Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
In the days that followed after the abduction plot was foiled, nothing much occurred, and each day was as peaceful as the last.
『I sense nothing from that side. Seems like your prevention measures led to an effective cure, huh?』, my mole had commented with her usual smile. 『At the same time, perhaps you did things too well, and they might be more careful next time. Things might not go as smoothly again.』
Even so, I thought, we must continue taking the necessary precautions. It’s inevitable for them to be more careful on their next attempt. Welger & Co. might even be in upheaval right now, desperately trying to sniff out the rat within their ranks. If that’s the case, it would be a good idea to have Dee airlifted before they close in on her.
「I’d like a higher-ranked quest, please」, said someone at the adjacent counter.
「A foraging quest like this is important too, so…」
「I know I’m good at foraging, but don’t you at least have one of those… those where you get to go somewhere dangerous?」
「Does it look like you’re strong enough for that?」, muttered the employee under his breath.
Unfortunately, his client heard every word clearly.
「What did you just say!?」
「Ah… no –」
The employee next to me was a newly-employed local. Seeing that his careless whisper had angered his client, I told the female adventurer at my counter to hold on and went over to mediate the situation.
「Oh, senpai…」, said the greenhorn with relief, looking at me as if a deity had appeared before his eyes.
The person opposite the counter also looked at me, but with bloodlust in his eyes instead.
「I deeply apologise on behalf of this employee of ours.」
「I-I apologise…」, parroted the greenhorn, lowering his head after seeing me do the same.
「I’ll take over, if it’s alright with you.」
「That’s fine. Look. For whatever reason, even after I ranked up, I’m still not allowed to take a decent quest just because I’m bad at fighting!」
Somewhere in his mid to late twenties, this adventurer was a local as well. Isn’t it unbecoming of someone of that age to throw a tantrum in front of others, I wondered silently.
「May I have a look at your license?」
Lender Hawkins. D-ranked, with a quest history consisting of almost nothing but E and F-ranked quests. Seventy percent of those were F-ranked.
And his skill…
I glanced at the female adventurer in front of me, then read the Lender-related documents I had on hand to confirm my beliefs.
‘Fracture’ is a skill that allows the user to create a limited number of copies of himself. Their fighting ability is inversely proportional to the number of copies the user fractures into.
「See? I’m D-ranked! Why aren’t y’all giving me D-ranked quests?」
The quest slip laid on the counter was for an E-ranked foraging quest, one that predicted a low chance of encountering monsters. According to the employee manual, such an adventurer-quest pairing was perfectly acceptable. My junior had probably let his displeasure at his client’s questioning of protocol slip.
「From the standpoint of an adventurer, your line of work may be the most important thing to you. However, it’s not like that for employees of the guild. We want to make sure you have the highest chance of reporting back safely, regardless of whether you succeeded in completing the quest or not. This is why we take your actual ability into account. Even if you technically complete the quest, it will have all been for naught if you were to collapse before making it back to us.」
「Hu… but I want to give it a try at least…」
For a non-combat inclined adventurer like him, it’s difficult to assign a D-ranked quest as it makes him much more likely to encounter monsters. At the same time, Lender’s ‘Fracture’ would allow him to increase his efficiency manyfold when sent to forage large quantities of herbs.
「While I concur that his attitude was unacceptable, his decision to assign you this quest was very logical. I can’t say that overconfident adventurers who never come back are rare. Would you still like to give it a go?」
That silenced him. Well, this is what we call doing things according to the manual.
What came after this was not according to the manual, but rather of my own invention.
「At the same time, you are not wrong for wanting to give it a try.」
Perhaps they thought that the topic had already been closed, for both Lender and my junior looked at me in surprise. My line of reasoning was that Lender would never know the danger of a D-ranked quest without dipping his toes in it at least once.
He would carry that regret all the way to the grave.
「I’ll assign you a D-ranked quest.」
「C-Can we really, senpai?」
「Wait, you sure…?」
「Yes. There’s a difference between ‘taking up the challenge’ and ‘charging blindly into the unknown’. I will assign you this quest on only one condition — team up with this lady.」
Patiently waiting for me to get back to her, the adventurer in front of me, Juis, was caught off guard. Looking at me with eyes as wide as plates, she pointed at herself.
「Eh? Me? But I’m E-ranked…」
Going strictly by the book, this was a no-go. But depending on the synergy between multiple individuals, there are scenarios where they can bring out the best in each other. Making two people work together isn’t necessarily adding up their abilities — it can be multiplying them.
And this, without a doubt, was such a multiplication.
「I believe your skill allows you to boost the abilities of those within a certain area, Juis-san?」
「Y-Yes… although it’s quite small. Not only is the radius tiny, but the cooldown is long as well, so I can’t cast it in quick succession. Even the uptime is only half of the cooldown…」
Her confidence wavered more and more as she spoke. I don’t really have the right to say anything, but it’s undeniably one of the weaker skills. From our records, the circular area of effect had a one-meter diameter and the cooldown was around an hour. Her magicka was also nothing remarkable, so she usually took up E-ranked quests of her own volition.
「If you’re okay with it, I’d like Juis-san to team up with Lender-san and take on this D-ranked quest together. Working together will be a valuable experience for both of you.」
The nature of ‘Fracture’ probably meant that Lender had no experience working as a team. On the other hand, Juis had a long history of breaking away from teams of adventurers. While her boosting skill was a selling point on the surface, many had probably been turned away when it revealed its limitations.
「Okay… I look forward to working with you」, said Juis, turning to Lender and bowing.
Returning the gesture awkwardly, he shook hands with his new colleague.
I asked Lender to quickly take a seat at my counter.
「Both of you will be assigned the same quest. For the E-ranked Juis-san, this is technically not a quest you can take, so it will only be counted when you rise to D-rank. But worry not, for you will still receive the rewards upon completion.」
With that, I assigned them the D-ranked quest titled ‘Foraging of Montefiores’. Used primarily as the active ingredient for paralysing agents used by hunters, Montefiores are toxic herbs. The risk involved in foraging for them gave the quest this rank.
「I believe that the two of you combined will do just fine」, I said, wishing them the best of luck as I sent them off.
Once they were out of earshot, my junior couldn’t help but express his concern for them.
「Senpai… will they really be okay? Montefiores are toxic and can only be found in the deep recesses of the forest. It doesn’t seem like working together lowers the risk in any way…」
「Foraging quests are bread-and-butter for Lender-san, so he possesses a great deal of knowledge and experience when it comes to the forest. The uncanny instinct he has developed is not to be taken lightly.」
Most people refer to it as gut feel — that unfounded ‘feeling of unease’ that becomes sharper and more acute as one gains experience. I had noticed it myself in my previous line of work.
「But still, when it comes to fighting…」
「It’s true that the danger persists if they fight as individuals. But if ‘Boost’ is applied before Lender activates his ‘Fracture’, he can make many copies of Lender Mark II. Remember, even apes can be strong if they work together.」
[T/N Note: ‘Lender Mark II’ seems like a reference to the Toyota Mark II.]
If I’m not wrong, the power reduction as a result of the ‘Fracture’ is around thirty percent. While each fractal is easily taken down on its own, if you’re up against D-rank quest monsters, you can basically squeeze the life out of them just by surrounding them.
「I get it now…! Apes together strong!」
「It depends on the circumstances too, but in this case, they found a way to boost their raw power before the fight. I guess you can say that they’re maximising their strength.」
「All this goes entirely against the manual, though.」
「The manual has its uses. Almost nothing will go wrong if you follow it down to the last word. But there are exceptions to be found in everything.」
「‘Apes together strong’… ‘everything has its exceptions’… fumu-fumu」, mused my junior as he wrote them down.
I found it embarrassing to hear my own words repeated by him.
Lender and Juis returned on the evening of the same day.
「You look tired, but you’re back early too. How was it?」
They smiled in response. Compared to the angsty Lender and the unconfident Juis of that morning, both seemed like their worries had vanished. As I received the Montefiores, I noted that it was my first verification since obtaining ‘Plant Master’.
「Without a doubt, these are Montefiores. Looks good to me.」
「Rather than break them at the stem, Lender-san advised me to scoop them out of the soil in their entirety.」
The adventurer in question was beaming with pride.
「Thanks to Juis, we managed to defeat monsters that I would’ve run away from otherwise.」
「It looks like you didn’t take any bad fights either. I’m glad.」
「Thank you. You can do verification too, Argan-san?」
「Ah, yes. I’m certified in that area.」
「Wow, you really can do anything.」
「Nope, there are some things I know I can’t do, so I stick to what I can.」
「That’s cool…」, said Lender, and the junior standing behind me parroted the same phrase.
「Juis and I have discussed, and we’ve decided that we’ll return to receive more quests from Argan-san in the future.」
「Can we?」, asked Juis.
I gave out the relevant rewards and saw them out, knowing that they would continue to operate as a unit in the future. The moment I was free again, my junior bowed to me.
「Uhm… senpai… I’d like to become your disciple! Please take me under your wing!」
「I don’t have to take you in to teach you things. I am your senpai, after all.」
「Okay, sure — please take good care of me!」
Given the right conditions, even an unremarkable weed can draw a crowd. Can’t the same be said for a weak skill?