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On our return trip to Windrip from Mount Arkais, I decided that it was best to take my time, make smaller and slower jumps, and bathe in the scenery. Even though I had resolved myself to live a peaceful life here in Vacuos, I hadn’t actually spent much time relaxing, jumping from one big event to the next.

Well, I didn’t consider killing the Lich King or Goblin Lord to be that big of a deal. But others clearly did, and honestly, I’d rather not have had to deal with them either. So I wasn’t going to go rushing back to Windrip to get things done now. I was going to take, maybe, a full day to get back.

Also, it was so Noele would stop screaming.

“This is taking a while,” I sighed as I soared over a snowy mountain range.

We were a few hours away from Mount Arkais at this point. Or about ten minutes away if I’d gone at a faster pace. Noele just glanced up at me, frowning.

“You do realize that traveling across all of Laxo in a day is what only the highest-leveled [Archmages] can do with a [Flight]-spell, right?” she said.

I snorted. “All I’m hearing is that you’re passing up the opportunity to travel cross-continent faster than anyone else in the world right now just because you’re scared.”

“Because I already went through that once, and I’m now scarred for life.” She rolled her eyes at me as we descended at the edge of the mountain range.

My feet lightly touched the ground for only a single second before I pushed off, propelling myself high into the sky once more. Noele winced for the first few seconds of take-off, before steeling herself again. I swept my gaze over the landscape as we flew high, reaching for the clouds.

I narrowed my eyes as I caught a glimpse of a shadow in the northwest. I saw the remnants of smoke columns trailing through the sky. A city lay in the distance, about fifty miles away, bordering the ocean. Just at the edge of the horizon. And it looked like it had been ravaged, its walls torn to the ground, its docks burned to ashes, and entire streets reduced to rubble. The fighting looked over, but it was recent.

“What’s going on with that city?” I asked. “

Noele blinked and turned to face the city. She furrowed her brows as she spoke. “That’s… Erith. Archon’s capital city.”

“Think it’s a monster attack or something? Should we check it out?”

“I don’t think we should.” She pursed her lips. “Archon’s been at war with the Kingdom of Kal for the last few months. If I had to guess, the [Hero King] just captured their capital city.”

I gave her a flat stare. “I don’t know who this [Hero King] is.”

“His name is Kallistus Kal,” the blonde girl explained. “He’s one of those three otherworlders I told you about, and the king of one of the most powerful nations in all of Vacuos.”

“Ah, I see.” My eyes flickered. I thought about the System— about the single Class option offered to me. And I couldn’t help but wonder, Was he forced to become a [Hero] as well?

He sounded like he’d be a good person to speak with regarding my situation. Although, considering he seemed to be a warmonger, I was slightly reticent on getting involved with him. It was something to figure out later. For now, Noele and I continued on back to the Astrad Kingdom.

A few more hours passed as we drew closer and closer to the country’s borders. Noele raised her head, looking at me curiously.

“Why are we going back to Windrip, anyway?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” I raised a brow at her. “Don’t you live there?”

The blonde girl shook her head, replying simply. “No, I was born in a town called Wolfwater— it’s in the western parts of the Astrad Kingdom, further north from Windrip. I was just passing through since there was something I needed to do there.”

“I see.” I lowered my head in thought. “Well, is there somewhere you need to be?”

“Not particularly, no. I’m an adventurer. I am where I need to be.” She gave me a grin.

“Then there’s something I have to pick up in Windrip,” I said with a shrug. “It will probably take a while for me to get it, but that’s why we’re heading back.”

“Oh.” Noele nodded. “That makes sense.”

For a moment, neither of us said anything. Finally, I broke the silence with a sigh.

“...I really am not good at small talk, am I?” I said.

Noele agreed, “You aren’t.”

 

—--

 

We eventually arrived back in Windrip. I landed just a few miles outside of the city, and we walked the rest of the way back. It had only been a day since we left, so not much had changed. Most of everything was under construction or being repaired after the Goblin Lord’s attack.

Noele was exhausted, having stayed away for a full day and a half. She immediately returned to Brynn’s inn, passing out. As an adventurer, she had a Skill that helped her stay awake over long periods of time, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t feel sleepy. Anyways, apparently, she really did have her own room in the inn, so she slept there, leaving me with my own room for myself.

I decided against going to sleep since I wasn’t really too enthused with the idea at the moment. Especially since I now had hundreds of platinum and gold coins to spend. I entertained the idea of going on a quick shopping spree, but my better senses won over, and I headed out to buy the bare necessities for now.

For example: healing potions. I didn’t think I’d ever need to use a healing potion for myself, but I probably was going to need to use one for some reason or another eventually.

So I needed to buy a healing potion. They were rather expensive, or so I heard from Noele. After inquiring with Brynn, she told me that, depending on the quality, a healing potion could cost as low as a few dozen silver, to as high as ten gold coins. There were also elixirs of healing and other such [Alchemist]’s brewing which could cost plenty of platinum. It sounded daunting, but I raised the bag by my side.

It jingled as I peered in. It was the gold and platinum coins Grat-Ra’zun gave me. A dragon’s treasure— carved coin surfaces glittering even in dim light. So money was no object to me. The price of the potions didn’t matter.

After all, I was now rich.

 

——

 

“What in the blue-jawed mammoth’s dung is this crap?!”

The [Alchemist] threw the shimmering coin, bouncing it off the table at me. I caught the coin and gave him a flat stare.

“Rude,” I said. “Didn’t need to throw it back.”

I had found an [Alchemist] shop still standing at what was left of market street after getting directions from Brynn. She warned me that [Alchemists] could be an irritable bunch, especially towards hagglers or scammers. They were usually passionate about their concoctions, so they tended to be pretty rigid about their prices. But this guy was just an asshole.

“Don’t try to scam me with these fake coins. I only accept real gold.” He pinched his fingers together, producing a dull gold coin.

I blinked, comparing the gold coin I had gotten from Mount Akrasia with the gold coin the [Alchemist] held in his hands. The gold coin in my hand was engraved with an intricate design— a lone tree standing atop a hill with symbols etched into its bark. Meanwhile, the gold coin he held up had no design or markings.

They were totally distinct. In fact, they weren’t even the same size.

“That damn dragon…” I cursed as I clenched the coin in my hand.

The [Alchemist] pointed at me accusingly. “I do not care for your collector’s toys or your forgeries! Begone, scammer—” he started.

“They aren’t collector’s items,” a voice interrupted him. I blinked, turning as a familiar man walked up next to me. “Those are elven coins from Drazyl. Quite precious, actually.”

I recognized him. And so did the [Alchemist].

“You’re… Justyn? The Adventurer’s Guild [Receptionist]?” The [Alchemist] blinked. “I thought the next shipment to the guild only comes in next week?”

“It does. I am not here on guild duties, right now. Well, I am. But—” Justyn turned to me, nodding politely. “I can assure you, Ms Amelia is not a scammer, nor are these coins forgeries.”

The [Alchemist] hesitated. He drew back, crossing his arms as he harrumphed. “Well in any case, I don’t care for some coin from another continent. I am not going to go all the way to a big city to exchange it for something I need right now.”

“That is perfectly understandable. Which is why—” Justyn gestured at the half a dozen healing potions laid on the counter before me. “May I pay for these for you, Ms Amelia?”

“Uh, sure?” I raised a brow at him, unsure why he was doing this.

He waved a hand off dismissively as he forked over three gold coins. “Please don’t worry about it, it is just a repayment for the way I treated you when we first met.”

“I mean, I’m not stopping you,” I said with a shrug. I wasn’t going to turn down a free gift.

The [Alchemist]’s demeanor immediately changed. He eagerly nodded, waving at us as we exited the shop. “Thank you for your business!” he called out as Justyn led me outside.

The [Receptionist] shook his head at me as we stepped outside of the building.

“[Alchemists]. They are a difficult bunch to deal with. Even [Alchemists] who pick up adventuring. They’re the kinds of adventurers who start a fight at the guild hall just by splashing some acid on your face. They’re not the most pleasant individuals to be around.”

“Honestly, I don’t really care. Thanks for the help, though.” I just found it more annoying when I had useless things to deal with. “What were you doing here, anyways?”

“I heard you were back,” Justyn said, glancing at me. “I went to your inn, but you weren’t there. Brynn said I could find you here, so I came.”

“Did you need me for something?” I asked, wondering why he’d seek me out.

“Indeed.” The [Receptionist] cleared his throat. He reached for his pocket, producing an envelope in his hand. He handed it to me as he spoke. “Guildmaster Evan returned yesterday evening. He rushed back after hearing what happened with the Goblin Lord. He had a lot to deal with, but I still made sure to get this approved for you as soon as possible. It was prepared for you just this morning.”

I narrowed my eyes, accepting the envelope. “This is…?”

He drew back and averted his gaze slightly uncomfortably. “You don’t have to worry about opening it in public. It doesn’t hold any private information.”

I slowly unsealed the envelope, and pulled out a letter with a gray metallic object attached. I didn’t need to read the letter explaining what it was. I already had a feeling this was what it was going to be.

It was the reason why I decided to return to Windrip, after all. It took me longer than I’d have liked to acquire, but finally, I got it.

“It’s your adventurer’s badge,” Justyn said with a smile.

It was about the size of the palm of my hand. Dull-designed, and modeled in the shape of a shield, it was not exactly the most ornate item I’d ever seen. My name was inscribed in the center, and there was a glowing crystal right beneath it. Some kind of enchanted rock. Nothing too precious, from what I could tell. Maybe quartz or the like.

I lowered the badge as Justyn continued.

“You are now an unofficial adventurer of the Adventurer’s Guild. You can finally accept adventuring jobs.”

And I let out a tired sigh, “Fucking finally.”

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