Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
The following day, I went to guild headquarters to sit for the Plant Master written test. There were two others aside from me. On my right sat a bespectacled male employee, and on my left sat another male employee whose beard was unkempt.
Although Iris had told me that the test would be difficult, I found it manageable and didn’t need to put down my pen until I finished the entire paper.
『It’s prohibited to use the techniques and knowledge from the forest in the outside world…』, Rodje had said from the very beginning when she heard about the whole Djeeta affair. 『…Although I do know of a herb known as the ‘Instant Miracle‘. While it’s not particularly rare, forest-dweller techniques can turn it into a panacea of sorts. No harm giving it a go, I guess.』
Seeing her chance to do her master a favour, she participated actively in the discussion. By ‘techniques and knowledge from the forest’, she probably meant that they are passed down only to other elves. As elves are an exclusive — some say even anarchic — species, they certainly possess knowledge unknown to humans.
I’ve never seen her so excited before.
After telling us that she would forage for some of the aforementioned herb, she had left together with Dee saying that they needed to make some preparations first.
The guy on the left has been staring at me since the beginning of the test.
「Bro, ‘scuse me」, said the bearded man, trying to get the examiner to help. 「Just lemme have a lil’ peep at the answers, kay? You look like a smart one.」
He seemed to be in his mid-thirties.
「I don’t see the point in doing well through dishonest means.」
「C’mon, just a little. Don’t be so rigid!」
The bearded man tutted at the unyielding examiner. From what I’ve seen so far, he doesn’t seem like a guild employee. Since the certification is a title in itself, he’s probably pursuing a medical profession or something.
…Which doesn’t really fit him, either.
When our time was up, the examiner opened his eyes and collected the scripts before dismissing us. The candidate to my right heaved a huge sigh and got up.
「I thought this year would be my lucky year… but I guess I’m not cut out for this exam after all.」, he said glumly to the examiner and made his leave.
I had caught a glimpse of his script when it was being collected, and half of it had been blank.
「No spirit at all, that feller」, spat the bearded man.
「Unfortunately, we only have the two of you left, but we will nevertheless proceed with the practical examination. You should see the names of various herbs and flowers already written on the scripts you will receive shortly. Please gather them and return before noon tomorrow.」
He handed out the scripts. True to his word, there were a hundred different herbs written on the script, all of which were raw materials that could be made into medicines.
Forage them all to pass, huh?
「Well then, please take care out there.」
Once the examiner was out of earshot, the other candidate stuck his head in front of my script.
「Oh, yours is different… wanna exchange answers, bro?」
Even if we exchange answers, I already know roughly where to find the herbs I need, so it won’t benefit me at all.
「I know, I know. Don’t team up, yadda yadda. It’s not like that examiner feller told us not to though, aye?」
「You’re not wrong.」
We have almost a full day to gather the herbs, and we’re free to roam about during that time. It seems uncannily easy to cheat… but given the low pass rate, there has to be a catch somewhere, I thought. Most of the herbs on the list can be found nearby, so they’re not asking for unreasonable stuff, either.
「Whatever you do, you’re a big one aintcha? You don’t need to spell it out for me, bro. My sixth sense is tinglin’.」
「If your sixth sense is that sharp, that test earlier should have been smooth sailing.」
「Quit the sarcasm. This examination is important for me too, y’know? So why dontcha maybe help a guy out…?」
It would weigh on my conscience to tell him anything concrete, but I allowed myself to inform him that most of the herbs he needed didn’t require him to go very far. We had also chanced upon the herbs’ flowering season.
「Coolio. What even are you, bro? You seem like you set the questions yourself!」
「When you’ve lived in the forest for long enough, it all becomes second nature.」
「Ah, a feral child…」
I estimated that we would be done by sunset if we headed for the nearest forest without delay. Leaving the royal capital, the other candidate followed me across a grassy plain where I plucked the relevant herbs and stuffed them into my gunny sack. He wasn’t completely clueless either, for he frequently bent over with a ‘Aye, there’s the one’ to pluck his own.
「I work at a herbalist’s, so I kinda know my stuff. But even I’ve never heard of like, twenty of these. Guess it’s one point for each one, aye?」
「And if I screw up for the ones I do know, then it’ll be all over.」
「I see. In the worst case scenario, will you be back here next year?」
「Money’s kinda tight, ya see. If I have a license, it’s like a stamp saying that this feller here can be trusted. Stuff has a fixed price at the guild, but as a private practitioner, I can tweak the prices however I like.」
He wants to use his license as a selling point, huh?
「No-one but penniless lil’ brats have been coming as of late. Haven’t sold a single homemade potion since that war ended, either. Spent most of my money on rotgut, anyhow.」
I didn’t respond at all, but he continued whining about his life to me even as we entered the forest and continued foraging. Gathering herbs with one hand, he waved his other hand about while talking. To an outsider, it seemed like we were moving as a unit, but in actual fact, he was nothing more than a hanger-on. He hadn’t been paying any attention to the questions that were written on his script either.
「If Morley did well, that means he knew the test’s requirements when he took it…」
「Ya said somethin’?」
I shook my head, plucking a few Instant Miracles I found here and there for my personal business.
「– and that’s how my regular customers keep me afloat.」
I allowed him to prattle on and on about himself until he began talking about his current circumstances, at which point I stopped what I was doing and listened for real.
「There’s this demi-human kid who comes like, once a month. Probably cuz he can’t get the stuff he needs anywhere else, hahaha. I give him some flour and he goes scamperin’ off gratefully, that feller.」
He continued as if he was telling a humorous story.
「Not like I’m ever gonna make legit medicine for some demi-human anyway. That kid’s more loaded than you’d expect, y’know?」, he cackled.
I turned around to look him in the eye.
「…doesn’t he live outside of the capital?」
「Eh, yeah, he did say somethin’ like that. Wouldn’t be surprised if that filthy bugger lives in a slum, honestly.」
「…Djeeno? Djeena? It’s close enough, whatever it is.」
In a split second, I gripped his neck and slammed him into the tree behind.
「I know his name. It’s Djeeta. Do you know how he got the money? Or why he needs the medicine?」
Struggling to free himself, he tried yanking my hand away but to no avail.
「You know that kid, bro? You don’t see that amount of money everyday.」
「I do, actually.」
I slammed him onto the ground with all my strength. He didn’t even yelp before fainting.
「I find it laughable that you call yourself a herbalist」, I said when he came to.
「Huh… whuh…? I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, bro. I saw the prognosis. Ain’t it incurable?」
「Incurable as far as humans are concerned.」
「I gave that brat hope in exchange for money! Thanks to me, he goes runnin’ home every time thinking his mother might be cured!」
「Silence, charlatan. I can tell that not an iota of that was done out of the goodness of your heart.」
To think that Djeeta had been giving this guy money and getting flour in return…
「He’s a demi-human, ain’t he? Hahaha… why’re you gettin’ your gonads in a twist about him? He’s neither a human nor a beast, so I treated him as such. Ain’t that normal?」
Is the ‘Normal’ way to treat demi-humans still so heartless after all this time?
「Three years ago, in the old Kingdom of Vadenhaag, a hundred thousand men from the 3rd Division of the coalition army fought and defeated a hundred and thirty thousand Demon King’s Army soldiers at Pikkel Butte. We pushed back their frontline and overran the enemy… and it should’ve ended there. But it didn’t. It was actually a trap — a diversion allowing them to attack our logistics supply chain.」
It’s quite an old tale.
「Using a previously established ‘Gate’, waves of demons attacked our rations stores and the guards there were annihilated. A month’s worth of rations for ten thousand troops would have gone up in flames if not for our first responders. It wasn’t the nearest bunch of troops that came to the rescue first — it was the demi-humans. Using their five senses, they smelled trouble before anyone else and managed to cut our losses to a negligible amount. In short, ten thousand troops’ lives were saved by those demi-humans.」
If the fire had been put out late, we would have had to stage a tactical retreat, during which countless troops would no doubt have been mowed down by pursuing forces.
「Since that fateful day, racists like you are now much rarer in the army.」
「Hmph. And you’re telling me those fellers don’t go around picking people’s pockets?」
I smiled and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck.
「Aren’t you the one making them do that?」
…Wait, I let my feelings get to me. Too much killing intent, way too much. I’ll remember not to do that in the future.
His eyes rolling back in shock, the bearded man began frothing at the mouth. He was clearly scared out of his wits, for he had soiled his pants on both sides. I flung him to the side.
「See that you no longer have anything to do with Djeeta.」
This is the forest, I thought. It’ll do him a world of good to wake up before he gets killed.
At any rate, I suppose unforeseen events during examinations do crop up from time to time.