14 Chapter 13: A Gathering of Fools
James blankly stared at the four-member adventuring team in front of them. He turned to the [Baroness]. "This is really the only party you could find?"
The [Baroness] scowled. "A new dungeon opened out in the Western Provinces, so any Adventuring party worth a damn has already gone there. This was the best Adventuring party I could find. They're a C-Rank team, but they have a 70% success rate. Besides, you asked for a balanced party capable of handling any situation. I still don't get why you aren't just asking the Queen..."
The leader stepped forward. "Here now, Miss. We're actually a newly minted B-Rank Party. You won't find any party better than us within this Kingdom besides for the A-Ranks down in Beltross."
James sighed. It wouldn't matter. They were going to be there for show anyway. After all, he couldn't risk attracting too much attention by saving the pair by himself. That would raise all the types of questions he desperately wished to avoid. Nevertheless, he didn't trust the safety of his loved ones to any foolish Adventuring team; the real fights would be finished by him long before anyone could interfere. The male leader stepped forward to shake James's hand. "Pleasure to meet you. Thanks for that lantern by the way, really helped with a difficult Quest, our rank-up Quest actually. I don't think we've ever introduced ourselves. The name's Olaf. I'm a [Swordsman]. The female [Mage] there is Petulinia. The male cleric of Hilla, Goddess of Light, is Theseus. That fine looking gentleman there is actually our rogue, Ivan."
Lillian clapped her hands. "So professional. Elegant Adventurers are so hard to find nowadays. Can I interest anyone in a tart before we go? I've read in some of my favorite books that Adventuring requires a full stomach!"
James interrupted her, "You know this is the same team that Diana beat up a few days ago? By herself. You really think they can take on whatever beat her and a [Berserker]?"
All four members of the team blushed and looked down at their shoes, sheepishly refusing to meet his gaze. Finally, Olaf brightened up. "Well, Sir. I think in a rematch you'll find that some of us can now take her on in a duel. We just upgraded our gear after gaining a few levels each. Besides, we're a team, and she fought us individually. That's not our strength."
Staring at the ceiling of the [Baroness]'s apartment, James asked, "Can I at least have your [Elite Guard]s and [Butler]?"
"You know [Butler]s are supposed to always stay by their lieges. I can lend you Tom and Hank, my two best [Guard]s. Will that do? Also, I guess Herman will accompany me so he can provide some backup," replied Lillian.
James flatly said, "You are not coming. I've had enough of noble politics already. They dared to attack the daughter of a [Duke] from West Thyllic. What do you think they'd do to a mere [Baroness] of the smaller Kingdom of Rigrath?"
"Nonsense, I'll be loads of help. So, tell me what's the plan."
James groaned before deciding it wasn't worth the effort and time that would be necessary to dissuade Diana's aunt and gave a nod to Howard. Reaching into a bag attached to his waist outside his armor, the [Knight] pulled out a small device that looked almost like a phone with a screen and a small button. Petulinia whistled, "That's a real piece of enchanting there. I can |Sense| the mana radiating off that."
James pulled it back before Petulinia could touch it. She frowned at him, but he explained, "I'm not sure if you're aware of the mission yet, but once this thing goes off, we have to finish it in an hour. You four don't even know the plan yet."
Olaf grunted. "A timed mission. Well, what's the compensation. We can discuss the details after."
James pulled out a sack of coins tied to his waist, setting it down with a jingle. The four continued watching him expectantly, long years in adventuring telling them that the coins were worth only half their expected price at most, perhaps ten thousand Seedz.
Then, reaching beneath the table, he hefted a small chest and heavily dropped it in front of Olaf. Unlocking the clasp, he opened the chest, allowing a slight mist of mana to hit everyone in the room.
Ivan's hand furtively went to one of the many knives lining his belt before he stopped, letting out a breath.
"How many is that?" Theseus hissed.
James nodded politely at the [Priest]. "Thirty high-tier Healing Potions. Just a tad below [Archmage]-level. Worth about 100,000 Seedz on the open market. Yours if you complete the mission successfully."
Olaf hurriedly grasped James's hand. "Whatever it is, we're in. This could buoy us to the next rank!"
With a smile, James tapped the device on the table. "Get your gear. Thirty minutes from now, we start moving. Just go where the devices tells you to. Howard will handle the logistics and tell you the details. I need to prepare something even though I really want to make sure everything goes well with the mission." Everyone besides Howard nodded in understanding.
Leaving the room, James took out a similar looking device from his own pocket, hesitating just a moment. Then, he pushed the small button. Had Petulinia been there, she might have sensed a slight circular wave of mana pass through the room and spread throughout the city. After a minute, an arrow and a number appeared on the screen. Placing a map on the ground, James confirmed his destination according to the device's display. His brows furrowed. That was unexpected. He'd have to have a rather stern talk with several powerful figures if his device was working correctly.
He pondered for a moment, wondering whether to try again or simply follow the instructions. Time was of the essence. Rolling it all up, he hurriedly threw up the hood of his cloak and seemed to disappear as soon as he left the embassy building. Those passing by only noticed a fleeting gust of wind heading toward the Noble Quarters.
*Twenty minutes before*
Howard nervously looked over the parchment James had handed him one more time. By now, it was already late afternoon, and Lillian had just sent a [Messenger] to post an Urgent Quest. The old [Knight] questioned, "Are you sure you can handle whatever comes up? I'm not doubting you, but whatever could take out a fully armed Kira and a trained [Knight] is not something to joke about. Your weapons are great, but..."
James chuckled. "I'll be taking care of that. Do you have your side handled?"
Howard nodded his head with a slight self-condescending smile. "Don't worry. This old bag of bones can more than handle guiding those fool Adventurers on a wild goose chase. How will I know where to go?"
James pulled out the device Howard had seen in the forest. Then, he passed Howard a similar looking one that had a purple crystal embedded into it. Howard inspected it curiously.
"The one I have is a tracking device connected to Kira's collar. As you know, hers is a fake one, but I also secretly took the liberty to add a tracking device for a situation like this or if she were unwillingly captured. After all, very few would dare to mess with a containment collar," explained James.
Howard nodded thoughtfully. "I did always wonder how she could transform into her [Berserker] form around you with that thing on."
"Well, anyway. The one in your hands right now is actually just a linked screen using a modified light crystal to transmit the data. I've put a thirty-minute delay on it, giving me time to do what I have to do for my side of the plan."
"So, I'm just acting as backup and making sure the Adventurers see what they're supposed to?"
Stowing the device into a bag, Howard said, "Well, let's get ready. The Adventurers will be here in a few minutes. I left the compensation beneath the table like you asked."
Listening to Howard's report, James opened a burlap bag Howard had brought, pulling out a belt and an amulet. Tapping them and examining them beneath the light to confirm that they were still functional, he snapped them around his waist and neck respectively.
Howard asked nervously, "Wait! How am I supposed to distract them away from you?"
James didn't reply, only reaching into the sack again and pulling out a shimmery golden cloak.
Howard paused. "Isn't that Kira's…"
James nodded. "It's the little toy I made for her back when she used to rampage around the city. You remember it: she was still using it when you came around. I've improved it a bit."
Howard grunted. "The things you give that girl. She raised hell for a while back then. That thing's worth what, at least a hundred thousand Seedz."
James shrugged, thrusting one hand through the voluminous sleeves. Tapping the yellow crystal at the center, a light attributed one, he faced Howard. It emitted a soft yellow glow, satisfying his test. Patting his pocket to make sure that his modified teleporter was still there, he solemnly said, "Anything for family."
Bonus: Olaf's Skills Level 26 Swordsman (Main)/Level 10 Woodcutter
Basic: These can be used in repetition and only exhaust the stamina of a user.
Swordsman's Skills: (ie. Kick, Sprint, Thrust, Stances, Slash, Polish, Pose, Parry)
Axe Skills: (ie. Slash, Cut)
Tell Wood: Determines good wood and where to best strike a trunk.
Passives: These are skills that are always in effect.
Enhanced Strength: Passive strength enhancement
Enhanced Accuracy: Passive strength enhancement
One with the Sword: Intuitively understand sword concepts better. Enhances sword skills.
Respectful of Nature: Given to those who practice good environmental policies. The appreciation of the Spirits offers them bonuses in places of nature.
Warrior's Awareness: Provides insight into opponents
Learned Skills: These are skills that must be developed or learned. It also includes skills which require certain situations or bloodlines to be invoked.
Aura Slash: A common strike that uses one's aura to expand the range and force of a sword.
Foraging: Can survive in the wilds
Buildup: Increases damage per combo performed.
Thunderous impact: Slam the sword on the ground, creating shockwaves and destroying anything beneath.
Leadership: Can guide others to make good decisions. Increases Charisma.
(Incomplete) Sword of Spirit: Uses the vigor of one's beliefs to thrust.
(Incomplete) ???: A style unique to the B-Rank Adventurer Olaf