“Okay! The other group has left. It’s up to us to make sure everything goes smoothly.” Aisha said from inside the tent, watching as five individuals made their way towards the barrier.
There were three ladies right behind her, and they too were watching the group move further and further away. At one point, the group stopped in place, which prompted all of them to worry, but shortly after, they began moving again.
“Ah… I hope Cathy’s alright… That Kayden better protect her!” Alice said while fiddling nervously with her staff. She didn’t like the idea of separating from Cathy, especially when things could get dangerous, but there was no other choice. Alice was integral to this side of the plan, while Cathy was integral to the other side, so they could only split up for the time being.
“Cathy, be safe! I know you can do it!”
“Don’t worry,” Aisha comforted, “There are two B-ranked adventurers with her, and although he’s a C rank, Kayden’s pretty powerful too.”
“Him? Yeah, I know… Stupid genius with his three abilities…” Alice began to mumble and trailed off into some harsh words and descriptions that Kayden was very fortunate to not be able to hear right now.
Aisha could only give a nervous laugh in response. She turned to the remaining two members of her party, Bell and Lizza, and told them to get ready.
“Alright. I’ll repeat the plan once more in case you forgot. After Louis comes back from inviting the other adventurers— hopefully with most of the adventurers in tow —we’ll throw a party and try to keep them occupied for as long as possible. Let’s hope that everything goes according to plan.”
Lizza gently grasped Aisha by the shoulders and brought her into a tight hug. With a voice both soothing and sensual, she reassured her.
“Your plan was wonderful, dear. You have to be more confident!”
Bell, a woman with comparatively smaller stature than the two, joined in on the hug.
“Don’tcha worry too much! I’m sure the plan will go swimmingly.”
“Oh, Bell… Thanks.”
While this was all happening, Alice looked at them in horror, her right eye twitching every once in a while.
‘You have to be kidding me! Why are they hugging all of a sudden? Now I look weird for standing here looking! Do it somewhere else!’
Alice sighed and shook her head. “At least Cathy isn’t here to witness this atrocity.”
Her words did not go unheard, and Aisha tapped the other two on the shoulder for them to let go. Blushing slightly from the embarrassment, she coughed and moved on to another topic.
“A party needs food and drinks! We have quite a lot in our spatial bags, so let’s go set up the tables, shall we?”
The other three in their group nodded, and they hurried out of the tent to prepare. They found an open area where they could set up some makeshift tables and chairs made from solid planks. There was going to be a huge influx of adventurers, which meant that an appropriate number of seats are needed. How Aisha’s party had so many pieces of wood, Alice had no idea.
Aisha caught Alice’s stare and explained. “The valley here wasn’t that devoid of trees at first. We had to clear out the area to set up the camps, and that’s how we managed to obtain so much wood.”
She began setting up a makeshift kitchen too, taking out various cooking equipment from the bags. She did it at a speed and efficiency that could only mean large amounts of practice.
“Ah, you won’t be able to find any more trees to cut, in case you were wondering. The other adventurers have cleared it all out, even the stumps.” She added.
Alice nodded and continued her assigned work. All she had to do was bring out the drinks and put them into a magical ice box that they had. This handy artifact can chill drinks at rapid speeds, and there was no need to fill it up with ice, mana, or anything. It could recharge itself by absorbing mana from its surroundings.
‘Ezekiel mentioned that this was one of the most influential parties in Dragonsteel city, and I can see that it’s not an exaggeration. They have magical artifacts for even such a mundane thing, and the number of spatial bags they have surprised even me.
‘I know that Kayden’s master is an incredibly influential person, which explains how he got to know this party. But how does he have no magical item whatsoever?’
Alice had gotten a shock when she had discovered Kayden’s lack of magical items. It happened when the party was still on their way here, and they met some adventurers who they could initiate some artifact trading with, and Kayden had refused to trade. When she pressed for further details like she always does, she found out just how artifact-broke the disciple of the A-ranked adventurer really was.
‘He’s a genius with three abilities! Can his master not see that? Other than spell orbs, that guy has never used a single magical artifact before! No wonder he became a thief!’
Alice shook her head. “Stop it. I need to get my head in the game. The genius thing doesn’t matter. For all I know, maybe his master’s training him to never rely on magical artifacts and only on himself.”
She focused on her task at hand and arrived by the bags where the drinks are stored. Like Aisha had said, her party had prepared a whole bunch of food and drinks, though most of the drinks were the alcoholic type.
Alice picked up a rectangular-shaped glass bottle with a bright amber liquid sloshing about inside. It was kept sealed with a wooden cork, and on the label, it read: Noborte Whiskey.
She wasn’t an alcoholic by any means and had zero clue about the different types of alcohols and their differences, but even she could tell from the smell that it was strong. Maybe she shouldn’t have popped off the cork so quick…
“Ah, that’s one of the stronger ones we have,” Aisha explained as she came over to help after finishing her previous work. Such was the speed of her kitchen and table setting. She quickly glanced at Alice and gave her a once-over.
“You don’t seem to be the type to drink, so you can only make do with either grape juice or plain water.”
Alice immediately put the bottle down. “It doesn’t matter, we aren’t supposed to be partying anyway. There’s a plan we have to fulfill.”
Aisha grew silent and proceeded to rummage through some bags. After searching for a while, she pulled out some meat from one of the many spatial sacks of theirs and placed it on a cutting board that had been prepared beforehand. She was now getting ready to cook.
“Why can’t we enjoy the party?” Bell asked, her hands working swiftly on peeling some vegetables. “We don’t haft’ta act all serious all the time!”
“She’s right you know? My~, little girl, you need to know how to enjoy yourself a little more. Besides, it would look more natural to the other adventurers if we were enjoying ourselves.”
“Wha—” Alice didn’t like how the two suddenly zoned in on her. “The other group is risking their lives right now! Cathy is! We need to take this a little more seriously!”
“True. But relax, we need to put up a front, and it won’t do for them to get suspicious. So how else to look less suspicious than to genuinely enjoy ourselves?” Lizza argued.
“F-fine!” Alice looked away. She truly wasn’t in her element with Cathy around. Although she had a sharp tongue and could win an argument even against the worst of troublemakers, without Cathy, she found it hard to muster up the courage to do so. When they had been still discussing the plan, Alice vehemently insisted on coming along with Cathy, but she convinced Alice that it was better to separate so that they could fulfill their respective roles.
“Oi! I’m back!” A loud voice boomed from a distance, and the trio momentarily stopped with their work. Alice could make out that seaweed-green hair even from this distance. “Many of them accepted the invitation! And they brought their own food too!”
Trailing behind Louis was a large crowd of adventurers, and at a glance, the trio could tell that most of the adventurers looked eager, though there was a handful that looked wary.
Bell whistled. “Wow! Our party leader sure is famous! Your influence spread to so many people, even the non-locals!”
The number of adventurers that came was a staggering amount, so much so that even Alice began to feel trepidation, in fear of the lack of seats. On the bright side, it meant Cathy’s group would face less trouble on their mission.
Louis jogged up to the three ladies, who had just begun cooking the food. With a wave of his hand, he took in the aroma and sighed contentedly, before turning around and shouting.
“Alright, fellow Adventurers! Today, not only am I great, but all of you are great as well! We have food, we have drinks, and so do you! Let us parrrtyyy!!!”
“YEAH!!!” Nearly all the adventurers cheered in unison, except for some of the wary ones. Both Lizza and Bell were caught up in the excitement and cheered together with them. Alice shook her head.
“Never thought that the oaf of a party leader could actually be competent at something. If he only used his charisma more when the party needed it.”
Alice couldn’t count the number of times Louis had forsaken his duty as party leader and simply left all the hard work to Ezekiel. Even during battle, he never gave any orders, though Alice wouldn’t listen to them even if she did. That was just how little trust she had in him at that point.
‘Actually, it’s not even his charisma that brought all these adventurers here, but the Crimson Menace’s reputation instead. I bet he just threw her name around and easily convinced them, without much effort of his own.’
After successfully riling up the adventurers, Louis headed in their direction. He immediately went to hit on Aisha, drawing the eyes of ire from both Lizza and Bell, as well as whatever fans there were in the crowd of adventurers. Alice, who was already used to his behavior, shrugged. As long as it wasn’t Cathy.
The adventurers all sat on the makeshift seats that Aisha had prepared, and they had already begun downing alcohol that they had brought on their own. It was incredibly rowdy, and cheers, complaints, insults, and praises were thrown all over the place. In all of history, nobody could beat the adventurers when it came to making the loudest din.
Before long, the food was ready, and trays of food and alcohol were being served by the adventurers. The serving staff consisted of Louis, Alice, Aisha, Lizza, and Bell, and several fans of the Crimson Menace that volunteered to help out. Suffice to say, the plan was going extremely smoothly
Aisha pulled her group to the side.
“Alright, let’s move on to the next part. We’ll try to get as many adventurers drunk as possible. This way, we’ll get a full night’s worth of a head start in the dungeon.”
“Mhmm. This part’s really important, so make sure to use your womanly charms!” Lizza struck a pose, which earned a thumbs up from Louis. “Especially from you, Alice!”
“Don’t need it. Whatever you girls want to do, leave me out of it.” Alice scoffed in reply and walked off with a tray in her hands. It was absolutely nonsensical that they would ask her of all people to do this. Wasting effort on this kind of thing can only indicate how shallow you are.
The three women looked at each other, shrugged, and went to work as well.
“Well, she is a young’un. No sense in her learning these kinds of things now.” Bell added, looking at the snappy mage trying to convince the more hesitant adventurers to drink in the most barbaric and upfront way possible.
Aisha shook her head. “She’ll need to learn one day. When your abilities cannot keep up with your fame, charisma will be what’s important.”
During the planning phase, both parties had shared not only information about their abilities, but their PMDN as well. Out of all the ten people present at the time, Alice had by far the worst Decision-making rating, sitting at a pitiful E. This is below even the threshold expected of D-ranked adventurers, which is a D.
Alice wasn’t dumb, and no one would ever think so when speaking to her, which could only mean one thing. She has poor social skills, or in other words, charisma. There is always a limit to one’s strength, and one cannot choose what abilities they are born with, so the only reasonable category where one can raise their rating to a high level would be Decision-making.
As a fellow adventurer with fire-based abilities, Aisha wanted to help Alice fully achieve her potential. There was much work to do if she truly wanted to reach that goal, but Aisha will do her best to help. She was going to need it.
‘At the rate, she’s going, she’s going to end up like me back then. No, her unsociable personality means that she’s already there. If you wish to break out of the curse that is our magic abilities, then there is no other choice but to improve. That is the only way… to become a top-ranked adventurer.’