The person in charge of the sale of the gold had already deposited the money into Hikaru’s guild account. Hikaru liked how quick the man handled it. He also asked for a little cash.
What’s he doing here? Hikaru wondered.
「Is there something the matter, Chief?」the receptionist asked.
The guild stirred. The Thieves Guild officially did not use its name in public. Here in Gordon, their name was something vague like, “Gordon Mining and Related Industries Association.”
However, many people knew of the association’s true nature. Staff of the Adventurers Guild and even high-ranking adventurers knew about it.
The Thieves Guild had a lot of power behind it—connections with people of power, and of course money.
The guild receptionist called the manager Chief, which was his official title. The Thieves Guild manager, however, ignored him.
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「If you’re looking for an escort, why didn’t you ask me?!」the manager said with a tearful look on his face.
「I, uhh… just wanted to post a commission for Falna.」
「Falna? The adventurer? Does it have to be her?」
「Well, yeah. She belongs to the Adventurers Guild.」
The manager looked dejected. Hikaru couldn’t help but be bothered by the man’s reaction.
「Excuse me, Chief.」the receptionist said.「How do you know Sir Hikaru?」
「Did you ask him for the job too?」the manager asked Hikaru.
By job, he meant the transportation of the gold.
「Yeah. I asked him first, but they wouldn’t take me seriously, so I asked Kelbeck for help.」
「Oh. I see.」
「Wait a minute, Chief. Did you arrange for people to carry the gold?」
The guild staff seemed to sense something after listening to the exchange between Hikaru and the manager.
「Of course.」The manager nodded.
「Why? The Thieve—I mean, the association’s reputation is at stake. If you do that…」
「What are you talking about?」The manager threw out his chest.「I reported the matter to the governor of Gordon last night. The association would handle all the gold transportation.」
The guild staff had no clue what was going on. The whole guild seemed to sense that something was up.
「Please stop.」Hikaru said.「Do you want to expose me or something?」
「No, no, it’s not like that… It’s just that they seem to be treating you poorly around here.」
「It’s fine.」Hikaru turned to the staff.「I’m leaving. Please tell Falna about the commission.」
「I-I will… W-Wait! Did you actually find the gold?!」He leaned so far forward that he almost fell off the counter.
「I’m not obliged to answer that question, now, am I?」As he was leaving the guild, Hikaru stopped and looked back at him.「You can’t arrange for people on such short notice, right?」
And he never looked back again.
Later, the fabled mountain village of the Pozi people was discovered, and it turned out that there were already people dispatched to transport all the gold.
When it became known that the Thieves Guild was in charge of the matter, and that only a few trusted adventurers were able to join them on the job, Gordon’s Adventurers Guild was seen as the “dumbasses who missed out on a huge venture”.
The newcomers who had been lured by the gold disappeared from the city like a receding wave, and the Adventurers Guild, with its reputation in tatters, became deserted.
Nevertheless, Falna and the other local adventurers continued to work in the guild and gradually gained the trust of the people again, but that’s a story for another time.
They had loaded all of their belongings into the carriage and bought some food as well. Although the border to Forestia was close, it would still take several days by carriage.
It’s almost nine.
Falna still hadn’t arrived. She could have overslept from a hangover. If that was the case, then Hikaru decided that his interaction with the girl was all that fate had in store for them. Giving up on the idea, Hikaru climbed the carriage, when a voice called to him.
Falna appeared with her party members, running fast, as one would expect from beastmen.
「You made it.」Hikaru said.
「Don’t give me that! Why did you commission for an escort?! You don’t actually need one, do you? We’re the same rank.」
「Is this some kind of a prank?」
「Not at all. I just thought we could have a little talk.」
Falna frowned.「Did you do something to gramps? He’s become gentle all of a sudden. Not that I’m complaining, of course. He used to be so on edge, but now he’s acting like a normal gramps.」
「I’m not sure I get it.」
Hikaru wondered what she meant by a normal gramps.
「Gramps said you’re probably going to leave town. He told me to at least go say my goodbyes. So I went to the Adventurers Guild to find out that you posted a commission for me. I don’t understand.」
「What don’t you understand? Like old man Hoya said, just wanted to say goodbye.」
「Did you find the Pozi—」Falna shook her head.「No, never mind. I’m a Gordon adventurer. You’re just a drifter. Am I right?」
「Well, then. Make sure to promote Gordon to other towns.」
Her friends caught up to her.
「Y-You can’t just take off like that, Boss. We got stuff we’re carrying.」
「Here you go.」Falna said, handing Hikaru a bag filled with bread.「Take it.」
All of them seemed freshly-baked, the wonderful buttery aroma wafting in the air.
「Are you sure?」
「Yeah. That hot dog you gave me was so good, I had to do some digging, and I found out that the bread was baked in my neighborhood! It’s good even when cold. But it’s best when it’s fresh.」
「Sounds great. I can’t wait to eat them.」
「Again, make sure to promote Gordon. Tell people it’s worth visiting for the food. After gold, Gordon’s next selling point will be bread.」
Hikaru couldn’t help but smile at the smug look on her face. The magic of bread is much better than the dubious magic from the gold.
「I take it you’re not accepting the commission?」Hikaru asked.
「Of course not. We’re hunters. Guarding is not our thing.」
「Okay. Here, take this.」Hikaru took out a leather bag from his pocket.
「I told you, I’m not taking the commission.」
「It’s for the bread. It’s not a lot. You’re not gonna tell me the bread’s not worth anything, are you?」
「Of course not!」
Hikaru tossed the leather bag to Falna’s companion who had brought the bread. The canine beastman caught it.
「You’d better take care of Hoya.」
「Bah. You can kill that geezer, and he still won’t die. Well, I’ll at least give him a shoulder massage once in a while. Don’t forget to promote the town, okay?」
Hikaru raised one arm and climbed into the carriage. Paula and Lavia, both seated on the driver’s seat, urged the horse onward.
They’re so used to it now, huh, Hikaru thought.
Hikaru felt that he would never come back to Gordon, but if he continued his journeys, he might just return one day.
「Falna!」Hikaru shouted, looking out the window.「Good luck! It’s gonna get busy!」
「What do you mean?!」
His sudden words seemed to confuse her. But Hikaru was sure of it. The discovery of the mountain tribe Pozi’s village and the large amount of gold discovered would make the Empire take a second look at the nearly deserted town of Gordon.
Where did the Pozi get their gold? If there was gold dust in the river, perhaps there were still places yet to be discovered. If so, many different kinds of people would once again gather in Gordon. And where there’s people, there’s trouble. Food would also be necessary, which means more work for Falna and the other adventurers.
「You don’t have to tell me that.」Falna said, unaware of Hikaru’s thoughts.「We adventurers will always rise to the challenge!」
The hand sticking out from the distant carriage waved at her.
The carriage had left the town, and it was now out of sight. Falna thought Hikaru was a bit enigmatic, but his arrival definitely changed the relationship between her and her only family, the old man Hoya.
The old man had been obsessively making anti-wyvern bells for a long time, but he made a sudden announcement last night.
「I’m not making bells anymore. I’m going to take it easy from now on.」
Falna never thought she would hear the words “take it easy” from the restless old man. Nevertheless, she was happy for her adoptive parent, and she planned to take care of him without Hikaru’s advice.
And so she drank late into the night and overslept.
「What?」Her companions were making a racket behind her.「Keep it down, will you? Can’t you feel the solemn vibe? You’re supposed to keep quiet.」
「Just take a look a this!」
「I said keep it down! What in the world is it anyway?」Falna cast a glance at the bag that Hikaru gave and froze.
He said it was payment for the bread.
The bag was full of glittering silver coins. One coin was equal to a hundred thousand gilans. It was the cash that Hikaru got from the Thieves Guild.
「You’d better take care of Hoya.」
Falna knew what he meant. If Hikaru was the one who rode the wyverns, then he must have found the Pozi’s village, which in turn affected Hoya.
「I can take care of him even without the money.」Falna muttered.「Give me that!」
She landed knuckles down on the heads of her dazzled companions and took the bag.
「Hey, no hogging!」
Her companions booed her.
「There’s only one way to use this money.」
「We’re gonna live it up, right?!」
「No, you idiot.」Another knuckle.
「I talked it over with my old man, and we decided to use it for the town. Anyone got a problem with that?!」
Her friends fell silent.
「You know we can’t argue with that.」
Like Falna, who was raised by Hoya, all of her party members were orphans, or had single parents—they did not have great childhoods, so to speak.
「A good idea, if I do say so myself.」Falna grinned.
Like Hikaru said, the town might get busy. In fact, his words came true six months later.
Gordon would continue to grow as a mining town.
「And off they go.」
Sitting alone in his chair at home, Hoya squinted at the light shining through the window. He closed his eyes as he leaned back.
Grandma, I found some gold dust too! Look how much I found!
Oh, that’s great. But you’d better keep that to yourself.
Really? But I thought every gold we find belongs to the village.
He dreamt of his grandmother. She patted Hoya on the head when he came home with a big piece of gold, as big as a marble.
This is your own sparkle. Take good care of it. And one day…
One day. What did she say after that?
The old man had fallen asleep, his face serene.
The memory had faded. After leaving the village, there were many memories that he wanted to forget—the hideous faces of the adults in the village as they bickered.
One day, you will find your own sparkle, a sparkle that is as good as gold.
His dream was sweet and tender.
On the table, a small bird was reflecting the morning sun, sprinkling golden grains all over the room.