The Four Powers of Lance
Kurdak calmed down after hearing Leguna's explanation.
"Alright, I more or less understand what happened. Let me ask you again. How have I doomed you?"
"You..." muttered Leguna angrily.
Having had such a close pass with Arikos, he went straight to the tavern to ask what was going on. He had panicked and hadn't thought much about what had happened yet. Now he was asked about it again, he realized nothing really bad happened to him after all.
"See, after completing your test, you managed to obtain a book and join Moonshadow Thieves. You might not know this, since you haven't lived here for any amount of time yet, but Moonshadow is the largest thieves' guild on the continent. Their chairman's influence far exceeds that of Starfall's continent. I managed to introduce you to such a bigwig… how have I doomed you?" asked Kurdak confidently.
"What kind of place did you ask me to sneak into? And who's that guy Arikos? I've never seen such a strong person before!" asked Leguna much weaker this time.
"Oh, that's one of Moonshadow's places. They set it up to test the ability of potential members. I expected you would remain undiscovered if you were as skilled as I thought. it appears I was wrong."
Kurdak casually spun a lie since he knew Leguna wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
Heck, I think Arikos must've been a high-order fighter. No wonder he discovered me! What is in that book? How did Kurdak know it was there in the first place? What is that book about anyway? wondered Leguna.
"I heard about that book long ago but I don't know what's written inside. Well, since you returned safely, why not take a look inside? Since you passed the test, I can officially accept you into our party. Come here and have a drink," said Kurdak in an attempt to change the subject.
Leguna took a huge swig from the mug and suddenly felt the alcohol vapors choke him. The liquor flowed like lava down his throat and into his stomach.
"Cough, cough!" Even though it was Leguna's first time drinking liquor that strong, he forced himself to resist the sensation because he didn't want to be looked down on by Kurdak.
"Not bad!" Kurdak chuckled, "This 'Flame Bearer' is one of the strongest liquors the tavern has! When I took my first gulp, I choked myself quite badly. I didn't think you would be able to withstand it at all."
"You should've said so earlier! I almost got internal injuries from this!" barked Leguna before he reached for some water to wash the liquor down.
"Alright, let's talk business. Since you're a member of our party now, we should discuss your share of the rewards. Before this, each of us got three-tenths. The remaining tenth would be added to our party funds. For example, the equipment you bought used our party's funds. Our feasts before and after a mission also use the money from that fund. Now you're one of us, we have to redistribute the reward. I wonder if you have any thoughts?" asked Kurdak.
"I'm fine either way. I managed to save up quite a bit of money over the years. I'll be fine with one-tenth less," said Vera nonchalantly before she took another drink.
"I'm fine as well," said Cyranos.
"Boss, you guys, you don't have to do this for me," Leguna said after he gave it some thought, "I know I should be happy just be in a party at all. I'm a sensible person, how about we do this: Each of you take one-twentieth less, so we have an extra three-twentieths. I'll take one-tenth and the rest will go to the party fund to pay for the equipment you bought me. When it's paid in full, I'll take the other five percent."
Kurdak saw Vera and Cyranos nod in agreement.
"Kid, you don't have to be that thorough. Consider your equipment a gift. You don't have to pay it back. As for the distribution, we'll do it your way. We'll each give one-twentieth, making your share three-twentieths. Since you're a new member, your share will be slightly less than ours. We'll adjust it accordingly when you complete a few missions."
"But Boss, all this cost more than 100 gold coins," countered Leguna.
"Enough! Since you call me your boss, then you should heed my decisions. This matter is decided," said Kurdak as he waved his hand dismissively.
"That's right. Just listen to what Kurdak says. We really don't mind!" said Vera as Cyranos patted on Leguna's shoulder.
"Okay, tomorrow you'll go with me and report to the Mercenary Association."
"Mercenary Association?" mused Leguna, confused.
"It seems I have to clue you in on the basics," Kurdak said after he took another drink, "I bet you think almost all humans on Lance belong to the Federation of Nine Cities, who decide the fate of the continent, right?"
Leguna gave it some thought.
"Isn't that so?" he asked finally, "The nine cities are like nine kingdoms, so the one who rules over them is the king. They are the most powerful, aren't they?"
Kurdak furrowed his brow.
"While you aren't completely wrong, you've still got the wrong idea. Firstly, the nine cities' influence is far smaller than you think. Secondly, even though each city is like a kingdom, the relationship between them is much closer, to the point they formed an alliance to protect their mutual interests. In some ways, you could consider them a single body. That body is called the Federation of Nine Cities. The Federation is just one of the four powers on the continent."
"The four powers?" parroted Leguna.
"That's right. Unlike Chino, there are no nations on Lance, most of the population here are exiles. The harsh living conditions force most of us to train in either battleforce or magic, that's why there are far more adventurers here than on Chino.
"With most adventurers living risky lives, not many would settle down in one place for good. They can't officially be recognized as a permanent resident of any city. That is also why the Federation's influence is smaller than you think. Additionally, we adventurers can choose to join different factions for different benefits.
"Among those many factions, there are four which reign supreme. They are respectively: the ones in charge of the cities, the Federation of the Nine Cities; the ones that champion the interests of mercenaries, the Mercenary Association; the ones that have the widest information network and provide assassination contracts, Moonshadow Thieves; and the smallest faction with the least members, but their members comprise a third of all magi on Lance, Eye of Arcana. Our party can be considered part of the outer circle members of the Mercenary Association."
"Outer circle members?" mused Leguna.
"That's right. Even though the Mercenary Association has their own mercenary band, they are unable to fulfill the ocean of requests that are sent their way every day. So, they also act as mediators and distributors of those missions to third parties registered with them. Those parties are considered their outer circle members. Missions that only require three to five people are usually free for members of the outer circle to undertake. Naturally, the Association will collect half of the reward. That's why they're called an association instead of just being regarded as a very large mercenary band," explained Kurdak.
"Half of the payment? Why so much?" asked Leguna, surprised.
"This is a fair price. Naturally, people are free to post mission requests to the public without going through the Association but it's not without its risks. Most people don't know how effective smaller mercenary bands are. If a weak mercenary group gets scared away by bandits, then wouldn't the one who requested an escort be doomed?
"To prevent this from happening, the Association keeps records of their outer circle members and rate and rank them based on their mission success rate and performance. This way, mission requesters don't have to worry too much about those that accept their requests. It goes without saying that the Association also collects a fee from the requester, meaning the Association benefits from both sides of the transaction," explained Kurdak patiently.
"But Boss," Leguna hesitated, "Didn't I already sign a contract with Moonshadow? Am I still allowed to join the Mercenary Association?"
"Of course!" Kurdak said confidently, "If I recall correctly, you've been assigned to the guild's odd job department, right?"
"Then there's no issue. The odd job department is considered part of the guild's outer circle. I heard they operate in shifts, so you usually only have to report in for a task on a monthly basis. The guild won't meddle in what you do when you're not on shift. Actually, as long as you're not a high-ranking member of the guild and don't take missions that interfere with the guild's interests, even if you're an inner circle member, you can still take requests from the Association. This is the common understanding between members of all factions," said Kurdak.
"Then, it's fine," said Leguna, relieved.
"Alright, kid. I've already told you more than enough for today. Don't trouble yourself over this too much. Let's drink and celebrate today and leave the other stuff for tomorrow," Kurdak said as he raised his mug, "Let's celebrate Leguna joining us!"
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