay off the compensation. I promise to increase the reward in accordance with what we find.”
Tizona decided quickly.
Loren didn’t particularly care about this quest, but noticing Lapis lightly clenching her fists, he understood that she wanted to take it. That was a good enough reason for him.
“Then, we would like to officially accept this job.”
Ivy answered Loren with a nod of confirmation, and a small smile of relief appeared on Tizona’s face.