42 Challenging the Limit
At noon on the day after they had decided to take on a difficult quest, Mile’s group of four was inside the Hunter Guild.
Since the Guild is always crowded in the morning, and since they would choose a quest starting tomorrow, they avoided the congestion inside the building.
They also did this since it would be annoying if many of the more experienced Hunters tried to stop the novice party 『Red Oath』 if they saw them choosing a too difficult job.
「…..There isn’t anything good….」
Rena let her eyes roam over the quest board with a sullen face.
They were somewhat reckless this time, so they needed to choose a quest where failure wouldn’t cause the quest giver or other people any inconvenience. 『Red Oath』 wouldn’t take any quest where their failure would lead to someone’s death or a large fine.
「Orcs are too easy, four people are too little for a Rock Golem, for Wyverns we’d have to travel far away, and spiders or worms were gross…」
It might make them seem picky, but their lives and future rode on this, so of course they selected the quest carefully. The trio of Maevis, Mile, and Pauline was also looking at the request board with a serious expression.
The voice uttered by Mile made the others focus on the quest she was looking at, and its content was…
『Material Gathering from Rock Lizards. 5 small gold coins per animal, up to five carcasses. Reward might be reduced in accordance with quality of the material.』
Rock Lizards were a source of food and their livers were used in some medicines. Judging by this quest form, the major goal this time was their meat, although their livers would probably be sold as a high grade delicacy or sold to a pharmacist.
There was a reason why Mile had picked up on this quest in particular.
First of all, Rock Lizards were not that strong. Despite their appearance they were quite swift, possessed hard scales and powerful limbs, especially their tail, but even that was something 2-3 C Rank Hunters could deal with.
The problem was their habitat.
In contrast to Rock Golems, the body of a Rock Lizard was not made out of stone.
They were only called this because they live in rocky areas. …the kind of mountainous region where other, stronger monsters such as Rock Snakes, Rock Golems or Iron Golems appear.
「Rock Lizards, hm…. the reward is quite good…」
Even though she said this, Rena was not really enthusiastic about it since she wouldn’t be able to use her favored Fire Magic as she would burn the materials they needed to gather. Neither was it that useful against the Golem-type monsters they might encounter on the way.
Furthermore, they would need at least 2 days to travel to the habitat of the Rock Lizards, making their trip at least 4 nights and 5 days long, if not longer.
But the advantages were also plenty.
Since the hunting grounds this time were far away and dangerous, the reward was quite good despite the relatively low danger of the target monster itself. If they could hunt at least three Rock Lizards they would have the minimal food and shelter expenses for one month covered. Well, that was if you could overcome the problem of transporting the heavy and highly perishable Rock Lizards, but with Mile and her ridiculously large Storage that was not issue.
In addition, due to quite some time remaining until the deadline, the fine for failure was at only 2 small gold coins. The commissioner probably that, considering the danger of the hunting ground as well as the difficulty in transporting them, 1 Rock Lizard at a time would be the limit.
So, since the target in question was not a strong monster, as long as they had put down at least one of them, they could retreat at any moment, which was very convenient.
「We’re quite free in how we want to act and we can’t lose much. What do you think?」
「I don’t have any objections.」
「Neither do I」
This time Mile hurriedly answered after Maevis and Pauline so as not to be ignored.
「Okay, then let’s go with this! 『Red Oath』, full speed ahead!」
「Won’t you reconsider this…」
And right after the starting line they were stopped by the Guild clerk.
「I am well aware that you have had a good fight against 『Mithril Roar』, but this is a different issue. As a member of the Guild I can not simply let young Hunters take on too dangerous work and let them walk into the meat grinder…」
（Ah, not 『won against』 but had a good fight against, huh… As expected it was seen like this.）
Mile could agree that that evaluation of their exam would naturally spread among the populace.
「We understand that! We won’t always take jobs like this, only this once. It’s no problem since we’ll run as soon as it gets dangerous. This is a trial that 『Red Oath』 has to overcome, no matter what!」
The clerk could warn them or give them advice, but he had no authority to overturn a C Rank Hunter’s decision. If they wouldn’t budge, no, as long as they fulfill the necessary prerequisites he had no choice but to let them take it. As long as there wasn’t any problem that he could use to take this to the Guildmaster.
Unable to resist Maevis, Pauline, and Mile, the clerk reluctantly processed their request.
「If it gets dangerous, please run away properly…」
「We got it already! Even we value our lives, and we don’t have any idiotic pride that would lead to one of us getting injured!」
And, under the worried gazes of several Guild employees and other Hunters, the four left the Guild behind them.
「Now, let’s prepare our equipment. Outdoor bedding, cooking utensils, food, rain gear, hygiene products, etc.. We’ll be using this stuff for quite a while so let’s buy decent versions.」
A party with the luxury of three magicians like 『Red Oath』 could save a lot of weight in water, firestones, medical supplies and many other items. In comparison to a party without a magician, this is a large advantage. And even that reduced gear could all be stuffed into Mile’s Storage, allowing them to travel without having to carry any luggage. This was already cheating.
Meavis and Pauline nodded at Rena’s words. As for Mile…
「Ah, I am fine. I have camped outside a few times so I have most of the necessary equipment…」
「Even if you say that, exactly where do have that… It can’t be…」
「Yes, inside my Storage…」
The other three had already given up arguing this point.
「Anyway, you’re coming too! You can help Maevis and Pauline pick out the things they need and there are some things we need to decide on as a party.」
Of course, saying you wouldn’t go just because you already had your stuff was bad.
Since their 『party』 consisted of all four of them.
Having been unable to realize such a simple fact made Mile a little depressed.
Rena pulled her out of her depression with a few pats on her head.
「Come on, let’s go!」
After that, the four of them went to a second hand store, general store, and grocery store, buying things like cloaks, pots, cutlery, preserved food, and accessories, before returning to their inn.
At dinner they informed the landlady that they would be absent for 5-6 days, that they would like to be able to take tomorrow’s lunch with them as boxed lunches at breakfast, and then returned to their room on the second floor.
As expected, with tomorrow on their minds, neither of them could bring themselves to entertain the other guests.
「Then, we’ll eat breakfast tomorrow as soon as possible so we can depart as early as possible. So get a good rest tonight.」
Even though Rena was the one to say this, she was the most jittery among them and the least likely to easily fall asleep. And there was still quite some time until the second night bell (21 o’clock).
So Mile pulled out a story from her 『Japanese Faketales』, 「The crying red Ogre」, which led to a teary eyed Rena getting really angry at her for 「telling such a story on the night before a hunt」.
The next day.
After finishing their breakfast and going to the bathroom, the four members of 『Red Oath』 left the inn. Almost empty-handed.
Including the lunches they had just received, everything but their weapons and armor, as well as a small waterskin, were stored inside Mile’s Storage.
But since the lunches were also among their luggage, Mile had only made it look like putting it in her Storage, while in reality she had put it into her decay-free Item Box.
「It really is convenient…」
While saying this Rena worried about getting used to this convenience.
They would need 2 days to travel by foot to their target location, the habitat of the Rock Lizards.
Normally, the travel time by foot was given in relation to the speed of a grown man. Disregarding Maevis and Mile, one might think that Rena and Pauline would slow them down, but that’s where Storage Magic showed its blessings.
Between 「A grown man in armor, carrying his weapon, water, food, and other necessities」 and 「an adult woman carrying nothing but her armor and weapon」, especially if the woman was a Hunter, it was obvious who will be faster. No matter how inferior their physical abilities as a rear-guard were compared to a vanguard, their staffs or rods were that much lighter than the vanguard heavy equipment that they weren’t too far behind.
So their plan was to arrive at the foot of the mountain they wanted to reach on the second day, after camping outside for one night.
After their arrival they would spend the night there, and hunt the entire next day. After another overnight stay they would depart on their way home.
If they finished their hunting on one day, their entire trip would take 5 days and 4 nights, if they took longer an additional 1-2 days. They hadn’t brought that much food with them, but it was no problem since they could procure it on site. And having a magician meant not having to worry about drinking water.
Everyone besides Mile had the opinion that they 「hadn’t brought many provisions」, but of course Mile’s Item Box was filled with a lot of perfectly preserved food.
When 『Red Oath』 resumed their journey after an extended lunch break around noon, two horse-drawn carriages had started them following without their notice.
Normally a horse-drawn carriage was slightly faster than travelling on foot, even at the quick pace of Mile’s group. And even though they should have overtaken them, the carriage failed to do so and maintained a certain distance to them.
When Mile’s group rested, the carriage also stopped.
When Mile’s group started walking, the carriage also started moving.
Rena said in a voice leaking annoyance.
「What do you mean with parasites?」
Rena was nice enough to answer Mile’s naive question.
「Ah, yes, they didn’t teach this in school.
Parasite is a term for merchants that try to skimp on hiring escorts and tag along caravans or Hunters travelling in a certain direction, hoping to be protected by them.
If a group of Hunters or a caravan is nearby, the probability to get attacked is significantly lower, and if they are attacked most Hunters and commanders won’t forsake them. After all leaving them to die would leave a bad taste in your mouth, and to the caravans they are fellow merchants.
But if you do things like that, escort request for small groups will get rare and it will get rough for Hunters. It’s quite the annoyance for caravans that properly hired escorts and Hunters that put their life on the line to protect people they are not required to protect.」
No matter how one looked at them, they were a group of 4 newly minted Hunters, but they were Hunters. And if they travelled away from their hometown they had to be at least D Rank and, judging by their outfits, were composed of two vanguards and two magicians. They would be more than able to fend of several Orcs and small groups of bandits would hesitate to attack them. Bandits wouldn’t attack if they could only win with many of their comrades coming out injured or dead. If they did that they’d be wiped out after a few raids.
In short they had little to lose and a lot to gain from slightly lowering their speed.
What are we supposed to do now?」
「We do nothing. Or rather, we can’t do anything.
If you try confronting them they just dodge the topic with excuses like 『We simply happen to travel in the same direction』. What can you say against that?」
「That is true….」
Mile accepted Rena’s explanation.
Well, it might be a loss to the Hunters as a whole, but they hadn’t personally been bothered or endangered by them. So far.