That’s the only word you could hear at the west gate of Nicora. It was eight in the morning.
It was of course, coming from the guards. They smoked cigars and their clothes were unkempt. If anything, I was actually relieved at this point to have my expectations met. All the guards I had met up until now had been rather nice and helpful.
The caravan that was in front of us moved along, and it was now our turn. Daniela was silently wearing her mask, in hopes that no one would talk to her. I took her status card and handed it over with mine. The guard wrenched them out of my hands. I might have been annoyed if I hadn’t anticipated this, but Yis’s information had given me a lot of patience.
The guard was otherwise doing his job in peace, but unfortunately, I was about to create some more work for him.
“Uh… Sorry to bother you, but it so happens that we picked up something rather…shocking…”
“…You did what?”
I was trying to appear diffident. It was something I was good at, as I used to work with customers at the store. I often altered my attitude depending on the age of the customer. And so I knew that my safest bet in this case was to portray an awkward and uncertain male type.
The guard’s eyes looked at me for the first time. He looked around for second before moving closer. He smelled of cigars.
“What is it?”
“It’s magic ore. You know, horrible rain yesterday, wasn’t there? And there was this old shed you see. We escaped into it and found this.”
I whispered this to the guard before pointing at the bag. It’s in there.
“Huh… A shed. A shed… And you mean to say that you brought it all here?”
“Oh, yes, we did. You can fit a lot in this bag.”
“…Well, leave it in the back of the guard house then…”
Then he whispered more quietly.
“Be careful that no one sees you.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant, and I didn’t feel like asking. I could tell that any further prying would lead to danger.
“That will be all.”
He finally pulled away and pointed at the guard house with his spear. That meant we could go. Also, it was where we were to leave it. I decided to obey quietly.
□ □ □ □
When we went to the back of the guard house, there were three middle aged guards who oozed slothfulness as they raised lazy eyes towards us. Uh, this was awkward…
“Eh? Who are you?”
“Uh, um. The guard at the gate said that we should drop up the things we picked up over here.”
“Picked up? Have you heard about this?”
“No, I’ve heard nothing.”
The three old men stood up now. The smartest looking of the group then said he would ask his superior, and then he left. Then the other two stood in front of me. They looked incredibly strong and were also quite tall… I felt like I had stood in the shadow of a tree.
“Uh, just wait one moment. I’ll take it out.”
I put the bag on the ground and thrust my hands into it. Feeling the edges of a wooden box, I pulled it out. Strangely, I never felt the weight of an object until it was completely out of the bag. Something about the space within was different. Though, I had no idea how it worked.
Gently, I place the box next to the guards. The process was repeated until all twelve of them were stacked on top of each other.
“Just let me open it.”
I say as I take off the lid and pick up the contents. There was an amber magic stone in my hand. It had the earth attribute. I wasn’t sure what it was used for…
“The boxes are full of these.”
“Ah, I see.”
That was all that the guard said as he picked up one of the stones and sighed.
“Huhhh… You’re not from here, are ya?”
“You bet. We came from Lambrusen.”
“Ahh… In any case, hmm. We’ll be keeping this then. That’s why you brought it, no?”
“Yes. Taking lost items to the guards. Isn’t that standard practice?”
“Aye, you’re damn right it is.”
The guard tossed the stone back into the box and signaled for the other guard to move away. Alright, I guess this meant that we could leave now. It was a good thing that these guys were easy to deal with.
“Well, good luck!”
“Aye, have a pleasant journey.”
I waved at them and turned to leave…but was stopped by a voice.
“Hey, you. Adventurers. Wait right there.”
It was the smart-looking guard. I quickly turned to look at Daniela, and she shook her head. That was the signal that we should leave.
“Uh, we’re really in a hurry…”
“Bah, it won’t take long. The captain wishes to thank you.”
Now that was suspicious as hell. He had only gone to confirm something, he didn’t even know what it was that we had brought. And why would the captain want to meet us just because we dropped something off? It was like when the police department offer letters of commendation or something.
“Now, over here. Come with me.”
He opened the door as if he would not take no for an answer. We couldn’t turn back now. If it came to it, I would go berserk so that Daniela could escape.
“…Well, since you insist. I suppose I will!”
“Aye, just in this room in the back.”
I really didn’t want to, but we had no choice. I didn’t want the tiger cub, but would enter the cave anyway…