LEVEL 3: Even the Best Laid Plans go Awry, but Such is This World
“Alright, majority rule.”
It was the following night. After the usual day of work, they were once more gathered around a table at the back of Sherry’s tavern. Drinks were ordered and delivered to the table, but no one had made a move to take their respective cups as of yet. Haruhiro glanced at his companions one by one.
Ranta was leaning back in his chair; arms crossed over his chest, pompous look on his face. Mogzo’s expression was solemn, but his nervousness was apparent. Shihoru’s gaze was glued to the floor while Yume seemed to silently plead, Can we get this over with already? Mary was her usual cool and collected self.
Haruhiro took a deep breath. “The question is whether or not we sign up to participate in Operation Twin-Headed Snake. Those for participating, raise your hand.”
“ME! I SAY YES!” Both of Ranta’s hands shot straight up into the air.
Mogzo’s followed a little more tentatively. Yume raised her hand slightly, then lowered it again, then raised and lowered it again. Mary remained still, as if frozen in place. When Haruhiro started to lift his hand up, Shihoru followed suit, just like he thought she would. She looked from her own hand to Haruhiro’s and then back to her own again.
“Ho…” Yume breathed in a strange tone.
“Hm…” Mary’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Huh?” Mogzo blinked several times and tilted his head to one side.
“What the…” Ranta jumped out of his seat, looking from raised hand to raised hand as he counted. “One, two, three, four, five… FIVE!?”
“Uh, Ranta…” Haruhiro sighed. “You can’t count both your hands.”
“What!? No I didn’t!” Ranta denied. “No way, I’m not that retarded! Oh wait… oops. Yeah, I did. So, uh… four. That’s still the majority.”
“Yeah. I guess it’s decided then,” Haruhiro said. “We’ll sign up to participate.”
“Uh…” Ranta started to say.
“What? Majority wins, so what’s the problem?” Haruhiro asked.
“Er… no problem—wait, hell yeah there’s a problem! Haruhiro, what the hell!? You want to participate now? Why the sudden change of head!?”
“Change of heart, Ranta,” Haruhiro corrected. “The right way to say it is change of heart.”
“Whatever! Shut up, Haruhiro! No one cares about that!” Ranta ranted. “There’s no way a big spineless chicken like you could say yes so what’re you up to? Spit it out, Haruhiro! No, wait! I got it! I know exactly what you’re scheming! You figured that you’d lose the vote if you said no, so you decided not to go against everyone else and changed your vote to a yes! I’m right, aren’t I? ‘Cuz that’s something you’d totally do!”
Ranta slapped Haruhiro several times on the back so hard that the sound echoed. What the hell. Quit that shit already… Haruhiro raged silently as his anger started to grow. Why did Ranta have to do such goddamn annoying things all the time? Because Ranta was Ranta, that’s why.
“Quit making assumptions about me,” Haruhiro replied, knocking Ranta’s arm away. “I wasn’t thinking that at all. Besides, if you didn’t have my vote then you wouldn’t have gotten your majority.”
“Quit getting caught up in tiny details!” Ranta shot back. “What are you, a magnifying glass or something?”
“Magnifying glasses can’t vote.”
“SEE WHAT I MEAN!? Tiny details!!!”
“And you’re so brash that you look at everything way too broadly,” Haruhiro said.
“I’m the King of Broad! I’m the Vassal of the Broad King! Broad-armed, broad-minded, and broad-hearted!” Ranta proclaimed.
“The correct term is ‘big-hearted’, Ranta,” Mary pointed out icily.
“Err…” Ranta croaked, falling silent for a brief moment before recovering with, “Haruhiro you still haven’t answered my question! Why are you agreeing!? HACK IT UP AND SHIT IT OUT!”
“You’ve got such a dirty mouth, Ranta,” Yume frowned.
“His entire existence is dirty,” Shihoru added, regarding Ranta as if he was something that just crawled out of a sewage pipe.
Entire existence? Whoa. That was pretty harsh. But Haruhiro doubted that Ranta would be affected in any way, so… maybe he should just let it pass. He had to admire the thickness of Ranta’s skin, though. If it were any other guy being told that by a girl… their feelings would be hurt pretty badly.
“Actually, I want to know too,” Mogzo said, taking a sip of his beer. “Haruhiro, why? I thought you were against participating because you were worried that we might end up getting ourselves killed. I mean, it’s natural that you’d be hesitant because you’re the leader…”
“Ha! A shitty leader too!” Ranta scoffed, gulping his beer then laughing.
“N-no way! Haruhiro’s been doing his best for us!” Mogzo protested.
“That’s right!” Yume agreed. “Like Mogzo said, Haru’s doin’ a darn good job!”
“I think so too,” Shihoru said.
“Same,” said Mary.
“What the hell!?” Ranta exclaimed. “Is today ‘Let’s-Carpet-Bomb-Ranta’ day or something? Well it ain’t gonna work so bring it on!”
Haruhiro put a hand over his mouth, trying to contain his rising elation. Damn… god damn it… He never thought that the others regarded him so highly. Except Ranta, that is. But Ranta’s entire existence was an exception.
Now wasn’t the time to get excited though, so Haruhiro cleared his throat and said, “There’s lots of reasons…”
For one, he was worried about Choco. He had never seen Choco’s party in action, but he was certain that they weren’t an all-star, ridiculously strong rookie team like Renji’s. If they were, then they would have already made a reputation for themselves, and Haruhiro would have heard the talk.
So the party Choco was in wasn’t particularly strong, and they were less experienced than Haruhiro’s team, and yet they had signed themselves up to fight orcs at Capomorti. It was just too reckless. Haruhiro was certain that they were in over their heads.
Haruhiro knew that he wouldn’t necessarily be able to protect Choco even if his team participated. They were not in the same party, after all, but if he was at least in her general vicinity then maybe there was a chance that he could help her if she got in too deep.
But he couldn’t tell the others any of this. Of course there was no way he could tell his companions that it was the reason he voted yes. Besides, the possibility of being able to aid Choco was just a bonus. Haruhiro had made his decision based on what he thought was best for his team.
“First of all,” Haruhiro continued. “The money. The one gold in one day payment we get for participating is huge. And if the fighting goes for two days, then it’s thirty silvers on top of that. Also, there’s several other bonuses being offered, right Ranta?”
“Yeah,” Ranta shrugged as if it was no big deal to him. He was probably acting nonchalant in order to look cool again, but as usual, he was failing. “There’s bounties being offered for the orc officers. The commander of the garrison and his subordinates and stuff.”
“It’s not like we need to force ourselves to go after those targets,” Haruhiro said, placing a hand on the table’s surface. “But that’s the thing, see?”
“Huh?” Yume frowned and tilted her head at him. “What’s the thing?”
“We get paid the hundred silver just for signing up,” Haruhiro explained. “It doesn’t matter how useful we are in the fighting. We get a hundred silvers just for being there. We don’t have to force ourselves to do any of the tough fighting if we think we’re in over our heads.”
“You’re a spineless coward, Haruhiro!” Ranta yelled, expression disgusted. “You’re already running away with your tail between your legs!”
“Say what you want,” Haruhiro replied. “I don’t care.”
“You’re chicken shit, Haruhiro!”
“You’re a big pussy!”
“And your stick’s pathetically tiny!”
“What does that have to do with anything!?” Haruhiro yelled.
“But Haru doesn’t use a stick…” Yume said, puffing one side of her cheek out and tilting her head slightly.
“Um, Yume… I don’t think he meant that sort of stick,” Shihoru whispered.
Haruhiro was a little curious to find out exactly how Shihoru intended to explain it to Yume, but instead interrupted, “Anyways…”
His change of heart was something that he had spent a lot of time thinking about. In the end, he came to the conclusion that news of Choco’s party participating in Operation Twin-Headed Snake was no more than an opportunity for him to rethink his position. It didn’t have any influence on his final decision, which he had made after a prolonged internal debate.
“Everyone’s well-being at the end of a fight is more important than doing flashy things and showing off,” Haruhiro continued. “Or at least that’s what I think. But this isn’t an easy job where we can get away with never taking any risks. We’ve got to gain more experience, make ourselves stronger while finding a way to survive. It’s said that rookies aren’t considered real warriors until they’ve killed an orc, so sooner or later, a time will come when we’re going to have to fight orcs. If that’s the case, wouldn’t you guys rather do it during a large-scale operation where we’ll have help from other Crimson Moon members? All the factors look really favorable.”
“Ah…” Shihoru said in understanding.
“Oh.” Yume’s eyes went wide in sudden comprehension as well.
Mogzo stared openly at him while Mary listened quietly but intently.
Ranta suddenly started chuckling villainously, which soon turned into full-fledged laughter. “Haruhiro! You’re fucking pathetic! You’re the most spineless sissy I’ve ever met! How can you even live with yourself, eh?”
“I always wondered the same about a douchebag jerk like yourself,” Haruhiro retorted.
“Jerk? How am I a jerk?” Ranta asked. “You’re the coward—I’m just telling it like it is.”
Haruhiro decided at that moment, if the
were to appear when he was standing behind Ranta, he would [BACKSTAB] the shit out of the little prick. So for now, patience. Yes. Patience, patience, patience. Good. The more he talked back at Ranta, the more stubborn the other would become so it was best to let it go.
“Besides, even if it was blind luck, we’re the party that killed Deathpatch,” Haruhiro said instead. “And now the Capomortiopportunity got dropped in our laps so… It may be a stretch, but it feels like it’s meant to be.”
“WHOA!” Mogzo jumped up in surprise. Haruhiro was equally surprised to see someone as big as Mogzo make such a sudden motion. “I get it now! Morti means ‘death’ in some language or something right? Death and death! I never thought of that before!”
“Wow…” Yume nodded. “Yume never thought of that neither! Deathpatch and Cappimorti do have the whole death thing in common! Death Patch always makes Yume think Cabbage Patch though…”
“Not ‘Cappimorti’ Yume, Capomorti,” Haruhiro corrected automatically as if it had become his natural role. “But at least you got the death part right… Yume, are you really against participating in Operation Twin-Headed Snake?”
“Hmm…” Yume pondered. “Well, I guess if everyone’s goin’ then Yume’ll go too. Yume’s okay with tryin’ somethin’ like that.”
“I see,” Haruhiro said. “What about you, Mary?”
Haruhiro could have sworn that Mary almost smiled just now.
“I’m fine with the majority’s decision,” Mary replied. “I’ll do my best to protect everyone.”
“M-me too!” Mogzo said, pounding his chest once with a fist. “It may not be the same as Mary, but if I do my job right, then I can protect everyone too! I’m gonna give it my all! For everyone’s sake!”
“Alright,” Ranta grinned broadly. “Everyone’s all for it so we’re gonna do it, right?”
Sometimes Haruhiro thought he envied Ranta’s ability, bordering on genius, to piss people off with nothing but that moronic smile of his. Only sometimes though. Okay, maybe not ever.
Haruhiro brought the ceramic mug of mead to his lips, took a sip and said, “It’s decided then.”