Flamm and Milkit held hands and walked along the street. Flamm didn’t have anywhere in particular that she wanted to go, but she did want to get far away from that merchant’s base.
Although they are walking along a road that Flamm had used many times, the passerby looked at them with cold eyes. Nobody would imagine that a girl dressed in rags with shabby hair and a slave’s brand engraved on her face was the Flamm Apricot that they used to know. Occasionally somebody walking past would jar their shoulders on purpose and continue on with a grin.
“Hey Milkit. Are slaves always treated like this?” Flamm asked as they weaved between people.
Milkit tilted her head. “Like what?”
That answer was enough. For her, it is normal to be looked down on. For others, a slave is someone to despise or perhaps to use to satisfy their desires.
Flamm was lost in thought as she stroked her face with her empty left hand. She could feel under her finger a slight change in texture that originally did not exist. The mark is colored with a special paint that will never disappear. It is still painful to touch, but as she thought about it she felt greater mental pain than physical pain.
“Master, are you hurt?”
“I just reconfirmed that this is a slave brand.”
Flamm was released from the Hero’s party and had escaped from the slave merchant, but with that marking on her face she can not go back to her hometown.
To be a slave is to be as good as dead. But Flamm is still alive, still walking under her own power according to her own will. Besides, she’s not just by herself. However different they might be, she has a companion who will suffer together with her if she just gives up.
“First we have to earn money,” Flamm said.
“Yes… the only way is to sell our bodies. I, I do not have that kind of experience, so I’m not sure if I can do it well.”
Milkit’s first proposal was prostitution. Flamm sighed before rejecting it out of hand.
“Milkit, look out for yourself a bit more.”
“What do you mean?”
“Prostitution is the absolute last resort.”
“Then, what are we going to do?” Milkit asked.
“First, lets head to the center of the West District. We can get a job there,” Flamm said.
“There’s work that can be contracted even by slaves…”
There was only one such job that allowed people in this kingdom to earn money regardless of status. Milkit might not be able to think of it now, but she would understand once she was in front of the building.
Flamm tightened her grip on Milkit’s hand and picked up the pace.
◇ ◇ ◇
The capital was divided into four areas: Center Ward, East Ward, West Ward, and North Ward. The largest area was the Center Ward with large and small shops and a lot of houses lined up in places off the boulevard. East Ward was a high class residential area where various rich people such as aristocrats and large merchants lived. North Ward had facilities that played a large role in the kingdom, such as the King’s Castle and the Cathedral. The poor people who are shunned in other areas gathered in the West Ward.
The slave merchant’s base was in the Center Ward, but it’s not far from there to the West Ward. Once they entered the West Ward it didn’t take long to reach Flamm’s destination.
After they stopped in front of a particular building, Milkit looked at the signboard by the entrance before exclaiming in surprise.
“Is this … the adventurer’s guild?”
As the name suggests, the adventurer’s guild is a facility where adventurers gather, undertake jobs entrusted to the guild, and report the results. The profession of “adventurer” is a remnant from the time of the brave human beings who helped to explore and pacify the monster-infested countryside back when there were many undeveloped areas in the kingdom.
“Well, I’ve heard that even former slaves can be adventurers. Now that I have the power to fight, I thought I could handle simple requests.”
The experience of killing the ghouls and merchants had raised Flamm’s confidence. She felt a little uneasy at crossing the fatal line, but for somebody who had lost a straight way to live there was no other way.
“By the way Master, where did that power to fight come from? As soon as you grabbed the sword you healed your injuries and you could swing that big sword easily.”
“Yeah, that merchant said that this sword is Epic Equipment. It seems the effect of its enchantment was to improve my physical ability.”
“But the man who grabbed it first… his body melted and died.”
“That is worrisome. Unfortunately, I can’t do a magical scan since I don’t have any magical power…”
There is a simple magic that could be used on the sword to confirm its name and magical effects.
“Wait, wait, when my body got lighter my magical power also rose. Come here a bit.”
Flamm had never used the scanning magic, but she knew about how it was done. She pulled on Millkit’s hand and led the two of them into the alley next to the adventurer’s guild. Soon they were alone and hidden from view of the street.
“Come out,” Flamm ordered.
Particles of light swirled into view and coalesced into a sword held in the palm of her hand. Pleasantly surprised that the sword came out on command, Flamm took a breath and began to invoke a “scan” of the sword.
First, the most basic of basics, she had to feel the magical power filling her body and concentrate on any part of it. She could never grasp that feeling when she tried it before… but now she could feel a power flowing inside of her body. Before, she had tried not to dwell on it. Even if she tried her hardest, it would always stay out of reach. She had never thought that it could be so easy. She focused, brought the power to her head and focused it around her eyes.
And the magic activated.
Name: Zwei Hander of Soul Eating
[This equipment reduces your strength by 318]
[This equipment reduces your magical power by 96]
[This equipment reduces your vitality by 293]
[This equipment reduces your agility by 181]
[This equipment reduces your perception by 107]
[This equipment melts your body]
Flamm unintentionally read out loud as she took in the characters displayed in her field of view. It was a title suitable for curse equipment. She guessed that the sword was originally just a Zwei Hander. The sword took in somehow the grudge of the dead. After absorbing the despair of those who died it became a cursed sword that killed all those who held it.
“But why? With enchantments that reduce stats, I should not be able to use such a huge sword.”
“It’s enchanted to reduce stats?”
“Well, as far as I can see. Can you try a scan, Milkit?”
“I can’t use scanning magic.”
That shouldn’t be possible. As long as their magical power is not 0 due to a special circumstance like Flamm’s, a person should be able to use scan. Even if their magical power is 1.
That was Flamm’s first thought, but she soon realized the truth. Although it is certainly basic magic, it is not taught by just anyone and it’s not something that can be used without being taught. In short, nobody taught Milkit even the basics of magic usage.
“Besides, I think I would not understand it, even if I can see it,” Milkit admitted.
Flamm was blessed. Every time she hears Milkit’s words she feels it.
“Well, if I can do it, I can teach it. Should we start studying together once things calm down?”
Flamm smiled. Milkit kept silent for a few seconds before turning her eyes a little bit. Flamm could see that she felt a little puzzled and embarrassed.
“If Master needs it, I will obey.”
“Then that’s decided,” Flamm said. “Though the mystery of the equipment remains. My stats should decline and my body should melt, but on the contrary my abilities increased and my wounds healed… to the contrary… reverse…”
There was one thing that might explain it. If she was experiencing the “reversal” of the intended effect of the enchantment-
“My attribute? No way, could it be something like that?”
“Yeah, my attribute is ‘inverse,’ it is a so-called rare attribute. It’s because of that attribute that my stats were nothing but 0. I thought it was useless… but that must be what I used!”
In other words, the inverse of a decrease is an increase. The inverse of body dissolution turns to physical healing. It might be said that her attribute turns curses into blessings.
“I always wondered why I had such a useless power. I never thought to use cursed equipment, so I never noticed it… Hahahahahahahahahahahah!”
Flamm’s heart soared as her laughter rang louder. She caught herself and hung her head as she realized Milkit did not understand at all.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I was too excited,” Flamm said. “In short, I will be able to become stronger if I use cursed equipment thanks to my attribute!”
“Okay, Master is amazing.”
Milkit’s reaction was calm. Flamm coughed as she also calmed down. It hadn’t been long since they met. Milkit seemed to have the sort of personality that doesn’t have too much emotional inflection. It was a bit disappointing when she’s looking to celebrate together, but it did help her to focus on the task at hand.
While Flamm was excited some time had passed. She wants to earn enough money to cover their accommodation for the day. In order to be registered as an adventurer, they have to first receive and complete a simple F-ranked request. Once they finish it they will receive a license and will also be paid enough money to stay in a cheap hotel.
The two of them left the alley and entered the guild. Inside, the facility was something even a flatterer couldn’t describe as beautiful. The smell of sake permeated the building even though it was daytime. There was a tavern attached to the guild that was used as a meeting place for recruiting party members. A group of disreputable looking adventurers were hanging out there. When they saw the appearance of the two girls who came in and spotted the slave brands on their faces, vulgar grins spread across the room.
The reception desk was just in front of the entrance. The receptionist behind the desk was fiddling with her nails with a bored expression on her face. When she looked up and saw Flamm her face twisted into a frown.
“What is a slave doing here? I don’t see any reason for a nobleman to send his maids here.”
“I want to be an adventurer. Could you issue a license?”
After Flamm spoke, not only the receptionist but also the drinking adventurers all looked upset.
“You’re joking. Are you trying to throw your lives away? You look better suited to be prostitutes. I can introduce you to some opportunities for that kind of work.”
Her voice was full of malice. Flamm somehow swallowed her frustration, but the surrounding adventurers recovered from their shock in time to interrupt her attempt to speak.
“Would you like to come over here, my brown haired child? I’ll pay for tonight. Ah, never mind, the bandage is no good.”
“Well, you can go if you want, but who knows what she looks like?”
“You’re right, it’s no good… well, I might go because I’ve been doing nothing but work lately.”
“Hahahahah, you’d go with a stray dog if one came along!”
“No, hey, hahahahah!”
Flamm gritted her teeth, both hands clenching into fists. She glared at the men, unable to stand it – then Milkit grabbed the hem of her clothes. Flamm looked over to see Milkit shake her head.
“Because Master will lose, please don’t.”
“For your information, I am not only angry for your sake.”
Although perhaps 90% of her anger was due to the vulgar words directed against Milkit. When Milkit noticed it, she stopped Flamm.
“Don’t joke, you are my Master. I can accept these insults if it makes your life easier.”
While the two of them were distracted, the receptionist had turned back to focus on her nails as she had been doing before Flamm came. Flamm shook off her anger at the adventurers and turned back to the receptionist.
“No, I do not want that. Please issue a license.”
The receptionist remained silent and ignored her.
“Ugh, you’re a slave. Keep silent and open your legs when you get paid.”
The receptionist laughed as she finished speaking. Flamm was truly enraged and almost ready to leap over the counter and wring her neck.
“Hey now, don’t say that.”
She was interrupted by a man coming over from the tavern. He seemed to have the intent of acting as a mediator.
The man was slender, about one head taller than Flamm. He was leanly muscled rather than thin, with dark brown hair that was trimmed short. Being that he was in the tavern he wasn’t wearing any armor, but he did have a one-handed sword of high quality at his waist.
“Ah, I’m sorry to interrupt you. My name is Dain Finiarth, an A rank adventurer in the guild here. Please, let’s calm down.”
Flamm took the hand that he extended while looking him up and down. His hands were big, the skin rugged. He had a scar on his cheek and was wearing a gentle expression, but his eyes were sharp. He had to have ability if he had climbed up to A rank.
Adventurers start at F rank. Their ranks rise with the cumulative amount of rewards that they have received from the guild. It is difficult to reach all the way up to A rank without repeatedly completing high difficulty requests.
“Ella, a newcomer came to the guild,” Dain said, addressing the receptionist. “Is this any way to welcome her?”
“Whether you can survive after receiving a license depends on your ability. Slaves, nobility… who cares? I think anybody should be able to face the challenge.”
“If you say so.”
This man named Dain probably has a strong reputation. Ella had been cursing up until his arrival but lowered her head under his pressure.
Dain leaned over the counter and dragged a paper over from Ella’s side.
“How about this?”
The document now in front of Flamm was labeled “delivery of one Werewolf’s Fang.” It was marked as a rank F request. It also showed a map, marking where the monsters are likely to be found.
Dain nodded. “Yes, we will give you a license as soon as the task is completed.”
“Thanks,” Flamm said, taking the map.
Ella shot her a glare, causing Flamm to sigh in her heart. If she becomes an adventurer, she will be accepting requests from the West Ward adventurer’s guild for a long time. She was disappointed to have made an enemy already.
Before leaving the guild, Flamm turned to Dain and lowered her head.
“Mr. Dain, thank you.”
Dain gave a gentle smile and nodded to Flamm before returning to the table where his friends were sitting. Flamm took Milkit’s hand and left the adventurer’s guild. Dain watched the two of them until they were out of sight before bursting out in laughter.
“What did you do, Dain?” a man at the same table asked him.
“As you can see, I just gave them a license issuance request,” Dain said. “I’m a nice guy.”
“Hmm… how about the content of the request?”
“Well… I thought about the future of my juniors and just made it a little more challenging.”
As Dain spoke, he poured wine into his glass. “Ah, originally I put the request in at F rank and nobody wanted to take it.”
“What is it supposed to be?”
With Dain’s influence, putting a request in the wrong letter ranking isn’t difficult.
“A little higher.”
“Just a bit. All I did was give a D rank request out as F rank,” Dain said, laughing. “If she really is meant to be an adventurer, beating a Werewolf should be easy.”
“D rank is at least three times stronger than F rank… a Werewolf could be five times stronger. You killed that girl.”
“It can’t be helped if she’s not as talented as me.”
“Haha, that’s Dain for you!”
The adventurers were greatly excited that dinner would not just be accompanied by wine but also the story of slave girls dying miserably.
– “The brave coward”, Dain Finianas.
A man who became A ranked despite his own lack of ability. He advanced through fraud by hanging out in the guild and bamboozling new adventurers in the West Ward, taking some of their remuneration as his own achievement.
Flamm and Milkit held hands and headed to the place marked on the map, blissfully unaware of Dain’s true identity.
TN: It’s not clear to me how Dain benefits from sending Flamm out to certain death… I assume he runs other scams that benefit himself and sending newbies out to die is just something he does for fun.