We continue down the road for several more hours- occasionally pausing to do more laughing- until a small town encircled by a wooden wall comes into view.
“Thank the gods.” Sera says as we approach the gate, “I was not looking forward to sleeping in a tree again.”
A pair of armed guards with red serpents on their breastplates watch us as we draw near, until we’re standing right in front of them. “Halt.” The closer of the two says, and we comply. “What business do you have in Haragal?” She asks.
“Just passing through.” Sera replies. “Figured we’d to get a bath, a hot meal, and a bed for the night.”
The other guard snorts, “They definitely need a good wash, that’s for sure.”
“Shut it,” The woman snaps at him before turning back to us, “The toll is ten copper per adult, five if you’ve got a guild card.”
Sera withdraws one of the bandits coin pouches from her sack and fishes some coins out, “No guild card.” She says, handing the money over.
The guard moves aside after accepting the payment, “Welcome to Haragal.”
“Thanks.” Sera says, and we walk through the gate.
Once we’re inside, the town seems much smaller than it did before, and the only impressive thing about it is just how unimpressive it is. All of the houses and buildings are composed of wood or stone, and for the most part they’re just a single storey- though there are some exceptions.
The streets are also quite bare in comparison to the human city, and the people I do see are of many different species. Most of which I’ve seen before, such as Humans, Demons, those pointy eared people which Sera says are Elves, and even some more cat people which she calls the Kyatt.
There are at least two more races as far as I can tell, but before I can ask about them we arrive at out first stop. It’s a shop painted red and yellow with a bunch of shiny things on display in the window. It also has a sign out front that reads ‘Lil Jimmy’s Jewelery’, which I feel is misleading because the person running the store is an Elven man who by no means can be considered little.
“Welcome!” He says from behind the counter with a smile, which he loses once he sees how filthy we are. “Can I help you?”
“Do you buy gold?” Sera asks.
He crosses his arms, “We do.”
Sera reaches into her sack and withdraws a gold necklace, followed by two rings and a bracelet with a red gemstone embedded in it. “Interested in any of these?”
“Where did you get all of this?” He asks, picking up the necklace.
“Stole it from some highwaymen.” She says with a smile as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
The mans eye twitches a couple times, but then he moves his attention back to the necklace. “This one’s a fake.” He says, putting it down. He then moves on to appraising the bracelet, and after a good minute of looking at it under a lense he nods, “Five gold for the bracelet.”
“And the rings?”
“They’re Noble signets, I couldn’t buy them if I wanted to.”
“Ah, Seriously?” Sera takes one and looks at it up close, before sliding everything except the bracelet back into her sack. ”How about six gold for the bracelet?”
“I’ll give you five gold and ten silver, but only because I’m feeling generous. Any more than that and I won’t make a profit.”
Sera thinks for a second and then holds her hand out, “Fine then, deal.”
I’m no expert on haggling, but it doesn’t feel like she tried very hard… I think as the man pays her.
Once that transaction is done, Sera buys a backpack from him and then we head back outside where I ask, “What are Noble signets?”
“We didn’t have them back home, but I would assume they’re used to prove that someone is a noble.”
I don’t really understand the concept of nobility, but if all it takes to be one is to have a ring then it must not be that big of a deal.
Up next we go a clothing store, and once again us being dirty angers the shopkeeper, but this time the little old lady running the place actually chases us out saying that we should come back after we get cleaned up. She still ends up selling us a set of clothes each once Sera explains that we don’t have anything to change into, and afterwards she directs us to the public bathhouse.
Rather than going straight to the bathhouse, we stop at a small inn that’s called ‘The Cozy Apple’ so that we can store our (Sera’s) belongings.
What kind of a name is that? I wonder as a bell chimes on our way through the front door, then there’s a commotion from above us as an Elven girl with silver hair comes flying down the stairs.
“Customers?” She asks with hopeful eyes while brushing her hands on her apron.
“That’s right, we’d like a room for the night.” Sera answers, but I tune out their conversation in favor of studying a painting on the wall.
It’s an incredibly detailed depiction of a huge apple, partially covered up with a blanket, sitting on a rocking chair next to a lit fireplace. One the other side of the fireplace there’s a window, and through that there’s a snowy landscape being lit by the setting sun.
The artist is obviously very skilled. I wonder if it was painted for the inn, or if the inn was named after the painting.
“Come on Rose.” Sera says, on her way back from down the hall. “You’ll have plenty of time to admire the painting later.”
I was so captivated that I didn’t even notice that she had left in the first place... “Okay.” I reply, dragging my attention away from it.
The two of us leave the inn and head to the bathhouse, and then into the women's section which is filled to the brim with people. In fact, the actual bath is so packed that we end up having to use the shower, which is just a room with a constant stream of freezing cold water raining down from the ceiling.
Once you add the disgusting floral smells of all the different soaps and shampoos, and the sounds of screaming children, it’s actually one of the least pleasant things I’ve experienced so far. It takes a whole hour and to get completely clean and changed into our new clothes, and by then I’ve resolved myself to ask Sera if I can learn magic just for the off chance that I won’t have to go through all of that again.
I already know that all Demons- I mean my kind- are capable of some form of magic, I just don’t know how it relates to the magic of this world.
“Sera?” I tug on her sleeve on our way out of the bathhouse, “Would you teach me how to use magic later?”
She frowns at the mention of magic, but it’s soon replaced with a thoughtful expression, “If you’d like we can get your magic aptitude tested, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to teach you much outside of my elements.”
“I’d like that.” I reply, before recalling what happened to her. “But what about the law? Might they try to take me away?”
“No, that’s only on the Human continent. The church has no power here, so magic appraisals are handled by the adventurers guild, and since we’re already headed there we can get you tested today if you want.”
“So soon?” I was expecting it to take a while...
“Unless you want to wait? We’re going to the guild either way, so you can decide whether you want to do it or not while we’re there.”
“We don’t have to wait, I’ll do it today.” Better to get it out of the way now instead of worrying about it for a long time.
“Alright then,” She says as we enter the building. “Here we are.” Nervousness overcomes me as we head for the reception desk, but Sera stops halfway there, and my heart nearly leaps from my chest as she shouts, “No!”
“What is it?” I ask, to which she points at one of the requests on the board. It reads: Wolper antlers, 5 Gold per pair. No limit.
“Five gold for Wolper antlers… And I just left them there.”
That sucks, but from the way she acted I thought something truly bad was happening.
“Well, at least I know for the future.” She says- having recovered rather quickly- and then we go to the reception desk where we’re greeted by a curt Human man with long unkempt hair.
“Hi. Welcome. What do you want?”
“You do magic appraisals here, right?”
“First time’s free for guild members.” He says, “Otherwise, one gold fifty silver.”
Sera’s jaw drops, “How do we join the guild?”
“Two gold. Per person.”
Maybe we shouldn’t do it after all, she was just getting upset about losing out on five gold, so surely another two wouldn’t be a good thing.
“What do you say, Rose? Wanna join the Adventurers guild with me?”
Before I can answer, the man slaps his hand on the counter causing me to jump. “Humans, Demons, Demi and Kyatt must be fifteen to join. Elves and Dwarves twenty.” He says as if reciting it from a book.
“What about Travelers?” Sera asks, and the man has to think about it for a second.
I’m starting to wonder if he cares about anything…
“Well then Rose, do you want to join?”
“Yes, if you don’t mind spending the money on me.”
“Nonsense,” She hands the man four coins, “We’d both like to register, please.”
He takes the money and drops it into his desk drawer, and then pulls out two sheets of paper before placing a pencil on each one and sliding them across the desk to us. “Fill these out.”
“Can you read it?” Sera asks, to which I nod.
One of the perks of being a Demon, we can use any language- written or spoken- so long as we’ve heard it before. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to communicate with those who summoned us.
The form is pretty straightforward so it should be easy to fill out, but while I may know the language, the unfortunate truth is that I’ve never written anything in my life. So, just about everything that I write down is illegible, and I end up having Sera fill it out for me after all.
The man takes our papers and shoves them into his desk once She’s done, and then he gives each of us a cheap little booklet labeled ‘Rules and regulations’. “Read that or regret it.” He says, before placing a shiny silver cube on the table in front of me. “Place dominant hand on cube. Do not remove hand until directed otherwise.”
I get butterflies in my stomach as I realize what the cube is for, and then I place my hand on the it. Hopefully it doesn’t explode or something… That would suck.
Seconds tick away, but other than warming up a little nothing seems to happen with the cube, until a few minutes have passed and the man tells me I can release my hand. He slips a glove on and takes the cube, before looking at it through a pair of red lensed glasses.
He then writes something down on a piece of paper before sliding it into an envelope and handing it to me. “Anything else?”
“I’d like to buy some monster blood.” Sera says.
“Out of stock.”
“You don’t have any at all?”
“No. Anything else?”
She sighs, “I guess that’s everything then.”
“Come get your guild cards in the morning. Next!”
Sera and I move away from the desk, despite the fact there wasn’t actually anyone behind us, and then we head back outside.
“Damn it, so much for getting you something for lunch.”
“That’s okay, I had a lot yesterday so I’m not that thirsty.”
“Are you sure?” She asks.
“Yeah.” I hold my envelope out in front of me, “Should I open it?”
“If you want, but it might be better to wait until it’s just the two of us.”
I decide to take her advice and wait, and the two of us go back to our room at the inn and sit on our beds while Sera does the honors.
“Ready?” She asks.
“Here goes,” She pulls the letter from the unsealed envelope and reads it out loud, “Space aspect, High affinity. No other aspects.”
That’s it…? I was really hoping to have one of Sera’s aspects too, especially whichever one would let me cast purify. Then again, I guess I should be grateful that my magic was even recognized in the first place.
“Congratulations, Rose.” She says excitedly, “Space magic, and a high affinity to boot. That’s pretty good.”
“It is?” I ask. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about something that I’m pretty sure every member of my species has.
“It may not be great for combat due to its high mana cost, but it’s still really useful. The best space mages can create their own pocket dimensions and teleport across the world in the blink of an eye. Space magic is also how Travelers get to this world, be it summoning or other means.”
Now that I think about it, she never mentioned having the Space aspect herself. “You were able to teleport, so does that mean you have the Space aspect too?”
She shakes her head, “I was using the lodestone network.”
I remember now, that stone she destroyed was called a lodestone. “Why doesn’t everyone just use that instead of learning space magic then?”
“It’s not that simple. Each lodestone creates a small area which you can teleport to with other lodestones, but only three people can be keyed into the network at once. Not only that, but it takes someone at the level of a Magus just to have enough mana to operate the thing.”
I can see how that could be a problem. The only Magus I know of is Sera, and she had enough mana that drinking just a little bit of her blood almost killed me. Then again, she was able to teleport several times in the same day and then she still had enough mana left over to fly us across the ocean, so she was probably a lot more powerful than the average Magus...
“Is there anything at all you can teach me about Space magic then?” I ask.
“I’m afraid not, and I’m sorry but with the way things are right now I can’t afford to hire you a tutor, or even buy you books on the subject.”
Well, it’s not like it matters too much. The main reasons why I wanted to learn magic were to defend myself and to avoid having to use the public bath again, but she said that space magic isn’t good for combat, and I don’t have the correct aspect for my other reason.
“Please promise me you won’t try to learn it on your own though, it’s far too dangerous.”
“Alright, I promise.”
“Good girl.” She says, patting me on the head. “Now, we’ve got a few hours of daylight left, so how do you want to celebrate?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never celebrated anything before.”
“Well then, we’re gonna have to fix that.”
It turns out Sera’s idea of a celebration is throwing me a feast, but since we can’t get monster blood in town- and for some reason none of the people we ask want to donate- the ‘feast’ involves us heading out into the woods where she massacres several monsters before trying to feed them to me…
Needless to say, our new clothes were completely ruined, but we did have a lot of fun. I also got to try two new types of blood, which were from the Green Panther (A big kitty that likes to hide in the treetops), and the Midnight Hound (A black and silver doggy with a horn in the middle of its head.)
Sera even found another Wolper, which she somehow removed the antlers from without killing, before saying something about coming back for more later… I thought the thing was fast when it was charging at us, but it turns out they’re even faster when they’re running away.
By the time the two of us finally call it a night I’ve had so much to drink that I can’t even walk anymore, and an exhausted Sera has to carry me back to town. We’re also so covered in blood that the guards hesitate to let us in, and I end up falling asleep in the middle of Sera threatening to beat one of them with an antler if they don’t hurry it up.