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Chapter 1

Apparently, I Wasn’t a True Comrade

It had been three years since Taraxon, the Raging Demon Lord—ruler of the dark continent—began an invasion of the continent of Avalon.

In just three years, four different countries had been destroyed, and half of Avalon had fallen into the demon lord’s hands. But just when the people began to despair that they could do nothing to stop the destruction…it turned out that the god of their world had not abandoned them.

The Hero’s birth was prophesied. And then a girl suddenly took command of forces in the countryside that should have had hardly any soldiers with combat experience and managed to beat back the demon lord’s army’s advance forces. The Hero, Ruti Ragnason, appeared in the capital bearing proof of the Divine Blessing of the Hero. Evidence that anyone would recognize and accept. From arranging a compromise to stopping the fighting with an underground band of thieves in the capital to recovering the proof of the Hero that was resting in ruins from the ancient time of the elves to various feats beyond, the girl’s exploits convinced the king that she was indeed who she claimed to be.

And thus, the Hero set off on a journey to save the world, accompanied by the cheers and blessings of the people.


Zoltan. The frontier.

Far from the Hero’s hometown, Zoltan was on the front lines of the war with the demon lord’s army. Blessed with a wealth of rivers—but in the path of storms coming out of the southern ocean. Protected to the north and east by the vast, unexplored mountain range known as the Wall at the End of the World. Covered in wetlands, so transportation and communication were difficult, hardly having developed at all. It was a land with no strategic value.

With its bounty of rivers and the replenishment of nutrients that came from storms that caused the rivers to overflow, one could make a decent living just spreading seeds around farmland with good drainage. But of those who seriously devoted themselves to agriculture there, many lost everything to the squalls that blew it all away. As a result, the people developed a natural laziness and distaste for hard work.

People working in Central were all scared of the threat of being demoted and sent to the lazy land of Zoltan. Even criminals who preyed on various villages left Zoltan alone because they knew they couldn’t make a living here. The only travelers who came to the frontier were fugitives, hermits, or eccentrics.

But as I was now, this sort of place suits me.

“Three kilos of nightshade, two kilos of koku leaves, one bag of white berries…”

I placed the medicinal herbs I had gathered on the table at the Adventurers Guild’s collection desk.

“Thanks for all your hard work, Red… Your total comes out to one hundred and thirty payril.”

The girl at the counter promptly breezed through the calculations and handed over silver payril coins for my payment.

“We look forward to working with you again.”

Seeing me leave the counter, the other adventurers all grinned.

“Hey, Red, still gathering medicinal herbs? How ’bout spicing things up a bit with a goblin extermination for a change?”

“Sorry, this is a bit more my speed.”

“Come on, man—that bronze sword of yours is seriously lame. An adventurer who doesn’t even have at least an iron sword is an embarrassment to the job.”

I just shrugged. It’s not as if I particularly liked being made fun of, but compared to how things used to be, this was nothing.

These guys were just shooting the breeze; they weren’t serious. They had the same lazy Zoltan spirit as everyone else and stuck to taking easy quests.

As for why I was working as an adventurer in a place like this… That’s a story from before I became a specialist in herb collection.


In the past—though it was less than a year ago—I was a member of Ruti the Hero’s party.

At the time, my name was Gideon Ragnason. To be frank, the Hero—Ruti Ragnason—is my little sister.

In this world, people receive a Divine Blessing when they are born. It’s considered a gift from God in order to guide people down the paths they should live. They’re granted strengths appropriate to that path, which is why they are called Divine Blessings. Power could also be granted in the form of skills based on what kind of blessing you have. Those with blessings in the Warrior or Mage trees could take on warrior or mage skills.

My blessing was Guide, one that had never been seen before. The power it granted was an initial blessing of level +30. I was born at level 31. I had a level equivalent to a knight in the royal guard. It caused a pretty big fuss at first. By the time I was six, I was heading out to exterminate monsters, and by eight, I was recruited into the knighthood. At seventeen, I had already risen to second-in-command.

When it came out that my little sister was the Hero, we started getting praised as the twin hopes of humanity. When Ruti and I returned from skirmishes in the countryside, Ruti was finally recognized by the king as the Hero, and when she set out from the capital to defeat the demon lord, I was obviously added to the party.

At that point, I was stronger than my sister and was one of the top five knights in the capital. No one opposed me joining the Hero’s party.

No one except the Sage, Ares, another member of our group.

In the end, Ares was right.

My blessing, Guide, was a power meant only to protect the beginning of the Hero’s journey. As everyone else’s levels rose, they learned powerful new skills, and the limitation of the Guide’s blessing became apparent.

With the Hero’s blessing, hero skills could be used; with the Sage’s blessing, sage skills could be used; with Warrior-style blessings, all sorts of warrior skills could be used… But there were no guide skills.

The only ones I could choose were common abilities anyone could learn. When we set out, I was strong relative to the rest of the group. Over time, however, they caught up to and eventually surpassed me. Gradually, I became deadweight. My role was that of the party member who helped the immature Hero in the early stages only to drop out midway through the quest.


“You are not a true comrade.”

That was what the Sage, Ares, told me when we were headed to the local lord’s mansion to celebrate after the intense battle with Desmond of the Earth, one of the four heavenly kings of the demon lord’s army.

“What do you mean?”

“A true comrade is someone who fulfills their role. Someone with whom you can fight back-to-back.”

“And you’re saying I’m not that?”

“Surely you’ve noticed it by now, right? To be succinct, you’re a liability. During the fight with Desmond of the Earth, what did you do?”

“…I fought with my sword.”

“No, your sword didn’t deal any noticeable damage to Desmond. In fact, Desmond was probably just completely ignoring you. You got caught up in some of the area of effect attacks, but there wasn’t a single strike actually aimed at you.”

That was certainly true. Desmond had definitely been ignoring me.

“You were judged to not be a threat. And yet you still failed to escape the area of effect attacks where you weren’t even the target. What’s worse, if you get hurt, Ruti will make me heal and protect you. For no reason other than that, I am forced to waste my spells.”


“You’re not even just a liability. Your very existence is a weight holding Ruti back.”

“It’s not like I’m not trying my best to be helpful.”

“Trying your best? Are you an idiot?”


“Trying your best is an explanation for success, but it does not excuse being a liability. You think you can be forgiven for holding us back just because you’re trying your best? How selfish can you be?! You really aren’t a true member of the party!”

I was speechless.

Now might really be the time, I thought. The thing I had always been considering… This seemed like the moment for it.

“But I’m the second-in-command of the Bahamut Knights; if I return to them being labeled a liability, it would be a stain upon their honor…”

“Faced with a threat to the world, you would worry about the honor of the knights?”

“Tell the others… Tell them I went on my own to scout the situation with the demon lord’s army…and never came back. Can you tell them that for me?”

“I see. Very well, then. We can go with that story.”


My head downward, I started to leave.

“Hey.” Ares stopped me. “Leave your equipment. We’re the ones who earned that.”


The treasure sword Thunderwaker, a mental-defense ring, a cloak of evasion, and more. I removed all my equipment. In exchange, I took a little bit of money for the road and a cheap bronze sword from Ares and departed.

Still, I had some lingering attachment. The next day, before leaving, I wanted to see my little sister’s face one last time. She had always been so fond of me, always calling me Big Brother.

Of course, she was way stronger than me by then, but still, when I thought of her going off by herself from then on, I got worried. Also…I kind of hoped she would be a little upset about me leaving. But…when I peeked stealthily through a window, I was greeted by the image of Ares with his arm around that same little sister’s shoulder.

“Oh…so that’s how it was…?”

She didn’t need me anymore. That was perfectly clear. Just like the Sage had said, I wasn’t a real comrade. Dammit. The thought of it is still hard to bear. I kept pitifully muttering to myself “I know you don’t need your big brother anymore, but I hope you still remember me from time to time” as I left town that morning.

From there, I changed my name to Red. I wandered, eventually settling in this forsaken land. Now I make a living as a boring adventurer who specializes in herb gathering.


“It was really rough back then.”

After ending up all alone like that, I bawled my eyes out for a bit. Being pushed out of the party left me too dejected to do anything else for a while. I half-heartedly beat up a group of thieves that was causing a fuss near the town where I was staying and stole their money. I spent the lot of it on booze. I’d never really been a drinker before, but I got blind drunk while trying to forget my problems. Unfortunately, that started to attract attention.

If anyone figured out my identity, it would surely be a big problem for the knight captain and the head of the territory who had done so much to support me. So I pulled myself up and ventured out to the frontier under the assumed identity of an adventurer named Red. There, I found a new dream for myself, a new way to live.

“I’m going to open an apothecary here in Zoltan and live a comfortable, easy, slow life! I don’t have any talent for battle, so I’m going to live peacefully from now on!”

I was still worried about my sister, but as I was far weaker than her, there wasn’t much I could do even if I fretted over her every day. I wasn’t even a real comrade, so I decided to leave the demon lord to them and just live for myself!

To that end, I started saving money from medicinal-herb-gathering jobs while drawing up a map of the distribution of medicinal herbs by season, in preparation for my future.


You might find yourself wondering if perhaps there’s some kind of hidden super-cheat to the Guide blessing. Nope. There isn’t.

Blessings give both an initial skill and innate skills that are unlocked upon leveling up. There are also common skills that can be taken anytime.

A guide’s initial skill provides a starter blessing of level +30. An incredibly powerful ability. Blessing level 30 was around where your average knight might be when retiring from duty. I started at a level that someone else might spend his or her whole life trying to achieve. But I had no innate skills to choose. All there is to the ability is just being reasonably strong at the outset. Even if someone wanted to take advantage of that initial skill, there was no room for broad improvement.

A person without skills was significantly weaker than someone at the same level with skills. If you wanted to fight in order to raise your blessing level and earn skill points to get stronger, you wouldn’t be able to beat enemies that another person at the same level would be able to handily dispatch. That meant you’d have to defeat people with lower blessing levels than you, which was significantly less efficient.

Thinking about it, it was hardly a blessing at all. Even blessings like Warrior or Mage—with their abundance of skills—might’ve been better, despite being considered lower tier. At least they had room for growth.

So with my heart broken, I set my sight on a slow life and gradually earning money.


I headed into the mountains again to gather some more herbs today.

Since I have a high level but innate skills to acquire, I’ve assembled a decent collection of common skills. Thanks to the Survival skill, as long as I don’t go too deep into the woods while hiking, I won’t get lost. Plus, I can recognize the standard medicinal herbs one can gather. It’s just a common skill, though, so it only covers the spectrum of standard plants.

“Henbane is an antiseptic and hemostatic to stop bleeding, koku leaves are for antidotes, ryujin mushrooms are immune-system-boosting nutritional supplements, and rare white berries can be catalysts for magic potions.”

I hummed to myself as I diligently scavenged the herbs for the day. In Zoltan, with its abundance of water and pretty much nothing else, the mountains could be called a natural storehouse containing a bounty of medicinal herbs and fruits.

“Oh, green nuts. I can boil those for dinner when I make camp.”

Generally, herb gathering was a two-day, one-night trip. Because it took about half a day’s travel, it wasn’t very efficient to return the same day. I was used to camping from all the time I spent traveling anyway. I would find non-medicinal herbs and wild plants to cook while I was out.

“But it’s definitely a bit tiresome to camp out in the middle of the mountains.”

Monsters weren’t scared of fire. I slept with my sword next to me and a rope attached to a strung-up bell for a little peace of mind. There weren’t any particularly dangerous monsters around here, but it was still possible to get attacked in my sleep and suffer an unexpected injury.

“Ahhh, maybe I should make a little lodge here soon.”

The people living in the area hadn’t built a mountain cabin because they figured it would just get destroyed by a storm before long, but its construction wouldn’t have to be that great to withstand the wind and rain. It only needed to be sturdy enough that monsters would have to exert a bit of an effort to knock it down.

Lately, I’ve been coming here twice a week to gather medicinal herbs, so it would be way easier to just make it a four-day, three-night trip. But in order to stay in the mountains that long, I would need a place to put my bags and rest, which would mean I’d need a little hut or something.

“Well, I can deal with that after I’ve saved up a bit more money.”

I drifted off to sleep with thoughts of my future aspirations.

I woke up during the night. There was a gamey scent in the distance accompanied by the presence of a large animal.

I silently drew my sword close as I studied the interloper. Even though I didn’t have any special skills to enhance my senses like someone with a Thief or Hunter blessing, my Sense skill’s level was high, since there was nothing else to spend my skill points on.

It wouldn’t be enough for something like the demon lord’s elite ninja squad, but it was more than sufficient to perceive a monster dwelling in these mountains.

There didn’t seem to be any sign of it approaching soon, so I got out of my sleeping bag and silently climbed a tree. A crescent moon like a tightly drawn bow hung in the starry sky. Its pale light wasn’t bright enough for me to catch sight of the creature, however. After peering for a while, I heard a bell ring. A large beast’s face emerged from the darkness.

“Oh, an owlbear?”

As the name implied, an owlbear was a magic beast with an owl’s head and brown bear’s body. Generally, owlbears were monsters around level 15. They were common magic beasts that lived in forests around the world. Fairly apex predators, they lived as the free-spirited kings of their forests. How nostalgic. I’d fought one of these before. That must’ve been back when I chased after Ruti, who’d gone charging into the forest looking for some friends of hers who’d gotten lost.

That was around when I was seven. Nowadays, I could easily handle one, but…

“Well, it’s not like there’s a reward for it.”

I nimbly hopped down from the tree. Animals and low-intelligence monsters like magic beasts could instinctually sense when their opponent was stronger. The owlbear and I exchanged glances before it slowly moved back, turned around, and ran off into the dark of the woods. I didn’t bother chasing after it and just climbed back into my sleeping bag and slept until morning.


The next day, after I’d finished gathering what I needed, I returned to town to find it in an uproar for some reason. I tried asking the guard at the gate if anything had happened.

“What’s up?”

“Oh, Red, you staying safe?”

“Yeah, same as always. Things seem a bit troubled here, though. Something happen?”

“There were some adventurers who got attacked by an owlbear. They’re currently trying to put together a group to go take care of it, so the mountains will probably be off-limits until it’s been sorted.”

Oops. That owlbear had probably stumbled across me after attacking some adventurers nearby.

“Really? How long do you think it’ll take?”

“Who knows. It’s pretty rare to have something as big as an owlbear show up around here. It’ll probably be either our ace B-rank party or else a big group of thirty some odd people.”

Adventurers are categorized into six ranks from S down to E. The ranks are based on parties rather than individuals, so when the makeup of the party changes, so, too, does its rank. Generally speaking:

E: Rookies who just registered

D: A party that can survive in the wild where monsters roam

C: A party that can resolve a crisis that endangers a village

B: A party that can resolve a crisis that endangers a town

A: A country-level party that can resolve a crisis that involves multiple cities

S: A legendary-class party that is mobilized to deal with crises threatening a continent or the world

Generally speaking, most towns have around one to three B-rank parties that form the peak of the local power-dynamic pyramid. Only really big cities like the kingdom’s capital would have an A-rank party. Right now, all the best adventurers were active on the front lines fighting the demon lord’s army.

Incidentally, I’m D rank. It can’t really be helped, since I basically just collect herbs, and if I ended up rising to B rank here, I’d stand out too much and people might figure out who I was. Worst-case scenario, if that happened, it would cause problems for the head of the knights, my benefactor. As such, I was content leaving the owlbear to other adventurers.

“I guess I’ll have to sit tight in town for a while.”

At least I was able to finish my business in the mountains first. I headed to the Adventurers Guild to sell my wares.


My earnings this time totaled around ninety payril.

After returning to my room in the town house where I was living, I did the regular maintenance on my bronze sword, though I had only been using it to cut plants lately. I also repaired my traveling clothes that had gotten torn up from hiking.

I had raised my Repair skill a fair amount. Back when we were fighting on the frontier, before we’d set out for the capital, it had proved pretty useful. As time went on, though, everything became reparable via magic, so it had become redundant along the way. But I didn’t have any mage acquaintances now who could use Repair magic, and armorers cost money. Since I was saving to open my own apothecary, it was definitely a valuable skill.

Having finished the upkeep of my gear, I used some eggs and potatoes from my pantry and the green nuts I brought back from the mountains to make a dinner of salad and mashed potatoes.

When that was done, I used the shared washroom to rinse myself off and went to bed.

This wasn’t some battlefield with monster corpses strewn everywhere, a dragon’s nest with scores of the creatures, or a frozen snowy mountain. It was just a small room with a roof, so I could close my eyes in peace.

Once I saved up enough money, I would build my own house and operate the apothecary from it. I’d set up a garden in the back to cultivate some of the more important medicinal herbs, too. It wouldn’t be some huge success, but there wouldn’t be any life-or-death battles or nerve-racking conspiracies to deal with. That was the sort of life that could be had here in Zoltan.

This was my second chance after getting pushed out of the Hero’s party.


Three days later, a team of twenty-seven adventurers was assembled to hunt down the owlbear, and they ventured off into the mountains bolstered by cheers from the townsfolk at their backs. During that time, I was fishing at a nearby river and selling what I caught.

The work earned me eight payril. It was possible to get a room and two meals a day for only one, so eight payril for three days’ effort was a decent haul. In order to open my own apothecary, though, I would need 1,730 in funds.

I was gradually saving up, but between the general cost of living, buying preserved rations in order to go out to the mountains to gather herbs, and maintaining my gear, my actual profit for a single trip was only about thirty payril. At that rate, I was going to have to keep doing this for another six months.

“Well, not that that’s the end of the world.”

There was no particular rush. No impending peril loomed, so I could just take my time.

I was lying on my bed and reading a book I’d borrowed from the library to kill some time. It was shortly after noon when I heard a knock on the thin door to my town house.

“Coming.” I tucked a bookmark between the pages and hung my bronze sword from the belt at my waist as I headed to the entrance. Readying my sword was a habit I had picked up from my old quests.

There had been several occasions when we’d been attacked in our sleep back in those days. The experience made it tough to sleep if I wasn’t ready to fight at a moment’s notice. Even after I was ousted, I still wasn’t really comfortable turning in without a weapon close at hand. It felt weird to be unarmed when a gust of wind blew by, too.

Living the slow life meant I would need to do something about those habits, though…

“Who is it?”

I opened the door to see Megria, one of the employees of the Adventurers Guild. Behind her stood a man wearing fancy-looking armor along with what was clearly his party.

“I’m sorry to bother you while you’re resting, Red.”

“Oh, Megria. What is it? And Albert, too.” The armored man, Albert, twitched at the offhand greeting.

“Show some respect, D rank.”

Albert was one of only two B-rank adventurers in town. There were no higher-ranking adventurers, and the other B rank, Rit, only worked solo. Thus, Albert’s party was considered the ace team of the Adventurers Guild in these parts.

“…Right, Albert, sir. So what brings you here?”

Albert moved toward me, beaming as he patted me on the shoulder.

“I’ve heard stories about you. You specialize in gathering medicinal herbs and know more about the mountains than anyone, yes?”

“I do my best.”

“My party is headed to take out the owlbear. It’s not something we would normally handle, but the first suppression team failed, so there’s no one else who can deal with the beast.”

Oh, so they got routed, huh? With that many people, they should have been able to win, but maybe the group got divided along the mountain trails. This was the first I’d heard of them losing, and noticing that, Albert smiled condescendingly.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t heard? I guess dealing with an owlbear is something far beyond someone with your skills, but the mountains are the pillar of your livelihood, right? You should really pay more attention to stuff like that. If you ask me, that sort of mindset is why you’re an eternal D rank.”

What was with him lecturing me out of nowhere? I just nodded perfunctorily as I glanced at Megria to move things along and get to the point.

“Sir, the time.”

“Ah yes, time is of the essence.”

The assembled party members nodded, too. It was really just a one-man crew centered around Albert. He was the only one with a noticeably high level. The rest didn’t even meet B-rank standards. Other adventurers in the party rarely even spoke unless they had permission from Albert.

“Like I said before, we’re headed out to take care of the owlbear, but we’ve hardly done any herb-gathering jobs. We don’t really know much about the mountains.”

“I see. So you wanted a guide?”

“Yes. We’re more than capable of the actual hunt ourselves, of course. But I don’t want to spend days chasing something like an owlbear. If we can get this done faster with you as a guide, then all the better.”

“But I’m just a D rank, right? Wouldn’t it be better to ask one of the adventurers in the first expedition that failed?” A look of contempt crossed Albert’s face at my words.

“Huh? This is your chance, isn’t it? All you have to do is guide us, and you’ll get a nice accomplishment you can point to. You might even be able to get to C rank out of it. What are you so scared of?”

Judging from his annoyance, I could guess he had already been turned down. Most likely, the members of the previous party weren’t sure Albert’s group could actually beat the owlbear, or perhaps they feared that whoever acted as their guide might get caught in the crossfire.

It was rare for a B rank to be so distrusted in the face of something like an owlbear, but Albert was an adventurer who had come to Zoltan because he couldn’t make it in Central. It was an open secret that the Zoltan Guild bent the rules a bit to recognize him as B rank because they needed one.

“Sorry, but I refuse, too.”

“Why?! If you make it to C rank, you can take more jobs! And everyone else will respect you at least a little more! Even you don’t enjoy being ridiculed, right?!”

“I’ve got no interest in being C rank. My dream is to open an apothecary and have a totally ordinary life.”

“Kh, fine, then!” Albert shouted, glaring at me as he left in a huff. The rest of his party hurried after him. Left behind, Megria hung her head, embarrassed.

“It would be a relief if you were willing to accept this job. I can even guarantee the promotion to C rank, if you want.”

“I’m sorry, but I really don’t have any interest in that.”

“Then there’s no helping it, I guess. If you’ll excuse me.”

“Okay. Good luck.” She bowed her head slightly and left to follow Albert’s group. After watching her leave, I headed back into my house.


There was a thudding knock on the thin door as the sun was starting to set.

“Red! It’s me! Gonz!”

“Oh, Gonz the carpenter? I’ll be right out. Don’t knock so hard. You’ll break the door.”

Judging from the sound of his voice, it was clear the woodworker was perturbed over something. I took just a second to slip my sword into my belt before opening the door.

“What is it?”

Standing on the other side was Gonz, the long-eared, half-elf carpenter. Despite still having the distinct, trademark elven good looks, he exemplified the hearty spirit and skill of a Zoltan carpenter. In a way, that unbalanced sort of appearance was fitting for a half-elf man.

“Sorry to bother you while you’re resting, but my little sister’s kiddo caught something. According to the doctor, it’s apparently white-eye.”

“Tanta got white-eye?! How far has it progressed?!”

“Ummm, as of now, he’s collapsed with fever.”

“The second stage of the sickness, then. Okay, I’ll be right over!”

Since I was aiming to open an apothecary someday, I had been studying injuries, diseases, poisons, and various related topics. It had afforded me some familiarity with the afflictions. White-eye, as its name implied, was a disease where the corneas turned a cloudy white. It was a bird-borne disease. The pathogen attached to the eggs of birds, and eating an infected egg spread the disease to people. The disease could be killed off by heating the eggs, but it had some resistance to heat, so if the eggs weren’t cooked enough, it would still be contagious. The reason the ailment was feared was because a few days after the initial symptoms emerged, the patient would go irreversibly blind. The first symptom was a high fever, at which point treatment had to be rendered within thirty-six hours.

Sight could be restored by Priest or Healer magic available to someone with a high enough level blessing, but…in Zoltan, on the frontier, there was only one person who fit that description. The previous mayor, Master Mistorm. She had retired in her old age, though, and was currently off somewhere enjoying her remaining years in peace. No one knew where she was now.

Gonz’s little sister and her husband lived next door to the woodworker. Tanta was their son. The home was not particularly spacious but had a nice feel. It was furnished with a red roof and a weathervane on top and a green lawn with a small garden gnome out front. The whole design gave the building a rather cozy feel. It was a lovely home, built by Gonz and imbued with the love he held for his younger sister.



His little sister, Nao, was also a half-elf, with fair white skin and a beautiful face. However, just like with Gonz, she had another aspect to her as well, the apron-wearing, child-rearing mother, born and raised on the blue-collar side of town.

Her husband, Mido, was human. He was a former adventurer who’d retired and now worked with his brother-in-law. Apparently, he was less adept at the work than Gonz, which led to a fair amount of scolding from the half-elf man, but Mido was quick at calculating and often covered for the rougher patches of Gonz’s personality. When Mido wasn’t around, Gonz would praise him for being a bright guy. If you asked me, it would probably be good to tell him that to his face once in a while, but evidently, Gonz couldn’t bring himself to do that.

With their son developing white-eye, the couple’s usual cheerful expressions had grown haggard.

“What do we do, Brother? There’s no medicine…”

“It will be fine. We can trust Red. He’s the adventurer who’s gathered the most herbs in all of Zoltan.”

That was where a normal adventurer would probably have lit into the man for saying such a thing, but to me, it was genuine praise. However, this was hardly the time to think about things like that.

“What’s Tanta’s condition?”

“The doctor’s taking a look, but he said there wasn’t anything else he could do without the medicine.”

“Got it. Could you let me in?”

In the bedroom, there was the boy—Tanta—lying in bed, suffering from what looked like a particularly bad fever. The doctor, Newman, was at his side, observing his condition. He wore a serious expression.


“Oh, so you’re the adventurer Red? Thank you for coming.”

“I heard it was white-eye.”

“Yes, there’s no mistaking it.”

After that quick exchange, I examined Tanta’s eyes, lymph nodes, and inside his mouth.

“Yes, his irises are paling, there are ulcers in his mouth, and the lymph nodes in his neck and underarms are swollen. He’s got every initial symptom of white-eye, all right.”

“I wouldn’t have expected an adventurer to have such detailed knowledge,” Newman said as he wiped the sweat from his brow and thinning hair with a towel.

“About how long has it been since he developed a fever?” I asked.

“Seems he was struck by a feeling of fatigue around noon, and he collapsed around three PM.”

“It will be bad if we can’t get him some medicine before tomorrow evening.”

“That’s the problem. I don’t have any.”

The medicine to treat white-eye was based on a preparation of koku leaves and a spiny mushroom called a blood needle. Excepting winter, koku leaves could be found basically anytime, but blood needles could only be gathered from spring into the middle of summer. Thankfully, it was spring, so they were in season.

“Last month, there was an outbreak of goblin fever and white-eye. None of the three clinics in town have enough medicine.”

“I’m sure they have the koku leaves, though the blood needles… They’re probably just starting to sprout, but…”

The Adventurers Guild managed the repository of medicinal herbs. Normally, they would be putting out job requests with a priority on gathering blood needles since the stock of those was running low, but…

“It takes time for that guild to approve anything.”

Someone first had to point out that the reserves were low; the person in charge of those reserves then needed to report to their boss; the boss then double-checked the reserve; next, the person in charge had to write a report that their boss took to the higher-ups to get approval; and once that was all done, the person in charge had to fill out the forms to send out the job requests, which their boss had to double-check, and…

“Zoltan’s Adventurers Guild is all about the red tape,” Newman said with a grimace.

Anyway, right now, the fact of the matter was that there was no stock left of one of the fundamental ingredients for the medicine. Based on Tanta’s symptoms, he needed treatment sometime before nightfall tomorrow. Considering that preparing the medicine from the ingredients took time, Newman probably needed to get the blood needles no later than noon tomorrow.

“I’m begging you, Red! I know the mountains are bad right now, but I’ve got no one else to turn to! Can you please get the ingredients? Name your price, and I’ll pay! No matter how long it might take, I swear I’ll pay it all back!” Gonz knelt, his head bowed to the floor as he pleaded.

“I mean it! The boy’s a genius when it comes to carpentry! I can’t accept his dream dying here like this!”

Gonz did not have any children. He lost his wife to sickness before I came to this town and continued to live alone, never showing any inclination of trying to find another wife. Because of that, he cherished his sister’s son. So much so that he declared that the boy, who was not even ten yet, would succeed him in everything. Tanta was quite fond of Gonz, too. The boy was raised playing at Gonz’s shop and was always saying that he wanted to be like his uncle when he grew up.


“It’s true that it’s dangerous, but also the mountain is currently entirely off-limits. I might be an adventurer, but I can’t go there until the owlbear is taken care of. If I ignore that order, I could get kicked out of the guild.”

“Th-that’s true, but there’s nowhere else to get the medicine.”

Nao and Mido both lined up beside Gonz, lowering their foreheads to the floor as they pressed their request.

…Albert and his party should’ve been searching the mountains for the owlbear by now. If they hadn’t found it yet, they’d be camping out. It was also possible the party had found it and was busy tracking it across the mountain, even through the night. It was a big mountain, but they were experts when it came to hunting. Even the smallest trace could have given me away to Albert’s group.

Should I negotiate with the guild? No, that’d be hopeless. I haven’t earned that much trust from them.

“Big Bro, is that you?” Tanta’s eyes had opened as he called out weakly.

The pointed ears proving his elven lineage were red to their tips from his fever. Yet the boy still smiled at me.

“Sorry, I caught a little cold. But once I’m better, let’s talk through the plans some more,” Tanta murmured. Gonz and the others glanced at me.

…It’s not like the kid was saying anything of importance, though.

“Oh yeah. That promise to build my apothecary for me. Once you’re better, we can talk about it some more.”

It was just silly banter we shared when Tanta spent time with me. We talked about all sorts of stuff—like how I was going to build an apothecary, what sort of layout it should have, where it should be built, that sort of thing. The young half-elf had sworn to build it for me, saying “When I become a carpenter, I’ll build your store for you, Big Bro Red.”

Well, yeah. It was clear what I was going to do from the start. I mean, that was the promise, so there wasn’t really any helping it. My beautiful, slow life wouldn’t be complete without a modest but no less lovely little shop to go with it, after all.

“Right now, the Adventurers Guild has placed the mountain off-limits…”

“Y-you can’t do it?”

“I can’t take this job as an adventurer. But I’ll do it as a friend. Promise you won’t tell anyone?”


“I’ll be back soon. I’ll leave Tanta to you until then, Doctor.”

“I’ll do the best I can. But it will take an hour to prepare the medicine.”

“It would take me three, so if you can do it in just an hour, I’d be grateful.”

High-speed preparation was something that could only be done by people with a blessing in the Medical or Alchemical trees, or else maybe someone with the Herbalist blessing.

It was beyond my ability.


I had no intention of staying up in the mountains this time. I just filled a waterskin, secured my bronze sword, and left town. I jogged along the outskirts of the village a bit and then had a look around.

“All right, no one is watching.” How long had it been since I last ran all out?

“High-Speed Mastery: Lightning Speed. Endurance Mastery: Immunity to Fatigue.”

They might’ve been common skills, but by raising the skill level to 11, you gained access to the mastery ability. Quite powerful despite the skills being so common. Not many people built up common skills that high, though, so it wasn’t a very well-known boon.

Lightning Speed increased movement by a factor of ten. While I was running, other people would see me as little more than a flitting shadow. Immunity to Fatigue meant my body wouldn’t tire. Regardless of whether I was working through the night, engaging in heavy manual labor, or even sprinting all out for an entire day. Effects other than fatigue still applied; it wasn’t as if I could go without sleep for days on end. Sleep itself was still necessary, but the skill was undoubtedly useful.

I took one powerful step, then another, and another. I gradually accelerated, and the scenery transformed into a green blur as I left it behind. Once I reached my top speed, I was covering one kilometer every thirty seconds, moving around 120 kilometers per hour. With magic support, I could run even faster, but this was my personal limit. That velocity could match the flight speed of an adult dragon more than one hundred years old.

As the last light of day was swallowed up by night, I sprinted toward the mountain. It took a while to reach my destination. If there had been even the barest of roads, I could’ve maintained my speed, but the rough forests of the mountain made moving that quickly unfeasible. I had to go normal speed here.

Taking out my map, I plotted my route.

I didn’t want to take any longer than necessary, but I also wanted to avoid any route Albert’s party was likely to take. I looked over the more common paths. This side got a lot of direct sunlight, and owlbears tended to dislike strong sun; hopefully, that meant it would avoid this area unless given a particular reason. Likewise, it would mean that Albert’s party would naturally save this portion of the mountain for later in their search.

“All right.” With a route set, all that was left was to move forward.


When I noticed the smell, I felt impatient for the first time in a long while and gritted my teeth as I ran.


The area where blood needles tended to grow in clusters had been scorched. My skill-enhanced hearing caught the shouts of Albert’s party fighting in the distance.

“They used fire magic!”

Someone in Albert’s party had used a fire magic while they were fighting the owlbear. Fire magic was powerful and the standard move when fighting something able to take a lot of damage, like an owlbear. But the conifer trees that blood needles grew on burned easily and were the perfect kindling for the hungry tongues of flames. On top of that, it was spring, when the winds were strong. It was incredibly dangerous to be summoning fire on the mountain, given the circumstances.

If it were Ruti or Ares, or anyone else from the party, they could have used an innate skill or a magic to extinguish the fire and halt the spread. But I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t have any means of extinguishing the growing blaze.

“Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!”

I used my bronze sword to cut the water bag I had brought with me and dumped it over my head. The only thing I could do in this situation was gather as many blood needles as possible. Goblin-fever season was over, but it was the time of year when white-eye, the deadly red-tongue disease, and the airborne trembling fever could break out. Blood needles were a crucial medicinal herb during Zoltan summers, and they were all being burned to ash.

Despite being so critical, blood needles grew in relatively few places. This mountain was the only major source in all of Zoltan.

I ran through the flames and smoke, plucking every one of the mushrooms I could find. The smoke coated my throat and scorched my lungs. Immunity to Fatigue did not help with smoke and oxygen deprivation, and the heat stung my flesh. But I could still move. I possessed no special skills. My blessing was a high level, pure and simple, and my resilience to physical punishment befit that level. I could take this much.

But there was a limit. Surrounded by flames, I started having trouble breathing, and hypoxia began setting in. The oxygen deprivation made my head heavy and dulled my senses.

A sudden rustling caught my attention. An owlbear covered in wounds stood before me.

You let it get away, Albert?

The wounded creature was in a frenzy. It raised its claws to attack, an instinctual drive to protect itself. I took the hilt of my bronze sword in hand. The wildfire had heated the grip, and there was a sizzling sound as it burned into my palm. The owlbear roared down on me, swinging its arms to tear me apart.

I drew my bronze sword, slicing upward across the owlbear’s stomach to its shoulder.

“Over here, sir!”

Relying on the tracking ability of Campbell, a member of the party with a Thief blessing, Albert’s party arrived at the owlbear corpse collapsed on the ground, its body encircled in flames. They had been granted Resistance to Heat and Resistance to Environment by a magic spell, so they were unhurt by the smoke or the heat of the blaze.

“That’s a B rank for you! And I did my part, so I’ll be getting my reward, too,” shouted Dir the Fire Mage. He was hunched over, his cheeks were hollowed out, and his skin looked generally unhealthy.

He was the adventurer who had guided them in Red’s stead, who Albert had only just barely been able to find in time.

According to Megria, he had a history of abandoning his party members and running away, rendering his reputation abysmal, but they had gone with him anyway, since no better option had presented itself. His poor guidance through the woods meant they’d been walking around the mountain until late into the night.

The owlbear wasn’t moving, but Dir didn’t dare draw any nearer to the beast. The creature would tear him apart if it was still alive, though it was a one-in-a-million chance.

Albert approached the owlbear and severed its foreleg. That would serve as the proof of having completed the job.

“We did it!”

“…This wound…”

“What is it?”

“No, it’s nothing. Let’s get out of here before the magic wears off.”

Campbell the thief raised both his hands in agreement at that. “Yeah, even with the resistance magic, it’s still hot and hard to breathe,” he complained.

The woman with a Priest blessing furrowed her brow.

“That’s just how it works. This isn’t the sort of situation people were meant to survive in the first place. Just be grateful this is all the pain you have to suffer,” she responded.

“I know, I know. Look, it for sure beats dying” came Campbell’s response.

The effects of the magic that granted resistance to the fire lasted ten minutes. If it ran out while they were in the flames, even a B-rank party like them would be incapacitated almost immediately. The group of adventurers ran fast to escape the growing blaze.


“Wh-whoa! Are you okay, Red?!”

It hadn’t even been six hours since I left. By now, most folk would normally have been sleeping, but everyone was still awake and watching over Tanta. I rushed into the room as if I was about to collapse, my whole body covered in black soot.

“Dr. Newman, I got the blood needles.”

“What?! That fast? How?! Wait…that looks like a really bad burn. What did you…?”

“This is all of the blood needles we’re going to be able to gather in Zoltan this year… I’ll explain later, but right now, preparing the medicine is more important.”

“Okay, I understand. I’ll get started at once.” Newman took the bag of blood needles and went back to his clinic to get the medicine ready.

“Red, are you okay? I’ll get something for those burns…”

“What’s the point of going out to gather medicinal herbs if I have to take medicine when I get back? I’ll be fine. The burns aren’t as bad as they look. I’m going to go home to wash off. I’ll be back soon.”

“Wait! Red!”

I wasn’t physically tired, but I could definitely feel that I had fully exerted myself. I poured the water from the well over the top of my head to cool my burned body. Looking out the window, I could see the crescent moon hanging in the night sky.

Even though I had gone all out, gathering a single bag of blood needles was the best I could accomplish. Such was the limit of my blessing. Even pushing common skills to their limits, there was only so much I could do without innate skills.

“Guess it was only natural I got kicked out…”

If this was all I could do when I pushed myself to the max, then of course I wouldn’t be any help saving the world.


At home, I gently washed the worst burns with a damp cloth and wrapped them in bandages before heading back to Nao’s house.

“You three must be tired from nursing him the whole time, right? I’ll switch with you and take care of wiping his sweat and getting him to drink water and all that until the doctor gets back,” I said as I entered the room. But the three of them looked at me as if I were crazy.

“D-don’t screw with me! You’re the one who needs to rest!” Gonz shouted as he dragged me into the next room.

Some soup, a sandwich, and a bit of watered-down wine awaited me there. It had probably all been thrown together while I was washing off.

“Eat. My sister made it for you.”

“Wait, taking care of Tanta’s more important right now.”

“We’ll take care of him, so eat.”

“Okay. In that case, I guess I’ll accept this. Thank you.” Sensing there wasn’t any arguing with him, I sat down and started downing the food. Gonz was staring at me as I ate.

“What? Quit hovering; go be with your nephew.”

“I never thought you’d get so beaten up.”

“Albert’s fight with the owlbear started a forest fire. I had to rush to gather as many blood needles as I could. I’m sure there will be more cases of white-eye, and it’s a crucial ingredient for other medicines, too. It’s a bit weird to say, but it was lucky Tanta caught it when he did. If he’d gotten sick tomorrow, all the blood needles would probably have been burned up.”

“…Sorry. You ended up like that after doing so much to gather the medicine for us. Meanwhile, I was just sitting here on my ass.”

“Don’t worry about it. That’s part of the job description for an adventurer. Besides…there’s still the matter of my reward. You’d better steel your nerves.”

“Y-yeah! A man always keeps his word! I’ll pay up, even if it takes the rest of my life!” Gonz grinned broadly.


Thanks to the curative the doctor made, the cloudiness in Tanta’s eyes cleared nearly immediately. It would still take a week of bed rest, and the boy would have to keep taking the medicine Newman had prescribed in order to completely heal, but there wouldn’t be any lasting damage. With that, Newman declared that Tanta would be fine now and began packing his instruments back into his bag to leave.

“Thank you so much, Doctor!”

Gonz, Nao, and Mido lowered their heads, but Newman dismissed the action with a wave of his hand.

“It was fortunate he could get the medicine so quickly. With that, there shouldn’t be any lasting visual impairment. It’s all thanks to Red. And don’t worry about my fee. Just put it toward covering his reward. These blood needles he provided are invaluable now, so I’ll be discussing how best to use them with the doctors at the other clinics.”

After hearing the news about the fire, Newman had grabbed both my hands and thanked me for gathering all the blood needles I had. He’d even offered to pay for the extras I had gathered beyond what Tanta needed, but I turned him down. Things that an adventurer gathered could only be sold to the guild. It was against the rules to sell directly to anyone else. Special permission was required in order to traffic items yourself. If I had sold Newman the blood needles, it would have been bootlegging, so it was safest to just give them to him instead of accepting any money.

“If I achieve my dream, I’m sure I’ll be in your debt.”

“An apothecary, huh? All the doctors in Zoltan would rejoice to have a skilled adventurer like you running an apothecary. Whenever you manage to open your business, please let me know. I’ll be sure to patronize it.”

“I’m looking forward to it.”

Doctors were regular customers for an apothecary, so earning his gratitude here and making sure he remembered my name certainly didn’t hurt.

Newman took my hand one more time and shook it firmly before returning to his own house. And after seeing him out, Gonz and his family bowed their heads to me.

“You really saved us. I can’t thank you enough.”

“Then shall we discuss my reward while the topic is still fresh?”

“Y-yeah! Don’t hold back!”

“I don’t plan to. In fact, I intend to get exactly what I want.” The family looked nervous as I prepared to state my demands. When he heard it, Gonz was shocked but quickly broke into a full-faced grin.


I was sitting on a bench eating some sweet potato fries I had gotten from a stall as I watched the ceremony off in the distance. Tornado—the mayor—with his bushy beard on full display, stood on a stage and expressed his gratitude to Albert while awarding him the Twin Swords Medal.

With the battle against the demon lord’s army heating up all across the land, these people were awarding the Twin Swords Medal for defeating a single owlbear. The medal was supposed to honor great deeds of combat. Here, it seemed more emblematic of how peaceful Zoltan was. The sight evoked a bit of a chuckle from me. All those gathered cheered and rejoiced when the medal was hung around Albert’s neck.

“Tch, what’s all the fuss over? He went and started a fire on the mountain.”

“Oh, Gonz? Didn’t you say you weren’t going to take today off, even though you’re always first in line for festivals? What’re you doing here?”

“Who’d take a day off to celebrate him, knucklehead? I’m just here to get some lunch.” Gonz was holding a basket with a sandwich, some fried food, and a few other assorted bits. He sat down next to me and took a fried fish out of the basket and started eating.

“If you ask me, you’re way more deserving and amazing than he is.”

“Oh? Then let me have that.” I grabbed one of the sausages out of his basket and bit into it. Gonz looked angry for a second before breaking into a hearty laugh. We sat there for a little bit watching Albert’s ceremony.

“Albert’s doing his best for the town in his own way.”

“Hmm? He is?”

The B-rank adventurer still had a Central-esque air about him. Often, it didn’t leave a good impression on a lot of people from the blue-collar parts of town. People like Gonz. The stuffy, formal clothes made of multiple layers that were popular in the capital were considered too hot and irritating to the people in Zoltan. However, the mayor and what few well-to-do folk who lived in the town did cling to an appreciation for a more Central sort of style. So Albert was well received by them. It was possible the man was even intentionally maintaining those trappings simply to earn favor with the wealthier denizens of Zoltan.

“Well, it might also just be that he hasn’t gotten used to life on the frontier.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Albert. Don’t be too harsh on him. He drifted in from Central and is doing his part as a B-rank adventurer in a party that struggled to deal with an owlbear. I’m sure he’s got a lot of pressure he’s dealing with every day.”

“That so?”

“And even so, he’s trying to make it work. It’s not like he wanted to burn the mountain down.”

“If you’re okay with it, then I guess I’ll leave it be,” Gonz said, resigned.

His tone made it clear he still wasn’t convinced. He obviously thought I should’ve been the one getting the accolades. But I just wanted to live a modest life; I didn’t really need them.

I watched until Albert left the stage, and then I patted Gonz’s shoulder and said good-bye. Starting tomorrow, I was going back to gathering herbs. Also, I had reported the mountain fire to the guild, but the extent of the damage still needed to be assessed.

If I was going to run an apothecary, I needed to get a handle on the best remaining places to gather medicinal herbs before anyone else. I was serious about trying to make my dream a reality here in Zoltan.


“That wound…”

After the ceremony and the meal with all the influential people in town, when Albert was finally alone, the B-rank adventurer thought back to the image of the owlbear collapsed on the ground.

“That wasn’t damage I inflicted… My sword wouldn’t make that kind of cut.”

It was a slash all the way up the torso to the shoulders. Rough, the cut looked like it had been made by a dull weapon that had been forced through with incredible power.

“Like…a bronze sword.”

The image of the D ranker who the man had tried to get to guide his party flashed through Albert’s mind. He’d…had a bronze sword on his waist, hadn’t he?

“There’s no way.”

Albert shook his head. “Besides, there’s no way he could have been there,” he muttered to himself.


Four months and two days later. According to the calendar, fall was right around the corner, but in Zoltan, there was no end in sight to the heat of summer. The town still displayed vibrant greens, as if it had no interest at all in the fall styles adorning the mountain and other regions. The area that had been burned in the fire was already covered in plants again. The black scar of burnt foliage was no longer visible.

I made my way to a part of town a bit outside the town center. It was in the area between a residential neighborhood and a district where craftsmen plied their crafts. It was a ten-minute walk from the residential block where my town house was. At a normal person’s walking speed, of course.

“You finally made it, huh?” Gonz said.

“You’re so slow, Big Bro Red!” Tanta shouted.

The two of them were wearing neat, formal suits and waving their hands. I had slipped myself into a rented suit for the first time in a while, too. In the past, I’d been made to deal with aristocrats and royalty with my sister fairly often, so it wasn’t my first encounter with a suit. This was the first time since I’d left the party, though.

Behind Gonz and Tanta stood a newly constructed building. It wasn’t that big, but its design spoke of strong, solid construction. Visually, it had a reassuring sort of feel. There was a sign above the front entrance that read:


This was the reward I had asked Gonz for. Money for the materials came from my own pocket, but the construction was free. The savings I had built up at that point were enough to cover the construction thanks to that arrangement. Today was the gathering to celebrate the successful completion of the build.

I looked up at the sign, overcome with emotion.

“Everyone’s waiting to eat, so hurry it up already!” Tanta said, grabbing my hand and dragging me in.

“All right, all right,” I answered as I was led inside.

Around twenty people, ranging from Gonz’s coworkers, some members of the Adventurers Guild, Dr. Newman, and a few others with whom I got on well in Zoltan, were all gathered in waiting.

“Oh, the man of the hour’s finally here.”

“You’ve really gotten used to Zoltan’s pace, Red.”

I had been busy sorting out various medicines for the store’s opening and had lost track of time. In Central, the star of an event being late would have caused an uproar, but here, it was forgotten with a laugh. I scratched my head as I thanked everyone who had assembled, and then we started the banquet.

“Mom made the food for today!” Tanta announced, oozing with pride.

He was almost as proud of his mother’s food as if he had made it himself. When I commented that it was delicious, he happily fired back immediately with “Right?” and a delighted smile.

There had been no further complications to Tanta’s white-eye. His eyes were sparkling like a young boy’s should, and he was laughing just as cheerfully as he did when working with Gonz or his father.

Newman made a point of thanking me again and saying how fortunate it was that we were able to get Tanta the medicine so early in the disease’s progression.

“I’m pretty sure I already sent you the order. If you’ve had a chance to look at it, do you think you’ll be able to fill it?”

“Yes, it won’t be a problem. I’ll put a priority on the delivery and get it to you tomorrow evening.”

Dr. Newman was my first customer and had promised to place requests for whatever herbs he was running low on periodically. He’d even given me a recommendation when I was registering my shop with the Merchants Guild and let me know that if I borrowed the funds for opening the business from them, they would put the paid interest owed on the loan toward my first year’s guild membership fee. Despite not having to pay construction costs, I’d run my savings nearly completely dry just purchasing the materials, so that sort of recommendation was particularly helpful. Now I wouldn’t have to worry about losing my operating rights for failing to pay the membership fee.

Not bad for my first step.

“Oy, don’t you have any big aspirations or anything?” Gonz asked.

Aspirations, huh…? It was hard to answer such an out-of-the-blue question… But everyone was watching me; I wasn’t in a position just to say nothing.

“Ahhh, yeah…”

I tried to compose myself and think of a suitable answer but quickly thought better of it. I wasn’t going to try to put on airs like that. I wasn’t a knight or a member of the Hero’s party anymore.

“With all your help, I’ve managed to realize my dream. Thank you. But now I’m going to try to take it easy while running this apothecary and not push myself too hard. Particularly on hot days like today, I just want to sit back, drink some cool tea, and chat with everyone. So feel free to come by to hang out anytime.”

The room erupted in laughter and applause.

And just like that, I started my slow life as an apothecary in Zoltan.

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