— 2 —
We quickly left the tent after reporting our results.
I was slightly on guard in case those young adventurers were waiting to ambush us at the entrance, but it seems that they went away somewhere.
I heaved out a deep sigh.
I really do seem to get nervous when large sums of money are involved. I think I’ve developed some kind of a resistance to it after the whole Thief Melipe’s Legacy fiasco, but the amount at hand this time was of a totally different magnitude.
Never mind the crystal, it would’ve been a problem if even a single collection item were stolen, but now I don’t have to worry about it anymore. The moment we finished our report, I felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders.
Just defeating a Golden Wild Zlime already yields large amounts of gold and experience. Of course, completing a destroy or collect request increases the rewards manyfold. To be precise, each Golden defeated as part of a destroy request nets 10,000E, and a single one of their drops, the Gold Zlime Coin, is worth 100,000E when submitted as part of a collect request.
To put it in perspective, defeating a single one would let me stay 10 nights in that rip-off of an inn, or more than 6 nights if together with Ringo.
Or how about a whopping fifty of—everyone’s favorite—Fingerless Gloves… Defeating twenty of them would bring in more than the Thief Melipe’s Legacy was worth. Got an idea just how outrageous this was?
However, trying to run into a Golden Wild Zlime in the world was an extremely difficult task. Taking this into account, some advocated that 10,000E wasn’t even worth the search, so I should thank my luck that the Golden was chosen for mass spawning this time.
In the real world, one’d have to be wary of the Guild employees embezzling or attempting to withhold some of the prize money, but in this world, game mechanics continue to function faithfully. I can’t say with certainty, but I think it’s likely that clerical errors or the guild refusing to pay the full amount won’t happen in this world because they didn’t happen in the game.
That’s why I could feel relieved. Even on the off chance we didn’t make it into the top three, we would almost certainly still receive such a large amount of money that we’d never have to worry about living costs again.
Even if we only got third, we’d still get 20,000E for each Golden killed and 200,000E for each Coin…
(Ahh, so that’s what it was.)
I finally understood what those young adventurers were talking about, and what Ryden was plotting.
They talked about selling Coins, and of course those Coins were the collection items this time, the Gold Zlime Coins.
Normal participants can receive 100,000E for each Coin by ceding them to the Guild. However, what if Ryden and his team went around offering to buy them for 130,000E or 150,000E? Those participants who don’t think they could make it into the top three would probably readily sell the coins to Ryden.
On the other hand, Ryden seems quite confident that his team is in the top three. The third, second, or first place get double, triple, and ten times the reward respectively. In other words, he’s sure that each of his Coins can bring in at least 200,000E.
Even if he bought Coins from other teams at 150,000E each, he wouldn’t lose any money. Rather, he’s guaranteed to be able to make a net profit of at least 50,000E each.
And unlike the destroy request, where the monsters must be defeated by the contractor, no questions are asked as long as the items are delivered. This was true whether or not it was part of an Extermination Fest, whether the contractor received the item by defeating monsters after accepting the request, or they received the item from a third party like Ryden, or even if they already possessed the items before accepting the request. All methods of acquiring the specified items are fair game.
It’s by no means against the rules to hand in drop items other people collected during a Fest.
He was trying to mislead me into underestimating the number of Goldens his team had defeated, while aiming for an upset by gathering drop items from the other participants.
You can call him experienced or just straight petty, but his tactics are well thought-out.
Then again, Ryden’s personality was similar in the game. In serious situations where lives are at stake or in an encounter against a strong enemy, he exudes an air of manliness. Otherwise, you would expect him to be blending into the background, slacking off, or trying to pull off a get-rich-quick scheme. But some amazing person would always swoop in and beat him up in the middle of his ploy. He just can’t seem to escape the role of the spoiler.
We managed to defeat seventy-four, so we weren’t going to get overtaken by some shabby trickery. I wasn’t planning on competing with Ryden in his Coin purchases anyways, so there was no point in thinking about it now.
There was really only a single person that we had to be on guard against.
“You sure took your sweet time. I was getting tired of waiting.”
This female samurai, who was shooting us a cold gaze with her cat ears fluttering.
With Hisame’s sudden appearance, Ringo made her misgivings clear by casually pointing the tip of Golden Sakura at her. I replied provocatively while holding out my hand towards Ringo as if to break her line-of-sight.
“And you sure called it off quite early. I don’t want to hear you complaining about how you could’ve won if you tried after you lose to us.”
Hisame was expressionless, as usual, but her cat ears twitched.
“You need not worry about that. There is no way I can lose.”
She spoke with incredible confidence, but sometimes confidence can be a fatal flaw. I replied as if trying to reason it to her.
“I’ve said this before, but it isn’t over until it’s over. Have you heard the story about the tortoise and the hare? While you were lazing around in town, we continued our hard work. That difference…”
“Does not matter. Even then, you will definitely lose.”
However, Hisame interrupted my speech.
I wondered if she had lost her cool thinking about her revenge, but her cat ears were still, and even drooping slightly. Turning them towards me, Hisame opened her mouth.
“I had just a bit of hope in you. That duel we had, the format was despicable, but I felt that you might have something that surpasses me.”
I parrotted it back, but Hisame didn’t explain further.
She merely shook her head and continued.
“However, it seems that I misjudged you. You said that you worked hard while I was resting. You may have tried your hardest after I returned to town. But it was already way too late at that point. You should have tried harder before I finished.”
Then, concluding what she came to say, she turned heel.
“The announcement will start soon. Everything will be made clear there.”
Neither Ringo nor I could say anything back to her as she walked away, leaving those words behind.
“Thanks for waiting, ladies and gentlemen. The Golden Wild Zlime Extermination Fest results announcement will now commence!”
The announcer’s magically amplified voice rang out in the plaza, now swarming with people.
There were more spectators than I expected—likely because large sums of money involved with this event. It might also be the case that at least a few of the townspeople participated in the Golden hunt.
In either case, it was finally time to find out the results of the Extermination Fest.
“As you are all aware, the target of this Fest, the Golden Wild Zlime, is an extreeeemely valuable monster. I’m just a hired hand, so I don’t know for sure, but I heard today’s rewards crush all-time Fest historical records and are going to push the Guild to the brink of bankruptcy. Just which team is the victor of this Fest? And what will happen to the management of the Bounty Hunters’ Guild? We’ll find out very soon!”
The female announcer speaking onstage was a familiar face from the game.
Her light and flippant speech quickly fired up the crowd gathered in the plaza.
“Now then, let’s get down to business. I’m going to call our top three teams up to the stage, and announcing the eye-popping amounts of money they each will receive. Just who will these enviable teams be? When I call you, please give me a loud reply and come up on stage!”
The announcer’s instructions silenced the feverish plaza.
Some glanced around with curiosity in an attempt to determine who the lucky teams would be, while others clasped their hands together, praying to be called forward with their team.
There, the first team to be called was…
“Now for our first team. Team Ryden! Please make your way to the stage!”
The capable-looking pair followed behind Ryden as he stepped nonchalantly onto the stage. The crowd gave way, peering enviously at Ryden’s group.
Ryden’s team actually qualified, so we’re almost guaranteed to be called up there too.
My heart started pounding as the thought went through my mind.
Meanwhile, the next team to be called was…
“Our second team is, would you believe it, a single person! Miss Mitsuki Hisame, please come up!”
It was Hisame.
She leapt out of the crowd and landed onto the stage. Her entry, though spectacular, was not a show of flamboyance. The way she bears herself just makes her stand out naturally.
As Hisame took the stage, cheers like “Whoo!” or “Kyaah!” or “Mitsuki-sama~!” could be heard. Surprisingly, Hisame was quite popular in this city.
Well, that was great and all but…
Now there was just a single spot left. Will we really be called up?
If everything was the same as the game, then there should be no problems, but what if there were some kind of issue that caused us to not be called…
As I was worrying myself over such possibilities…
“Finally, it’s time for our last team.”
The fateful time had come.
The last team the announcer announced was…
“Our final team is… Team Sagara! This team is also an uncommon two-person team. Now then, please come up on stage!”
It was us.
I was confident that we’d make it, but hearing our name relieved me. On the other hand, the sighs of those participants who were hoping for their team filled the air.
“Shall we, Ringo?”
It’s fine to soak in the feeling of relief, but it’s pointless to stand here. Ringo and I walked down the path that naturally opened up for us in the crowd.
“Yo. So you made it after all.”
Waiting for us on stage were Ryden, grinning, and Hisame, aloof as usual.
I casually raised my hand in reply, and found my spot beside Hisame following the announcer’s directions. Ringo was a former princess, but perhaps she didn’t like being in front of people, as she quickly hid herself behind me.
“Let me introduce these three top teams once again. From the left is Team Ryden, Mitsuki Hisame, and Team Sagara.”
After the three teams had entered the stage, it was time to explain the rules.
Once again, the announcer clearly explained how each enemy defeated was worth 10,000E, each Coin collected was worth 100,000E, and how each team’s reward was to be multiplied. The third place team receives twice, the second place three times, and the first place ten times their rewards.
Of course, I had long since grown tired of hearing these explanations. I spent this time peeking at the other teams.
First, Ryden and his teammates.
I don’t know what he thinks is so funny, but Ryden had been grinning since he made his way onstage, but his teammates didn’t seem particularly worked up. This must be what a veteran adventurer feels like.
Next was Hisame, standing beside me.
She was expressionless and upright, maintaining a straight posture. Even the fluffy ears on her head proudly stood straight. She didn’t seem nervous in the least.
Ringo was, well, frozen behind me like a statue, staring right at the back of my head. I don’t think there’s anything interesting to look at back there, but she’s free to do whatever she wants. She’s a contender for number one in the popularity rankings, so she’d inspire some cheers from the crowd if she were to just show herself…
(Ah, wait a moment.)
There were so many people watching this event, that if we somehow ended up taking first place, we’d definitely start turning heads as a two-person team with tons of money.
That might be kinda problematic… I thought as I started fantasizing out of boredom, when finally the announcer announced the start of the main event of the Fest.
“Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for! It’s time to begin the results announcement!”