[Mana Calamity.] The term commonly used to describe the event known as the [Fedoa Territory Metastasis Incident] which happened 5 years ago.
Since that time, it was reported that the territory's feudal lord, Sauros Boreas Greyrat, was executed.
From the city of Roa, the mayor, Philip Boreas Greyrat, and his wife, Hilda Greyrat, also reportedly died.
And in the latest reports, the daughter of Philip, Eris Boreas Greyrat, was also listed as deceased.
With this conclusion, the High Minister, Darius Silva Ganius, terminated financial support to the Fedoa refugee camp's search and rescue efforts, and instead, he redirected the focus of that organization to land reclamation and rebuilding.
Only private parties continued independent rescue efforts.
In this way, the Asura Kingdom's involvement with the Mana Calamity ended.
But for those who still had concerns involving the Mana Calamity, nothing had ended.
Year of Armored Dragon 422.
The location is Basherant Dukedom in the Northwestern part of the Central Continent.
Basherant Dukedom is one of the Three Great Magic Nations, and as such, is one of the most powerful nations in the northern lands.
In this nation, we arrive at the third city [Pipia].
He has attached himself to the city as an adventurer for a while now... and has become known to the public simply as [Quagmire]. 1
This man was once flung to a far-off place by the Mana Calamity and is only one of many such people who tasted despair after a lengthy return of several years to the Fedoa Region.
He moved towards the so-called 'Northern Lands' of the Central Continent in an effort to find his still-missing family under the guise of just being an adventurer.
It is early in the morning for Quagmire.
Before the day begins, he himself is a deeply devoted disciple of his religion.
He offers a prayer to his God - A quiet prayer for the 'Shinto and Buddhist' deities that he has stored in a small wooden box - something that would not be accepted by the Milis Religion.
No, perhaps if someone from the Milis Religion saw it, they would frown upon the nature of it, but they could never dispute the earnestness of the prayers of the faithful Quagmire.
After morning prayers, Quagmire begins his training regimen. Changing into some comfortable and easy to move clothes, he does laps around the town.
The Quagmire often says that maintaining physical strength is one of the basics of being an adventurer.
[Though I am a magician, I am an adventurer first! What good is it if I can't move well when it counts?]
He does the training unique to his hometown, starting with one hour of running.
He then performs an exercise not seen anywhere in the Basherant Dukedom; it consists of the body lying prostrated on the ground being elevated and lowered, repeatedly by using only the arms.
He repeats this activity 100 times.
Afterwards, he changes positions onto his back and proceeds to raise and lower his upper torso 100 times as well. It is said that he never misses these daily activities.
[Muscles are enviable! They work everyday without fail without needing to be reconciled in some way. Like a lady friend... But, unlike the lady who disappears suddenly, muscles will never become a traitor.]
Said the Quagmire whose laughing voice had a bit of loneliness to it.
After he finishes the morning exercises, he goes to the town.
Where he goes is a dining room on the first floor of an inn to have his breakfast.
The average amount of food an adventurer eats compared to a person of the general populace is about 2-3 times more.
The cost of food in the Northern Lands is high, and occasionally, one has to skip a meal here and there to save coin.
However, the Quagmire is different from even the normal adventurer.
He eats about 1.2 times the amount of food even a normal adventurer does!
Vigorously eating dishes that are piled high with rice and beans.
The morning meal is perhaps the greatest source of his strength.
After eating, he heads towards the Adventurer's Guild.
The place where the town's many ruffians gather.
When Quagmire enters, he is at the center of everyone's attention.
The reason being is that Quagmire has no official party affiliation.
Oh, but he will temporarily join one if the situation requires it, or if it is a dangerous mission to solo.
The demand for the magician known as Quagmire is great.
And today, like usual, the leader of an S-rank adventuring party called out to him.
[Oi!, Quagmire!, have you heard the news? A rogue Red Dragon has been spotted here in the Northern Lands!]
The S-rank Adventurer [Soldat Heckler].
The man had many physical features particular to a human found living in the Northern Lands.
He had attained the swordsmanship ranks of:
Sword God Style: Advanced
Water God Style: Intermediate
He also is one of the most famous adventurers around this area.
He is the leader of [Stepped Leader], a party affiliated with a larger clan known as [Thunderbolt], which is active throughout the whole Basherant Dukedom.
It is a combat oriented unit that deals primarily with subjugation requests.
[Stepped Leader]'s party composition consists of 6 people.
2 Healers, and
The party had a 7th member, another Magician at one point, but he died in an unexpected accident.
So their firepower was lacking.
[C'mon Quagmire, why don't you join our party officially already? You surely can't be feeling uncomfortable about it by now, right?]
Much like that, Soldat has invited the Quagmire just about every day, but Quagmire just shakes his head in rejection.
[There's no point in sticking around that long. I'm famous enough here already, and I have other countries I must still visit and spread my name.]
Quagmire had a purpose in saying that.
He was searching for his mother.
However, Quagmire knows that because it has been five years since the Mana Calamity, the discovery of any new information on her whereabouts will not be easy to uncover.
So, Quagmire spreads word of his name while he carefully searches each country he visits from end-to-end, missing nothing.
If he becomes famous enough in each area, surely a family member will be able to recognize and find him, or so he speculates.
[Ah, but still, at least join us for the rogue Red Dragon Extermination!]
Quagmire received the job request.
If it is successful, he will become quite famous for slaying a dragon.
So together they went to the counter and registered the party.
[Umm... it's not just our party participating is it? Where are the other parties who are also participating?]
[There'll be more joining, Quagmire... It's the first big job like this in a while. Everyone will be motivated to join!]
Dragon exterminations are usually done by two or more parties working together.
To do so with only one party is pretty much... suicidal.
Five parties expressed desire to join in the Dragon Extermination.
S-rank party [Stepped Leader]
A-rank party [Road Knights]
A-rank party [Iron Lump Corps]
A-rank party [Cellar World]
A-rank party [Drunken Jokers]
In total, a 25 member raid group.
A certain kill group would consist of at least 7 or more parties, so the number of people gathered right now is rather low.
[Oi! Oi! It's a Red Dragon you know? It's a huge bounty, so where is everyone already? Everyone here is A-rank, where are all the S-rankers at?]
[Word is that a new labyrinth was discovered out in the east, so everyone went to take a look at it.]
Soldat was impatient.
Inside the Adventurer's Guild, one man sighed then chimed in.
[...I guess with just this few, it's probably impossible to accomplish it after all.]
So the party [Cellar World] withdrew from the raid, and there were just 21 members left.
It seemed that a total dissolution of the mission could be expected at this point.
With the number of people left, it was a very risky proposition. Everyone thought so.
At that point, Soldat spoke with great authority.
[Alright! 21 People, that means everyone gets a bigger cut from the bounty!]
Everyone was anxious enough, but after that, no one said anything disheartening.
21 adventurers walked the chilly tundra of the Northern Lands.
A thin layer of snow powdered the trails.
The leaves fell from the trees, and the branches were whitening from the chilly air.
Soon, the long winter will come.
[Quagmire, Can you scout ahead?]
Following the order of Soldat, Quagmire used the appropriate magic.
He brought forth a pillar of earth and snow that he stood atop as it rose high up into the air, granting him a great vision for quite some distance.
Quagmire then conveys what he sees. The target is a large Red Dragon.
One that is not difficult to be missed with continual reconnaissance.
Quagmire also spied something else.
[Raster Grizzly at 2 o'clock. Seems like a bunch of them. They are kicking the hell up out of the snow!]
[How many are there!?]
[8...no wait, 10 of them moving this way. I wonder if they noticed us. Approaching from dead ahead! And fast!]
These monsters were not the target though.
For the so few members of the group gathered, there isn't really enough spare energy to go wasting on small fry monsters like this.
However, when evil comes, one must defend.
[Everyone, spread out! Quagmire, hurry down, we're going to need you for support!]
Soldat gave the order, and four parties deployed their members.
The plan was to flank the enemy and herd them towards Quagmire's ambush.
[I'm on it!]
On Soldat's order, Quagmire moved.
He was called "Quagmire" for the skill he had using Earth Magic.
He had an amazing skill that instantly creates mires of mud, bogging down enemies.
Landing him with the nickname of [Quagmire.]
A herd of ten Raster Grizzly were funneled towards him, and all fell victim almost instantly to the highly adhesive mud of which they found themselves quite stuck in.
The members of the raid group who suddenly sprang out from the surrounding areas quickly surrounded the monsters, charging in and ruthlessly dispatching each and every one.
Any mercy shown now could mean death the next time; such a thing was common sense to an adventurer.
And in short order, the Raster Grizzly threat was eliminated.
However, after dealing with these enemies, someone noticed IT.
[Hey! It's the Red Dragon! It's coming!]
[Ah, these Grizzly must have been running away from it!]
The strongest monster that exists on the Central Continent.
And his prey was the group of Raster Grizzly we defeated.
[Quagmire! Why's this guy here?]
[It must have been hiding in the wake of the snow powder that was being kicked up by the Grizzly. I didn't see it anywhere before!]
In regards to dealing with the sudden arrival of the Red Dragon, the adventurers pretty much lost their wits about them.
Originally the plan was to prepare an ambush from farther away, then launch a surprise attack on it.
And now, not only was there no preparation, but the dragon was launching a surprise attack on the raid group instead.
There was practically no chance of winning this fight.
[Damn it! Retreat, everyone Retreat!]
A Red Dragon is a creature that flies in the sky.
Its outer shell is resilient and is deceptively dexterous.
And truth be told, a Dragon on the ground is a dreadfully powerful thing.
In this chaotic scene.
The Quagmire goes to work.
[I'm putting up the smokescreen! Please scatter while you retreat!]
Quagmire was calm.
Using much practiced Fire Magic, he vaporizes the latent snow around him to raise a wall of steam.
A smokescreen, improvised from the use of the surrounding nature.
A skilled magician cheating the enemy of its vision.
However, the Rogue Dragon was also clever and sharp-eyed.
It took aim at the Quagmire.
Quagmire fled from it in the opposite direction of the retreating group members.
If he was targeted, it was his role to make it give chase.
He was alive now because of the training he did every morning.
He knew the secret to staying alive was to be able to keep running, to keep moving away.
The vexed dragon's mouth was burning; it opened wide, and what spewed forth was a hellish flame.
In a mere moment, the entire surrounding area was painted with fire.
It was the Red Dragon's finishing move: [Fire Breath].
Everything in the path of the flame was incinerated.
Was the Quagmire killed by this?
No, He was still alive.
Quagmire glanced backward quickly and instantly raised a titanic wall of water.
As Quagmire moved, he tore through the densely rising steam.
Embers of flame burnt the edge of his robe.
He paid it no mind, and instead started magically producing a casing of rock.
The rock bullet shot forth at a high speed and pierced the scaly hide of the Red Dragon.
Rock bullets were released one after another.
The Red Dragon managed to avoid several of them.
However, it could not avoid all of the bullets that traveled at such a high speed.
The Red Dragon immediately turned around and prepared to take flight.
The Red Dragon was also a wise creature. It immediately understood that small creature called "Quagmire" was concealing a high offensive power.
The Quagmire doesn't give chase.
Did he let the precious prey escape?
It seemed so at the time.
The howl of the Red Dragon echoed.
Before it could get away, a quagmire came to be in existence.
The Red Dragon found itself having sunk into a highly adhesive mire of mud. Again and again, the Quagmire calls his magical power forth. The Red Dragon madly tries to escape from the mud, but finds the mud it's trapped in is becoming more and more adhesive and even solidifying.
The little Quagmire muttered something so unexpected, then proceeded to smash the squirming Red Dragon with an enormous mass of rock.
The scattered adventurers returned.
[Jeez, Quagmire, you are a ridiculously strong guy...]
[Seems that return trip from the Demon Continent paid off.]
[But still, to defeat THAT, you have to be on another level of strong!]
The companions unanimously praised Quagmire, but he remained humble about it, not giving in to arrogance.
He knew that acting arrogant now would just cause friction for everyone.
[The raid was close to certain death, right? I mean, I didn't think for a second that I could defeat this thing just by myself you know... But that matter aside, we need to figure out how all of us are going to handle looting this Dragon's corpse for the return trip.]
So he extends the sense of achievement of successfully slaying the dragon to every one of the adventurers.
In doing so, he ensures that fame of his name is spread throughout the country.
[All of us...? Are you good with that?]
[I can't loot it all by myself, and if I leave it here, monsters will just devour it. Get what can be gotten, because I must burn the body soon. It'll be problematic if it becomes a Dragon Zombie.]
Thus, the day of the Quagmire is over.
Actually, locating the Red Dragon and returning from the trip took about seven actual days, but the [day] of the Quagmire was over.
Today's harvest was materials from the Red Dragon.
After selling a fortune's worth of materials, he returns to his bed with a warm feeling in his chest.
Before turning in to bed, he stops for a meal at the bar and eats a substantially smaller amount of food as compared to his breakfast.
He who is devoted, prays to God gratefully for passing yet another day safely.
The Good Night ritual is not something seen or known to others, but it is an important thing to him.
Because it meant that now that the day of having to be the Quagmire is over, he can resume his search for his long lost family on the morrow.
Rudeus's point of view
The nightly event.
I am eating a meal as usual in the bar.
Of course I'm by myself.
The meal is just enough for myself.
This guy is rich and lonely.
But it's not like it's a bad thing.
Because I hate being crowded anyways.
[It was right at that moment! The Red Dragon had appeared!]
On the stage in the bar, three minstrels brought with them their instruments and began to play.
One stands in front of the others and with a sweet sounding voice, spins a tale. The two others perform the background music accordingly, joining in with a JARAN~ sound effect.
It's an occupation that makes money by being commissioned as entertainment by singing about or reciting poetic tales.
In the case of a big town, it's normal to be part of a Theater and to have exclusive contracts to certain places.
But it's not just that.
Adventurers with the occupation [Minstrel] are splendid people.
They sing of their travels with other adventurers, and the tales they twist are funny and exciting.
The affinity between an adventurer and minstrel is good.
In addition, in this world without copyright, on a daily basis, the tales they hear are often taken in and retold in a new and unique way.
There are also the times when some minstrels gather, share ideas, and evolve their craft.
Among them, those with different instruments often party up by forming a band and travelling the world.
Of course, even they have enough skill to fight against monsters.
A singing, dancing, fighting adventurer.
In this world, that is what a Minstrel is!
Occasionally, this party of three minstrels I'm watching have been seen in the Adventurer's Guild from time to time.
They must have been a C-rank party.
Their name was [Big Voice Band].
It was a wonderfully ostentatious name.
However, they weren't really talented, and their own works were unpopular.
In an effort to keep creating something more popular, I received an interview request about this and that and the subjugation job I did the other day.
The song being sung now is the story they heard me tell of my journey.
I consider the one who's singing.
Is he doing alright?
Hmm, it’s okay.
In my previous life, I was crazy about music.
I tried to produce a song for a certain Vocaloid2, but it ended up as a complete failure.
Since then, the only musical instrument I continue to say I can play is the KETSU-Drum. 3
I am always up to the task to play those drums.
They twisted a tale just from the story I told them of what happened.
Even if they aren't talented, their creativeness will at least be accepted.
The song is played in the style of a village's storytelling old gramps.
It reminds me of a television documentary program.
It should be interesting to hear it.
But the narration is bland, and the song will likely remain unpopular.
Even if they were to change it now, the heckling has already started.
Even I, the actual hero of the story, would say it is terrible.
Around the time I'm thinking such things...
Suddenly the door to the bar is thrown open.
A chilly air blew in.
[At last I've finally found you, "Rudeus of the Quagmire"!]
There stood a member of the Long Ear Tribe with hair like French bread.
While it looked like an adventurer, its clothes were suitably dress-like.
It wore a backpack and had a sword and shield hung around the waist.
The only word needed to describe her face was Beautiful.
Almond eyes, long ears, and lustrous blonde hair.
A slender body with a flat chest and long ears.
It certainly feels like this is what's called an 'Elf'.
Before she could point a finger.
All eyes were fixed on me.
[Geh... "Quagmire" ...isn't here...?]
The man who had just been heckling now wore an unpleasant face.
I disregard it.
Because I'm tolerant.
I turn back and look at the Elf.
[Have I finally been found at last...?]
I suitably replied.
However, she doesn't recognize me for the moment.
I certainly haven't done anything in the last few years to warrant someone carrying a grudge.
I work in order to make my name famous.
The name 'Rudeus of the Quagmire'.
I help others, I don't pick fights, and I am always careful not to get a bad reputation.
I have often been given thanks to by those I wasn't really acquainted with, but this is the first time I have been talked to this way by such a beautiful woman.
She is probably one of those types too...
But then again, my intuition tells me differently.
[Since you are famous, you were easily found.]
[Eh, just a moment ago, didn't you say you had 'finally' found me?]
[Actually, I thought you were still to the East a bit more.]
The woman said as such and quietly watched me with such beautiful eyes.
Somehow, something like drool began to slide down the side of her mouth.
She quickly licks it away.
Heh, is it love at first sight for her?
Or perhaps she desires my body which has recently become quite toned.
I have been training a lot recently, and I am also in a growth period.
And so of course muscles would form.
[Is there something wrong?]
[No, no, there is nothing wrong at all!]
The Elvish woman cleared her throat with a sound like 'Ko~hon4' then took a seat next to me.
Suddenly the bar was filled with whispers of "Ooohhh!".
I heard something along the lines of [So that's the Quagmire's woman.]
What a surprising thing to hear.
How is it possible that I have something as outrageous as this woman?
She unloads the backpack and places it by her feet, grabs a chair, and with a bang, it hits the ground next to me, then she sits down close.
WAY TOO CLOSE.
If I was still a DT5 I would think "What's there to like about this guy?"
[My name is Elinalise. Elinalise Dragonroad. A former party member with your father, Paul...]
It might be that she's been searching for me.
[Of course, I am also a friend of Roxy as well.]
[EH!! A friend of sensei! Where is sensei now?]
It's been a long time since I've heard the name Roxy spoken from another person's mouth.
I was excited to hear about it so I leaned in closer.
Elinalise didn't answer the question I wanted to hear about the most.
I leaned in closer still and practically kissed my ear to her mouth.
[I heard it, you know, that you had a manly, crushing solo victory against a rogue dragon.]
[Eh.. well... sort of, though, everyone and I was nearly killed.]
[I can understand why you are Roxy's pride and joy.]
But there was a lot more flexibility dealing with it.
Compared to dealing with Dragon God Orsted, the pressure was significantly less.
If you consider a man like that, the dragon was something strangely calm.
[To hear that I'm Sensei's pride and joy is rather embarrassing after all... Is it because I'm emotional about it inside?]
[Your chest. It's rather strong.]
Before I realized it, Elinalise was feeling around my upper arm and chest with her hands.
She said I was strong, and I didn't feel egotistical about it.
The fingers of Elinalise were touching something.
It was the pendant I had received from Lilia.
[I see, I see. It's cute and clumsily made. Who gave it to you?]
[My family's house maid.]
[Maid? by chance, are they of the Long Ear Tribe?]
[Eh? No, she's not... why do you ask?]
Oh damn, we changed topics.
[It's not a big deal, however...]
Elinalise seemed to particularly mind the sword attached to her waist.
She shows me what is attached to the scabbard.
It is a similarly shaped pendant.
However, it is far more elaborate than mine.
Mine is an amateur's work - hers is definitely professional.
[...It seems we match.]
Elinalise has seemingly snuggled in closer and closer to me.
What's going on here?
She has been way too extremely frisky with me for a while now.
[Is yours from a while ago? Perhaps from a guy you really like?]
[Yeah, he's a good man. Better than I expected. It's surprising really. I wanted to make more children with him... He was very vigorous and A~MA~ZING....]
I wonder if I'm being teased.
I'm a bit excited.
[Well, the Onee-chan here is also quite beautiful.]
I am not such a DT that I will panic when teased.
So, I quickly push a finger up to close my hanging jaw.
Then, Elinalise quietly closed her eyes.
It was the full gesture of waiting for a kiss.
Even though it seemed like a joke, her hand reached around the back of my head and moved in..
Was there the atmosphere for this?
Is it alright?
It's alright if I go Zukyuu~~n? 6
The moment I thought that, the eyes of Elinalise opened with a click sound.
[Yaaa, That was my fault. I'll stop here.]
[You really shouldn't go that overboard with the teasing.]
[I am not the kind of person to leave it at a tease with a man. But, I have no intention of becoming a daughter of Paul. I also wish to stay friends with Roxy as well.]
...That explained the matter.
What kind of thing happened back in those days when Paul split from his party that this woman doesn't even want to associate with his son?
Whatever, it’s fine like this anyways.
[Well then, Elinalise-san, do you have official business with me?]
[Sort of. I came to deliver you some good news.]
Elinalise gave me a sweet smile.
On that day.
I learned my mother Zenith had been located.