"Do we really have to do this?" Liri asked as she slipped on Arelia's Veil. She felt a sudden warmth pass through her, being back in her gear.
"Of course, I haven't been given my assignment yet." Lise stated as she happily looked into Liri's eyes. What's she smiling about so much? Liri wondered, but without an answer, she simply shook her head and followed the short girl out her home.
According to her, they'd have to go to the guild first, announce Liri as Lise's partner, and then the journey would begin properly.
"I kind of wanted to just go already..." Liri whispered. "Have they told you what level the monster will be?" Liri asked.
"I'm not sure I follow." Lise replied.
"The monster's level. I... I don't think there's a simpler way to say this." Liri scratched her head.
"If you're referring to its strength, then I guess they wouldn't give me something too hard." Lise shrugged. "Although, everyone at the guild looked pretty strong. If they're expecting me to be in their league, we could be in trouble."
"Are you kidding?" Liri responded. "Is there anyone there with a higher INT than yours? There can't be, right?"
"There you go with that word again." Lise raised her eyebrows at Liri's question. "I don't know what that means."
Liri briefly stopped in her tracks. She watched Lise pace up just a bit. She doesn't know what an INT is? She thought. How's that possible? Ahead, Lise realized Liri stopped following her and turned around.
"Are... Are you having second thoughts?" Lise asked shyly. "I-I'd completely understand if you did, so don't..."
"No," Liri cut her off. "It's nothing. Let's keep moving."
The walk was a short one. When Liri stood face to face with one of the strangest looking buildings she'd seen, she thought about how little she actually knew about this world. Was this kind of place, gaudy with a hint of decay, normal for places outside Ora?
Stepping inside, the music made her cover her ears. She was no stranger to the occasional street performer, but the intensity of not just the instruments but the singing as well, it was jarring.
"Oh, she came back!" A male voice said in the far left corner of the room. Liri raised an eyebrow, but when she saw Lise's blushed face, she realized they meant her.
"I'll be honest, I thought I wouldn't see this one again." Someone else added.
"Well then." A woman spoke up. Liri watched as someone with hair as dark as the night sky, a confident smirk and the muscles to match walked up to them. "It turns out you're a woman of your word. I apologize, I did doubt you."
"S-She's here to accompany me."
When the woman walked up to her, Liri's jaw dropped.
Stamina: 172/ 172
"Wait..." The woman said when she drew closer. "Those eyes. Girl, you brought a Gen to help you?"
As if glass had shattered somewhere, the guild swung into a silence.
"You must have been desperate." She continued. "Where the hell did you even find one?"
Liri couldn't focus on her words. Holy shit. She thought. This woman is Level 47! She must be extremely skilled.
"She was at the capital talking to some guards and I..." Lise spoke quietly but she was interrupted.
"So, she's a criminal? A criminal Gen, that's your ally?"
Liri snapped out of her trance.
"Is there a problem?" She asked. The woman drew closer.
"I don't know how much she offered you but this is dangerous stuff, Gen. A girl your age, you have so much to live for! Even if it's someone like you." She laughed. "Hell, how old are you?" She asked sweetly. Liri blinked.
"YOU'RE WHAT?" Lise yelled. The woman's right eye twitched. Liri looked around and watched as everyone's faces reflected that of Lise.
"What?" Liri asked, feeling the rising awkwardness.
"G-Gen physiology, I guess." The woman cleared her throat. "My name is Tagaki. I am the leader of the Hunter's Guild. That girl over there next to you is trying to join. I said I'd send her out on a mission to test her skills, but since she's a... special case, she'd need a partner. That's where you come in. You do understand what all this means right?"
"I'm guessing it means I'll have to do the fighting." Liri shrugged.
"And... A noble girl like you is okay with that?" She smirked. "You don't mind getting your hands dirty?"
"It's fine, I guess." Tagaki continued. "We've had nobles join before. Some are prodigies, a lot of 'em are cowards."
"Join?" Liri shook her head. "No, no. Listen. I'm not here to join anything. I'm here to help Lise on her mission because I owe her. And I'm not a noble."
"Really? Well, I've never seen peasants that dress as fancy as you do. Nah, back in my streets, they'd eat you alive." Tagaki grinned wolfishly.
"Your streets?" Liri stepped up to her, looking up to meet Tagaki's eyes.
"I honestly don't understand it sometimes." Tagaki continued. "People like you who have everything and want to throw it all away. Oh, wait, there is a word for it though. Ungrateful. That's it, that's what describes your type. You don't understand how much the rest of us covet what you have. How it would take people like us years just to get one part of that damn outfit you're wearing. It's sickening."
Shaking with anger at being insulted like that, Liri did the only thing she could think of. She slapped her. The sound rang out in the wide room, echoing dramatically into the ears of everyone present.
Then, Liri calmly replied.
"I'm an orphan. I grew up alone. Hell, I'm fourteen, I'm still growing up alone. I had no one to feed me, no one to care for me. I was, and still am, homeless. So don't act for a second like I don't know what you've been through. You're older than me, you've seen more of that life than I have, sure, but dammit I've had my taste!" Her breath was shaky. The guild was silent as Liri breathed in. "Don't act like I don't know pain, because I do. And, just so you know, I had to kill someone to get these clothes, so I'll wear this proudly."
Liri took a step back, crossing her arms and looking down. Her vision was blurry. Her entire life, all she'd known was pain, and here was someone challenging the notion that she even knew what pain was. Bullshit.
But, just as a tear was threatening to spill out, a finger found her chin and raised her head up. Tagaki's expression had changed. Where before, Liri had seen disdain, now she saw something resembling respect.
Then, breaking the tension for everyone in the room, Tagaki laughed.
"I like you. I'm glad this one's got you tagging along." She pointed lazily at Lise. "Maybe your pride will rub off on her. It'd definitely do her some good." She walked over to a desk at the back of the room. The music started again, and everyone resumed their conversations like nothing had happened.
"S-So," Lise spoke after clearing her throat. "Where do we have to go?"
"Well, I just so happen to have a situation that needs some action. Apparently, A pack of wolves have been threatening to attack a family's cabin. Clear them out, bring me evidence of the deed, and if our Gen over here gives you a recommendation, then you're in. Complete the mission and you will both be paid for it." She winked at Liri.
"But, that didn't answer my question. Where do we have to go?"
"Ice Moon Mountain."
Although it wasn't as earth-shattering as when Tagaki made her speech earlier, there were notable reactions from the other people there. Liri was confused.
"Is this place far away or something?" She asked.
"No, it's a day's walk." Lise answered quietly.
"Then why is everyone all hushed?" Liri asked.
"Because that mountain is full of dangerous creatures, ones that know how to use the terrain to their advantage." Tagaki clarified. "But, if both of you have any semblance of talent, it should be an easy mission."
"I see." Liri replied. "Then, let's go."
"W-Wait, now?" Lise asked.
"Yeah, you don't need any equipment?" Tagaki raised an eyebrow.
Liri pointed at the blades on her person. Just then, another door opened, and a woman who looked identical to Tagaki walked out. She didn't go up to them though, instead, she remained in the darkness.
"Yeah, maybe we could take some potions, but aside from that we'll be fine." Liri said.
"Okay. Josah!" Tagaki called over a man dressed in all brown. "Bring these ladies a few health potions, please."
Before long, Liri and Lise were walking out the guildhall. However, just as they were about to close the door behind them, Liri overheard the woman talk and her hand stilled. It was the one who had entered the room just as they were finishing up with Tagaki.
"Interesting person you just let go." She said. Liri could only scarcely hear her over every other bombastic sound in the room.
"Yeah, she's a Gen, but... I don't know, I have a good feeling about them."
"I'll bet." The woman added.
"What do you mean?"
"You didn't notice?" She asked with a hint of humor in her voice.
"No, I didn't." Tagaki deadpanned.
"What she was wearing."
"What about it?"
"It was heavily enchanted." Just then, Liri closed the door. She did not hear the response.
"North, then?" Liri asked, looking at a map that Lise provided her. On it was Torasan and some of the nearby landmarks.
"Yes. If we only rest at night, we should get there by tomorrow afternoon."
"Alright." Liri replied. A comfortable silence appeared, but Liri cut it soon. She had a question to make. One that had been burning in her mind for a while. "Hey."
"Yeah?" Lise asked, not looking back as she walked ahead.
"What's a "Gen"?" Liri asked. At that, Lise stopped. The short girl turned slowly, a deep frown on her face.
"What was that?"
"I said, what's a "Gen"?"
"... You're serious?" It was almost more of a statement than a question.
"Yes. Ever since I got to Torasan, and even back when I was in Ora, everyone used to call me that. I used to think it was just another word for "homeless", nobody ever walked up and explained it to me, but now, I don't get it. I've been in Torasan for such a short time, how does anyone know whether I have a house or not?"
"It's... It's what you are." Lise shrugged nervously.
"What I am?"
"I don't think I understand." Liri continued.
"Yeah. You... I can't believe you're hearing this from me." Lise muttered. "You're not human."
Liri's eyes widened.
"No, I'm pretty sure I am." Liri replied.
"No, you're not." Lise shook her head. "It's your eyes and your hair. Those are the signs." Lise pointed at both features. "Golden eyes, black hair. Your pupils are also a lot smaller than a human's pupils." Lise turned her back and kept walking forward. Liri followed.
"I don't get it..." Now Liri was starting to doubt. "B-But, I haven't even seen..." Just as she was about to say that she hadn't seen anyone else with those traits, she realized she'd be lying.
She had seen people like her. When she was on the road to Torasan, the bandits assaulting the traveling merchant. All of them, black hair, golden eyes.
"A-Are you serious?" Liri whispered.
Just then, more memories flooded her mind. The ethereal woman she'd seen had spoken something like this to her...
"...one of your kind to be a real human's savior."
Liri's jaw dropped to the ground.
All of a sudden, the strange looks she would receive every time she met someone's eye in Ora, the way some people grimaced and scowled at just the sight of her, the way they didn't treat her like she was human. It all made sense now. It was because she simply wasn't.
"I'm not human." She whispered to herself. She looked ahead to find Lise looking back with sympathy in her eyes.
The rest of the way was silent as they walked out of the city, for Liri, although she was returning to the wilderness she'd been surviving in for the past several weeks, she felt like in all truth, she knew nothing of this world.