"I can't believe we're doing this!" Kazuma complained for the tenth time.

"It's an emergency quest from the guild," Darkness said. "If we refuse it, we'll be expelled."

"I've heard some good things about Langyon," Kazuma muttered.

"I know how you feel about her, Kazuma." Darkness said hurriedly. "But she is still a fellow adventurer. You'd want to help anyone else in the guild who was kidnapped wouldn't you?"

"Probably," he admitted. "Anyone but her."

"Kazuma, she helped save Axel. She also resurrected the entire guild except for our party."

"Why does everyone keep bringing that up?"

She frowned at him. "Kazuma…"

"Look, I get it already. I can understand being in someone's debt and feeling like you owe them. But why us? Why me?! If everyone else loves her so damn much, why do they expect me to be the one to save her sorry ass?!"

"They asked us because we're the best," Megumin said with a smug grin. "We're the strongest party in Axel. Who else would they trust to take care of such a dangerous mission?"

"Dangerous?" Kazuma rolled his eyes. "We're not taking on a cyclops or exploring a dungeon here. It's two guys on horseback. Any halfway decent party could handle this."

"There are two assailants that we know of," Darkness corrected. "Despite her unfortunate delusions of godhood, she is still a level twenty-seven archpriestess and an important figure throughout Belzerg. There's no telling what powerful enemies she could have made."

"Great, this might actually be dangerous. That really makes me eager."

"We're getting paid," Megumin pointed out.

"Yeah, a whole whopping hundred thousand eris. That's nothing!"

"Is money the only thing you care about?"

Kazuma turned to stare at the little witch.

"Right," she grunted. "Forget I asked."

"The payment is just a courtesy," Darkness insisted. "What is important is the general obligation we owe to all our fellow adventurers in the guild. It's a matter of honor!"

"Honor?" Just saying the word aloud left a sour taste in his mouth. "You think I care about honor? I'm sorry, have you met me?"

She sighed and shook her head. "Kazuma, I know what a savage beast you are, but I also know that you're a good person."

"He hides it well," Megumin mumbled.

Kazuma sent a well-earned glare that made her quickly look the other way and start to whistle.

"Hey, I know I'm a good guy. But there are still limits, and Aqua hasn't just gone past them, she's over the horizon at this point."

"After what happened in the dungeon, I'm well aware of her faults. Truthfully, I don't really like her either."

"The why-"

"But no matter what she has said or done she is still a fellow adventurer, and there are hundreds alive now who would not be if it weren't for her. Surely all that counts in her favor?"

He let out an annoyed groan. "Why do you always have to pick the most inconvenient times to make sense? Ugh, fine, we'll rescue her sorry ass. But I swear if she starts whining and complaining we're ditching her in the woods."

"Understood."

XXX

Earlier…

After being guilted into accepting the rescue mission the situation was laid out.

"We have a report that the kidnappers left a few hours ago heading north," Luna said.

"Oh, what a terrible shame," Kazuma said fighting back a grin. "But if they're on horseback, how are we supposed to catch them? Darn it all."

Luna sighed. "Kazuma, please take this seriously."

"Fine, fine, but if they've got a head start of hours on us how exactly are we supposed to catch up to them?"

"They're headed north, but if they have Aqua tied up to the back of a horse, they'll definitely avoid the main road. There's a secondary path though that most people avoid because it runs through monster territory. If they're going north, they'll almost certainly take it."

"All right, but even if we know which way they're going that still doesn't help with catching up to them."

"Actually, the road goes past a small hill called Ogre's Elbow. You could teleport there and be in perfect position to ambush them."

"Ugh, fine I guess," Kazuma looked over to Megumin. "Teleport us there so we can get this over with."

The explosion loli shook her head. "Sorry, I've never been. I can't teleport to a place I haven't visited."

"Oh no, what are the odds? Gosh darn it. Curse my awful luck. So, who wants another round?"

"Kazuma," Luna spoke as a vein in her forehead visibly throbbed. "Please stop treating all this as a joke."

"What do you mean? I'm devastated." He was waving to the bar for another mug.

"There's someone who can use teleport who I happen to know has been to Ogre's Elbow."

Kazuma paused mid wave and his smile melted away. "Oh… thank Eris."

And so, they had ended up at Wiz's Magic Shop. The place was a bit different from the first time he'd visited it with Darkness. About three quarters of the inventory was HeroMon cards and merchandise. The walls were covered with posters advertising HeroMon. Most of the posters were of Iris, but there were a few depicting the card images of a Crusader, a Crimson Demon Clan Archmage, and a Handsome Adventurer mixed in.

Wiz did still sell items for adventurers, magic users, and other customers, but due to limited shelf space was forced to only put out items that actually sold. So no more portable toilets or enchanted back scratchers. Though Kazuma noted the shelf with unmarked explosives was still there. Because of this her shop was often filled with customers and, despite Wiz's best efforts, profitable. So, when Kazuma and his party arrived Wiz was more than happy to help them.

Kazuma handed her a silver coin. "Here's the usual fee for a teleport spell."

"Hey," Megumin grumbled. "How come you pay her for teleport magic but not me?"

"Megumin," Darkness frowned. "We are a party and share all the rewards and spoils equally. You shouldn't ask to be paid for a spell when it is helping us complete a mission."

"I just think it's a little bit unfair, that's all."

"You want me to pay you for using teleport?" Kazuma asked. "That's fine. But if that's how we're doing things I'm charging you a transport fee every time I have to carry you on my back."

"Er, forget I said anything."

"That's what I thought."

"Actually," Wiz spoke. "You don't need to pay me. I'm happy to help you rescue Aqua free of charge."

Kazuma shook his head. "Nah, keep it. I don't expect people to work for free. Besides, Luna already said the guild will compensate me for any necessary costs and expenses. Just be sure to write me a receipt."

"Of course."

Kazuma eyed Wiz closely. "You know Aqua's been kind of busy lately. She said there's an undead hidden somewhere in Axel and that she's not going to rest until she finds and purifies it."

The color drained from Wiz's face. "R… Really? She s… said that?"

"Wait, did I say lately? I meant weeks ago. It was while she was getting hammered one night. I'm sure she's completely forgotten about it by now."

"Oh! I see!" Wiz let out a relieved breath.

"Uh, huh," Kazuma nodded and said nothing else.

XXX

Wiz began casting. A circle appeared beneath the three of them, In the next moment Kazuma, Darkness, and Megumin were standing on the top of a hill somewhere in the middle of nowhere. At the base of the hill was a rutted dirt road.

Kazuma organized the ambush. Darkness would hide behind a boulder near the bend in the road. Megumin would be with her to give support if needed. Withoutblowing everyone up. Kazuma was sitting on a branch up in a tree, bow in hand. He would signal to his teammates when he spotted the kidnappers and if there were more than two, he'd relay the information. He was in a perfect sniping position. If things went well, he could kill the riders without them ever knowing he was even there. If they were too powerful for that, or there were too many to take out quickly, the three of them would launch a surprise attack with arrows, sword, and magic.

Sitting up in the tree Kazuma had some time to think.

If he were being honest. Really, really, really honest he didn't want to see Aqua suffer. Much. She'd already gotten her comeuppance and been through a lot. She had definitely had a hard time ever since Mitsurugi died, and while people still couldn't completely see her as the horrible selfish brat she was, at least no one admired her anymore. So far as he could tell, while there were still plenty of people who felt grateful, no one actually liked her or wanted to spend time around her unless absolutely necessary. Having been alone he thought that a pretty fair punishment.

It wasn't as if he wanted her to be killed or tortured (well maybe just a little bit, but nothing permanent.) Truthfully, she'd done enough for him when she brought back Timothy and Katrina. He no longer felt the need to get back at her and make her pay for abandoning him and treating him like crap. If she completely disappeared from his life until the day, he decided to go after the Devil King that would have been perfect.

The thing was he was never going to like her. Ever. She was a whiney, greedy, conceited, self-centered bitch who didn't give a damn about anyone except herself. There was nothing there to like. Complete and total indifference was the best she would ever get from him, and every single time she demanded he help her it made his blood boil. If things were reversed, he damn well knew she wouldn't lift a single finger for him (or anyone else) unless it was to make money, receive praise, or get attention. In one way or another everything Aqua did was for her own benefit. He absolutely despised her and didn't think anything could ever change that.

So, it really did piss him off that he was the one dragged into this. There were over a hundred adventurers who owed their lives to Aqua and felt indebted to her. Yet somehow, here he was stuck up in a tree waiting on her poor kidnappers to show up. It felt like the universe was a mean high school girl sometimes.

XXX

It was getting on towards noon when Kazuma spotted a pair of horses coming down the road. Since they had no hostile intentions, they didn't trigger his Detect Enemy ability. He used Farsight to get a better look. Sure, enough it was the two guys he'd noticed entering the guild hall last night and tied up like a saddlebag to the back of one of the horses was a struggling blue haired lump. It was both a relief and a disappointment.

He went ahead and used Identify to get some idea of how dangerous these opponents were. When he saw their stats, he was honestly amazed. He couldn't believe it.

"You have got to be kidding me," he muttered.

This called for an immediate change of plans. Kazuma put away his bow and hurriedly climbed down. He then signaled for Darkness and Megumin to come out of hiding and join him.

"Is something wrong, Kazuma?" Darkness asked as she hurried to his side.

"Yeah, you might say that." He picked up a couple pebbles and walked out into the middle of the road.

"Hey, what are you doing?" Megumin called out.

The girls made to come over and join him, but we waved them both off. They heard the hooves thundering on the ground. Then the two horsemen came into view. When they spotted him, they pulled up.

"Who are you?" The lead rider demanded.

"Snipe. Snipe." The pebbles flew from his hand and nailed each kidnapper square in the forehead. They both toppled from the saddle unconscious. "Tie them up."

He barked his order to Darkness but didn't even look at her. He stomped over to the second horse where Aqua was bound and squirming like a worm on a hook. Leaving the ropes be he yanked down her gag.

"Kazuma! You came to rescue me! I knew you would! I never doubted it for a second. I knew as soon as you found out-"

"HOW?!" He yelled cutting her off. "How the hell did you manage to get kidnapped by a level four tour guide and a level three shop owner?!"

"What?" Megumin said. "These guys aren't even bandits or fighters?"

"That's right," Kazuma confirmed. "They're civilians with zero fighting ability and they somehow managed to take down a level twenty-seven archpriestess. How did that happen exactly?"

Aqua's cheeks blushed, and she looked embarrassed. "Ah, they sort of took me by surprise since I know them."

"Wait, you know these guys?"

Aqua nodded. "That's right, this is Maz and Felger, they're my followers and members of the Axis Church."

"Hey! She's right!" Megumin pointed to one of the men on the ground. "I recognize him, he got choked out that time Mitsurugi came to recruit us."

"Oh, you're right," Darkness agreed. "I didn't notice since his face isn't purple now."

Kazuma took a slow deep breath. "Let me get this straight. You got kidnapped by two of your own worshippers?"

"Heh, that's right. It's actually a big misunderstanding. You see… mmph?!"

He shoved the gag back in her mouth and slapped the horse's flank as hard as he could sending it charging into the woods. He could clearly hear Aqua's muffled screams.

"Kazuma!"

Darkness chased after the horse as Kazuma imagined feeding the blue haired pest to a giant toad.

XXX

Author's Note: I would like to announce that I have opened a P*atreon page. Any of you who would like to support me in my writing please visit P*atreon and search for Nelson Chereta. Please help me to continue sharing my twisted sense of humor with unsuspecting vic- readers.