"Might you be Kurdak's party?" asked Farsi with a friendly smile on his chubby face.
Farsi wasn't a tall person, but he was quite chubby. He also looked rather average. But perhaps because of his chubby figure, he radiated an innate friendly and approachable aura.
"You're right. I'm Kurdak," answered Kurdak with a nod.
The chubby man left quite a decent impression, given that Farsi didn't have the usual arrogant demeanor of high-up magi. It was bolstered by how he looked straight at a Kurdak and didn't let his gaze linger on the two beauties in their presence.
The group had fought their fair share of fights because of the two women. Vera's explosively seductive figure made most drool, while Annelotte's face could send men down a road of insane desire. The two attracted their quite a bit of trouble no matter where they went. Initially, Kurdak was worried that Farsi would be taken with the two. It would definitely prove quite troubling. However, he learned quite quickly that he'd misjudged the youth.
Farsi gave Kurdak a friendly handshake before looking at the four accompanying him.
He pointed to Ferd and said a little apologetically to Kurdak, "Forgive me for asking, but while I can recognize the two beautiful ladies, Annelotte and Vera here, and Mister Leguna, of course, who might this be?"
"Good day. The name's Ferd, a mercenary," greeted the man.
"Good day to you too, Mister Ferd. I am Farsi."
"Mister Farsi, I wonder if our encounter here was a coincidence, or whether you've come to seek us out for a specific purpose," asked Kurdak after the simple introduction.
"We just happened to be passing by. The guild had me take a stroll into the depths of the orcish dominion. Now that you mention it, since we were fortunate enough to meet here like this, I wonder if you would be interested in traveling with us, Mister Kurdak? I can pay each of you 200 gold as an employment fee. As for the spoils from killing the orcs, I'll to split a third of it with you," said Farsi frankly.
Kurdak hesitated before he shook his head regretfully.
"Apologies, Mister Farsi. Mister Ferd is injured, so we have no choice but to return to town so he can recover safely."
It wasn't uncommon for the group to be employed as the vanguard for a larger unit. Additionally, Farsi's offer was incredibly tempting. All he wanted from the party was additional safety at a fee. Usually, Kurdak would've accepted the offer immediately, but he had to refuse because of the presence of his injured prospective father-in-law.
However, Ferd humphed, clearly dissatisfied. Given that he had survived alone in orcish territory, he'd fostered his own sense of pride and obstinacy. A person like that would definitely find it below him to hold back the party in which his daughter was.
So, Ferd proclaimed loudly, "There's no need. I may be a little injured, but I'll be fine if my medical expenses are covered. I can fight and travel without issue and will definitely not hold you guys back."
Kurdak's eye twitched, understanding Ferd's intentions. But in consideration of his safety, he softly advised him.
"Uncle... We're going to head into the deeper parts of orcish territory. Will you really be alright?"
Ferd glared at him.
"Kid, don't look down on me. I've also traveled to the depths a number of times myself. Also, I am a 13th-stratum ranger, not your average white-haired old guy."
"Of course. You're by no means an average old guy, Uncle. You're an impressive and domineering middle-aged man. I'm just a little worried about your injuries. By the off-chance anything happens to you, wouldn't it only worry Vera?"
"I might be able to resolve your conundrum," said a familiar voice.
"Daver? You're here too?"
Only once he spoke did Kurdak notice his presence. He was in the rear of the group.
"Long time no see," said Daver with a warm smile.
This genius of his household seemed even more mature and restrained than two years ago.
"Oho! You're still alive and kicking!" poked Leguna as he gave Daver's chest a fist bump.
Though their relationship had gotten off a rough start, after spending some time together, Leguna grew quite close to him and was rather glad to see him now.
"I won't bicker with you like before, Leguna. You seem to have grown much taller over the years," Daver said as he returned the light punch.
Leguna was already almost as tall as him. He used to be someone Daver had to literally look down at, but now...
"My height's not the only thing that grew, you know. You'll have something to look forward to if we get into a fight. Come to mention it, why are you here?"
"I'm also a member of the Eye. The guild arranged for me to join Mister Farsi here to train this magi squad. He's the captain and I'm the vice-captain."
"Ah, I see."
Daver patted Leguna's shoulder and nodded to Annelotte and Vera, before he handed Ferd a bottle of potion.
"This is a bottle of enhanced healing. Mister Ferd, your injuries should only be skin-deep, so I believe you can recover quite quickly with this."
Ferd hesitated for a moment. He had heard about how much enhanced healing potions usually cost. It was far too expensive, not something he ought to accept lightly.
"Uncle, go ahead and accept it. This way we can accept their request. Just have the price deducted from my share of the pay," said Kurdak in an attempt to get on his good side.
With the healing potion, Ferd could recover in half a day. Now that they no longer had any worries, they could accept the request. Not only could they enrich everyone in the party, Kurdak could also appeal to Ferd. Kurdak would naturally not let the chance to kill two birds with one stone pass him by.
"Are you running a potion charity?" joked Leguna.
"Our Daver Merchant Guild owns the largest potion shop in Snowrock. Make sure to give us a visit the next time you want to buy some potions," said Daver.
"Well then, I take it you've accepted my request?" asked Farsi.
"We do! However, I wonder if you have any other specific conditions of which you'd like to inform us?"
"Well, forgive me if this sounds laughable. The reason I wanted to hire such a strong party is to ensure our safety during the excursion. So, there's no need for you to take point. You may fight however you please as long as you're certain you can protect me and my friend Daver here in times of danger," Farsi explained, before he intentionally accosted Kurdak and whispered, "You don't even know the half of it... Only Daver and I are worth our weight. The others are completely unreliable!"
Kurdak wore a smile of understanding and nodded. "Your request sounds reasonable. We have deal then!"
"Ah, Mister Kurdak, ever so the forthright man. Here's your deposit," said Farsi as he immediately took out a large sack of gold coins that sounded to contain 200 from his dimensional pocket.
Leguna and Vera couldn't be happier about the profits they were about to make. But Annelotte merely stared at Farsi, keeping her thoughts to herself.
The girl hesitated before she walked to Leguna's side and whispered, "I feel something's off with Farsi."
Leguna looked at the fatty in the distance.
"Aren't you overthinking this? He gives me good vibes, that fatty."
"According to the reports I've received, that's how he always presents himself. However, I also collected some information about his true nature in a private setting. Do you want to hear?" offered Annelotte coldly.
Seeing that Annelotte was being serious, Leguna wiped the smile off his face and nodded solemnly. "Alright, I'll take note of him."
"Don't forget about Balor. He hasn't caused you any trouble for some time now," warned Annelotte again.
At the mention of Balor, Leguna couldn't help but give Vera and Ferd a look. He scratched his head.
"I was just about to forget about him. Sigh, the days when I was Boss's little minion were the best. I didn't have to worry about stuff like this at all."
"Don't worry, I'll be there to help you," said Annelotte unconsciously when she saw his troubled expression.
A little stunned, Leguna snickered.
"Thanks, I suppose. Annie, you seem rather concerned about me, don't you?"
"I am only carrying out the assignment the president gave me," retorted she without a change in expression.
But Leguna, who was closest to her at the moment, noticed a tinge of pink surface on the maiden's fair skin. It made him fall into a daze despite having gotten used to seeing her face over the last two years.
However, the others didn't have the leisure to observe the scene. With Vera's help, Ferd drank the enhanced healing potion. As he was injured all over, there wasn't enough of the potion to be applied using the method specified in Wayerliss's notebook. So, she had no choice but to use it to treat the spot most badly injured.
Seeing her father's beaten state, Vera's eyes reddened as she muttered her apologies for having neglected her father all these years as she treated him.
As a father, Ferd could only try his best to console her so she didn't feel too bad. He reminded her that his injuries were just skin-deep and that there were some occasions when he'd been in a far worse state, but he'd survived nonetheless. His attempts backfired, however, as this reminder made Vera cry even more intensely, much to his panic.
Kurdak was busy negotiating the finer details of their cooperation. However, Farsi's gaze would drift away from time to time. Whenever he glanced at Leguna and Annelotte, a distinct coldness flashed across his eyes.
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