We departed from Lotten, boarded the train in Barreheim, and transferred three times. After all that, we were able to arrive at Asterium, the center of the Asteria Dukedom, at around 5 p.m. Our total travel time included six hours by carriage and eighteen hours by train. We couldn't even take a day off and had to rush all the way.
Asterium was a large city not far from Warrant, and it was known as the Last City. If Warrant was the region’s shield, Asterium was the heart of its supply chain.
As soon as we disembarked at Asterium Station, Fiona and Demuir welcomed us, each armed with a rapier and a pistol.
"We heard about Lotten's ruins. Thank you for your hard work.”
At Fiona's encouragement, Dano sighed with a tired expression. "I know. All the work we did was for nothing." He spoke to Fiona using honorifics. Although it was natural because Fiona was Dano’s senior both in rank and age, I wasn’t used to Dano speaking formally for some reason.
"The adventurers must have thrown a riot, huh?” Demuir asked in a playful tone.
Flam nodded, also visibly exhausted. "It was no joke. It was like looking at a shoal of angry monkfish."
I agreed with Flam. "Well, the ruins collapsed when they were almost done selecting explorers, so they had a right to be angry."
Demuir pulled me into an embrace and messed up my hair. "Well done. Is there anything you want to eat? I'll get you something even if I have to steal it from the supply depot”, he said with a wink. Fiona smiled and pulled Demuir's ear.
"Ahhhh, senior! It’s a joke, a joke!" Demuir cried out in pain.
Fiona replied in a low voice ill befitting her smile, "If you steal supplies again, you'll really be punished." Demuir must have already had a history of stealing and getting caught.
"You managed to steal supplies and get away without disciplinary action?" I asked. I didn’t know what it was like in peacetime, but the act of stealing supplies in wartime was a serious act tantamount to helping the enemy, and would always receive heavy punishment.
Fiona answered my question with a smile. "Well, he didn't steal a lot. He just gave some chocolate and biscuits from the supply depot to some orphans on the street, so the Guild Director just laughed and moved on."
Demuir shouted, sounding aggrieved, "What do you mean, ‘without disciplinary action’! Because of that, I’m only given chocolate and no bread! I want to eat bread, too! I want to eat meat!"
Fiona snorted at Demuir's whining. "So, who told you to steal military supplies? Just be relieved that it stopped at that. It won't be on your record and it won't affect your promotion, so be grateful and eat your chocolate!”
"Ah! I don't like chocolate anymore!" Demuir cried, making Flam laugh.
"Ahahahaha! What's wrong? You always looked for sweets when you said your head wasn’t working. Now you can eat like a pig!"
"Keuhahaha! Maybe you’ll bleed chocolate instead of blood?"
Demuir shouted back as Flam and I laughed uproariously, "Don't laugh!"
I didn't know who had come up with the punishment, but it was truly appropriate for him.
As Flam and I were teasing Demuir, Dane Walker looked at the clock and said, "I'm sorry, but I have business with the Guild Director, so I'll go first." That business was probably related to the ruins.
"Why? We have to go to the Asterium branch anyway. Let's go together,” I suggested.
Dane Walker replied sadly, "No, I want to hang out with you guys a little longer, but I have to go."
"Then there's no helping it. Thanks for your hard work."
"Thanks for your hard work.”
"I'll be there to meet Rosellis around dinner, so see you later." Dane Walker waved and quickly ran ahead.
We slowly headed to the temporary barracks where we would be staying for the next few days.
* * *
When Glont entered the conference room of the Asterium adventurer’s guild branch, the adventurers and executives stood up from their respective seats. Glont gestured as he reached the highest seat and everyone sat down again.
The people gathered in the conference room were prominent enough to be considered key figures in the adventurer's guild.
Glont looked around the table and asked while looking at the empty seat, "When did you say Dane Walker would arrive?" The vacant seat was for Dane Walker, of course.
Roseland checked the schedule and answered, "If there haven’t been any problems, he should have just arrived at the train station by now."
"So he’ll be here soon. Let’s start the meeting as soon as Dane Walker arrives."
Rosellis put her legs up on the table with her fingers crossed behind her head, smiling rebelliously. "That ahjussi is having a hard time too."
Rosellis's behavior was greeted with a fierce scolding by a bald, muscular, dark-skinned man sitting across from her. "Bloodstained, this isn’t a personal space. If you're a platinum plate adventurer, don't you think you should know how to maintain some dignity?"
He acted like a missionary priest, as if to show that the white priest uniform he wore wasn't simply for show. And yet, because the buttons on his robe were straining to contain his huge muscles, he seemed more threatening than holy.
"Pagan Priest ahjussi nags too hard.” Rosellis grumbled and lowered her legs from the table, putting her chin on her hand.
The muscular man, known as the Pagan Priest, was a platinum plate adventurer. Despite his nickname, he was also a high ranking priest who officially belonged to the temple. The real reason he was called the Pagan Priest was due to his fighting style: He strengthened his body with divine power to catch monsters with his bare hands. Compared to the usual image of a priest, the contrast was too great.
"I've told you over and over again that it’s not Pagan Priest. I’m a formally ordained priest. It’s just that I’m misunderstood because I’m a battle priest monk, Sister Bloodstained-nim."
Usually, the term ‘battle priest’ referred to those who defeated the enemy with divine magic. Fighting with their bodies was the territory of paladins, not the battle priests.
However, he practiced martial arts as a form of mental training and called himself a monk, even though the monk order had already disappeared more than 150 years ago. In other words, according to the classification of the temple, he was a priest, but not a true battle priest. If he had been an ordinary priest in the first place, he wouldn’t have been an adventurer.
"Yes, yes, Funeral Priest-nim."
His other nickname was Funeral Priest, because he always recited funeral prayers while slaughtering monsters with his bare hands.
"If possible, I'd like you to call me Ruin, Sister-nim."
Rosellis snorted at Pagan Priest Ruin’s request. "Eh, but you're also calling me Bloodstained! Surely ahjussi can call me by my name too."
"How could I just casually say the name of Count Asilante's esteemed daughter?” Ruin expressed his disapproval.
Rosellis looked at him as if he’d just said something absurd. "It's more impolite to call me Bloodstained than by my name! Besides that, calling me the Count’s esteemed daughter gives me goosebumps, so don't say things like that!" She rubbed her arms as if she’d really gotten goosebumps. "By the way, even if Dane Walker ahjussi is late from escorting Den and the old guy, where are the other two?" she asked.
Ruin put his hands together as if to pray and answered, "The Iron Wall was originally mainly active in Warrant, and the Indebted Knight should be blocking the demons at the front lines."
Iron Wall and Indebted Knight were the nicknames of the other platinum plate adventurers.
"Indebted ahjussi must be excited to make money. At this rate, maybe he’ll be able to pay off all his debts...?"
It was very dangerous for even platinum plate adventurers to deal with demons, but there was no denying that it was profitable.
"Heh-heh-heh. if that credit delinquent were a man who paid off his debts, his nickname wouldn't have been Indebted.” Ruin laughed wryly as if he’d heard something strange.
Rosellis seemed to agree. "That's true. The Duke of Asteria is an odd man, to keep lending money to that credit delinquent."
Ruin smiled benignly in response. "Well, if it comes to that, the Duke will make him pay everything back with his body, so he won’t be at a loss. If you listen to a bad creditor, you’ll get exploited for more than just the money he borrowed. It seems the tiger of the political world is still alive."
Glont smiled merrily at the conversation between Rosellis and Ruin. He then looked towards the door and said, "It seems Dane Walker has arrived, so let's gradually get started."
At the same time, Dane Walker opened the door and sprayed colorful petals into the air with illusion magic. "I am here!"
As if they were used to Dane Walker’s entrances, everyone just nagged him.
“Hurry up and sit down, ahjussi.”
“We need to start the meeting, Brother-nim."
Roseland pulled out the vacant seat and said, "Mr. Dane Walker's seat is here."
When no one reacted, Dane Walker sat down feeling sullen. "Then let's start the meeting."
The playful atmosphere that had been present before was quickly replaced by a serious one. The meeting began as those gathered discussed how to best use the reserve forces.
* * *
With Fiona's guidance, we entered an inn near the Asterium adventurer’s guild branch.
"This is the temporary barracks for people from headquarters. The command room is located on the first floor of the Asterium branch. You can go there in a little while to check the passcode."
Fiona handed me a key marked 305 and said, "Den and Flam have been assigned to room 305."
Contrary to my expectation that we would have to put desks together in an office or live in a tent outside, she had secured us proper rooms at the inn. Unlike Lotten, Asterium seemed to have more space because it was a large city.
"I put some military gear in the room, so check it out and tell me if you need anything. Most things can be acquired from the supply depot."
Fortunately, it seemed they’d brought us some gear too.
Upon hearing Fiona’s consideration, I told her what I needed without hesitation. "Can I have some chocolate if there’s any? I'll give it to Demuir if he asks us to share our dinner."
Fiona burst into laughter at my request. "Puhut, all right. I'll give it to you at dinner. You must be tired, so go up and rest."
The adventurers also knew that Demuir had been sentenced to eating only chocolate for every meal. Even if Demuir personally tried to buy food in secret, unless he could avoid the eyes of all the adventurers, it would be impossible.
Naturally, it was clear that Demuir would cling to me and beg for food. But... If I ran into someone who could be teased, it had always been my principle to tease them.
"You’re so evil," Flam said. Despite that, he also asked Fiona for chocolate. At some point, Flam had already been tainted by my darkness.
Someone called my name suddenly as I was about to head upstairs while chatting with Flam.
I looked back toward the voice. Lisbon was standing there, looking surprised to see me. "Why are you here?” he asked.
That's my line! Why are you here?!Previous Chapter Next Chapter