I jump up as soon as I have a sense of self again. It feels like I just jumped out of the water after almost drowning. I take a moment and breath in deep and try to figure out where I am. It looks like we made it back to the city in one piece as I'm currently on a bed in some room. The sound of the door opening draws my attention.
"It seems like you're awake Mr.Estrea, please excuse me as I go inform Lawrence."
A kind-looking old lady wearing the guild uniform peeked in and left almost immediately after confirming that I'm awake.
Looking at my own body I judge that I shouldn't have been in bed for long, I'm still wearing the same leather armor and all of my belonging is still with me including my spear leaning on the side of the bed. Before I can confirm the contents of my space ring I hear knocking on the door once again.
"Good to see you still breathing Mr.Estrea, glad you had found some really nice friends to play with and forgot all about good ol' me and even your brand new badge."
"...Hahaha, a lot happened and things got out of control?"
"Wow, you must be really talented in sending things out of control if it is happening this often."
I am defeated by Lawrence's teasing as he walked closer to my bed.
"So tell me, what happened this time? Your new slave came charging into the guild on your horse with you knocked out and all we got out of her mouth was that you guys got attacked by bandits before she lost consciousness. We sent somebody to check it out so they should be back soon so no point in hiding anything."
"FARIS, is she okay? Where is she?"
I failed to protect her...
"...Sigh, Mr. important always wants to have his answers first, don't worry kid, the little girl is fine and resting right now. She had some pretty big wounds but the cut was shallow, she only lost consciousness from losing too much blood, the healing mage on duty at the guild tend to her already. She should be fine after waking up."
What can I do to protect her better...
"Your turn to answer now."
I explained to Lawrence about the entire incident, how it started, who they were, all the way up to how we ended up here.
"So those guys were the remaining kidnappers who took the Count's son last time and were out to get revenge on you? You sure got some luck, kid. Anyway, you should be fine, you only ran out of mana and wasn't injured. I'm going to finish the report on this incident and I'll also inform the Count's people as well, I'll come find you again in a few hours."
I'm once again alone in the room as Lawrence shuts the door behind him. I stay listlessly in bed and stare into the ceiling. The more I think about it, the tighter my grip on the bedsheets gets.
I'm a failure, I couldn't protect Faris, even though I promised her before, even though I promised to myself so many times in the past that I would protect my woman with my all if I ever got the chance. Now that I did get myself a woman and gained that chance that I used to wish for so much, I failed. I was the one being protected, Faris protected me from harm and as a result, I'm lying here without a scratch.
Is this really what I wanted? I chose magic to stay in the backline to let my woman get hurt protecting me? Even though I knew that Faris was more suited to attacking rather than defending, I still made her be my frontline and draw in attacks, to be my shield and using the excuse of being a mage.
No, this is the last thing I want of my party, if things stay the same then am I going to do the same with my future party members too? Use them as a shield while I sit comfortably in the back being protected, I can't let that happen. I won't let someone else be my shield anymore, if our party needs a shield then I will become that shield. I need to practice being the shield.
I snap up and leave the room in a rush, I need to go to the training ground and figure out ways to protect my party, my family. I guess the way and head back down to the first floor and into the familiar lobby of the adventurer guild. I don't bother to look at anything else as I walk straight to the training ground.
As soon as I find my own spot in the training ground I start experimenting with ways to protect Faris and my future party members. I need to be able to make a shield quickly enough to be used in close combat.
I try out forming an ice shield as I conjure a big piece of huge and have it float around me. It takes me a whole second to make it solid ice, I would be sliced down already, try again. I mindlessly keep forming chunks of ice around me even though a dull pain still aches in my brain.
I've been forming walls of ice around me for an hour straight but I don't really feel much improvement, it's still not at the level to be used in close combat. I did figure out that I can cast two spells at the same time easier now, it's like I figured out how to use a muscle in the mind that I've never used before. This isn't enough, casting in the middle of a melee is difficult, I need to change my approach.
I aimlessly walk around the training area trying to find an instructor free when I spot a duo sparring with spears, one tall lanky young man and one old man with white hair, seemingly to be in the middle of a lesson. I can't waste time I need to gain the power to protect.
"Excuse me, please train me how to defend myself with the spear."
I walk up the still sparring duo and loudly proclaim my intentions. The old man stops and looks at me in annoyance.
"Can't you see we're in the middle of our session right now, get lost."
I bow my head 90 degrees to him, I know I'm being rude but the frustration in me is propelling me, telling me I need to get stronger fast.
The young man seeing me being so serious puts on an awkward expression.
"...Gramps, it's about time for me to go anyway, why don't you help him out, he seems sincere."
"Don't be such a pushover Shu yo---GET BACK HERE!"
The young man starts walking away with a wave, causing the old man's face to turn red and turns toward me.
"You want to train right, come on, let's have a sparring session right away!"
The man charges at me with full metal spear much faster than he was during his previous spar. I dodge to the side but the old man smoothly transitions his thrust into a sweep and I hold up my spear to parry. The impact blasts me up into the air and I fall twenty feet away into a roll.
I recover my balance and look up only to be greeted by the sight of the man about to slam his spear down vertically at me, fearing his power from the last blow, I reflexively cast the ice magic I've been practicing for the past hour and form an ice shield overhead. Before my ice is fully frozen, the man's spear smashes the shield into pieces and stops his spear right above my head.
"A high-level water mage?"
"...No sir, I'm still new but I can freely form ice."
The man brings his spear back to his side and offers me a hand up.
"Still haven't got your name yet youngling."
"Aster, Aster Estrea."
"Well Aster, starting today you can call me instructor Morgan, and as you wish, I'll teach you how to defend yourself with that thing."
"Thank you, sir."
"So tell me, why do you want to learn the spear when you're a mage?"
"...I decided to fight on the frontline for my party and in order to do that, I need to at least be able to defend myself while I cast."
"...So you want to fight up close with both magic and spear?"
Morgan gives me a strange look.
"To be honest, I can teach a lot of different styles on how to use your weapon for enhancers, but none of that would work for mages, I have no idea what to teach you besides the basics."
"The basics are enough, and if you would so kindly to spar with me and point out my deficiencies."
With being able to cast two spells at the same time now, I open myself to many more options, I just need to refine my fighting style to fight as the tank of my party. An unorthodox mage tank.
Morgan spent another hour teaching me the basics of wielding a spear, how it isn't only about thrusting, many different movements like sweeping, slashing are all possible just like with a sword. He focused on how to parry attacks in consideration of me being a mage with weaker physical abilities.
I wanted to start sparring with Morgan but a voice interrupts me.
"Aster! Are you sure you're good to be moving about already?"
I turn to see Norton walking toward me with Lawrence behind him.
"That should do for today, come back in the morning if you want and we can continue from there."
Morgan not wanting to be in the way discreetly parts the scene, as expected of an old man with rich social experience.
"Why are you here Norton?"
"The guild sent a message about the remaining kidnappers at large being killed, so I came here to confirm that it's them. Didn't know you were involved, but I should've considered the possibility they would take revenge on you. I'm very sorry to have got you caught up in this mess."
Norton gave me a formal bow, befitting of a noble.
"...Stop it, I should've been more careful too, it's not your fault. Come on, stop being so formal, we're friends aren't we?"
"Sorry to interrupt your reunion, but as a guild staff, I am responsible for reporting to Aster about the results of our investigation of the incident."
Norton and I smile bitterly as we give our attention to Lawrence here.
"Would you come with us into the guild as I explain?"
I nod our party of three heads back to the lobby of the guild.
"We have already confirmed the bodies at the scene and have been consistent with your story, the six people who attacked your party are confirmed to be on the wanted list for kidnapping of the young lord. You will receive their bounty which adds up to a total of 30 gold but 5 gold will be deducted for the expenses of the guild healing mage, giving you a total of 25 gold."
"5 gold coins per patient? I should start leveling up my healing magic on the side!"
Both of them look at me strangely at my statement.
"...Errr, Aster, you do know that it's basically impossible for an adventurer to also be a healer right?"
"I'll explain for you Lord Norton, Aster must've been living in a well or some rural countryside all his life, it doesn't help that his mental aptitude is lacking too."
What the fuck Norton, don't nod at this guy's shit, we're friends, aren't we? And fucking Lawrence must be still mad I stood him up, grow up, stop being so petty.
"Healing magic levels different compared to other magic as they have no offensive capabilities to kill at all, so the rules for gaining experience is different. It is said that it used to work by just healing anything injured in the past but it angered the Gods when people captured others and continually maimed them just to level their magic. Are you following along so far Aster?"
"Yes, I'm not retarded or lacking in mental aptitude you fuck, keep going."
"Excuse his language Lord Norton, he must have not received education on manners. Anyways, healing magic can only be leveled by healing wounds that resulted from fighting monsters in dungeons, which is why they are so many healers stationed outside dungeons. That is the only way to heal enough people to get to higher levels, if the healer went into dungeons as well, they would only have the chance to heal their allies occasionally, do you understand what I'm saying Aster?"
"Yeah yeah, to level healing magic, the best way is to wait outside dungeons to heal the adventurers who come out. Do any healers enter parties after they gain sufficient levels?"
"Rarely, healing magic isn't that useful in combat dungeon, even high-level healing magic takes at least half an hour to take effect, and with most healers not use to combat, most parties just stick to the healers outside dungeons."
It was Norton who answered my question, no wonder they think I'm stupid, an adventurer that knows less about adventuring than someone who hasn't become an adventurer yet.
"You sure know your stuff, Norton."
"Haha...my dad came back from the capital this morning and was furious with me after hearing I got kidnapped, he's mad that I am weak enough to let that happen, and is making me become an adventurer as soon as possible so I'm making sure I'm ready for it."
We reach Lawrence's counter as Lawrence brings a few sheets a paper to me along with a bag of coins.
"Sign this to acknowledge you have received the bounty from the guild. Sign this to acknowledge the medical fees have been deducted from your reward. Fill this form, it's to register your slave into your party. Your slaves will become a dependant of you and will have the same rank and privilege as the owner, all their achievements and reward will also only credited to you."
Looks like he really was working hard and was prepared, I sign the forms after skimming through the contents, never sign anything without looking at it first you know.
"And here, give me your old badge, this will be your new guild badge, congrats on your promotion to rank two after a few days, let's not have you keep trying to be a hero now though, okay?"
He hands me a guild badge that looks the same as my current one, made of iron with the picture of the Weycorus tree that is the symbol of the guild engraved but with two glaring red fruits on the tree now, showing my position of rank two.
"And this badge is for your companion, we already recorded all her information."
I take the badge for Faris and carefully keep it. I should go take a look at her now.
"Thank you so much, Lawrence, where can I find Faris?"
I head to the place Lawrence told me after I said my goodbyes to Norton.
I enter the room with dim lights as a curtain is covering the window, I see a figure with beautiful silvery-grey hair sleeping peacefully on the bed.
I whisper quietly to myself as I take a seat on the bed next to hers.
"This will be the last time you will get hurt for me, I promise."
I think back to the events since this morning, all the danger I put her through where a single mistake could've ended her life. I feel disgusted with myself, my inability to carry out my promises.
"This will also be the last time I break my promises, I promise."
I sit there watching her over as I constantly what I should do better to keep us safe.
I will do whatever I can, no matter how ruthless, I will make sure we all gain immortality together safely and live happily ever after.
When the light outside starts to turn purple, indicating that the mellow orange glow of sunset will soon come as well, Faris finally opens her eyes.
"Faris, how are you feeling."
She blinks blankly a few times and turns her eyes to me before she tackles toward me.
"Master! You are safe, I'm so glad."
"Idiot, don't move around so much after just waking up. How are your injuries?"
She runs her hands all over her body before removing the armor and clothing of her middle section and shows me.
"I'm all fine, see, not a scratch, not even a mark remains."
She brings my hands to feel her skin where she was cut. I run my hand over it a few times before bringing her into my embrace.
"I won't let you get hurt like that again, and I order you to try your best not to get hurt from now all, even if you have to run away."
"No buts. You are family to me the moment I bought you, I won't let you get hurt again."
Faris reluctantly nods and returns my hug.
"Master, I love you."
I feel the heat from her face buried into my shoulders as I stroke her back. Let's take a moment to rest, after all, we do deserve it after going through all that, right?
Just another random guy you'll come across on the internet who decided to write something on a whim.
Currently writing my first story, ever.
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