Chapter 75 A Guild and a Bed
Ilea happily tried four different menus from the card and left the restaurant two hours later satisfied. ‘Now what to get first...’ she thought as she walked through the city. Someone next to her suddenly grabbed at her and she spun around, stopping the hand with her own and putting pressure on it while looking at the man’s face.
The hand gave in with a crunch of bone as the man screamed in the street. Some people stopped but most decided to just ignore it and minded their own business. “What do you want?” she asked as she healed the broken bone. She didn’t actually intend to break it but might’ve been a little on edge around so many people. Especially after that night in Earl’s shop.
“I...I’m...you’re joining the hand right?” the man gulped and asked.
“None of your business.” she stated and started walking away.
“I would like to be your agent, organize jobs and all that for you. Would you like to….” Ilea didn’t hear the rest as she blinked into a nearby shop before blinking behind into the next street.
‘Fucking annoying...maybe I do need to wear my armor...’ she thought and entered an armory right after.
“Hello miss. Anything specific you’re looking for?” the woman asked in a polite tone. The store looked incredibly fancy and Ilea was sure that if it weren’t for the question marks the level 80 woman likely saw above her head, she’d be kicked out in two seconds.
“Yea, comfortable leather armor...with a hood.” she said and the woman quickly nodded.
“Please follow me, what’s the price range you’re looking for?” the employee asked.
“What ranges do you have?” Ilea asked in return.
“We have cheaper sets starting at two gold coins. Higher quality ones starting at five gold and specialized creations starting at ten gold.”
“The high quality one then, five to eight gold is fine.” Ilea said and soon stood in front of several very nice looking leather armor sets in a back room. She decided on a brown one that looked especially comfortable to wear. It had a lot of fabric below as well so it wasn’t necessary to wear anything under the armor.
“That’s six gold then. Would you like to change immediately?” the woman asked and seemed happy at Ilea’s nod while she grabbed the gold from her backpack and handed it over.
“That’s all, thanks.” Ilea said and the woman nodded and walked away with the money while Ilea changed. She simply blinked out into the street again and put up her hood, hiding her black hair and blue eyes a little. ‘Hopefully I don’t look as poor anymore for someone to just grab me and try to become my secretary or whatever…’
“You’re wearing inferior armor. I think that’s dangerous.” Aki said.
“I know, right now the benefits outweigh the risk though and I’ll try the trick you mentioned with the storage item soon enough.” she said and betrayed her statement by going into a cake store. She simply walked around and made five cakes vanish before she put three silver coins on the counter. The cakes were sold for less but she didn’t want to count out the coppers.
It was likely that nobody would’ve stopped her from simply stealing the cakes but Ilea already had a lot of gold, no reason to make life harder on someone that decided to bake cakes in a world filled with magic and monsters.
‘Next thing...hmm yes...yes that is very much an important thing...’ she thought as she looked at the store in front of her. It looked much the same as all the other buildings with its stone walls and European architecture. At least that was what Ilea compared it to. The buildings around her looked similar to Salia though a little more geared towards practicality and less towards artistry.
The difference in the store in front of her was what was inside, as is often the case with stores and any building. Ilea walked in and was immediately greeted by an annoyed looking man standing in front of a book. “YES. What do you want?” he asked, with an obviously fake smile on his face.
“I want to buy.” Ilea said.
“She wants to buy. And who says you’re allowed to buy?” the man asked, catching her so off guard she was literally speechless. The gears in her head started turning again and she was ready to reply when a young woman walked in from a side room.
“Michael stop it. Miss how can I help you?” the woman smiled at her and motioned for her to follow.
“I want to buy a bed.” Ilea simply stated and followed the woman.
“Sure, they range from four to ten gold. All made with real feathers and masterful labor.”
‘Isn’t that enough to feed someone for years? What kind of luxury shop have I ended up in...’ Ilea thought but just shrugged and followed the woman.
“Do you have drake feather beds?” she asked and the woman nodded.
“There’s one remaining I believe. Seven gold. Would you like to try it out?” Ilea nodded at that and was brought into a room with a rather large bed, though not quite queen size.
“Leave the room for half a minute please.” Ilea said. “Don’t worry I won’t steal it.”
The woman reluctantly left the room and waited outside. Ilea saw her sighing and signaling towards the man who looked on from downstairs. Ilea quickly lay down on the bed and nearly moaned at the magical feeling. She smiled as it vanished into her inventory and blinked upwards to not fall on the ground. The wooden frame came with it as well.
She walked back out and handed the woman seven gold coins. “Business done?” Ilea asked and the woman nodded. “Thank you, it’s a lovely bed.” she said and left the building, smiling brightly at the man who looked at her with mockery in his eyes.
‘That man lives a dangerous life….’ she thought and exited the store. ‘To the hand then...’
Ilea walked through the streets for another two hours, looking at anything that interested her though she had noticed some people had started following her a while ago. They didn’t engage so she was fine with it. Having talked to some guards she knew where the hand was located and slowly made her way there.
Soon Ilea arrived at a symmetrical building that looked a little like a temple. Two people with level 202 and 205 stood next to the doorway that was the shape of a triangle. She walked up to them and entered without hindrance. Her shadows didn’t seem to follow her inside and Ilea decided to investigate if they follow her again.
Inside the room opened up into a massive hall. White stone similar to ivory decorated it though the feeling was much different compared to the Taleen great hall. There were paintings on the walls, plants and carpets brought warmth and a high society feeling to the room. Even more so than the armor shop she had been in before.
Ilea walked up to the woman standing behind a counter in the middle of the hall. She was surprised to see that the clerk was level 173 and a mage. “Yes?” the woman asked.
“Hey, I’d like to join the shadow’s hand. Is this the right place to do so?” Ilea asked.
“Yes yes. You have to be level 200 to join but seeing as you got inside that should be fulfilled. Now there are two ways of joining, either you get a contract and work off your debt or you pay one hundred gold upfront. You will be treated as an initiate either way, I hope you understand. Though if you pay you can leave at any time. No questions asked.” the woman explained and Ilea nodded.
“I’d like to know some more but I’ll definitely go with the paying upfront.” she said and the woman took a small bell from her desk and rang it. A man who looked to be in his forties suddenly appeared next to the desk and extended his hand to Ilea. His gray hair more a factor of attractiveness than it was one of age.
Ilea shook his hand as he introduced himself. “William Hendricks. Nice to meet you.”
“Name’s Ilea.” she answered.
“Ilea then, would you please follow me. A couple formalities to fill out before you can join. Any question you have I’ll answer to the best of my capability.” he said and motioned for her to follow. “Teleportation?” he asked and she motioned for him to continue.
The man vanished and Ilea perceived him appearing in a room on the first floor. She followed behind with a Blink and took a seat opposite the man who was sitting down as well.
“Perception and teleportation. Already two very valuable assets to have. You would like to join with the fee?” he asked and Ilea nodded.
“Though I would like to have a better picture of what exactly I’m buying if you would be so kind.” she said and looked at the question marks next to the warrior title of the man. He nodded and started explaining.
“I will do the short version. Ask whenever you need me to elaborate. The shadow’s hand is a mercenary guild famous for it’s highly qualified members and their strength. As long as you pay and do not try to harm humanity as a whole we will do the job. As a member you either join with payment or without. With payment you can leave whenever you want to, there are no strings attached. Though otherwise the treatment you will receive won’t differ greatly from the non paying members.
You won’t have to do guard duty and you will get the whole pay for the jobs you finish. Additionally you may refuse any job without reason. You will be evaluated by me and two other high ranking members and put into a team of five. You will train and learn with them for the next six months while doing jobs depending on your capabilities.
You will receive lodging here but of course may stay wherever you like. As long as you are here for mandatory trainings and classes. As a paid member you may refuse your assigned squad once and only once. Members are put together into teams to get the best synergy of abilities.” Ilea interjected here.
“There are classes, what are the mandatory ones and what else is there?”
“Mandatory are team fighting, team tactics and monster knowledge. The first one four hours a day and the other ones each one hour. No classes when you are out on jobs. Each group gets assigned an instructor, these may change as time goes on.” he paused for two seconds and continued.
“There is a range of other classes you may visit. Each with at least a level 100 instructor in the specific field or skill. You may choose freely here but if there are less than three members in a class you will have to pay a fee depending on the class.” he finished.
“Can I join classes again after the six months is up? What if I leave the guild at some point?” Ilea asked.
“Of course you can. And as long as you don’t work against humanity as a whole or the guild, you won’t be banned from our services. I do not see a reason for anybody to not associate with us anymore but there is the possibility. It’s akin to a ban and all documentation we have on you will be erased. You won’t be allowed to take jobs anymore or to join a team. After the six months you won’t have an obligation to the guild anymore though, not if you have paid beforehand.” he said and continued.
“You may leave for fifty years and come back to join a team and take jobs again. We won’t allow less than five people to take jobs except if you are a higher ranking member.”
“Alright, so it’s more an initial training and then just a network used to get together teams and do jobs.” Ilea clarified and the man nodded.
“Though the influence and recognition we have reaches further than what you describe.” William clarified.
“Yes, I see. Well then I don’t see a downside.” Ilea said and grinned at the man. He stayed stoic and simply opened a drawer to remove paperwork from.
“This is the contract, read through it carefully and make sure you agree to all of it. If you don’t comply to the rules you may be banned from the guild.” he explained and put the stack of papers on the table.
“Alright, I’ll read it downstairs and tell the woman to signal you as soon as I’m done.” she said and the man nodded and watched her disappear into the hall downstairs.
Ilea read through the contract in the next hour and made sure that there were no loopholes. Aki confirmed as much when she was done and signaled to the woman working at the reception. The contract was pretty straight forward and even less shady than the one Ilea had signed to work at the fast food joint. ‘Guess instead of level 200 lawyers they have level 200 mages...’ she thought as William appeared again next to the woman.
“Do you agree to the contract?” he asked and she nodded.
“Ready to sign and start.” Ilea said and smiled at him. She wasn’t proud about the itch she had to fight the man. See him turn into a wild warrior. ‘It’s been a while hmm...’ she thought and sighed before following the man back into his office.
The contract was signed with mana and her written name though Aki assured her there was no binding magic involved. He wasn’t even sure anything like that existed and he’s probably seen more than most powerful mages walking around.
Ilea had put the gold into her backpack in preparation for paying while reading through the contract, though she couldn’t be sure William didn’t know about her storage item. If he did, he didn’t show it. She got the gold out of her backpack and stacked the money on his table. He watched and counted until finally nodding and taking the money. It vanished immediately upon his touch which made Ilea feel a little silly.
“We can do your evaluation tomorrow right after midday if that is ok for you. Do you need specific materials, an environment or anything else during the evaluation to show us your full capabilities?” he asked.
“No, I should be fine anywhere. Not under water if that’s possible.” she said.
“I’ll note that. In that case I suggest the underwater warfare class, if it’s not an intricate incapability.” he said and got up.
"I’ll think about it. Where do I stay until tomorrow?” Ilea asked, thinking of sharing a dorm room with a bunch of smelly guys.
“As a paid member you will get your own rooms. Wait down in the hall, an assistant will take care of you shortly. And it’s a pleasure to have you join us Miss Ilea.” he got up and shook her hand before she blinked down into the hall.
It didn’t take long until someone else showed up. Level 120 this time, Ilea couldn’t help but ask this time. “Hey how is someone with your level working this job?” the man looked at her sideways.
“You get training here and opportunities. And you can already work on the fee you’d have to pay at level 200 to join as a member. The positions are actually very hard to get, though every other new member I talk to asks me that. Sometimes I get to go along expeditions or can join a team that will have me.” the man concluded and Ilea decided not to pry any further.
It did make sense and would be a gradual rise in strength instead of her own explosive one. The man most certainly knew much more about monsters and tactics than she did. And that didn’t mean he lacked any of the experience she had gotten when fighting. Perhaps he lacked experience when fighting alone but why would he need it? He would probably be in a team for the rest of his life.
“Welcome to the Shadow’s hand.” the man said as the two reached the end of a corridor. Some other people were walking around and Ilea got quite a bunch of glances. Coming out of the corridor, something akin to the Root opened up before them. The architecture of the different houses was the same as the rest of Ravenhall but the whole thing was built quite a bit more vertical.
‘A city inside the mountain….yet a small one to be sure.’ she thought as she looked around. The lighting came from massive magical constructions above, mimicking a sun without it being blinding to the eye. Ilea kept following the man who accelerated his pace for some reason. There were dozens of people either walking around or talking to each other.
Food was being sold or made and Ilea even saw some smiths and stores. “Are they part of the Hand as well? Or independent?” she asked the man in front of her.
He answered a minute later after they had entered one of the houses to the right. “They have contracts with the hand and aren’t allowed to sell anywhere else. It’s a bit of a gamble if you ask me but it ensures we only have quality work here. And I believe their contracts work in a similar way than the ones from the members do.” he explained and walked to the first floor of the building.
Using a key to open the door, he gestured for her to enter. “Your rooms. As a paid member you have the apartment for yourself. Any looting or unwanted entrances are to be reported. Trespassing is considered enough for a ban but just as a tip from someone who’s been here for a while...don’t keep too much of your valuables here. There are some ridiculously good thieves and rogues here. Some of them make it a challenge...” he said and handed her the key before walking back to the door.
“Good luck...” he said and Ilea nodded towards him.
Ilea smiled and looked around. A fully furbished apartment with three rooms and a toilet. She checked through it all with her eyes and sphere. It was very rich. The bed was nearly of the same quality as the one she had bought earlier that day. The toilet was close to something she’d have on earth and the carpets and decorations didn’t disappoint either.
Compared to the expected dark theme that the Hand seemed to have, this room was more focused on a dark red and gold while the walls were white stone. She wondered if it was perhaps inspired by the dwarves. Or even originally built by them.