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I was still standing there and staring at the same jobs over and over again.

For whatever reason, I was expecting to see something new in my fifth scan-through of the job board, even though I was well aware that I had already seen everything it had to offer, and nothing would change. I just hoped that I might’ve missed something interesting.

It was like browsing through social media. Even now, after all that time spent in the Fractured Realm, I still remembered what it was like to be mindlessly scrolling through my social media feed, seeing the same posts repeatedly, but refreshing the app in hopes of a quick dopamine hit when there was something new.

But that never happened. Not on Earth, and not here in Vacuos.

Instead, a voice piped up behind me, drawing my attention.

“You have been standing here for exactly thirty-minutes now, Ms Amelia,” Guildmaster Evan said as he approached me from behind. He had a watch in hand, and he wore a smile on his face despite his proceeding inquiry of concern. “Is something the matter?”

“Why are you timing me? That’s weird,” I said flatly.

The robed man stepped back as he raised his pointed hat. “Ah, my apologies. But I do hope you understand that from my perspective, you are the odd one for staring at the job board for thirty-minutes straight during a party, Ms Amelia.”

“Fair,” I muttered. I turned to face him and crossed my arms. “I’m just looking for a job or something productive I can do.”

“But can you not relax and enjoy yourself? Now is the perfect time to preoccupy your busy mind with some entertainment.” The Guildmaster of Windrip’s Adventurer’s Guild gestured towards the rambunctious crowd in the distance. They mostly stuck to the other side of the room where the tables and chairs had been set up for this event.

I replied honestly, “Not a fan of alcohol or parties.”

He raised a brow at me. “And why would you attend a party with drinks and alcohol if you’re not a fan of either of them?”

“Free food.” I looked towards the buffet table, and he blinked.

“That is indeed what you’d call ‘fair’.” He rubbed his chin as he spoke.

I rolled my eyes. “Anyways, I’m fine. Unless you have an A-rank job or two stashed away at the back of the new guild which you can bring out right now— in which case, I’d be grateful.”

Evan swept back with a smooth bow. “Do not worry, Ms Amelia. I shall check with [Receptionist] Justyn if there have been any new requests that came in last week but have yet to be processed. It is the least I can do for you after informing the Forsaken Archer of your existence.”

I paused. My brows snapped together. I spun around with a frown. “After you— what?”

But he was already walking away. “I will be right back, Ms Amelia.”

I watched him go, before shaking my head. “Man, he really is weird.”

But perhaps he wasn’t just an eccentric fellow either. I had wondered about how Jax had found out about me so quickly, and as it turned out, it was because of Evan. I wondered if I should be worried about this. Probably not, considering that Jax wasn’t even that malicious in the first place. Sure, he tried to kill me. However, he failed. And when he had the chance to kill Noele, he didn’t.

Jax just had a few screws loose in his head. And at the end of the day, I didn’t really care, honestly. If another Jax came along because of Evan, I would figure out what to do then. It was too much of a hassle to deal with now, and I probably wasn’t in too much danger from anyone randomly attacking me one day.

I stood there, staring at the job board and waiting for the Guildmaster to return for another good fifteen minutes before I heard a set of soft footfalls approaching me. I turned around and faced… not Evan, but Noele.

“Master,” the blonde girl said as she approached me.

I gave her a flat stare in response. “Noele. What did I say about calling me that?”

She pursed her lips. “S-sorry, force of habit.”

“It’s only a force of habit because you keep doing it.” I shook my head as I faced her. “What’s up?”

“I have a q—” the blonde girl started, then hesitated.

She shifted her feet uncomfortably, evidently holding back something she wanted to say, before deciding to say it anyways.

“Amelia,” Noele said seriously as she held my gaze. A look of extreme gravity on her face. “Why did you become an adventurer?”

“Money,” I replied without missing a beat.

The blonde girl opened her mouth. She tried to work her jaw as she stared at me, and I just crossed my arms.

“That’s— I should have expected that,” she sighed.

I shrugged in response. “Also, because I couldn’t really get any other job since I can’t get a Class.”

Well, technically I could get a Class, but it wasn’t one I wanted. I didn’t want to be beholden to the System as some sort of eternal savior of Vacuos. I was fine with getting an ordinary Class, but I couldn’t, which barred me from getting a vast majority of jobs.

Noele nodded slowly as she lowered her head, evidently dejected. “Right, I know…”

I raised a brow at that. “Is that not the answer you wanted?”

“It isn’t— I mean it is,” she said hurriedly. But she averted her gaze as she pursed her lips. “I wanted to hear your answer, but… I guess I was hoping you’d give a different answer, you know?”

“I see.”

I probably could have left it at that and continued minding my own business. But it was quite obvious that Noele was distraught over something. Since I didn’t really have anything else to do, and I was her mentor, I pressed her further.

“Are you looking for a specific answer in particular?” I placed a hand on my chin in thought.

“Kind of?” The blonde girl looked uncertain. “But… not really. I know I want an answer— I just don’t know what’s the answer I want.”

“Have you tried asking others?” I suggested.

She nodded. “I did— Garron said he became an adventurer to avenge his parents, and Guildmaster Evan told me he became an adventurer to learn more about people.”

“Learn more about people?” I blinked. “As an adventurer?”

“I don’t really get it either…”

That didn’t make sense. It was like saying I tried to become a [Cook] to learn more about smithing or whatever. Adventurers quite literally spent most of their time away from cities and other people. An odd answer, as expected from that eccentric guildmaster. I tapped a finger on my chin as I frowned.

“What about you?” I finally asked. I tilted my head at Noele, and she blinked. “Why did you become an adventurer?”

“Me?” The blonde girl drew back. “T-that’s…”

“That’s?” I waited, and she shuffled her feet.

Noele closed her eyes and sighed. I could hear her indecision in that anxious breath she let out even amidst the backdrop of the noisy party. Steeling herself, she raised her head and answered slowly.

“That’s the problem. I don’t know why I became an adventurer. Not anymore. And I’m starting to think… I never knew why I became an adventurer.”

I eyed the blonde girl. “Why did you initially become an adventurer?”

She pressed her lips into a thin line. “I thought I was doing it because I wanted to take after my sister— because I wanted to become strong. That was the answer I always told myself. It was why I ran away from my home, Amelia.”

“You’re a runaway?” I asked. “I thought you kept in contact with your family.”

“I keep sparse contact with them. Every few months, I’d write a letter. Maybe once a year, I’d exchange a few [Messages] in a day.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because they disapproved of me becoming an adventurer. They wanted me to stay and become a [Farmer] like them. But I wanted to become strong— like Nora.”

“And you ran away,” I said simply.

“I did.” Noele nodded. Her brows creased as she clenched a fist. “And now, I don’t even know why I became an adventurer. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I have reached A-rank— all my sister ever wanted was to become an A-rank adventurer, and I achieved that. But I feel empty inside.”

I saw the way her back slumped over as she said that. I watched as her tightened fist laxed and grew limp. “This is all because you don’t know why you’re even doing this, right? Isn’t that normal after hitting your goal?”

“My goal wasn’t to become an A-rank adventurer. That was my sister’s goal.” She raised her head. “I wanted to surpass that and become an S-rank adventurer— to make Nora proud. But now I realize there’s nothing amazing about being one if I’m going to become like that psycho Jax too. It’s not like my levels define me, anyway.”

“Man, you really hate him, don’t you?” I commented dryly.

“He tried to kill me, Amelia!” Noele sputtered.

“And he didn’t, but I see where you're coming from.”

I lowered my head as I rubbed my chin. I finally understood why Noele was suddenly having this dilemma now— it wasn’t just Jax’s fault, but mine too. I showed her why levels didn’t matter, and he pretty much showed her why her goal wasn’t as noble as she thought it was.

I felt bad for causing this— if Noele had never met me, she wouldn’t be lost and confused now. She’d be perfectly content pursuing her next adventure. I took in a deep breath and raised my head.

“Noele,” I said, drawing her attention.

“Yes, Amelia?”

“If you don’t know why you’re an adventurer now, we can always figure it out.”

She blinked. “What?”

“You’ve spent the last ten years or whatever of your life chasing your dream, Noele.” I met her gaze as I spoke, watching her eyes grow wide. “You can’t just abandon it now a week after meeting that insane idiot Jax. If you really want to give up this life, you can. But after we work it through together.”

Noele stared at me. She opened her mouth slowly. “Together?”

“I’m your mentor, aren’t I?” I scoffed. “And I guess we’re close enough to be friends too at this point. I’d be shit at both if I didn’t help you out right now.”

She weakly tried to protest. “But my parents… I miss them—”

“Let’s visit them now, then.” I grinned at her. “I’ve been thinking about starting a farm too, anyways. Maybe I can take a look around and have your dad show me the ropes.”

“I can’t…” Noele shrank away from me.

“Why not? You can be an adventurer and still visit them, right? And Whiteridge isn’t that far from Windrip.”

She shook her head and gesticulated wildly. “It’s at the other side of the Astrad Kingdom— it’s a thousand miles west from Windrip!”

I gave her a flat stare. “As I said: Whiteridge isn’t that far from Windrip.”

The blonde girl opened her mouth, then stopped herself. “R-right.”

I eyed her as she looked down at herself. I could tell she was still conflicted. She raised her hands and spoke in a small voice.

“What if they disapprove of me? What if they ask me to quit being an adventurer?”

“Look at yourself, Noele,” I said as I gestured at her, then towards the party in the background. “You’re an A-ranked adventurer— one of two in all of Windrip.”

“I…” Her eyes grew round.

I scratched the back of my head. “Honestly, I’m not even sure how rare A-ranks are. But what I know is they would be proud of you, Noele. For achieving your sister’s dreams.”

“They… would, won’t they?” Noele’s eyes welled up as she smiled to herself. She wiped away the teardrops streaming down her cheeks and nodded. “They were scared for me— they didn’t want to lose their only other daughter. But I am strong now. They will be happy to see me.”

“They will,” I agreed simply.

Taking in a deep breath, the blonde girl raised her head and pumped a fist in the air. “Let’s visit them, Amelia! We can leave first thing in the morning. I haven’t been back there in so long— I honestly delayed it for too long. I can’t wait to return home.”

I smiled, seeing the relieved look on her face. Her previous uncertainty gone. We were just about to decide what time we were going to leave when a voice interrupted us. Guildmaster Evan had returned, and he cleared his throat.

“I am glad to see you have resolved your issues, Ms Noele,” he said as he nodded at her. But he raised a slip of paper and handed it to me. “Unfortunately, I will have to be the bearer of bad news.”

“What’s this?” I eyed the sheet.

“It’s an A-rank job like you had requested. It came in just this morning, but I was busy preparing for the party then. As soon as I found out about it, I had Justyn process it just for you. For the both of you.” His eyes flickered to Noele.

The blonde girl paused. “Both of us?”

I frowned and read the job request as she peered over my shoulder. Her arms slowly dropped limply at her side, and her lips quivered as her eyes glazed over the words.

 

FOR A-RANK ADVENTURERS OR ABOVE ONLY!

Search Quest at the Frozar Mountains.

The A-rank duo Skye the Silver Shade and Deon the Virtuous Guard have gone missing while on a two-week escort mission to the Frozar Mountains. They departed with [Farmers] Nolan and Nicole from Whiteridge over a month ago, heading for the former Dungeon of the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep.

All attempts at locating them have failed thus far, with multiple B-rank teams pulling out after encountering unusual undead activity around the region.

Reward:

75 gold coins

Open request posted by the Adventurer’s Guild of Northon.

 

“This is…” I narrowed my eyes. Those were her parents, weren't they?

Noele took a step back, her gaze shadowed over. She turned to me and spoke brusquely.

“We have to go, Amelia. Now.”

I faced her, lowering the sheet of paper. “I can get you there in ten minutes or an hour. Take your pick, Noele.”

For a split-second, the blonde girl hesitated. I could tell she was remembering our trip to Mount Arkais— how she screamed in terror the entire way there. But she dismissed whatever thoughts she was having, snapping her brows together as she gave me a determined look.

And she made her choice.

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