Dungeons of the Abyss and the Unchosen Heroes
"Have you heard?"
"I can certainly hear, yes, thanks for your concern."
"No, that's not what I mean!"
"Yeah? Then be more specific!"
"It's about the Dungeon, the one under the stone circle. The Stone Circle Tombs? Was that what they're calling it now?"
"Damn, I was pretty miffed about being too slow to get in on this new Dungeon but right now I'm feeling pretty lucky. Like, worms that crawl inside of you, lay eggs all over, and take over your body? No thanks! I've seen some awful things in the Dungeons but by the gods, this has to be some of the worst. I sure hope the investigators they sent in didn't bring any of them Mimics back to town. You know what, I think it would have been better if they didn't come back at all."
"That's cold, even for you, my friend."
"Hey, I just don't like them creepy crawlies near me, alright."
"Anyways, I heard that by the time the investigators got there, the Dungeon was already cleaned out."
"Oh really? Well just because the Dungeon's cleared out doesn't mean every single one of those creatures are dead."
"Maybe, but that wasn't my point."
"Then get to the point then!"
"I would have if you'd just let me!"
"Alright, sure go ahead, tell it to me."
"The thing is, it was all apparently done by a single person."
"One person? Not a party but a person? The whole Dungeon?"
"That's right! Crazy isn't it?"
"Is it one of the Lightbringers?"
"I don't know, but I have heard that she's an S-ranker."
"S rank? That's impossible! That's just a tall tale!"
"I don't know. I heard that Albert guy from the Lightbringers is S ranked too."
"Yeah, alright, that I'll believe."
"Oh? I didn't know you're such an admirer."
"Oh, shut up! If you've seen him in action you'd believe it too."
"Wait! You've seen Albert in action!"
"Damn right I did, and maybe I'll tell you all about it too."
"Alright, next round's on me. Now tell me the story."
"Okay, so it was a little before you joined up with us. That time we..."
As the two Dungeoneers chatted away, on the table across theirs, there were those who had involuntarily caught their rambunctious conversation.
"S rank? What's that all about? The ranking stuff, I mean," Auguste directed his question towards Gladiolus who was seated beside him.
"It's something unique to the Arithmi Theocracy," Gladiolus replied easily. "Using the blessing of Arithmi, his servants are able to quantify a person's abilities and rate them accordingly from ranks 'E' to 'S' for comprehension's sake. The S-ranker they spoke of was likely someone who has one or perhaps more of their abilities evaluated as S ranked."
"I guess that's supposed to be impressive?"
Gladiolus gave a small laugh, finding something amusing in Auguste's ready dismissal.
"I suppose. That being said, the Dungeoneers' Guild here makes use of this system as well. If you're rated high enough in certain abilities, you might be requested for a job or two, especially those from the Scholars of the Abyss, considering that this is the town where they're based at."
"Is that so?" Finn was getting somewhat excited. It would seem that he's the sort that gets excited whenever he's getting his height measured. Looking at him, he must have gotten some satisfying results. "Maybe we should go find out what our ranks are too?"
For once, Auguste and Henrietta appeared to be on the same wavelength.
"Huh? Why not?" Finn was confounded by the strong rejection.
"I just don't care for numbers and ranks," Auguste replied, his eyes looking elsewhere.
"Aye, that's right! The Henrietta Company doesn't need no numbers to tell them what's what!"
"We're not going get any good numbers anyways," Auguste added.
"Yeah, we- Wait, hold on a minute, don't just give up like that! Who knows, we might have some hidden potential or something."
"Sure, in your dreams."
"Yer know what? It's that self-deprecating nature of yers that I really hate. How'd ya expect to get anywhere with that attitude?"
"Talk all you want, but a gung-ho attitude isn't going to make you any taller."
"That's it!" Henrietta slammed the table, spilling the drinks and nearly flipping it, as she leaped up on top of her chair. "Yer wanna go!? Yer wanna go right now!?"
"Oh please, you can't even reach me with those arms of yours."
"Yeah!? Yer wanna put yer money where yer mouth is?"
"G-guys, please stop. Just forget I mentioned anything, alright? Come on, everyone's staring and it's getting embarrassing."
Despite Finn's plea, the two were already onto each other like a pair of angry dogs, barking at one another ferociously without a care for their surroundings. Finn eventually had to get in between them to get them to stop.
For the rest of the night, the two did not talk to one another and it continued on to the next morning.
"Well no, that wouldn't work," said Morganna in a conversation she had with Auguste after lunch.
"Wait, why not?"
"Because Ether isn't as active in nonliving things as they are in living things. You can't just expect me to be able to make more salt with salt as a catalyst. If I could have done that, I would have just grabbed some dirt off the ground and started doing earth magic or make more gold with the gold coins we've got."
"Wouldn't the gold disappear after a while though?"
"It won't matter if we run fast enough."
"Don't actually put thought into it. I said it doesn't work like that, didn't I?"
"Right. There goes the salt idea. And here I thought I was actually brilliant."
"Well, if you've thought of it, I'm sure other witches had thought up the same at some point in the past."
"True... Anyways, I think it's about time I pay Tobias a visit at his workshop. He promised that he'd deliver before noon."
"I thought you went there this morning?"
"And he told me that it wasn't done yet and come back at noon."
"What did you order anyways?"
"Oh, you'll find out."
"If you say so."
Morganna's interest in this little thing went away about as quickly as it came. It made Auguste actually somewhat nervous about showing it to her later.
I certainly hope she likes it, thought Auguste, it's going to be awkward if she doesn't.
After picking up his order from Tobias' workshop, Auguste ran into Finn on his way back, at the front door to be specific.
"Going out for a walk?"
"Well... kind of?"
"Heading to the guild office, maybe?"
"Huh, how did you-"
"You looked like you were interested in finding out about your rank or whatever it was the other day, so I thought you might want to go."
"What are you even on about? Just because I don't care for it doesn't mean I'm going to stop you from doing it. Not sure what Henrietta thinks about it though."
"I would prefer it if she doesn't find out."
"Sure, I'm not going to tell."
With that, Finn headed off, or so Auguste thought he would, but he was still standing there, his eyes swirling about and his lips went open and shut without letting a word out.
"You want me to go with you?"
"Yeah, it's not like I have anything to do anyways."
In fact, Auguste had trouble thinking up ways to spend the rest of the day.
"Thanks, I kind of feel nervous going alone."
"Why'd you want to go there so badly anyway?"
"I just thought that if I know my capabilities better, I could find better ways to improve. I... I don't want what happened to my sister back in the forest to happen again."
Auguste remembered it well, the look on Finn's face looked frantically about for Elaine after she fell into that pit. He remembered how he gritted his teeth and balled up his fists. He had never seen someone so painfully regretful in his life up to that point.
"I see... So what are we waiting for? Let's go. If we don't hurry, the sun is going to set and the office is going to close on us."
Arriving at the guild office, a sizable wooden building comprising of two stories, Auguste and Finn approached the front desk with Auguste in the lead.
"We'd like to take a, uh, what did they call it? A parameter evaluation?"
"Second floor, last room to the right," replied the lady at the front desk, barely looking at them.
If Elaine was here, she'd make a big fuss about the lady's attitude or whatnot but Auguste and Finn weren't ones to care. As far as they're concerned, they've got what they wanted.
Heading up the second floor, the two quickly found a door hung with a sign on it that said 'Parameter Evaluation' and proceeded to enter. Pushing open the door, they found the room beyond to be quite different than the rest of the guild. From the aromatic candles lit and giving off a calming scent in each corner of the room to the white and blue silken fabrics decorating the walls and counter, there was a sense of ceremony to this place, much unlike the pragmatic setup found in the rest of the building.
Standing behind the counter, there was a young woman in a white dress with strips of blue. Auguste had seen these clothing before while he was out wandering around town and they were worn by the clerics in service of Arithmi.
"Are you here for the evaluation?" the cleric asked with a friendly smile, a huge contrast with the receptionist downstairs.
"This guy here is," Auguste gestured to Finn.
"W-well met," said the larger man, feeling somewhat nervous being in what seemed to be a rather fancy room in his eyes.
"In that case, please wait a moment. Our Augur will be with you shortly."
"Augur?" Finn tilted his head.
"They're probably like Oracles or something along the lines, right?" said Auguste.
"More or less," the cleric replied. "Are you from Vestal perhaps?"
"That's right. Both of us are, in fact."
"I see. The do you perhaps worship Ceratias by any chance?"
"I do, sort of. Is there a problem?"
"Oh no, of course not. I was just being curious. Please, don't take it to heart."
In the midst of their chat, a sudden 'thud' was heard from another room. It was the room to the right side of the counter, behind a set of blue curtains. Judging from the sound, Auguste guessed that it was a person that had fallen. Seemingly having arrived at the same conclusion as Auguste, the cleric hurriedly rushed towards the curtains, practically tearing them open to reveal the room beyond.
There, on the wooden floor, lied a woman similarly dress in a dress of white and blue. As she lay there, blood dripped from her nose and ears. Her eyes, bloodshot, were wide open and unblinking.
"What happened!?" cried Auguste as he rushed after the cleric. Finn was right behind him.
As he entered the room, he caught sight of someone else, a young man with jet-black hair worn in a ponytail. On his face, there was a pair of glasses, and on his person, he wore a black long coat. Beneath the coat, a curved longsword could be seen hanging by the man's waist.
"Unbelievable," said the young man, "don't you have someone less useless?"
It had to be the worst first impression Auguste had with any person till this point, perhaps the worst in his entire life, but that was his first meeting with the man they call the 'Dragon Slayer', Lucien.
End of Chapter 41