Act 1-12.2 : Goddess’ Country
「Don’t worry about it, I’m more than grateful for your offer to become my guide.」
Though Kuroki couldn’t join the Freedom Fighter Association, he didn’t really mind as he never cared in the first place. He had never had the intention to join this association nor to become a Freedom Fighter as a matter of fact. Thus, he really wasn’t angry and didn’t need Dozumi’s apology. However, once Kuroki reached that conclusion, he couldn’t help but notice something else.
「Come to think of it, you said that you can’t read too, right? Then how come they allowed you to become a Freedom Fighter?」
「Aah, I followed that male receptionist’s advice and joined a warrior’s party. After all, you can’t join the association unless you can read or write.」
Kuroki nodded when he heard Dozumi’s answer as understanding dawned on him.
In short, all men could join the Freedom Fighter Association; however, the illiterate amongst them had to go through a longer procedure to become members. Through joining a warrior’s party, they would join hands with other warriors and become a group. They could then indirectly join the Freedom Fighter Association and become a Freedom Fighter in their own right.
However, this did not mean that by joining a warrior’s party they’d immediately be allowed into the association; the rule of having the ability to read and write would still be put to action. However, as a middle ground, it was not necessary for all warriors to be literate; rather, the party only needed one person with these skills, preferably the leader.
Kuroki couldn’t help but ponder about why the association would use such a roundabout way. He could only come to the conclusion that there might be some sort of business practice behind it. But, he was still left with many unanswered questions.
「Ah, I see now. Then, what if none of the party’s warriors can read or write?」
「That would make everything impossible. If none of the members are literate, then the party won’t be able to join the association. Most often, the appointed leader would be the one with these skills. But, in the rare chance where the leader is illiterate, the party would need to find someone with the ability to read and write and have them join the party.」
「I see. Then, is there a chance you can introduce me to your warrior’s party?」
Dozumi’s face instantly turned gloomy at Kuroki’s question and then shook his head.
「Sorry, I don’t think I can help you with that. I mean, I’m just a lowly underling. They’ll only toss my recommendation to the bin.」
Kuroki had guessed that being left behind by his comrades was a specially unpleasant memory to Dozumi, so he didn’t try to pursue the matter anymore.
「I see, well since I have no place to sleep today, what should I do about my sleeping arrangements?」
Kuroki decided to ask the most pressing question. He would be staying in this country for a while until he finished his investigation, so he needed to find a lodging house that would provide him with something stable.
「Leave it to me, I know of a good inn. But, do you have money to pay the lodging service fee?」
「Yup, at least for the time being. But, I don’t have this country’s currency. Can I use foreign currency in this country? If I can’t, then can you tell me of a place where I can exchange currencies?」
Amongst the many things Kuroki learned during his journey was the matter of currencies in this world.
In these lands, there was no one mighty country monopolizing the right to issue currencies. Instead, each country had the right to issue their own currency as there was no law forbidding the private production and distribution of money in a new and different currency. It was for this reason that this world had various different currencies. However, with this freedom came inconveniences as travelers and foreigners often found themselves unable to use their riches when visiting another country. And it was because of this drawback that a new business venture was created and was dubbed "Money Exchanger".
The money exchanging business instantly boomed in popularity and spread across all countries as it offered travelers the ability to use the local currency wherever they went. The business procedures went as follows: foreigners could go to any money exchanging office and could exchange their foreign currency to the local currency. The amount of local money they got, or more specifically the exchange rate, depended on the amount of minerals, such as gold and silver, found in the foreigner’s medium of currency.
These procedures might seem fair and useful to travelers at the beginning, but it also means that there is no fixed exchange rate in this world, making it easier for unscrupulous people to scam these foreigners.
Moreover, money exchangers do not solely focus on exchanging currencies, but they also offer different services such as lending the gold in their custody to merchants and businessmen or allowing people to deposit metal in their safes. Many schemes and contracts can be offered to their clients, which essentially makes them the banks of this world.
Kuroki was not sure whether, other than loan schemes and documented deposits, there were other earthly concepts such as inflation and interest rates, but he was rather surprised in finding that this world’s civilization was actually more advanced than his estimation and that it had many similarities to his original world.
「Sorry, I have no idea where to find such a place. I think it might only exist inside of the rampart. But, I can take you to an inn that accepts foreign money if you’re okay with it.」
Dozumi responded as he began to walk.
（Thank God, it seems I can use foreign currency too.）
Even back when he was still in Japan, some places accepted payments with foreign currencies. Since the Holy Republic of Lenaria was one of the most powerful and diverse countries, he expected it to have such places that accept foreign currencies without the need to exchange. Luckily, he was right. Kuroki was delighted with such a finding, and after walking for a while, he and Dozumi finally arrived in front of a small diner.
「The inn is using the 2nd floor. I can only guide you this far as I wouldn’t be able to go into this inn.」
Dozumi said so as he pointed at the diner.
「I see, thank you very much, Dozumi-san. May I ask, why are you willing to help me this much?」
Kuroki was pondering about that matter. He never expected Dozumi to go this far for him.
「Well, it doesn’t matter, you saved my life anyway. And to be honest, I do have ulterior motives.」
Dozumi smiled as he answered him, the end of his sentence followed right after by the sound of his rumbling stomach.
「Sorry, can you treat me to something to eat? Also, can you lend me some money too? To be honest, I’m broke.」
Dozumi entered the diner followed by Kuroki, excitement oozing out of his eyes. He eagerly looked for an unoccupied table then led his benefactor to it. Once sat down, the two men ordered two servings of bean and barley porridge.
（Finally, the Goddess of Fortune is casting a smile upon me.）
Dozumi’s happiness right now could outshine the brightest of stars. It had been days since he had eaten a proper meal. While enjoying his porridge, he glanced at Kuroki, contemplating about this mysterious man’s identity.
（This fellow is definitely not your average Joe.）
Dozumi couldn’t help but reach into his pocket, pulling out several gold coins and grasping them tightly. These were the gold coins that Kuroki had lent him just a while ago.
It had been a long time since Dozumi had last seen a gold coin. Compared to the ones he had seen before, these coins shined even brighter than any other money he ever held in the past. He was convinced that these were the real deal, that they were made with real gold. Normally, if someone wanted to scam you, they would never take out gold coins, but would give you silver coins instead as gold coins aren’t normally used in daily transactions. Moreover, it was easier to cheat someone with silver coins as it was easier to mix in various other lesser minerals in a coin; therefore, making them less valuable in reality.
（This guy is definitely my lucky star.）
Dozumi suddenly recalled his life up until now.
（I was a good-for-nothing person, trash amongst trash.）
Dozumi came to the Holy Republic of Lenaria when he was 18 years old.
He had always strived for one dream, the dream of becoming a hero. And leaving his country to come to the Holy Republic of Lenari was his first step towards that ambition.
Unfortunately, Dozumi had one fatal flaw—he had no fighting talent whatsoever and so couldn’t become a hero.
Luckily though, he had managed to join a warrior’s party and the association, becoming a Freedom Fighter in the process. Yet, he was still a weak, amateurish fighter who could barely win against a goblin. Amongst his warrior group, he was the weakest link, practically an eternal gofer to the party that accepted him.
It was already clear to him that he was only something to use in this party, evident by the fact that they had used him as bait for the goblins in his recent task, leaving him to fend for himself and most probably, eventually die. And though Dozumi had no idea about the contents of the cargo they transported, judging from his scummy group and their eagerness to flee with the shipment as fast as possible, he could guess that it wasn’t something decent; maybe illegal drugs or other dangerous items.
To be fair, he could’ve followed his group since he had managed to escape those goblins, but since he originally didn’t want to do this job, he chose to return to the Holy Republic of Lenaria with his savior, Kuroki. Thinking about these matters, Dozumi started considering his option of leaving this party.
（This would be a good time to say goodbye to those horrible bunch.）
Dozumi was a member of the Black Fang group, a warrior’s party completely composed of shady people. They would do all kinds of unlawful things despite preaching the Freedom Fighter’s banner. In spite of knowing the fact that a warrior’s job was to protect the people, the Black Fang still did the exact opposite, plundering or even massacring civilians, especially targeting the weakest of them—people without a citizenship.
It was easy for those criminal warriors to act on their lawless impulses as government officials wouldn’t even bat an eye if stateless people died a dog’s death right in front of them. It wouldn’t even help those poor victims if they were Freedom Fighters belonging to the association.
Though members of the Freedom Fighter Association had their rights protected by law to some degree, the notion was still rather vague as there was no way to measure how far this "protection" can apply.
Victims in this country always face various obstacles while seeking justice as they can only get this so-called protection if they gather enough evidence. Moreover, as if it was not bad enough that government officials wouldn’t even budge unless they had evidence, but the act of gathering evidence itself took quite a long time, which gives assailants ample time to tamper or remove any loose ends completely. That’s why many assailants roam freely without being subjected by the law; there’s never evidence or eye-witnesses to go against them.
The Black Fang group is smart in this aspect as they always work thoroughly, leaving no evidence behind. Therefore, they have never been caught til this day.
（They were the only warrior group that allowed me to join them, but it turned out that they were no different from a gang of thugs. Once they figured that I wasn’t of any use anymore, they abandoned me and left me to die. If I ever have the chance, I would rather go back to my home country than to continue staying with them…）
Dozumi started recalling his past; it had been 10 years since he had left his home country. His life there was never good, that’s why he left at the end; he wanted to change his life for the better and have a promising future. Little did he know that his life would take a turn to the worse and that what he thought would be paradise turned to be hell itself. His life back at home was much better than in this country.
Right now, what he wanted the most was to turn in a new leaf, but he understood that this was an impossible task. He knew better than anyone else that he had already become a villain; turning into a hero was nothing but a pipe dream. But, he didn’t want it to end like this; he wants to rewrite his ending. It was for this reason that, right now, he didn’t mind going through unscrupulous means to change his destiny, even if he had to make a contract with the devil.
（I don’t know what kind of person Kuro is, but what I do know is that getting on his good graces is what will benefit me the most. I have nothing to lose either way, so might as well place my bets on him…）
Dozumi kept on pondering about the different gains and losses concerning his future relationship with Kuroki, forgetting that he had been staring at him for a long time. Noticing Dozumi’s prolonged gaze, Kuroki couldn’t help but be puzzled about this act.
「Is something the matter, Dozumi?」
Dozumi was startled out of his daze as he embarrassingly responded.
「No, it’s nothing. Ahahahaha.」
It was during his awkward laughter that a black-bearded big man entered the diner, followed by several of his flunkey men. Dozumi instantly stiffened once he caught a glimpse of that all too familiar person, cold sweat trickling down his back.
「Dozumi, what are you doing here? Didn’t I order you to take that escort mission?」
「Leader… What are you doing here?」
Dozumi was well acquainted with this scary man who had just made a grand entrance to the diner.
Gendor, leader of the Black Fang group, a vicious man widely known by his alias: "Man-Eater".
He was the person Dozumi didn’t want to see the most.
（Why in the world is Leader here? He never comes to this diner and usually eats in other places.）
Confusion was evident all over Dozumi’s face, he had no clue why the leader of his warrior group would come to this place.
「I was told that a man resembling you was seen entering this diner, so I came to confirm it.」
Dozumi was prepared for this and so immediately divulged the truth.
「Our group got ambushed by goblins along the way. The cargo should be safe since I was ordered by the others to bait the goblins… And, since I didn’t think I could catch up to them before night-time, I decided to go back.」
Despite him telling the truth, Gendor still looked at him with suspicion.
「Are you telling the truth? It’ll be your responsibility if something happens to the cargo.」
Gendor squinted his eyes as he looked at Dozumi. Being the receiver of such a gaze, Dozumi was terrified, his whole body plagued with goosebumps. Gendor was well known for showing no mercy to those who made mistakes; no one could ever escape him.
「Which reminds me, who’s this, Dozumi? He has such a nice face. Is he a male prostitute who just entered this country? Hey, you, what’s your name? And where did you come from?」
Gendor was looking at Kuroki’s face with a disgustingly lecherous smile plastered on him.
「Uhm… Kuro. I’m here to become a Freedom Fighter.」
Maybe because he was being ogled at in such a creepy way, but Kuroki couldn’t help but lightly tremble.
「I see, Kuro, is it? Well, you seem to have brought something interesting with you. Give me your pet. I should be able to sell it for quite a high price.」
Gendor’s gaze had now shifted to Kuroki’s shoulder and was analyzing Nut like merchandise.
「Eh, no way. Nut is my comrade. I can’t comply to your request.」
Kuroki stood up from his seat as if he was escaping Gendor’s clutches. He was really creeped out by that guy.
「Oi, you bastard! How dare yo—」
Gendor stopped his subordinates from approaching Kuroki.
「You’ve got some nerve, huh, Kuro. I’ll step aside for now, but just so you know, we’re going to meet again soon.」
As he finished his sentence, Gendor turned around and headed towards the exit, leaving the diner along with his lackeys. The diner instantly returned to its quiet atmosphere, as if the previous commotion made by the boorish man was nothing but an illusion. However, unlike the calm atmosphere, Dozumi was having a headache from this situation as he now knew that his leader had come here with ulterior motives.
（It usually never ends well when Leader shows this kind of attitude.）
Dozumi had a sickening prediction—his leader might assault Kuroki during the hours of darkness. He, therefore, immediately started advising Kuroki, afraid that his savior might meet such a shameful end.
「Kuro, let me give you a piece of advice. Leave this country!」
「Leave this country?」
「Yes! As soon as possible!」