This ‘Elixir’ he’s talking about is a fairly well-known healing item. Huh… Hold on, if the request specifically states to ‘retrieve’ an elixir, is it talking about a natural one, or…?
“That’s exactly right.”
The thin man, Rieg, gives me a nod. I see how it is. Well, that’s certainly something to write home about.
There are two kinds of elixir, the first being natural and the second artificial. Though there were originally only a few of them scattered about in nature, the lack in quantity had at some point impelled people to attempt reproducing this remedy through artificial means, mass production being their key goal.
By dint of careful research spearheaded by the world’s most well-known sorcerers, an artificial elixir came into being. There was only one issue. With the perfect reproduction of a natural elixir being, quite predictably, unachievable, the final product’s efficacy proved to be several times inferior to the genuine article.
Oh, it still managed to be astoundingly effective, but the point stands. That doesn’t change the fact that the naturally-found elixir, unlike its man-made counterpart, is touted as a nostrum, a remedy for any and all ailments.
According to some rumors, it’s even powerful enough to bring the recently deceased back to life… I’ve definitely come across artificial elixirs before, but I can’t say I’ve ever actually seen a natural one. Fascinating… It’s even more amazing that these people managed to get their hands on information pertaining to this elixir in the first place.
“There’s someone by the name of World Eye; they let us in on this. We had to sell most of what this guild owns just to afford that kind of information, though.”
Herolo’s grin strains as he says this.
Interesting, since the name World Eye is so well-known even I’ve heard it before, and I spend virtually all my time locked up in my own guild.
According to some, they know just about everything that goes on in this world… though unfortunately, the amount of coin demanded for just one titbit of information from them is enough to make anyone’s eyes jump right out of their skull, or so I hear.
And this is a natural elixir we’re talking about – that’s the kind of information a whole country would love to get its hands on. I can’t even begin to imagine how much that must have cost. I guess that’s just how far they’re willing to go to save Lucika.
“Then, there’s the matter of where we can find it. It’s not in a place we can just breeze through, see?”
Seeing the sense in Apollo’s words, I nod my head. And I do get it. This is a cure-all remedy we’re talking about, after all. It’s not going to be just lying around, waiting to be picked.
I entertain the notion of asking Apollo just where the elixir is, but I can already see that he’s no fool. He wouldn’t just tell us about something without having fully decided whether or not to use our help. Considering the vast coinage expended for this knowledge, I doubt he’s going to go blabbing to complete strangers either.
“…Of course. I was indeed wondering where I’d seen them before. They’re from…”
Sorglos, still standing behind me, mutters something under her breath. It doesn’t look like anyone else even noticed that she was talking to herself, though.
Even with all that out of the way, it still doesn’t explain how Lucika was cursed in the first place. The curse she’s under is an exceedingly pernicious one that gradually saps away at the strength of whoever is afflicted by it, continuing to do so until its victim expires. I don’t think that anyone leading a relatively normal life would ever find themselves in a situation where they’d be exposed to this sort of thing.
“Well, here’s the thing. A while ago, Lucille defeated a monster. Sort of looked like a jellyfish. Once it fell, there was this pitch-black smoke that came out of its wounds. The smoke made a beeline for the kid, but his sister jumped in to protect him, and…”
Hearing Rieg’s explanation, Lucille begins grinding his teeth in sheer frustration. For him, he’s the reason his sister was cursed and forced to suffer in the first place.
Whatever hopelessness and sense of worthlessness go through his head are probably leagues beyond what I can imagine. But now that Rieg’s explained everything, I do believe I have a much better grasp on this whole situation.
This jellyfish he mentioned sounds like it might have been a Ragel, a kind of monster. In this kingdom, where more than ninety percent of the population is made up of humans, and more specifically this town, which is much closer to the kingdom’s center than its borderlands, the Ragel isn’t the kind of monster that one might come across all that often.
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This is a species that populates areas people generally don’t approach, and it certainly wouldn’t be an exaggeration to claim that their capabilities in battle are practically non-existent. They do, however, have their own way to make up for this shortcoming. Whenever they are injured or killed, they have the power to place a curse upon their aggressor.
If the Ragel in question had only been injured, Lucika wouldn’t have succumbed to the kind of curse that causes such intense suffering. But since it was killed, that’s exactly what happened. It had cast a curse so powerful its victim would meet the same fate it had.
“Damn it! This really is all my fault…!”
“No, it’s not. If you hadn’t killed it, then someone else would have. Maybe me, maybe Herolo. Besides, I don’t think Lucika would want this to eat away at you.”
Lucille just slammed his hand on the table, clearly in no mood to forgive himself. His mind must be in a terrible place whenever he thinks of his sister, who had protected him from harm despite being the one he ought to have protected. What Apollo said was the kind of consolation one could only expect from a guild master.
“That’s why I’m begging you to join our guild, just for a little while! Help us get that natural elixir, please! If it can heal Lucika, I’ll do whatever you want!”
The request comes while Lucille’s body adopts a steadily increasing incline.
…Well, let’s see.
I can definitely say that I feel like lending the boy a hand. I like that he’s so focused on his sister’s well-being, and the other guild members’ readiness to throw everything aside to help him has already left a good impression.
But here’s the thing – we really can’t accept that kind of request. Why? Well, Sorglos and I are actually members of a dark guild.
“A-a dark guild?!”
Lucille looks from me to Sorglos, his mouth wide open, and Apollo quickly stands to his feet. While the boy still hasn’t reacted in any meaningful way, Apollo and Herolo have already drawn their weapons and levied them in our direction.
It’s a bit of a personal blow to be on the receiving end of someone’s pointed weapon, but I suppose that’s just the natural way for anyone to react to this. Even the guilds that dabble in crime every now and again never go any further than being called ‘grey.’
But having the kingdom recognize you as a dark guild is on an entirely different level, and tends to indicate that you’re partial to the kind of wickedness and cruelty that no grey guild could ever hope to reach. Although, if someone ever asks me, I might be of a slightly different opinion.
“Damn it all! I knew you people were powerful, but part of a dark guild?! Never!”
“There’s really no need to be so frightened, truly. Indeed, we have no intention of doing away with you as of yet.”
Sorglos sighs, already sounding fed up with what’s going on. The sword in Apollo’s hand trembles, so much so that its reverberations become audible.
Huh… Are dark guilds really that terrifying? I can’t stop my smile from turning slightly forced.
“Say what you want, but nothing’s gonna get us to drop our guard now. Not with someone from the Iron Queen guild’s standing right in front of us!”
Oh…? Iron Queen? And where would these people be, exactly?
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“Do refrain from lumping us in with that doormat of a guild, indeed.”
The name’s familiar to Sorglos, at least. She shakes her head in exasperation.
“We are from the dark guild Yelquchira, truly. Indeed, a grand guild, headed by a supreme Master, and with unrivaled renown.”
Apollo looks the two of us over, clearly perplexed. Ah, well… I suppose our guild isn’t exactly a household name, is it?
That should come as no surprise, especially not when you know that the kingdom and every official guild in it have grievances with you. It’s actually more fitting to say that this Iron Queen guild, being an institution similar to our own, is the odd man out for being so well-known.
“Come on now; there’s nothing to fear, indeed there isn’t. I shall not cut you down without the Master’s orders, truly.”
I do understand that this is just her attempt of trying to communicate to them that they should put their weapons down, but if anything, she’s making it sound like an order is all she really needs, and it’s not having the intended effect. Neither Apollo’s weapon nor Herolo’s are lowered, their expressions set in stone.
Given the situation, I don’t see any way for Sorglos and me to take on their request. There should be enough magic left coursing through Lucika’s body, and it’s going to be a while before she suffers again. The curse shouldn’t spread as fast as before, either.
That doesn’t mean that the curse is lifted, of course. It’s better for you to do what you can and get that elixir back to her. I’ll pray for your success.
With that, Sorglos and I make to leave the guild.
Before we can, however, the youngest member present calls out to us and stops us from leaving. Apollo, Herolo, and even Rieg look his way with evident surprise. The first thing I see when I turn back to face the troupe is the boy; his head bowed as low as it can go.
“It doesn’t really matter if you’re part of a dark guild or not. If you can help Lucika, then please, help us out.”
“Hey, Lucille! Are you out of your mind?! I get that you want to save Lucika’s life, but asking a dark guild for help? That’s just…”
Hearing what Lucille has to say, Herolo is quick to hold him back, even if he does come off a bit nervous. As far as the guild is concerned, it’s only right to put zero stock into what we have to say.
They are an officially recognized guild, after all. Dark guilds are essentially their sworn enemies, and they’re supposed to ask one for help? If any other guild ever finds out about this, they’re not about to get off with a slap on the wrist.
“Look, I’m sorry about this, I really am. You know what, you can just kick Lucika and me out of the guild, I don’t mind. But I’m still gonna ask this guy for help.”
This first-hand account of Lucille’s unwavering resolve makes Herolo gulp. I’m not much different; never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that such a small child could be capable of this show of determination. Oh, the pure love between siblings is just so beautiful.
“…Are you even listening to yourself?”
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Apollo lets his knuckles lightly swing down on the boy’s head. Lucille holds his head in his hands and looks up at Apollo, tears already forming in his eyes.
“We’re all members of the same guild… that makes us family. There are no paths out there we won’t walk to save family, no matter how dangerous. And these fellas don’t look half as bad as someone from the Iron Queen would, anyway.”
“Heh… Besides, if you two leave, we’re only going to have three members… Which means we’d be officially disbanded. I guess we don’t have a choice in the matter, eh?”
Apollo looks at us with a broad grin, and Rieg feigns an exasperated sigh while failing to keep the kind smile off of his face. Huh… So this is what they call fellowship among guild members, huh? Well then, I can’t exactly allow my Yelquchira to lose in those terms, can I?!
“Well… I personal think that sounds a bit off-putting, indeed…”
It doesn’t matter what Sorglos just said; I will forever see my guild as a testament for the cozy and homey.
“Sorry ‘bout all that. I guess it might not do much to ask this again, especially after the way we treated you, but please. Help us out.”
“I’d like to ask the same. Please.”
“Please! You’ve gotta save Lucika!”
Apollo, Rieg, and Lucille all bow in our direction.
…And you’re sure about this?
If another guild somehow manages to find out that you got help from a dark guild like ours, you’re going to fall to grey level in no time flat. It’s not nearly as bad as being turned into a dark guild, sure, but it would make it much more difficult to find any kind of legal or even just plain safe work.
And a small guild like this, with only five members? If it turns grey, even finding food to feed yourselves with isn’t going to be all that easy. With all that in mind, you’re still set on asking us for help?
Lucille doesn’t hesitate for even a second with his response. Both Apollo and Rieg look at me, their eyes already showing their steeled resolve.
…I see. In that case, we’d be honored to work with you.
Lucille doesn’t even attempt to hide how ecstatic this makes him.
Sorglos, you’re going to have to register with them for a bit. You don’t mind, do you?
“If Milord wishes it, whatever it is, then indeed, so it shall be.”
‘Whatever’ might be going a bit too far, I think. I’m still extremely grateful you’re willing to help. Somebody like Laladi or even Vampir wouldn’t agree to this, not in a million years.
The animosity those two seem to have for anything that isn’t part of Yelquchira is, in all honesty, a bit daunting. There aren’t that many girls like Sorglos out there, who’re willing to take on this kind of indignation and put up with it to achieve our goals.
…Well, that might be overstating things a bit. She’s only joining another guild, and even then her membership is just temporary. Anyhow, that’s how Sorglos and I get to join forces with another guild to seek out this natural elixir.