172. The Black Cat
The Disaster Pillbug’s corpse was kinda a bit too big to fit in the Guildmaster’s room, so we dumped it in the dismantling room together with all our other non-quest related materials. This action also served a second purpose. One of the guild’s clerks would be helping us evaluate its worth.
I was a bit worried as to whether or not we’d actually be able to sell it seeing as how it wasn’t dismantled, but I soon recalled that the guild did actually offer a dismantling service, albeit at a bit of a price.
According to Erza, the fee for said service wasn’t fixed. It could vary based on how large and difficult to dismantle the magic beast in question happened to be.
「Hmmm… I don’t think it’ll cost you any more than 40k Golde. I think they only charged The Hundred Blade about 40k-50k for the B ranked Lesser Dragon he brought in that one time. Do you know about him? Hundred Blade Forrund, I mean.」
「Nn. Met in Barbra.」
「Wow! I’m so jealous! He’s soooo cool! I just can’t help but look up to him. Don’t you think so too, Fran?」
「Nn. Very strong. Will become that strong too someday.」
「That’s not what I mean! Come on Fran, don’t you think he’s really hot and dreamy? He’s just my type.」
Erza started doing the usual thing and twisting his body back and forth whilst wearing an expression you probably wouldn’t expect to see on anything other than a maiden in love. Honestly, at this point, I’d already gotten so used to him that he actually started kind of looking like a girl. Kinda.
「Oh, how I’d love for him to embrace me with his thick burly arms while whispering words of love.」
Welp. Sure sucks to be Forrund right now. I actually just flat out feel sorry for him. You know, this is probably the first time I’ve ever felt any sympathy for any sort of super good looking guy. I guess being attractive isn’t without its detriments after all.
Erza’s words were explicit, but Fran didn’t really seem to catch his drift regardless.
『I guess you might as well just nod along for now.』
「Oh, you see where I’m coming from, Fran?」
「He sure is hot, isn’t he?」
「It looks like we might just have similar tastes in men.」
Fran casually nodded along and affirmed Erza’s statements as she brought out the materials she wanted to sell.
The staff member responsible for appraising the items Fran was selling had a look on his face that almost made it seem as if he’d completely lost all faith in humanity. He simply had nothing to say, and didn’t know how to feel. On his left was a homo wriggling his body back and forth as he acted like a girl in love. On his right was a small child diligently sorting a whole slew of materials without even the slightest change in expression.
「Take pillbug out here too?」
「Huh? What? O-Oh, yeah, sure.」
Fran dumped the Disaster Pillbug’s corpse onto the floor. It had yet to be dismantled, so it was in the exact same state it’d been in right after its death. The room was immediately filled with a putrid stench as a result. It was one born from a mix of the creature’s electric burns and the simple unpleasant odor its body’s fluids happened to give off. Speaking of which, said fluid had yet to stop dripping out from within the insect’s open wounds.
Insect-type magic beasts had the tendency to be much more grotesque than their beast-like counterparts, and this one in particular was especially so as a result of its massive size. In fact, it was so much more disgusting than usual that even the clerk in charge of dismantling ended up grimacing in response.
Despite that though, the clerk ended up approaching it. Wow. I really had to give it to him. Dude was one hell of a professional.
He, however, was pretty much the only man present capable of really keeping his cool. A certain other person happened to freak the hell out.
The sudden throaty scream had sounded so panicked that I’d almost thought something serious had happened.
「T-There’s a bug!」
Erza’s face paled as he clasped both hands to his chest and started trembling in terror. His legs were shaking in much the same manner as those of a newly born deer.
The immediate conclusion I made was that Erza just wasn’t a bug person. He didn’t seem capable of handling them, and that was that. The pillbug’s ridiculous size didn’t really help his case either. In fact, it probably was doing the exact opposite.
The specific emotion reflected in his eyes wasn’t disgust, but rather terror. God, is he actually supposed to be some sort of pure maiden? Er, I guess he does have a heart like one, soooo…
Fran, on the other hand, didn’t actually seem to have a particular disdain for any sort of creature whatsoever. She stared at Erza with a confused look on her face; she seemed not to have even the slightest bit of an understanding of the other party’s fear of bugs.
Erza’s screams started escalating in volume in the meantime, and his face had began warping to an even greater degree. That said though, his was no longer the face that contained in it the most fear. The clerk had gotten extremely pale for some odd reason, but spoke in as comforting a tone as he could manage regardless.
「P-Please calm down Erza! That isn’t a bug!」
「I-It totally is!」
「It just happens to resemble one. That’s it!」
「I don’t believe you! It has to be a bug!」
「J-Just think about it for a second. T-There’s no way a bug that big could actually exist.」
「Big bug…? Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!」
「Craap! Hey, you! Can you move that thing somewhere else? Like right now? Please?」
『Shove it in storage for now. I’m pretty sure the whole situation will spiral out of control if you don’t.』
Fran still didn’t understand exactly what had happened, but she abided by the man’s request and immediately shoved the pillbug into storage as she had at least got the fact that something was wrong given that Erza had started tensing up.
「Everything’s okay Erza! It’s not here anymore!」
「W-Where’d the bug go…?」
The tension that’d filled the air around Erza dispersed as he fell flat on his butt. Seeing said action caused the clerk in charge of dismantling to breathe a sigh of relief.
「What happened to Erza?」
「Well, you see, Erza isn’t exactly comfortable around anything that resembles an insect. She gets so terrified of them that they make her go berserk. The rampage that ensues tends to produce some pretty terrible results, as she’s still capable of using her skills quite masterfully even when not fully conscious.」
「Any problems in dungeons?」
Erza was still just as capable of making use of his abilities when in his berserked state, so he wouldn’t die or anything, but that didn’t mean he was problem free. Not being in control meant that he would not only cause damage through friendly fire, but also completely obliterate any monster-related materials and hence reduce his party’s income.
He could tolerate smaller bugs, but he was known to go crazy if he got surrounded. There’d also been a case in which he went on a rampage after having a cockroach lunge straight at his face.
「One of his incidents had even lead to him sending about 20 of the guild’s clerks to the infirmary.」
「Sounds like dangerous event.」
「That’s cause that’s exactly what it is. Her rampages are so crazy and sudden that even A-rank adventurers find themselves having a fair bit of trouble dealing with them.」
The sudden appearance of a gigantic bug had pretty much put him on the verge of having one of his so called incidents.
「I’m sorry Fran… I just can’t stand bugs!」
I wanted to ask him the reason for his fears, but refrained because I figured there was a chance that recalling the memory would make him lose it. It looked like just casually pretending nothing ever happened would probably be in our best interest for now.
「Erza, leave room.」
「I’ll do exactly that. Check in with me once you’re done, I’ll go have some tea.」
With Erza’s departure came a wave of silence; we finally found ourselves capable of selling our materials.
The pillbug sold for a total of 560k Golde. It was considered fairly difficult to dismantle, and thus, cost us about 30k, which meant we made an overall profit of 530k. The fact that it was worth way more than a high ogre’s hide, which averaged in at about 40k a piece, really served to provide a sense of scale and show off just how ridiculously large the Disaster Pillbug really was.
All in all, we’d made a total of 800k Golde since departing Barbra.
I wasn’t really sure how we should feel. It felt like we were earning ourselves a bunch of money really easily, but it also kind of felt like we’d kind of put our lives on the line at the same time, so I couldn’t really tell if it was worth it. Oh well, whatever works, I guess.
「Are you all done now, Fran?」
We found Erza doing exactly what he said he’d be doing after we finished selling everything. He was sitting at the guild’s bar, drinking a cup of tea together with an old man. The teapot he was using seemed rather stylish, whereas the cup was adored with a bit of a floral design. The tea was accompanied by a snack consisting of scones. The hell? Are we in a goddamn cafe or something?
「Would you like some too?」
「I have red tea, black tea, and ulm tea. Which would you like?」
「That many choices?」
「Mhmm. I recommend scones for the red tea, cookies for the black tea, and pie for the ulm tea. 」
「…Will have all.」
「Oh my. Can you really eat that much?」
「Alright then. You heard the girl.」
The bartender had an old gentlemanly look to him. He didn’t fit in with his rowdy surroundings. Fran seemed to feel the same way, as she had her head tilted in confusion.
「This place. Bar?」
「Hahaha. I get that quite often. I can assure you that it is. However, I’ve started to stock a wider variety of tea and snacks at Erza’s request.」
「Teehee. That’d be because the tea you make is always really delicious, which is also why I tend to punish everyone that troubles you just a teensy bit more than I normally would. Doing so teaches them just how great tea can be too. I think it’s become just about as popular as the alcoholic drinks you serve, right?」
「That’s in part due to the rumours about how much you and the Guildmaster hate drinking. A fair number of our clients tend to pick tea over alcohol if either of the two of you are present.」
I guess it does only make sense for people to have an aversion to the stuff if the guild’s two most influential figures have a dislike for it. In that sense, I guess you could say that Erza, like Dias, was abusing his power to do whatever he wanted. Er, actually I guess that’s not quite right. It’s more like he’s throwing around the influence brought about by people’s fear of and respect for him.
「Here’s your first cup of tea, and a few snacks. I’ve started you off with the red tea.」
Fran took a scone in each hand and devoured the entire plate’s worth in an instant. I’m not even actually sure when it happened, but, she also somehow managed to down a tonne of cream and jam as well.
Erza enjoyed his tea in a much more elegant manner as he watched over Fran with a smile. His hands were posed exactly as they should’ve been; his pinky was sticking up and out. The sheer refinement of his mannerisms almost seemed to serve as a testament to the fact that he was really girly.
I was a bit worried about as to whether or not the old man sitting across from us would think poorly of Fran as a result of her poor mannerisms, but that fortunately didn’t end up being the case. He was instead gazing at her endearingly, as he likely would his own grandchild.
If I was to judge his occupation purely off his attire, I’d probably assume him to be some sort of adventurer.
「Fuofuofuo. The healthiest children are the ones with healthiest appetites..」
「Oh, excuse me, I must’ve forgotten to introduce myself. My name is Radyer, a mere C ranked adventurer.」
「He’s known for being Ulmutt’s oldest adventurer.」
The fact that he was a white haired magician instantly made me assume that he was someone really strong. I was basically completely convinced that his rank was lower than it should’ve been despite the vast extent of his experience because his body had gotten old and frail. I was also more or less sure of the fact that he used his wisdom and knowledge to compensate for his weaknesses.
「He’s actually realllly strong. He’d be a B ranker if not for the sheer amount of time he spent as a court magician.」
「I’m fairly disheartened by the fact that you didn’t claim me to be on par with an A ranker instead.」
「Well, that’d be because A ranked adventurers are far out of the norm.」
「That aside, Black Catkin adventurers sure are quite rare, aren’t they?」
Radyer’s evaluating gaze seemed to carry with it a hint of nostalgia.
「It’s been about fifty years since I’ve last seen one, hasn’t it?」
「Hmmm? Fran isn’t the only Black Catkin adventurer around, you know? We’ve got quite the number of them. In fact, they make up many of our new recruits.」
「If you’re talking in technical terms and including all Black Catkin that are adventurers, then yes. But, there aren’t any others this young or capable.」
「Well, I guess that is true. So you’re saying that there was another Black Catkin like Fran about fifty years ago?」
「There was. The lass here is nearly identical to the one I met back then. They’ve the same black hair and the same curt manner of speech. I can’t recall her name, but I can still vividly recall the sharpness of her gaze.」
Radyer closed his eyes and stroked his beard in order to better recall his distant memories.
「I think she said she was 15. I also recall that she liked to solo, and would treat those that insulted her tribe without even the slightest shred of mercy. She would also attack Blue Catkin adventurers and violently perform acts of retribution. I believe she would cut off their tails as if it was nobody’s business.」
「She really does sound just like Fran.」
「Doesn’t she? I believe she used to be called The Black Cat. There used to be a rumour that said any that involved themselves with The Black Cat would but lose their lives.」
「That person, where now?」
「I have no idea. She just suddenly vanished one day. I’ve no idea as to whether she died, or simply happened to leave town.」
If she was really that strong, then she, like Fran, had probably been seeking evolution. If this all happened 50 years ago, then there’s actually a chance she’s still alive. I’d like for us to talk to her and have her tell us everything she’s learned. I’m also a bit curious about the part where she just upped and vanished.
「The reason I don’t know is because The Black Cat and I weren’t what one could call intimate. Aurel, one of my old party members, however, might.」
「That sounds just perfect. The two of us were planning to go see Grandpa Aurel soon anyway. Why do you think he’d know though?」
「There are quite a few reasons. The first is because they’re both beastkin, and the second is because I happened to see them speaking with one another on multiple occasions. The third would likely be because she had apparently saved him once in the past. He warned us not to ever mess with her thereafter. It was a fair warning. I may very well have hit on her given her appearance and how I was in the past.」
「Was The Black Cat really cute?」
「She was. Just between you and me, I’m almost certain that Aurel had fallen for her.」
「Kyaaah!! Wait, does that mean Gramps is a lolicon?」
「No, no, definitely not. He was still in his teens back then. It was way back when he was still known as a genius as a result of the fact that he’d broke the record for being the fastest adventurer to become a D ranker.」
Right. For some odd reason, I’d almost been under the impression that Dias, Aurel and Radyer had just always been old men. I almost forgot that they too had, at one point, been young. You know, to be honest, I can’t even actually imagine them being young. Oh well, either way, I guess we’ve got one more reason to go hit Aurel up now.