41 Overcoming a Dead-End
「A difficult enemy…」
「Kuu, this is unfair!」
「I don’t think we will be able to win…」
「…. should we retreat?」
The C Rank party 『Red Oath』 was fighting a disadvantageous battle.
Their opponent was a pack of Kobolds. Around twenty of them.
They, by no means, were strong monsters. Not strong, but…
They were cute. Their appearance is, very much so…
(Are Kobolds not supposed to be ugly fairies or ominous spirits like in stories on earth! Why are they so cute?)
Yes, the monster called 『Kobold』 in this world has a body around the height of a human child with a dog-like upper body that has the loveliness of a puppy. And their habit.
They had the proper instinct for a monster to attack.
And while they were weak, that was only from the perspective of C Rank Hunters like Mile and her friends. In a 1-on-1 battle they are a threat to children and women, and a pack of them is more than enough to bring down an adult man and even small groups.
So they had chosen to take a request to eradicate a newly formed den near a village, but…
「We can’t This time it’s a proper quest and not a continuous commission!
If we retreat here it will mean that we failed the quest! Not only will we have to pay a fine but the reputation of 『Red Oath』 will be damaged!」
To ensure that Hunters don’t take on any requests that are above their abilities and fail, or that they take a lot of quests to monopolize them and then finish none, quests that were taken but not completed would result in a fine of about 10%-30% of the quest reward.
The percentage of the fine is not fixed with it being cheap for things like thinning out monsters or other comparatively safe quests, while for urgent or dangerous ones where failure would lead to great damages could lead to a fine of even more than 30%.
This time the reward was not that big, so the fine for not completing it was also not that much, but for a Hunter the knowledge that due to their slow reaction the villagers could come to harm put a lot of pressure on them.
And if they really couldn’t finish it no matter what, how could they face the parents whose children were attacked by Kobolds with a reason for their failure like 『we couldn’t kill them because they were cute』.
All four of them were well aware of this.
「Let’s do this! We’re C Rank Hunters and this is not a game, it’s work!
And the lives of several people are on the line here!」
Rena’s voice made Maevis, Pauline, and Mile harden their hearts.
Yes, this was an important duty that could decide over life and death.
And not only life and death of their comrades, but also those of many villagers and travellers.
「Rise up, conflagration of hell! Burn even bones to ash!」
Right now they were not in the forest, but on a rocky resting place near a highway. Being able to use her forte, Fire Magic, again after a while, Rena let loose her trusty original spell.
This time their objective was extermination, and regardless of whether the Kobold fur sold well, none of them would bring themselves to skin them. So there was no problem in burning them to cinders.
Rena’s fire attack hit where the Kobolds were grouped together, and Pauline cut off the escape route of the hurriedly fleeing Kobolds with Firewall, allowing Maevis to throw herself into the frenzy.
Mile sniped the Kobolds that were trying to escape.
With Rena’s initial attack 14 of them were taken out and the movement of many others was dulled by burns, allowing the quartet to pick them off one after the other.
「Well then, let’s start today’s reflection meeting…」
As usual initiating the meeting was Rena, although this time it was no conference in their room, but rather a merry meeting over food in the inn’s dining area. Food was already on their table.
「First of all, everyone, what was today’s fight. The last part was alright, but that blundering around in the beginning, just because they were a little cute? Are you underestimating being a Hunter?」
Rena’s words made Pauline and Meavis look away and poke at the food on their plates.
「Eh, but the most agitated was Re-…」
Slamming both of her hands on the table, Rena cut off Mile with a crimson face.
「Anyway, I may be bragging, but our 『Red Oath』 possesses quite the skill.
But our problem is our mindset.
Well, we might be young and inexperienced so a certain amount of immaturity is to be expected, but, I think, how do I say it, we’re too naive, not serious enough…」
(Hmm~, it seems like Rena-san is thinking this through…)
Mile was impressed. Because she too had thought like that.
Mile knew that her personality and naivety combined with the thought that 『if anything went wrong she could just get serious』. She had that much self-awareness and was careful to not let this mindset shine through.
But the duo of Maevis and Pauline, in contrast to Rena, had almost no experience as a Hunter. Their only experiences were the F Rank missions and herb gathering on their free days in the Training School.
Living by earning the necessary money through Hunter work. Earning money by putting your life on the line, even if you were not in top condition. They were lacking that spirit, or rather that desperateness.
Certainly, compared with normal C Rank groups, they were blessed with combat strength due to Mile’s influence. But that didn’t mean much when compared with the experience of veteran C Rank Hunters.
Their fight against 『Mithril Roar』 had been neither a serious battle, nor even a true duell. By all means, that had been an 「examination」 and they probably never saw it as anything near a 「battle」.
In order to complete their job of 「providing a stage for the novices to display their capabilities and allow for them to graduate」, they were considerate and held back. It was just that Mile’s group had coincidentally struck that opening.
And even then, they probably had more than enough chances to turn the matches around if they wanted to.
「So I had a great idea. How about fighting against a strong enemy to learn our place in the food chain?」
Rena then explained her idea in detail to the surprised trio.
「If we continue hunting prey suited for D and C Rank Hunters, to be frank, we won’t feel any kind of danger. Isn’t that why everyone is not taking this serious enough? At this rate one of us is going to get a big injury or die because we let our guard down.」
Maevis and Pauline were speechless. Mile had already decided so she was on standby on the sidelines.
「I’m not suggesting to do something unbelievably dangerous. I don’t intend for us to become a suicide squad.
Just once, let’s try taking a job we’ll be barely be able to come out unscathed so we’ll know our limits and can choose our quests from then on accordingly.
Let’s see, the guideline for picking out the work a party usually does on a permanent basis is to at 70% of the difficulty at which every member can just barely return without injuries.」
「…..I got it, let’s do this!」
「I am in favor.」
After thinking about it for a while, Maevis agreed first, with Pauline nodding after her.
It seems like both of them had been dissatisfied with the current situation too.
「Well, then let’s go to the Guild tomorrow, carefully examine the quests, and then prepare appropriately.
We will earnestly begin the quest only on the day after tomorrow, right?」
Both acknowledged Rena’s orders.
「Um~, I had no chance to offer my opinion yet….」
「You’re just going to agree anyway.」
「W-Well, I do, but…」
「Then isn’t everything fine?」
Somehow Mile was left behind unsatisfied.
「If we change the kind of quests we take after this next mission, our income will rise significantly. Then we’ll be able to turn out back on this cheap inn and move into a bigger one with a bath! When we graduate from this inn we’ll first be able to call ourselves middle class Hunters….」
「Don’t call it a cheap inn! This inn is not cheap, we only make it cheap for you!!」
Reni-chan’s voice resounded from behind the counter.
Yes, this inn is the one Mile had stayed in during the 6 days of her stay in the capital before attending the Training School.
「Weren’t you the ones who came here after graduating school and asked us to make it cheap for you to stay until you have a regular income! That’s why we offered you to rent out a four person room, even if you are absent due to work, for a whole month at only 3 gold coins! We thought that it would be a good advertisement for the safety and comfort of our inn if a group of young girls stayed here… But calling it cheap several times in a row is too much!
And while we’re at it, please at here when you are in town! Otherwise we won’t really earn anything from your stay here!
We also expected you to increase the number of our customers, so please stop hiding in your room, come down to the first floor more and charm the other customers!」
「「「「We are very sorry!」」」」
Reni-chan, age 10, daughter of the innkeeper.
She already had the necessary mannerisms down perfectly.
After that, the members of 『Red Oath』 lingered around the first floor or the front of the inn if they had nothing better to do, and were supporting the business by doing things like talking with other customers.
Because the one who had driven down the price during negotiations with 「increase in customers」 had been Reni-chan. It also depended on their performance whether other female Hunter would be able to get a similar deal in this inn, or other inns if the advertisement’s effectiveness spread around.
So, for the sake of the many future female Hunters to come, even if they had to bear with it for now, they had to do everything to increase the number of customers.
「H-Hey there mister, mind if I sit next to you?」
Mile said with a shaky smile on her flushed face as she brought a food-filled tray with her.
「…. big sis, you don’t have to go that far…」
While Reni-chan was amazed, Meavis, Rena, and Pauline wondered whether they too would have to go this far.