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Sam walked a short distance ahead of Sarah. Supposedly you could call whatever was happening a conversation, but that requires both parties to participate. Sam talked, Sarah was talked to — though she contributed the occasional 'uhu' or 'yeah'.

"I'm telling you," Sam continued, "After barely thirty seconds in that room with her, I already felt her eyeing me up and down. And you say you lasted several minutes with her around? Did you have to beat her off you with a stick?"

Answering wasn't necessary, the past ten minutes had told Sarah as much, Sam continued, "I bet you did. Honestly, I wish I could just tear this quest up, but I suppose we could go to that farm and help old man Johnson out, but there's no way I'm going back to that guild hall. We'll just turn the quest in ourselves. "

Sarah stopped in the middle of the dirt road, eyes cast down.

It took a few seconds, but eventually Sam noticed the lack of 'uhu's and turned around, "What's up?"

Reader choice: Tell Sam you should complete the quest and return to the guild hall, it's only fair

Sarah's eyes flickered between the gravel-speckled, dirt road and Sam. It also contained the occasional embedded rock, quite the tripping hazard. It took a while, but she finally managed to speak up, "We should go back after we finish it, she's not a bad person," said Sarah, "Besides, we have to return the basket she gave us."

Sam rolled her eyes, "Who cares about the damn basket, just ditch it somewhere! Toss it into the river or whatever."

There was quite a sound. Something zipped inches past Sam and embedded itself in a nearby tree. The red-haired not-quite-a-warrior raised a foot, revealing the pulverised rock underneath, seemingly more surprised than Sam was. Repressing the urge to apologise, Sarah spoke, "Don't you dare."

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So, things hadn't quite worked out the way she wanted, but at the end of it all she now had two guild members, well — almost guild members, out and about and completing a quest for her. Marie managed to convinced herself that participating in unimportant quests like the "Honey Slime Subjugation" wasn't really something a guild master should concern herself with. Totally convinced. Besides, she had expected one potential guild member and now she had two. That's pretty lucky, at least.

Upon acceptance of a quest, all parties involved receive a copy. One for the city hall, one for the guild, and one for the person actually doing something. She pulled out her copy of the quest and looked it over with a smile. "The guild's first quest since forever, Mitty, " said Marie to her cat, "The first of many, I'm sure."

From a corner of her mind doubt chimed in and reminded her that there was a very real chance that she'd never see Sam or Sarah again. At the end of the day the city hall didn't care about guild in-fighting, they just cared that the quests themselves were completed. Side-stepping the guild like this would normally be career suicide, you'd be booted from the guild in an instant and other guilds wouldn't exactly be lining up to take you in. That'd be the case for any active guild, but for a guild like hers? A guild where the only real activity stems from the disappointed mice in the cupboards? Nobody would care.

"Stay positive!" she screamed to the world, but mostly Mittens the cat, "Act like it'll all work out."

Recognising the overly cheerful attitude that usually heralds a nervous breakdown, Mittens decided to go outside and relax — which is to say he went outside and terrorised everything.

When, not if, when Sarah and Sam return with the completed quest then Marie should be able to reward them for the work they've done. She read over her copy of the quest again. Reward: two silver, excluding the 10% guild tax. So that'd be 1 silver and 80 copper after tax. The guild rewards the guild member, and the city hall rewards the guild. That's how things work. Marie walked over the guild treasury and regretfully discovered that it had not miraculously filled up overnight.

Concluding that when, not if, when Sam and Sarah came back from their quest she'd have to tell them good job fighting all afternoon, please go pick up your reward in the city hall roughly five miles from here. That'd be less than professional. But maybe there was another option.

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"You want a what?," asked the city hall receptionist.

"An advance," replied Marie, shoving over her copy of the quest, "On the reward for this quest here."

It was, of course, the same man from yesterday, but luckily it didn't seem like he had recognised her.

The man sighed and picked up the paper, "Let's see then, uh," he said, then his eyes peered over the top of the paper, "The reward is two silver."

"Yep," replied Marie with a slight squeak in her voice.

"You want an advance on two silver?" he asked.

"Yep," replied Marie, voice moving up another octave.

"Two silver?" he asked again, "Barely two days of groceries, two silver,"

"Yep," she replied, speaking the language of mice.

He sighed and put the paper down, "Look, miss..."

"Marie," she said, pointing at the paper, "Look, It's right on.... here."

The receptionist glanced down, "Guild master?"

He sighed, "Look...miss Marie, this combined with what happened yesterday..."

Dammit.

"Do you know what you're getting yourself into?" asked the receptionist.

"A big bout of adventure?" she said, forcing a smile.

"I suppose you could call it that, sure," he said, "But most would call it suffering."

"I don't know how you managed to start a guild, but the world isn't exactly kind to E-rank guild like yours. There's not a lot of quests you're qualified to pass along to your members and even if there are some you can take you're pretty much competing with every guild out there. Every guild above E-rank can continue to take E-rank quests, but you can't take any quests above E-rank," he explained.

She eyed him uncertainly, "E-Rank? But, I got one yesterday just fine?"

"Plain luck, I'm afraid," he said, "Old man Johnson put up the quest barely a minute before you came in."

Marie balled her fists, knuckles turning white, "Then, how am I supposed to get quests?"

"I don't know," he answered, "Maybe you'll get lucky again? Complete a quest before its public? Public service kinda thing?"

Like a sinking boat, S.S Marie was going down, disappearing beneath the edge of the counter.

"Ehm, Miss?" asked the receptionist, leaning over the counter, "Maybe you can hire freelance adventurers to complete to complete higher level quests for you?"

She looked up from her place on the floor, "How does that work?"

"Well," he replied, rubbing at his neck from the strain, "The contract is made through the city hall so depending on the rank of the adventurer we sometimes raise the rank of the guild as long as they're within your employ."

That was unexpected, "Oh, wow. So all I need is some money?"

"You just asked for a loan of two silver," replied the man, "But, yes."

She winced at the unexpected jab at her financial sore spot, "I'll keep it in mind. Those contracts, what are they like?"

"They're similar to the contracts you have with their regular guild members, " said the receptionist.

Marie grimaced, "Right, my contracts," she said, returning to her feet, "With my members."

The receptionist's eyes narrowed, "You do have members, right?"

She absentmindedly picked up the receptionist's quill, turning it around in her hands, "Pfft, Yeah, loads."

"And if you had to turn loads into a number?" he said, raising an eyebrow.

"Sorta, two," she lied, "But just to ensure we're talking about the same thing — what kind of member contracts?"

The man shrugged, "The usual kind."

Marie waved a dismissive hand, "Ah, yeah, of course, but like — my usual or your usual?"

"The kind where you promise them a decent wage and a place to sleep. In exchange they don't accept quests from other guilds and forfeit the majority of the quest rewards." said the receptionist.

Marie's eyes went wide, "What? Who would do that? Give up the majority of the quest reward?"

"I suppose people that prefer eating daily over feasting once a week."

"Couldn't they just complete more quests instead?"

"What a great idea. You best hurry and take all your new quests back to your guild then. Good thing you got enough quests for everybody, eh?"

She eyed him uncertainly, "But I have no new quests."

"Gosh. Figure that."

"Oh, I see," said Marie, "So I need even more money now."

She sighed and turned to walk away, but turned back at the last moment, "Turns out we did mean the same thing."

"Well, that's a relief," he replied, waving her goodbye.

To his surprise she didn't leave, bur rather loitered around the quest board.

The brown-haired little priest just sorta stood there, giving polite smiles to anyone putting up a quest.
But the moment they turned she quickly inspected what was put up.
There was a little routine to it: Smile, read, stomp her foot. Smile, read, stomp her foot.
When she wasn't doing that she was fidgeting with something in her hands.
It was hard to see from a distance, but it kinda looked like a quill.

The receptionist sighed, "Hey," he shouted, "I need that back."

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