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The master guildhall was bustling with people. Most of them had just finished their meal and had walked right out of the cafeteria. A new crowd formed in front of the quest board.

The board would be revised about 3 times a day, once before sunrise, another time at noon and the third being the evening right after twilight.

Curtis and Ellis stood close together, shoulder to shoulder at a corner. They watched as the people flowed in and out of the hall. The back of their hands brushing at each other.

It was about this time when a guy around his 20’s snapped them out of their trance. Ruth stood beside him quietly with her shoulder raised.

“Curtis and Ellis?” Smiling, his amber eyes shifted between them.

Dean Troy.

He was one of the guild masters in charge of maintaining order within the guild. A nice chatty guy who’d love to strike up conversations with adventurers every so often. With his amiable attitude and charming looks, he was well recognized by the adventurers of Croquel Guild.

He was the person who had Curtis and Ellis register in Croquel Guild in the past. Not to mention the few other arbitrary meetings they had together.

He had a nice head of dark blue hair with out-of-place white fringes in front.

“Guild Master Dean,” Curtis nodded his head with a smile.

“Guild Master Dean, um, nice to see you again,” Ellis blinked her eyes.

He gave a heartfelt chuckle before continuing. “If you don’t mind, how about following me to the guild meeting room? I’m sure you know what this is about,”

The guild meeting room Dean mentioned was located at the cafeteria.

Ruth parted with them since she still had work to do.

Dean escorted them through a door that could only be accessed by guild staffs. Closing the door behind them, the cafeteria’s din seemed to disappear for a brief moment.

Up the stairs and past a corridor, they were led to a room.

A private room with a round table in the centre. Around it was cushioned seats, different from the hardwood benches in the cafeteria. There was a waiter already standing there. His uniform was different from the one Ruth wore, tardy plain white clothes.

“Would you like to order anything?” after which Dean simply turned to the waiter and ordered. A simple pearl cream sandwich with a side of tofu and fish roe served in a miniature ramekin. For the drinks, plain water was his go-to choice.

The meeting room was built close to the cafeteria specifically for one reason—to eat. This wasn’t the first time Curtis and Ellis had been invited here.

“Starberry fizz cocktail and two grilled salmon please,” Ellis nonchalantly ordered.

“Remove the alcohol for the cocktail.”

“What?!”

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding, “Curtis raised his hands to defend against Ellis’ stranglehold, “A cup of coffee and one grilled salmon for me thank you.”

Having ordered their food, they sat around the table, Ellis close to Curtis with Dean at the opposite side.

“Take a look at this,” from his pocket Curtis took out a small finger-sized jar. A small cork fitted tightly around the opening. Through the transparent glass one could see—

“Spirit essence?!” Dean gasped, both his hands slammed on the table. The drinks shook a bit, a little of the contents spilt out. Dean coughed. “Sorry, my bad.”

Curtis smiled wryly, handing the jar over, “For your inspection.”

Ellis who didn’t really have anything much to do in this continued sipping away at her cocktail. The fruity blend of multicoloured starberry and the alcoholic kick took Ellis to cloud nine. Literally.

Pouring a little bit of the course salt sized fragments on a piece of white paper, Dean pinched the small grains between his fingers. Rubbing it around his fingertips, feeling its texture. It was hard and jagged but had a weird smoothness to it. It was as if there was a special coating enveloped around each fragment, repelling the finger.

Dean could feel the mysterious aura emanating from within each crystal. This was genuine! Such a rare substance!

Forest Sprites would usually be found in virgin forests. Although it could be considered as the most common among other sprite species, it was still especially hard to come by. In the past, the abundant unexplored world meant many explorers had the chance to encounter one of these creatures.

But that was before most pillars have been inhabited. Most regions had already been dissected from the inside out, which meant that most Forest Sprites had been killed.

Dean’s eye lit up.

“I will arrange an investigation. If it turns out to be true, we’ll inform you and reward your party, oh, it’s just the two of you,” Realizing how unusual this party actually is, Dean rubbed his eyes, “I thank you on behalf of the guild for your contribution.”

He placed a contract before Curtis. It was a contract to validate the party as the founder of the new land. There were a few copies, all of which had some special form of magic applied to it.

Signing it, Curtis shifted his gaze to the lines strewn across with abrupt circle and shrewd lines akin to shooting stars in red ink.

‘I need to change a map next time..’

“Guild Master Dean, please notify the authorities to pay attention to the elevation of the pillar cluster. The altitude is unexpectedly lower than normal. There is also a fog covering the surrounding of the pillars. Perhaps this is why most people overlooked it?” pointing at the chestnut-shape outline. “From my estimations, I think it is at least a couple hundred meters lower than Haital?”

“I see. Thank you for bringing this up,” Dean nodded as he continued to stare into the jar.

Spirit essence. A resource for forging. Dull, grey, possessing the look of ordinary table salt. It has a special property of fusing with gryostones. When this happens, two things would occur. First, the gryostone would increase in size in proportion to the amount of Spirit Essence consumed; secondly, it increased the purity of the gryostone.

“What price are you willing to accept if I wanted to buy this Spirit Essence? Do you have any more of this?” Dean swirled the jar of white powder.

“Let’s see... What do you think Ellis? How about an upgrade to your sword?”Curtis took a sip of coffee and glanced at Ellis.

During the fight with the Forest Sprite, Ellis’ sword had been destroyed at the tip. Not to mention the dents and chiselled parts riddled across the sword. Its lifespan was clearly coming to an end.

“But the Spirit Essence, won’t you need it to..” Ellis paused a moment, realizing she was about to blurt out information about the superior red crystal Curtis found.

“It’s fine. I think it’s better if you get a new sword. A sword with a few additional gryostone slots would help.”

“Err.. then, um. Thank you, Curtis,” Ellis nodded timidly.

“Then it’s settled. In the exchange for that bottle, I guess a better sword for Ellis? The sword has to suit her.”

Dean merely smiled after hearing that. A high-grade sword? That’s a little—

“That’s too modest of you. I actually expected something of higher value. And there’s also the post-found reward we discussed for those who reported the findings of a new piece of land,” the post reward was an incentive to encourage people to report their findings rather than keep it a secret. Even if the founders were from Croquel Guild, they could go sell the information to another guild that provided more benefits.

“The land has yet to be confirmed by the authorities hasn’t it?”

“This Spirit Essence here is already proof,” Dean showed a crafty smiled. “Together with the sword, how about I add a spellbook? We’ve recently received an order of The Maverick Spellbook set.”

Curtis gawked, “Are you serious?”

“Once the land has been found and your claims turn out to be true, then, I’ll make sure to give out a suitable reward for you two. But for now, I hope this much will do.”

“Thank you?” Curtis was a little overwhelmed with the sudden influx of apparent rewards waiting for him. “I guess it’s a good trade. That Spirit Essence is yours.”

“If anything, I’ll come to find you two when the time comes, for now..”

Just as those words left Dean’s mouth, an attendant from the master guild hall came into the room with light steps.

“Guild master Dean, the princess. The princess from Rozel kingdom,” she whispered, shaking.

Dean nodded with a furrowed brow, “Looks like something unexpected happened.” Dean smiled weakly, “I need to attend this, I apologize. Please excuse me,” and went out.

The clamouring sounds in the cafeteria had gotten quite loud.

“I wonder what’s going on?” Ellis’ gaze followed Dean out the open corridor. For a brief moment, she saw an unknown silhouette of a cloaked person following behind him. “Huh?”

“The fourth bell?” Curtis had his eyes pointed up at the ceiling. The arrival of a princess from another kingdom could be counted as a special event.

“Err, then could the princess be here at the moment?”

“That’s a possibility.”

An indescribable joy surfaced on Ellis’ face, like a bubble appearing from below the sea.

“What?”

“Nah, I was just thinking. What would my new sword look like.”

Curtis laughed in response. He had thought she was thinking something related to the princess. “I can’t believe I’m going to get a Maverick Spellbook!”

For the new sword, Ellis imagined it to be a tad lighter in weight, professionally designed and crafted, sharper, having more gryostones slots, improved magic conductivity and larger mana capacity. Swords with gryostones slots were rare, if anything, most people wouldn’t even consider buying such a sword.

Curtis imagined the spell book with better mana efficiency, better conductivity, faster casting times, smoother transitions and a fancier cover. One very particular trait that all Maverick Spellbooks have was the 6 specially designated gryostone slots. Designed with unrestricted conductivity, it utilizes each individual trait of the crystals to its best potential.

Their sweet talk continued onwards until they noticed Dean’s voice. Accompanying it was a sweet voice.

Curtis turned his head to look out the corridor.

‘The princess?’

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Cliche.


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