Perhaps because of her extreme mental, not physical, exhaustion, Ellen went to bed early, even though the sun hadn’t set yet.
She might not have been able to sleep properly up until then because of her anxiety and tension. It was a bit much for her to call that place safe, after all.
Seeing that girl sleeping with a furrowed forehead, I felt somewhat sorry for her. It was more than obvious that she still felt that anxiety even though she was sleeping.
I was thinking of leaving her.
I might feel reassured with her around, but as long as I was together with her, her burden would increase as well.
As it was a three-person room, Eleris also entered the room.
“Shall we take a walk?”
I glanced at Ellen at Eleris’s whispered words. There might be relatively less dangerous factors there in St. Point, but I still thought it was a little too much to just leave a sleeping kid all on her own.
‘It’s okay. I’ll set up an alarm spell.’
Eleris only mouthed those words. She seemed to try to reassure me.
It looked like she had something to say to me.
* * *
Eleris and I left the inn and took a walk around St Point, looking at the guys busily preparing for the new convoy.
St. Point wasn’t very large, but one could still take a walk around the place.
“You have made a good friend.”
It was the first time ever since I came there that I had such a casual conversation with Eleris, except for that short moment at Klitz Point.
“But it also worries me.”
Eleris looked towards the inn where we were staying, and her eyes turned slightly sad.
“She is so strong that she’s about to break.”
Her words seemed to signify that she was worried about Ellen, not about me.
She was too strong, so she was about to break.
I think I knew what she meant.
Ellen had continued to march on strongly all the way to St. Point. She was sharp and doubted everything. As a result, we were safe, but Ellen suffered from extreme mental exhaustion.
She was so sensitive to everything that we were able to avoid every danger on our way and uncover the truth behind that incident.
However, if she kept going like that, she might end up collapsing soon.
Eleris seemed worried about that.
“Everyone needs someone to show their weak side to.”
No one could be simply strong. Everyone had a weak side.
One needed someone one could show their weak side to
“It seems like you’re someone like that to this girl.”
Someone whom she could show her weak side…
Eleris said that I seemed to be that kind of person to Ellen.
Yes, Ellen had often shown me her weakness for some time, a weak side she would never show anyone else.
“I think that’s a good thing.”
“…That’s good then.”
“Please treat her well.”
Eleris looked at me. “I’m already doing that.”
“Is that so?”
Then Eleris smiled as if she was happy.
“…What happened to you was terrible. It was obviously painfully sad and ugly. Your Highness has been through something I didn’t want you to go through…”
Eleris spoke as she looked at the sunset, her eyes filled with a complicated mix of emotions.
“I think I can rest a little now.”
I had killed someone.
However, it was to protect others.
It wasn’t anything good, but Eleris, while sad, seemed to be a little relieved.
“But… Are you still okay?”
Eleris seemed to wonder if my mind was in agony.
She wondered about the guilt and sorrow from the murders I had committed.
How was I?
Ellen told me to think about those things later. I first had to do what I had to do.
The result of organizing my thoughts was only one:
“I should be fine.”
I decided not to think about it for the moment.
* * *
We decided to go back to the Exian Outpost and plan our new schedule the next day, but I actually thought it would be fine to take a few days to rest. Ellen needed to spend some time in a safe place where she didn’t have to work her brain all the time.
It’s something I’d been through, and if Ellen stayed in that state any longer, she might suffer from stress-induced hair loss.
That would be a grave problem.
Just how miserable it was to not have a single hair on your head! However, I was completely fine because that wouldn’t happen anymore! After all, I had a ring that made me immune to hair loss!
I had to protect Ellen’s hair.
After eating, I planned to go straight to bed. Ellen was sleeping like a log, so she skipped dinner.
What if she woke up in the middle of the night because she was hungry? Eleris was also getting ready to sleep. I didn’t know if she would actually sleep or not, though.
I thought she was only pretending to go to sleep and would actually watch us all night while we were sleeping.
We suddenly heard a knock on the door of our room.
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I was sure that the Guild’s business was almost over.
Ellen got woken up just by that sound; however, she was already quite awake. Was she really sleeping back then?
I slowly approached the door with my sword in my hand, just in case.
“Who is it?”
-The Adventurer Guild’s investigator.
I heard a voice outside. He was an investigator sent from Exian’s Adventurers’ Guild.
I thought I was done for the day, but it seemed like I still had some business to take care of.
When I opened the door, there was that investigator looking at me with a cold expression on his face. “Could I talk with you for a minute? Don’t worry. It’s about the investigation, not about your charges.”
It seemed that he tried to assure me with that addition to his words.
* * *
Perhaps it was something confidential, as he walked into our room and sat down at the table.
Ellen, Eleris, and I were all wondering what the investigator came there for.
“You guys assumed that the guys that attacked Klitz Point were also responsible for the attack on Als Point after they came up North, right?”
Both Ellen and I nodded to his words. The bandits who attacked Als Point had traveled north and raided Klitz Point as well. We also told the officer in charge of the case that we suspected that they were trying to plunder the goods transported in the convoy.
“We have secured testimonies regarding the alleged raid of Klitz Point from Hugson. It has been said that they sent out an advance party that was supposed to occupy Klitz Point and raid the convoy”
I didn’t know whether Hugson simply admitted to all the charges or if they used some kind of trick to get a confession out of him. However, it seemed that the investigator somehow managed to make that Hugson confess.
Ellen and I nodded. What did he want to say with that?
“That so-called ‘advance party’ started from this Point traveling to Klitz Point; they didn’t start from Als Point. Hugson said he didn’t know anything about Als Point, which lost contact with every other Point.”
He admitted guilt to the attack on Klitz Point but claimed that he had nothing to do with Als Point’s case.
He claimed that these two cases weren’t connected at all.
“We have confirmed the travel path of the bandits that we had obtained from Hugson by looking at the Guild’s data. They all went down to Klitz Point via St. Point and never came back. I also confirmed that it was impossible for them to attack Als point due to time constraints.”
Hugson didn’t commit perjury. Investigators had already confirmed, based on the data collected from the Adventurers’ Guild, that they absolutely had nothing to do with the attack on Als Point.
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Our reasoning was wrong. The reason for the loss of contact to Als Point and the other Points connected to it was still unclear.
But why was he telling us that? We weren’t investigators, so we had no reason to take responsibility for our wrong guess.
However, Ellen seemed to know why.
“…You want us to find out what happened, right?”
The investigator clicked his tongue slightly.
“Currently, we are very short of manpower because we have to organize a new convoy. The Exian Outpost and the Guild can’t provide any financial support. There are no other skilled adventurers here in St. Point either.”
Hugson, who was the Point’s highest-ranking adventurer, had tried to pull something ridiculous like that.
However, although we three were only F-ranked newbies, we were bold and skilled enough to destroy the bandits who occupied Klitz Point.
From the investigator’s point of view, if they quickly found out the reason for Als Point’s collapse and it turned out its threat was very serious, they would need to attach more escorts to the convoy.
“We expect it to be a very dangerous mission, as no one has yet to return from Als Point. So the choice is yours. I’m just here to present you with this offer.”
It was impossible to force adventurers to take on a request. If he was an investigator of the Adventurers Guild, then he probably was in a fairly high position.
“Your task would be to scout out Als Point. If you come across a threat, keep in mind that this mission only entails reconnaissance, not extermination or subjugation.”
He was willing to entrust us with that mission in that situation where manpower was very scarce.
“The estimated level of risk for this mission is B-rank, so it’s a very dangerous request. The reward would be ten gold coins each. If the information you provide is decisive, you will receive ten more gold coins.”
He promised us a pretty huge reward. Just for going down to Als Point to see what happened, we would be able to receive thirty gold coins. If the information was decisive, we could get thirty more.
It wasn’t an extermination quest but a reconnaissance mission, and yet we would still receive 10 million won per person for it. The pay was insanely high, in my opinion.
However, it was definitely dangerous. We didn’t know what happened in Als Point, after all.
“We… we’ll do it!”
Before Ellen or I could even say a single word, Eleris suddenly shouted.
Instead of waiting for our opinion on it, why did Eleris suddenly rush into it?
“Ah, that’s… N-no. It would be nice if we could… That’s what I meant. Yes.”
Ah. That was when I remembered.
Eleris’ Scroll Store had very little revenue.
Her living conditions were the worst as well.
She lost her mind the moment money came into play.
…Eleris thought she could make a lot of money, so her body moved before she could think straight.
Ellen seemed to pounder for a moment after Eleris’s sudden outburst and then nodded her head.
“It’s not a subjugation quest but a reconnaissance quest. I think it’s something we’re capable of doing.”
Ellen looked at me after she finished her sentence as if she was asking for my opinion on the matter.
“Then let’s try our hand at it.”
I quite liked it as well.
As St. Point didn’t have any manpower, they commissioned adventurers on Hugson’s level to do certain requests.
There were no skilled people in St. Point, so they had no other choice but to entrust that important task to us, the rookies that appeared out of nowhere. If one went down South, one might encounter some really skilled people, but they were in a situation where they couldn’t hire those people.
It would take time to recruit powerful people from other regions.
The investigator explained to us that we should go to Exian Outpost’s or St. Point’s Adventurers Guild. He also wrote up a formal request with his signature on it and gave it to us.
“It’s just a reconnaissance mission, but its pay is so high.”
After the investigator left, Eleris spoke up.
“If we fail or die, they wouldn’t have to pay us. As it’s a request made by the Adventurers Guild, we won’t receive any advance payment either, as it’s basically guaranteed that they will pay us. That’s why the commission fee is quite high. “
That was Ellen’s answer.
It was a job we would only get paid for if we succeeded. One wouldn’t get paid so much if one took the request of one of the Adventurers Guild’s clients.
However, there was no need to pay the dead after all.
If we failed or died, the Adventurers Guild wouldn’t pay out a single penny. There were a lot of cruel and ruthless adventurers, but the world of requests was rather strict and tough in the end.
So they promised a lot of money and sent adventurers out on dangerous missions. And only those who manage to return alive were actually paid.
The Adventurers Guild was rather cruel as well, after all. Adventurers jumping into danger like moths into the flames were pretty stupid, but those moths wouldn’t fly into the fire if the Adventurers Guild wasn’t shaking huge amounts of money in front of them.
Eleris looked quite glum after listening to Ellen’s explanation.
That was a place where one’s dignity as a living being became worthless in front of money.
“We’ll leave early in the morning tomorrow. We should sleep early.”
We had plenty of time to rest up during the investigation of Hugson’s case.
We decided to move south again the next day as soon as possible.
* * *
It took about four days for us to reach Als Point. Before we set off, we completed reorganizing and stocking up on preserved food, and at the investigator’s request, we stopped by the Adventurers Guild of St. Point.
“We can provide you with horses if necessary.”
The outcome of our mission determined the fate of the convoy. As many people had to move along with it, the damages caused by binding those people down as well as to the isolated front lines would exacerbate with every passing day.
That was why we had been promised quite the sum as our reward. So the investigator told us that he could provide us with horses unrelated to the reward we would receive.
Of course, Ellen told me that she couldn’t ride a horse.
She hadn’t learned how to yet.
“I know how to ride a horse.”
Eleris said that she could afford to brush up her horse-riding skills along the way. She didn’t seem to think that it would be a bad idea to take the horses, as the matter was very urgent.
Of course, my horse riding skills weren’t that great, but as long as I didn’t have to participate in a race or something, I thought it would be possible to simply move.
“Then I could ride together with you…”
However, Ellen seemed to think of something else, regardless of whether we could ride horses or not.
“It’s going to be a rough journey. Let’s not take them.”
She seemed to have decided that it would be inefficient to travel by horse, as we didn’t know when or where an emergency might occur.
I didn’t think it would have made any difference if we rode those horses anyway. The terrain was rather curved, so even if we went by horse, we wouldn’t be much faster.
Eleris and I agreed with Ellen’s decision.
“I hope that the three of you will return safely.”
We all nodded at the investigator’s words.
* * *
We made our way back to Klitz Point, from where we had left not too long previously. Since Eleris casted Chilling Touch on us again, we had almost no trouble with the heat.
“…But come to think of it, it only takes a day to get to Klitz Point, so we’ll reach it by tonight, right?”
Ellen nodded at my words.
“Uhmm… We’ll have to rest in a place filled to the brim with corpses then.”
Eleris looked exhausted.
“You could camp outside.”
“What choice is sleeping in the wilderness and sleeping in a place where tons of people have died…?”
I hated both choices!
Anyway, even if we didn’t rest at Klitz Point, we would have to camp at some point. The road to Als Point was destroyed and broken.
“By the way, what do you think actually happened to the people in the other Als Points?”
At Eleris’s words, neither Ellen nor I could give any sharp answers. After some time, it was more than clear that Hugson’s gang of bandits wasn’t related to the destruction of Als Point. Those punks knew that a large convoy with supplies and commodities would be put together following Als Point’s collapse, so they immediately headed to Klitz Point from St. Point. They didn’t even get to Als Point in the first place.
“I’m not completely sure, but there are two possibilities.
Ellen took the lead and presented the possibilities.
“One, those who returned from Als Point were actually killed by the bandits in Klitz Point.”
There must have been some adventurers who noticed that they ended up isolated from the other Points and tried to return. On their return, they were killed by the bandits who occupied Klitz Point. That was why we didn’t get any news from any of the Als Points.
That was one possibility.
“Two, there were bandits or similar people occupying Als Point as well, and those who were trying to go back died in Als Point.”
The second possibility was that they couldn’t even go back to Klitz Point.
We didn’t even know if the incident at Als Point was already over or still ongoing.
“Anyway, our goal is to scout. Let’s not overdo it.”
If it was something we couldn’t seem to deal with, we could just watch and report back to the guild.
Ellen’s words seemed to serve as a reminder of the nature of our mission. We didn’t know what might happen if we tried to annihilate the bandits like we did in Klitz Point and something beyond our expectations happened.
In other words. we should really think of fighting against the threat as a last resort for once.