Chapter 24:

Volume 2, Chapter 4, Outdoor Café Part One

Don't Worry, We Have the Best Supporter in Our Team

The next day, the group held a meeting at Alice and Jayce’s apartment to further discuss Nora’s quest.Bookmark here

“The target we are up against is an elder gryphon that could avoid Nora’s spirits from detection. But that doesn’t make sense. Even with the stealth spells, let alone enchantment, Irene’s spirits could easily track me down when I’m in its field of vision.”Bookmark here

“That is right.” Irene agreed with Alice. She, too, found the quest exciting and annoying.Bookmark here

“Nora’s spirits are mainly attacker types while Irene’s spirit is a tracker type, but I don’t see it to the reason why they considered us for this B-rank quest.” Jayce reminded the group as he came out from his room with a book in his hand.Bookmark here

“Would it be possible that the elder gryphon cast an illusion spell onto itself to hide from her spirits?” Aiden interjected.Bookmark here

“From what I had read, not many elder gryphons have an affinity for that spell, so it’s possible. It is best to be prepared for that at least.” Bookmark here

Alice had read about elder gryphons from one of the books from Jayce’s magic library during their study for their final exams.Bookmark here

The group continued their discussion further, listing every possible factor and situations they could face in this quest.Bookmark here

“Now then, has everyone reached their decision?”Bookmark here

They nodded. Everyone seemed to be eager to accept this quest. Most of the quests they had taken so far were searching for herbs and ores. Bookmark here

She cleared her throat and continued.Bookmark here

“We have one week to prepare necessities for this quest. We need at least three weeks of rations.” Bookmark here

“I will handle the food supplies. You three do whatever you need to prepare for this. Is everyone fine with that?” volunteered Jayce.Bookmark here

Nobody had anything against that.Bookmark here

Jayce stood up and made his way out of the apartment. Before he opened the entrance, he turned back to the others.Bookmark here

“If anyone needs something, inform me through communication scroll or any other means.” Bookmark here

“Okay.” “Yeap.” “Got it.”Bookmark here

Alice, Irene and Aiden responded to Jayce in unison. Bookmark here

He responded with a nod and left the accommodation.Bookmark here

“He does grocery shopping most of the time, huh?” asked Irene, watching Jayce leaving the apartment then back to Alice.Bookmark here

Alice and Jayce had been living in the same apartment for three months ever since they first met. She did the groceries sometimes but bought the wrong ingredients as some looked the same as others. Bookmark here

“Yeah…” Bookmark here

“Oh?” said Irene, resting her chin on her left hand and smiled mischievously.Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“Nothing.”Bookmark here

Alice knew Irene was lying. But she chose to keep her passive skill a secret. Bookmark here

“I’m going back to Academy.” Bookmark here

Aiden, who had been quiet for a while after Jayce left the building, interjected their conversation after finishing his tea and stood up.Bookmark here

“Training with Stacia?” Alice was about to drink her tea.Bookmark here

“Any progress with your training so far?” Bookmark here

Irene was in the same boat as Alice; they were eager to know what kind of skills Stacia had used during his training.Bookmark here

Aiden thought back to his first meeting with Stacia; he mistook her as a student who was lost in the Academy and stumble upon him in the hallway. But that thought soon dissolved when Stacia gave her formal introduction, and he apologized to her immediately. Bookmark here

Stacia laughed at his reaction. With a casual tone, she asked him to be her apprentice. Her expression remained cheerful, but Aiden could feel a sharp knife against his throat, ready at any moment if he chose to decline her proposal. Stacia was indeed an S-rank assassin adventurer with the title of “Azuline Phantom”. In the end, he accepted her as his master, not because of the threat she posed. Bookmark here

Aiden had gone through assassination training with Stacia at the Academy during the night. Of course, no one would die because of magic gloves. Both parties have the same objective; make the target concede or render them unconscious.Bookmark here

The rules were proven to be challenging for Aiden. Stacia usually hid and attacked him from a safe place within the Academy. So Aiden had to search everywhere for Stacia and defeat her without getting spotted by anyone else.Bookmark here

“Because of that, there wasn’t much progress.” Aiden hung his head as he scratched the back of his head.Bookmark here

Up until this point, Alice and Jayce hadn’t asked about his training with Stacia. They felt they shouldn’t dwell on something personal. That also applied between Alice and Jayce; even if they lived in the same apartment unit, they spent their time researching magic, runes, blacksmithing, and experimenting with potions and antidotes.Bookmark here

“That was unexpected,” said Irene.Bookmark here

To Alice’s surprise, Aiden seemed to keep it a secret from Irene as well.Bookmark here

“I don’t mean to keep this as a secret. Fighting against Stacia was as if…she was there, but not at the same time.”Aiden shook his head dejectedly. He could still feel the faint sensation of having a sharp dagger placed on his neck, even though his mana shield was active. Before he realized it, he was rubbing his neck with his right hand. Bookmark here

““…””Bookmark here

His words dumbfounded both Alice and Irene. However, they had to consider that this was Stacia’s speciality after all: keeping herself away from her enemies and strike at the perfect opportunity. Bookmark here

“But that was all I have. After three months, I still couldn’t locate Stacia at all. She wasn’t given a title without reason.” Aiden raised his hands as he shrugged.Bookmark here

“Now that you mention it. During your battle with Stacia, did you feel fear?” asked Alice. Since they were on this topic, they might as well ask about it.Bookmark here

“Yes.” Bookmark here

“Even if you’re…”Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

“Then how in the world did she instil fear into you?”Bookmark here

Irene was listening intently to their discussion. They were, after all, talking about Stacia, the legendary assassin in their Academy. She couldn’t think of anything that may help Aiden’s training since she had never seen how Stacia operates.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry. I have to go now, or else I will be late,” said Aiden, placing the cleaned and dried teacup into one of the cabinets.Bookmark here

Aiden had grown accustomed to how time flows. He knew when to wake up, study, training and sleep. It was part of the training he received from his parents when he was young. He wasn’t angry about it as he found it useful since he couldn’t see or read. Sometimes he asked Irene and the others what the time was to calibrate his sense of time. Bookmark here

Irene and Alice wished Aiden the best of luck in his training, but he knew he still had a long way to go, and he appreciated their cheer.Bookmark here

With that, he left their apartment unit, leaving Alice and Irene the only ones in their accommodation. Bookmark here

“That leaves the two of us then. Do you have anything to prepare, Alice?” Irene was refilling her cup with tea as she asked Alice a question.Bookmark here

“I got everything I need for this quest. What about you?”Bookmark here

Alice usually kept her potions and antidotes well-stock before and after every quest, so she had extra potions and remedies in case of emergencies. Her alchemy skill was improving.Bookmark here

“Want to hang out with me? Let’s invite Nora as well! This will be girls’ night out but during the day. Besides, I just need to restock a few bowstrings and arrows.”Bookmark here

“We could do that, but…” She turned her gaze to her teacup. She could see herself in the reflection of the tea.Bookmark here

“But?” said Irene, tilting her head to her side.Bookmark here

“Who is going to take care of Nora’s shop?”Bookmark here

“She will figure it out,” said Irene nonchalantly, waving her hand to brush off her concern.Bookmark here

____________________Bookmark here

“Welcome to Nora’s—Oh hello, Alice, Irene.”Bookmark here

A girl with a slender figure, a short brown bob haircut, and looked around their age gave her a welcoming greeting from the counter. Her name was Lou; she was a student at Adventurer Academy, wearing a dark blue uniform to indicate she was the shop’s assistant. The outfit exuded a mature atmosphere from Lou, and she could be have been mistaken as a senior for any students.Bookmark here

“Hello, Lou. Do you know where Nora is?” Alice returned Lou’s greeting with a smile.Bookmark here

“Nora is currently in the middle of alchemy upstairs.”Bookmark here

“Thank you.”Bookmark here

They knocked on the door, asking for permission to enter. There was no response. Feeling worried, Alice slowly turned the doorknob and swung the door open. In the middle of the darkroom, Nora was performing alchemy.Bookmark here

The stirrers were doing their jobs on all eight cauldrons while Nora added ingredients in a timely fashion. Her eyes focused on every cauldron and the ingredients in hand.Bookmark here

“Temperature is stable. Just need to add the last few ingredients.”Bookmark here

Nowadays, alchemists made use of magic to bring out the ingredients’ potentials and control the cauldron’s conditions. Bookmark here

In the past, Nora had to create potions or antidotes in the middle of the battlefield with a portable alchemy kit. She had trained Alice and others to utilize multiple alchemy at once, including the portable alchemy kits. Bookmark here

They watched Nora silently, waiting for her to complete her alchemy. Bookmark here

When the cauldrons’ content changed colour, she transferred them into the vials with a funnel and ladle then transferred them to the crates. There were labels on the crates.Bookmark here

Nora soon noticed their presence when she turned around.Bookmark here

“Oh? What brings you, two young ladies, here?” Bookmark here

“Sorry for interrupting. Do you want to join us for a tea break?” asked Irene.Bookmark here

Alice went over to one of the cauldrons to examine the residuals. Judging by the smell and the residuals, Nora had concocted elixirs.Bookmark here

Elixirs were S-rank potions that could mend injuries and recover mana, and each cost fifty gold coins. Bookmark here

Alice hoped one day she would surpass Nora in alchemy, and that was one of her goals. She turned her attention to the conversation between Irene and Nora.Bookmark here

“I would love to, but don’t you girls need to prepare for the quest?”Bookmark here

“We got most of the things prepared,” answered Alice.Bookmark here

“If you say so.” Bookmark here

When Nora snapped her fingers, the cauldrons’ flames died out. The ingredients and bowls returned to their respective shelves, leaving the tables tidy. Bookmark here

“If you girls wouldn’t mind, I just thought of a good place for our tea break.”Bookmark here

The café was outside of the city. With Nora leading the way, it took about thirty-five minutes by foot from the Capital's Eastside.Bookmark here

When the group left the Capital’s East gate, Nora turned around and faced Alice and Irene.Bookmark here

“Now then!”Bookmark here

““?””Bookmark here

“Irene, summon Aria. My spirits wanted to teach her something.”Bookmark here

Without a gesture, the spirits appeared around Nora.Bookmark here

Irene raised her hand. “Aria.”Bookmark here

A green spirit appeared above Irene’s hand. It seemed to be excited as it was glowing brighter than usual. However, that excitement soon died down when Nora’s spirits surround it.Bookmark here

Alice and Irene couldn’t tell whether they should be worry as the red spirit seemed to be dragging Aria toward the forest. They gave their questioning gaze at Nora.Bookmark here

“They will be fine. We will meet up at the café!” said Nora as she was waving at the spirits. When the spirits disappear into the forest to their left, Nora walked to the other side of the woods.Bookmark here

Travellers and adventurers tend to use the main road to avoid fighting with monsters, but Nora took the forest route. As they traverse through the forest, Alice and Irene held their weapons at ready.Bookmark here

Let’s see. We are relatively close to the capital and forest, which means I should avoid using fire magic. That leaves up to the barrier, ice and trap spells.Bookmark here

“Irene, I will cover your blind spot,” said Alice as she cast support spells on everyone in their party, including herself.Bookmark here

“Okay. Pinpoint the monsters’ location if you think you can’t hit the—”Bookmark here

“What is it?” Bookmark here

Irene abruptly stopped her track, and she looked as if she was in a trance, but…Bookmark here

“Ehehe. That rabbit looks delicious.”Bookmark here

“Pfttt. Ahahaha.”Bookmark here

Alice couldn’t help but laugh. Irene was surprisingly a glutton among their group. Bookmark here

To Alice, Irene was someone she could always talk to when it came to fashions, desserts, equipment and battles. She wanted to become accustomed to fighting in different topography.Bookmark here

“What? Don’t tell me rabbit is not tasty,” said Irene while pointing the finger at the prize.Bookmark here

“It’s not that. It’s jus—”Bookmark here

“I don’t mean to be rude, but there is a group of spriggans approaching us as we speak,” Nora informed the girls while crossing her arms.Bookmark here

Alice took a few steps back and withdrew her staff. With a short incantation, Frost spears appeared around her, ready to launch at her will.Bookmark here

Irene’s hand moved to reach out three regular arrows from her quiver. She lowered herself into a crouch, ready to dodge in any direction whatever came their way. Bookmark here

When one of the spriggans came into her line of sight, Irene didn’t move a muscle. She had to analyse and determine the number of enemies before choosing her target. One... two… five…Bookmark here

“Five spriggans. I will focus on three at the front.”Bookmark here

Spriggans were composed of wood and magical energy. They were born from the magic of fairies and the souls deep inside the trees. The outline of their features was feminine, and anyone could see the glow reaching out the crevice of their chest: the magical core, which considered as a soul of their being in human terms. If engaged Spriggans in a relatively dark place, fireflies or bees gather around their cores that acted as magic sources. Bookmark here

After steadying her breath and exhaling at the perfect timing, she pulled her bow and fired her regular arrows at the first spriggans in one fluid motion. Bookmark here

Quick Draw.Bookmark here

The bow sang, and the arrows struck right at the spriggan’s chest.Bookmark here

The spriggan screamed in agony. Bookmark here

It pulled the arrows out of its body and threw them to the side. Alice could see its soul, pulsing and burning bright with life. Bookmark here

The regular arrows failed to penetrate its chest-deep enough to finish it. Bookmark here

The spriggan manipulated its magic to the tip of its hand, placing a hand over its chest. Its wooden chest grew like any tree would but at a remarkable speed with the help of magic. Once it was back to the state it was in, it raised its head, gazing straight into Irene’s eyes. Magical orbs gathered around its hand.Bookmark here

At the corner of Alice vision, Irene and Nora’s spirits came back to their sides. However, Aria seemed to be staying closer to Irene’s bow instead of her side.Bookmark here

“Did you guys managed to teach Aria a trick?” asked Nora casually as she placed her hand on her hip.Bookmark here

Nora’s spirits glowed brightly and dimly, probably answering Nora’s question, and Nora nodded along with them.Bookmark here

A new skill for Aria? thought Alice.Bookmark here

Nora reached out in front of her, and her magical staff appeared in her hand out of thin air. Bookmark here

“Now. Show me what you can do, Aria!” Bookmark here

As Aria shone brightly, Alice could sense mana transferring from Irene to Aria. What was strange is that Irene didn’t seem to be aware of that mana flow. That meant Irene placed her complete trust in Aria’s decision. Bookmark here

Aria morphed into three lime-coloured arrows, positioning themselves at Irene’s side. Bookmark here

“Oh?” Bookmark here

Irene was just surprised as Alice at this development. When the same spriggan that Irene attacked earlier took a step closer, one of the floating arrows propelled at its chest, causing a spark during its impact. Bookmark here

The spriggan staggered back a few steps.Bookmark here

Somewhat understanding the purpose of Aria’s newfound skill, Irene grabbed hold of the remaining arrows from her quiver. With her magic gloves, she switched over the remaining contents with piercing arrows. She took a piercing arrow and fired it at the same position where Aria’s arrow had landed earlier. Bookmark here

The spriggan screeched. The light inside its chest slowly turned into nothing, leaving an empty husk to this world. Other spriggans were attracted to Irene’s aggression. That was fine and all for Nora and Alice. Now they had to protect Irene without getting the monsters’ attention.Bookmark here

“Here they come,” muttered Alice, casting buff spells for Irene and Nora.Bookmark here

“Yeah!” Irene prepared another piercing arrow to her bow. Bookmark here

“Try not to destroy the forest,” said Nora as she placed a hand over her mouth. Her spirits were on standby.Bookmark here

Even if Nora was an S-rank adventurer, Alice had to cast protective spells on her party. Bookmark here

The second and third spriggans came running at Irene. Their claws extended to the sword length. The ones behind them gathered fireflies and mana in their hands from their cores, creating an attack spell of their own.Bookmark here

“Snarling Chain!”Bookmark here

Thorny vines protruded from the ground around the farthest spriggans, restricting their movements and interrupting their spells to give Irene the time to kill the closest spriggans.Bookmark here

Irene fired a shot at the second spriggan. The recoil travelled through to her arm, causing her to spin around as if she was dancing with the wind. Her free hand reached for another arrow and placed it to her bow before she returned to her initial stance once more. Bookmark here

However, the second spriggan dodged the arrow to the side and continued to push forward, resulting in the piercing arrow creating a ten-centimetre diameter hole in the tree behind it. That didn’t faze the spriggan at all. Bookmark here

“Burst!”Bookmark here

However, that didn’t matter when Irene activated her bow’s rune. The arrow stuck to the tree shone brightly in a split second and exploded, sending shards of trees at the spriggan’s back.Bookmark here

The explosion caused the spriggan to lose its balance. That was the moment Alice was searching for. Bookmark here

“Frost Spear!”Bookmark here

Two of her spears launched off at her command, landing at the spriggan’s sides. As a follow-up, Irene finished off the staggered spriggan with a headshot. Irene opened and closed her hand, removing the numb feelings from using piercing arrows.Bookmark here

Utilizing piercing arrows did the job to break through the spriggans’ bodies. Still, she had to imbue mana into her bowstring to increase their tension for such arrows to be useful, resulting in high strength and dexterity requirement for Irene. Dexterity wasn’t an issue for Irene; archer class adventurers required more training than warrior class adventurers when it came to it.Bookmark here

The other spriggan swung its claws at Irene’s side, but a translucent barrier manifested between them, rebounding its attack. Thorns came from where the spriggan had landed from the rebound, restricting its movements.Bookmark here

Alice noticed something was strange about that monster. Although it failed its attack, a grin spread across its face. Spells went by its side, landing and chipping away Irene’s mana shield.Bookmark here

“Aria!”Bookmark here

Irene’s spirit commanded its Wind Blades to disrupt the rear-guard spriggans’ incantation and another for Alice’s Frost spear that had landed on the spriggan earlier. She could sense a connection between Alice’s Frost Spear and herself.Bookmark here

“Burst!”Bookmark here

The spears grew exponentially, covering the monsters’ entire body. In a split second, the ice shattered along with its prisoner, leaving no trace behind. That result was enough to send fear to the remaining monsters to retreat into the deep forest.Bookmark here

Alice began to understand Aria’s new skill. Not only it could indicate the target’s weak spot, but it could also establish a link to existing spells as if they belong to the caster. Meaning, Alice’s Frost Spear fell under Irene’s authority so that she could activate her Burst Rune. The drawback, however, was that Irene had to be aware of her enemies location, both in vision and mind, so that Aria could attack and protect Irene. If none of the conditions met, Irene had to voice out her commands.Bookmark here

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