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Chapter 16

I was still very interested in Haggle, so I decided to order a dessert as well.

“Ah… the dessert is a fruit parfait. Best in town?” The girl smiled at me, my one true weakness.

“Yes, how much is that?”

“It’s five copper. I know it’s pricy, but it’s really delicious!”

“Then, I’ll take one of those.”

This time I only thought to use the Haggle skill rather than say it. I wasn’t comfortable even mumbling Haggle in a room full of adventurers. Skills probably would activate without me yelling them out like I was in some kind of Shonen. She brought the dessert back, and it did look like it was worth the money. It was a mountain of various fruits, some I recognized, some I didn’t, and a mountain on top of that of whipped cream.

“That’ll be 4 coppers.” She said with a wink.

I gave her the coppers. Haggle seemed to work. Well, I was the town hero, so I was staying here for free now, and food came with the board, so only extra things like desserts and alcohol cost money. I ate my fruity parfait but was occasionally bothered by other adventurers wanting to chat with me. After I had my fill of social activity for the evening, I headed up to my bedroom. We had to get up really early tomorrow, earlier than I was used to getting up even for school, so I decided to take an early rest.

That night, my dreams contained an image of the catgirl who had been the Lord Tibult’s packrat. Calling her a pack-mule would be too generous, as she was a very petite girl. Some of the dreams were lewd. She was naked, and I had her leash in my hands. Other dreams seemed to center around her, cold, scared, and in pain somewhere dark. I had a nagging feeling like I needed to go rescue her.

The dreams only ended when I woke up. I overslept just enough that I didn’t have any time for breakfast. I pulled a hard biscuit from the food rations and nibbled it. After leaving the inn, I was still about five minutes from the town center. That was where the group was meeting and also where my stuff was being delivered. I’d be a bit late if I headed there now. Well, I could run, but I wasn’t the kind of guy who’d embarrass myself puffing along through town.

I had already predicted I knew what Return was, just by logically reasoning things out. I found somewhere with a bit of privacy, and then I cast the spell.

“Return!” Well, sometimes it was still more comfortable saying the words.

A glow went around me, and a moment later, I was standing in the square. This was also the same spot I had appeared when I first entered this world from my own. It was the dead center of Chalm. That would be what Return did. It returned you to the center of Chalm from wherever you were. I felt a bit dizzy from mana depletion, but only a bit. Hero job seemed to have a good chunk of mana, I reasoned. It was hard to define, mana, especially since every job had its own unique spells, so I could just call it a hunch.

Anyway, I was thinking, what was the one most crucial role a hero would perform for a city? That was, being able to return to it when needed. So, it stood to reason that the first skill one would unlock would be a teleportation skill that allowed me to get to Chalm fast from anywhere in the world. Strangely, no one seemed to give me a second look.

“Ah, you’re here!” The Guild Leader said excitedly. “Just in time too. The stuff you ordered yesterday is over there.”

I headed over to my pack. It now had a strange feeling about it, like it was more than a simple backpack full of supplies. I also could see a runic inscription written on the front. I picked the backpack up and made a noise of surprise. It was indeed a lot lighter. It would still be challenging for me to carry it long distance, but I at least felt like I could carry it.

I realized the backpack had also been repacked, and now contained my armor and clothing as well. I was too shy to change in the middle of the town square, so one of the shop owners let me duck into his shop while the party waited for me. There were about ten men in this party, including the Guild Leader himself. They all looked big and intimidating, including the single woman who was coming along, who had a massive cleavage and a gigantic sword.

When I came out, the group all looked at me appraisingly, and a few even shouted encouragements. With the robe and the armored clothing, I did have a bit of a wizened wizard look, actually. I felt a few years more mature. Perhaps I should grow a beard?

Chapter 17

We headed out without very much fanfare. There were a few wives and children seeing off the party, but for the most part, adventurers leaving on an adventure mean very little. Our party was a scout part with a possibility for rescue. The haughty noble had left yesterday, not even waiting for any kind of approval or plan before running off to the dungeon. Perhaps he was afraid I’d beat him to it.

Well, I didn’t really care too much. He could have the hero thing if he wanted. However, I was a bit curious, so I walked beside the hulking Guild Leader.

“I must ask, Guild Leader, why did you decide to make me a hero? You barely know me. For all intent and purposes, I could be just as bad as this noble.”

The Guild Leader shot me a look and smiled. “You’re earnest. I like that. Since you’ve been such a good sport about all of this, I’ll be honest. We selected you as a hero exactly because of Lord Tibult.”

“You knew he was coming?”

“Him… or someone like him. Nobles use towns like us to quickly earn some credentials. As I said, a hero status goes a long way in the Capital. However, nobles like him also look down on the citizens of the towns they hero and can be very tyrannical. You noticed those animalkins by his side?”

“They were slaves, right?”

“Yes…” The man frowned. “This is a human majority country, and in the Capital, you wouldn’t see a single animalkin that isn’t a slave. Most animalkins were only brought into this country as slaves in the first place, although some are emancipated.”

“Then, the people in Chalm?”

“Most of the animalkins were once slaves or were the children of slaves. Chalm was founded as a free city. Although we sit under the Capital’s shadow, we’re a city that welcomes animalkin. We often help free slaves. There is a law in this country that if anyone is willing to pay the price to free a slave, then the slave will be set free, presuming they desire it. A lot of our additional income goes to freeing slaves, especially abused ones. You can imagine what a man like Tibult would do as a hero.”

“Isn’t a hero just an honorary title?”

“It is… when you’re a stranger without any background. However, when you’re a noble with the Capital behind you, the hero can be whatever you want it to be. That is the problem.” He sighed. “Tibult would assuredly take over the town, and then the Mayor would be all but a name. We’ve heard the same happening to a dozen other towns.”

“So, how do I fit in?”

“If Tibult sets and fulfills the conditions for being the town hero, then we cannot reject him. If we offend nobles, our town isn’t so big that we can defend ourselves. It could even possibly bring notice of the royal guards. However, if we already have a town hero, then that is no longer the case. Having you gave us an excuse to reject any noble that comes along without offending them too badly. With the dungeon and our lack of a hero, we knew it was only a matter of time. However, we thought you’d have a while to sit down and get used to the title before that happened. Well, just announcing we have a hero would be enough to keep most nobles from wasting the trip.”

“What about me? What if my background is more extraordinary than I let on?”

“We did look into you.” The Guild Leader chuckled. “Wherever you come from, it isn’t this country. That said, you’re a healer, boy. You’re useful to us… but there is something better about you than being useful.”

I grimaced, already guessing what he meant. “I can’t fight back.”

The Guild Leader’s eyes flashed. “Exactly. You’re no threat to us. As you said, you can be the hero unless we find someone better. And if we find someone better and you don’t want to leave, it’d take little effort to remove you.”

My smile turned a little sickly. Sometimes it was better not knowing a thing.

Chapter 18

“Is this seriously only a few miles from town?” One adventurer spoke with a shiver.

“It looks like a graveyard.” Another added.

We had reached a point where all of the greenery and plants died or turned brown. The sky was dark and cloudy despite the fact that about a hundred meters back it was a light blue sky of a bright day. It looked like an ominous graveyard and was honestly really spooky.  I didn’t like the sight at all, but I could definitely believe that zombies came from here.

“The lore for this dungeon is thick.” The Guild Leader sighed. “The curse of this dungeon must have been made with much emotion. I would turn back now if we didn’t have someone who could remove curses. Let’s get going.”

The farther we went, the darker it became until torches needed to be lit just to see it. This was the environment that Lord entered with only two fighters and a servant? He was really bold. That’s all I could say.

“A zombie!” Someone called, and the direction he pointed showed one coming out the darkness.

Someone shot an arrow, and it struck the zombie in the head. He kept walking a few feet, but quickly stumbled to the ground and died. Did he die because it was a headshot that destroyed the brain, or because his HP had been exhausted? I still didn’t have an answer to how deadly attacks actually were. My only consolation was that I was now on the official payroll of the guild, so I could get some pay for this.

We ran into a few more zombies and a single skeleton along the way. No one was hurt, so I didn’t have to push my job forward at all. They promised to pay me if I healed anyone or not, considering I was putting my life at risk. However, I made more money if I healed people. Was it wrong hoping a few more people got injured?

As for my title, I still hadn’t tested titles for their strengths, but I kept the Hero equipped at the moment. If push came to shove, I felt like whatever status boosts I got from Hero were better than the White Mage. In fact, I already did feel like there was an improvement. My stamina was a little better. I wasn’t winded despite a nearly hour-long walk, whereas I would have been this way had I equipped my White Mage ability. Then again, I felt less of the oppressive feeling when I had White Mage equipped. Thus… I had to be choosy with my job titles.

We finally reached the dungeon entrance. It looked like the entrance to a tomb and supported the feel of this being a graveyard.

“Let’s get a fire going.” The Guild Leader ordered. “I want a camp set up, and a defensive perimeter. I don’t want to go into this dungeon only for a group of zombies to ambush us on the way out. Three men will stay as guards. The rest of us will enter and explore the first level and start mapping it out. Hopefully, that buffoon noble is still lost on the first floor, and we can offer some aid.”

I nodded along with everyone else until I realized I was one of the people who was going into the dungeon. With that, I sighed as I watched them start a fire, put up some warning bells around the perimeter, and even set a couple of traps. The adventurers were good at their jobs, so I just let them keep doing what they were doing.

“Remember folks,” The Guild Leader declared once the preparation was over. “Once we enter the dungeon, there is no resurrection. If we die, we become fuel for a curse. Don’t die.”

The men all nodded in agreement, and then one after another entered the tomb. Setting White Mage just so I could push off the oppressive feeling enough to move my legs, I started walking forward. I was in the very rear, which was both reassuring and a little worrying. At the moment, there was nothing that should be behind me, but what if that wasn’t always true?

As soon as I entered the dungeon, text appeared across my vision.

{You have entered Mina’s Dungeon. Destroy the lore to break the curse or complete the lore to become a true dungeon diver!}

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