Chapter 148: The greatest skill under the heavens, part 1


Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama


As the Vadenhaag guild grew more and more self-sufficient, the number of local hires also steadily increased. The employees that had joined me at the start, once replaced by adequately-trained new staff, were finally able to return home.

Only three pioneers remained — myself, Iris and Milia.

「About this quest, senpai –」

I had acquired a few understudies since we began recruiting, and they often turned to me for guidance.

「Uh, sensei… this quest slip here says it’s D-ranked, but I found an identical one that’s E-ranked.」

Milia looked wearily at the quest slips that her understudy had passed her. She attempted to compare them, but was at a complete loss.

「Huh… it’s indeed rather strange…」

As she had been tasked with the training of new hires, she was often referred to as ‘Sensei’. For a girl of her age, you couldn’t help but find her new title a little strange.

「D-do you know anything about this quest, Roland-san…?」, she asked, handing me the offending quest slips.

The new employee behind her looked rather worried as well.

「Both quests look more or less the same」, she explained. 「Yet, the ranks are different…」

「They differ in rank…?」

I scrutinised the contents of both slips. Both involved escorting a caravan, were requested by the same person, and had the same intended destination. The only difference was their intended routes.

「I think I got it, Milia-san. There’s an important criterion that distinguishes E-ranked and D-ranked quests. Can you recall what it is?」

「An important criterion?」, echoed Milia, looking at me sideways.

There’s no way she doesn’t know this. Moreover, she’s supposed to be the one teaching the employee behind her, I thought. Not wanting to embarrass said employee’s sensei, though, I whispered it into Milia’s ear.

「The criterion is whether combat is guaranteed or not.」

「Ah~」, exclaimed Milia, a metaphorical light bulb lighting up over her head.

Smiling, she put her hands together. Perhaps it was her gentle nature giving the guild a cosy environment, or it was just her personality that made me unwilling to find fault with her.

「They intend to take different routes. The D-ranked quest will follow a route where fighting occurs frequently. For the E-ranked one, they probably plan to make a detour or something.」

「Thank you~」, said Milia, turning around and relating what I had said to her mentee.

On the hunt for someone who could succeed her in the future, the branch chief had also latched onto an employee who seemed to have strong foundations, training them to perform her duties.

Seeing that Vadenhaag’s first guild could function independently from now on, the three of us were set to return to Ferland next month. Although the term “adventurer’s guild” had drawn nothing but blank expressions at first, adventuring had by now become a recognised profession in this country.

Meanwhile, one of my understudies had attempted to convert a raw request into a formal quest slip.

「Excuse me, senpai! Could you take a look at this quest slip for me?」, he asked, handing me the draft.

「…」

More merchant-related business.

Some goods had arrived at Izalia, and the requestor wanted escorts so that he could sell it all over the country.

This requestor happened to be from Welger & Co.

Thanks to the widespread acceptance of the adventurers’ guild, merchants nowadays could sell their goods on their own instead of relying on the association. But since bandits and monsters were still running rampant in Vadenhaag, it was imperative to hire escorts if one wished to move goods around. It’s worth mentioning, though, that with the association, a significant portion of the profits went into hiring escorts and administrative fees, which deterred many from using that option.

Because of that, most opted to submit a request to the adventurers’ guild as our services are cheaper than those of the association. And at the end of the day, the biggest benefit for these merchants is the fact that they don’t have to rely on the association to do business.

I confirmed the details submitted by the requestor with my understudy, and checked that nothing had been left out in the quest slip.

「Everything’s in order.」

「Thank you!」, he said, returning to his seat in high spirits.

I had received a letter from King Randolph a while ago.

He wrote that he had warned his daughter in line with my advice. But Almeria’s a highly confident person, I thought as I was reading through it. Even lending him her ears would already have been a feat for her.

Anyway, he had also tasked Frank Lamperd, the commander of the royal cavalry, and his subordinates with protecting his daughter. Frank’s certainly a reliable fellow, but the likes of what we were up against still gave me cause for worry.

My impression of Aimee as an insurmountable wall hadn’t changed a bit since all those years ago. Even now, I couldn’t imagine finding a way to defeat her. If only she had called it quits after hearing of Barbatos Guerrera’s execution, but ‘happily ever after’s simply don’t exist in reality.

As I had only known her as the master that raised me like a son, I had been gathering information about her in secret. I had thus heard some rumours about her too. For starters, she opts for the most dangerous quests first, regardless of the commissions she receives. This was new to me, and I felt that she must have been quite an oddball — an assassin in a perpetual killing frenzy who experienced pura vida by killing the strong.

It would be better if she had been the one to assassinate the Demon King, I thought to myself. How she must yearn to assassinate Almeria, the Heroine known by the public as the strongest person alive.

Whether she has a requestor or not, and whether she will be commissioned — none of that mattered in the least.

From what I remember, it was a woman who kidnapped the fake Meiri. She had apparently also noticed that Lyla wasn’t an ordinary cat. In addition, she had only agreed to take part in the abduction because it seemed interesting, and left the guarding to her colleagues once her job was done.

I knew all this because of the Iron Wall that had collapsed long ago — Victor. Each incision on his corpse had been made with such careful attention to detail that even I had gotten goosebumps from looking at it.

Last but not least, Ta’uro the Guild Master had mentioned that he had spotted her in this country. There’s no way his eyes could have deceived him.

「…」

Every scenario that played out in my head ended in my death after two minutes at most.

「But that’s only if we fight one-on-one」, I muttered. 「When neither have the high ground.」

The guild was about to close for the day. As I tidied my counter, I decided that I would pay Almeria a visit.


Upon arriving at the castle, I searched for traces of Almeria’s unique presence. Thanks to the ‘Gate’ that I had set up, entering the castle was no problem.

「It’s honestly suffocating. For both Oji-sama and your subordinates too.」

「Naw, don’t say that. We’re just doing our job. His Majesty is absolutely insistent on it.」

Coming from the dining hall, the voices were those of Almeria and Frank respectively.

「But I’m stronger than Oji-sama! Is there really a point to this?」

「Having the numbers can be advantageous at times.」

He was clearly having trouble dealing with the feisty princess. Two of his subordinates, who were standing guard at the door, clicked their heels when they noticed my arrival. They probably remembered me from that meal I had with the king long ago.

I entered without meeting any resistance.

「Oi! Where did the guards go –」

「Oh, Roland! Could you at least indicate your arrival in advance? You always come without prior notice!」, said an overjoyed Almeria as she stood up.
Frank’s short goatee looked the same as it always had.

「I apologise for intruding while you are dining.」

「What brings you here, Roland?」, asked Frank. 「Are you becoming another bodyguard?」

「No, but I did think of an effective method to do this.」

「I-Is Roland going to protect me…?」

Frank smiled bitterly.

「So much for insisting that you’re ‘stronger’.」

「I take it that King Randolph already instructed you not to follow a routine.」

「Yup. I still go to the orphanage and train after returning, but what I do in between is never fixed.」

That’s good, I said, nodding.

「I have a way to ensure that you never follow the same routine twice.」

「Which is?」, they asked in unison.

「Becoming an adventurer.」

Almeria agreed before receiving any further details.

「I’ll do it!」

「That was a quick decision…」, sighed her bodyguard.



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