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Ch078-What A Lovely Day

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“If more adventurers were as willing to mind their business as you were, I would be out of a job. How was he? Did he eat?” the man with the gold plate asked.

It was the same stern-faced man that had spoken to Sylver back when he had recovered the tags from his first quest involving giants. Even though only a year had passed, the man looked significantly older than he had back then.

He had shaved his short blond hair away and was now completely bald. In contrast, he had grown a dark beard, that was greying at the roots, and had tied the thing into a simple braid. The scar that went down his head had healed into a less offensive version, it was flush with the skin now, and no longer appeared irritated.

His voice on the other hand, now matched his appearance.

“Basil? He seemed fine. It’s hard to tell with an elf unless you spend enough time with them, they’re much subtler than humans or other races. And yes, he ate a green mush and used a piece of dried bread to scoop it out. Tasted like over-salted onions, but not quite, and much chewier than its appearance suggested,” Sylver answered.

“He… He let you try it?” the man with a gold plate asked.

“We traded. I had some really good dried meat from Ron and Basil wanted to try it. Why?” Sylver asked.

“He uh… I don’t know how to explain this without going against his wishes of keeping you in the dark as much as possible… He doesn’t share food… It’s something he’s almost known for. I apologize for mentioning it, please forget I said anything,” the man with the gold plate said. Sylver shrugged.

“It’s not a problem… I was planning on giving these to Shera after this, but I’m fairly certain they would end up with you anyway,” Sylver said, as he reached into his robe and removed the makeshift bag full of adventurer’s tags.

Sylver placed it onto the table and removed the string that kept the bundle together. A small mound of gold and silver plates sat between Sylver and the man, with a few iron and copper ones mixed into them.

Spring appeared at Sylver’s side a moment later and placed all the silver jewelry with a white stone embedded into it onto the table. The jewelry mound was bigger, but only because some of the pendants came with thick chains and added to the volume. Everything was silver coated, to be precise, and of a low enough purity that it didn’t have any of the annoying anti darkness effects.

Sylver felt rather sorry for the gold-tagged man, as his eyes watered slightly at the sight of the tags and jewelry. He took a deep breath and used a handkerchief to dab at his eyes before he spoke.

“The bodies?” the man asked.

“I burned them. They died instantly, the density of the dark miasma overpowered whatever they were using to resist it, and they dropped dead before they knew what hit them,” Sylver explained.

He decided there wasn’t much point telling the man he harvested their skin and flesh to create temporary bodies for Flesh and Bones. He would burn the temporary bodies once he had proper ones made, so he wasn’t lying about burning them, only about when he burned them.

The man stared at the two piles and snapped his fingers. Both of them disappeared simultaneously.

“What are you after?” the man asked. His tone changed completely as if he wasn’t about to burst into tears a moment ago.

“I take it you mean specifically in terms of adventuring and quests and the like… Increasing my level, I guess? Money, tools, weapons, and anything that would make me stronger. There’s something I want, that will be impossible to get without being significantly more powerful than I am now, but it isn’t something you would be able to help with,” Sylver answered.

The man with the gold tag leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. His head bobbed ever so slightly, as he seemed to be counting something, and he spoke with his eyes still closed.

“You aren’t the first solo adventurer to go from level 3 to level 73 in under a year. If anything, compared to them you’re a fair bit behind. Mage classes in particular often give you all the tools you need to create a good enough advantage on a monster of a higher level…” the man said.

“I think I’ve done quite well, all things considered,” Sylver said. The man nodded and continued.

“Do you know who I am?” the man asked. It didn’t sound like a threat; it was the first time someone had asked Sylver the question without any malice behind it. He was just genuinely asking if Sylver knew who he was.

“Going by the fact that your tag is gold, I would guess branch manager or something of that nature? Maybe a specialist regarding whatever the rings with white stone are about? But no, I haven’t asked anyone about your identity, and up until I found those rings I quite honestly forgot you existed,” Sylver answered.

“These are… a separate matter from everything else. A bit personal, and not something I’m comfortable discussing, and you wouldn’t be interested in,” the man said.

“I’m more curious than you give me credit for, but I’ve learned a while ago that sticking your nose into everything you see, very rarely works out well. A kind of wider application of ‘don’t ask questions you don’t want to hear an answer to’,” Sylver explained. The man sat properly and opened his eyes.

“It’s a good attitude to have. When you defeated Samuel, were you going all out?” the man asked.

“Who?”

“Samuel Du’Rodier,” the man repeated.

“…Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to rest properly, who is Samuel?” Sylver asked. The man’s eyes widened slightly.

“The guy who stepped on you, and you crippled him in the arena below the guild,” Spring said, whispering through the shadow in Sylver’s ear.

“Oh! Yes, Samuel, I remember now, what about him?” Sylver asked before the man had a chance to say anything.

“When you fought him, were you going all out?”

“No. I took it seriously, but I can’t say I was giving it everything I had,” Sylver answered.

“Hypothetically, would you be able to win if there were 4 of him?”

“Are you asking if I would be able to beat a party of 4 D rank adventurers by myself?” Sylver asked.

“A hypothetical party of 4 level 80 adventurers,” the man said.

“At the risk of sounding arrogant, almost certainly,” Sylver answered. He understood that fighting people who were 30 levels above you when you are level 20, isn’t the same as fighting people 10 levels above you when you are level 70. But Sylver had faced worse odds before and came out ahead, and Sylver didn’t get the feeling saying he’s weak would do him any good.

The man sat quietly for a while and simply stared at Sylver.

“In that case, congratulations are in order. I’ll let Mira know to give you access to the second floor so you can pick a C rank quest to be tested on. You’ll be accompanied by an observer, and if you manage to complete the quest successfully, you’ll officially become a D rank adventurer… What did you call the elf who gave you this letter again?” the man asked.

“Basil.”

“Right. There would normally be at least a 6-month period between going from E rank to D rank, but Basil is very rarely wrong with things like these. He was somewhat vague regarding why exactly you can be trusted, but his word is good enough for me. Quite honestly, you’re the first human he’s described as “dependable”,” the man said.

Not to mention, with the royal family involved, Sylver already knew why exactly they were so careful to “reward” him.

“On top of that I’m guessing there’s something I know or saw, that you wouldn’t want me to tell anyone about,” Sylver said.

“Since we’re being honest with each other, I’m almost certain you don’t even realize what exactly the damaging information is. I’m hoping this would be enough to buy your compliance and silence. You don’t want to get involved, so you’re getting what you want, I’m getting what I want, everyone walks away happy,” the man offered.

Sylver quietly thought about it for a few seconds.

“I’d like for Shera to be promoted. I like working with her and would like to continue to. With my luck, I’ll run into something even more important soon, and I’d like her to be my representative, even when I’m C, B, A, or SSS rank… And I have a friend that’s looking into working in the guild, and I’d like things to go as smoothly as possible for him. If he’s useless, he’s useless, I won’t ask you to employ him if he can’t work, but I’d like for everything to be expedited as much as possible. He’ll be in Arda in about a week or so,” Sylver said.

The man answered so quickly, Sylver wondered if he should have asked for more.

“Done. Give me a day to sort everything out. And as before-”

“This conversation never happened,” Sylver finished.

Sylver made an effort to remember the man’s face, given that he didn’t question or laugh at the possibility of Sylver reaching SSS rank. They shook hands, and Sylver went downstairs to hand in Lola’s quests and transfer Shawn the 3,700 gold.

*

*

*

Just like all the other times, Sylver had come in during the day, he regretted it. The adventurer’s guild was crowded, loud, smelled like sweat and beer, and there were so many people being passively healed that Sylver’s skin crawled.

One of the F rank parties standing near the front saw that Sylver was holding a stack of quests, and saw the giant bag full of coins Spring was holding next to him, and let him go ahead of them. Sylver thanked the small party of humans and handed Shera the papers and the reward. A new girl Sylver hadn’t seen before took the bag of coins from him and went to the backroom to confirm the amount, while Shera handled categorizing the quests by rank and difficulty.

“Considering she’s paying 2 times the normal reward, I would be willing to bet all of these will be completed by the end of the week. None of these are particularly difficult, tedious would be a better word for them,” Shera said, as she handed a portion to a guild employee standing next to Sylver, and the blond man went to the board to start posting the F, E, and D rank quests.

“Good to hear. I’m looking for something a little strange. I’ve recently learned the requirements for a perk, and I need to defeat a warrior and a mage. Are there any quests that would have that?” Sylver asked.

“Do you need to fight them at the same time?” Shera asked.

“No, but it isn’t a problem if they’re together, it would be better for me in fact,” Sylver said.

Shera did something behind her desk while Sylver quietly waited. A large portion of the people standing behind him had moved towards the quest board and were going to the end of the line after changing the quest they were taking. They sounded quite excited about it.

“A woman and her child were kidnapped 2 days ago. Witnesses said the kidnapper was a mage that used wooden golems. The level is unknown, but the guild has estimated somewhere around the low 50s or 60s, based on the area and other factors. The reward is 400 gold if the woman and daughter are alive, and 100 gold for the kidnapper’s corpse,” Shera read out.

“Does the woman have any blood relatives?” Sylver asked. Shera quietly read to herself for a minute.

“Her sister is the one who created the quest, so yes. I don’t know about other family, it doesn’t mention it,” Shera said.

“That’s fine, I’ll take that one then. And the warrior?”

“This isn’t exactly a quest, but there’s a bounty on a thief that has a warrior-type class. The person who was stolen from has a way to track the items, and the bounty is 250 gold. Since you’re doing this to meet a perk’s requirements, this would be the easiest way,” Shera read.

“It’s fine, I’ll take it anyway. And Ron from Ron’s Rest has a quest here, finding a Shuba, I’d like to take that one too,” Sylver said.

Shera looked through her papers for a while and finally had to ask the blond man standing nearby to go and find Ron’s quest from the board.

“I also need a quest clearing bandits,” Sylver said, as Shera looked over Ron’s E rank quest.

“What is it with you and bandits?” Shera asked.

“My class favors humanoid enemies; I don’t know what to tell you,” Sylver said.

“There aren’t any nearby. The army moved through the forest and ‘recruited’ everyone they could find. The only ones left are so well hidden, that we don’t know about them… You could go talk to one of the generals, they might give you the location of enemy camps?” Shera offered. Sylver considered it.

“Who exactly is Arda fighting exactly?” Sylver asked.

“Well, at the moment, there are two wars. Two major ones at least, in the north, and the west. The northern war is with the Karoks, they’re mostly dwarves and gnomes, or at least they’re descendants of them. Among other things, they have a very powerful resistance to magic, and Arda and the nearby territories mostly rely on mages for their defenses, so that’s been at a standstill for a few months now,” Shera explained.

“That’s out then, and the western war? I remember hearing about it starting not too long ago,” Sylver said.

“About 8 months, but the official declaration was much more recent. Humans, oddly enough. Nomadic tribes, looking to pillage the continent for everything it’s worth. As I said, go talk to a general, they’ll be able to explain the situation a whole lot better than me. The adventurer’s guild had a strict neutrality policy in cases such as these, we neither reward, nor punish, adventurers for joining the war, you’re free to act as you wish, but without our backing,” Shera said.

She took Sylver’s adventurer’s tag from him and tapped it onto the three sheets of paper before giving the tag, along with the papers, back to him.

“Before I go, I’d like 3,700 gold to be transferred to one Shawn Bitzer,” Sylver said.

Shera still looked tired but the smallest of smiles tugged at the edge of Shera’s lips. She forced her face back into its regular polite and neutral expression before it could even be called a smile. Sylver could have sworn he heard a suppressed squeal as he walked away and left the guild building.

*

*

*

“Wouldn’t wooden golems imply a druid?” Spring asked.

Sylver sat opposite the shade and picked his nails with the edge of a dart, while Will adjusted his wings to take advantage of the warm updraft.

“Not necessarily. Golems aren’t inherently difficult to make, they’re just expensive and time-consuming. But assuming the kidnapping wasn’t done for personal, or money-related reasons, a shaman is a more likely answer than druid,” Sylver explained, as he moved onto the next nail.

“Shamans implies gods thought, I thought you did everything you could to stay away from them?” Spring asked.

“Not gods, deities. Lesser gods, kind of. Gods, at least the big ones, are born from the merging of dead souls, their interaction with the living world, and are heavily restricted and limited. When they do decide to interact with it, they can sink an island on a whim. But generally, they have their priests or agents handle things,” Sylver said.

It amazed him how much dried blood there was under his nails, despite how careful he always was, and how often he washed his hands.

“And deities?”

“Unlike gods, they’re limited by the Gellmann constant, as well as a bunch of self-imposed restrictions. They can use the equivalent of 10th tier magic, maybe, but that’s their limit. More often than not they’re harmless. Something like demons, but weaker and much less violent, they can bend the rules of magic, but can’t break them. Some circles call them “spirits” in the same sense that fairies or djinns are. Shamans are essentially more powerful sorcerers, but with more rules,” Sylver said.

Spring sat quietly for a while and double-checked the map against the river below. They were nearing the village, and Spring made Will fly closer to the ground.

“2 days though… They’re probably dead by now, aren’t they?” Spring asked.

“Who knows? Some rituals require the sacrifice to be prepared in a certain way. Either filled up with drugs, tortured to a breaking point, or something deity specific, like forcing her to mutilate herself by threatening the child. It’s hard to guess with these things, we can only hope it’s one of the tamer types. If we’re lucky she’s unharmed and merely forced to starve until she’s willing to eat human flesh or something of the like. People can go up to 3 months without food, assuming their mana core isn’t defective,” Sylver explained.

He finished cleaning his nails and lay back on the wyvern. The sky was almost completely clear, it was a beautiful day, in a certain sense.

Then again the greatest tragedies tended to occur on beautiful days such as this.

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