— 1 —
“I’d never thought the two of you’d be able to bring down that giant thing by yourselves.”
Ryden had gotten back up while we were fussing around with the piece of paper.
He appeared more lively than I expected him to be. It’s likely that he healed himself with his own potions.
“There’s a bunch of things I want to talk to you about, but it’s still dangerous here. Let’s hurry back to town.”
Normal monsters will start spawning again now that the mass spawning is over.
Following Ryden’s proposal, we quickly cleaned out the Butcher’s drops and returned to the capital.
Now then, about those drop items. First was the Butcher’s Knife, which Ringo and I had managed to stuff into my bag after much effort. It was the unique boss drop of a level 160 dungeon, after all. As a greatsword, its weapon type bonus was huge and its attack power was also exceptional, but it had just one problem.
Its weight, which was around 6 times that of a normal sword, 8 times that of my Shiranui, and a full 33 times that of Hisame’s Getsuei.
Even if comparing it to Getsuei isn’t really helpful, it was heavy enough that you might as well change its name to Clump of Metal.
This sword’s too heavy for anyone to properly wield. I don’t want to admit it, but it was completely a meme weapon. A meme about just how strong Mr. Butcher is.
I had mulled over whether I should use the other drop—the Power Seed—on the spot, but in the end, I stowed it in my bag.
As its name suggests, the Power Seed is a mysterious seed that strengthens the consumer, giving them a permanent increase to your strength stat. Including the Butcher, any kind of unique boss would always drop some kind of seed. In this case, such items weren’t particularly rare, but permanent stat increases always seem to have some kind of charm that attracts gamers, no matter what game.
However, the seed-type items only bestow a tiny stat increase. Apparently it’s so tiny that back in the old version where Butchers ran all around the Plains, you would need to spend an entire day farming Butchers to notice any kind of an effect.
To be quite honest, it’s a lot faster to gain stats from levelling up. I can’t expect just a single seed to be of much use anyways, so I’ve chosen to use it to fatten up my bag for now.
The Extermination Fest results ceremony wasn’t until an hour after the end of the mass spawning, so there was still quite a bit of time left. But I was actually slightly worried whether we could make it back to town in that time while dealing with monsters along the way.
And so, keeping open the possibility of asking Ryden to escort us back, we headed back together with him, but really, my worries were completely unwarranted.
“That young lady’s just amazing…”
The monsters were wiped out by Ringo’s lightning strikes before monsters could even get close.
I felt slightly hesitant to show our cards to Ryden, but he already knew that we defeated the Butcher and that we defeated close to ninety Goldens. Rapid-fire lightning strikes aside, it just looks like some kind of rare magic at most. In reality, we’d probably make him more suspicious if we tried to hide all of our cards.
I had handed Golden Sakura to Ringo, so I was using the Wakizashi I retrieved, but with my rings’ 5x Assassin’s Rage power, I should be able to defeat anything here without much of a problem, except for monsters with strong elemental resistances like Goldens or Hisame.
On the way, I tried to join the fight multiple times, but…
“…Souma, no. It’s dangerous.”
With Ringo’s stubborn insistence, I was forced to casually stroll back together with Ryden.
By the way, when we stopped by to retrieve the Kuul Skulls traps, Ryden gave us an impressed look.
“Huh. So you were the ones that set this up. I have no idea how it works, but it’s a good trap. It’s helped us out a bit too.”
Apparently, Ryden made use of some of our traps to hunt Goldens. While he could have easily remained silent about it, to confess to it guiltlessly was indeed very much like Ryden.
I strengthened my guard against Ryden a bit, but after that, our conversation turned to harmless chit-chat and introductions as we continued heading back.
However, as we approached the city, Ryden suddenly hardened his face.
“We risked our lives fighting the same enemy. That’s why I already think of you as comrades.”
I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive since we were behind the Butcher’s appearance. Having attempted to escape the battle at one point also made my tongue feel heavier.
Yet, Ryden shook his head as if saying that none of that mattered and continued.
“I’ll say this since I don’t want to hide things unnecessarily from my comrades, but I actually saw a bit of your fight against the Butcher. Though only at the end, when you finished off that giant.”
Ryden solemnly nodded.
According to Ryden, he came to right around when Ringo had been blown away by the Butcher. He wasn’t able to move his body then, but he very clearly saw me charging at the Butcher.
“When I found out that the princess had taken an interest in you, I thought that spring had finally arrived for the princess. Especially so after I actually met you and determined that you weren’t particularly strong. …But, it seem I was wrong.”
Ryden moved his gaze at me.
In his eyes I saw a sharp glint much like when he was facing off against the Butcher.
“Well, I don’t know how strong or weak you actually are, but at least I’m sure that the princess isn’t interested in you solely because she’s head over heels over you. Those odd moves and that strange skill you used to defeat that beast, I’ve never seen any of them before. I feel like I’m starting to understand why the princess calls you a ‘Strange Sword User’.”
It seems like Hisame plans to spread the title of ‘Strange Sword User’ throughout the capital.
It’s quite an effective way for her to take revenge, in a sense.
I wanted to object to many of the points he brought up,, but for the moment I decided to forget about it. Instead, I gave Ryden a quick heads up.
“If possible, I don’t want my fighting style to be widely known…”
“I know, I know. Didn’t I just say you were my comrade? I won’t do anything to betray my comrades.”
What can I say, these kinds of spoiler characters are almost always nice guys.
However, this nice guy had more to say.
“Still, if you’re really strong, people are going to notice your abilities before long. It probably won’t be too long before rumors of the Strange Sword User have spread throughout the country.”
If this was really Hisame’s way of getting back at me, I’d say she definitely succeeded.
The city gates appeared in sight as I wallowed in depression.
“We’ve finally made it back.”
It hadn’t even been two hours since we left, but I was feeling excessively nostalgic for some reason.
The three of us passed through the gate, catching up to Ringo, who had been walking a short distance in front.
“Well then, I’m going to meet up with my teammates at the plaza. What are you two going to do?”
The sounds of a clamorous city engulfed us the moment we passed through the gate. Ryden raised his voice slightly and I followed suit.
“We’re going the same way until the plaza, but we’re planning to report to the guild immediately, so we’ll be parting there.”
Normally, the results of a request had to be reported directly to the counter at the Bounty Hunters’ Guild, but the Extermination Fest was an exception as it was a special event. Results were reported and also disclosed in the Central Plaza. In particular, the top three teams in terms of points were called up onto a special stage for the event and their “destroy”, “collect”, and total point counts were announced. The winner was also publicly disclosed there, in front of a large audience.
Of course, Ryden knew that as well. He replied as he glanced over at the giant stage visible even from where we stood.
“We’ll probably see each other very soon. When the results are announced. The princess went a bit overboard, so the numbers for this Fest are quite skewed. It’s almost certain the top three will be split between our three teams.”
“Huh, is that so?”
That’s great news if that’s the case.
Ryden grinned, seeing the corner of my lips involuntarily curve upwards.
“You’re a comrade, but I won’t go easy on you in a competition. We’ll be doing our best to win this.”
“I’d like to say ‘bring it on,’ but isn’t the mass spawning already over?”
What are they going to do their best on now that there aren’t any enemies to defeat?
Hearing my reply, Ryden smiled wryly.
“That, might be the case. But, having the right spirit… oh, it seems that my teammates have arrived.”
Ryden’s speech was interrupted by an approaching male-female pair of capable-looking adventurers, looking right at us.
They must be Ryden’s teammates.
“See you again on the stage!”
“Yeah. See you!”
Ringo and I saw off Ryden after he gave a cheerful salute and started walking towards his teammates.
“…on the stage, huh.”
Ryden declared that he won’t go easy on us, but sorry, we’re almost guaranteed at least second place.
We have a grand total of 74 Goldens even though we missed the last two spawns. We might not be able to beat Hisame, but I can’t imagine us losing to anyone else.
In fact, I remember Ryden saying “I’ve killed 21.” If that’s enough for third, then we won’t need to worry about any of the other participants.
For a moment, I felt that something seemed off, but I shook my head and returned to reality.
It probably wasn’t something I needed to worry about.
“Well then, shall we go?”
Ringo, who had been accompanying us in silence, gave a short reply.
I don’t know if she’s shy or what, but Ringo really doesn’t speak at all when others are around.
In retrospect, she doesn’t speak all that much even when we’re alone, so there might not be too much of a difference.
“Is it here?”
There was a special tent for reporting the results of the Extermination Fest. It was built so that nothing could be seen from the outside.
We still had around 30 minutes to spare, but there’s nothing wrong with going earlier.
With that in mind, we approached the tent and some unfamiliar youngsters walked towards us.
“Yo! You guys were out there so long, must’ve worked your asses off, huh?
They started acting familiar with us. From the way they looked I could tell that they were adventurers, but this was definitely our first time meeting them in this world. I couldn’t remember their names since they weren’t especially important characters in the game.
I was barely able to recall that they were adventurers from the capital and also characters that could be invited into your party after drilling my memory.
I wanted to tell them that we likely worked a hundred times harder than they could even imagine, but ranting at them won’t accomplish anything. We’re in the same business, so we should try to establish a good relationship. The youngsters’ fake smiles widened after hearing my neutral reply.
“It’s good to be a hard worker… By the way, that person who was walking together with you, that was Ryden, wasn’t it?”
“That’s right, what about it?”
This was probably what they actually wanted to talk about.
I responded to the young adventurer’s whispers at a normal volume.
However, those adventurers didn’t seem to mind. They spoke even softer, as if scheming something.
“Just like we thought… So, how much did he give you?”
Just what were these people suddenly asking about?
However, they completely ignored my reaction, and continued irritatedly.
“The coins, yo. He bought them off you, didn’t he? We sold ours to Ryden’s teammate for 30% extra, but I can’t help but want to know how much other people got for them.”
“W-Wait a moment!”
They were talking about something, but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand it, but I could tell that it wasn’t good news for us.
(Come to think of it…)
Hearing the words “Ryden’s teammate” just now made me realize what had felt off to me back then.
When we were talking about the number of Goldens defeated, Ryden had said “by the way, I’ve killed 21!” and voluntarily reported the number he defeated.
But if he had been defeating them together with his teammates, would he use the pronoun ‘I’?
—In that case, there was a chance that the number Ryden disclosed was not the total number Ryden’s team defeated, but the total number that Ryden himself defeated.
To begin with, Ryden wouldn’t boast about his own accomplishments. It was strange for him to divulge such information without being asked. If my reasoning is correct, then this Ryden is really someone not to be underestimated.
(I see. So had I been an afternoon snack for the Tea Drinker?)
Thinking of a bad joke, I found myself relaxing and pulled myself together.
I’m not competing against programmed puppets anymore. They’re real, living humans with knowledge and intelligence. If I treat this like a game, I’ll find my legs swept out from under me.
“Hey. So, how much…”
“Sorry, but could you go ask someone else? Bye.”
Dodging the hounding of the young adventurers, I entered the tent together with Ringo.
Inside the tent, someone who looked to be an employee of the Bounty Hunters’ Guild was waiting.
“Are you a participant in the Extermination Fest? Please put the Fest crystal and collected items here.”
All that’s left of this exceptionally hyped Extermination Fest was the announcement of results.
Finally, the Golden Wild Zlime Extermination Fest was drawing to a close.