“A five-star quest…?” As far as I know, the entirety of the mercenary guild only has a handful of five-star quests.
The vast majority of high-level missions were four-stars. To put it into context, one of the five-star quests from Joshua’s past life was dragon reconnaissance.
“Don’t be so anxious. This is a straightforward escort request, with a substantial reconnaissance component.”
“Funny how an escort quest got rated five stars.”
“Are you going to take it?”
Joshua nodded after a moment of silence.
“I’ll take care of it. When can I depart?”
“Right away. It’s in the eastern regions of Tripia—where Count Rebrecca lived.”
Joshua’s eyes widened. Now that I think about it…! He grimaced as old memories came to light.
“If I succeed, you’ll explain your relationship with her?”
“No problem, as long as you finish it. But I acknowledge your request.”
“Hmm… Oh.” Joshua smiled. “Another thing.”
Aiden had a bad feeling. That grin was oddly familiar.
“A test, and a mission—there has to be a reward, right?”
“I’m fairly certain you won’t be stingy about it.” Joshua shrugged.
I remember now. Aiden groaned inside. That middle-aged guy with the short hair. Not only did he work with excessive amounts of money, but he was also an expert at fundraising. He had the smile of a gold-eating monster—they called him the “gold ingot” of Avalon.
“Well… it’s a test and a mission, so I do intend to compensate you. However, since this is a personal request, the pay won’t be that large—”
“You already know what I want, don’t you? This is the hardest a quest gets, short of un-starred missions. I don’t think I’m asking for too much.”
“It’s Laypone, isn’t it.”
Joshua’s grin widened and Aiden felt the urge to grab his head and shake it. He acted like the continent’s greatest bully, not its greatest talent.
“Wouldn’t it be best to leave it in the hands of someone who appreciates it? Its value hinges on how valuable people find it in the early stages of testing.”
“The creator has no intention of commercializing it at this time—”
“Inventors always want to see their devices used well.”
Joshua had a knack for this—he’d make for a good businessman, in Aiden’s opinion. Aiden found himself unable to answer, even though the boy was less than a third of his age. Of course, he had no idea that Joshua had an entire life behind him already.
“She holds complete authority over Laypone, as I’m sure you’re aware. Also, my artifact is customized, so I don’t—”
“Arranging a meeting with her is sufficient, because, as far as I’m aware, you’re the only one who can. I’ll handle the rest.”
“...That’s probably true.” He smiled bitterly. “Okay. I’ll take care of it.”
“I appreciate it.”
Aiden shook his head, flabbergasted by Joshua’s casual demeanor.
“You’re something, you know that? You… Did you know I come from Avalon? You remind me of a nobleman I know. They call him the “gold ingot”—a real gold-eating monster.”
“Ah, Cox von Wagen? Not exactly the most polite-sounding nickname—”
“I know.” Aiden smirked. “In any case, we’ve been talking for quite a while. You will attend to my request, Baron Joshua Sanders?”
“Right away.” Joshua tugged his robe back up and smiled. “By the way: it’s not ‘Joshua Sanders,’ Avalon aristocrat, it’s ‘Ash,’ the mercenary.”
“Huh? Did you catch a cold, Cox?” Charles cocked her head at Cox as he sniffled.
“No, I’m fine. I think someone is cursing me, though.”
Charles snorted and giggled.
“I wouldn’t be surprised with how you usually act.”
She lost all sense of humor after her father died, Cox thought. It’s such a relief to see her like this, rare as it is.
No, she hasn’t found her sense of humor—she’s found herself. He smiled. We owe it to them.
“They really are incredible. Sir Cain has already taken to training our family, and Icarus remains shut in her chambers, plotting her next move. It’s clearly someone else’s business, but they’ve taken to it with aplomb.”
Cox was extremely grateful, even though he considerably outranked both of them. He nodded appreciatively, especially thankful for the young man who sent them.
“Yes,” Charles agreed. “We are forever grateful. They ought to be rewarded—we are not a great family for nothing, after all.”
“Just the two of them?” Cox smiled menacingly.
“What?” Charles shivered.
“All I’m saying is that they’re just following their master’s commands. Their prize should account for him, too.”
“Oh…” Charles flushed. “Of course. We owe him our thanks as well. However, even if we succeed, the cost of rebuilding the family and our finances would be considerable. Monstrous, even. A princess with no sense of money wouldn’t understand, she already has more than she knows what to do with!”
“True… but if everything goes well, we’ll swallow all of their business, too. So the reward—”
“You seem optimistic, but it seems to me like it’s only possible because of his help. Besides, do you think money is a joke?”
Cox’s eyes widened.
“Don’t you understand how money works? We need to rebuild everything from the ground up,” Charles berated. “Even if our family is a giant and we somehow win the war, we still have to regain the trust of our customers.”
“We need money to make money. It’s going to be a long time before it’s smooth riding again.”
“It’s a manufacturing plant, so it’ll be extremely profitable even if left alone, so—”
“Enough, Cox. I know.”
“Then don’t talk about money so casually.”
“The reputation of our family as merchants is our top priority. If we ask for help without paying it back, how are we to earn our prestige back?”
“Who said there would be no compensation?” Cox gave her a wide-eyed look.
“I brought up money as an example… but I’m certain that Young Master Joshua isn’t concerned about such things.”
This coming from a man who loved money more than his own life.
Cox grinned at her.
“Without money, there’s only one option isn’t there? Put your whole body into it.”
Charles stared blankly at Cox for a moment.
“C-Cox!” She flushed bright red. “What are you saying?”
“A relationship with the man who saved you… It’s like a fairytale!”
“Get—get out! This money pinching man!”
A Pontier aide burst in, interrupting Cox’s teasing.
“This is serious! The Crombells are on the move.”
Charles and Cox locked eyes, and went scrambling out the door.
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