Hint: To Play after pausing the player, use this button

Chapter 1

I Don’t Have Time to Be Adventuring

According to the calendar, it was autumn, but you wouldn’t have known it from the sweltering heat in Zoltan.

With broom in hand, I swept up the area in front of the shop. Most of the trees still hadn’t changed, evidenced by how few leaves there were to sweep up. As winter approached, I knew there would be more, however.

Placing the broom against one side of the building, the last thing I did before heading back inside was take a rag hanging from my belt and use it to polish the new sign we recently had made.

RED & RIT’S APOTHECARY. A warmth welled up in my heart as I beheld each of the little letters that shone in the morning sun.

“I’m through in here, Red,” a voice called from inside the shop.

That was Rit, the girl who lived with me. I’d entrusted her with preparations inside, and it seemed she’d just wrapped that up.

“Things are all done outside, too; shall we open for the day?” I asked as I sauntered back inside.

“Yeah!” Rit replied as she clutched her hands together in front of her ample chest. “Let’s do our best today.”

“Yeah, let’s,” I responded. Admittedly, it took everything I had to keep a straight face. Rit was so cute that my jaw nearly dropped.

Perhaps seeing through my facade, Rit’s expression screwed up a bit before she frantically pulled her bandanna up to cover the grin that was spreading across her face.

Such were the sort of slow Zoltan days I spent after having been kicked out of the Hero’s party.

Today marked the day of my regular delivery of medicines to Dr. Newman, the neighborhood physician. Entrusting the store to Rit, I departed for Newman’s clinic with a box of medicine slung over my back and the sun beating down on my head.

My destination was located at one end of the working-class district. It was a grayish building, though the walls had no doubt been white originally, and you would’ve been hard-pressed to say that it looked clean. It was a cozy little place that had supposedly been a clinic even before Dr. Newman had bought it. The building contained one examination room, a reception desk, a waiting room, and one storage room.

Compared to other infirmaries, it was fairly small. It didn’t even have a proper office space for Dr. Newman. He resorted to keeping files spread around between the storage and examination rooms. His exam fees were on the cheaper side, maybe because of how small his place of business was, but that low price point made it quite the regular place for residents on the poorer side of town.

“Oh, Red! Thanks for coming by.” Dr. Newman had a towel wrapped around his receding hairline as he examined a child who’d come down with a cold. “Take a load off in the waiting room for a minute. I’ll see you once I’m done here.”

“Please have a seat,” the teenage girl at the reception desk called out cheerfully, though she didn’t appear to be paying too much attention.

I helped myself to a chair and glanced around. There was an older lady nodding off in her seat. It seemed likely that she was the grandmother of the kid in the examination room.

A wooden wyvern race board game was laid out, probably for people to kill time while waiting. From the look of how worn it was, it’d been in service for quite a long time. Since glass was expensive, the one window in the waiting room was just an open-air aperture. At night, it would be closed over with a wooden shutter. Hanging in the pane was a little bronze wind chime that sang tinkling notes whenever the breeze picked up. Wind chimes originally came from the dark continent. They’d been brought over in the course of the battles with the demon lord’s army, but most people used them without paying much attention to their unpleasant history.

Before too long, the child returned to the waiting room with flushed cheeks, Dr. Newman not far behind.

“I’ll give you some medicine now, but if you run out and need more, then please head to the apothecary that Red over there runs. You can just show him this prescription, and he’ll give you the right stuff,” Dr. Newman instructed. He then proceeded to give instructions on how to find my place.

“Oh, Red, you finally got your own shop? That’s lovely,” the old woman in the waiting room said.

“Thank you. And if you ever need anything for yourself, feel free to stop by, ma’am,” I replied.

“Ah, if you have something for hip pain, I might just have to take you up on that.”

The kid and his grandmother left several bronze coins at the reception, said their thanks to the doctor, and headed home. Glancing over at the counter, I counted eight little dusk-colored coins.

“Eight commons is pretty cheap,” I observed.

“I got two bags of sausages in exchange, too,” Dr. Newman answered.

Ah, a bit of bartering. Right, that old lady runs a butcher shop.

“Sorry to keep you waiting. Mind if I have a look at what you’ve brought?” Dr. Newman inquired.

“Go right ahead,” I responded.

After opening up the box of medicine I had set on the ground, I handed over the receipt for the order. Dr. Newman read the itemization while I pulled each entry out of the box to show him it was there.

“Just as ordered. Which reminds me, I don’t suppose you’ve been able to get your hands on any more blood needles, have you?”

“It’s going to be tough to get any more this year.”

“No luck, huh? All right then.”

“Summer’ll be over in another month or so; is there a big demand for them or something?”

“No more than usual, but not having any on hand is worrisome, nonetheless. Traveling merchants haven’t stocked many, and if they catch on that we don’t have any at all, they’ll raise their prices.”

Our conversation continued along those lines for a little bit when we suddenly heard a shout from outside. Next came the thudding of someone collapsing and what sounded like plates shattering.

“What was that?” I asked.

The two of us stepped outside to see what’d happened. Up and down the street, a number of other people were doing the same. Murmurs and glances were cast every which way.

“The voice came from inside that house,” I observed.

“So it would seem.” Dr. Newman nodded in agreement.

My hand drifted to the hilt of the sword at my waist as we approached the home where the scream had come from.

“This is where Jackson resides. A middle-aged man who lives alone. I’ve seen him at the clinic several times. He tends to drink a bit too much,” the doctor explained.

“Do you think he fell over because he was drunk?”

“It would be nice if that was all it was.”

I knocked on the door. “Hey, Jackson. You okay in there?” There wasn’t any proper response, but my ears caught a groaning sound. “Sorry, but we’re coming in!”

Unfortunately, the door was locked. Without a second thought, I drew my sword, pressed the tip against the keyhole, and broke the lock.

“It’s coming from the bedroom,” I reasoned, running down the hall and opening the door.

A middle-aged man was lying on the ground clutching his chest. His face was deathly pale, and his eyes were bloodshot.

“Jackson!” Dr. Newman hastily knelt beside the afflicted man and checked his vital signs. “This is bad. Red, go get your medicine box.”

“Got it.”

I dashed back to the clinic, hurriedly shoved all the curatives I had just set out back into their container, and headed back to the action. Upon my return, I discovered Dr. Newman cutting through Jackson’s clothes with a knife while checking for a pulse.

“Something’s wrong with his heart.” Dr. Newman positioned Jackson to make sure the man’s airway was clear as well as to have him ready to receive resuscitative breathing if the need arose. Without knowing a definite cause, however, Dr. Newman was at a loss on how to treat the condition.

“Use this.” I handed the physician a powder made from gray starfish grass. It was a medicine for counteracting poisons. It adhered to the poison flowing in the bloodstream and neutralized it. This allowed the body to expel the resulting compound.

“You know these symptoms?” Dr. Newman asked.

“Enough to mitigate them, anyway. I’ve progressed First Aid to mastery,” I explained.

The common skill First Aid was mostly just a worse version of the Healing skills that were innate for doctors and the like. Mastery of it granted a skill called On the Spot Diagnosis. It had an effect on par with the Ultimate Healing skill. Even without knowing the cause of something, it granted you the knowledge needed to handle the symptoms. Admittedly, On the Spot Diagnosis didn’t give you the ability to treat in and of itself, but it did allow you to relieve pain, staunch bleeding, and temporarily stabilize dangerous conditions. It was quite useful for buying time until a patient could receive proper curative medical techniques or healing magic.

Dr. Newman looked stunned for a moment but quickly recovered, receiving the offered powder with a nod. While he was treating Jackson, I looked around to see if anything nearby could indicate what might have caused this. Almost immediately, my eyes were drawn to a square sheet of paper lying on the floor. When I touched it, I noticed a slight trace of some kind of particles left on it.

“Some kind of compound?”

Anyone with an Herbalist or Alchemist blessing would have been able to identify the substance by licking a tiny bit of the stuff, but I didn’t have any such capability.

“Dr. Newman, this was lying over here,” I said as I showed him the paper.

“This is…! Red help me get this man to the clinic!”

“So long as you’re sure it’s okay to move him!”

Without an actual stretcher, we had to make one with our arms. I held Jackson’s upper body while Dr. Newman hoisted his legs into the air. As fast as we could manage, we carried the ailing man back to the clinic.

“Move aside! Move aside!” I called to the onlookers to clear our path.

After a little while, Jackson finally voided the contents of his stomach and seemed to look much better for it. He was breathing properly on his own again, though it still looked a bit pained. Dr. Newman carried the bag of vomitus into the exam room with a serious look. The receptionist girl had a worried expression on her face as she did everything she could to assist the physician.

“He’s not out of the woods yet, but we’re at least through the worst of it,” Dr. Newman said, letting out a long sigh.

“What’s the cause?” I inquired.

“Looks like it’s been making the rounds lately,” Dr. Newman replied cryptically. When I tilted my head a bit in confusion, he showed me the paper I had picked up. “It’s a powerful sedative. Remember that medicine that was approved not too long ago? The one that turned out to be a narcotic? That’s what we’ve got here. I heard authorities are trying to regulate it, but apparently, it’s become pretty widespread.”

I remembered all the trouble I’d gone through trying to get approval for my anesthetic.

“In other words, this is an overdose,” I surmised.

“Some other Zoltan doctors and I are currently working out the specifics of the symptoms and how to deal with them, but I never would’ve thought to use gray starfish. Would you mind if I shared that tidbit with the other clinics?”

Obviously, more people being equipped to help treat cases like Jackson’s wasn’t a bad thing, but I was worried about folks knowing I was the one who came up with it. Simply telling Dr. Newman to take credit for the idea felt a bit too unnatural. As I considered my options, I reasoned that such an accomplishment on my part wasn’t likely to be enough to reveal my secret identity. If I told everyone that my blessing only had access up to Intermediate Preparation and that I didn’t have access to anything other than First Aid for determining symptoms, most people were unlikely to press further.

“That’s fine with me,” I said in answer to the physician’s question.

Jackson was still unconscious, but I had my shop to take care of, too, so I decided to head back.

“It was fortunate that you were here, Red.” Dr. Newman bowed his head in thanks. “I’ve got a bad feeling we might be seeing a few more cases like this as addictions grow more demanding among the drug’s users. I’d appreciate it if you prepared some more of the medicine for it.”

“Understood. I’ve got gray starfish grass growing in my herb garden, so there’s still plenty to go around. If you start running low, just let me know.”

“That’s reassuring.”

A narcotic. Who could’ve brought such a thing to Zoltan? I wondered. It seemed doubtful I’d ever deduce such a thing on my own, however.

“You’re late!”

I got an earful from Rit when I returned to the shop.

“I’m huuungry!” she moaned.

Now that I had a chance to think about it, I realized that noon had already come and gone.

“Sorry, there was a bit of an incident,” I explained.

“An incident? You weren’t just slacking off?”

“You remember that story about a narcotic when we went to get my new medicine approved? While I was at Dr. Newman’s clinic, someone nearby had collapsed from an overdose. I was helping make sure the man was okay.”

“I see. Overdoses already. That’s a pretty dangerous drug.”

“It’s hard to say. It might just be someone who happened to be particularly susceptible to the stuff’s effects. Dr. Newman thinks that we could have more cases in the near future, though, so he’s asked me to prepare some more medicine for it,” I said as I went to wash my hands and start cooking. “I need to go to the market before evening, so watch the shop while I’m out.”

“Got it. Also, I want an omelet for lunch,” Rit replied.

“I think there’s some premade tomato sauce left. It shouldn’t take too long to make omelets.”


Back when I was traveling, I always kept some eggs in my item box. They were nutritious, and there were all sorts of ways to prepare them. They could be the main dish, a side, or even used as part of a sauce.

Picking up an egg, I began to wonder how best to cook Rit’s omelet. Whether someone liked a softer one or one that had been cooked a bit more came down to a matter of preference. I generally preferred those with a brown and crispy exterior. There was also the predicament of what to fill it with. Would Rit prefer the ground beef, nuts, and green onions mixed in before cooking? Admittedly, it would likely taste good either way, but I usually made mine by adding in ingredients during the cooking.

“How does she like it, though?” I muttered aloud. Someone else eating with me sure created a lot of new questions.

Maybe I should just ask her? I thought.

Still holding the egg, and after having considered my options, I ended up just getting started on lunch without going back to ask Rit. My decision was to let her try omelets the way I thought they tasted best first.

I spread some red tomato sauce across the top of the crisp outside of an omelet and then sprinkled a bit of basil powder over that. As for sides, I’d prepared two sausages each, some herbal soup, and a bit of bread.

Rit took an eager bite, and her mouth immediately spread into a smile as she proceeded to wolf it all down. Lunch was late, so she’d doubtlessly been famished. Her spoon flew back and forth between the plate and her mouth with a very unrefined sort of momentum. Before I knew it, I was grinning myself. Turning to my own meal, I said, “I guess it is pretty good.”

Curiously, the food tasted a lot better than when I’d sampled it back in the kitchen. Maybe it was because there was someone in front of me partaking of it so eagerly.

“I’m going to head up into the mountains a bit tomorrow,” I said.

“For medicinal herbs? We still have a nice stockpile,” Rit replied.

“Gray starfish grass is used in the medicine for treating the narcotic overdoses. We still have some in storage, and there’s a bit growing in the garden, too, but I was thinking of increasing our supply just a bit more,” I explained.

“Okay. Are you going to camp out?” Rit inquired.

“I’ll stay up there for a night, yeah. Gray starfish grass grows here and there around fallen trees instead of together in clumps, so it takes time to gather it.”

“Got it. You can rest easy knowing I’m watching the shop.”

“If anyone needs a remedy for an overdose, give them the one on the third shelf.”

“Got it.”

“Also… Let’s take a day off after I get back.” It was a slightly cooler autumn breeze sailing through the open window that prompted that suggestion. “Maybe the two of us could go for a swim in the river, have a barbecue on the riverbank, and just relax.”

“Just the two of us?!” Rit exclaimed.

“Yeah, just the two of us,” I affirmed.

“Okay, then let’s hurry up and get everything in order,” Rit replied.

I wanted to relax and go for a swim before it got too cold to do so. In the back of my mind, I wondered if perhaps going on a vacation, even a little one, was a good idea so soon after a narcotics incident. The notion was quickly discarded, however. I was only an apothecary. Taking on some big undertaking to save the world, or even a town, was a bit outside my capability.

“Let’s forget about work and take it easy,” Rit said with a smile.

Perhaps she’d sensed what I was thinking.

I hadn’t been up in the mountains for a while, but everything was still the same verdant shade it would’ve been in the middle of summer.

“Just give it up and act like it’s fall already.”

I shook my head at the sound of buzzing cicadas as I carved a path through the overgrown brush with my bronze sword. You had to travel off the roads and animal trails alike if you wanted to gather herbs. Braving the true, untamed heart of the mountains was the only way. It was pretty hard work and required constant vigilance against venomous snakes and other small, dangerous creatures that could bite at your legs.

“You’ve also got to watch out for monsters like this guy,” I whispered to myself.

A moss pit at my feet bubbled, and a lichen-covered tentacle stretched out toward me. I immediately leaped back, avoiding the monster’s slow attack.

“A giant amoeba, huh?”

Such beings were also known as lesser slimes. Amoebas were similar to slimes but were technically a different species. Their comparable appearance often meant they were treated the same as slimes by many adventurers, however. The difference was that giant amoeba were frailer and could be cut by swords and other physical implements. Referring to them as lesser slimes was meant as an insult.

With a quick slash, I slew the viscous thing slowly creeping toward me. Monsters of such a low level didn’t advance my blessing, however.

There were a lot of different kinds of monsters and animals to be found in the mountains. There were those that would attack immediately, others that stalked and only struck at opportune moments, and even some that ran away only to return with reinforcements a few moments later.

Nestled in the deepest forests of the peaks was a chimera breeding ground, a possible leftover from the ancient era of the elves. You could also find stray trolls and gugs, a species of giant, that’d wandered over from the Wall at the End of the World.

Untouched by civilized hands for ages, such untamed places provided scores of medicinal herbs and wild plants to gather. With such dangerous monsters roaming about them, however, rookie adventurers had to steer clear on fear of death—perilous regions like those tested your survival and pathfinding abilities.

The reason that E-rank adventurers could only take jobs from the guild was so the guild could be sure that they were learning those vital techniques. While there wasn’t a test to become an adventurer, you could say that a first quest was kind of like an exam to see who was cut out for that line of work.

I had nothing to fear from any chimera, though. They were a pretty absurd sort of monster. Essentially, they were lions with two extra heads, one of a goat and one of a dragon. All three were capable of attacking independently, and the dragon’s breath could be particularly troublesome for the unprepared. One might think such frightening things would be avoided, but chimeras were actually sought after by many. A lot of adventurers saw them as dragon-slaying practice. Supposedly, the goat portion of the creature could actually be quite friendly. A captured young chimera could go for as much as around five thousand payril.

It just so happened that I was headed to the chimera breeding ground. If you wanted to gather gray starfish grass as efficiently as possible, that was the best place. On a previous excursion of mine, I’d discovered the ruins of ancient elf structures being overtaken by trees. This provided a lot of dark, damp areas where gray starfish grass loved to grow.

Every time I’d come to this area in the past, chimeras had attacked me. After they suffered a few sound defeats, however, they eventually began to leave me alone.

During their last attack, ten of them had ambushed me all at once, as if they’d planned it. That had caught me off guard and wound up being a pretty tough fight. The battle had left me with more than a few wounds, but ever since then, any chimera that caught sight of me merely turned away and left. They’d become so wary of me that if one tried to approach, another would actually chase it away.

Such a scene was something that surely would’ve startled most people, but to me, it’d become fairly regular. What did catch my eye, however, was the startling presence of another person this deep in the mountains.

It was a short young woman. Probably a new adventurer, I thought. Whether she didn’t know the danger of the area or she’d gotten lost, I couldn’t say, but I’d stumbled upon her just before she’d been set upon by the local monsters. Turning my back on her would’ve been a bit cold, so I approached and simultaneously drove off the creatures stalking her.

“Um, what’s your name?!” she asked, looking up at me with sparkling eyes.


“Ah, sorry, I should introduce myself first! My name is Alice!” This girl carried with her a large scythe that seemed at odds with her more diminutive stature. It was a pretty distinct look for a rookie. Deciding I’d done my part, I made my escape.


By activating my lightning speed, I sped away from the hapless young woman in the blink of an eye. If anyone asked, I was content to insist that it was a mountain spirit that’d saved her. Getting involved with some fresh-faced adventurer girl wasn’t my speed. I was aiming for a slow and easy life. Experience had taught me that extra caution was required around adventurers with odd equipment like her.

Something told me that Alice person was almost certainly wrapped up in all sorts of troublesome things. My hasty escape should’ve ensured she never had the chance to drag me into them.

A crow cawed overhead as if laughing at the sight. I suppose seeing me flee from a girl after I chased off a pack of chimeras would have been quite an unusual scene.

Sometime later…

“That has to have been what they call a ‘Tengu demon’ in the Far East. Not all demons in the East are evil. Apparently some even help people who get lost in the mountains.”

“Mr. Tengu Demon…”

In passing, I happened to hear there was an adventurer in town telling some strange story about a Tengu demon in the mountains.

Rather naively, I assumed it had nothing to do with me.

On the day following the incident with Alice, I checked a few spots where blood needles usually grew before heading back down the mountain.

The area that had been burned to the ground was already covered in new green. That owlbear’s corpse had been consumed by scavenging creatures that left no trace.

“Seems like things will be back to normal by next year,” I surmised.

There was even a possibility of a surplus of blood needles. The apparent overwhelming fertility of the torched section of the woods gave me a good feeling.

Looks like I’ll have my hands full gathering plants next year.

As I made my way along the path back home, I passed a goblin wearing an expensive wedding dress and holding a kitchen knife. It sang to itself as I passed it by, doing my best to ignore it.

I also discovered a knight barring the way across a bridge, so I took the long way around. On that detour, I ran into a shady-looking man screaming that he wanted me to recover certain valuables left behind in a mage’s mansion. I turned him down and suggested he take his request to the Adventurers Guild.

“There’s been a lot of weird people around today…”

For an adventurer, the discovery of such unusual quest-starting events would’ve set the heart racing. I, however, already had plans for tomorrow.

Upon my return home, I could hear footsteps before I’d even opened the front door.

“I’m back,” I said.

“Welcome home!” Rit exclaimed with a smile.

See what I mean? I didn’t have the time to go on any sort of strange undertakings.

The next morning, Rit and I left a note on the shop’s door with the words Closed for the Day written on it.

“All right, let’s go swimming!” Rit declared.

“Yeah!” I said in agreement.

“Did you bring the cooler?”


“What’s in it?!”

“Some meat and vegetables. Wine and beer, too!”

A stray thought surfaced in my mind, and I wondered if all those weirdos I ran into the other day ended up finding anyone willing to indulge them.

Do your best, guys. I’m gonna be giving it my all at cooking this food and swimming in the river.

Rit and I rented some riding drakes and headed down the road side by side.

It had been a while since I had ridden such a creature. Drakes were the most common dragon species on the continent. Wyverns were also a type of drake: poison-tail drakes. What differentiated these scaly things from other draconic species were the number of legs. Dragons had four legs and a set of wings. Drakes sported a pair of wings, too, but only had two legs. In terms of intelligence, they were similar to normal beasts, so many were trained to be ridden.

Riding drakes were the result of selective breeding. Those with smaller, less powerful wings and more capable legs were chosen. The dark brown, sparkling scales of the lizard-like monsters were soft and warm. Their eyelids had developed to protect their eyes from any harsh sun, wind, or snow, ensuring that the fast-footed creatures could keep up the pace in almost any inclement weather.

The one downside was that it cost money to feed them. Riding drakes were carnivorous and ate three times as much as horses.

Every large town had a rental shop run by the government. All that was required to rent one was proof you were a local and a one-hundred-payril deposit. You could reclaim that down payment, though, minus the three-quarter-payril-per-day rental fee.

“Riding drakes are just the best!” Rit shouted.

The reason to go out of your way and choose drakes when horses were so much cheaper was to enjoy this feeling of the wind in your face. With such weak wings, the creatures were incapable of flight, but the appendages still caught the wind and gave the things a sort of leaping gait. It was a pleasant sensation that was difficult to come by with other mounts, so there were more than a few people who would rent a riding drake just for the sake of that experience.

That’s not to say they were everyone’s first choice. Some truly loved that powerful gallop of a horse, and there were others who couldn’t get enough of riding geckos and their ability to run along the ground, walls, and ceilings. Mounted travel was a major hobby among the wealthy.

A strong breeze rushed by, and our drakes hopped up into the air.

“Yahoooooooooooo!!!” Rit shouted, and I couldn’t help but join in her cheer.

When our mounts lowered their heads and spread their lustrous wings, they could leap over nine meters in the air. There was hardly any impact when they landed, either. These two drakes had Warrior blessings, so even though their levels were low because they had few opportunities to fight, their physical stats were still on the higher end, making their jumps all the more exhilarating,

“Sorry for asking for something selfish like this!” Rit shouted.

“Don’t worry about it! It’s been a while since I rode a drake, but it’s more than worth the price for how refreshing it is! This is great!”

Our destination, a stream near the foot of the mountains, was about an hour away. The drakes roared, delighted at being able to really cut loose as we spurred them on. We wouldn’t be able to keep this pace the whole way, but it was fun to enjoy it while we could.

I happened to glance up just in time to catch a pair of pegasi spreading their wings and galloping comfortably across the sky.

“A pair, huh? I guess it’s about time for their mating season.”

The winged horses circled intimately with each other, each one’s large set of white wings spread wide. Pegasi were known to be gentle monsters. Hunting them was prohibited in most places. While they weren’t as powerful as owlbears, pegasi had the leg strength to kill the average creature with a single kick, so they’d made homes for themselves in a great many locations across Avalon. Supposedly, their numbers were dwindling on the dark continent due to overhunting, though.

“Sorry to keep you waiting! Let’s go swimming!”

Rit was wearing a halter-top bikini that tied behind her neck instead of over her shoulders. Her large bust was normally hidden beneath her clothes, but now it bounced with every step. I was at a bit of a loss for where to rest my eyes. Moving behind Rit proved dangerous as well. I had a clear view of her back and its well-toned muscles. My eyes moved downward to…

Suddenly, Rit turned around to face me as I was in the middle of checking her out.

“Hee-hee,” she giggled wholeheartedly as she covered her mouth. Perhaps she’d noticed where my gaze had been headed.

We decided to take a dip before setting up for our little barbecue. Rit pulled a small tent out of her item box, and we took turns using it to change.

I won’t deny imagining the two of us changing together with our backs to each other, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Such a thing was perfectly normal to consider.

I might be getting way more excited about this than I expected. Admittedly, it felt a bit out of character, but I was grinning from the moment Rit took my hand and pulled me into the water. We both let out a yelp at how cold it was at first, but soon enough, we were splashing at each other like children.

No doubt, Rit noticed my expression, but she was wearing a similar sort of face that left her in no position to tease.

“It’s about time we started getting lunch ready,” I said after a while.

“Okay,” Rit replied.

I offered my hand to help Rit out of the river. She looked just a little bit surprised but thanked me and took it anyway.

Most people associated knights and romance pretty closely. In all the old stories about them, there was always some princess that needed to be saved, a talented woman who helped the knight on his journey, and an evil witch who was defeated and became an ally.

I’d never experienced anything like that during my tenure as a knight. No one had ever mentioned anything like that happening to them, either. My point is that I was conscripted as a knight from a young age and then went on to join Ruti’s party when she left our village, so I had absolutely zero experience when it came to love.

Admittedly, I did get a few propositions back when I was second-in-command of the knights, but I’d known since I was a child that Ruti had the Hero’s blessing and that I would end up setting out with her on her journey when the time came. As such, I didn’t have any time to be thinking about romance. I was focused on establishing and maintaining relationships with powerful people who might support us and saving up money so that there wouldn’t be any issues when Ruti left home.

At the time, it’d been the right decision. Unfortunately, it left me in a bit of a tough spot with Rit.

I have no clue what to talk about…

Rit and I sat next to each other, drinking wine and eating the meat and vegetables we’d cooked. At first, we’d just been making light conversation, but both of us got fairly self-conscious after an awkward silence settled in. We ended up quietly sipping at wine.

When I glanced over, Rit, having apparently been thinking something along the same lines as I was, turned at the same time. We ended up looking straight into each other’s eyes. Blushing, the two of us hastily looked away.




Suddenly, we both burst out laughing. Even children would’ve done better at socializing.

“I would’ve figured you were more used to this sort of thing, Rit.”

“Why? Is that how I seem to you?”

“I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just, back when you first came to my shop, you were really aggressive, is all.”

“At the time, it was all I could do to keep myself from panicking. ‘What if he says no? What if he doesn’t remember me?’ I would have thought you’d be a bit more experienced, though.”

“What gave you that idea?”

“You always stay so calm and collected, even when I try my best to get your attention. It felt like you saw me as a kid who was pushing herself too far or something.”

“That was just because I thought I would look lame if I seemed too head over heels.”

After finally opening up a bit, the two of us laughed together as we shared our feelings. I leaned in a bit toward Rit, and she got a little closer to me, until our bare shoulders were touching.

“Should I open another bottle of wine? Or do you want to swim some more?” I asked.

“Hmm… Let’s just stay like this a bit longer,” Rit decided.

“Yeah… That sounds good. Let’s do that.”

Evidently, both of us were at level 1 when it came to love. All it took to satisfy us was our shoulders touching, our hands overlapping, the warmth of the other’s body. Not that there was anything wrong with simpler stuff like that.

“But…,” Rit cut in.

“Hmm?” I glanced over at her.

Rit’s face was suddenly right in front of mine, and she inched ever so slightly closer. Something soft pressed against my lips. We stayed like that for a little while before finally shifting back.

“I wanted to at least do that much…” Rit cast her eyes down to the ground as she covered her mouth with her hand. She was just so irresistibly cute that before I realized it, I was holding her close to me.

By the next day, our vacation was over and we were back to the usual routine.

“All right, let’s get to work,” I announced vigorously.

“There’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm, but we don’t really have anything to do, either,” Rit said with a bit of a wry smile.

She wasn’t wrong.

“Apothecaries sure have a lot of free time on their hands.”

“Yep, it’s the opposite of a business focused on small margins and volume. Though it’s not as extreme as Stormy, where just making a single piece of furniture can take a long time. Plus, we don’t have to do all that record-keeping like Dr. Newman,” I remarked.

All we needed were a few orders a day to turn a profit. What’s more, that could be supplemented with regular purchases from the various hospitals and clinics that Dr. Newman introduced us to, so money wasn’t an issue.

“Oh yeah, what about your anesthetic?” Rit asked.

“I was planning to give a few samples to some of the local physicians along with a bit of documentation explaining it,” I detailed.

“It’s a new drug, though, so it will take some time to get approved,” Rit observed. “What about the medicine for neutralizing that narcotic?”

“There hasn’t been any movement there yet. There wasn’t an increase in orders while you were watching the shop, right?”

“Nope. Aside from the incident you helped with, there’s only been one other overdose case so far,” Rit informed me.

So there was another case.

“But the drug itself has become pretty popular if the rumors I’m hearing from other adventurers are anything to go by,” Rit concluded.

The foul substance’s use wasn’t isolated to Zoltan, either. The word was that the narcotic was spreading like a plague from one city to the next.

In times of war, there was no end to those who relied on medicine to treat their pain. In proper dosages, such substances were harmless, but when used to get through battles lasting days on end, people could get addicted and end up desperate for more even when they didn’t need it. Addiction among retired adventurers was viewed as a very real problem, even in the capital.

“By the way, what does that drug do, exactly?” I inquired.

“The application for approval indicated an anesthetic pain relief usage like your medicine, but by taking three times the standard dosage, it evokes a feeling of euphoria apparently,” Rit explained.

The young woman was extremely well informed, as one would’ve expected of a B-rank adventurer. She’d probably only done a little digging in her spare time but had managed to turn up some pretty detailed information.

“Also, it didn’t really make any sense when I heard it, but…they said that it let you become a new version of yourself,” Rit added after a moment.

“A new version of yourself? Aside from the feeling of euphoria?” I asked.

“Yeah, the salesman apparently emphasized the new-self part.”

A narcotic that lets you become a new you? What the heck does that mean?

“Is it a magic potion? No, if it was, it’d have to be a liquid,” Rit wondered aloud.

Magic potions only re-created the effects of existing spells, anyhow. Each and every one required a mage to cast the enchantment in order to make a potion out of it, making that sort of concoction difficult to produce. Preparing a large stock beforehand in order to sell it all at once didn’t really fit the model here, either.

“A potion wouldn’t be treated as a new medicine in the first place, so it wouldn’t even need approval,” I corrected.

It had to be a compound that derived an effect from medicinal herbs like the ones I made. I had no clue what about it entailed becoming a new version of yourself, however.

“Maybe it’s derived from some wild elf narcotic?” Rit proposed.

“No chance. If there was some kind of major discovery like that, they’d be doing it somewhere they could make more money off it—not here in Zoltan. You could make a fortune just taking it to the Alchemists Guild and selling the discovery to them,” I said.

Wild elves resided deep in the mountains and rejected the norms of standard civilization. Apparently, their kind existed even back when the wood elves were still around. Some scholars believed them to be directly related to the ancient elves.

Only on one occasion, a long time ago, had I ever found myself in a wild elf settlement. Much to my surprise, they slept in the open air like any other animal would’ve. Unsurprisingly of a people who lived in such a way, they were all totally naked, too. Despite such a lifestyle, they didn’t exude any body odors, and while they were by no means clean, they stilled looked beautiful. It was as though the vigorous energy they exuded was somehow enhanced by the dirt on their bodies. Elves were indeed an incredible species.

While not maintaining any written records, wild elves bore a wealth of knowledge that had been passed down orally throughout the generations. Just managing to bring back a fragment of that knowledge to normal society would’ve made anyone wealthy.

It wasn’t unreasonable to wonder whether this strange new drug that was going around might’ve had its origins in wild elf knowledge. The distributor going out of their way to sell it out in the frontier seemed almost counterintuitive, however.

“Maybe they sold it somewhere else and then got banished?” Rit proposed.

“Word certainly travels slower around here,” I admitted.

Eventually, we decided we’d dwelled on the subject long enough. It seemed unlikely that either of us was going to hit upon the answer.

Suddenly, there was a scream just outside the door, and a bloody man flung himself into the shop and collapsed to the floor.


With startling speed, Rit had already moved to gather up some medicine and bandages before I’d said anything. I calmed myself and approached the man.

“Are you okay? Here, let me take a look.”

The wounded person seemed to be trying to say something. Unfortunately, his body was spasming wildly, and he was unable to get the words out.

“Sedative!” Rit shouted as she tossed me a small vial. That sort of handling was probably not something an apothecary should’ve ever been doing, but there was no way a skilled adventurer like me or Rit would’ve missed catching the little thing.

I caught the bottle with my left hand while keeping the bloodied guest pinned to the ground with my right. Popping the lid off of the vial, I held the exposed contents beneath the man’s nose. His eyes drifted for a moment, and then he relaxed, as though strength were being sapped from his body.

“There we go,” I muttered.

I quickly examined his wounds. At a glance, he looked to have been hurt in three places by some kind of large weapon.

Not good; if we don’t do something quick, it’ll be too late…but whatever did this could be somewhere in town.

“Rit, get some bandages and a hemostatic to stop the bleeding. After that, could you grab your weapon and check out what’s happening outside?” I requested.

“Yeah, that’s not the kind of wound you get in an accident. Got it.”

Rit handed me what I’d asked for and then took her trusty shotels and headed outside on high alert.

Leaving Red behind, Rit stepped outside and looked around the shop. There was no one around, but it was impossible not to hear the chorus of screams erupting from nearby. While Rit couldn’t tell for sure, she figured it couldn’t have been more than a block away. Chasing the sound, the young woman’s eyes picked up on what was likely a trail of blood left behind by the man who’d stumbled into the apothecary. Following the streaks of dried crimson, Rit turned a corner into an ally.

“Aaaaargh!” A screaming man fleeing in terror greeted Rit as she looked down the narrow street. Lowering her center of gravity, Rit leaped into the air, hurling herself right over the frightened man’s head. Despite seeing such an acrobatic maneuver, the terrified man didn’t waste any time beholding the sight and instead continued to flee.

Doesn’t seem like a simple quarrel, Rit thought.

Rit knew enough from her time battling the demon lord’s armies to recognize when someone was running for their life. She understood that there was no way the Asura demon Shisandan would be at the end of that little alleyway, but she clenched her weapons tight all the same.

Flying out of the alley, Rit saw that it was indeed not an Asura demon waiting for her. What did meet her eyes was just as unexpected, however.

There were six people lying bleeding on the ground. A couple were moaning as they tried to staunch the flow of blood, and at least one was clearly dead already as his head was split open. One of the wounded was a guard with a spear. His iron helmet sported deep dents, and he sprawled unmoving upon the ground with his face in a pool of blood.

The apparent assailants were three men. Each one held a bloody battle-ax loose in his hands and was chuckling eerily. Rit stared at the man in the middle.

“…You’re the one with the Thief blessing with Albert’s party, aren’t you?” Rit remarked in a low voice.

While she did her best to hide it, Rit was surprised. Even if he was only a hanger-on, that thief was a member of Zoltan’s strongest B-rank party.

“Rit. Rit. Riiiiiiiiiiiiit…”

It was immediately obvious that these three men were not in their right minds. Despite Rit’s reputation as a powerful combatant, the trio approached without any hesitation. They were even gritting their teeth as if to try to intimidate.

“What’s with you guys?”

Rit wasn’t exactly the best of friends with members of Albert’s party, but the thief was a fellow B-rank adventurer, and she’d chatted with him on a few occasions in the past. His name was Pick Campbell. He had a bit of a callous side to him but was definitely an adventurer with a respectable enough character.

This person closing in on Rit barely even resembled the Campbell she’d known previously, though. He looked closer to a wild monster than anything else. Raising his ax, Campbell started into a charge, but Rit didn’t budge, content to ready her shotels and wait.

He’s fast, and there’s a sharpness to his movements. Is this how someone with a Thief blessing fights?

As the incensed man charged into range and brought his weapon down, Rit took a single step forward. The ax caught nothing but empty air as the two passed each other. Campbell’s arm slumped, and the battle-ax clattered to the ground. His body finally realizing it had been cut, a deep red stain spread across the man’s clothes, and he collapsed. Startled, the other two readied their own axes.

Rit utilized the superhuman abilities that her Spirit Scout blessing granted her and closed the gap between her and her opponents with a single step while at the same time striking with one of her swords. There was a screeching sound of metal on metal.


One of the two remaining attackers had caught the shotel’s blade with the shaft of his ax. Rit looked a little bit surprised, but with a flowing motion, she flipped the shotel’s blade. The curved blade’s tip moved past the battle-ax, and the cutting edge bit into his stomach. When she pulled the weapon back, the man collapsed to his knees, bleeding.


Curiously, the last of the three standing looked terrified, and he ran away. Whatever madness that’d possessed him seemed to have been dispelled like an illusion. Rit gave chase.


An arrow came flying out from the alley and pierced the escaping man’s temple, pinning him against the wall of the building. There was no need to check—he was dead on the spot.


There was a ferocious glint to Rit’s eyes as she glared down the street. Albert was standing there holding a crossbow, and beside him was Dr. Newman.

“My apologies. It seems my party member caused some trouble,” Albert stated quietly.

“Albert, what’s going on?”

“I don’t know, either. I never would’ve thought Campbell to be the kind of man who’d do something this barbaric.” Albert spoke with a tone that indicated he saw himself separate from this, even though one of his own party members had just died. “More importantly, wouldn’t it be better to take care of the injured first?”

“Y-yes. Indeed,” Dr. Newman said as he clutched his bag and scurried over to the people lying on the ground.

“It’d be best to get your fiancé to come, too. You can just send me the bill for whatever medicines we have to use.” Albert’s near death at Rit’s hand the other day seemed like a distant thing as the pompous man spoke in the same self-assured way he always did.

Something about it did not sit right with Rit. The young woman’s blessing began to needle at her mind, urging her to kill the perceived enemy.

“A-anyway, I need to help the doctor out, so if you’ll excuse me.” Noticing the murderous intent welling up inside Rit, Albert hastily beat a retreat to Dr. Newman in order to escape her gaze.



There was a loud metallic clatter. Startled, Albert spun around and looked to Rit in shock. She was standing there with her right hand outstretched, having opened her fingers and let the sword drop. A confused look crossed Albert’s face.

It was a ritual of sorts that Rit performed in order to retake control of herself when she was being assaulted by the urges of her blessing. Holding out her weapons, opening her hands, and letting the shotels drop to the ground helped her clear her mind.

Rit picked up the dropped sword with her left hand and slowly slid it back into its sheath.

“Haaah,” Rit let out a long exhale.

Of the six people lying on the ground, two had seemingly died immediately. Two of the remaining four had slowly bled out and died. The remaining pair suffered heavy wounds but managed to escape with their lives.

Counting the one who fled into our shop, that made seven victims altogether. Three were half-elves and the other four were humans. It had been fortunate that Dr. Newman happened to be on his way to our shop when he ran across them. The survivors’ wounds had been brutal; if the doctor hadn’t come along, they would’ve joined the dead.

The guard, Arthur, who had bravely intervened and lost his life in the incident, received an official commendation from the Zoltan council. He was survived by a wife and two children. Apparently, they would receive a survivor’s pension to support them.

The young wife put up a brave front and said how proud she was of her husband, who courageously fought in order to give the townspeople time to escape, but her daughters cried enough for the courageous woman.

A B-rank adventurer going mad. It would have been a scandal for the Adventurers Guild no matter what, but with Rit half-retired, Albert’s party was in a special situation. Albert looked sorrowful as he apologized for his comrade’s misconduct, but no one doubted he would soon find a replacement and continue adventuring.

“Though it’s not like anything has really changed, either, I guess,” I mumbled after slipping the newspaper I’d been reading under my arm. A week had passed now since the incident.

At last, a cool breeze had come to Zoltan. Other than the first real whisperings of autumn, little had changed, however.

“Who did the autopsy?” Rit asked, her head on my lap.

She seemed to have taken a liking to that spot lately, slipping into it whenever she saw an opening. Honestly, I kind of wished I could’ve been the one with my head on her lap.

“No clue. It didn’t say in the newspaper. Do you think him going wild was the result of some drug?” I posited.

“It’s gotta be… I mean, he was stronger than I would’ve guessed. The only way it could’ve been possible was if he used some kind of compound,” Rit replied.


“I’ve seen Campbell move before. Even at his best, I don’t think you’d call him ‘strong.’ Back in that alley, though… He had a pressure to him that made it clearly a bad idea to cut in carelessly. And that other one… There’s no way someone who could parry my sword wouldn’t have made a pretty big name for himself in a place like Zoltan,” Rit explained.

“The other two were apparently C-rank adventurers who used to team up with Campbell way back in the day. They still got along well even after he joined up with Albert’s party. Given that sort of history, I never would’ve thought they’d be able to cross blades with you, even once,” I said.


Rit was the one who actually fought that mad trio; if she said they shouldn’t have been that strong, then there was no two ways about it.

Did they use some kind of enhancement potion?

“A blood test should reveal whatever medicine they might have taken, right?” Rit inquired.

“If there’s a medicine to compare against and someone with the skill to do the analysis. I’m more curious why someone with a Thief blessing was using an ax, though,” I admitted.

“Yeah, people like that definitely prefer lighter weapons. Something like an ax wouldn’t work with most of the innate skills provided by a Thief blessing,” Rit agreed.

That’s why it was so confusing that Campbell had been using an ax. I mean, if he didn’t have any other weapons available in that moment, then it made enough sense.

“It doesn’t sound like a situation where he was cornered and didn’t have any other armaments on hand,” I remarked.

“He wielded that ax pretty handily, too. It wasn’t the movement of someone who frantically grabbed the first thing he saw,” Rit added.

The mysteries kept piling up.

“Do you want to take a serious look into it?” Rit asked as she looked up at me.


Murder had happened right outside our shop. There were a lot of things about it that didn’t make any sense. Something told me there was more to the incident, too.

“What do you want to do, Rit?”

“I want to go to sleep like this,” she said before closing her eyes with her head still on my lap.

“…Hmm.” I caressed her hair softly as I considered what I wanted to do.

Ah, that’s why this feels familiar. Sitting with Rit resting on my lap reminded me of when I was a knight in training and my roommate had a cat.

The front door swung open, and the bell attached to it sang a little chime.

“Big bro! We came by to play!”

“U-um, hello, sir.”

Right around when I was thinking of starting lunch, a pair of half-elf kids, Tanta and Al, strolled in.

“Hey, guys, nice timing. I was just thinking of making some lunch. Do you want some, too?”


“I-if it’s no trouble for you.”

“You can worry about stuff like that once you’re grown up. It won’t take long, so just wait a couple minutes.”

I showed them into the living room area. Rit was out in the garden practicing her swordsmanship. Doubtless, she’d be back before long.

“Oooh, spaghetti with a ragù sauce!”

“It’s a favorite of mine, too.”

Both Tanta and Rit were visibly excited at the sight of the dish. Al seemed a bit awkward at first, but he loosened up as he started to eat. The way his eyes gleamed when I said, “There’s more than enough for seconds,” really made the young half-elf seem quite endearing.

“Then I’ll have seconds!” Rit called out immediately, perhaps to make it okay for Al and Tanta to do the same without feeling guilty or awkward.

“An extra-large serving, please!” Rit added.

Yeah… It was definitely for the kids’ sake… Right?

Al looked totally content as he patted his stomach after finishing. I’d had a hunch that it was a good idea to make a bit more lunch than I first thought. Apparently, I’d been right on the money.

“That was delicious,” Tanta praised.

“And I get to eat like this every day.”

For some reason, Rit seemed quite proud of that fact. Tanta merely replied with a frustrated look.

“That’s just how she gets sometimes. She can be pretty unreasonable,” I said with a laugh. “But…”

“But…?” Rit urged.

“That’s also what’s cute about you,” I finished.

“Just get a room already!” Now Tanta turned a displeased expression at me.

Even I could tell my feelings for Rit were starting to slip out a bit more these days.

Tanta heaved an impressive sigh. “You think we’re just getting in their way, Al?”

“Ah-ha-ha,” the other young half-elf laughed in reply.

I placed some tea and cookies on the table as we joked around and chatted playfully.

“Oh yeah, I made contact with my blessing yesterday,” Al admitted.

“Yeah? How are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m still a little worried…but there haven’t really been any impulses to speak of yet. Just this vague sort of jitteriness.”

“It’s probably because you haven’t decided what kind of weapon you want to master. That’s why you’re feeling a more general unease instead of having powerful urges,” I explained.

“Then if I just stay like this, I can still be myself?” Al reasoned.

Still worried about the blessing’s urges, huh?

“But always having that sort of unrest would be pretty rough. And you wouldn’t be able to access any of the skills from your blessing, either. It would be pretty inconvenient no matter what you end up doing with your life,” I explained.

“Can I not just get by living off common skills…?” Al pressed.

I was at a loss for words at such a question. Just getting by on nothing more than common skills. Hmm.

“It’s not impossible, but it would be pretty hard,” I answered after a moment.

“I guess so. It would have been better if I had just gotten a Warrior blessing like my dad,” Al said.

Warrior was one of the most common blessings—and one of the weakest. The only innate skills it had merely increased physical prowess. It didn’t have access to any special abilities at all. On the plus side, it didn’t influence its bearers very much. It was the perfect blessing for someone who just wanted to be a normal person. In other words, Al felt more like being a regular guy than the sort of powerful fighter that a weapon master could’ve become.

“At the very least, you should pick something that’s useful in more everyday sorts of situations,” I suggested.

“A weapon useful in everyday situations?”

“What do you want to be when you grow up, Al?”

“Um, I don’t really know. My dad just works at the harbor taking cargo off the ships.”

Working down at the docks? In that case…

“What about a knife? You could cut the ropes holding cargo down quickly. You’d likely be able to cleave right through knots and bindings that others wouldn’t be able to. A knife wouldn’t be very strong as an actual weapon, though. You might consider a rope dart, too. That’s a tool with a small metal blade, about fifteen centimeters long, on the end of the rope. If you master that, you’ll naturally become proficient in dealing with ropes in general. For something completely different, what about a battle ladder? It’s a ladder around one and a half meters tall that’s used for sieging small forts and the like. The soldiers who carry them have weaved in some techniques for using them as a melee weapon, too. Compared to a normal ladder, it is a bit narrower, and in addition to swinging it like a club, they can also use it to trip up opponents. As you acquire new skills, you’d also get better at using ladders in order to do work in higher, hard-to-reach places.”

Al didn’t seem too keen on my explanations at first, but as I elaborated on some weirder, unusual weapons he’d never heard before, he slowly grew more interested until he started pestering me a bit for more.

“That’s amazing! So monsters can make weapons, too?!”

“They can, indeed. In addition to troll hammers, there are also goblin blades.”

“Goblin blades?”

“As you know, goblins have small bodies, but they like big weapons. They really love using human-sized greatswords or battle-axes that are out of proportion to their frames. They don’t have the body weight for such large things, though, so they can’t really use them. To that end, they turned their usually empty brains to the task of figuring out how to swing heavier armaments, and what they came up with was the idea to make holes in the weapon in order to make it lighter.”


“That’s what we call a goblin blade. They generally put enough holes in the sword that it weighs around half of what it would’ve normally.”

“Wouldn’t that make the weapon break?”

“They definitely do break. In exchange for halving the weight, the weapons’ durability gets totally shot. You hear all sorts of funny stories about a goblin’s sword snapping in half in the middle of battle, and it’s just standing there looking confused as it gets killed.”

Al seemed to be enjoying our conversation. His interest in weapons was beating out his fears about his blessing.

“A weapon master only gets to choose the tool of his trade one time. Once you’ve decided, there’s no going back. So think long and hard about it,” I concluded.

“Yeah… Thank you, Mr. Red. Please teach me more again sometime,” Al said.

In truth, I wasn’t able to offer a young weapon master much advice beyond the basics. Still, I hoped Al would find a path he felt comfortable traveling.

“Give me whatever gray starfish grass medicine you have!”

“I’m sorry, we’ve gotten orders from every other clinic as well, so we can’t do that. Would thirty doses work?”

“Oh, you have that much left?! You’re a lifesaver! Every other apothecary was sold out.”

The doctor from Christoff’s clinic in the residential area was overjoyed to be able to get his hands on some medicine. Only two months after Jackson’s overdose, it had reached a point where someone was getting carried into the hospital every day, and the gray starfish grass used for emergency treatment was flying off the shelves.

“Rit, watch the counter for me this afternoon. I’m going to prepare some more medicine.”

“Got it. Man, this has gotten bad.”

“Yeah. More than a drug, this stuff is basically poison.”

Narcotics were scary in their own right, with the impairment they caused gradually eating away at your body from the inside. The point of them was to experience a sense of euphoria and freedom. The extra damage to the body was just a side effect that accompanied the high. What was unusual about this particular narcotic was the amount of cases in such a short time. Even if it instilled heavy dependence and messed up the body, regular drug addiction didn’t put this many people in the hospital this quickly.

“Why are they using such a dangerous medicine? Is it really that addictive?” Rit asked.

“No clue. Doctors have been asking the same thing, but the patients just kept talking about becoming a new person without really clarifying anything,” I replied.

“They said that thief in Albert’s party was using the drug, too,” Rit said.

“What?” I answered reflexively.

That tragedy was because of this stuff, too?

“Aren’t things kind of getting out of control?” I inquired.

“The council was talking about taking emergency action to ban it. They’ve stopped worrying about how it would look and have just started doing whatever they can. Dan, the guy who approved it, is probably going to be out of a job.”

That’s a shame. I made a note to bring Dan some stomach medicine.

“Still, no one knows anything about that stuff. Even after calling in someone with Advanced Preparation, they still couldn’t figure anything out. It might really be something from wild elves,” Rit explained.

There were probably no more than a handful of people on the continent with Ultimate Preparation. The only one I’d ever met in person was Baba Yaga, a witch who had come to Mzali, the silver town, searching for mithril. Baba Yaga was a legendary figure with a blessing in the Witch tree that had only been confirmed to have been held by one other person: the Winter Queen. Crafting skills, like Preparation, were not generally valued very highly because they didn’t have a direct influence on combat. Baba Yaga stood out because she was over level 60 and had accumulated tons of skill points.

“So it’s effectively impossible to determine what it is by using skills,” I surmised.

“Is there any way to analyze it other than Preparation?” asked Rit.

“Hmm, it’s a bit of a crude method, but if we knew the ingredients, that might provide a starting point.”

It was possible to research the base components and then use that knowledge in order to learn more about a compound, but it wasn’t the standard practice. What’s more, the information that could be gleaned from such an approach was limited. There weren’t many people who would go out of their way to research things in such a way when a skill existed that could just do it for them automatically.

“I’m going to have to go out and get more ingredients,” I said.

The Adventurers Guild had recently put out a request for gray starfish grass, but since it grew best in the chimera breeding ground, I was probably the only one capable of gathering there. Albert and his party were likely the only group capable of beating the chimeras, and even then, it was only barely. There was no way they would take a quest like that just because the price of gray starfish grass had gone up a bit lately.

I had no intention of adventuring, but I was still going to do the best I could as an apothecary.

“Um, Albert, sir. Are we really going to do this?”

“Are you really asking that after we’ve come this far?” Albert met the female monk’s murmur with a cold gaze, but the earth mage, the soldier, and the thief who was added to replace Campbell all had the same uneasy look on their faces.

“Why are we doing this?” the soldier muttered.

Albert resisted the urge to snap back at his party mate and instead urged them to follow along.

They were in a cave along the coast to the south of Zoltan. It was an area that monsters called scrags inhabited. Scrags were about four meters tall with rough blue skin and a beast-like face. They were a species of giant troll sometimes referred to as ocean trolls. While there was some variance, a single scrag was usually around level 9. Compared to more brutal trolls, scrags tended not to be as indiscriminately violent.

“They look like someone squashed a monkey’s face, but they protect their tribe’s young like nothing else, to the point of not letting even one die of starvation,” the earth mage explained.

Scrags could fish, but they also gathered supplies and food by pillaging. Normally, a scrag nest wasn’t much to worry about. When their mating season came and children started being born, however, they would attack nearby settlements in order to gather what they needed. As that cycle repeated for years on end, the monsters would gradually build a veritable kingdom for themselves.

“That’s why we’re clearing them out before their mating season starts,” Albert said.

“It’s just scrags; can’t a C-rank party take care of it?” one of his fellows whined.

The creatures possessed a regenerative ability that even allowed them to reattach severed limbs. That factor was easily negated by fire, however. Just a single shot of Fireball—the classic first spell that everyone with some kind of Mage blessing learned at level 4—was enough to incapacitate most scrags. Any of them that survived such an attack wouldn’t be able to heal themselves, so they quickly became non-threats either way. As long as there was someone in the party with a blessing that had access to Fireball, the ocean trolls were not a particularly scary enemy. A weakness to something as common as fire was enough to make a monster dramatically less menacing.

“All the adventurers who lazed around in the summer months have their hands full dealing with the quests they put off, and scrags aren’t particularly challenging until they enter their mating season. None of them would take a job like this during the creatures’ off season,” Albert explained.

What Albert conspicuously failed to mention was that clearing a well-established scrag nest was fairly profitable, since plundering monsters’ loot was a crucial source of income for adventurers.

“That’s why we’re doing it. Those with strength have a responsibility to wield it. The longer they rest their blade, the greater their sin,” declared Albert.

The rest of the party agreed, but contempt showed in their eyes. Do it yourself! they thought in secret.

Albert shook his head slightly. His blessing was that of the Champion, level 24. It was the blessing of one who overcame difficulty in order to accomplish great feats, and was also among the best Warrior blessings. Its impulses drove the bearer to demonstrate their strength to the world and accomplish things that would be remembered throughout history.

In the face of Albert’s grand ambitions, his comrades’ mediocre blessings were incomparably small. For Albert, such a thing was almost an affront to himself, even though he had not been able to live up to his own great blessing and had ended up drifting out to Zoltan.

“We should get going,” Albert said, drawing his weapon.

“Um, what is that sword?” the monk asked.

Albert was wielding a blade with an unusual shape. The object was thick and appeared rather heavy. There was hardly a crossguard to protect the wielder’s hands from getting cut, either. Most distinctive of all, however, was that the tip of the sword was rounded, making it useless for thrusting. It was the sort of weapon that an executioner might’ve used.

“Yeah, my old sword got broken. I thought it would be difficult to find another magic blade of that caliber, but I was lucky. I got this one at a good price from a traveling merchant.”

In stark contrast to Albert’s immaculately polished armor that gleamed like new, there were spots of rust on the strange sword he’d brought.

“It didn’t have a name, but its sharpness is exceptional. I call it the Vorpal Blade.”

The monk used Detect, a skill that allowed the user to view magic power. No sooner had she done so than she was overpowered by the intense aura emanating from Albert’s weapon and knocked to the ground.

“Sorry, I should have warned you sooner. While the maker is unknown, this is a masterpiece made using Legendary Weapon-Making. Only the Holy Demon Slayer that the Hero Ruti wields outclasses this blade. It possesses enough power that simply glimpsing it is too much for someone without a high level,” Albert explained.

“S-some traveling merchant had something like that?” the monk asked, still sitting on the ground.

Albert flashed a friendly smile as he reached out a hand to help the woman up.

“Guess I got lucky.”

Albert’s party had already taken control of most of the nest that the scrags had made out of a system of caverns. All that remained was the final chamber.

“Ah…,” the monk let out a little exclamation when she and the others first entered the last room.

In it were three scrags. The visibly drooping breasts identified them all as female. What had caused the monk to gasp, however, was that two of the creatures were protecting the third, who was sitting on the ground with an enlarged stomach.

Any battle rage or blessing impulses the monk had been feeling were swept away upon beholding that sight. She was overcome with empathy for the monsters, who readied themselves to defend their pregnant kin.

“N-no way…” The monk faltered back a half step, her mind stuck at an impasse.

“So mating has already begun? We were right to take care of this early,” Albert said.

His voice was calm and cool as he charged forward, easily cutting down the two scrags who tried to protect the parent and unborn child. The last living of the three let fly a battle cry for its fallen tribe and its baby. The sound was earsplitting.

The mother scrag swiped her claws at Albert, determined to fight to the last, but the adventurer didn’t even sniff at the attack. With a single slash, Albert all too easily ended the life of the parent and her fetus.

The battle was over. Without her even realizing it, tears had started rolling down the monk’s cheeks.

“Are you okay?” Albert asked soothingly, worried about his party member. He placed the same hand that had brought the mother scrag low on the monk’s shoulder to comfort her.

“Why…?” As though on reflex, the monk began to verbalize the thoughts swirling about in her mind. “All they did was love their children! Just like us! No, they might have been even more noble than us!”

“Of course not. Monsters aren’t capable of such things,” Albert declared.

“You don’t know that… What if there was a way to develop an arrangement where we provide them with food, and they hunt other monsters in the surrounding area?!” the monk cried.

Albert wore a smile like an adult about to explain the reality of the world to a child.

“That’s not what our blessings wish for us.”

Right… This world is consumed with conflict.

Share This :


No Comments Yet

Post a new comment

Register or Login