leChapter 9. The Hero Suffers an Unexpected Ambush
The bet was set to be settled tomorrow. Our two parties would enter the forest simultaneously and compete to see which could hunt the most goblins before sundown. I, of course, had been the one to negotiate the terms, and managed to do so rather favourably save for a single mistake. I had only intended on providing the young mage an idea, but I ended up getting dragged into the competition as one of his allies.
The mage had complained that it wouldn’t be fair for him to take on a party of three all by himself. The adventurers also didn’t want to be known for throwing their whole party at a single newbie, so they effectively just forced me, the person who’d suggested the idea, to be a part of it.
Another annoying circumstances was the fact that adventurers thought that both the adventurers and the mage turned down the option of just turning the whole thing into a 1v1. The former thought it’d be unfair, whereas the latter simply didn’t want to do it that way. I wanted to refuse regardless, but we’d already kicked up a fuss and a lot of other adventurers had already started gathering in our vicinity. I didn’t want to stand out any more than I already had, so I ultimately ended up just nodding along and agreeing.
That, of course, still wasn’t the last of my problems. The most important one of all was that I didn’t want people to think that Barkas and I were at odds with each other; I wanted to stay free of doubt when the time came.
Hence, I declared, right in front of the guild’s receptionist, that we would be adding directly to the mage’s kill count, but not directly participating in the bet. That is, we wouldn’t be putting the materials we earned on the line. The mage kid would get all of the adventurer party’s loot if we won. The adventurers would only be getting his loot if they won. It was a suggestion that wrote us off as stakeholders in the matter. We were just supporting actors there to fill up the roster.
Both Dot and Terry seemed a bit reluctant about agreeing to terms in the mage’s favour, but we managed to convince them that we deserved a handicap seeing as how we were not only just passersby that ended up getting forcibly dragged into the situation, but also newly registered adventurers to boot.
Another statement that aided us in convincing them was the fact that we said we would hand over a third of our total earnings regardless of how much the mage actually got done. Abiding by said methodology would prevent us from gimping Barkas’ party by claiming that Minnalis and I did everything, and that the mage had just been an accessory.
Barkas hadn’t really said much throughout the negotiation. He had kept his mouth shut as he scanned the mage’s staff and Minnalis’ body in turn.
His thoughts were ridiculously easy to read.
The fact that he’d given Minnalis a lewd gaze bothered me a bit, but the feeling was overwritten by the urge to laugh at his sheer simplicity.
Barkas and his goons parted with us shortly after finishing up all the negotiations. We all agreed to meet up at the guild again sometime tomorrow night in order to settle everything. His party of three didn’t seem too intent on going back to the guild’s bar, and instead left the building without so much as even converting the Aural Rabbit they caught to cash.
It looked like he hadn’t even the slightest clue about our schemes. In fact, he and his buddies had already started talking about how they were going to drinking somewhere else.
「We should probably head off too. We’ve got lots of thinking to do for tomorrow’s sake.」
「Er, could I have a minute before you guys go?」
The mage called out to us before we could get on with our business.
「Sorry about getting you involved. I couldn’t help but have you help me out cause I felt like we were pretty similar. I’d like to talk to you a bit about what we’ll do tomorrow, so please do let me apologize by treating you to breakfast if you haven’t had it already.」
I couldn’t help respond to the young man’s words with a blank stare.
Yeah no, I didn’t really see how I had even the slightest resemblance to someone that went out of his way to pick a fight with a group of adventurers for what was basically no reason, but, thinking back on it, the mage boy seemed pretty clumsy. The way he asked for help was nothing short of awkward. I didn’t feel any ill will from him, but it seemed as if he was still hiding something. Wait, what did he mean by me being similar to him in the first place? Thinking about his statement further only made me all the more wary of him.
My most likely conjecture was that he thought of me as some sort of noble, and meant we were similar in that regard.
（So I’m guessing that means he’s feeling a sense of amity?）
Both the way he walked and carried himself were rather indicative of the fact that he was of noble birth. He didn’t seem to be the type that decided to become an adventurer because his family had fallen from grace either, so chances were, he was probably some household’s third, fourth or nth son. It was fairly typical for all sons beyond the second to leave the house and seek a living of their own, as the first son would be treated as the family’s successor, and the second his spare, just in case.
In other words, the mage had thought of me as the nth son of some sort of noble. A bit of thought led me to realize that it was only logical. It wasn’t unusual for adventurers to own slaves, but the only total newbies that had them were ones that had access to some other source of significant income.
「We’ve already had breakfast, but I don’t think there’s any need for you to be worried about having bothered us. Helping those in need is only natural, after all.」
I smiled as I shrugged my shoulders.
I couldn’t be bothered to correct him because we hadn’t really been inconvenienced, so I just kinda left things as is and brushed him off.
「Alright. In that case, I’ll make sure I share the reward with you and treat you to a meal if we end up winning tomorrow.」
The young mage ended the conversation and headed back towards the receptionist’s desk.
Minnalis and I chose to leave the guild as well, as there wasn’t really any reason for us to stay much longer.
「I should’ve known that people see newbies with slaves as nobles.」
We’d purposefully refrained from hiding Minnalis’ slave crest as it’d make it obvious that she was my slave, and hence, ward off any that happened to be captivated by her charms. I’d never actually expected that our course of action would lead to people mistaking me for a noble.
「A few people already know, so it might not be all that effective, but do you want to try hiding your crest?」
「I’d… like to leave it as is. I don’t think that being taken for a noble really puts us at any sort of disadvantage. Besides, we’ll probably run into other unexpected problems if I hide the fact that I’m a slave.」
Minnalis answered after spending a moment to think things over.
「You would probably get swarmed by men, namely male adventurers, if you don’t hide the fact that you were a slave. Most people wouldn’t really care about the fact that you were a beastkin so long as you did your job right. You also have to take into account the fact that you’re quite the beauty, so you’d probably have them flock to you by the dozens.」
「…I don’t really think I’m beautiful. Aren’t you just overthinking things, Goshujin-sama?」
Minnalis’ face stiffened up and entered into an unchanging state. It seemed that she couldn’t really accept the fact that she was a beauty. Either that, or she was just getting all embarrassed. I couldn’t tell if poker face she was wearing was natural, or simply the result of that skill of hers.
Either way, I wanted her to be more aware of how she appeared. It was pretty important to know what other people thought of your looks.
「I’m serious. I’m convinced that you’re both cute and pretty. In fact, I’m willing to bet that most guys would feel the same.」
Her expression still remained unchanged despite the extent of my praise. Complimenting her the way I did made me feel a bit embarrassed in spite of the fact that I didn’t really view her in any sort of romantic light, so I changed the topic back to what it was before.
「Still, I do think that it’d be a bit of a pain for us to reject each and every single person that tries to flirt with you, and it’s not like we can go around killing them all either. Besides…」
「The fact that you’re a slave means that people might try and approach you through underhanded means. We could use people like that, make them take part in a few of our experiments. For example, you could try checking whether or not goblins can actually understand human speech.」
I’ve decided to try my best not to get random bystanders involved when carrying out vengeance. There were several reasons for which I made that decision, the most important of which being that I might go insane, which, in turn, would make me unable bring myself to face Retishia. Casting my sanity aside would be akin to junking everything she’s ever given me.
My reluctance to indiscriminate murder, however, only applied to those qualified as human beings. Scum that functioned purely off instinct didn’t count. They were practically monsters, goblins, creatures that I needed not think of as intelligent.
Still, there was no point in just killing them. Even garbage had its use.
We began stuffing all the stuff we needed for tomorrow into one of our Round Pouches after buying all the medicinal and poisonous plants that we thought might come in handy.
I grabbed the 【Sword of the Eight Eye’s Transparent Tome】off my waist and poured a bit of magical energy inside in order to pull up a list of the stuff I’d used it to appraise thus far.
To be more specific, I pulled up all Barkas’ stats, alongside his companions’.
Barkas: 31 Years Old, Male
Innate Ability: Gold Seeking Nose
Sword Arts Lv 6
Tracking: Lv 2
Presence Suppression: Lv 3
Night Vision: Lv 2
Bodily Control: Lv 3
Dismantling: Lv 5
Strengthened Magic: Lv 3
Condition: Good (Tipsy)
Dot: 28 Years Old, Male
Innate Ability: N/A
Shortsword Arts: Lv 4
Sword Arts: Lv 1
Tracking: Lv 5
Stealth: Lv 3
Night Vision: Lv 3
Bodily Control: Lv 2
Presence Detection: Lv 2
Dismantling: Lv 6
Lesser Reinforced Vision: Lv 2
Art of Reconnaissance: Lv 2
Condition: Good (Tipsy)
Terry: 29 Years Old, Male
Innate Ability: N/A
Staff Arts: Lv 2
Tracking: Lv 1
Night Vision: Lv 2
Water Magic: Lv 5
Magic Manipulation: Lv 3
Meditation: Lv 3
MP Cost Reduction: Lv 2
Dismantling: Lv 5
Condition: Good (Tipsy)
「They have a swordsman as their vanguard, a scout for reconnaissance, and a mage taking up the rear.」
「Their party seems quite balanced.」
I vaguely remember them claiming to be a C ranked party back when I first met them. I’ve no idea as to whether or not they were bluffing, but if I were to guess, I’d say that the party’s leader was most likely a C rank at the time, whereas its members were probably both D ranks.
That, however, was how they’d end up turning out 3 years from now. As of right now, their stats seemed to belay the fact that they were all at least a whole rank’s worth weaker than they would ultimately end up being. In other words, they were about as strong as E ranked adventurers, and their party was probably a D ranked party at best.
I couldn’t immediately tell what Barkas’ innate ability did, so I appraised it, only to find that it granted him the ability to intuitively identify that of which was of significant monetary value.
The skill’s phrasing left me in doubt. The skill didn’t seem to grant knowledge, function like appraisal, or even have the ability to examine an object’s composition.
It seemed that it was capable of identifying specifically when something was worth cash — which would make it fairly accurate, seeing as how it was impossible for anyone to use my Spirit Blades without my permission. That is, neither the 【Sword of the Eight Eye’s Transparent Tome】nor the 【Round Squirrel’s Pouch Blade】could actually be sold for cash, and hence, his skill failed to react to them despite the extent of their abilities.
「Now, how exactly should we go about doing things this time around?」
I muttered under my breath whilst getting rid of the displays that displayed Barkas’ and his goon’s stats.
「There are still a few things we’ve yet to try out on monsters…」
Minnalis offered a suggestion.
「Nah, let’s not. Those methods are good, and using them on monsters does help me brainstorm, but most of them are primitive and are centered around inflicting pain.」
We weren’t able to communicate with them, and they didn’t really seem capable of any sort of deep thought. Hence, we weren’t able to get much out of testing anything that had even the slightest bit of complexity to it.
「It’d be wasteful for us not to try out something a bit more complicated seeing as how we’ve finally got ourselves some humans to test things on. I think we’d probably benefit more from doing something that invokes a sense of fear. That’s why we should *^&$ and %^$^%$&^% before we kill them.」
I let Minnalis in on my idea.
「That does sound pretty interesting, but is it actually possible?」
「I think so? Why don’t we go try it out on a goblin or something after lunch, just to be sure?」
Minnalis agreed and joined me as I stood up and got ready to leave.
「The only problem is that they wouldn’t really be able to feel any pain if we just did that. Wouldn’t it be better for us to hurt them a bit first?」
「Sure, but do hold back a bit. Try not to make them want to kill themselves or wish for death right off the bat. I want a good piece of torture for myself.」
「Oh come on, Goshujin-sama! You’re not the one that got stuck having to put up with their disgusting gazes. You had so little of an impression on them that I was only barely made aware of them when we shared our thirsts for vengeance, so I can tell you for sure that they bother me more than they bother you. Shouldn’t you be the one pulling your punches here?」
「Ugh, fine, I guess you do have a point. We’ll each have an even split. I won’t yield anything more than that. I do still hate them quite a bit, you know?」
The two of us chatted away as we descended the inn’s stairs.
「Are you two head out again already? I could swear you only just got back.」
The lady that owned the inn called out to us right before we headed out the door.
「Yup. Goshujin-sama’s taking me out on a date.」
Minnalis spoke whilst retaining her poker face.
「（Goshujin-sama, you do know that people can transfer the rights to their slaves to another, right? People might try buying me off of you if we don’t seem too intimate. People typically won’t sell off any slaves they’re fond of, so you need to act like you’re really attached to me if you want to keep all the bugs away.）」
Minnalis brought herself closer to me and whispered so that only I’d hear her.
「（I mean, you do have a point, but…）」
The innkeeper glanced over at Minnalis and take note of her lack of an expression.
I know I literally just said it, but, to emphasize and reiterate, Minnalis had a complete and utter lack of an expression.
Didn’t her deadpan expression make her actions have an effect opposite of the ones she’d been expecting? I’m pretty sure she just made me look like some prick forcing a slave to act as his lover.
「（Hey Minnalis, could you do me a favour and smile? At least put on a fake one since you’re acting anyway, okay? If pretending to be intimate embarrasses you to the point where you need to use a skill to cover it up, then you might as well not do it in the first place. Okay? So can you just smile already? Right now? Please? ）」
The innkeeper looked at me. Her eyes were not only filled with pity, but also like those of a dead fish. They seemed to burn their way into my soul.
Hey, Minnalis? Could you not like, just stare blankly? Come on…
We’d been planning to leave in the first place, so I ended up deciding to just hurry the hell out of the inn.
I never thought I’d be met with that kind of ambush. I’m pretty sure that the innkeeper is still misunderstanding the relationship between Minnalis and I. The very consideration of the fact that she might look at me like that again later made me kind of want to cry and even shit myself. Luckily, I didn’t do either.
 “Master” in the slavery sense of the word. Also used by maids and the like. See the note on the blog post associated for this chapter if you’d like to know why I started weebing stuff up a bit more.