Lapis returned with a piece of paper in her hands. It looked like the copy of a request, and it seemed like she already accepted a job before coming back. Loren believed that since he had left it in Lapis’ hands, she wouldn’t choose something unreasonable.
She approached them with light steps, pulled up a chair, sat down next to Loren, and placed the request on the table.
“A cla.s.sic scouting job. The time limit is one-month max. The base fee is fifty silver coins per person, more will be paid once information is obtained.”
“It’s unexpectedly cheap?”
Loren had to wonder if there were any adventurers who would be willing to set foot into the demons’ territory for such an amount of money. If the payment was only this much, it was much better to take on other normal jobs. Loren had the feeling that no one would take this job by their own volition.
But Lapis raised her index finger and wagged it from side to side:
“You’re quite naive, Loren. The key point of this job is, aside from the base fee of fifty silver coins, we’ll also be paid for any information we get.”
In short, they were promised AT LEAST fifty silver coins per person, and would earn more based on their performance. Loren tilted his head, wondering if such a good term actually existed.
Lapis quietly whispered to them:
“As long as we reach the demon’s territory, even if we just hang around at the border and do nothing, we can still earn money.”
What Lapis meant was, they could just make a report based on what they heard from the Adventurer Guild’s staff. Even if they didn’t actually meet any demons, they could still earn some additional payment.
“Also, the time limit is one-month max. They specified the maximum time, but not the minimum, right?”
“In short, we can go there and come back immediately.”
“That’s right. Of course, we still have to get enough information to make a report, but if there’s nothing unusual, the place we’ll go in through should be peaceful, and we’ll only need to talk.”
Lapis added that as Kapha was in the southwest of the continent and was rather far from the center, they couldn’t earn more from such jobs. In the areas near the center, where demon territory and human territory were separated by just a mountain range, there were fixed short-term jobs that paid really well.
“How do we prove that we really did go to the demon country?”
If they didn’t have to prove it, they wouldn’t even have to go there. They could just idle away, then submitted a report to the Guild after an appropriate amount of time had pa.s.sed. The Guild wouldn’t be able to verify the accuracy of their report; if they could, there would be no need for a scouting job.
“We were given a magic-infused brooch. It’ll check our location at regular intervals and transmit the information to another magic equipment. The Guild will know where we are thanks to this.”
Lapis pointed to her own chest – there was indeed a new brooch there, glowing blue.
“I’ll keep it. If we lose it, we’ll have to pay a ridiculously high fine.”
How often the brooch would record their location was unknown, but with such a magic equipment, it wouldn’t be difficult to prove that they had actually entered the demon country.
“Aside from that, it’ll take skilled adventurers to cross that mountain range. That’ll be another story on its own, right?”
Lapis nodded to confirm Gula’s remark.
“Is that mountain range dangerous?”
Infiltrating demon territory was dangerous, but Loren wanted to know how dangerous was the mountain range that they would have to cross on their way.
Lapis answered easily:
“It’s comparatively safe… In comparison to the demon country, I mean.”
She said this as, if there was any problem to arise, then it would be the mountains themselves.
“It’s a range of high mountains. It’s not that wide, but crossing it might be deadly.”
The areas around the mountains’ summits were covered with snow and ice all year round. Even with professional equipment, climbing such a mountain range was very likely to result in death. It was said amongst the demons that the mountain range was too high to cross even while riding on dragons.
“Well, how do we enter the demon country then?”
It was such a disheartening thing to hear that Loren felt fed up even before the journey started. But Lapis seemed not to find it particularly difficult:
“If we can’t go on top, we can just go under.”
Of course, if they couldn’t go over the mountains, they would have to pa.s.s below it. But Loren didn’t think there was a road conveniently cut through the mountain range just like that.
“I said ‘under’, but it’s actually inside the mountains. This mountain range has been known for its high-quality ores since long ago, and the dwarves have dug tunnels all the way throughout it.”
The dwarves were a humanoid race whose height only reached a human’s waist even in adulthood. They were hairy with muscular, solidly-built bodies, and excelled at handling materials like earth, stone, and metal. Some of them lived amongst humans, though not many, and their hand-crafted armors and accessories were often traded with high prices due to their superior quality and beautiful designs.
Dwarves normally collected materials to use by themselves, and if they heard of a mountain with high-quality ores, they would appear out of nowhere and proceeded to dig holes all over said mountain. Even though the notion didn’t work in the human world, dwarves considered ores as blessings of the earth and not the property of any selected individuals. To them, the mountain range that separated the demon tribe from the rest of the world must be mountains of treasure. No country controlled this mountain range, of course, so the dwarves could freely mine it as much as they like.
“They’ve gone pretty extreme there. After all, the dwarves are a diligent race. They’ve only ever shown interest in alcohol aside from work, so the mining goes on regardless of day or night…”
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The harsh environment of those mountains wasn’t something humans could endure, but with their hardy bodies and persevering nature, it wasn’t that much of a problem. Even if there were cave-ins, they could still survive with their toughness, and that was how they gradually expanded their territories.
“Will it exceed our reward?”
“Unfortunately yes. That’s why adventurers normally used the abandoned mines that are not controlled by the dwarves. They’re dangerous though.”
Once they had mined all the ores from a tunnel, the dwarves abandoned it. They didn’t bury it but rather just left it as-is. There were quite a few of such tunnels in the mountains, and adventurers usually used them to go to the demon country. Of course, there was an increased risk of cave-ins due to deterioration over time, but very few had actually happened, probably due to the dwarves’ great handiwork. But due to the dwarves’ departure and lack of continuous human presence, monsters tended to gather in these tunnels, and make them into their nests. And that was the source of danger.
“The dwarves originally resided there, so they should be comfortable enough.”
“So this is what makes the trip dangerous.”
“Yes, it is. So we have two options: pay some money to use the dwarven tunnels, or do not pay anything and use the abandoned tunnels.”
Paying the dwarves would be quite harsh on Loren’s pathetic wallet. Lapis probably had paid for a one-way trip, and it was already expensive enough, so paying for a round trip for three people… A fifty-silver-coin-per-person job wasn’t worth it.
But Loren also wanted to avoid entering a place that was known to be dangerous because they were conscious of money. Losing your life just because you wanted to save some money was way too stupid. It probably wouldn’t happen since Lapis and Gula were with him, but Loren felt wrong to have to rely on them.
Lapis watched Loren wrestled with his worries for a while, and as she realized that he couldn’t make a decision, she said:
“Let’s decide which option to take once we’re near the place. If it feels good, we’ll take the abandoned tunnels route, if not – we can just ask for the dwarves’ service.”
“Can we even get in touch with them?”
“Just leave it to me.”
Lapis offered with a smile, and Loren decided to shelve the matter. As Lapis had said that they would decide when they were at the place, Loren decided that there was no need to worry about it now.
“Alright, let’s do as Lapis said and worry about going there first.”
“Well then, we’ll need to prepare a coach and necessary equipment.”
“Don’t forget the groceries.”
Gula stood up humming, probably thinking about what to buy. Lapis gave her a warning:
“We can only bring the bare minimum, ok?”
It was an instant kill of Gula’s enthusiasm. Loren and Lapis left their seats and started preparing for the trip to the demon country while trying their best to ignore Gula’s dejected expression.
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