Millard has always been small with a population of around 3000 people. They needed at least 150 people for the war, and while Millard’s population has certainly increased over the years due to its development, they could only spare about 50 people. It wasn’t a lot, but they definitely couldn’t spare 150 people.
The empire didn’t directly state that Millard had to cough up 150 people. On the contrary, they were practically encouraging employing mercenaries and adventurers with combat experience rather than gather up inexperienced farmers.
Obviously, I thought to employ Caesar, an S-rank adventurer, but unfortunately he’s with his colleagues on an expedition on the eastern front to subjugate a calamity-rank monster and can’t return to Straheim for couple of months.
Consequently, I then relied on pro mercenaries to bolster the numbers.
“Is it here?”
We were in front of a single, two-story house located in the southern corner of Straheim.
As the company grey larger, more thieves and bandits would begin to target so we would need some form of self-defense. Using that line of reasoning, I asked Rainer for a list of mercenaries currently stationed in Straheim.
Once I entered, everyone turned to stare.
“Brats ain’t welcome here. Go away.” A large, swarthy man who easily topped two-meters tall placed his cup of ale down on the round, wooden table in the center of the room and walked over, pressuring me to leave.
He’s probably restraining himself as much as possible, but that’s still quite the glare. Any normal kid would have run away crying at a single glance. Obviously, I wasn’t even the slightest bit nervous as I’m a middle-aged man inside.
“I’ve got a commission for the Scarlet Phoenix.”
“A commission? Hey, ya’ll hearing this? When did we become errand boys for a brat?” one mercenary said as the room erupted in laughter. At first glance, it looked like everyone was treating me like a kid, but not single person had relaxed their guard. Looks like I’ve come to the right place after all.
I completely ignored them and walked to the center of the room and sat at the circular table across from the red-haired, one-eyed man.
“Oi, you brat!!” a bald man yelled, grabbing my shoulder.
“Are you going to accept the request or decline? That’s all I ask. Hey, I’m asking you, Leader-san.” I shrugged off the bald man and smiled.
“Why do you think I’m the leader?” the red-haired man asked.
“Isn’t it obvious just by looking at where you guys are standing?” I slowly unsheathed the knife at my waist and gripped the handle. Immediately, all the mercenaries around me pointed the weapons at me. “See?”
Frankly, I had known he was the leader the moment I stepped foot inside.
First, everyone else at this table was postured ever so slightly in his direction; they had probably unconsciously moved to a position where they could protect their leader at a moment’s notice.
His subordinates were too skilled.
“I see, not very befitting of a brat,” the one-eyed red-haired man said, shrugging with a hint of surprise and erased his frivolous smile.
Looks like he’s finally reached the negotiation table as well. I’ll cut to the chase.
“Recently, some wonderful orders have come, and Millard must join in to suppress the undead army,” I began.
The leader placed his hand on his chin and pondered for a bit before looking back up.
“Do you know what we’re called?”
“Was it 『The Fools』?”
At my words, the other members grimaced in distress.
According to Rainer’s notes, they were a group that disobeyed their employer, the biggest taboo a mercenary could commit. Moreover, many of their brethren died because of that, which was why employers skimmed over them despite their considerable skill, and they currently lived off hunting monsters. But that’s exactly why they were suited for this job.
“Why do you want to hire us?” he asked.
Why, huh. That’s obvious.
“Because you’re the dumbest mercenaries,” I said. The other members flushed with rage at my impertinent words and surrounded me.
The red-haired man stopped his subordinates with his hand and glared at me like a bird of prey.
“So you probably already know what we’ve done. Aren’t you scared of us?”
“Scared? Me? Of you? That’s a joke, right?”
Stop it, please. I’m not so young as to fear a group of idiots who would prioritize their own beliefs over mercenary law. In the first place, if they could actually hurt me they’d probably be enjoying songs of praise over a sumptuous feast at some shitty noble’s place.
“Learn your place—” the bald man said as he grabbed my shoulder, having finally lost his patience, and the other members directed bloodlust towards me.
“I thought I said stop,” the leader said quietly.
That should be good enough; I’ll stop taunting them and jump into the main topic.
“I only want to know one thing; just answer me this.”
It was the vital factor that determined whether I’d hire them or not. If they didn’t give me a satisfactory answer I’d have to give up on hiring them.
“Did you guys regret going against your employer?”
Clever people who regretted their actions wouldn’t do the same, and if they weren’t picky about their methods, a famous noble might even promote them to government officials. Unfortunately, I couldn’t care less for boring people like that.
“Obviously, we do,” one member said.
“Yeah……” another chimed.
Looks like I’ve miscalculated. I began to stand up, when the red-haired man spat out, “I wish I had killed that shitty noble. I feel nauseous just remembering how I completely stopped thinking and froze on the spot.”
A strange amusement welled up inside as I bellowed with laughter for the first time in a while. “You’re a real strange one, you know,” I said after laughing my lungs out.
“I don’t want to hear that from a creepy brat like you.”
After hearing his audacious remark, I threw the bag that was on my hip at him.
“I’ll pay you this much in advance,” I said.
They laid bare their true feelings, so I should do the same.
“Hey, you’ve been acting all high and might and that’s all you’ve got to show?” one member said, but I just smiled in response.
It was true that I only put in 10 coins, so it’s only natural that they would think there wasn’t much.
“Check it for yourself,” I urged the leader. The skinny bald man next to the leader took the bag and peered inside. His eyes immediately widened as he froze in place.
The man named Zem handed over the bag, trembling all the while.
The leader grabbed the bag and began to confirm its contents as well.
“……” He stared silently for a while before erupting in laughter.
One member pensively asked, “L-leader?”
“You’re insane,” the leader said. “Really.”
He emptied the contents of the bag as beautifully shining red coins scattered all over the table.
One member shakily reached out to inspect a coin before biting his lip. “……It’s the real thing. Crimson coins.”
As if time had unfrozen, the rest of the members began reaching out to the coins and confirming themselves.
“So you want to hire us with this?”
The Commerce Guild’s common currency – G.
1G was a coin. 10G, an iron coin. 100G, a copper coin. 1 000 G, a silver coin. 10 000G, a gold coin. 1 000 000G, a snow coin, 10 000 000, a crimson coin. 
10 crimson coins, or a hundred million G. This will probably be the biggest crisis of my life, so I should be willing to spare at least this much.
“Yeah, not enough?” I said.
“No, it’s plenty. That right?” He turned to the other members who were still in a daze and confirmed there were no dissenting opinions before standing up from his seat. “I’m the leader of the Scarlet Phoenix, Aquido Hyness. Pleasure to meet ya, creepy brat.”
The leader, Aquido, gave a slight smile and thrust out his right hand.
“I’m Grey Millard. Pleasure to meet you as well, Foolish and Idiotic Mercenary-san.” I stood up as well and returned a strong handshake.
In the end I settled with bringing just Mos and 19 other members of his security squad, Satella and Carla, and the Eight-Headed Dragon.
The upcoming battle was more of a monster extermination, rather than a war. Mos’s group had experience, so they were qualified for the job, but due to the village’s rapid development and expansion, his group was hurting for new members. If I took any more it’d put a hamper on the village’s defenses. And now that I had my stepmother breathing down my neck, I could only bring 20 from the security squad at most.
As for Satella and Carla, even if I were to tell them to stay put, it would go in one ear and out the other, and the Eight-Headed Dragon is, well, a freaking dragon. I don’t think I can actually get through to her.
But since I’m leaving Straheim, there would be nobody left to manage Sagami Co., so I had Judo stay behind. He strongly dissented, but he has to stay behind and direct the company. I think it’s about time that he concentrates on the company; this might actually turn into a good opportunity for him.
And so, I had Judo, Carla, and the other villagers meet with the mercenaries at the Sagami Co residence.
“Grey-sama, I think even without the help of these people……” Carla complained. Satella was keeping silent, but I could easily tell she thought the same.
“Don’t call us ‘these people,’” Aquido said. “But still, if it weren’t Grey asking, no amount of money would get us to go on a mission with you stuck-up greenhorns.”
The rest of the Scarlet Phoenix members sneered at them in agreement.
The mood instantly turned for the worse.
I at my wits’ end. Jeez, they never fail to betray my expectations, but in a bad way.
I opened my mouth to try to mediate, when Judo signaled to me—probably that I should leave it to him.
“Stop! It’s Boss’s decision; I won’t accept any objections,” Judo chided Carla.
“But we can’t trust them.”
“If we’re talking about trust then we’re in the same situation,” Judo shot back. “I mean, did you already forget that we promised Boss and Giresse?”
“……” Carla chewed her lips in frustration. Judo then turned to Aquido, who was still grinning maliciously, and heaved a heavy sigh.
“Aquido-san, can you guys stop teasing my sister? As you can probably already tell, my siblings are shy and simple-minded.
“It does seem that way,” Aquido replied.
Well, they never actually got angry or anything despite Carla’s rudeness. I guess it’s just their way of greeting people.
“Judo, I’ll leave it to you,” I said.
He gave me a light nod and headed towards the corner of the room where a mountain of books piled up. There, he grabbed several and carried them to the center table.
Aquido grabbed one of the books and began observing it. Soon, his air of composure slowly transformed into a shocked expression.
“Is this a Material?” Aquido asked as, like a storm, a commotion came from the Scarlet Phoenix members.
I think Materials were treasures that had supernatural properties, often extracted from dungeons or ruins.
“It’s nothing so grand,” I said. “Try placing your palm on the cover.”
He placed his palm like I had said, when first the book, and then Aquido’s body began to glow.
“The contract has completed. You should be able to read its contents now.”
“……” Aquido began passionately reading the grimoire. “It’s a grimoire……” he murmured after placing it on the table.
“G-grimoire? Ain’t that a high-grade Material!!?”
“Yeah,” Aquido said. “And it looks like it’s……holy magic.”
The mercenaries fell uncharacteristically silent, and in contrast, Carla’s side puffed out their chests in pride.
That’s right. That’s the middle-rank magic—Holy Flame. One of the most fundamental spells of holy magic. Now they shouldn’t be defeated by the undead.
“These grimoires are necessary for the upcoming war. Everyone needs to bind a contract with one,” I instructed before turning back to face Judo. “Judo, you’re in charge of their training until we leave in 3 days.”
“As you desire.” Judo placed one hand over his chest and lightly bowed.
I glanced back at the mercenaries, who were now the epitome of disorderly, and exited the Sagami Co. residence.
↑ Previously, it was slightly confusing to have G and gold coins (as what else would G even stand for). So I made 1G = 1 copper and thus 1000 copper would be a silver coin, and 10,000 copper would be a gold coin. The author now introduced 3 new coins: an actual copper coin (of which was not previously mentioned), an iron coin, and a normal coin that I had represented with a copper coin. Finding this a bit tricky to convert, I have now opted to leave it as the author wrote and will edit previous chapters to fit this convention.
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