My Precious, First, Colleague

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Let’s leave for Eastland.

As soon as possible.
Even tomorrow, if that were feasible.

Having made such a decision, I had to come up with a detailed plan right away.

The plan itself wasn’t much of an issue. 

What was important was to set the longest possible time period before my return.

I decided not to consider the difficulty or content of the assigned task.
Whatever it was, I had to unconditionally finish it and return within the set deadline.

There were two main criteria for setting the deadline.

Firstly, any chapters where I had to appear.

Among the many chapters yet to come, there were ones that I could never allow myself to miss.
Chapters containing events that would trigger some new storyline, or chapters where new characters who would be central to the future plot would appear.

If I didn’t come back in time to appear in those chapters, I’d be left behind at some point.
Because starting from a specific chapter, the story would start progressing quickly, and the main plot would develop with the speed of a torrent, with multiple significant events occurring simultaneously.

If you can’t ride the torrent, you’ll inevitably drown and be eliminated from the story.

Secondly, the speed at which my character would ‘weaken’.

Basically, my power level has a different source than all the other characters around me.

I am the only being whose ‘character level’ is completely relative to my actual ability, and the strength of all my powers and abilities increase in direct proportion to my actual ‘appearance rate’, ‘popularity’, and ‘significance’.

Of course, like everyone else, I can also become stronger by practicing or taking an elixir. 

But it’s simply much more efficient and faster to just buy a background, get a trait, and raise my rank to become stronger.
In fact, we were now at twentyish chapters, and I now had enough pure physical strength to defeat almost anybody.

Perhaps at this point in time, there might be no one with greater physical ability than me, except for Karl Zayed.
That included Leo.

The reward for the first place in the popularity poll was that great.

[Character’s rank has increased significantly]

[Character’s rank has increased significantly]

[Character’s rank has increased significantly]

[Character’s rank has increased significantly]

[Character’s rank has increased significantly]

Of course, that was also why I was in this situation.

When I tested, I could mimic Leo’s current skills without any trouble.
Even some future chapters were fine.

Anyway, looking at it from the other way around, it meant that if I couldn’t sustain this ‘character level’, it could weaken that much faster.

My character wouldn’t get deleted if I didn’t appear for a few months.
Because I was the undisputed rival character.

Even so, it would gradually start weakening.

Actually, I’d already experienced this ‘weakening’ a few times.

For example, I usually just needed a flick of a finger to arm wrestle with Cocoa, but one day I suddenly had to use two fingers.
Also, my physical condition usually didn’t deteriorate if I went without sleep, but there were days when I suddenly felt exhausted, etc.

Of course, I didn’t know the exact amount by which it would reduce.
Sometimes, even though time passed without me appearing in the chapter, I suddenly felt strengthened, rather than weakened.

Probably because Leo and his party were gossiping about me and making things up around that time.

Nevertheless, the ‘weakening’ would definitely progress more and more rapidly as time went by.
In particular, if Leo and his party entered a chapter where they were frantically carrying out their missions with no thought for anything else, it’d be even worse.


It wasn’t like there was absolutely no way to prevent it.

Mimicking Karl Zayed’s unique ability, for example.

If I could mimic that ability, it’d offset my weakening quite a bit.
And I’d be reborn in my next appearance, like a tiger growing wings.

However, this was still not possible in my current state.
If Karl Zayed’s character had completely fallen to the abyss, it might’ve been possible, but not now that the author had brought him back to life.

In conclusion, I had to go to Eastland.

Anyway, with these two conditions put together, I decided on a deadline of three months.

Or, about 14 to 15 chapters.

I might be missing out on a few significant chapters, but there was no helping it.

But I absolutely had to return before the ‘Scramble for Ramirez’s Treasure’ could take place.

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More than fifty adventurer groups would be involved in that battle, and a tenth of those would pass through the ‘King’s Road’ to reach the hidden continent, ‘Midland’.

Basically, they would be the centrepieces of the future storyline.

To worm my way into that mess –

No, to be at the very heart of it –

Was not something to be missed.

Next, I prioritized the tasks I had complete within these three months.

Go to Eastland.

Perform the (A-ranked) mission given by the Adventurers’ Association.

Stop by the goblins’ den and do some business.

Return to Westland.

Start preparing for the Ramirez Scramble.

It was definitely a tight schedule.

Aside from the difficulty of the tasks, the timing itself was problematic.
Because the travel times weren’t trivial.

Using ‘chapter movement’ to return would save me a lot of time, but I wasn’t too sure about this.

It wasn’t specifically stated anywhere, but there might be limits to the distance you could move.
Because originally, ‘space movement’ abilities in this world had many restrictions.

Not just that, I also couldn’t be sure if the author would continue to provide such a ‘convenience’ in the future even though he’d done so till now.
Instantaneous transportation from continent to continent? Even disregarding whatever emotion he held towards me, it didn’t feel like he was going to allow something like that.
Because that would destroy plausibility.

To sum it up, I had to hurry.

I thought about the fastest way to get to Eastland.


I had no idea.

I only knew of the one way.

The road that Leo and his friends had taken in the original work. 

But this wasn’t a good route.

It was a route that passed through numerous cities and covered all kinds of events, over a number of years.

I had to find a new way, different from the original.

Of course, I could easily acquire one from the Information Guild on the way to Eastland.
But that’d just be a general route, so if I wanted to find the fastest one…

‘No, wait.’

Why was I thinking so hard about this?

I knocked myself on the forehead.

Didn’t I have a guide who’d shined the brightest in the Adventurer Qualification Test by my side?

I relaxed immediately.

Looked like I had to find Cocoa first, decide on a route, and then continue with the rest of the plan.

I immediately left my seat and got up.

I found Cocoa not long after. 

Strangely, the front garden seemed to stand out, and she was indeed there.

My ‘pathfinding eyes’ had apparently become quite usable.

Cocoa was sitting alone on a bench, under the pale moonlight, somehow looking miserable and wretched.

This was a very rare sight, because she always hung around me whenever she had nothing else to do.

It was actually my first time seeing her like that.

“What are you doing?”

“… Huh? Squatjaw?”

When I called, Cocoa turned around with a surprised expression.

“You look really surprised.”

“No, it’s just… You jumped out of nowhere and called me all of a sudden.”

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“You mean you didn’t see me coming? Does that sound believable?”

“… Really.
I didn’t see you.”


Cocoa looked strange.

Powerless, drooping, somehow… as if she wanted to cry. 

It was simply odd.

As I scratched my head, Cocoa smiled and changed her expression.

“What about the banquet? Why aren’t you there?”

Stranger and stranger.
This kid’s expression, tone, and words.

“… I was afraid that you’d already pocketed all the food.
There was no point in going.
But why are you here of all places?”

Cocoa didn’t reply.

The kid just looked blank, and didn’t speak.

I waited patiently for her to start talking.

And then,

“When are you going to Eastland?”

Cocoa spoke again.

Her voice was calm, and since I’d been waiting for the topic, my words quickly tumbled out.

“Huh? Oh, yeah.
Good question.
I’m thinking we might leave tomorrow? So…”

It was then.



“It’s been fun.”

“… What’re you talking about?”

Instead of answering me, Cocoa abruptly opened her leather bag, taking out a Pierrot mask and putting it on.

“I’m saying this is goodbye.
Idiot Squatjaw.
I’m not going with you.”

“… What? Why?”

“It’s just – I’m tired.
It’s no fun anymore.
It’s too far…”

She looked far too sad to be saying something like that.

I watched Cocoa as she trembled and tried to hold back her tears.

It felt like she’d burst at the slightest touch.

I didn’t know the reason, but I thought it’d be better to just quietly stay by her side.

‘Or… should I give her a pat on the shoulder?’

While I was taking a step closer –

… Hm?

I could feel a strange flash of heat from Cocoa’s body.


Unconsciously, my face inched closer. 

And I discovered something weird.

‘Writing? Tattoo? Letters?’

Near the nape of Cocoa’s neck, a place normally covered by her clothes, what looked like words were scribbled.

And they emitted a red light.

“When did you…”

“Huh? G-, go away!”

But Cocoa was already in my arms.
Startled, she tried to shake me off, but I had no plans to let her go.

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“Let go! Let go of me!”

I grabbed her collar and pulled it down, revealing the entire red text.

“Porter Slave”.

“… Let go.

I had no words.

Even though Cocoa hurriedly shook me off, I didn’t stop her.
I couldn’t stop her.

All sorts of thoughts were rushing through my head, and I couldn’t do anything.

Tattooed letters, shining red.

Those insulting and malicious words.

I knew very well what they meant.

As well as who’d engraved them on Cocoa, and what kind of situation she was in right now.

It was the result of a unique ability.

[Scribe’s Shackles]

Control a target by engraving marks on their body.

Simply put, it was a mind control ability similar to the [Seven Rings to Bind Them].

The major differences being that it was ‘semi-permanent’ and ‘not limited by the number of targets’, and that its effect would differ slightly depending on the distance from the target.

And the level of the ability somewhat depended on the user’s presence.

Corps Commander Firmino.

One of the named villains of Adventure King, who called his adventurers a ‘corps’ and had led thousands of troops to the Tower of Adventure.

So my memory had been correct, after all.

That guy who’d been holding Cocoa prisoner the other day, I did recognize that bald head of his from the ‘Mount Knock Arc’.

That guy was a subordinate of Corps Commander Firmino.
Firmino was one of the captains of the ten adventurer groups who’d climbed Mount Knock.

Only then did I realize why Cocoa hadn’t been able to appear in the work despite her outstanding ability.

From the author’s point of view, according to the original cliché, Leo and his party had to go through Big City to find Cocoa.

But somehow, this organization turned out be set as too high a hurdle.
I didn’t know if it was a mistake or not.

So when it came to developing a confrontation, the organization didn’t seem easy to deal with, and it was also a bit of a waste to use such a strong villain in the early parts of the story.
So the author just chose to skip it.

Cocoa was left behind in the background, in the process.

Actually, I’d often thought that Yan was a bit awkward as far as his guiding ability went.
He was better suited to be an adversary, in comparison.
If nothing else, didn’t his unique ability look like that of an adversary?

Of course, once the number of ghosts had grown to dozens in the later parts of the story, they’d pulled their weight by scouting ahead in great numbers, but it still didn’t feel like a perfect fit.

Maybe… Cocoa had originally been supposed to be in Yan’s place.


Slowly, I looked back at Cocoa.

She was stroking the nape of her neck with her hand.
As if she couldn’t help but want to rub off the letters shining bright red.

I took her hand and squeezed.

“I know… what those letters are.”


“… What, what?”

Cocoa shrieked in surprise.

“And who carved them.”

“H-, how could you know…”

Cocoa’s eyes were confused and wet with tears.

But I didn’t say any more.

Perhaps this kid won’t be even be able to speak the name ‘Firmino’.
Maybe even thinking about it was painful.
She might be forbidden to even react.

Instead of speaking further, I gently took off my jacket.
Because those tiny clothes of hers didn’t seem sufficient to cover those marks on her neck.

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“To think, you went to the bank every time…”


Nothing crazy had happened so far.

Even though there was no shortage of money, she just kept collecting money, kept trying to steal money everywhere, and whenever there was a city nearby, the first thing she did was to run to the bank.

And, that baldie.

That terrifying guy had never showed up either.
Even though he’d told Cocoa that he’d never let her go.

Maybe he was having trouble tracking us because my ‘chapter movement’ didn’t leave any traces? That’s what I’d thought, but that wasn’t the case.
He knew where Cocoa was and where she was going, and he had no intention of catching her in the first place.
Because money was pouring in so fast, he must’ve thought that he’d caught a goodhearted pushover.

In other words, Cocoa had been ‘renting’ her freedom, with money.

‘… What an idiot, huh.’

I’d thought there was no problem, but I was the only one who’d thought so.

Meaning… I myself had been the biggest problem.


“If you can wait a while… before going to Eastland …”

Cocoa quietly brought out the words she must’ve kept bottled in till now.

I don’t have the time.”

“Why… the mission has such a long deadline…”


For some reason, it was difficult to look straight at this kid.

I would’ve known sooner.
If I’d looked a little more closely.

So, I turned to the dim garden under the quiet moonlight.
Maybe those faint shadows could hide some of my shame.

“Then… goodbye.”


“Because I can’t go to Eastland.”

“You will.”


“You will go.”

Cocoa fell silent as if she couldn’t understand what I said.

“Because I’m going to make you go.”

“B-, but…”

I’d once seen a similar situation in another shounen manga.

A scene in which the protagonist forced a colleague in an unfortunate situation, to say ‘help me’ out loud.
As evidence of her faith.

I never did understand that.

Why was there a need for all that? Just looking at her should tell you enough.

I could tell without looking into her eyes or looking at her expression.

I could tell just by looking at that Pierrot mask.

How desperately she needed me right now.

“Alright, stop talking.”

This was fine.
In any case, one of the adventurer groups who’d climb the mountain had to be erased.
So that the Squatjaw Adventurers could take its place.

“Just tell me where they are.
Do you know who I need to tidy up? If not, just where that bald guy is would be fine too.”  

“Oh, no! It’s dangerous… and, and you’ve got a tight schedule… don’t you have to hurry…”

“It’s just a bit of a detour.
And since I have such a long way to go and so much to do, I need you all the more.”

And, no matter how tight my schedule was, there was no way I could leave her behind.

My first precious colleague in this world.

I’d become a true-blue shounen manga character, it seemed.

“You’re coming with me.
Not just to Eastland.
To the Tower of Adventure… to the very top.”

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