A knock on the door, light, but persistent. I open my eyes, still drowsy from the first good night of sleep I had in a while.
Navi’s clock signals noon. I smile, thinking about the straight fourteen hours that I spent sleeping.
Well, my body needed some rest, after all.
Having allocated all my points from the recent level up, I drifted into proper, good sleep for the first time since I’ve set foot into Sendria.
<<I’m coming down!>>
I shout while suppressing a yawn. Man, I feel still sleepy, that sensation when you oversleep and yet you feel even more tired than when you went to sleep.
Before going downstairs, I do a quick trip to the bathroom. After refreshing my face a bit, I head down.
The others are already awake, and they’re sharing lunch, sitting at the large table located in the kitchen. The only one that is not here is Dahl, since he’s still in the Healer’s care. After all, his injuries were no joke, and he will need some days before the Healers will let him out of the Hospital.
Sluggishly, I take a seat at the table.
<<Morning? It’s noon already. Damn, you like to oversleep huh?>>
Retel teases me a bit, while sipping a bit of wine from his cup.
<<Hey, aren’t you a bit too young to drink that?>>
I retort to him. Still, he’s underage, right? Even in this world, letting someone his age drink alcohol should be prohibited.
<<Oh shut up! We’re celebrating right now!>>
He raises his cup, spilling a bit of wine on the table.
<<Cheers! For our first successful Dive in that hideous place!>>
Well, he is right. Although, I am more interested in the food rather than drinking wine right now.
The meal in front of me is something wonderful. Far better than the things I prepare, for sure. And I have the “cooking” skill, so…
As I take a bite from the meat served in my plate, I mentally praise the old man’s cooking prowess.
He’s still in the back of the kitchen, tinkering with stoves and ingredients.
<<Hey, Heod! What are you cooking in there?>>
I ask him, but the old man denies my curiosity.
<<Oh, just wait…you’ll see when it is ready>>
What he brings back, is one of the most delicious cakes I ever tasted.
We stayed there, enjoying the meal and taking the time to catch up a bit with Heod.
He wanted to know what happened inside the Dungeon, all the details of the battles we fought.
From his part, he shared how his alchemy shop was faring during our absence. It seems that his potions are selling well in the city, and he has already made a name for himself.
<<Soon, I will need to hire some new people and open a stall in the Central Marketplace. You know, I’ve received a good offer for a collaboration with my shop. Soon, I will move the business from this house, and I will have a proper laboratory. You’ll see, this old man will make you never worry about money in your life!>>
The man himself seems really pleased with how good his business is doing, although, it seemed like he’s a bit troubled by something. It could just be my imagination, after all.
<<Oh, that reminds me…we found a lot of ingredients there in the Dungeon. You might want to see them>>
After lunch, I head to the old man’s laboratory in the basement.
From my Inventory, I unload the ingredients from the Dungeon. Heod sorted through the ones he requested, while some of the plant samples from the sixth level were unknown even to him.
<<Hm, I will need to study these later. Say, Roshal…what are you going to do next?>>
<<Well, first off I need to visit the Guild building and drop some things there. Then, I need to go to the armor shop, and perhaps to the Hospital building to visit Dahl>>
<<No, I meant in general. You know, you mentioned that you would like to take some time off from the Dungeon, after all. What are you planning to do, and how long would you like to stay in the city?>>
<<Hm…I haven’t decided about it yet. Two weeks, perhaps? I need to consult the others, see what they would like to do>>
<<Can I give you some advice? Take your time. Right now, you’ve grown incredibly fast by fighting in that place. Yet, you still lack something, all of you. Both as individuals and as a group. If you want my honest opinion, you should take at least a month to sort out things, learn some new tricks before you decide to head in the Dungeon again>>
The old man has a point there. I myself was thinking about something like this, take a pause from the Dungeon and focus on honing our skills here, without having to risk our lives everyday.
I part from him, still thinking about what he said.
A bit of proper training will be beneficial to us. I remember that the Guild gives out free courses an training to adventurers, while more advanced training courses cost a pretty sum of money.
Well, the old man said to not worry about money, since he will take care of it for us.
Of course, we can have our own funding, from the loot we obtained during this Dive we will probably gain quite a good amount of money.
First things first, I need to go to the Guild now. I will worry about what to do in a later time.
The girls went out on their own, taking the day to do some errands and spend some “girl time” on their own.
Levia seemed particularly glad when Marica asked her. The old man was almost moved to tears, seeing his little girl head out with a human friend for the first time.
I usually do not give it much thought, to the fact that Heod, Retel and Levia are from a different race. But for them, who tasted discrimination from who knows how much time, it is something to cherish when people treat them as equals, as friends.
<<So, shall we go to the Guild?>>
Retel distracts me from my thoughts.
<<Sure. We need to drop by the armor shop after that, and then we meet up with the girls and head to the Hospital. Do you want to stop anywhere else on the way?>>
<<Nah, I’m ok. Maybe later, after we deal with business first>>
We go towards the Guild building, chatting about small talk on the way there.
<<So, what would you like to do from now on? The old man suggested we take a bit of rest from the Dungeon for a while. What do you think about it?>>
Retel ponders a bit to my question.
<<I wanted to ask you the same thing. All that happened in there, it made me reflect on some things. Sure, we won, and we got stronger. But, that’s just counting levels and skills, right? I don’t know about you, but I would like to properly learn how to fight. I was a bit pissed off when Dahl called me an amateur the first time, when he criticized my moves…but, after thinking about it, I know he was right. I mean, I know how to swing a spear around and lift my shield up, but…>>
<<Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. I too have the same feeling, that somehow I am still lacking on several aspects here. After all, what am I doing in battle? I use my skill, and that’s it. Maybe it will be the right choice for us to stop a bit from going inside the Dungeon, and focus on some real and proper training for a while?>>
As we head towards the Guild, we continue speaking about what to do in the near future.
<<And…why haven’t you spoken with her about it?>>
Retel blushes, blabbering some excuses. It makes me laugh a bit, and it only makes his blabbering worse.
<<Relax, I don’t think it will go that badly. Just go and speak to her. Invite her somewhere, maybe buy some pretty things as a gift>>
Before we realize it, the Guild Headquarters stand right in front of us. We drop the talk we’ve been having, and I feel like Retel took a sigh of relief.
<<Well, let’s get on with it>>
I open the large, wooden door. Stepping inside, we’re welcomed by one of the receptionist.
As I look around, I notice that the building is almost empty, only a few adventurers are in there.
<<It looks like we got lucky this time. No line, and almost all receptionists are free>>
Retel smiles, heading towards the reception desks.
Greeting the female receptionist, a blonde woman with freckles and light green eyes, we make our official report to the Guild.
After taking care of the paperwork, we ask her about selling the materials we got from the Dungeon.
Of course, I will not sell all the loot and materials we obtained. Some of them, I have them promised to the old lady’s armor shop. The rarest ones, we will keep them for ourselves, while the rest I will split in two, and sell them to the Guild and at the Central Marketplace.
But, what interests me the most right now, is seeing if there is a reward for the Champion and Guardian monsters we’ve slain.
The receptionists points us to another desk, situated in the back part of the building.
Entering there, the strong smell of blood and animal envelops the air. At the counter, a rough looking man is weighting some monster parts on a scale, while some adventurers wait in line.
<<So, with this and the skins from before…I’d say ten gold coins>>
As the man gives his price, the adventurers make a sad face. Perhaps they expected more from the monster parts they brought back from the Dungeon.
Still, without protesting out loud, they accept the money and head away from the building.
Another adventurer party advances to the counter, delivering their bounty of bones, teeth and monster shells to the old man.
We’re standing in line, behind another party.
Waiting for our turn, we look around and comment about the things exposed in this shop. This counter serves adventurers, selling and buying monster parts. It also is the place where you can exchange proof of having taken down a Champion monster for the appropriate reward.
The middle aged man at the counter calls for the next in line.
This time, the adventurers make a ruckus out of the price that the old man offered. One of them even takes out his weapon, trying to threaten the receptionist.
The old man crosses his large, muscular arms. His face is not showing anything but disappointment towards the adventurers.
He cleans his hand on the white, blood stained apron that covers his large belly.
<<Huh…you never learn. I’ll say one more time. These are the prices here. The items you brought, are only low level materials from the easiest floors. And this is the best price for them you’ll get in all Sendria. Now, for the last time. Stop being childish, take the money and get the fuck out of my sight>>
His deep voice resounds in the air. Despite him being visibly angry, the receptionist is trying with all his might to sound gentle to the protesting adventurers.
<<Tch. As if we’d settle for this measly amount of money, old bastard. Nevermind the price for this loot, give me all the money you have here>>
Nearing his face to the receptionist, the protesting adventurer points his dagger at the man’s throat.
The others behind him have also taken their weapons in hand.
<<Well, it looks like words do not work with scum like you. Whatever>>
Lifting his shoulders, the old man looks like he’s giving up.
The leader of the protesting party seems pleased by what he’s seeing. Strangely, none of the people working behind the counter seem to do anything about this situation.
Almost as if they do not even consider this a dangerous situation, they simply gave a sorrowful look to the adventurers, and then resumed their work.
The receptionist smiles.
In a flash, the adventurer that was threatening him flies off, crashing to the wall with an unpleasant crackling sound.
He screams, lifting up his arm.
It is broken, bent in an unnatural direction.
The other adventurers look at their leader, before they charge towards the counter.
Again, with a movement faster than my eyes could see, the receptionist takes care of them.
Five crashing sounds, and now six voices are screaming in pain from the floor of this building.
<<Martha, take these rascals out of my sight please. Next!>>
A girl comes out from behind the counter. Smiling, she grabs the rebellious adventurers by the collar, all six of them, and drags them away from the building.
As I look at her, I notice that the girl’s level exceeds fifty.
The receptionist himself, he’s at level sixty-five. Definitely not a match for those adventurers, who could not reach his level not even if they combined all theirs.
A bit scared by him, I greet the receptionist.
<<Oh, new faces. Well, I hope you enjoyed the show from before, and learned from it>>
He smiles, but his eyes are a bit cold.
Definitely a scary man.
<<Yeah…you don’t often see a man breaking six arms in the blink of an eye. I am impressed>>
Retel praises the receptionist with sincere admiration.
The man laughs, a hearty, bellowing sound.
<<Heh, scum like that are not even worth my time,lads. You know, once I was an adventurer like you…>>
Please, don’t say that you took an arrow in the knee…
<<Then I got married, and I retired from the field. Now, I manage this place, since this damned Guild could not let me go. Well, my name is Rupert, Rupert the Rock as they called me back then>>
<<So, mister Rupert, I am Retel and this one here is my friend Roshal. We would like to sell some materials, and also…>>
Rupert’s eyes widen as I empty my inventory in front of him.
<<Wow, it has been ages since I saw one of those skills. It surely is convenient eh?>>
He praises my Inventory, smiling.
But his expression slowly turns into surprise, and then astonishment.
<<You…how? This much materials, and all in pristine conditions. And wait, these are…lads, did you bring the heads, also?>>
I nod, and take out the heads of the Champion level monsters we killed.
<<So, Silverback, Serketh and Shartu. All three of them…another party brought back Elthor, the Champion from the eighth level…but to think a group of youngsters like you managed to take out those three in a short amount of time>>
His mouth was about to fall off when I presented the Guardian’s head.
<<Even this one…lads, I am impressed>>
Incredulous, he looked back and forth from us to the materials, then to our Identity stones. In there, there was recorded the duration of our last Dive.
Usually, a party would take at least four days to clear levels beyond the fifth one, even more for the successive ones.
The tenth level was especially rough for newcomers, and since our party registered to the Guild less than two months ago, we’re basically newcomers to the Guild’s ranks.
One of the other workers comes near the counter, and whispers something to Rupert’s ears.
He looks at us again, and a wry smile opens up in his face.
<<Oh, so you are those guys. Well, Telesia did speak about some youngsters with peculiar circumstances. Huh, I thought you lot looked different. Wait, there should be more of you, right? Two girls and that little brat, Dahl…where are they?>>
We share the whereabouts of the other members. Rupert seems saddened to hear that Dahl was injured.
<<So, he’s at the Hospital right now…well, I’ll pay him a visit later. Now, let’s get to business>>
As he did for the other adventurers, Rupert weights all the materials we brought back.
The corpses from the monsters have already been dismantled by my skill, so he does not need to take the corpses apart himself.
<<Huh, you surely made my job convenient boys. Well, definitely a lot cleaner>>
He laughs again. Definitely, he feels like a fine person. As he does his work, separating the monster materials, weighting them and registering them, he shares a bit of his old stories from the time he was the one slaying the monsters.
Since the materials we brought were a large amount, we had the occasion to talk with Rupert for some time.
His stories are really interesting, and none of them feels like the empty boasting of a retired adventurer.
He even claim to have fought against a Dragon, and I totally believe him.
<<Damn, that beast was the foulest thing I ever set my eyes upon. It smelled of sulfur, and its roar made me literally piss my pants. That was one of the turning points for me, lads. When we fled from it, we lost two thirds of our party. Only me, my wife and two others survived, from a party of twelve adventurers well over level fifty. Our leader was level seventy-six, and he got munched like a snack by that overgrown lizard>>
<<So, how high was the Dragon’s level?>>
Retel asks, leaning on the counter.
Rupert turns around with a dramatic air.
<<It was level one>>
Without a word, he turns back to his work.
<<You’re kidding right? Level one?>>
Retel is incredulous about Rupert’s words. I too am surprised by what I heard. First, Dragons do exist in this world. Well, it is a fantasy world, so it’s only logical that they exist here, if logic can even apply to this place.
But the most shocking part, was about the Dragon’s level.
<<Lads, let me get things clear. Level is not an absolute. Sure, it’s a measure of power, but it can be tricky sometimes. What really counts, are skills and stats. So, a level one with good skills and stats can easily beat a level ten with sub-par abilities. And, when it comes to Dragons, they’re naturally born with the strongest skills and ridiculous stats. Many adventurers lost their lives, thinking that just because their levels were much higher than the Dragon they dare to face, they could have an easy time against it. If you want to know more about those beasts, I believe there’s something in the Guild’s library>>
We continue to chat a bit whit Rupert.
He finishes inspecting the materials we brought, and he writes the sum for them on a sheet of paper, stamping it with the Guild’s seal.
<<Here. It’s better if you take this to the Treasury, instead of taking the coin with you. It’s a fine amount, mind you, and it comprises the rewards for these beauties here>>
Pointing at the heads of the Champions and Guardian we’ve slain, he gives us a big smile before sending us off.
<<Take care, lads. And drop by sometimes!>>
As we head out of the building, we pass to the main reception desk to ask the Treasury’s whereabouts.
The receptionist gives us direction to the detached building. It’s near the main building, in a side alley.
We exit the main building, heading out in the street again.
Levia and Marica were waiting for us outside of the Guild, since we took too much time to sell our loot and they already finished their tour of the city.
Together, we head towards the Treasury.
On the road there, we share with them what happened during the afternoon.
The Treasury is a luxurious building, which shows the opulence and wealth of the Guild. Inside, the marble floor is adorned with mosaics representing warriors and monsters.
The receptionists there all have a professional and dignified look, and the adventurers waiting in line all have splendid armors and the aura of strength around them.
A familiar voice beckon to us as we stand in line.
<<Oh, look who’s here>>
Telesia herself greets us. Surrounded by attendants that scurry behind her, carrying packs of documents while showing a concerned and frustrated expressions while they try to get the old lady’s attention.
We greet her, telling her what business brings us here.
With a wink, she guides us to a private office, raising some mumbles of protest from the other adventurers in line.
<<Oh shut up you lot!>>
She snaps at the adventurers, bringing silence again in the large hall of the Treasury.
Inside the small private office, a receptionist takes care of the sum we’ve come to claim. Instead of paying us upfront, she makes us open an account in the Guild’s bank.
With this, according to the receptionist, we’ll be able to deposit or withdraw money just by presenting our Identity stones to the counter. Definitely more convenient than having all the money with you. Well, not that something like that is a problem for me, since I can store the money into my Inventory after all.
Taking advantage of the situation, I immediately deposit some of the funds I had in the Inventory into the Guild’s account.
The receptionist makes a surprised face, while Telesia smiles to us.
<<Well, aren’t you full of surprises…>>
She beckons the receptionist to speed up the practice, and then she basically drags us out of the office.
<<Now, follow me>>
Unable to deny her request, we follow the Guildmaster into her own office. The place is a mess, with documents scattered all around without any sense of order.
It would give nightmares to my old boss and his OCD.
That thought makes me chuckle a bit. Well, it’s also because we’ve made a huge profit today, and we still have some loot to sell.
Telesia cuts straight to the point. She wants to hear the details about what happened with Dahl and me on the sixth floor.
<<I already asked Dahl what happened, but I would like to hear your version too>>
And so, I tell her about what happened in the flower field, when Dahl attacked me under Alvares’s spell, and how I did unravel the magic cast on him and me both.
<<Hm. I see. But, you’ve been a bit too naive, Roshal>>
She flicks her fingers, and around me, for a brief moment, purple snakes coiled around my body manifest.
<<You did not break the spell on yourself. Even with Dahl, I had to ask for the help of a close friend to actually break the spell on him. Alvares is one of the strongest magicians in Sendria, perhaps the strongest one. There’s no way someone of your level could have broken free from his spell>>
My face pales as she tells me so.
I really thought that I had somehow broken the spell, but I was mistaken.
<<Still…why make me think that it worked?>>
<<Perhaps he wanted you to lower your guard. After all, he’s using this to spy on you. If he wanted you dead, if he really wanted something like this, I think nothing would stop him. Oh, do not worry. In here, his spell does not work, so we can have a little chat. And, let me reassure you, his spell does not have any harmful effect>>
Telesia continues, explaining how the situation in Sendria is right now.
According to her words, more and more scouts from Aldora have been spotted in Sendria territory. But that’s the only movement their troops have shown so far. Even the attack on Nudria has been the only offensive action they had taken towards Sendria’s territory.
<<It’s like they’re waiting for something, and we do not know what they’re waiting for. I have some suspicions, however. But, without any kind of proof, I cannot do anything about them>>
She shares some more details about what is going on in Sendria. She seems worried, crushed by the heavy implications of some of the recent happenings.
Well, what she says is really something to lose your sleep on.
Besides from the movement of Aldora’s scouts, there is also the matter with the Triumvirate. Alvares is behaving more and more aggressively during the Council reunion, and he’s pressing the other members of the Triumvirate to make his own law propositions pass.
Criminal activity is spiking in Sendria, and people are demanding the Army to take matters in hands.
<<In a normal situation, this would be something disadvantageous to Alvares. But, there are strong suspicions of him being the one behind the underground activities in Sendria. More than suspicions, it’s certain to me that he’s the one holding the reins here, but without proof I cannot bring him down after all. Still, he’s the one causing the problem, while he holds the solution in hands. Soon, the criminal activity will become too much, and the Triumvirate will be forced to call for martial law in the city. It’s inevitable, and I have the strong feeling that Alvares will use that opportunity to deal a blow against the Guild. Perhaps, he has already a plan to pin some false accusations to us>>
The news she’s sharing to us make me worry, but I do not understand the reason why she’s sharing some delicate matters to us.
First, even if we’re registered to the Guild, we are in no position to hear some delicate state matters. And, as she said before, I am still under Alvares’s spell. So, there is a high probability that, no matter the precautions she took in here, Alvares might use me to…
<<You’re worrying about that? Well, it is considerate of you, but I have my reasons here. And, I already told you to not worry about that spell. Nothing I will tell you here will reach Alvares, of that I assure you>>
Right. I forgot that she’s a mind reader, after all.
<<As the reason why I am sharing things with you…well, let’s say that I plan to make use of you lot. Oh don’t make that face. Of course I will use all my assets against that old bastard, and you are one of those assets. Right now, my most trusted parties are busy doing some secret operations all around the territory that Sendria manages. Mostly, we’re doing sabotage and intel gathering, but we’re stretched thin here. What I want to say is…I will rely on you, in the future. And, in order to do that, I will need you lot to be informed first, and then to grow a little bit more>>
She ends her sentence with a wry smile.
This woman is scary…
She talks some more about the current situation in Sendria, about the Guild and whatever is goig on behind the scenes.
In short, Alvares is the biggest threat to Sendria, and the Guild itself. Even more than Aldora, since Alvares could easily strike from inside Sendria. Telesia even hints at some suspicious rumors, about Alvares being in contact with Aldora itself.
According to her, he’s using his influence to destabilize Sendria, while using money and coercion to take total control of the Council, effectively ruling out the other two members of the Triumvirate.
But, he is taking his time, in order to not stir things too fast.
<<In two or three months, however, he will make his move. I know it, and I am preparing for that. Along with you, I am raising some promising individuals. It’s some kind of a private army of the Guild. Of course, every notion about it is kept in secret, so do not go blabbering anything about it>>
She winks, and then she hands out to each of us a bundle of paper.
<<There, you will find your first orders an assignment. Relax, right now you’re way too weak to be of use in the field. What I will have you do, is a hellish training course for the next two months. But, before that, we will take care of your Rank Up>>
Again, she gives us her smile. It could even look the amiable smile of an old lady, but her eyes betray the sly intelligence behind that smile.
I look at her, puzzled by her words. The others too look like they did not understand the last part of her sentence.
Telesia sighs, while holding her head with one hand.
<<So, you lot don’t even know about this, right? Well, I expected this from the otherworlder but…>>
<<Wait how do you…ah, mind reading. Of course>>
I jumped up from my seat when she said that word, but then my reasoning clicked in. If she can read minds, of course she would knew about my circumstances.
This woman is not scary, she’s terrifying…and I fear that we’ve been caught into something far greater and dangerous than anything we’ve faced before.
<<Hey, what is this “rank up” thing that you mentioned?>>
Retel asks Telesia a question, his tone being a bit rude to the old woman.
She sighs again, and begins explaining about it.
<<All of you, you already surpassed level twenty, right? It should be common knowledge, but once you break past level twenty, it is possible to undergo a special ritual, that will reward you with something called “class”. By ranking up, and receiving a class, your stats will go up and you will gain new skills in accordance to the class awarded. So, we will have you all undergo the rank up ceremony>>
I ask Navi to confirm Telesia’s words. The Navigator explains the process, using almost the same words that Telesia used.
Unfortunately, according to Navi I cannot “rank up” normally. She tries to be evasive about it, but my own “rank up” will happen in relation to how many trials I manage to pass.
Leaving me outside of the picture, the others will be able to have a significant increase in their power. Which is a good thing.
Still, Telesia says that the “rank up” will be held when Dahl will be discharged from the Hospital.
She makes a sad face when she mentions his injuries, looking like a loving grandmother for a small moment.
The impression around her disappears, when she orders us our new training schedule.
To all of my companions, she appointed a specialist from the Guild. Retired adventurers, who were the best in their specializations when they were still active.
I do not know if I should feel honored for this opportunity, or I should be despairing, since my plans about “some weeks of relax in Sendria” have just gone out of the window.
Well, looking at things from a different perspective, Telesia’s intervention resolved my doubts about what to do in the near future.
And it’s not like we could refuse her, after all. She did not make any explicit threat about what would happen if we refuse her generous offer, still, I can imagine how crossing her would be really unpleasant, and dangerous.
Well, I came here to Sendria in order to become stronger, and she’s basically serving that opportunity on a silver plate for us.
I will consult things with Heod first, however.
<<Oh don’t sweat it. I’ve already spoken with that grumpy old man>>
Again, the thought reading thing. Telesia hands me a sheet of paper. On it, there is a formal contract between Heod’s alchemy shop and the Guild.
<<So, the old man sold us…>>
<<It’s not like that. Well, I may have convinced him about the fate of his shop if he refused, and it’s all for giving you guys the economic support that you need. But enough of that. We were talking about your training…>>
She goes on, telling us where to find our new trainers and when to meet them. For now, before the rank-up, we will only have an informal meeting with them, and the true training will start after the rank-up ceremony.
Telesia dismisses us, turning her attention to the documents scattered on her desk. One of her attendants comes into the room, to escort us out of the office.
Still a bit shocked, we leave Telesia’s office, heading out to the armor shop to drop the materials they had requested from us.
Since we will be staying in Sendria for a while, we also decided to drop our weapons and armor for an upgrade. After all, when this “training” will end, we will need better gear to protect ourselves.
On the road there, we speak about the sudden development that happened with Telesia.
<<To think that she went and organized us this tight schedule…>>
Retel is mumbling, reading the papers that Telesia handed to him back in the office. To each of us, she gave instructions about the supposed training regime we have to follow.
A specialist from the Guild will train each of us, individually. For Retel, the retired adventurer that should be his new master is Rupert, the man we’ve met when we exchanged the monster parts.
Marica was excited as soon as she saw the name of her new master. According to her, she would be studying with one of the most famous magicians in Sendria. Among all of us, she’s the most eager to start this new thing.
<<I don’t know what to think about this. I mean, it’s somewhat a good thing, we will be able to study and learn from some strong people, but, I feel like we’re being trapped into doing this>>
Levia is fidgeting a bit with her hair, an habit of her. She does this whenever she’s feeling a bit anxious.
<<Well, no point in overthinking about this. I think that, all considered, this will be a good opportunity. I mean, usually you would have to pay a pretty sum of money to get this kind of specialist to train you, right? And, we did come here to get stronger, for how empty that goal sounds. If we follow what Telesia said, we will get stronger, and with considerably less risks than just strolling down in the Dungeon>>
Levia nods and smiles to Retel’s words. But, no matter what her brother says, she seems like she’s not really sure about what to do.
Even I am a bit conflicted about all of this. I am angry at Telesia, she basically pushed her agenda on us, without even bothering to ask first.
Seriously, my experience with the Guild and the people managing it is a bit too much convoluted for my tastes.
They made a good first impression, feeling like a competent organization. Then, that matter with the trial happened, and they decided to kidnap me. And now, this development with Telesia.
To think I was getting ready to have two weeks of relax in Sendria…
We finally reach the old lady’s armor shop.
As we enter, her young assistant greets us, before she strolls to the back room, calling her grandmother.
Helena peeks out of the curtains that separate her shop from the back of the building. From the looks of it, she was working on some project right now, judging from the smears of oil that are on her face.
She smiles at us, and comes forward in order to properly greet her “dear customers”.
<<So, back from that funny place, aren’t ya? Well, did you bring the materials I asked?>>
To her request, I respond with a nod. As I take out the materials from my inventory, she makes a pleased expression, examining them with quick glances.
<<Good, good. Hm? You even brought back some materials from Champion monsters? How thoughtful of you!>>
Her eyes sparkle as she looks at the rare materials. In particular, Shartu’s hide is catching her attention.
But, as she browses through the items…
<<Say…where did you find that?>>
She’s pointing at a small knife I have, hanged to the leather belt I am wearing around my waist. It was one of the experiments I did with my crafting skill.
<<This? Oh, I made it myself>>
She gestures me to give her my knife. As I take the weapon and present it to her, Helena practically snatches the item from my hands.
She is gazing at the small knife, running her fingers on the blade and handle.
<<Boy, do you have a crafting skill?>>
She asks while staring at me.
<<Tch. Damn cheaters…and here I thought that you had actual talent with crafting. Oh well. So, did ya come here just to drop the materials? Or do ya need something else?>>
As usual, she’s a bit rude, but there’s no denying that the items she makes are pretty good.
I leave the armors and weapons to her, asking Helena if she can strengthen them.
<<Hm. Yes, I can modify the armor, although, if you really want something more performing, it would be better if I craft some new sets altogether. For the weapons, it’s the same>>
We decide for the new items. She will base them on the old design, using improved materials for both armor and weapons.
Helena goes through each of us, asking which kind of equipment would suit us better, which modification she should do to the armor and such.
Like we agreed on the first time she made items for us, part of her payment will be in monster material from the Dungeon.
After giving her an advance payment for material costs and small expenses, we head out of her shop.
Having taken care of the armor business, we set out to the Hospital.
The building is near the entrance to the Dungeon. It’s a bland building, with a single wooden sign that explains its purpose.
Many people can be seen entering and going away from the building. Visitors, probably, here to have some news on their acquaintances that are being treated in the Hospital.
Inside the building, the air is filled with a strong smell of alcohol. It’s nice to know that, even in this world, they’re using something like a disinfectant in an Hospital.
The inner ambient looks clean, with white being the dominant color all around. Medical personnel can be seen all around, scurrying from room to room.
Right after the entrance, we find ourselves into the waiting room. At the center of it, there is an information desk manned by a young female nurse. She’s wearing a white, large robe. Slightly chubby and short, she has light brown hair and a gentle smile.
The nurse greets us, asking what business brought us here in the Hospital.
With her, we go through the necessary paperwork to be able to visit Dahl.
When she’s done, she calls another nurse. The new nurse guides us through the patient’s rooms, pointing the one where Dahl is resting.
The room is small, with a clean appearance and a large windows that lets daylight in.
Dahl is laying on a bed, reading a book.
We spend some time there, just talking about some small things. I am being a bit quieter than usual, since hospitals always had a bad effect on me. I do not know why, even in my old world, I always felt an unpleasant feeling while visiting a sick friend in hospital. Probably the strong smell of disinfectant, or something more profound, like a mental association between that place and sickness, suffering, it always made me feel strange about it.
Nonetheless, I try to endure the sensation.
Dahl is feeling significantly better now. He should be able to be discharged tomorrow, since his recovery has been much faster than anticipated.
<<It’s good that you’re feeling better but…your skill is really dangerous. Please, do not use it anymore>>
Levia voices our doubts. To all of us, it was a shocking moment, seeing what that skill could do. A double-edged sword, that could easily kill.
<<Yeah. The Healers said that I really did risk too much. Thankfully, I managed to level up after the battle, and that repaired a bit of the damage done by the skill. That, and your efforts, have saved my life>>
He makes a sour expression, perhaps blaming himself for this situation.
Well, there was no other option in that moment, and it all played well in the end.
We try to cheer him up a bit, and we stay with him until visiting hours end. The nurse comes back, inviting us to leave the room.
Parting from Dahl, we exit the room.
After our visit to the Hospital, we decide to stay out for the night. I contact Heod to let him know that we will be eating dinner outside.
The old man sounds a bit disappointed, and he recommends us to be careful.
He really sounds like a concerned grandfather.
From the Hospital, we head to the Central Market. In there, we spend some time loitering around, doing our first “touristic visit” of Sendria.
The central road, and the plaza where the marketplace is, are full of people. Tourists, but also locals and adventurers, all of them busy in their activities.
Food stalls and restaurants are open, almost all of them full of people. Sendria is really lovely at night, almost a different place than what Telesia has told us before. We stay out for a bit, without even catching a glimpse of disorders or criminals around.
To be fair, we just spent our time in the rich portion of the city. Perhaps, in the poorer quarters the situation is different, like in all cities.
We spent a nice evening, having a relaxing walk out for the first time since I came to this world.
After we head back home, I spend some time with the old man. To him, I tell everything that happened during the day. He apologizes for the matter with Telesia, saying that he signed the contract thinking about our future.
Well, I understand what Heod thought in that moment, but I would have appreciated if he told us about it.
After apologizing, the old man gives me his thoughts about the matter with Telesia. Reasoning with him, he makes me see the potential opportunity that lies in this situation. To learn from some of the best adventurers, it’s a rare opportunity that should be treasured. Even if Telesia herself is just using us to her advantage.
However, he is concerned about the situation of Sendria as a whole. He too has caught some rumors about the Underworld of Sendria beginning to stir. And, around the city, there are hushed rumors about people disappearing, and scouts from Aldora being seen in the outskirts from time to time.
We speak some more about the current situation, what it could lead to. The prospect of a war between Aldora and Sendria is a scary one, without any doubt.
It would be best to leave the city as soon as we can, but that would mean losing the shop and the Guild’s support.
<<Well, Telesia was sure that Alvares would not make his move until two or three months right? W can start to make some preparations about it. Although, I really doubt that the Guild would let us go. And there is also that matter with Alvares. I’m still under his spell, after all. Who know what he will do if I leave the Guild’s protection>>
It’s surely a complicated situation right now, so much that is making my head hurt. Seriously.
I part from the old man, heading to my room for the night.
Unlike last night, my sleep is agitated, ridden by nightmares.
As the new day comes, we all head out to meet our respective trainers.
To me, Telesia has assigned a specialist from the Guild. I have to meet him in the Archives, a detached building from the Guild Headquarters.
The others will head out to different part of the city, since the various specialists are scattered in all buildings of the Guild.
Retel will go to the monster part exchange building, since he will be having lessons from Rupert.
Levia is supposed to go to the Hospital, while Marica is also going to the Archives.
Retel gives me a jealous look as I head out with Marica. Well, to be fair, since yesterday I have been trying to support him in his “battle”. Although Retel himself seems oblivious about it, Marica does have feelings for him. It’s just that Retel does not make his move, and neither does she.
Well, they’re young, and this is probably the thing called “first love” for both of them.
Of course, I cannot criticize Retel’s behavior with women, since in my old life I was pretty clumsy with them. To the point of being ridiculous, sometimes.
Not that right now I am any better…
Still, during the walk towards the Archives, I talk with Marica about a few things.
First, she apologized again for the matter with the Guild, when she reported me. Hell, I lost the count of how many times she did apologize.
I can see how she still feels guilty about it, since the treatment that they gave me at the start but…well, it’s all in the past for me.
No point in dwelling about it. I decided to forgive her, focusing on what good she did to me instead of the one bad thing.
As we walk, I begin to stir the conversation towards her considerations about Retel. She blushes a bit when I mention him.
I tease her a bit, pondering if I should already tell her about what Retel feels for her. In the end, I decide to desist about it. It would be better for both of them if they talk with each other, without me meddling into things. It will make them grow.
Well, that does not stop me from praising Retel with her. If I can manage to win him some points, why not do it?
As we arrive to the Archives, we need to part our ways.
Her tutor is waiting in front of the building. I expected him to be an old man, the classic appearance of a magician, with a long, white beard, staff and pointed hat.
Instead, the adventurer that should look after Marica is a woman. She looks no more than ten years older than Marica, perhaps even less.
Her appearance makes me wonder why she’s retired, but, as she turns around, I realize the reason.
She’s missing her left arm, cut to the shoulder. Her left cheek is scarred, ruining the beauty of her face.
Perhaps, she noticed me staring at her scars, as she starts glaring at me.
<<It’s rude to stare at someone else’s scars, don’t you know?>>
Her voice is cold, almost as her blue eyes.
<<Sorry. I have been rude, and I apologize for that>>
After my apologies, I introduce myself out of courtesy. Well, I already made a bad impression on her. Way to go, Roshal.
I leave Marica and her new teacher, heading into the Archive building.
I expected to see something impressive in here, like vast rooms stuffed with columns of rare tomes and scrolls, but the reality of this place is a bit underwhelming.
It looks like the place itself is in the middle of reconstruction, with large black stains on the walls and floor.
No trace of books, or scrolls.
As I look around, a bit disappointed, a hand taps my shoulder.
<<Roshal? Please follow me>>
It’s one of Telesia’s assistants. She beckons me to follow her, and I abide.
<<This place is like this because of a recent fire. It happened three months ago, and destroyed the vast majority of our tomes. It was a shame, all that knowledge lost in a moment>>
She sounds sorrowful as she speaks. Well, I can imagine why she is. After all, seeing those books become cinder must have been terrible. Perhaps, there were some lives lost in the fire, too.
As we walk in the Archives, I see how extensive the damage was. Beautiful murals that adorned the walls have become charred black, lost forever. The same goes with the books that should have been there, some of the furniture that housed them still visible in the rooms, or at least, what is left of it.
Blackened, broken pieces of wood, stacked in the corners of the rooms, left there after the fire that devastated this place.
The damage becomes even more as we head further inside the building. One room in particular is in terrible state, completely blackened, the ceiling broken, collapsed as the fire raged into the room.
Perhaps, the fire originated there.
<<We’ve arrived. Please, go downstairs to meet your new instructor>>
I part from Telesia’s assitant, heading down the stairs into the ruined room.
There is nothing there, besides the thrashed and burned wood, leftover from the recent arson that destroyed this place.
<<Great. Now I have to wait in here>>
Minutes pass, without anything happening inside the room. No one is passing by, the only sound in there being some distant voices from other parts of the building.
Bored, I look around, trying to imagine how the place would be at its best conditions, without the charred spots on the walls. When the fresco paintings on the walls were still fully visible in all their glory.
Perhaps this place had been full of people, all of them reading the stories and knowledge hidden inside dusty tomes.
Of course, none of that remained in the room, being now empty and ruined. A sad ending for a place of knowledge.
<<Yes. It is indeed sad>>
The voice comes from behind. I sigh, without turning around.
<<Hello again, Telesia. Or, should I call you Headmaster?>>
She surprised me, appearing from nowhere. Again, someone managed to get near me without alerting my detection. It’s fine since Telesia does not harbor any ill will against me, but, it’s worthless to possess a detection skill if it fails like this.
<<Well, that will be part of your training. Now, follow me. And no, I will not stop reading your mind>>
I immediately close my mouth, as I was about to ask her to drop this mind-reading shenanigans.
Seriously, this old lady terrifies me.
She takes out a Transfer Orb from her purse, activating it without a warning.
Unlike the ones I’ve used before, this orb transfers us instantly, without any pretty light or strange effects.
<<Where are we?>>
She smiles, in her usual wry expression.
<<Can’t you tell? Feel the mana here, Roshal>>
The Dungeon. The flow of mana here is unmistakable but…it’s much more dense than the what I remember, so much that it makes breathing difficult.
Wait, don’t tell me…
<<Yes. This is far below any floor you’ve managed to reach. Few people know of this place. Officially, no one ever reached this depths. This is Mahal Dungeon’s last floor, Roshal. A saferoom, to be precise. Well, not even I can be safe against the things that dwell on this floor, so I had to take some unorthodox measures in order to bring you here>>
She claps her hands.
<<Well, I’m done here. See you around, Demon Lord>>
And with that, she disappears.
<<You’ve got to be kidding me!>>
I shout at the empty air where Telesia was. What the hell is happening here?
Did she set me up? Trapping me here after she separated me from my companions. Of course she has, and I did fall in her trap like a damn idiot.
<<So, you’re the one that Telesia mentioned…>>
A man is now inside the saferoom with me. Once again, Navi’s detection does not show anything.
<<So, who might you be? And what the hell is that old hag thinking, leaving me here?>>
The man sighs, scratching his beard before he answers me, as if thinking the appropriate answer.
<<First, never , ever talk about Telesia in that tone. She’s a wonderful person, and I will not tolerate some random brat badmouthing her. Second, she begged me to take you as a disciple, so try and be more grateful to her, next time you see her. And third…>>
The atmosphere around him changes, literally. It’s like gravity itself increased in the room, forcing me on my knees with tremendous pressure.
My ears feel like they’re about to explode, and I cannot even breathe, crushed by the pressure.
<<You will address properly to me. Understood?>>
He releases whatever the hell he was doing, and the place turns back to normal.
I cough, gasping for air.
Who the hell is this monster here?
<<Now, your name>>
He offers his hand to help me get up.
He helps me get on my feet, basically lifting me up without much effort. He’s almost as tall as me, a bit short for a grown up. Black hair, and an unkempt beard grows around his thin lips. His nose looks like it had been broken at least a dozen times. Brown eyes, and a plain face that makes him look like the most common person.
His appearance is the exact opposite of the power he just showed.
<<Well, Roshal. My name is John Howards. Now, stick to whatever I tell you, and…wait, why are you looking at me like this?>>
John Howards. A name so different from those of this world, almost as if…
I hesitate a bit, staring at him before I ask him the crucial question.
But, should I ask it bluntly? There is a possibility that his name might just be a coincidence after all, or some invented name.
Perhaps, I should be indirect here, maybe dropping some reference during conversation, something that a normal person should not be able to understand.
In the end, I choose to be direct.
John’s eyes widen in surprise, as I ask him my doubt. Again, he strokes his beard, pausing, weighting his words before giving me an answer.
<<Ah, Telesia…you’ve really found somebody else. Yes, boy. I come from another world>>