Chapter 4:

Drifting Away

The Second Route

After I finish the breakfast Lina serves in my room, I greet goodbye to the twins and make my way to the Mercenary’s guild. I decided with great resolve that I am going to just make enough money and leave. Looking up to the cloudy sky while I walk, I imagine the living fantasy would be there to show me. I arrive at the guild with no other interruptions, unlike yesterday, making my approach to Risho easier. Though, the drunkards stare at me with apprehension.

“Yamade-san, where do I get a contract?”

“Just below the board over there.” Risho points at the other end of the room.

I read what is on the board. Conveniently, this land speaks and writes my native language. I see that there are contracts for assassinations, hunt-and-kill, find-and-kill, and many other insane jobs where blood is involved.

Realizing my lack of skills despite having an insane power, I choose an easy quest, which is to defeat the Gori Town’s recon squad, which is lurking near Lunis. All the necessary information is written on the board, including the pay, which is five gold coins, but I have yet to know the value of those coins.

“Oh? You will choose that?” chortles one mercenary who is standing next to me, “you better have picked something easier than killing an ant.”

Ignoring this warmaker, I take the contract’s token and pocket it, and make my way to Risho’s table.

“You are ready?” Risho asks.

I shrug, “I think I am.”

“That’s a suicide,” Risho inspects me from top to bottom, “You don’t have anything on you.”

I flinch at the realization. How could I be ever dumber? I have no weapon, no armor, no skills like a Magician’s or an Aura. I take a seat in front of Risho to ask, “Will there be something I could borrow?”

Risho pulls out from beside her a sheathed sword, “I will loan you this sword,” She unsheaths it in front of me, “this usually costs around two-hundred silver coins.”

I look up and think, and make an improvised loan. “Would five gold coins be worth this sword?” That’s the reward of the contract I have taken.

“More than enough. A gold coin is equivalent to one hundred silver coins,” Risho returns the sword to its sheath and pushes it across the table to me.

“That’s expensive,” I inspect the sword which has been obviously used. I doubt it wouldn’t get to slice through paper, but I didn’t have a choice to refuse it, “but this will do alright.” I think I got scammed.

I leave the guild’s base to an air of uncertainty. What am I supposed to do? How will I execute this? Risho told me yesterday, these contracts had no time limit. This gives me the advantage of planning for a long time, but, I need to pay this loan and earn to get better gear and I plan to repay the twin sister’s kindness. Essentially, there was actually no time, and this contract had a time limit. How shrewd. But I chose to be determined and hopeful at this newfound self-motivation. Thus, I spend the whole day walking in and out of the town, exploring the woods, investigating, planning, scheming, and patrolling, but it is almost unfruitful.

Night falls and I return to the inn to eat my lunch’s overdue and go out again into the woods to search one last time. I venture deeper in the woods than before, straining my eyes for anything unusual, and soon enough, I spot something shining in the distance. I creep slowly toward it and see three tents surrounding a campfire. I make my way around in circles and find a banner that looks like the one from the contract board making me confirm that this is my target. I step out to reveal myself to them. “Good evening!”

The men consisting of the recon squad look at me in surprise and suspicion.

“You lost kid?” says one.

“Why are you around here?” another grips the hilt of his sword. A sign of heightened alert to danger.

Another draws his sword. “Did someone send you to kill us?” This guy overreacted.

I take a moment to look around and devise a plan and respond bluntly, “Yes.”

They take this answer grimly and draw their swords against me.

“It’s over for you kid.” another points his sword threateningly at me.

How young do I even look? I take my sword out of its sheath and assume an awkward stance. I haven’t done any kind of sword training in my past life. Knowing this, I stand wavering.The enemy’s members assume a confident stance, but only one of them challenges me. He wasn’t as intimidating as the man I… accidentally killed from the guild, but his sharp movements and professional stance tell me that he has mastery of his swordsmanship.We both approach each other cautiously and circle each other waiting for an attack. I make showy turns and swirls of my sword to intimidate him, but he doesn’t react. He probably knows I’m a newbie. Moments of stalemate which felt like forever finally ends as the enemy dashes at me sword-first. As he approaches at a dangerously fast pace, my heart begins to thump louder, and my body feels sluggish. I look around to notice that everything decelerates rapidly making the snowfall slowly to the ground. I look toward the attacker with his sword dashing very slowly. It took me an effort to avoid his attack, and the instant I evade the sword’s path, everything accelerates to normal. The attacker goes for another strike, and everything decelerates again, and I simply evade all of his attacks repeatedly until I begin to become weary. It was extremely stressful, and I am getting tired, sleepy, hot, hungry, and thirsty. I have to end this unnecessarily long fight. The attacker goes for a vertical slash to my head as everything decelerates, but I dodge the strike sideways and unsheath my sword and slash toward my opponent’s neck to behead him. Everything accelerates again, and my opponent falls to the ground, headless.

After the quick attack, my body feels like it is burning in hell, and I look at my sword and notice that it has an alarming, orange glow. “Oh, man, it still isn’t over.” I quickly turn to face the remaining targets as they leap at me with their swords, and I simply spin my sword around in circles and luckily cut them in half. The remaining opponents fall, half the length than before. The sudden surge of power is exhilarating, and I sit down in the middle of the camp to rest for a while. Then I sheath the sword with some difficulty. “That was lucky,” I sigh. If they hadn’t stupidly attacked me from all sides at the same time, I would have died. Wait, wasn’t I supposed to be dead?

I take the beheaded soldier's head to the guild. Do I really have to do this? But all will be for naught without verification. And so I show Risho the head already dry of blood for her to verify while the guildmates stare at me with mixed emotions of surprise, and envy. Envy?

“Great work!” Risho compliments with no hint of surprise.

“Thank you,” I present her the contract’s token, “why don’t you seem surprised though?”

“I mean, after you defeated the strongest person in the guild,” Risho shrugs, “it shouldn’t come as a surprise.”

“That may be true but…” I didn’t continue for I might be coming out as bragging.

I receive the payment and paid the loan. I inspect the sword once again and notice that it is beyond unusable. Some guildmates offer me to drink with them, but I respectfully decline because I avoid those drinks. I return to the inn and show them the profit.

“Woah!” Rina’s eyes widen in amazement.

“D—D—Deliruu—kun,” Lina inspects me with horror, “y—you are stained with blood!”

I only stood there and laugh. “It’s just three gold coins,” I hand Lina one gold coin, “Here is my payment for the stay.”

Lina hesitates, “You don’t need to pay me.”

“But this is an inn,” I wipe my clothes in an attempt to remove the stain, “a place to pay to stay, is it not?”

Lina insists. “Yes, that is true but-”

“Should we tell him?” Rina interrupts.

Lina looks at Rina in shock.

“It is better to tell him though,” Rina continues.

“It’s ok if you don’t tell me what it is,” I wave my hands to dismiss it, “please take this as a form of gratitude instead.”

Lina closes my hand over the coin and looks at me with eyes of guilt. “I have something to confess,” Lina takes a couple of steps backward and bows at a right angle, “I was the one that stranded you here! Please forgive me!”

The response I could only answer was a look of severe confusion. “Eh?”

“I made a teleportation spell as an experiment that was supposed to send a test object in a short distance, but somehow, I sent you here, and now you can’t find your way back home!” Lina states.

“A spell? What?” I scratch my head.Rina steps in front of Lina and faces me, “A spell is a written instruction which requires a certain amount of mana to activate.”

“Cool,” I look at Lina, “but now we have mana?”

“Mana is the amount of power an object has or consumes. Every Magician and Aura user needs mana to do what they do basically.” Rina explains.

“I see, but how could you mess a spell?” I say looking at Lina.

“Mastering the art of spells is difficult. Mainly because it requires a different letter, format, and letters to write one.” Rina says to cover for Lina.

“Seems like there is a lot to learn from this world, but I seemed to have reached an answer,” I mutter. I approach Lina and straighten her up. “It’s alright.”

Lina looks up at me teary-eyed. “Really? How could you be so calm?”

I check my face to see if I am calm, and I am unusually calm, I discover. I put my hand on her shoulder. “I’m enjoying it here,” I say in a genuine tone. Truly, I am. My job before was signing papers and crunching numbers. Maybe killing people for a job isn’t so bad. Never mind, now that I think about it, it’s still as bad.

“B-but… you have to get back where you came from.” Lina drops her head.

I sigh and shrug, “There is nothing for me to return to.” That was a lie, but then I decided to kill myself anyway. That was a decision to never return.

Lina and Rina stare at me, and I stay motionless and in silence. Now, I can understand a little of how I got here, but I am still not sure if I’m dead or alive, or if this is still the same place or a different world. Did I teleport before I died? Or did I die before I teleported? It’s no use racking my brain for more answers as it leads to more questions. I sigh, a heavy sigh.

“Are you ok?” Lina looks up at me with a worried smile.

“Yes,” I pause gathering my thoughts and my newfound enthusiasm, “Are there any books I could read about magic and all those stuff?”

“Yes,” Lina relaxes her tense body, “but you would have to travel to Sitierra for their library.”

“Oh, well that is a longshot,” I slightly drop my head in disappointment.

“But if you want, I could take you there.” Lina stretches her hand at me.

“No, it’s ok. I’ll find out myself,” I leave the gold coin on the reception, “Thanks for bringing me here.” I say before I leave to go to my room.

Things are starting to make sense and no sense at the same time. My mind is full of questions and speculations. I might be able to return from wherever I came from, but that isn’t my goal. I strongly resolve that I shall live my life in here from now on. But I’d still like to know if this is heaven or hell. My thoughts drift further into insanity as I slowly fall asleep.

N. D. Skordilis
Taylor Victoria