Chapter 3:


The Second Route

 My stomach grumbles, “Sure am hungry.” I look toward the table in front of me, “Ah yes, what weird food can we have here?”

Lina points at each food. “We have local venison, beef, and some seafood from Carith City.”

Before me is a table full of food served by the inn. I look upon the dishes in awe, but I would say, I have seen better food, but I won’t tell them that. Instead, I’ll ask, “This is amazing, how could you prepare such food on a whim?” It seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Do they have fast-food-like crew training? No, that’s impossible, especially with seafood.

Lina points with her hand to Rina, “My sister Rina can create fire-”

“What!?” Wait, I shouldn’t be surprised. I saw it with my own two eyes. “You didn’t have to cook, let alone this much, but thank you.” You didn’t have to cook this much. I’m not a big eater. No thank you, coffee is fine. Oh, I forgot. Do those exist? I should be dead, by the way.

Rina mutters something as usual, or unusual, but I didn’t hear it, nor would I bother to hear it. Let me guess. She said something along the lines of, “You should be grateful that my sister cooked for you.” Bad manners.

Then I proceed to gobble the cooked beef. My hunger overtook me, but I decided to ignore it after that life-threatening fireball encounter. Wait, shouldn’t I have just accepted my faith? But everything slowed down. And this is the first time, in a long time, I was this famished. Burgers were enough.

“Do you not like the other food?” Lina asks.

“Nyea, shin ngall… mhm…mhm… shoshnesty, nyo,” I say with my mouth full of beef. Shame on me. Who am I to think that Rina had bad manners? Anyway, leave me alone. I’m hungry as hell.

Lina points her ear at me and peers closer. “Come again?”

I swallow what I had in my mouth—bad idea, “I only liked the beef so…”

“That’s alright.” Lina makes a graceful motion with her hands then shoots ice onto the venison and the assortment of seafood.

I jerk backward in surprise. That was too close for comfort. “Oh! How did you do that?”

“I have the power of creating water, but this winter season, I can make ice.” Lina wipes her hands with a towel.

“How do you learn this?” I look at my hands and try to mimic what Lina did, but utterly failing and successfully embarrassing myself. I see a bit of Rina smirk at my failure, but she maintained her cold composure.

“You will have to ask an experienced magician for that,” Lina replies.

“Heh? Are the magicians Aura users too?”

Lina shakes her head, “No, they are different.”

“How so?”

“Magicians create, Aura uses. Simple as that.”

“I see,” I massage my temples. I actually do not want to use my brain right now. “But what makes Aura users unpopular?” That’s the boggling question based on her expression previously when that term, ‘Aura,’ came up. And why is the Kingdom of Sitierra opposed to it? But this seemed like an ignorant and tactless question for an uncomfortable silence descends upon the table. Not that Rina was silent enough already. Makes her more even intimidating. Are you going to kill me now? Got to stabilize the situation. “O—oh, so it’s a sensitive topic then. I won’t pry,” I hurriedly retract my question.

Lina shakes her head. “No, it’s alright. You should know.”

Thank… goodness?

Lina takes a deep breath while Rina grimaces.

“Thousands of years ago, the Magicians and Aura users were united under one kingdom, Earth.”

Strong entrance… Wait, Earth?

“They progressed the civilization for several years. There was little to no conflict between them. No discrimination from either side. All were at peace, perhaps too peaceful. Then a millennium ago, they made this planet, similar to where the kingdom, Earth, was from. They attempted many times to recreate or even create a planet from scratch, but they were missing one element, time. Fortunately, or unfortunately, they found a man who was an Aura user and the only one who can bend time. His real name was never revealed, but he was called Von Time. For a time, they failed to create a planet, but eventually, through many hardships and sacrifices, they conceived this planet, Erath, named after their former kingdom. Then things started to go wrong. Von Time can never create time, nor did he in the first place, but he lied that he could. But Von Time could only bend and stretch it. And because of that, our world’s timeline was stretched unevenly across different lives on the planet. That included animals and humans… all living things. Von Time tried to compensate for the loss, but he ended up worsening the situation causing him to extend or reduce the lifespans extraordinarily. The Magicians were outraged at the Aura users for they allowed their leader, Von Time, to play with lives and massacre. The Magicians declared war, and the Aura users did the same. They went to war because of a misunderstanding.”

Lina takes a deep breath before continuing, “It wasn’t anyone’s fault, not even Von Time’s. It was everyone’s fault for being selfish and leaving their former kingdom. They seek power in creation and ended up killing half of their population. Discriminations, persecutions arose and the Aura users were hurt, so they fought back, and the Magicians returned the favor. This started an endless cycle with an uncertain end. But this is only my own opinion.

The Kingdom of Erath has fallen, and the great cities and towns, that consisted of it before, made their kingdoms. Many of them fell, but some survived. One of them is Sitierra, and that’s the only kingdom aside from one that I have forgotten. I haven’t heard any news concerning other foreign kingdoms.”

“That’s a lon—” Long and boring story. “That’s a complicated story,” I clear my throat as succeed in staying awake. Don’t worry. I got the plot. “Thank you for telling me. Now I understand more.”

“There are more details than that, including for the kingdoms, but this is what I know. I’m sorry for my lack of knowledge.”

I motion with my hands, “It’s alright. It’s far more than enough,” I support my chin with my hands, “but do you know anything about Earth or how to get there?”

“Earth?” Lina looks at me with shock.

Rina joins in suddenly and looks at me with intensity and answers dejectedly, “It’s old history, but they tell me it has been destroyed…” Rina mutters something like her voice trails off.

My eyes go wide in shock, “Destroyed!? How?”

Lina composes herself before she answers. “There are many legends about it, but not all of them may be accurate or true.”

My bewilderment is beyond measure, and I know that I needed more information. I know, I know, I seemed disinterested, but trust me. I just didn’t have my coffee. “Please tell me about them if you don’t mind.”

Lina nods with a weak smile, “Sure.” Lina proceeds to tell me all kinds of stories, legends, myths, and the like. I didn’t remember all of them, but all of them had something in common. All mentioned something about ‘The Unknown.’

I decide that this is the rest of the day and that it’s time to sleep. I stand to head off to the room, “Goodnight, Lina, Rina.” I greet each one of them.

“Goodnight, have a good rest,” Lina responds, and Rina doesn’t give a flying care.

I jump face down into the bed’s soft cushion. Somehow, it’s better than my bed back home. “What is with that story anyway? Why was I sent here?” I recalled Lina say, “Von Time can never create time, Von Time could only bend and stretch it.” I recall back to the time when the fireballs were slowly approaching me when I first arrived in a snowstorm. I deduce that I had the same power as that guy, Von Time. I toss around my bed with all kinds of thoughts, from mysterious to perv— I mean, absurd ideas. It was hard to sleep in an unknown world, especially when you are supposed to be dead. But I found my peace of mind and drifted asleep. Then I remember that I didn’t bother to help them with the dishes, “Oh.” Bad manners, bad.

“Good morning.” a soft voice greets.

I slowly open my eyes to see Lina serving breakfast at the room’s convenient, wooden table. “M—morning, ugh.” I spring up into a sitting position but it made my head heavy and dizzy that I had to hold it in my hands.

“Had a good sleep?”

“Y-yea, I think so.” I cover my mouth as I yawn.

“Here is some steak by the way.”

“Ah,” I look toward the desk, “thank you.”

I approach the desk with the food, “Where do you think I can earn money?”

Lina’s eyes widen, “Wow, you are very hardworking,” She pauses for a moment, “you can try out some blacksmithing or get hired as a salesman.”

“Certainly a good idea.” I start to bite the steak. Being a salesman is easy. That was my ‘thing.’

“Just come down if you need me.” Lina gently closes the door.

I pose a thumbs up while I munch the steak greedily. Ah, the times when I had the time to eat steak. After I finish, I head downstairs and greet the twin sisters goodbye, and start job hunting. Then I remember that I forgot to bring down the empty plate in my room, “Oh.” I’m not going to bother with chores anymore. But if I don’t, I should be at least be paying for my stay.

I sigh in the middle of the street as several busybodies pass by me being careful of not bumping into each other. I wander the streets I have toured yesterday. So a sense of familiarity boosts my confidence. I use my lazy time to look closely at the shops to see if I would like the work or be fit to be in it. I am not interested or was reluctant to join most of them, but one catches my eye, and it was another banner.

This red banner has two swords in a cross position with a flag on top and a crudely drawn circle surrounding it. I head to the building below the banner. Once I entered, I see a variety of sweating people. Men, women, thin, fat, big, small, strong, weak, or at least they look like it, and everyone has a glass or more of alcohol of some sort, and all are gazing at me as I enter. My skin crawled from the intensity of their gaze, the sudden hush from the crowd, and the disdain from some of their faces. Moments pass and they start to ignore me, and the noise starts to ramp up again. I sigh in relief.

A beautiful woman with long white hair approaches me, “What’s your business here?” She asks kindly, but with authority.

I bow down for a moment then straighten myself. I used this time to relax my self. “She is stunning,” are my thoughts. “May I ask what is this place?”

The white-haired woman looks at me in bewilderment, “Don’t you know? We are the Mercenary's guild.”

“Does anyone know where the Adventurer’s guild is?” I’m not interested in killing right now. And I believe, through a few mangas I have read as a high schooler, Adventurer guilds are a good place to start. Time to put my knowledge into action.

But everyone glares at me with ten times the intensity than before when I entered. Someone from the crowd speaks sharply. “Do you mean the coward’s guild?” Everyone except for the white-haired woman begins laughing their heads off.

The woman sharply looks at me. “Watch where you enter in before you talk, boy.”

“I’m sorry then,” I bow slightly. I was only asking a question but got replied with jeers and glares.

“If you have no other business, you had better leave,” She gestures me to leave.

I turn around for the door and lock it. If I have the power of time, then who can be against me? Everyone inside the guild falls silent.

“What’cha think you are trying to prove, adventure boy?” one jeers as he lifts a mug of alcohol into the air.

I turn back to face the white woman. “May I join this guild?” I force a smile. I think this would appease them, if I ask to join, maybe? No, I’m screwed. Their glares are never-ending. Their smug looks and smirks ever piercing. Incorrect way of dealing with barbarians. While I was drowning internally in nervousness, the woman—didn’t I mention that she is stunning?—moves closer to me and peers into my face. I can’t help but blush red and flinch backward. This is bad, she smells good somehow. Are there perfumes in this uncivilized world?

“This calls for a duel!” the white woman exclaims as she moves away from me.

“What?” My eyes go wide in shock. What duel?

The crowd shouts with joy and anger simultaneously. Then the woman asks in a loud voice, “Who shall challenge this young man?”

One raises his hand and approached me.

“The rules for this duel are… there are no rules!” She shouts maniacally. Alright, pretty points deducted.

The crowd shouts again practically jumping with joy, while I have a mix of emotions looking at the challenge that is upon me. This guy is the definition of fit. Can I say that I’m fit enough to be called fit? No, this guy is a chunk of pure muscle. Eight feet tall—how’s that even possible? A stony head—enough for a weapon! Overly large muscles are very intimidating that they would look like they would rip apart. I wished he would rip apart right now! One small flick of his finger and I probably would fly back to my world! Probably, hopefully.

I stagger as I look to my opposition. I experience all kinds of emotions that my face couldn’t even show at all. This is worse than when I took an exam or a job hiring. It’s insane I’m even alive right now, especially I can hear my heart thump at the speed of sound. The ambiance floods back into my ears when I jump out of my thoughts.

“—One, FIGHT!” the white woman screams.

This human beast pounces on me like a tiger and swings his right arm for a hook punch, and at that moment, everything got heavier, his punch dramatically decelerates, everything looks somewhat distorted. This is it, I’m experiencing it again, my power. I move aside with a bit of force to avoid his punch then everything immediately accelerates. His arm passes by my head and makes a sound like a tennis racket. And a left hook approaches my face, and everything decelerates. Somehow I can still hear my heartbeat at the rhythm of nervousness, and I move aside to avoid the hit. His fist passes by and everything accelerates. He repeats his attacks, as I repeat my dodges for eternity until he decides to unsheath his sword and swings violently at me. I avoid it using my special power of slowing down the time, and take his sword from his hands, and slash his back multiple times before everything accelerates again. His back turns into a fountain of blood as he falls face down to the ground. The crowd looks in shock, or maybe with even more anger than before while I stand still awestruck myself.

He’s dead, that’s for sure. My heartbeat normalizes and I drop the deadman’s sword look up to the ceiling repeating, “What have I done?”

The woman approaches me and says, “You’re in.”

Somehow, I didn’t feel any joy, enthusiasm, excitement, relief, sadness, guilt, anything. Maybe it’s the effect of nervousness or the shock that I had just murdered someone. I don’t think I can join this crazy guild, but all I could manage was to look up and sigh.

The white woman leads me to a table and gives me some kind of badge of membership. She introduces herself as Risho Yamade, and her alias, “the White Death.” I introduce myself in return. She proceeds to tell me the workings and mechanics of this guild, but I probably won’t remember all of them, but I do remember one thing.

“You see this?” Risho lifts some kind of keychain right at my face, “this is a mercenary’s proof of contract. If the contractor dies, anyone can steal this token and continue with the original contract and complete it, but you can never steal when they are alive, or you will be excommunicated and be sentenced to be hunted until you’re dead.”

Chills run through my spine, but I didn’t produce any reaction. I am just waiting to leave and head back to the inn. Just my face and my bed. I’m sorry.

“Welcome back!” Lina greets while Rina looks dejectedly from her sofa.

“I won’t be eating tonight, sorry.” I quickly announce.

Lina accompanies me to the stairs. “Why is that? Are you ok?”

I shake my head hurriedly, “No, but it’s not a big deal. I have to rest to clear my thoughts.” I hold my head to feign a headache. Wait, I do have one.

“It’s alright, take all the time you need,” Lina gestures with grace and understanding.
N. D. Skordilis
Ana Fowl
Taylor Victoria