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◆ 2nd floor, Adventurer’s Guild, Avangard Castle Town ◆
The second floor of the Adventurer’s Guild, where they’re going to talk about various things, including the announcement of my acceptance. I was the one who carried Grubb back from the scene. I’ve carried people before when I was asked to rescue them in the Strange Plains, but Grubb was much heavier than that time. I don’t know what happened to Grubb since I locked him in a room in a huge wagon and left him to Shinbu, who suddenly appeared.
It seems that Shinbu had been watching us the whole time we were gone, as he had appeared on the spot in the fort. I can’t believe he was there and didn’t say anything. He said he would have helped them if they were in real danger, but I honestly doubt it.
“Well, I guess that’s fair enough.”
I’m sure Shinbu wouldn’t be too happy with the praise, but we definitely did our best.
More importantly, Formas. I was expecting him to retaliate against Roel after he woke up, but he wouldn’t make eye contact with me. I wonder if the fact that he was beaten to unconsciousness by a Priest is humiliating to Formas, but he just stares at me as if Roel is not there.
“The Mataire Trading Company has connections to facilities frequented by adventurers, and if they wanted to, they could make it difficult for you to get food and shelter. I’ll be sure to tell my father about this, you bastards.”
The resentment was so great that it was out of my control. I couldn’t stand to see what he did to Bricna and I don’t know how I could have stopped it.
So now the eight of us are gathered in a room with the fifth. I don’t know what’s going to happen when they announce the results, but I think we did a good job of capturing Grubb and his minions alive, and I hope Balm passes as well.
“Well done on your final exam. Ryua, Roel, Formas, Bricna, Tataka, Gilbert, Balm, and Bebe. You have passed. Congratulations.”
I thought for a moment that someone had failed, but then all the names were mentioned. After all, if we all passed, why bother calling out our names? How happy I must be. I feel like jumping up and down, but I’m not going to do that, no matter how much I want to.
“You’re too lenient, Mugen-san. I’d have removed more than half of them.”
“That’s what the higher-ups have decided, based on what you’ve seen.”
I wondered what the higher-ups meant, but for some reason I was happy that Balm had passed. However, Balm’s expression was somehow not happy. Gilbert didn’t look too happy either, though it was hard to tell behind his helmet.
“So, you’ve all joined the ranks of A-rank.”
“May I have a word?”
“Mm, Mister Balm?”
“I would like to decline. I haven’t done anything, and this incident has made me realize that I don’t have the strength to be an A-rank member.”
“Likewise, me too. Ryua’s work in particular was remarkable. I realized how helpless I am, and this doesn’t make me look good as an elder.”
“Balm-dono and Gilbert-dono. I’m sure there are things that are on my mind, but I can’t do them. I can accept your refusal from the exam. However, you have already been officially registered as A-rank members. I understand your point of view, but I think this is what you should do. Whether you are not strong enough or you are not satisfied, what is important is the future. No matter how you look at it, you guys have won the position of A rank. If you are dissatisfied with your current situation, you should be able to laugh at yourself in the distant future. In fact, it’s worth it just to be able to talk about what you were like back then at the bar. Hmmm…”
Balm and Gilbert remained silent. It hadn’t crossed their minds that the two of them would try to decline. As Mugen said, the important thing is the future. Just like I did in the Cave of the Abyss, if you fail and get depressed, you can always do better next time.
“Well, first, I’d like to see your evaluations for the final exam, Shinbu.”
“Yes, yes, yes, let’s start with Gilbert and Balm, who, as you are aware, have done nothing wrong. If it were me, I wouldn’t hesitate to reject them, but somehow the higher-ups gave the OK. Gilbert is the only one I’ll give credit to for being the first to act for the safety of the hostages.”
Even though they were aware of it, it was still depressing to hear them actually say it. Even so, the two nodded a little, as if they took the assessment seriously.
“Next, Bebe, I’ll give you credit for restraining and capturing Grubb’s men alive.
That silver rope isn’t something you’d see around here, but you’re very well-prepared to have a large supply of it… 30 points, keep up the good work.”
“Hohoho, thank you very much.”
Bebe smiled happily. But I don’t think 30 points is very high. Maybe he wasn’t concerned about that because he got an A in the end.
” Yes, yes, Formas, you’re doing an impressive job for your level with the accuracy of your gun and your willingness to kill without hesitation. That determination will be a great weapon, though. However, the fact that you acted quickly and deviated from your goal of capturing him alive is a negative that overrides even your rating. If you happen to kill Grubb there, you’ll realize that you’ll be stripped of your A rank at that point.”
“Oh? Do you mean that? That’s so stupid…”
” You’ve been instructed to capture them alive, so that’s a must. When you can’t fulfill the purpose behind it, you’re at your worst.”
“… What’s that?
“You’ll be erased.”
That word Shinbu said so coldly that Formas shivered. Formas is taking it lightly, but the opponent in front of him is far too powerful. If he wanted to, he could kill Formas without him even realizing it.
Everyone here except Formas is frozen in place, not making a single move. The fear he felt towards that Shinbu was that big.
“Well, congratulations again on passing. I’m sure the exam was tough, but it’s just a starting point. A rank allows you access to designate dangerous areas and important facilities, as well as the use of some general facilities around the country discounted. There are even some stores that offer free supplies and access to some places. As you can see, there are far fewer restrictions on your activities than there were when you were ranked B. What does that mean? It means that there is a lot of responsibility and danger involved. I want you all to keep that in mind first.”
Everyone listened without making a sound. In the middle of this, a guild member brought our cards to us, as there was some information that needed to be updated for us to become A-ranked.
And the card that was returned to me. There was nothing particularly unusual about it, but there was one thing I wasn’t familiar with.
[Ryua Lv: 999 Class: Sword Fighter Rank: A90th]
“I wonder what this 90th rank is, Ryua-chan, it’s written on my card too.”
“Your rank has been updated to A, and it describes your rank, right? The more achievements you make, the higher your rank will be. There are 113 of us currently. Including you all, there are 121. That’s how many A-ranked adventurers there are. The rankings that are written now consider your achievements as B-rank adventurers. Let’s see. How many of the 121 adventurers are there? Mffffff.”
“I’m 119th… Balm-san, what about you?”
“Gilbert, you’re 119th. I’m 110th. That’s not so bad.”
“117th… That’s pretty good, isn’t it? Ho, ho, ho.”
“We’re in a similar position, including you, Bebe. I’m not going to be satisfied with 110th place at all.”
We’re ranked 90th while those three are ranked around there. I don’t know what they appreciated about us, but I guess I should be happy.
“109th place. I’m certain that even if we were a bunch of hooligans, we’d be able to move up in the rankings by ourselves.”
“By the way, Formas-dono, completing a request that can be undertaken with a B rank won’t get you any recognition at all. Even this Mugen had a hard time when he was young…”
Roel gave a small smile, glad that she was ranked higher than Formas. I am really impressed with how strong you’ve become after being so scared at first.
“The higher the rank, the more privileged you are. I want each of you to be diligent. However, as I said before, there are also risks involved. Last year, there were four people who passed the exam, but none of them are currently working properly. And three of them are already no longer in this world…”
“I heard that the remaining one is unable to get up again due to the after-effects of his injury, so he’s as good as dead.”
Mugen’s voice faltered a bit in sadness, and Shinbu didn’t stop that sickening movement even though he was talking about the cruel reality.
“This test is almost entirely based on merit. As you all know, we need as many strong people as possible to fight the new Demon Lord army. They’re already intensifying their activities in various places… We don’t know when they’ll attack this country again.”
“I heard that the Vernia territory on the Asgard continent was also attacked…”
“Yes, and His Majesty has taken immediate action. As soon as possible, I’d like you to work for him in the near future. This is a direct request from His Majesty.”
The new Demon Lord Army. Not only, were they attacking the Wizard Kingdom, but they’re also rampaging in other continents? To the rest of the people, the newborn Demon King’s Army is fear itself, or so they all look bitter. Only Formas was already on the verge of falling asleep.
“The key to this is you, Ryua-dono.”
Suddenly, Mugen shook me and for some reason, I couldn’t help but stand up. But I don’t think Roel needs to get up. I really don’t think Roel was called. What’s wrong?
“Uh-huh. I heard that you defeated three of the leaders of the Demon King’s army during the recent attack. It’s hard to believe, but…”
Formas jumped out of his skin, but the others all looked at me at the same time. I scratched my cheek with my index finger, but this strange embarrassment would not go away. I sat down quietly, and Roel sat down quietly as well.
“Mugen-san, please keep your jokes to that slippery hair.”
“It’s true. That Captain Kirkton and many other soldiers and adventurers have also witnessed it. Ryua-dono, you may not know this, but we have high expectations for you.”
“Then, Ryua-chan might defeat the Demon King too!”
“No, I doubt that’s possible.”
Not only Roel, but I also wanted to ask him back. I don’t even know how strong the demon king is, but what does it mean that he can’t be defeated? However, I’m uncertain if I’ll be able to do it. I can’t say I’m confident that I can win, but I don’t intend to lose either. Even if the opponent was as good as or better than that Vandalsia, that would not change.
“Even if you don’t look so amused, it’s true. No matter what your ability is, no matter who you are. The Demon Lord cannot be defeated.”
“Ryua-chan can defeat it!”
“It is not Ryua-dono who will defeat the Demon Lord. I’ll tell you about it when the time comes. Dismissed!”
Mugen ended the conversation unilaterally and walked out of the room. The rest of the people from the top five did not say anything in particular, but continued in silence. The rest of us were left behind, both in the conversation and at the moment. Bebe was the first one to get up from his seat in the crowded room. He sat up and quietly disappeared. Only I, Roel, Gilbert and Balm remained seated. And Formas is just staring at me.
“Ryua-san, I’m really sorry about this.”
Gilbert came up to me and bowed. Balm is behind him. I wonder if I’ve done anything to deserve an apology.
“I didn’t do anything in this final exam, I was relying on Ryua-san. I don’t know if this is enough for an apology or not, but if you need help with anything, please contact the Royal Knights. We are based in the north, in Schudelheide. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
Gilbert bowed deeply again. Then he raised his head firmly and walked slowly out of the room. But then he bowed again at the exit. He’s not a bad person, but he seems like he would be exhausting to be around. I remembered that another person from the Royal Knights had told me about the Schudelheide in the north. I wonder if I’ll get a chance to go there. Quimir, Avangard, and Wizard Kingdom all had different landscapes, and I’m eager to see the other towns.
“I’m the same as Gilbert-dono. I really appreciate what you’ve done this time. Thank you.”
“You guys think you can get away with this?”
I thought Formas stood up roughly, and then he leaned towards me. His face was the same as the one he had shown during Laurel’s exam. An expression full of anger and hatred. I could have punched him in the face.
” I apologize for the gun, Formas-kun. I’ll be happy to reimburse you for it.”
“I’m not listening, old man. Listen, I promise you that the Mataire Trading Company will destroy you.”
“That’s not gonna happen.”
“You may be a good adventurer, but you’re a little unlearned. Didn’t you listen to my explanation earlier? If you’re an A-ranked adventurer, at least tens of thousands of gold will be spent on a single request. In other words, there is a great deal of demand and importance. In addition, they also receive support from the government. The Mataire Trading Company is certainly a large company, but the country is even larger, and destroying an A-ranked is like dealing with the Kingdom of Avangard. Based on Mugen’s explanation earlier, it is safe to assume that the demand for A-rank adventurers has been increasing lately. In such a situation, what would happen if they treated A-rank adventurers badly? It won’t be good enough to be weighed against the country.”
“Ha, that’s ridiculous…”
“Then you can try to talk to your father. I don’t think the head of an organization as big as the Mataire Trading Company would make a foolish choice. If you’re a nobody like me, or if Ryua-chan has achieved as much as Mugen-san said, then the country’s backing will be even stronger.”
“…Bricna, Tataka, let’s move out!”
Formas, pushed away by Balm, kicked his chair out of the way and walked out of the room in a rage. The room quieted down again after even a small storm had passed.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me as well. You guys should probably get some rest for the day.”
The only thing that kept repeating in my mind was that I could not defeat the Demon Lord. What I had built up was easily denied. Then, who can defeat the Demon Lord? The top five?
No, I can’t say absolutely, but it’s impossible. If the Demon Lord was as strong as Vandalsia, he would probably kill us all without being able to do anything. Besides, the last thing he said was that he had just woken up and was not at full strength. I don’t know what would have happened if I had used my full strength at that moment. But it doesn’t matter because if the opponent is strong, then I should just become stronger than that. That’s what I’ve been doing for a long, long time. I will continue to do so.
At the very least, I’m not going to lose, even if Vandalsia shows up with the strength he had back then. It’s not that I’ve fought much stronger opponents since I left the cave, but I’m definitely stronger now than I was then. I don’t know if it’s just my level, but something is making me stronger. I can’t help but feel that way.
“Ryua-chan, we should go home too.”
One thing I do know. If I hadn’t met Roel back then, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m having a lot more fun now than when I was fighting alone in that dark cave. That much I know for sure.