Translator: Kell | Editor: Weasalopes
Laying Some Groundwork
At the reception counter, Gloria’s cheeks twitched as she looked at Hikaru’s loot.
「Hikaru-sama, what’s all this?」
「I believe there are requests for these items.」
Hikaru’s bag was packed full.
Special moss that only grew on the backs of Green Wolves, Wolf Moss. Mirage Butterflies, insects that fly away and disappear when humans get too close. Slumber Orchids, a flower that only Forest Barbarians could grow. Insect Loquats, a fruit that when dried up and used to brew tea, could heal extremely rare diseases that affect young children. There were body parts as proof of kill from wanted monsters – monsters that were too dangerous and should be eliminated at once when spotted.
Hikaru took them all out at once. It was almost closing time, and the few adventurers left in the building were abuzz. He realized he was in too much of a hurry, which was understandable. After seeing Gloria naked that night when he followed her to her place, he couldn’t stay composed. The image just popped up in his head.
「Hikaru-sama. You want these assessed all at once?」
「Hmm… This should more or less cover half of the required number of requests to go from rank F to E. On that note, congratulations on your promotion to rank F!」
「Thanks. So can you assess these for me?」
「Yes, we can. But there’s a lot. We need to conduct a few checks…」
「That’s fine. You can go ahead and do that.」Hikaru said boldly.
Gloria looked surprised.
「Most people wouldn’t like that.」
「You’re going to investigate whether I stole these goods or attacked adventurers and snatched from them. I get it. That’s fine by me. But for the record…」
Hikaru inched his face closer and so did Gloria.
「…I bought them.」
「Ssh! You’re too loud.」
Hikaru pressed his forefinger on his lips to give the impression to the adventurers that he cared about what they thought of him.
「A group of hunters dropped by at this huge forest. I bought these from them. It cost me quite a lot, but that’s not really illegal, is it?」
「No, it’s not. But spending a lot means you’ll suffer a loss. Insects and plants will make you money, but rewards from wanted monsters won’t give you much, unless you got more parts from them instead of just the trophy.」
「I’m prepared for that.」
「Do you want to get promoted that bad?」
「I have my reasons.」
「May I know what those reasons are?」
「Hmm… It’s a secret.」
Hikaru played hard to get on purpose. That should do for the groundwork. Gloria’s imagination would do the rest. Actually, he didn’t care if Gloria was suspicious of him. The important thing was that adventurers knew that he paid for his loot so he could rank up.
One had to be rank E to enter the dungeon as it was a dangerous place, and only those who were fairly skilled got to that level.
It hadn’t been long since Hikaru became an adventurer. If he got to rank E right away, he would draw attention for sure. As a result, they might turn their eyes on Lavia as well. So to prevent all that, he lied about how he obtained the goods.
「Is he the son of some moneybags?」
「Paying to get promoted? That’s messed up…」
The adventurers reacted just as Hikaru expected. In fact it worked out too well, it was a bit eerie. He would still draw attention this way, but this was better. Becoming a rising star would be much more terrifying.
Needless to say, the whole hunters thing was a lie. He gathered all the materials by himself. If the guild tried to look for said hunters, they wouldn’t find them. Hikaru could just say “they probably moved somewhere else” and that would be it.
「That reminds me, Gloria-san. Since the assessment will take some time, I’d like to withdraw some cash. I’m penniless at the moment.」
That too was a lie, but a necessary one to make his story more credible. He withdrew 10,000 gilans from his account.
「Thanks. Good luck with the assessment.」
Hikaru was about to leave when Gloria stopped him. Oh crap, am I busted?
「What?」he said, turning back, pretending to act calm.
「Jill was mad.」
「…I’m sorry, what?」
「Jill was mad about you going to the royal capital without telling her. She looked like she was expecting for a souvenir as well. Me too, of course.」
A souvenir?! Do I really have to give one? Hikaru broke out in a cold sweat. Gloria flashed one of her knowing smiles. Then he realized something. She must’ve partly guessed what he was trying to do.
He might’ve bought half of these, but I’m sure he gathered half of them himself. He doesn’t want to draw attention so he lied, was more or less what her face was saying.
So what she was trying to say was: “I’ll play along if you give me a souvenir.”
Unfortunately, he didn’t bring one.
Lavia swiftly moved closer to Hikaru and handed him something.
「It’s a patterned handkerchief that’s popular in the royal capital.」
Hikaru thanked the gods for letting him meet such a thoughtful girl.
「Oh, sorry, I almost forgot! Of course I got you a souvenir. I hope it’s to your liking.」Hikaru said in a monotonous voice as he turned to face her, wearing his best smile. He handed the handkerchief – one with a peculiar pattern, dyed with two colors.
「I didn’t actually expect anything, but thank you!」
「It’s popular in the capital apparently.」
「I can brag about this to Jill. You’re not giving the same thing to her, are you?」
Hikaru gave a start.
「It’s okay.」Lavia whispered from behind him.
「Ah, sure, go ahead. You can brag about it.」
「I see. Yes, you wouldn’t make that mistake. I know you’re in a hurry, so I’ll ask Unken-san for help as well. That way we can finish the assessment faster.」
「Thanks. That would be great.」
And so Hikaru finally left the establishment. Dusk had completely settled outside. As soon as they were away from the guild, Hikaru let out a huge sigh of relief from his lungs.
「Phew… Thanks, Lavia. I owe you one.」
「You’re unbelievable, Hikaru. I thought for sure you at least bought some souvenirs.」
「What? Are they really that important?」
「There’s no better tool than that if you want them to give you favorable treatment. Pond is the capital’s satellite town and people are interested in the trends over there.」
「What’s more, the other party is a guild receptionist. It’s only natural for her to assume she’s getting a decent gift. 」
「I bought that handkerchief for myself.」
「Sorry.」Hikaru apologized sincerely. It never crossed his mind that Lavia, who was pretty much an expert in being a shut-in, would teach her how to interact with others.
「It’s fine. It was your money anyway.」
「Don’t worry. I’ll make it up to you somehow.」
「No, really. It’s fine. I’m actually glad to see that you have a careless side as well. I would suffocate if you were too perfect.」
Incidentally, Jill’s gift was an accessory case the size of one’s palm. Although more expensive than the handkerchief, it couldn’t be carried around. According to Lavia it was better to give them both two completely different things so it’s harder to compare.
「What about Aurora? Should I give her something too?」Hikaru asked.
「No. Giving something to someone you’re not even close with will have the opposite effect most of the time.」
「It’s not like I’m close with Jill and Gloria either.」
Lavia heaved a deep, deep sigh.
「It’s not about intimacy with those two. There’s a rivalry going on between them so if you give something to one of them, you have to give one to the other as well.」
「I’m not sure I understand, but okay.」
It was an area Hikaru was completely clueless about.
They once again booked a room at the same hotel.
「Ah, I thought you were not coming back…」the cat-eared lady at the front desk said in a slightly disappointed tone.
Do you even have any idea how to work in the service industry?! Hikaru thought.
「That reminds me… Front desk lady.」
「What is it, Hikaru-san?」
Wait, why are you getting overfamiliar?
「I went to the royal capital. They don’t check guild cards over there. They just verify if someone has a criminal record or not.」
「Oh, that creepy stone tablet…」
「Putting aside whether it’s creepy or not, yes, I’m talking about the stone tablet. You don’t use that here, and instead check people’s cards one by one. Why is that?」
「It’s simple. It can only be used in the capital.」
「Soul cards and guild cards can be used throughout the whole kingdom… No, actually the whole world. The stone tablet operates using a different kind of technology and it can only be used in the capital. More precisely, in lands ruled by nobles as well. Basically, only major cities.」
Hikaru felt relief wash over him. If the technology was the same as the one used in the cards, Lavia’s name could’ve been exposed. The stone, it seemed, only checked for crimes that were actually known and recorded. As such, Lavia was safe.
「We can’t use that stone here in Pond. And that’s where I come in!」the cat-eared lady exclaimed, pressing her index finger on her temple with a smug look.「One look at a card, and I remember every detail.」
I see. A rather analog approach, but the most reliable nonetheless. People working in this business are usually extremely good at linking a name to a face.
「So there you have it. You can rest assured, Hikaru-san.」
Hikaru felt uneasy all of a sudden.
Money left: 27,190 gilans (+90,000 gilans)
As always, they only took one room. Hikaru didn’t mind sleeping together with Lavia in a cramped bed. She embraced everything about him and that made him happy more than anything.
The next day, Hikaru planned to get a somewhat expensive breakfast for Lavia as thanks for yesterday. He thought about going to a restaurant or some café, but Lavia wasn’t feeling too well. The fatigue from firing immense magic yesterday had only just affected her now.
We need to be extra careful when spending mana.
Hikaru went out alone after Lavia asked him to buy a light breakfast.
A light breakfast… That reminds me, Lavia loved that spicy hotdog. Has the flavor improved since then? It should be high time they got it right.
He made his way to the hotdog stand.
The muscular shop owner was standing there, arms crossed, and before him was a lone girl. It wasn’t just her clothes that caught Hikaru’s eyes. She wore a fine, silk-white robe – one that’s uncommon even in the royal capital. Patterns that looked like magic circles were woven into her sleeves and hemline in red and silver threads. It was a robe of high quality, the kind that a Sorcerer of the royal palace would wear.
But what surprised Hikaru was not her outfit. It was her hair.
「Good lord! I didn’t expect to find real ketchup and mustard in this town!」the girl exclaimed.
She had glossy, black hair, tied in pigtails.
「I give this hotdog a passing score!」
Standing there was a girl with black hair and equally black eyes.