The trip to St. Point was rather uneventful.
Austin had asked us how one could become stronger after he found out that we learned swordsmanship systematically. Perhaps he got curious after that.
"…All you need is a genius close to you."
"Her. It’s her."
How to become stronger…
All one needed was to stick to some ridiculous genius and make them teach you every day. If one did that, no matter how ordinary one might be, one would get stronger, even if not to the level of that genius.
It could only be achieved if the genius was kind enough to give up their own progress to teach someone ordinary.
After thinking about it, Ellen was a real angel, wasn’t she? No matter why she started teaching me, she still took good care of me. I thought about what I should do. There was nothing I could do to repay her, or was there?
Anyway, I pointed at Ellen, and Austin looked at her with a sickly expression on his face.
"A-are… Are you such a genius?"
"…I don’t know."
Ellen didn’t casually answer that she was.
A way to get stronger…
I was a little confident in my punches, but I didn’t know if they would be effective in an actual battle. It wasn’t to the point of calling them all-powerful, but they were still enough to easily suppress active criminals who didn’t shy away from killing either.
"People like me are too old to enter something like a swordsmanship school. Fortunately, I heard there were some veteran mercenaries among the adventurers. I heard there were cases where they would teach some people certain things if they made you their disciple…"
I thought I had become stronger because I added some effort to my cheat-like abilities.
However, after listening to Austin’s circumstances, it seemed to be slightly different.
I wondered if learning at Temple could be called a cheat in itself.
It seemed that one of the few ways Austin could actually get stronger was by becoming the disciple of a retired mercenary and learning their swordsmanship, which they may or may not share with him. He couldn’t even become an esquire of an active knight.
Getting to train in Temple’s environment could already be seen as a cheat to the general public. Not only did we have teachers with outstanding skills who were enthusiastic about their student’s education, but there were also a lot of monsters among our peers.
Austin talked about learning from some retired mercenary as if it was a life-changing opportunity.
I got taught by teachers who far exceeded the skill level of regular knights, and I could practice as much as I wanted every day with the strongest prospects in the world.
Being able to make use of that environment truly was incomparable to the lousy cheats I had.
"What are you going to do when you become strong?" I asked Austin out of curiosity.
I was doing it for my own reasons, but for most people, it was supposed to be the start of a peaceful era. The Darklands had already been completely defeated.
What reasons did someone have to become strong in a world that didn’t require one to be strong?
It seemed that most adventurers were gamblers and crooks with the goal of making a fortune quickly. Austin didn’t seem to be that type of person.
"I want to be like Artorius."
At that, both Ellen and I fell silent.
Artorius was one of the most popular topics in the world, but it was a topic that was rarely brought up between Ellen and me.
Artorius had become a legend among adventurers.
For those adventurers who weren’t greedy for money and still dreamed of romance and adventure, Artorius inevitably became their role model.
"Ahaha, I mean, of course, I’ll never be like him… But it’s something like a dream for me to be similar to him."
Austin laughed awkwardly, saying that he could dream at least.
"Then, do you even want to die like him?"
Ellen spoke quietly.
"Is it your dream to die like him as well?"
She spoke quietly, but her tone was as sharp as a knife. Austin’s expression hardened slightly at her sudden words.
Do you want to be like Artorius to the point that you were willing to die while killing the Demon King?
The question was rather aggressive coming from Ellen.
"E-erm… W-well… If I could give my life for a great cause like Artorius… It would be an honor for someone like me. Of course, it’s much too presumptuous for me to put this in words!"
Austin apologized wildly, asking if he was too presumptuous, as that might be a bit unpleasant to hear for people who greatly admired Artorius.
People who respected Artorius were always very vocal about their feelings on the topic.
Ellen didn’t say anything for a while, but then she opened her mouth again as if to spit something out.
"Do you have a family?"
"Family? Ah… I have a sister and parents at home."
Austin’s family composition was very similar to Ellen’s.
Ellen seemed to ponder for a long time. The guy was probably wondering why she was asking something like that.
One could tell that a multitude of words were running through her mind.
Austin was a novice adventurer. He wanted to be strong, but he wasn’t. If he hadn’t met Ellen and me that day, he would have already been a goner.
She probably wanted to tell him to just go home and stop dreaming about such useless things.
However, Ellen was indifferent to the lives of others, and she probably also thought about if she even deserved to say those words to him.
Telling him to go home just because he was weak would certainly hurt Austin.
That was why Ellen was thinking so deeply.
In the end, she said nothing.
* * *
The trip to St. Point took a total of four hours. We lost some time between using the Gate and getting here, so the sun had already set.
"But I’m glad we made it; otherwise, we would have to camp outside for the night."
Austin smiled happily as we drove the carriage through St. Point’s entrance. This place really felt more like a base than a city.
If Exia was a big city, that felt more like a village. Those Points, which acted as supply bases for adventurers, were spread out along various parts of the Allied Forces’ old route.
With such momentum, if their exploration progressed just a little more, a large urban area might be born with the Exian Outpost as its center.
It was night, but there were still quite a few buildings in St. Point that still had some lights turned on.
Even if it was not that big, it still felt like a place where people lived.
"But what do we do about this carriage?"
The carriage didn’t belong to us.
Because we had reached our destination, we had to do something about it.
Ellen said such as if she didn’t really care, and I felt similarly, as I didn’t really want to have the carriage.
"I-is that really fine? With these three horses, one could earn more than a penny or two…"
They were stolen goods, but the horses didn’t even have name tags on them.
"Whether you want to sell them or get rid of them, you can do whatever you want with them."
"I-is that so…? Thank you, you two."
"Just go back home with the money you get from selling… Well, never mind."
Ellen was about to say something but stopped herself mid-sentence. Austin was an adventurer with an uncertain future. It seemed like she wanted to tell him to just go home with the money he would get from selling the three horses. However, she had no reason to meddle in other people’s affairs, so she stopped herself.
"My people are staying at the Lockhill Inn over there. If you want to find our party, just ask for a Mr. Hugson at the inn."
We got down from the carriage, and Austin started to maneuver it towards the inn where his party was staying.
We somehow managed to get to St. Point.
"Let’s rest here for today; then, we’ll make our schedule and leave tomorrow."
It was time to look for Eleris.
* * *
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Translator – KonnoAren
Proofreader – ilafy
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* * *
The inn ‘House of Giants’.
Eleris was supposed to come across us there by chance and join our party. Since she was a wizard, she had plenty of arguments to persuade Ellen to let her join.
That was the plan, anyway.
However, as soon as I entered the House of Giants, I had to admit that I hadn’t considered something very important.
-Hey Miss! Come with us!
-Hey, didn’t I ask her first?
-If you come with us, I’ll make it 50/50! The five of us would take 50, and you alone take the other 50. How about it?
-This bastard has no business ethics! How could you try to win her over with money!
-We’ll give you three gold coins in advance on top of a 50/50 rate for all later proceeds! Even if we don’t get much! See it as an opportunity to unconditionally earn three gold coins no matter what! We’ll even pay you more! Okay?
The first floor tavern of the inn was in total chaos.
"Ah… Ahaha… Tha-that’s… Well…"
There, amongst the countless recruitment calls of various people, there was a woman who was probably Eleris.
Her face shape was completely different from her original one, perhaps due to her disguise, but her facial features stayed the same. Her stature had gotten slightly shorter. Her changes were rather subtle, creating an effect of only seeming to resemble herself, but she was still really recognizable.
"…What’s going on?"
But what the hell was going on?
Thousands of people around Eleris were begging her to come with them. There were some who said that they would give her money, and then there were some who said that she just had to take care of their performance as she would take everything they made.
They said that she could just go around with them while promising her the best treatment for some reason.
Why the hell?
I went to the innkeeper at the counter and slowly looked around.
"Do you have any vacancies?"
"Would a double room be enough?"
A double room.
"Do you want to have a private room?"
Ellen shook her head.
"I don’t know what’s going to happen. Let’s share one."
She seemed to consider the possibility that something might happen to one of us and that the other wouldn’t notice at all because we were in single rooms.
We’d been almost robbed the first day we reached the Darklands, so one couldn’t be careful enough, I guess.
"Five silver coins."
I handed the innkeeper five silver coins and pointed at the bustling scene around Eleris.
"…By the way, what’s going on here?"
The innkeeper sighed.
"There were rumors about a wizard being here, so even people from other inns came here to visit; that’s how this mess occurred. I’m not even going to sell alcohol in this atmosphere. If a fight broke out, that would be a big deal…"
"…What’s the big deal about wizards anyway?"
At my words, the innkeeper furrowed his brow.
"…I mean, I thought as much, but you’re a total greenhorn, aren’t you?"
"You might find just a single wizard among 100 adventurers."
Ellen gave me an explanation.
It was only then that I understood what was going on. I thought wizards were rare, but I never imagined that they would be that rare.
* * *
Let us suppose there are 100 adventurers.
97 of them would be people with combat-related jobs.
Two of them would be priests.
And just one of them would be a wizard.
That was the terrible ratio the group called adventurers were made up of. They were idiots that jumped into the fray in hopes of making it big.
Among them were many robbers who didn’t care about reputation or earning a big fortune, living off novice adventurers’ equipment.
—Guys like the ones we had run into.
Most adventurers were simple idiots, nothing but thugs. Since anyone could become one, extremely few talented individuals were among them.
However, it was only obvious that the elite occupations, priest and wizard, were extremely rare, even among the very few talented people.
So, whenever a wizard appeared, a riot to recruit them would follow.
In MMORPGs, there was a great shortage of healers, as a lot of people thought they were no fun to play, but priests and wizards were treated as extremely valuable individuals due to their usefulness here.
It was a little funny, remembering the time when I was talking about the strengths of each magic major with Liana and the others.
Wizards that came to those kinds of places were usually battle wizards that majored in destruction magic; however, they were treated as unfavorable jobs in the wizarding world, so they weren’t really popular.
However, in places like the Darklands battle wizards were a hot commodity.
Wizards were a well-recognized profession no matter where one went, like doctors.
I didn’t know how they caught wind that Eleris was a wizard, but it sure caused quite the problem.
Like that, my plan of accidentally bumping into her and then just naturally including her in our party became impossible.
– Well, please take care of us well.
-Huh? I thought we already won her over to our side, though?
If we approached Eleris, who enjoyed quite the popularity among those adventurers, and asked her to go with us, and she agreed, I was pretty sure we would immediately provoke our competitors.
It became impossible to make her join our party quietly.
I even tried making eye contact with Eleris, who seemed unable to do anything surrounded by all those people.
I really wanted to pretend that I knew her, but I simply couldn’t
‘Your Highness! Help me!’
‘How should I do that!?’
We could only communicate with our eyes in that situation.
"What are you doing?"
Ellen didn’t know what was going on, so when she thought I was spacing out, she said that we should hurry to our room; however, I couldn’t just leave Eleris behind like that.
I had no other choice but to use a more aggressive method.
"…Wouldn’t it be pretty good if we had a wizard with us?"
Ellen tilted her head at my comment. I hadn’t figured out how I should go about inviting Eleris to our party with all those people around, but I had to persuade Ellen first anyway.
Ellen tilted her head to the other side as if she had no need for more people to join the party, even though there was a wizard right in front of her.
"No, I mean… It wouldn’t hurt, right?"
"…That’s true, but we won’t be able to meet the conditions, though."
The place was overflowing with people who were willing to give her enough money to buy houses just to win that wizard over to their side. Ellen was asking if getting her on our side was worth enough for us to spend all our money on her.
No, she wouldn’t really need any of our money. I couldn’t explain that to her though.
"I mean, it won’t hurt if we asked her once, right?"
Ellen went up to the room first as if it didn’t concern her. She probably seemed to think that I wouldn’t succeed. I somehow had to push through that crowd to get to Eleris, who was exploding in popularity.
If Eleris, who had rejected all proposals, suddenly accepted mine, people would probably think it was strange, but I had to endure just that much then.
Just when I was about to push through the people that were causing an uproar around Eleris…
The door to the inn opened quite violently, and someone came in.
Everyone who had been shouting turned to look at the person who came in after they heard that sudden loud noise.
"They say there’s a wizard here?"
It was a man with an axe strapped to his back. He gave off a sharp, rough impression. After that person appeared in the inn, silence permeated its walls.
-Why is he here? He’s the only B-rank around.
People were whispering in quiet voices.
Austin had said there was a B-ranked adventurer in his party. He had also said that they were staying in the Lockhill Inn, where we should ask for Hugson if we ever wanted to find their party.
The man who came in seemed to be that Hugson.
-Ah, it’s over.
-That guy will take her, won’t he?
-Why is a B-rank even here…
– Why is he in St. Point…
Listening to them made me cringe a little.
Aah, that guy is a B-rank? He’s so high level! Ah! Why did this happen? Why is a guy like that here? Damn it!
…I felt like I was about to go crazy just watching them.
Anyway, it seemed like being a B-rank was actually quite high-ranked for an adventurer.
He approached Eleris as if he couldn’t even see the other people around him.
"Join our party."
He spoke to her in quite a straightforward manner. She seemed a little stunned by that.
"Join our party. You can achieve so much more with us than with any other party."
Of course, Eleris wouldn’t be swayed by those conditions. She was waiting for me, after all.
Hugson seemed to find it absurd for her to choose anyone but his own party, so, without waiting for her answer, he grabbed Eleris’s arm.
"Ah! H-hey! Excuse me! I—!"
"Just follow me."
When I saw Eleris getting dragged away so roughly, I felt as if the string that had been keeping my reason together finally snapped.
"Hey, old man."
"Let go of her, will ya?"
Who did he think he was touching?