Author by Zerb
A year had already passed since that incident. Things were still mostly the same in this world. Adventurers were corrupt. Though, to be specific, the Adventurer’s Guild was corrupt.
Only about half of the adventurers truly knew the nature of the guild. And only a third of those adventurers were part of it’s corrupt dealings.
Nobody could stop them. The Adventurer’s Guild was already too influential– At least, that’s what most people who knew about it had thought. Though, reality was far different.
A figure stood just outside a guild hub. Furious glowing eyes gazed at the entrance of the hub. A slender gauntlet grabbed onto it’s shoulder.
“Finally found you” a voice from behind said.
A lady wearing a white coat reinforced with pieces of armour stood behind the figure. Her silver eyes seemed to glow under the moonlight.
“Are you done scheming yet?” she chuckled.
“Does it always look that way?”
“You look like you’re scheming majority of the time I look at you.”
The figure tapped it’s mask. “Either way- I’m ready to go when you are.”
“Yeah. It’s getting cold out here, so let’s head in.”
With a nod, the two walked towards the entrance, passing through the gently falling snow. Few were present on the streets. Of course, that alone wasn’t unusual at that moment.
Langite, the town they were in, was a fairly peaceful merchant hub. Quests were slightly scarcer than the border towns. Though, it did offer better rewards due to the better economy. But even so, less quests overall.
As the lady was about to push the door open, two spears emerged from her flanks and blocked her path. The two men to her side stared at her as their spears held firm.
“Oi, look at this lovely lady.”
The lady glanced at the two. Her cool, silver eyes seemed to captivate the guardsmen. On second glance, her entire presence was actually beautiful.
“Oooh, a new pretty face eh?” The guard looked at the lady from head to toe.
“You’ve got a nice lady with ye sir.” The guardsman grinned at the figure before turning towards the lady. “Don’t assume you’ve a pass with you, eh miss?”
One of the guards held out his hand, gesturing at the lady for a pass of some sort.
In most other places, a pass would never be needed to simply enter a hub. In fact, most of the facilities that the guild officially uses are paid for by quest fees. Or, at least that’s how it was supposed to go.
“…”The lady pulled out a steel card, almost at the same time as the figure behind her did so as well.
“That’s not what we meant” the other guardsman chuckled. “If you’ve no pass with you then you need to pay th-”
“Wait.” The guardsman inspecting the I.D slapped his partner’s hand away from the two in front of them. “This one’s-…”
The other guardsman leaned his head forwards and looked at the I.Ds. The guardsmen’s eyes widened. As if they’ve seen something even more dazzling than the lady before them.
After a few moments, they looked at each other. Before turning their attention back towards the two. Their expression turned stern and serious.
“Well, is there a problem?” the figure said.
Adventurer cards detailed a few vital information within them. A few pieces of that information piqued the interest of the two guardsmen. The highest class of quest that the person has completed and the highest class of quest they can take. In the figure’s card, as well as the lady’s, those two specific information were both at Class 1. The highest class quests that are on par with official orders from royalty. At least, that’s what the Class 1 ranking meant on paper.
“Hmmm, no- nothing would be the problem.” The tone of the guards had become cordial. “The two of you can enter this hub if you wish.”
The two spears parted. The guardsmen nodded in unison. A crooked smile showed on their face as the lady and the figure walked into the hub. Perhaps it was due to the lady’s beautiful face, or perhaps it was due to some other reason.
Inside the hub, adventurers were sat down, talking or maintaining their equipment. Others were lined up at the quest board, while a few were talking with guild workers. As typical of most guild hubs.
“So, the informant wasn’t lying when she said this place was under a clan’s territory. Though it was dodgy to begin with, seems there’s some merit to her words” the lady whispered.
“Seems so. But even still, don’t let your guard down. This is a merchant hub, doubt they’d let a big asset go unprotected.”
The two walked slowly towards a guild receptionist. The atmosphere felt relaxed, similar to a club. At it’s core, guild hubs were simply places where people could request to hire the help of adventurers for almost any task. In exchange for having a large pool of adventurers to advertise to, as well as connecting an adventurer with a contractor, the guild takes part of the reward as a fee.
“Those three, the ones with the heavy plate armour, take note. Seems that at least half the place is already on their side” the figure whispered as he looked around the hub.
“Plate armour- and that one’s armour is impressive.”
The two were referring to a group of three that stood out among the others. Near the quest board, three adventurers that half the people seemed to avoid while the other half seemed to respect and praise. All three wore plate armour. That alone was a sign that they were veterans as plate armour was an expensive equipment to obtain.
Though, that wasn’t the only thing that stood out-
“-beautiful, look at that lass ov’er there-”||“-out of our league that one is-”||“-I’ll wager you thirty coin that she won’t even look ou-”||“-m- mother?-”||“-take you on your wager-”||”-her companion looks-”
The voices of the other adventurers weren’t exactly loud, but they weren’t trying to hide anything either. The blatant praises paired with the eyes that glanced towards the lady-… was simply ignored by the two.
“Probably the clan leader here. Though I can’t be sure just yet.”
“Leaders of the pla-”
“Oi look-” one of the adventurers yelled.
A large man wearing plates of armour, seemingly in a drunken daze, walked just in front of them and tripped over. As he was about to fall onto the lady, the figure stepped in between the two.
The area just around the figure distorted. It seemed as if reality itself was being warped, or, at the very least, light was being distorted. It was accompanied by a deep sound. It lasted only a fraction of a second and occurred only where the figure was.
In that instant, the figure held the man up with a single hand. A feat that wasn’t easy considering the weight difference between the two.
“W- whoa, s- *hic* sorry bout’ that gov’nah” the large man uttered as he stumbled back onto his feet. “I- I apologize me mate’ I- I lost me balance there!” he added as he looked at the figure.
A bit of his beverage had spilled over onto the figure’s coat.
“M- Mate, I’ll make it up to you! H *hic* how bout a drink or ten! On me” the man excitedly asked.
“It’s fine- I’ll have to pass. I appreciate the offer, this is a place to relax after all.”
“A- Yeah-. I apologize again! Ah’ll keep me eye- *hic* open more” he said as he waddled away in the direction of the three armoured men.
The reason the figure had no problem lifting the man was simple.The figure was a magus. In this world, magus were people who have Catalysts that allow them to use inhuman abilities. The distortion and the deep sound that just occurred was one of the signs that a magus had activated their Catalyst.
Around them, however, it seemed that very few people noticed. It wasn’t because the figure was being subtle about it, but rather, the activation of the Catalyst was short and hardly noticeable. Only people who were paying attention would actually be able to notice it in most cases. It didn’t help that atmosphere in the hub was fairly rowdy and focused on the lady.
“-oi oi, that man just stood up to-”||”-give it up, that lass’ taken it looks-”||”-Hah, give me my coin, ye lost the wager-”||”-n- not my mo-mother”
Still, the voices were ignored by the two.
“I guess this hub isn’t as weird as I thought… still drunkards around” the lady chuckled under her breath.
“Does that part of it ever actually change wherever we go?”
“Not really- I guess. Oh, and thanks for that, bit unnecessary, but appreciated.”
“I know you didn’t need it- but still” the figure nodded as they reached the receptionist’s counter.
The receptionist was in a separate room along with a dozen other receptionists that was connected to the main room via a barred window. As most guild hubs can become rather rowdy at times, the bars were meant for the safety of the hub staff.
“Hello-” the receptionist paused. “Newcomers, ah, if you’d please go to the one over there then, she’ll be able to assist you much quicker than me” she gestured towards the other receptionist.
There, a receptionist who seemed much more mature was smiling brightly at the two. As if subliminally asking them to come over.
“Ah, Welcome! I haven’t seen either of you here before” the receptionist said with a bright smile on her face. “Ah- if you’d like a quest, there’s actually a quest that might interest you! Aside from that, would you two have any concerns that I can address?”
The receptionist kept her posture and formal mannerisms in check to a much higher degree than the other receptionist.
“Yes, I’d like to look at the available quests past Class 3 and up to Class.” The figure pulled out his I.D and slid it forwards.
“I’m with him, so no worries about me~”
The receptionist paused for a moment as she looked at the data on the card. Just like the guardsmen on the outside, her eyes focused onto the class information on the card.
“I- I see! Well then, please wait one moment-”
She smiled before pulling out a book with a dozen bookmarks slipping out in between the pages. After opening the book, she flipped through a dozen pages before laying it down onto the counter and offering it to the figure.
In this world, quests were separated into classes from 6 to 0. Among them, 6 to 4 were public quests that were fairly easy and were posted on boards. Class 3 to 2 were for harder quests that only those who are qualified can accept, and thus they’re kept behind a receptionist. Class 1 quests involve high risk quests or high urgency. There are other exceptions as well, but in general it’s extremely rare to find a quest outside of the 6 to 0.
“Here are the quests from Class 3 to 1. As you may know, this area’s fairly peaceful, so the selection might not be as abundant as other hubs. But please take your time.” The receptionist smiled. “Any assistance we can get is appreciated after all.”
It was less than two pages, only a handful of options to pick from. But, even so, the figure took a moment to read through everything.
After a period of silence, the figure pointed at a specific quest.
“We’d like to take this quest here. It seems to be the most suitable for us to take.”
The receptionist’s eyes followed the figure’s arm, down towards where it was pointing. Class 2 Retrieval : Moonlight Roses.
“Class 2 retrieval? T- Are you sure? I don’t mean to pry, but wouldn’t a hunting quest or extermination quest be better?” The receptionist pointed at a different quest listing. “Especially with your rankings.”
Indeed, retrieval quests were usually tedious and the rewards were relatively small. Though, it was also true that retrieval quests were much less dangerous compared to other quests.
“Ah, our rankings aren’t much to be honest. We specialize in retrieval quests as well, combat isn’t really our forte” the figure chuckled.
“As embarrassing as it sounds- wait, you don’t need to tell everyone that” the lady followed up.
The receptionist’s eyes glanced at the equipment of the two. Light armour paired with little to no place for weaponry. She turned her eyes away for a moment, similar to the man from earlier, in the direction of the three armoured adventurers.
“I- I see, well that’s nothing to be ashamed off. Even if it is a retrieval quest, it’s still somewhat dangerous” the receptionist chuckled. “Is there anything else I can do for the both of you today?”
The receptionist wrote a few lines into the book before giving the two a metal card. Unlike the adventurer I.D, this card was a quest card. It was a system that prevented quest stealing. The figure took the card and placed it into his pocket.
“I’d also like to stay for one night. Room for two. If that’s not possible, one would be fine as well.”
The figure looked at the lady who had a cheerful smile on her face.
“Oh, and no need to worry about expenses.”
“Ah, yes, if that’s what you wish, then certainly.”
Afterwards, the receptionist had prepared some paperwork and received the payment before giving the two directions and the keys to their room.
As the two walked towards the stairs, one of the plate armour wearing adventurers walked up to them. Unlike the other two who were still sat in their seats looking in their direction, the one who stood up had armour that was incredibly thick. It was to the point that no normal human would be able to stand upright in it, let alone move in it.
The only way he could was because he was a magus as well. Among magus, the most common type of ability that a Catalyst would give their user is simply increased strength and speed. That was most likely the type of Catalyst that the person in front of them had.
“Nyahahaha- are you two alright, I hope that he didn’t scare you off” a burly voice said, coming from the hulking armour.
“Ah, if you mean him, no need worry” the figure turned it’s head towards the drunk man who was happily passed out on a chair.
“I see, I see, well I guess you wouldn’t be called adventurers if that alone managed to scare you off from a hub.” The hulking man began to pat the back of the figure in a friendly gesture. “My name’s Ragna. I’m part of the group that controls-…er-… frequents this hub. Are you two here for any specific business? Maybe the both of you are looking for a group to join?”
“No, nothing specific really… Just passing by.”
“Hoh? I see. So that’s how it is. Well, I hope that everything goes fine, just be careful of crossing into some areas around here, aye?”
“We’ll try not to, but you know how it is for us adventurers” the lady jokingly said.
Before the lady could even finish her words, the figure turned it’s mask towards the lady, it’s furious glowing eyes locked onto the lady’s eyes and made her instinctively jerk back and lower her head.
Ragna chuckled as he moved to the side. Once the two pass by, his welcoming expression disappeared as he walked back to the two armoured adventurers. All while his eyes were turned to the side, still observing the figure and the lady.
On the second floor, the ruckus was muffled.
“Should I not have said anything back there” the lady whispered. “I didn’t think you’d be so against a simple jab like that.”
“Hm? Ah, sorry. You’re fine. In fact, it was a good thing you said what you did. Not what I had intended, but overall it should be fine.”
“If that’s the case, you didn’t need to glare at me like that. Really.”
“I wasn’t glaring though-” the figure tapped his mask. “Well, at least not my actual expression.”
For a moment, the two of them had a dull, blank expression on both of their faces. Though, not that the figure’s face was visible.
The figure opened the door and both entered the room they were given. Though the figure’s expression was still hidden behind a mask, the lady’s expression glimmered at the sight of the room
The room they were given was large and even had a balcony. A bathroom was also connected to the main bedroom. Majority of the necessities that adventurers need were strewn around the place such as a weapons rack, armour stand, even a whetstone was provided.
“Whoa, this is a far cry from other guild hubs, even compared to inns this place is- wow. As expected from a merchant town. I wonder if this is how all their rooms are.”
“Not quite, the receptionist gave us the most expensive room when she saw our class ranking, well, I did tell her to not mind the expenses. Nor do I mind the luxury.”
“Hmmm~ Well, I guess so. Though, even if this is a merchant town, it is also fairly peaceful around here. You’d think that adventurers wouldn’t be in as high demand or on such a high priority to command this kind of luxury. Though- I don’t mind either to be honest” the lady chuckled as she sat onto the comfy bed.
“Like I said, this is an asset to the adventurer’s guild- a fairly big asset from what I know of- and that is why we’re here.
“Hmm, so- what’s the plan this time Arke?”
The figure- Arke- turned towards the lady as he pulled back his hood.
“We wait- The bait has already been set. It’ll take at least a few hours for the word to circulate- but shouldn’t take longer than tomorrow night.”
“The bait’s set though?” the lady was only half listening to Arke as she unzipped her coat and slid it off her arms, revealing her beautiful silky white skin.
The figure was now pacing back and forth. The armoured boots tapped onto the floor in a constant beat.
“Bait in the sense that they’re suspicious of us already. Though- not like we were subtle about anything.” Arke tapped his mask as he pointed towards the glowing circles. “They took a large bite onto our fake I.Ds quickly too judging by the reaction of the receptionist and the guards. I also gave them a bit of false information.”
“False information” the lady thought for a moment, recalling the events that happened. “Ah- so that’s why you said we specialized in retrieval quests.”
Arke lifted his hands in front of him, cracking his knuckles using one hand.
“Yes, that’s part of it. The other would be why I made a small show by stopping that fake drunk with only one hand. They probably wanted to know if either of us is a magus.”
“I see, I see” the lady’s responses were automatic- inorganic- templated- what have you.
“And thanks to that, they probably assume I’m a fortification magus. Oh- and your little joke earlier with that Ragna guy probably made him even more suspicious- the problem is not whether or not they took the bait.”
Arke had stopped pacing. The lady was sitting on the bed as she looked at Arke. She had already placed her coat onto the rack and was now combing her hair.
“Hm what is the problem then” the lady asked, even though it looked like she wasn’t paying attention, apparently she was.
“The problem is how they react. If they deem that we’re too dangerous, they’ll not even bother confronting us. If they deem that we’re harmless, on the other hand, they might not send the amount of people that I’d prefer. I tried to mitigate it by using the fake IDs saying we’re class 1. With that they should send at least three of their magus if they wanted to stop us. But that bit of false information about the retrieval specialization- that probably seeded some doubt into them.”
“I see, so they’ll probably begin to think “Were they really class 1? Were they really non combatants?” or something like that” the lady added.
“Yes. Perhaps they thought we were stronger than we wanted to show. That doubt would make them take more precautions. Or, at least that’s the plan.”
Arke raised his hand to his mask and pulled it off. The glowing eyes had dimmed to nothingness and it began to dissolve into black sand that fell from the figure’s hand and evaporated before it hit the floor. The gauntlets, armour plating and even the steel parts of the boots Arke wore also disappeared the same way the mask did.
“Though, even if the worst case scenario happens. In the end, Cyrille, we simply have to kill them all.”
“You psycho” The lady- Cyrille- added. A smile was on her face.
= = = = = = = = = = = =
Downstairs, Ragna, the leader of the clan that controls the hub, walked up towards one of the receptionists. The same receptionist that the two he had ran into earlier spoke to. Each step he took seemed to shake the very ground itself due to the weight of the armour her wore. Behind him, the two armoured adventurers followed. On paper, that was his adventurer party.
“Ah, Ragna, is there something you need at the moment? It’s a bit early to report for the day though.”
“Those two- the one with the mask and the pale lady- are fairly suspicious, don’t you think? What did they ask for here?”
“They didn’t ask for anything really. Rather, they just took a quest from us and asked for a room to stay for the night…” The receptionist’s voice slowly shrunk.
The receptionist’s eyes turned away from Ragna. He quickly noticed her reaction.
“A quest? Did they ask for anything specific or did they just take any quest that needed to be done?”
The receptionist hesitated for a moment. With a softer voice than before, she uttered,“Yes, actually, they did ask for a specific quest. They took the class 2 retrieval quest-”
Ragna slammed his gauntlet down onto the counter. It made a fairly loud noise, enough to startle the other receptionists and number of adventurers. At the same time, the two adventurers following Ragna had stood behind him and glared at anyone who looked at Ragna- intimidating them to continue on with what they were doing.
“What? And you let them take it!?”
“I’m sorry! I tried to insist that they take a different quest. It made no sense for them to take a class 2 retrieval quest at their rank, but that’s also why I couldn’t refuse them since they had insisted” her voice slowly got louder as she continued.
Ragna let out a sigh. There was no point in getting too angry at the receptionist in front of him.
“Quiet. Why couldn’t you refuse?”
The receptionist pulled out a book containing information about the two that she had written down earlier. Among them, their names and their class information as well as any notable things that she noticed. They weren’t the only ones in the book as well, there were dozens upon dozens of notes on other adventurers.
“This is the information I have on them. As far as I know, they’re both class 1. One of them is also a magus, that I’m certain of, but I’m not sure as to what kind specifically.”
The receptionist recalled the distortion from earlier, the Catalyst activating. Though, at that time she wasn’t paying as much attention due to her helping another adventurer and didn’t see exactly what happened.
“Class 1? So, they are part of the guild. Judging by their insistence to take this particular quest-…” Ragna glanced at the receptionist. “One of them is a fortification magus like me.”
“The one with the mask, right?”
“Yes, him. The other one, I’m not sure, but she doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem. Maybe his lover or something.”
“Oh, also, they did mention that they specialized in retrieval quests.”
Ragna paused for a moment in thought as he tried to rationalize the actions of the two. On paper, class ranks were a way of showing how skilled an adventurer was- but it wasn’t impossible for someone with no skill to simply bribe their way to a higher rank. It also wasn’t impossible for someone working for the guild to have a skewed rank.
“Shall I have one of our trackers follow them for the meantime just in case?”
“Yes, have three follow them separately
“Three? Isn’t that a bit much sir?”
Normally, a single tracker was all that was needed. Having more than one was actually counter intuitive in most cases unless the area they were in was a forest.
“No- I’m not underestimating them, it’s better to be safe than sorry with them, plus, if I’m right, they’re going to be heading into the ruins in the forest. That should be home field for our trackers.”
“I see, in that case…”
“Also, I’ll be going near the ruins tomorrow just in case. Gather up everyone by noon, and I mean everyone we have that’s able for battle. Do it as we usually do. If we don’t come back after those two leave and return, assume the worst and contact a messenger.”
The receptionist nodded and Ragna walked away along with his two followed. Behind them, an adventurer wielding a bow had approached the receptionist.
= = = = = = = = = = = =
At dusk, on the next day. The two stood just in front of a ruined archway. Just beyond it, the snow covered ruins of an old town. Nature had already taken back majority of the area. Trees already covered a good portion of the sky. It seemed serene, tranquil-… eerie… until a muffled roar emerged from within the ruined town. Oddly- the two didn’t seem to react much towards the inhuman roar.
“That sound. Doesn’t it sound like a beast, a Wyvern maybe” Cyrille said.
“Yeah, it’s a beast, though something sounds off, it sounds muffled. I doubt it’s a Wyvern though.”
“Now that you mention it, it doesn’t sound as sharp as usual. Maybe it’s in a cave or behind a hill?”
“Perhaps. I wouldn’t really be surprised if it’s in a building or something, but at the very least it doesn’t sound as clear as it should be. Looks like this isn’t going to be as easy as I wanted it to be.”
“Come now, worst case scenario, we can go all out. There should be little to no problem going all out in this ruined town- not like there’s a lot of witnesses either.”
“I’d rather not, but if it comes to that… well, it can’t be helped.”
Arke entered past the archway with Cyrille following behind. Around them, littered scarcely across the ruins, weapons of all kinds. Majority of them had already began to rust. Every now and then, a few pieces of armour would also be seen with the bones of their wearer still inside them. The buildings were crumbling, the ones that still stood were covered in overgrowth. Most likely the overgrowth was also the reason that those buildings still stood.
The two pass by a small clearing. It looked to be the town center, but due to the trees growing from it, it was much smaller than it probably had used to be. On the ground, tattered banners and flags covered in moss lay on the ground. While one showed faded colours of the royal army, the other was bearing the marks of an unknown liege.
Though, something was out of place the entire time. There were no bows anywhere, yet, somehow, arrows that looked much newer than the rest of the rubble were embedded into different areas. Like markings, it lead from the entrance all the way to a gate near the center of the town. The two had followed those arrows since the archway and had kept following it.
Finally. The two arrive at a chained gate. Signs and warnings were hung onto the chains. Just flanking the gate were bones of adventurers along with their old equipment. The muffled roars they had heard seemed to come from just beyond. On either side of the gate, a stone wall encircled the entire area that was behind it. A roar erupted.
“The beast is just across this gate. It’s- not exactly what I was expecting.”
“Not what you were expecting? What do you mean?”
“You’ll see. Also, seems that someone’s already got here before us. As expected.”
Arke pointed towards the chains. Looking closely, the chains had no snow on top of them, unlike everything else in the area. Even the arrows that the two had followed all the way here had a small amount of snow on them, yet, for some reason, the chains were completely clean- aside from the rust of course.
“Hm- that is odd. Well, on the bright side, at least it looks like your bait worked- they’re expecting us already.”
“Yes, they are.” Arke glanced around them. “We can’t be sure what kind of welcome they’ll give us, but at least we can count on them to give us some kind of welcome. So prepare for the worst.”
“So~ Do what we usually do?
Arke turned his head towards Cyrille and tilted it. “Huh- I guess so, yeah.”
For a split second, it looked as if the two became distorted. As if reality, or at least light, had warped and twisted. Once again, the deep sound of Catalysts being activated resounded.
“Well, I’m ready whenever you are.”
“Likewise~ shall we?”
The two looked at each other and nodded in unison before walking towards the gate. As they pushed each side, the rusted chains tightened and pulled at the door.
“Heave~ ho~” Cyrille jokingly added.
Finally, one by one, the rusted chains snapped, letting the gate swing open. Once they pushed it open, a mystical sight entered their vision. Dozens of blades and other weapons were stuck into the ground, like some sort of battlefield. Though, what caught their attention the most was what was in the middle of the room.
“T- that’s a-”
A thunderous roar pierced through the area.
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter