Part 28: Chapter XXIV: The Incompetent Decision and Command
Oh man, I completely forgot. Sorry, boss. I'll get it ready right away, so just wait for me...
Oh, I don't mind, of course. We all want to bring our best, don't we? I will once again win a swift victory at our next showdown. I'm always ready for you to challenge. Do your best... Hahaha!
Kind of strange to see Harry here.
What are you doing with Mr. Harry?
Oh, just a little gamble. How did I get into this?
I hope you're not about to do something crazy...or dangerous.
No no no, it's nothing dangerous. I don't want you misunderstanding anything. Me an' Harry have a bet to see who can bring the rarest find to the table.
Oh! That sounds really interesting...! Can we join the competition, too?
I hate to disappoint you, girl, but we're wagering our passion for discovery on this. Buuuut, since you asked nicely, you want to back me up a little bit on this one?
Back you up? What, you want our help?
Yeah... I've been on somethin' of a losing streak, so I really need to knock him dead with this next one.
Hmm... That's unfortunate. Okay, we can give you some help!
Haha, that's what I'm talkin' about. Truth is, I haven't found an artifact I want to show him yet. I could go digging in ruins, of course, but then I thought of makin' something rare with alchemy.
Alchemy, huh...? Well, I don't mind, but what exactly are you looking to create?
I haven't decided. It doesn't necessarily have to be something from the old era. As long as it's rare and interesting, it'll do. I'll let you know when I think of it.
Are you sure you can win like that? Shouldn't we come up with a plan, or something?
I mean, we're both treasure hunters. It sucks to lose in a battle of who's better at it. Sooooo, once I decide what we're gonna make, I"ll be droppin' in on you two later.
Yes, please let us help! We're going to take Harry down for sure!
He wants something rare... What do we have? Escha, do you want to head back to the Lab of Eternity now or later? We have to take care of that rampaging beast that we seen in the lower areas of the lab.
I'm still really interested in Mr. Reyfer's contest, but we should probably do it now.
We need to be really careful with this monster...
If this monster wasn't so fast...
We can do it!
Let's work together to defeat it!
We're all so much stronger when we work together!
That's for sure...
We sure are bringing in a lot of money lately... Anyway, let's go tell Solle we took care of that monster.
Maybe he's out buying ingredients for snacks.
Did you need Solle for something?
Ah! Mr. Grumman... Has Solle gone somewhere?
Actually, I myself just found out he was absent. I see, so he's out buying ingredients for sweets, eh? I suppose that's the one thing I didn't take from him. But to think he would like them this much...
That's right... The two of you are father and son.
Y-Yeah... Is it obvious?
Huh? No, actually. Solle told us the other day. I was surprised. I never would've guessed.
I-I see... So you couldn't tell... During business hours, we try not to mix business and family. I suppose it's understandable. Has Solle ever said anything about me to the two of you?
Um... He did say that he gets nervous when he speaks to you?
...I see. I was afraid that was the case. I simply wanted to mold him into a hard worker... That's why I was so strict with them.
S-So I heard...
As you can see, he's become a man of few words. Now, I barely speak with him outside of the office.
Few words... I'm not sure if that's exactly the case.
That's how he behaves around me, anyway. Hah, so he actually talks to the two of you?
Not just the two of us. He actually talks to a lot of people besides us.
He's pretty strict when it comes to work. At the same time, he makes it easy for us to do our jobs.
Hm. I'm pleased to see him grown into a capable young man, but I'm afraid it's more complex than that. Did I raise him the wrong way...? Was there a chance for Solle to have lived the life he wanted...? I can't say anything, evne if Solle hates me for it.
No--! There's no way Solle hates you, Mr. Grumman!
H-Hey, maybe you shouldn't be cheering him on without any evidence...
Haha, you don't need to worry about my feelings.
Besides, Solle said that you felt like a wall to him. One that he couldn't overcome.
He said that...about me?
It might be a little too late, but, I'm sure he respects you, Mr. Grumman! He's probably nervous when he talks to you because he has so much respect for you!
I-I see... So, it's not that he hates me, then? Perhaps I'll try speaking with Solle the next time I have the chance. Thank you for your insight.
I guess you say something nice every once in a while...
Yeah, that would be nice. Anyway, I'm going to wait here until Solle comes back. Why don't you grab something to eat?
Logy, I don't eat that much!
Ergh--! I mean, you just always look hungry to me...
Well...I am hungry...
Yes? How can I help you...?
You remember that little gamble I told you about last time? The one with Harry?
The one about rare items? Did you decide what you're going to do?
I've given it some thought... And I want to challenge him with something cooking-related.
Are you sure that's going to be good enough? I mean, we can use alchemy to make it, but...
If it'll just shut him up and kill his winning streak, I don't care what it is. We already know he's gonna bring something really obscure, so we have to catch him off-guard.
Okay... But how did you decide on cooking? You're not going to find a rare item to challenge him with?
Well, that's why I brought this. It's a note I found on my travels. It looks like a seasoning recipe. If this is rare enough, we can turn any dish into a masterpiece, right? What do you say?
I know! Now, I don't mean to brag or nothin', but I'm actually really bad at cooking things. Shootin' 'em, yes, but not dressin' em up for eatin' afterwards. Even a cup of tea isn't my cup of tea...
Ahaha... It's pretty fun, when you get used to it.
I'll pass. If we tried until I started having fun, I'd be an old man. That's why I was hoping you'd be able to make this seasoning for me, see? I'll get you the ingredients, and with your skill, I'm sure we can wipe that grin off Harry's face.
Sure. If that's the case, I'd be happy to help you. Not to mention that I'd love to try making some dishes using that spice myself.
That's what I'm talking about, Escha. You're a role model for alchemists everywhere. If you can bring me that spice, I'll give it the finishing touches.
Got it! I'll bring it over as soon as I'm done.
I'm counting on you!
Red Devil, Blue Devil... Escha, what on earth is that recipe?
Oh, Mr. Reyfer wanted me to make a super hot spice for his treasure duel with Harry. He likes his spices really strong.
Clearly... Be careful with that recipe, Escha...
I know, but it was just too exciting not to do!
Looks like it's done...
Yeah! My mouth is starting to burn just looking at this spice... I'm going to go give it to Mr. Reyfer.
Ah, thank you so much, Escha. Let's see here... Yes! This is it! This scent is like it's just trying to pick a fight with you. ...And that bite! Whoo! I tasted this once up in the frozen north!
I think I got it pretty close to the original recipe. But are you sure this is correct? I feel like if you used this in a dish, it would be so spicy and strong it'd be unbearable.
Well, of course it'd be really spicy. But that's what makes it great! When I eat normal cooking, I just feel like the flavor is lacking somehow... So, if I just sprinkle a bit of this on top of anything, it'll be perfect. You see!?
A-Are you sure about that...? I didn't know you liked so much spiciness in your food...
Hmm, I guess you could say that. But without it, it's like I'm not eating anything. I mix jam into all my drinks, and if I throw a bit of this on top of my meat, it'll be amazing!
Eeek! It's not good to add all those ingredients into one dish! It's unfair to the food!
Haha, who cares about what food thinks? You say some interesting stuff sometimes. When you want to make something even more delicious, it's important to improvise with what you have. If you're working with subpar ingredients, just sprinkle a bit of this in and it'll be a masterpiece!
I think I know what you're trying to say, but... I just can't agree to this!
I don't think I've ever seen you so impassioned. As long as I have this seasoning, I could make anything.
You should cook for yourself one day. You'll finally have an appreciation for your ingredients.
All right, it's on, then. How about you be my first taster?
H-Huh? You want me to taste....whatever you make using...THIS!?
Of course! You said you wanted me to cook something, right? To understand how cooks feel... Right?
U-Um... I think it would just be wasting the spice on me. Y-Yeah! I'm sure Harry would appreciate it.
Hahahaha. Good point. I should give it to Harry to try during our showdown.
Ahh... You're making fun of me now, aren't you, Mr. Reyfer?
No no no, really, I appreciate what you've done for me. Thanks for the seasoning AND the advice. Heh heh, I'm pretty sure I'll blow Harry's socks off with this baby!
I think it'll blow off more than this socks... Oh, Harry, I'm so sorry.
Hey Escha. How did it go with Reyfer?
I think Mr. Harry might be in trouble. That spice is dangerous. Reyfer says he's going to use that spice in his cooking showdown to impress Mr. Harry, but...
I have to see how this turns out... It's okay, Escha. Just get to synthesizing and you'll forget all about it. I'm just finishing up some really nice new armor for us on adventures.
Wow, you were right...
Alright, that should be the final required assignment for this period. I still can't believe the homunculi can exactly replicate items, but I'm happy about it. Let's just get this stuff off. It's killing me.
Yeah, me, too...
Alright, what have we got...
Gather 20 documents.
Escha, this one is to raise your alchemy proficiency all the way...
Use 60 different items in battle...
Synthesize 200 different items.
But there's still four assignments that haven't been decided yet... I wonder what they could be?
Oh, there's something attached to the assignment sheet... Looks like it's where to find the documents we haven't found yet. I guess the other teams have been doing exploring, too.
That'll be a big help. Let's just make as many items as we can before we head back out into the field.
Oh yeah, Logy! Today's the day of Mr. Reyfer's and Mr. Harry's duel!
I can't miss this.
Well, then, time to begin our noble competition!
We're finally doing this... I wonder what's going to happen!
Are they really just going to play show-and-tell after all this buildup?
Heh heh, I wanted to rent out a large venue suitable to our event, but the timing didn't work out. Now, let me start by showing you my amazing piece! Look on, and be stunned!
Ancient literature may have a hefty price tag... HOWEVER, we are living right NOW. Would you not agree? I've compiled a book of everything we know of the world TODAY, and I leave it to the future! I submit to you, Harry Olson's autobiography and personal history, the story of my upbringing... I call it "The Legend of Harry"! A masterpiece overflowing with scholarship and nobility.
A book about Harry...? I suppose there's only one like it in the world...
...That's not bad. I'm starting to have a bad feeling about this match already.
Huh? You can't beat that, Reyfer? I don't know how you two even determine who wins or loses here.
You've left me no choice but to use my trump card. I know it might have been childish, but victory is mine! Now, Reyfer, show me what you've brought!
Heh... Don't think your little diary there is gonna beat me! THIS is my rare find!
THIS is your spice, Escha?
It's a special pancake, that I've made especially for you.
Pancakes aren't normally red.
O-Oh no... I had just a taste... And he put that much in it! I can't watch...
My rare find is a spicy seasoning from the northern climes! I've put plenty of that stuff in this dish. Now, Harry! Feast on this, and give in to its uniqueness!
H-Hm... I suppose it's my first time ever seeing a dish this...red. The scent pierces my sinuses...sears my throat...the sheer impact makes my eyes stream with tears... If I may ask... This IS food, yes?
Um, you don't have to force yourself to eat it...
My goodness! This is astonishing! Why, I see I stand no chance in this battle...
Wha---!? You didn't even taste it, man! It's delicious! It's like a punch in the gut, then your guts feel like they're on fire. I can't get enough of it.
U-Ugh... Just listening to that makes my stomach hurt.
No, no, there's no need. It's clear who the victor is in this battle. You have brought something quite amazing to our sight. I'm glad to have witnessed such a discovery. Nonetheless, I will not be defeated so easily in our next battle. Until then!
Does... Does this feel like cheating to anyone else?
Oh, Reyfer... You shouldn't waste food like that!
Who said I'm wasting it? This is gonna be my victory meal! You want a bite, Escha? You helped!
I-I think I'll pass...
We should probably let this place air out a little before we come back... Let's start finding those documents. The first batch was around the well in the abandoned village.
Hey...wasn't this written by Mr. Grumman?
Yeah, it was... Two more are in the Twilight Forest, near the village.
Another document written by the branch manager. The next two...
Are in the homunculus village! Yay!
Escha, why did you give the homunculi 50 of our Melting Jewels?
Well, they were saying something good could happen if we did.
I don't know...but maybe we'll get lucky!
Let's just start looking for those documents...
That's all of them!
Looks like it. Now it's finally time to head back.
Music: Marion is Scary
That's what all drunks say. If you don't pay up, I'm going to be a tad upset.
Please believe her, Duke! She really can't drink at all!
Wh-What's going on!? What happened?
Oh, perfect timing, you two! You'll be a lot of help. You saw this woman drinking at my bar, and she put the bill on her tab. Back me up here.
Oh, something like that did happen. We were really surprised...
Yeah! She was so drunk, her personality completely changed.
N-Not you, too!
You're sure it was Linca? There's no way it was someone else?
Now, we were right there. There's no way we could have mistaken someone else for her.
I mean, she sounded like a completely different person, but it was definitely Linca.
Sorry, Duke. I'll pay that bill. Please don't blame Linca anymore.
Well, all right. As long as it's paid... I'm not one to keep bringing up stuff like this. You should really stop drinking before you black out, miss. Please send the money along soon.
Music: Glass Key
Yes, I know... Linca's here.
What! No wonder. So that's what it was... That coward!
Um, sorry? I don't understand what's going on here.
It's a long story. Basically, Linca has something of an identical twin.
A twin? Now that you mention it, she did seem like a completely different person.
It's not that simple. There are literally several Lincas.
What does that mean? That sounds like some kind of riddle.
Anyway, that's how it is. Linca here, our Linca, can't drink at all.
If there was a Linca drinking alcohol, then it was definitely a different Linca than me. We don't know what cowardly means she could take to ambush us. Stay vigilant at all times.
Is she really that dangerous?
So that was a different person...? She really did look the same. So when she said to put the bill on her tab...
She was going to pin the whole thing on Linca. A dangerous person indeed...
Yeesh, that's our entire budget for this month. Why did this have to happen...?
To think that she'd attack us financially rather than challenge us directly... We can't sit here and take it. If we don't capture Linca soon, our wallets will be even worse off!
...So Linca and Marion share the same savings?
Yeah. Well, if we see that Linca again, we should ask her to stop.
Why don't we check out the bar now? Maybe we'll catch her.
Linca's drinking alcohol, which means...
It's the other Linca. We should go question her.
Oh, hi! Would you two care for a drink?
You're not going to trick us this time! We already know you're not the real Linca!
Whaaaaaat, how boring. But you're wrong! I'm just as much Linca as that other girl. In other words, I'm not *not* the real Linca. Get it?
You look the same, but... You're a different pereson than the Linca we know, right? Also, Linca told us that you're dangerous. So if you intend to...
Hey, hey, calm down there. I don't intend to cause trouble like my older sister. So stop making that scary face and let's get along...Linca.
Eek! There's two of them!
It really is surprising when you see them side by side.
Don't get so heated up. You get weak when you're angry. Want a drink?
From the way you talk... You must be number three.
Correctamundo! As expected from the youngest. Why don't you come here? We've got lots to catch up on.
I have no intention of getting along with you. The moment my back is turned, I'm sure you plan to--
You aren't very good at listening. I said sit down!
S-Stop it! I can't handle alcohol...
Really? What a bore. Hey, old man! Bring me a juice!
One juice, coming up--Wait! Why are there two of you!?
You're a little slow on the uptake, Duke...
*gulp gulp* Ahhh! Hey, you seem to be doing all right, though! I mean, our older sister set out, saying she was going to make you cry, after all. I was pretty sure she'd have killed you by now. I didn't expect to find you alive.
...I met her, too. We chased her off, but I don't know when she might come back.
You did? I'm impressed!
...They look the same, but it's incredible how different their personalities are.
I feel like I'm having a weird dream...
Yeah, can you do anything about your fashion sense? These colors are just so plain.
Marion chose these for me. And you're wearing the same clothes as I am!
Well, obviously I had to wear this if I wanted to dress up like you to get all this free booze!
I really want you to stop. You're causing trouble for Marion.
That small fry... What, you're still with her?
Just forget about that. Why don't you come with me?
...I'm going home. Don't you ever come back here! Do you understand!?
Oooh, I made her mad. I guess I'll be going as well. ...Oh, and you two.
Y-Yes! What is it?
I don't want the same thing to happen to her...
Wait, what do you...?
Seeya. Maybe we'll meet again.
That was strange. She seems warm and caring, like an older sister...
Hey! That girl hasn't paid her bill yet!
...She's also very troublesome. Is this going on Marion's tab, too?
I guess without a really hard assignment, we just don't have that much to do.
I know how you feel... I really wanted to visit the Unexplored Ruins, but the team from Central is going to be here soon... We should just go make our final report...
Three tasks we still have to do, and we still don't know what those four other tasks are...
I can't believe it's been three years since we've started working here...
I was really worried at first, but I guess if you keep at something, everything just falls into place.
Hey! This is no time for feeling nostalgic! We're all going to have a lot of work ahead of us, m'kay? The branch manager's going to call on us today, too, so let's wrap this up as soon as we can.
Aw... But you said in the last meeting that we should have longer conversations in these meetings.
It depends on the time and place!
Now, let's see how you two did last period... Well, I have no complaints, and no surprises here... You two are fine workers.
I'd say we had a tougher time with the other tasks we tried to slip in.
Well... I think we needed to plan ahead a little more on those ones.
Nonetheless, I'm impressed you were able to complete this much. You've done a really good job. Now, that'll do for last period's report. Let's head over to the manager's office. Escha, Logy, and myself will represent the entire group. Linca and Lucille, you can wait here.
Fine. We'll be on standby.
All right... We'll hold down the fort!
I wonder what kind of people are going to be coming... I'm actually a little excited to see them!
...Are they really going to come? I guess we'll have to go and find out.
...Come in. I'm glad you made it. You have my thanks.
Your kids have done an excellent job. Frankly, one could argue this branch no longer even needs R&D. But, with Marion at the top, and the major staff restructuring, R&D has been truly transformed. You've done a truly excellent job. Thank you very much.
R-Right... Thank you for your kind words.
Um... Sir, we humbly accept your thanks, but... Isn't the investigation team arriving today?
...R-Right. I actually have a little bad news for you.
I thought as much.
Wait, so...the team that's supposed to be dispatched to Colseit is...
...They're not coming.
Th-That can't be! At the meeting the other day, they said they were...
The message arrived this morning. Apparently, the situation has changed a little bit. I heard there had been problems with their preparations, but I was not expecting it to be this bad.
So, everything we've done to prepare up to now is going to waste!? Oh, no...!
What're we going to do, Sir!? We set aside the entire year to support Central Command's team. If they're not coming, we need to draft an entirely new schedule right now...
...What's done is done. Let's start making plans for the next year.
Planning for a whole year isn't that easy! Until I have something, I can't send you on our missions!
Then, what should we do until you're done...?
No, this is my responsibility. I'm making an executive decision, and will dispatch you as I see fit.
D-Does that mean...?
Music: Fly in the Blue Sky
Th-That's insane! Are you serious, Sir?
It's official! That's what we were supposed to do when the team from Central City made it here, anyway. I'm aware we may not complete this task, but for now, I want you two to give it your best shot.
Then, do you want us to accept that as our official assignment...?
If we can't complete this assignment, will our rating go down?
I'll see to it it doesn't happen. Considering your contributions over the past three years... I assign this task to you with full consideration of your history. I'll ensure your expense accounts stay.
...So, will you be processing all the necessary documentation?
Yes. I'll get Solle on the same page as soon as I can. As for you, you may begin immediately. I apologize. These affairs will only continue for the next year. For now, you have free reign.
I understand... Well, I'll set this as this year's goal, and we can commence the operation.
Ugh, this is exactly why you can't trust anyone in Central CIty. Central just wanted all the credit for exploring the Ruins, and none of the work. We should be happy they were in way over their heads with this. Honestly, they--
Now, now, Logy... We should consider this our huge chance! We got the go-ahead to investigate the Unexplored Ruins! It's amazing that they're leaving this to us!
That... That may be true, but I never expected this would happen...
Besides, we have the dreadnaught! We should go investigate right away!
...You're right. It'll be a good opportunity to test out the machine's specs.