Just a quick reminder: PMDN stands for Physical prowess, Magical prowess, Decision making, and Niche
The party was now ready to set off for the dungeon and had to reach the Kelekona mountains on foot.
The journey would be separated into three parts, the first being them having to walk on the eastern road out of Dragonsteel city. The second part would require them to walk off the road and head north toward the mountains, which would require them to cut through a small forest. Lastly, they would have to navigate through the hills and mountains before reaching the entrance of the dungeon.
“Don’t worry. With my ability, it would be nearly impossible for us to get lost.” Ezekiel said, pointing at his two eyes.
His hands were free, and so were the two girls’, a contrast with Kayden and Louis, who were carrying large sacks over their shoulders. Stuffed inside those bags were their dungeoneering equipment, rations, and potions, and the task of hauling them around had been delegated to the two men with bigger builds.
“Remind me…” Kayden said in between pants, “Why… did we not get horses?”
“Relax, we aren’t in a rush. We would also meet other adventurers on the way, which means information and trading. And… it’s good strength training.”
The last bit sounded a little bit too hesitant for Kayden to believe, but he focused on one specific word that he heard. Trading.
Adventurers would often come across magical artifacts, weapons, armors, and whatnot, either from dungeons, ruins or from other adventurers. They aren’t jack-of-all-trades and there will come a time when a piece of equipment isn’t suitable for them or their party.
During those times, there were only two things they could do. Sell it for gold, or trade it for something they could actually use. Generally, adventurers prefer trading as there are things that money cannot buy. Trading ensures that both parties would be satisfied, and it has been a long-standing tradition, continuing since the very beginning of adventuring.
Kayden recalled that there was a place built exactly for facilitating these kinds of interactions between adventurers, and it was located somewhere in the Adventurer’s guild. He never went to that place, since…
“I don’t have any magical items… and I’m broke too…” He had a depressed look on his face. The benefits they gained from having to walk such a long distance weren’t something he could take advantage of.
‘Strength training… Just think of it as strength training…' He comforted himself.
“Anyway, why aren’t you carrying anything?” This time it was Louis that spoke up. He too had an expression of discontent. Since he was physically more fit and stronger than Kayden, he got an even heavier load on his back.
“I’m the scout for this journey, so I’ll need the freedom to move about. I also need my hands free for my bow, so I can pick off any minor threats from a distance. Now,” He was starting to sound irritated. “Was that enough for explanations? Or do we need to go another round?”
“I have invisibility! I can scout!” Kayden offered.
“Even better than me?”
Kayden had no abilities that could help with his vision, so when compared to Ezekiel, who could see things even from a mile away, he never stood a chance.
“Wait a minute! I can turn into a bird! That would make me an even better scout than you!”
He shut his eyes and concentrated, trying to become the bird that he had become before. A few seconds passed until… nothing happened.
“Um… maybe we should help?” A timid voice called out, but the idea was immediately shot down by Alice.
“No! Let them carry it! They are the muscle after all!”
Both Kayden and Louis glared in her direction, but none of them had any inclination to retort. Touch the rose and you get the thorns and all that. She took their silence as admission to defeat and smiled contentedly.
They had now long reached a point on the road where even the peasant houses located far beyond the walls could no longer be seen. At a short distance away, they could see a few guards ahead blocking the path, and standing restlessly in front of them were several other adventurers who looked irritated.
“W-what’s going on up ahead?” Cathy looked worried, and the rest of the party frowned. Guards may charge a toll for people entering the city, but it was generally unheard of for them to stop people from going out. Furthermore, Dragonsteel city never charged a toll in the first place. Seeing nobody answer Cathy’s question, Alice lowered her staff and lightly swung it at Kayden’s foot.
“Ow—Okay, You’ve got to stop doing that. And no, I don’t know anything.”
“Some local you are… “
He bit his lip, trying to suppress his frustration from leaking.
‘Who the hell does she think she is? Why is she hitting me so much?’
“Since you don’t know, go find out! Don’t tell me you’re just going to hide while we do everything? Just like back when we were potion shopping?”
‘Ah, that’s why.’
She was referring to earlier on in the day when they were still making their final preparations. One of the things they needed were potions, and the best shop Kayden knew was Amon’s Alchemist Supplies…
There was no way in hell that Kayden would enter there again, at least not for a few months. He was not about to subject himself to more misunderstandings and humiliation, especially in front of his new party. Thus, to combat this issue, he sent the party in by themselves.
‘Now why was this an issue?’ You might ask. Apparently, he was being ‘suspicious’ and Alice insisted he came with them.
“Why are you acting all scared?” she had asked, “Is there something you are hiding from us?”
He immediately denied it, but it wasn’t enough to convince her. They got into a heated argument, and everyone had to step in and put a stop to it. Only when Cathy took it upon herself to calm her down did it finally stop, and Kayden was forever grateful for that. The whining was really grating on the ears.
Luckily, Kayden didn’t have to go meet Amon after that, but his relationship with Alice had soured quite a bit. He didn’t expect such a small issue could blow up into something this big.
‘There’s something I noticed. Both ladies are constantly worried and anxious, and they show it in different ways. Cathy stutters a lot, while Alice likes to complain. They seem to be very close and knew each other for a long time. I wonder what’s their story?’
Kayden had been observing his party constantly, not only to know them better but to know their weaknesses when push comes to shove. He was simply cautious that way. Using the System, he scanned the person that would serve as the biggest threat should it ever come to it.
Captain Tianos, Menace of the seas
It was the party leader, and he certainly wasn’t as great as he said he was. Kayden didn’t mind. In his opinion, there was nothing wrong with lying to make yourself look better, after all, he himself was a criminal and had no right to call out a pirate.
According to the System, his PMDN was estimated to be C/C/B/C. This meant that his Physical and Magical Prowess, as well as his Niche, was middling. In comparison, Brandon’s PDMN was estimated to be B/D/C/C. From a glance, one would think that Louis was stronger than Brandon, but Kayden thought otherwise. Louis was more adapted to sea battles, meaning that in a one-on-one fight, his bets would be on Brandon.
‘This isn’t a way to make myself look better since I managed to defeat Brandon! It’s just that I would know since I had fought him personally.’ He convinced himself.
Getting back to the topic, it seemed that the responsibility of figuring out the situation had somehow fallen onto him. Dragging his feet across the road, he made his way to the crowd.
“Why aren’t we let through! This is discrimination!”
“Yeah! You let the party from before pass! What about us?”
He could hear the shouts and complaints as soon as he got closer, and he stopped to eavesdrop on their conversation.
“No No No! You can’t go! D ranked adventurers are not allowed to travel without at least a C ranked adventurer in company due to the recent increased goblin activity!” One of the guards, who had a splendid handlebar mustache, coaxed the angry adventurers. “Adventurer’s Guild orders. Go check it out if you don’t believe me.”
“You just want to stop us from getting the dungeon treasures!”
Kayden slumped his boulders.
‘I see what’s happening here. Too many D-ranked adventurers are jumping the bandwagon and getting themselves killed, and now the Adventurer’s Guild is forced to act. If that party were to notice us, we may have to travel with deadweight…'
He immediately turned around and walked back to the party. Before they even asked, he quickly launched into an explanation.
“I’ll cut the explanation short. We can pass through just fine, as only D-ranked adventurers are barred from going any further due to goblins in the area. However, those bums might ask us to join their party so we should try to avoid them as best we could.”
“Why do we have to avoid them?” Alice asked, confused. “We just have to reject them if they dare to ask. They can’t do anything about it.”
“E-eh? Shouldn’t we try to help…” Cathy stuttered.
“Tsk. Tsk. No, we try to help, and yes, we do have to avoid them.” Kayden wagged his finger as if he was telling off a child. “I think that due to how annoying and unwilling to give up those D ranks are, it is highly likely that the guards would force them upon us, just to get rid of them, or they might just follow us regardless of what we say.”
“Then we just walk around them! No need to make things so complicated!” Alice was starting to grow annoyed with Kayden’s exceeding paranoia.
“Ah. But you see,” The smile on his face grew wide. “If we could walk around them, the adventurers over there would already have done so. If they were so desperate, why would they still put up with the guards? I bet that the Adventurer’s Guild has put up far more guards off the road, to trap those who dare think they can skirt around the rules.”
He stretched his arms and cracked his fingers. “Fortunately, I just happen to be very good at breaking rules—”
“Sorry, there’s no such thing.” Ezekiel interrupted. “I just checked and there are no other guards around. Also, this roadblock is just to warn the D-ranked adventurers off. I doubt the Adventurer’s Guild would spare so many resources just to stop them from passing and getting themselves killed.”
“Oh, so they’re just stupid…?”
“W-wait! Why can’t we help them?” Cathy asked.
“Uhh…” Kayden hesitated for he didn’t how to phrase ‘They will be dead weights’ as nicely as possible. He supposed that people with healing abilities just naturally had this sort of disposition, where they would want to help as many people as they could.
‘Oh wait. The therapist could heal minds, and she’s scary… So maybe not.’
Since he did owe Cathy a huge favor for saving his life, Kayden was going to compromise. Just as he was about to give up his idea of avoiding the D ranks, Louis stepped in to the rescue.
“Cathy dear! These people are D ranks! How can they survive against a single skeleton? Let alone a horde.” He patted himself on the chest, “ Don’t worry! Leaving them here would be safer while bringing them with us might just kill them. The great Captain Tianos guarantees it.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed, smacking her little forehead. “I see! S-sorry, I didn’t know that you guys were just looking out for them…”
‘Hiding your intentions with facts and logic. Truly the bearings of a great pirate!’
Kayden gave a big thumbs up to Louis, which prompted him to smile back, though not for the reasons that Kayden was thinking.
‘Why is he giving me a thumbs up? You’re making it look like a scheme! Miss Whiny is going to get angry!’
With all of his years as a capable captain of his pirate crew, he had refined his charismatic smile to perfection, so much so that even Kayden mistook his strained smile for a happy one.
“Right! It’s decided! Let’s just go!” Taking lead with confident steps, Kayden headed towards the guards, the party trailing close behind him.