The sun had already sunk on the horizon. The fortified town was filled with the hustle bustle of nightlife, and among those, one man was buried in the countless paper works.
Celebrating the success of the previous mission, voices of the clan’s members can be heard downstairs.
It was a big job given by the guild as an urgent request which they had not done after a long while.
The job was the subjugation of that big centipede creature. They had managed to subjugate it while only suffering minor injuries.
It was no wonder that the members raised a voice of celebration.
(They seem to have a lot of fun… Well, such is a good thing.)
Rick who heard the noises could only smile wryly while feeling a slight envy.
Currently, the members of the Cloud of the Azure Sky were drinking and eating meat excitedly in the inn they had borrowed especially for today’s celebration.
After being satisfied to some extent, some would then disappear into the town’s night street. In order to suppress the feeling of exaltation after surviving a life and death situation, most of the men would seek a woman’s soft warm body.
Such was an instinctive desire for human beings.
Rick himself, when he was young, often would bring the money he got from a job and go to the red districts together with his colleagues.
However, from Rick’s standpoint now, he had no freedom to behave like a young man anymore.
As the head of the clan, he needed to finish the paperwork.
Rick who had finally reached the last bundle of paper filled with bills from merchants, sighed deeply.
“Good, this is the last one…”
A heavy fatigue that he had never felt when he fought against monsters assaulted his body.
Rick’s nature was that of a warrior. He was the type of man that would go to the front line and wear armors on his body.
Drown in the enemy’s blood, and dancing with the god of death. With his skills and a little bit of luck, he had survived many battles with the only weapon on his hands.
For such brave man, this kind of paperwork was more painful than that of a battlefield.
Although it was something Rick had repeatedly done, his body never got used to it.
(I’ve never thought that it would be like this… Had I known, I would not have readily accepted when father retired and asked me to take over the clan…)
Although it was something inevitable, every time Rick recalled the decision he made back then, he sighed deeply.
He was just an orphan from a village that was caught in a war and lost both of his parents. The man who picked up little Rick and looked after him was Donovan, the former head of this clan.
To be honest, Rick was not exactly sure why Donovan picked him.
Whether it was for the convenient labor force, or because Donovan felt something from Rick’s eyes, or maybe it was just a whim… Rick never knew the reason.
However, regardless of the purpose, Donovan raised him as a warrior. Sometimes he would teach Rick harshly, sometimes gently, and before long, he was like a father to Rick.
It was five years ago that Donovan decided to retire from the adventuring business. At that time, he was already more than 60 years old, and for that reason, most of the clan’s member thought of him as a father.
Of course, despite being old, his ability was well known. Thus it was possible for him to continue working if he wanted to.
His martial arts comprehension and Prana absorption had become slower compared to the young ones.
But he had overwhelming life experience and a strong body.
If Donovan asked for it, any country would give him a captain rank in their army.
For what reason such Donovan decided to retire from the adventurer’s work ? Rick himself never heard of it.
However, after becoming the head of the clan, Rick somehow could understand the reason…
(Well, I guess it was natural for him to feel fed up…)
Meaning that a person should not just be strong, but also need some brains.
It cost money to keep a clan.
Income and expenditure.
Profits and expenses.
If one were to work as a solo adventurer or mercenary, they could just perform simple accounting, but Rick had a few men under him, which formed the group called “Cloud of the Azure Sky”, thus it won’t do if he only did simple financial gimmicks…
Beyond battles, there was the need to take care of other essentials such as weapon maintenance and supplies. And since his clan didn’t have a base, they needed to stay at an inn or forced to camp outside.
If someone gets injured, the treatment expenses were large, and if it was diagnosed as something impossible to recover, it was necessary for him to cover a reasonable amount of money in accordance to the person years of service and achievements.
Of course, such things were not mandated by law. Because in this world, the form of human rights and concept of employment or worker’s rights were not yet being developed.
But that didn’t mean that way of thinking didn’t exist either…
When it comes to living, there was not much of a difference between the two worlds.
And also what one needs to do as necessary.
When people recognized the need, then they must act in response.
Although it was not recognized by law, Rick had to do something even if there wasn’t any obligation.
Donovan, the former head, was fully aware of such necessity. Although he also realized that he was not suitable for desk work.
(Well, I don’t think I’m suitable either…)
Rick floated a bitter smile while looking at the mountain of documents stacked on the desk.
It was hard for an amateur to negotiate with merchants.
Although in the end he would be swindled to some extent, it would be bad if he would be had too much.
Although he could be assertive when in negotiation, still seven out of ten times he would still end up swindled.
The position of the head who had to perform negotiations only seemed to be a very ill-suited role for rick.
Or rather, for Rick now, there was also other stuff he needed to think about other than negotiations with those merchants.
(Besides, there were many suspicious things happening… Since we have enough money for now, should we leave Rozeria ?)
Despite choosing the battlefield as an occupation, adventurers and mercenaries still could not escape the authority of a country or of influential persons. The more one gained rank within the guild, the more one had power, and around that time more or less one gained some political obligations.
If towns or villages were being attacked by monsters, they would work as normal adventurers or mercenaries, but it was not that irrelevant for adventurers to get roped in and involved in a war where the city they had chosen as a base is engulfed in a conflict.
All the more if one were to have friendly relations with the influential people.
That was why most mercenaries and adventurers devoted themselves to information gathering. Because they understood that some rumors might decide whether or not they could survive tomorrow.
(Princess Lupis… No, I guess she’s a Queen now?)
Rick had been to the royal capital only once. At that time, he saw Lupis’ face by accident, and remembering that, he could only smile wryly.
She was someone who loved her people and respected justice. Everyone would agree, that Lupis Rozerianus was loved by her people.
Many citizens cheered when she ascended to the throne, driving away Duke Gerhardt from the political stage.
For a long time, Rozeria Kingdom was ruled by the nobles’ tyranny.
Although privileged class existed in all country and was something inevitable, every since Duke Gerhardt held the real power, the condition of this country was extremely harsh.
Meanwhile, the change of government happened.
(But well, I guess this is something that is to be expected…)
For the people who had lived a suppressed life, the presence of Lupis must have given them hope. They rejoiced at that feeling. Without knowing that such thing was just a fantasy.
It was impossible for Rick who was an adventurer to analyze what was wrong with Lupis reign, and he also didn’t have the intention to do so. Only he felt the current Rozeria Kingdom was in a more dangerous state than at the time during the civil war.
In the guild, there was no demand for killing bandits or security requests, and many villages had begun reinforcing their vigilante groups.
Everyone had seemed to realize that a storm was about to come.
And right now, among Rick’s clan members, there was someone he could not stop thinking about.
That man, even though he was a new face, he had more ability than he would let show.
His ability as an adventurer might be low, but when it comes to his individual proficiency alone it was comparable to the middle ranked members of the clan.
As the guild staff said indeed, he was a promising young man.
(A newcomer, with that kind of skill, at this kind of time, joining us… If it was only that, then it should’ve been something worth celebrating. But, was it truly coincidental ?)
There was nothing wrong in particular if such man wanted to become a mercenary or adventurer and wished to join a clan as a mean for a stable life.
The problem was if such person joins for some other hidden reason.
(I should consult with Anastasia about this…)
Rick didn’t regard himself as someone stupid.
His views as a person had expanded considerably since he had become the clan’s head, but his nature was that of a warrior, his true talent was for battles.
Negotiation with merchants was not his forte. Thus for him, the existence of Anastasia who was the deputy head of the clan can be regarded as the clan’s brain.
She was born as an illegitimate child of a noble family, and compared to the commoner-born Rick, she was much more thoughtful and considerate towards other people.
“Oi, Lloyd, are you still there ?”
When Rick called the person, a middle-aged man immediately opened the door.
“Do you need me, boss ? Is your job finally done ?”
His eyes shone with expectation. A face that was expecting certain words from Rick. His body fidgeting as if he was a young boy who wanted to go out for an excursion.
“That’s not it, stupid. There’s still a lot of them…”
Hearing Rick’s merciless words, Lloyd’s hope was crushed.
“Is that so…”
A sunken expression appears on his face.
Today was Lloyd’s duty to guard the head of the clan, which was kinda a bad luck for him.
His duty was to follow Rick who was the head and help him with some chores, and also as security.
Which meant, unless Rick’s work is finished, Lloyd needs to keep himself together, while his other colleagues enjoy the night.
“Lloyd, you won’t be able to drink tonight… Just give up, anyway, go and call Anastasia now… She should be in her room by now…”
“I understand… Geeez, why did my turn coincide with this kind of party… Since I will give up on going out with women and go drinking, please treat me with some good food after the head’s work is finished, okay ?”
“Fine, fine… I will let you have drink as much as you want later. Go and call Anastasia now…”
Sending away the Lloyd who looked displeased, Rick directed his eyes towards the ceiling.
(Well, I can understand his feelings…)
Rick himself didn’t want to force his subordinates to guard him, but after Anastasia had given her advice to do so as deputy’s head, and seeing her suggestion had saved Rick from losing his head multiple times, he could not stop the policy now…
In reality, when one becomes the head of a clan, one cannot avoid getting involved with politics.
A celebration for finishing a big job. Even for Rick, he could understand how painful it was for Lloyd who couldn’t participate in the party with the others. From Rick’s point of view, had he not have the job as clan’s head, he would’ve already jumped out and enjoyed the night.
“I guess this is part of the job, haaah…”
Saying that Rick took out a cigar and sighed a little.
“She’s late… That Anastasia, what on earth is she doing ?”
Rick looked puzzled while smoking.
According to Lloyd’s report, it seems the timing was kind of bad.
Although Anastasia said she would be here immediately when he knocked on her door.
Anastasia was a strict person. It was rare for her to make Rick wait for too long…
When Rick thought whether or not he should call her once again, the door was quietly being knocked.
“Head, I’m sorry for making you wait… May I come in ?”
Listening briefly, it was her usual bewitching voice.
However, Rick instinctively could feel that there was some slight tension in Anastasia’s voice.
It can be said that he felt that, because she was his comrade who had survived a lot of life or death situation together with him.
(Did she get threatened by somebody ? That does not seem so… She spoke as if suppressing some high tension within her emotions.)
“Sure, come in, Anastasia… ”
Rick allowed Anastasia while having some thought in his head.
“Then, please excuse me…”
The door opened slowly.
“I see… So that’s how it is…”
Despite wanting to say that she was late, the words that came out from Rick was different.
After he saw the man standing behind Anastasia.
That day, the talks proceeded until midnight. Only the three of them knew what was the content of the discussion.
And that day was the turning point where the Clan [Clouds of the Azure Sky] would undertake active jobs in Rozeria.
After several months passed since that day. The gears of history would start to turn with creaking noise… With human blood as its oil.