Chapter 6: Guild
A pair of hazel eyes pop open as Ralph is jolted awake by the dissonant clamor of dishes and the delicious smell of a home-cooked meal. Uncurling himself from the chair he had nestled himself into during the night, he stretches, trying to alleviate the stiffness in his body.
“When did I fall asleep last night…?” he asks himself.
Last night, he had bantered with his teacher for a few hours. Most of his interactions with her had been either authoritarian, instructional, or argumentative up to that point, so to have a lighthearted conversation with her was quite pleasant. He remembers slowly growing more tired, so he must have eventually fallen asleep. Peering over to the kitchen, he finds her, again, toiling to cook a meal, which appears to be just about ready, consisting of bacon, eggs, and a medley of fruit.
“Good morning, master,” Ralph greets, still stretching.
“Oh, good morning, you’re finally awake,” she responds, dressing three plates with food.
“I think it’s just that you get up so early,” he counters, noticing, after looking outside, that it can’t be long after first light.
“Nonsense. Five in the morning is a perfectly normal time to rise,” she claims, bringing Ralph a plate.
“I’ll take your word for it…” he answers as he receives his plate. “Should we wake Sylva up?”
“That’s what I intend to do. I think I’ll spoil her this morning and bring her breakfast in bed. I think it’ll annoy her…” she smirks mischievously, walking toward the bedroom.
As Ralph begins to eat, he hears muddled sounds of weak protest float out from the room, followed by mild tones of forced acceptance. After a few minutes, Nyx returns, sitting down on the couch to enjoy her own food.
“Master, aren’t you worried about your own house?” Ralph asks. “I mean, even though we were the only real bandit group, anybody out in the forest could stumble on it.”
“No, not really. I have an excellent security system, most of which I disabled to give you a more tailor-fitted scare. If anyone – or anything, for that matter – assails it, they will be dealt with handily. And, if by some ill-fated chance they aren’t, I will be informed to take care of it personally.”
“I see…” he says, turning back to his food, memories of his trauma souring the fruit to his palette.
Once the food is finished and the mess is cleaned up, the two re-equip what little they had doffed last night and prepare to leave after Nyx checks on Sylva, who, after thanking Nyx for the food, starts to protest the platinum bars. Not wanting to argue the issue, Nyx abruptly closes the door, avoiding the conversation for the moment. Ready, they take their leave, descending the stairs and exiting the now closed shop.
“Where are we going first?” asks Ralph, eager to find out.
“I would like us to register at the adventurer’s guild. It would behoove you to acquiesce to jobs to gain experience and improve your skills using my training, and it advantages me by allowing me to network and gain pertinent information. Tell me, is there a ranking system or appraisal of skill?”
“Yeah, they have 10 or so ranks based on your skill set, I think. Most of the adventurers the troop defeated were near the bottom of the rankings, but we were able to beat more powerful ones with our numbers and traps,” he intimates. “I don’t know how they earned their ranks, though.”
“Ha! I can see a low rank in your future, Ralphy boy!” she teases, secretly hoping she herself doesn’t have to needlessly climb from the bottom.
“You don’t need to tell me twice…” he agrees.
Eventually, the two make their way to the large barrack-like building that Nyx had correctly ascertained as the adventurer’s guild last night. Entering, the two are met with a lively scene. There’s a group of four poorly equipped men and women looking at job postings, a group of three collecting an award at the service desk, a large group in a mess hall making a din through the hall, another bunch inspecting the weapon shop, and other activity. Noticing a sign that says “Registration”, the two approach it and are greeted by a lovely young blonde woman.
“Good morning! Are you two looking to register with us?” she vibrantly asks.
“Yes, actually. How might we go about it?” responds Nyx.
“First, we’ll need you to fill out these forms…” she says, handing the duo a pair of forms, which read more like contracts. “Then, we’ll place you in the cue for examination. There will be a physical examination, a magical appraisal and a practical knowledge test to help us determine your proper starting rank. Today doesn’t seem to be terribly busy, so it should be fairly quick to get ready!”
“Alright, thanks, miss!” exclaims Ralph as he and Nyx go to sit and fill out the forms.
After filling out the forms, which came at some difficulty for Nyx, as some questions required knowledge of the world she does not possess, they return them to the woman, who thanks them and informs them that an examiner should be with them shortly. After about a half-hour, a large, rugged man approaches the pair, a grimace permanently affixed to his face.
“Are you the new recruits?” he asks them, curtly.
“We are,” Nyx responds, sizing the man up through his soul. From what she can tell, the man is a human, about 55 and of above-average physical and mental condition, with his strength and constitution being his strongpoints by far. He’s not quite at the level of Sylva, who is much more well-rounded, but he’s certainly no slouch. He glares at the pair with angry brown eyes, occasionally scratching his grizzled grayed beard.
“Follow me…” he grumbles, beckoning for them to follow as he begins to stomp to the back of the hall. Leading them out a back door, the two find themselves in what appears to be an outdoor training ground in the center of the building.
“My name is Grond. I’m the physical examiner. You will fight me using only physical attacks. No spells, no magic, no magic weapons. Choose any weapon or armor you want from this rack,” he says, pointing at a rack holding nearly every conceivable weapon and armor type. “The fight lasts either until one of us can’t continue or until two minutes have passed. You can forego this exam if you want. I’ll write you a recommendation based on your performance or lack of one. Now, who’s first?”
“Ralph, you go first. I want to see what you’re capable of currently. I recommend either a rapier or a scimitar. Also, put on some studded leather, and make sure to designate the sword you pick as your pact weapon,” lectures Nyx, sounding more like a mother than a teacher.
Following his master’s advice, Ralph dons the new equipment and stands opposite Grond, who wields a maul and wears no armor.
“Come at me when you’re ready, son, unless you want me to come at you,” he states, chortling a bit, obviously not taking Ralph seriously.
“No, I’ll start now,” Ralph responds as he runs forward. Upon reaching his foe, he makes a quick, fluid thrust, grazing the examiner, who barely dodges out of the way.
“Have I always attacked that well…?” thinks Ralph, noticing that the blade seemed to follow his gaze at the man.
Seemingly not expecting the quickness or skill of the strike, a look of mild surprise invades the grimace of the old man before he raises his maul into the air, preparing a vicious attack on the youngster. His bandit tendencies momentarily resurfacing, Ralph deftly rolls out of danger, disengaging just as the maul violently swings down where he once stood, hitting the ground with a sickening thwack.
“You move well, kid. You surprised me, but now, it’s game over,” Grond boasts.
“I haven’t heard a bell yet!” Ralph yells as he moves forward once more, steeling himself to attempt another strike.
As he had boasted, the man expects the speed and trajectory far better than before, nimbly dodging the strike, despite his size. Quickly, he whales on Ralph with his maul, who, though unable to dodge this time, deftly contorts his body to soften the impact. Noticing that the large man’s center of gravity is currently unbalanced from the swing, Ralph thrusts at his legs, hoping to slow him down a bit, hitting him. Wincing slightly, Grond seems to turn red, bellowing loudly at Ralph and raising his maul once more. Ralph, hoping to end the fight before another attack can be made, thrusts at Grond’s abdomen and connects, slightly puncturing Grond’s skin. Undeterred, much to Ralph’s dismay, Grond brings down his maul, causing Ralph to be blown back and fall to the ground. Groaning, Ralph tries but is unable to come back to his feet.
“Not bad, young man, but you didn’t have nearly enough striking power. You did do better than I thought you would, though. I’ll recommend you as Rank 9, Goblin Class. Well, little lady, would you like to go now?” he asks, looking over at the spectating Nyx.
“I demand that you recover fully from your battle with Ralph. It won’t be satisfying for me to defeat an injured opponent,” she commands.
“Ha! You’ve got guts… I like it. Sure, but remember that you asked for it,” he says, walking over to a small chest beneath the racks containing potions. Chugging one, the minor wounds from Ralph’s exam instantly heal, leaving him looking completely unblemished.
“Good enough?” he asks.
“Acceptable…” she condescends, removing the fell blade from her back and inspecting the weapon rack. “Any weapon from this rack may be used?” she asks, her eyes fixing on a halberd.
“Any weapon…” he confirms.
“Then, this will suffice. Come!” she shouts, provoking him.
“Can you even use something like that, little missy?” he asks, before charging forward, his maul gripped tightly in his grizzly hands.
Upon entering the reach of the halberd, Grond is surprised when a lightning-quick jab from the girl is launched into his right thigh. Losing his momentum and currently unable to move, he goes red again and lets out an earthshaking screech, directing it at Nyx. Unfazed, the girl lets loose three swift slashes of the halberd’s axe, inundating the angry old man with wounds. After, she skillfully flips the halberd about in her hands, using the butt-end to club his head before flipping it back and stepping away from the man, goading him into another charge. Too angry to think better of it, the man accepts the invitation only to find the speared end lodged in his other thigh, preventing his movement once more.
Just as before, the petite warlock slashes him thrice, but this time, the first slash aims to sweep his ankles as well. Failing to keep his balance, the berserk old man flails and falls prone on the ground, the other slashes and subsequent butt-end strike all connecting, one slash claiming a critical hit. This time, however, Nyx does not move further back. Stunned at the skill with which the seemingly frail young girl is dealing with him, he rises to his feet and goes into a frenzy, outraged at his inability to reach her. Recklessly, he approaches and attacks her with three fell swings. The first she dodges, the second she parries, and as he repositions to make a third attack, a twinge of pain in his thigh causes him to misjudge the swing and miss his target. How fickle you are, god of luck! Not missing a beat, the girl savagely swings the halberd thrice more, connecting with each slash. Striking true, she manages to maneuver the halberd for one more good chop, slicing Grond in the same throbbing section of his right thigh, making him fall to one knee.
“Argh! Stop the match! It’s my loss…” he submits, raising his hands in the air and dropping his maul.
“You handled my attacks quite well, barbarian. I’m impressed,” she praises, going to re-rack her halberd.
“That’s my line…” he gasps, his rage subsiding. “I’m going to recommend you for Rank 4, Vampire class, at least. You two can see yourselves back to the waiting area. The magic appraiser should be with you shortly. I need to take a breather…” he directs, panting, sprawling out on the ground.
Going over to collect her student, who has now risen from his heap, she helps him get off the ground and re-rack his borrowed equipment before they head back into the hall. Arriving back at the reception, the guild girl asks how everything went.
“Better than expected, actually…” says Ralph, still panting.
“About as expected,” says Nyx, unsurprised at either result. “You did well for your first fight as my student, Ralph, especially considering your opponent. You’ll improve quickly.”
“T-thank you…” he responds, slightly surprised at the praise he’s received.
After about fifteen minutes, an elderly woman approaches the pair.
“Are you the lovely couple that desires to join the guild?” she asks, putting on spectacles to get a better look at the duo.
“C-couple?!” Ralph exclaims, the word reevoking feelings he had been suppressing.
“We’re certainly not a couple, but we are those who would like to be appraised,” Nyx coldly responds, scoping out the new face’s soul. The woman, a human, appears to be in her mid-nineties. Her physical abilities, as her old age would suggest, range from average to poor, but her mental abilities are quite impressive, especially her intelligence, which matches even Nyx’s ability. Additionally, her magic power and knowledge are impressive, and Nyx is under the impression she is capable of casting 6th-level spells.
“Oh, silly me… these eyes of mine are beginning to fail me. My name is Ashley, darlings. Please, follow me,” the old woman giggles.
The two are led to the overhanging upstairs floor, where the woman maintains an office. The office epitomizes dichotomy, with one end of the room being spotless and the other being horribly disheveled. Sitting them down on the organized side, she pulls out a crystal ball from a shelf and places it on the table.
“Ok, dearies… this crystal ball quantifies for me the highest level of spell you are capable of casting. Please, one of you, hold out your hands and touch the ball with one and me with the other,” she says as she outstretches a hand.
“Go ahead, Ralph,” Nyx offers.
Taking up his teacher’s offer, Ralph grasps the elder’s hand with his left hand and the ball with his right hand. The crystal ball begins to glow, the light shifting shades and intensities until finally resting on a setting of both.
“Ah… I see… you’re only able to cast at the 1st-level as of now. Did you just recently gain your magic power, dearie?” asks the woman.
“Ha… yes, actually. I’ve only been able to use magic for a day now…” he admits, rubbing the back of his head.
“Only a day? How recent, even for a warlock! With what did you contract? Or are you not at liberty to say…?” she questions, giving him an out if he needs it.
“Tell her “a Hexblade”. I’d like to see what her reaction is,” commands Nyx telepathically.
“I’ve made my pact with a Hexblade…” he answers.
“A… Hexblade? I’m afraid I’m unaware of such a patron,” Ashley admits.
“Curious… so this world has no such beings? Or are they simply known by a different name?” Nyx thinks.
“Oh… I don’t know much about it, so maybe I’m just getting it wrong,” salvages Ralph.
“And my knowledge is not perfect, dearie, worry not. Now you, young lady!” she excitedly exclaims.
Holding out a hand for the elder and clutching the globe, Nyx watches as the ball begins to glow, shifting a far wider variety of intensities and hues than with Ralph. Taking longer, the ball eventually stops on an extreme luminosity, the color stuck on a deep purple.
“Oh! My word! For a caster of 9th-level spells to just come waltzing through my door… hoho! Are you this boy’s teacher, dearie?” she inquires.
“You are correct,” she affirms to the woman.
“Splendid! Splendid! Listen to your master well, young man! If you do, she will certainly show you marvelous things!” she shouts. “Now, shoo, shoo! I must make my recommendation letters! Return to the reception area, and the tester should be there soon.”
Leaving the room, the pair can still hear the old woman excitedly talking in her office, even when they return to reception.
“I take it she was impressed?” the receptionist asks.
“Very!” Ralph confirms.
After only about 10 minutes, a timid-looking, bespectacled half-elf approaches the two warlocks.
“H-hello! A-are you two the… the new applicants?” she bashfully asks, stuttering, her slightly disheveled auburn hair partially covering her glasses, hiding her avoidant teal eyes.
“Yes, ma’am!” Ralph replies, excitedly. Not expecting such fervor, the half-elf flinches and blushes before continuing.
Peering into the shy half-elf’s soul, Nyx infers her to be about 26, and she’s astounded to find, among a balance of above average ability, high physical strength and mental wisdom abounding from her being. Additionally, her magic ability, appearing to stem from a divine source, is quite high, with Nyx assuming she can cast 6th-level spells like the geriatric wizard.
“E-excellent… m-my name is Win-Winona. Could you pl-please f-follow me?” she directs, leading them down a hallway. Near the end of the hallway, she enters a side room containing several desks and chairs. Indicating for them to take any of the seats, she heads to a lectern, on which some packets of paper are resting. Taking three of them, she hands two of them to the seated pair.
“Th-this is the practical exam. Y-you’ll h-have an hour to complete it to the b-best of your abilities. You may begin in exactly five, four, three, two, one… g-g-go!” she shouts, stammering at the word go.
The test consists of fairly basic survival knowledge, weapon, armor and equipment use, nature and monster trivia, and spell lists. There are two small sections on geographical, historical and religious knowledge, which give Nyx some trouble, but for the most part, she thinks she did well. The steam emanating from Ralph’s head informs Nyx that he likely did not, however. Once time is up, the half-elf collects their exams and gives them some parting words.
“T-thank you for you c-c-cooperation. I’ll have these s-scored lickety-split to complete your rank placement port… portfolios! If you go back to reception, your p-placements should be ready within the hour…” she explains.
“Thank you, miss!” Ralph exclaims, causing the woman to blush brightly as she retreats to another room.
“Oh, gods, she’s so adorable!” he thinks, smiling brightly.
“So that’s your type, eh?” Nyx teases, noticing Ralph’s attraction.
“No comment…” he deflects, starting to walk back to reception.
“You two! Could you please come here?!” shouts the receptionist after the pair have waited for about an hour.
“I wonder if our registration finally went through,” ponders Ralph as he rises to walk over to the counter.
“Perhaps…” Nyx sighs, sensing trepidation in the girl’s soul as she follows.
“I have your placement right here, sir,” says the girl, handing Ralph a packet.
For surprising the physical examiner – a bit, anyway – having first-level spell ability and just barely passing the practical exam, likely by merit of his bandit days, Ralph was awarded with Rank 9, Goblin Class. Although he clearly expected this result, he can’t help but be a bit downtrodden.
“Oh, don’t feel bad about your placement, sir! You did well to get Goblin! Many people can’t even do that!” reassures the receptionist.
“Don’t worry about it, miss…” Ralph responds unconvincingly.
“Is my registration not yet complete?” asks Nyx, impatient after being kept waiting for so long.
“Ah… that’s the main reason why I’ve called you over… the branch master would like to have word with you alone in his office. He said it had something to do with your results. His office is at the end of the second-story hallway. He should be there waiting for you,” she relates.
“How bothersome…” Nyx sighs, beginning to walk towards the staircase. “Come, Ralph.”
“Oh, no, miss, I’m afraid he was very specific in wanting to talk to you alone… If possible, could Mr. Ralph please wait here for the moment?” the guild girl asks, almost desperately.
“If that is what the guild master desires… You don’t mind, do you?” she asks Ralph.
“Goblin…?” sighs Ralph, focused entirely on his placement papers.
“You don’t mind,” she states, turning away and continuing to the office.
Meanwhile, in the branch head’s office, four figures, three with which we are already familiar, are engaged in heated discourse.
“You know what it means to beat me so soundly, Lucas! I can’t let her be ranked any lower than “Vampire”!” shouts Grond, the grimacing barbarian examiner. “I couldn’t even hit her once, and she was using borrowed equipment and no magic!”
“Not only that, Lucas, dearie, she’s capable of casting a variety of ninth-level spells! And, her magic power was so powerful… the pressure was magnificent! I could barely contain my excitement, old as I am! Hohoho!” Ashley the wizard exclaims. “If I were a few decades younger, I might’ve asked to be her student! How I envy that young man who accompanies her…”
“A-and… she scored quite high on… on the test as well, sir. She’s… quite kn-knowledgeable, although some of her history and geography was a bit… l-lacking,” Winona the half-elf expounds.
“Alright, alright, you guys have made your point!” a handsome human man shouts, one hand on his head and one fidgeting on his desk, upon which he is currently sitting. His silver hair, neatly combed over, glistens in the sunlight pouring in from the window behind him, and his astute amber eyes stare at the trio before him in frustration.
“I’ve asked the receptionist to direct her up here… What you’re telling me and the information she provided on her registration form just don’t add up, so I’m going to have a chat with her to clear up some things. Then, I’ll provide her with a placement. I understand the excitement about our branch possibly recruiting such a powerful asset, but I demand to know what I’m getting myself into… Acceptable?”
“Alright…” the three meekly reply as someone knocks on the door.
Nyx loudly knocks on the door, wanting to quickly have her talk with the branch head, believing she’s been held in the guild hall long enough. She can hear heated conversation from the room, and she feels the familiar presences of the three examiners in the room along with a new presence.
The presence feels like a male human in his late twenties. A divine power radiates from him, just as one did from the half-elf, but this one feels slightly different, likely stemming from a different deity. All his attributes are above average, with his intelligence and dexterity being his weaker areas, and his strength, constitution and charisma being his strongpoints. His spellcasting ability is also quite impressive, for what appears to be a paladin, with Nyx extrapolating an ability to cast 4th-level spells.
“Ah! Please, enter!” the new presence shouts.
Accepting the invitation, Nyx opens the door to see her three examiners crowding the man’s desk, upon which he is sitting, neglecting his chair, which Nyx finds humorous and a sign of a more relaxed, impish nature.
“You desired to speak with me?” she questions.
“Yes! Thank you very much for your quick response! Please, take a seat. Could I offer you anything? Food? Drink?” he politely asks. “Would you all be so kind as to leave us to our conversation? I will speak with you all later…”
“Alright…” grunts Grond, turning to leave. “Good luck, kid…”
“Certainly, dearie,” agrees Ashley, spinning around with a flourish. “Marvelous to meet you, darling!”
“Ok, b-boss…” stutters Winona, meekly bidding him adieu. “H-have a good day…”
Once the three have left, the man on the desk stands up and offers Nyx a handshake.
“My name is Lucas Strahlend. I am the branch head of the Vaxi adventurer’s guild and vice-head of the Munditor national guild. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Interitus,” he coolly introduces himself, a twinkle in his eye.
“Please, such formality is unnecessary. Just Nyx will suffice… ” annoyedly replies Nyx, hoping to speed things up, firmly shaking his hand.
“Very well, then just Lucas is fine as well. The three examiners have sung their praises of you to me and desire that I reward you with a ranking befitting your ability. The problem that I face is, due to your set of skills and the rubric we use to determine ranking, that I would need to award you at least Rank 2, Lich class. With myself, the branch head of the city and vice-head of the country, being only Rank 3, Demon, it would be exceedingly strange for me to award you, a walk-in, such a high rank, especially when you claim to live in the area, to be only 18 years old and come from a place that doesn’t exist…” he explains, quickly turning back to his desk to pick up a registration form before turning back to face Nyx with it in hand.
“At the very least, I would like you to alleviate my worries with a more in-depth explanation of your person and origin.”
Thinking back to when she filled out the form, Nyx remembers that, in her struggles, she filled much of it out insufficiently or haphazardly.
“Ah… I hate paperwork like that, so I guess I did totally half-ass it…” she remembers, visualizing her answers.
Name: Nyx Interitus (Half-true!)
Gender: Female (Technically true?)
Race: Human (True!)
Age: 18 (Not even close…)
Class: Warlock (Technically true!)
Appearance: Long black hair, emerald green eyes, fair skin, 5′2" (Technically true!)
Place of Birth (Town/Place, Country/Continent): Sygh-Varths, Angdor (Truthful! Although it’s probably gibberish to him…)
Place of Residence (Town/Place, Country/Continent): Thrandulwood Forest (Technically true!)
God(s) of worship: N/A (True!)
Notable Skills: Most (Lazy!)
“What specifically would you like me to elucidate?” she asks, accepting that this is partially the fault of her own laziness. At this question, Lucas waves his hands and shouts “Truth!”, causing a dull radiance to envelop the room.
“I hope you don’t mind me putting up this ward… it puts my mind slightly more at ease, even though it doesn’t completely bar lies, as I’m sure you’re aware. I’ll rattle off the list of questions I’ve prepared. I ask that you please not lie to me, even if you can…” he says.
“So bold… I will answer questions I deem appropriate truthfully and obfuscate those which I deem inappropriate,” she replies. “Ask your questions…”
“Then I can only hope I have chosen no inappropriate questions… First, is the name that you’ve provided your real name?”
“The last name is, but my real first name is Nox. It’s not very feminine, so I’ve been using Nyx…” she answers, answering in such a way that returns to Lucas as truthful. Ding!
“Are you really a human? And, is your current form a type of magical illusion or disguise, physical or magical?”
“I am a human, and my appearance is neither…” she replies. Because her current form is a true body, as per the spell effect Nyx identified, this returns to Lucas as a true response. Ding!
“Please… don’t take this the wrong way, but… are you… really only 18? I can’t imagine anyone achieving such skill in that amount of time, and yet you look like you could feasibly be even younger, ironically enough. To rephrase, what is your real age?”
“To ask a lady her age… you ruffian,” she teases him, eliciting a small wince from the gentlemanly paladin. “If you must know, I am neither 18 nor younger. I am, to the best of my knowledge, 5727 years of age.” Ding!
“I beg your pardon?!” he questions, shocked at the truthfulness of the statement.
“I am 5727 years old, give or take a couple years. Should I write it down for you?” she repeats, irked.
“N-no, no, it just comes as a surprise… Ahem, is it true that you currently reside in Thrandulwood. If so, how long have you made your residence there? If not, where do you reside?”
“I do, indeed, for a mere two days.” Ding!
“Two days?! From where have you moved?”
“I come from a place exceptionally far from here, a place not far outside of the city I have designated as my place of birth.” Ding!
“Tell me, where on Ea are that city and country? I have never once heard of them…”
“They no longer exist. They are from an age long passed and have fallen to ruin, sinking beneath the cruel sands of time,” she responds, pensively. Although she technically dodges the question, the truthfulness of the response and knowledge of her real age preclude follow-up questions on the matter. Ding!
“I see… Are you truly a warlock? To best Grond in a battle of pure physical and martial prowess… it seems fantastical to believe you’re a caster!”
“I am a warlock, although at one point in time I was an experienced and powerful knight of my now ruined realm. To refer to me, as I am now, as a mere warlock is slightly off base.” Ding!
“Long ago… my patron was slain in a manner such that much of his inherent power was transferred to me, his greatest asset. I am, by all rights, more akin to a demi-god now.” Ding!
“I… I see… The man you are with… is he not the man depicted on this poster?” he asks, showing her the well-drawn wanted poster depicting Ralph. “Why should I not arrest him, a member of the dreaded Golden Goblin Gang, scourge of the city, while he is ignorant in my waiting room, and why is he with you?”
“He is the man depicted in the poster. I plucked him from a bad position, seeing latent potential in the boy, and have accepted him, at his request, as a student of mine. You should not arrest him for three reasons. First, he was forced to commit many of his offences while in the service of the gang. Second, under my supervision, he will essentially be incarcerated while performing community service. Lastly, I will not allow my student to be arrested so easily if I feel he does not deserve it.”
“Would you defy an entire guild – nay, an entire kingdom! –to save him?” Lucas asks, dead serious, glaring at the girl in front of him. As he does, he suddenly feels an intense feeling of dread fall over him. Although as a high-level paladin he is unable to be frightened, the gravity of the warlock’s frightening presence makes it crystal clear to him how dangerous she truly is.
“I would…” she answers, her emerald eyes piercing his very soul, her voice hauntingly malicious. Ding! Ding! Ding!
“Ahem… very well, I’ll take your word for it!” he exclaims, sweating. “Why have you come to Vaxi? It seems to me that this part of the world would be rather… uninteresting for one such as you.”
“I came here to lead the Golden Goblin Gang, who I dispatched for assailing my home, to its own imprisonment and to learn about the world and its current affairs, as I know little of them at the moment.” Again, although she dodges the question a bit, her response is truthful! Ding!
“So, it was you who dispatched them? Haha! You have my immense gratitude! They had been plaguing the city and the merchants for years!”
“I did it only to satisfy my own childish desire for petty revenge.”
“No matter why it was done… you still did it. Thank you, Miss Nyx! My last question is thus: why do you desire to join the adventurer’s guild?”
“I desire to network, to learn of the world and to train my new disciple using its resources,” she affirms. Ding!
“Very well! You have cleared my suspicions! I hereby instate you as a registered adventurer of the guild at Rank 2, Lich class! Understand that being so highly ranked means that you may be called upon to help resolve certain problems at the expense of your membership upon refusal…”
“I understand very well…” Nyx reassures.
In her previous world, in her previous body, she was an adventurer of the highest rank, platinum. She accepted every and any job that promised the quashing of evil, no matter the danger level, nearly to the point of insanity.
“Grand! If such service is ever required of you, I will personally inform you… while I’m alive, anyway, haha!” he jokes. “As an aside… your student being wanted, specifically as a member of the Golden Goblin Gang, of all groups, is rather disadvantageous for you…”
“You see… two years ago, the king’s first son – who at the time refused and evaded his escorts – and what little accompaniment he had were accosted and robbed by the troop, which terribly scarred the prince’s face. Because the king did not want to rouse the ire of the elves of the wood and their king, who shakily maintains peaceful relations with us, he held himself from sending a war party to catch them. Now that they are captured, they will all surely be hanged. But I doubt that the king and the prince would simply let Ralph go free like I’m willing to with only your word as collateral…”
“What are you trying to say, Lucas Strahlend?”
“I mean to make a deal with you… I can pull some strings with the town guard to eradicate his wanted posters and acquit him of all wrongdoing. In return, though, I would like a favor from you…”
“This cheeky bastard… extorting me?! Is he really a paladin?” she thinks, enraged at the fact that his more clandestine removal of Ralph’s wanted status would likely be much more efficient and effective than her own methods.
“What is it that you desire…?” she asks, peeved, expecting nothing good.
“I have an important gala that I must attend in the capital. It is an annual event that the king himself holds in his palace. Its purpose is three-fold. First, it allows the king to reconnect with important officials, both domestic and foreign. Second, it allows him to make new connections, which often come at the expense of his daughters, the princesses. Unfortunately for him, he has only one more such bargaining chip, the third princess, remaining, so he must use her wisely… But I digress. Lastly, it’s traditionally seen as a celebration and feast for Lumen, god of light, the main patron god of Munditor. I, myself, am a paladin of Lumen, so the gala holds special significance for me!”
“You’re rambling, Lucas…” Nyx interjects, frustrated.
“Of course, I apologize… In exchange for my using my contacts to expunge Ralph’s criminal record and old existence from the system, I would like you to be my escort, my date, if you will, for the gala!” he announces.
“Lecherous fool… to ask me to reduce myself so brazenly…” she mutters, shaking her head in disbelief, sensing the sincerity and attraction – bordering on infatuation – for her in both his speech and soul.
“I assure you that lechery is far from my mind…” he lies. “I have been hounded for some time by friends, acquaintances, and other officials for my lack of courting women, and they have, as a consequence of my never having shown up with even an escort, accused me of… preferring the company of men, so to say.”
“So… because all your friends think you’re gay, since you either can’t or choose not to find yourself a woman, you want me to prove them all wrong by accompanying you to the party? Am I understanding this correctly?”
“Ahem… I would not put it so bluntly, but, essentially, that is what I am asking of you. I believe it may behoove you in your desire to network, though, being in close proximity to such a smattering of important officials and even the king himself.”
“He’s not wrong… but to do something like that… would I still be able to call myself a man?” the cute girl thinks. “I suppose that as long as I think of it only as a business venture… I can handle such an embarrassment and wound to my pride… But…”
“I will, begrudgingly, accept your proposal, but I have one condition!” she decides.
“Name it!” he excitedly commands, visibly happy at her agreeance.
“I will not be made to wear anything I deem… inappropriate.”
“May I request a compromise in which we agree upon the tastefulness of your chosen attire, with me being able to veto something I believe to not match the formality of the event?”
“I will accept that…” she says.
“Excellent! Now, if you please, Nyx, you are free to go. I myself must complete a dreadful amount of paperwork… I will be in contact with you via magical message shortly.”
“Very well…” she sighs, leaving the room, irked.
“Goblin-slaying, fetch quests and bodyguard requests… is this really all I have access to?” Ralph mumbles to himself, looking at the job postings that Goblin class adventurers can take.
“What seems to be ailing you, Ralphenstein?” Nyx asks, appearing behind him after her walk back from the office.
“Oh, master, you’re back! How was your talk with the head?” Ralph asks.
“Ah… You see…” Nyx sighs, going up to reception to collect her rank pendant, which shines a radiant silver color.
Leaving the guild with a fancy new goblin-slaying quest, a green medallion embossed with his name and number rank, and new knowledge that his master has accepted a date, of all things, on his behalf, Ralph looks depressed.
“You’ve already done plenty for me, master… there was no need for you to degrade yourself like that for me!” Ralph scolds.
“Lout! I didn’t do it only for you! This provides me with a crucial networking opportunity, when I’m not around the arm of a perverted paladin, that is…” she laments.
“Still… that’s pretty sleazy of that guy, even by my old bandit standards,” he jokes.
“Enough… I don’t want to think about it anymore than I must. We need to prepare you for your bout of goblin slaying!”
“Man… slaying goblins, climbing the ranks, strict teacher/role model… I feel like some vanilla protagonist from a book,” he observes.
“Well, with my malevolent, arcane magics, you’re not exactly a perfect vanilla… You have some nuts, at least!” Nyx banters, half consoling, half mocking.
“Does that make you the peanut gallery?” he asks.
“I think this conversation has run its full course…” she deflects, damning herself for leaving herself open to such stupid rebuttal.
Shortly after, in Lucas’ office, the examiners and Lucas are celebrating with copious amounts of food and alcohol.
“Haha! I snagged myself a beauty to take with me to the king’s ball! That’ll show those prim and proper bullshitters!” Lucas shouts, clearly intoxicated and certainly not doing paperwork.
“Well, it sounds to me like you blackmailed the poor girl, dearie… and I loathe to think what a girl like her might do to you if you don’t keep your end of the bargain after making her look the fool,” says Ashley, happily sipping a glass of wine and eating sweets.
“So… they weren’t together after all…” Winona whispers, quietly yet happily smiling, a blush from both alcohol and thoughts of the lively, handsome Ralph.
“Wahaha! Did you fancy that boy, Winny? He impressed me a little today. He may become a fine catch for you after a while!” laughs Grond, making excessive merry.
“N-no, of c-c-course not!” she rebukes, her blush increasing tremendously. “D-don’t make me embarrass you in front of the guild again, Grond! Y-you remember our last arm wrestle, r-right?”
“Erk… That was a fluke!” he argues, a mild blush of his own coming over his grimaced face.
“At any rate, you three…” interrupts Lucas. “After successfully recruiting someone like that, I can see a bit more funding coming our way after the gala,” he winks. “Cheers, to Nyx! Hell, cheers to Ralph, too!”
“Cheers!” they all yell, clanking their glasses together.