Chapter 2:

Nightmare Life with GrandPre and First Trip to the Guild

What it Takes for a Loser to Become a Career Isekai Adventurer ダメ人間が本職異世界冒険家になる資格は


Den’s computer was gone. He forced even breaths to contain the smoldering frustration that grew within. Waking up to sunlight pouring through thin curtains, he had looked up from his futon in a daze at the small wood-paneled room he was to make home. His eyes passed over his luggage-- mostly clothes and books scattered across the floor. Having only had a single afternoon to pack, Den only had one important possession. It should have been on the low desk in the corner of the room where he had put it when he arrived, but the monitor and tower were nowhere to be seen.
Bookmark here

He’d collapsed last night after his strange encounter with Rika in a surprisingly good mood. That had been a miracle given the incendiary state he’d arrived in the suburb with the day before. Now he was reminded of the powerlessness of his situation. He let out a low hissing breath and headed out the room on long determined strides. He made his way down the squeaking wood floor and came to the main room of the building. Bookmark here

His grandmother laid in a deep stretch on the tatami floor of the wide empty 'thinking room.' She slowly pushed herself up and lifted her hands overhead, not looking his way. Despite her age, she was in impeccable condition and her black hair still had a strange luster of youth, pulled back in a neat bun at all times. In some ways, she almost looked younger than him. Den did not want to start a conversation. His grandmother was a woman of blacks and whites. Either she was quiet and kind or a storm of destruction. Unfortunately, every time they talked, he somehow awoke the later. But right now with his anger simmering, he didn’t care.Bookmark here

“GrandPre, where is my computer?” he asked.Bookmark here

“Good morning, Den,” she said on a gentle, airy breath, not seeming to pick up Den’s frustration in the least. “I apologise. I’ve collected it for the time being.” She continued in an upbeat tone in the same way one would announce the weather forecast as sunny all day.Bookmark here

“I realize that,” Den said. “I heard your rules on energy use yesterday. Was it really necessary to take my computer?”Bookmark here

“This is only a temporary precaution,” GrandPre said, letting her arms fall from her stretch. She looked up at him and gave a small nod and a confident smile free of ill will. “I see you have shaved. It’s an improvement.”Bookmark here

“How long is temporary?” Den asked, doing his best to stay civil. He knew all too well from their conversations in the past that he could not beat his grandmother in a battle of words. Still, that calm, peaceful face she met his anger with always just made his blood boil all the more. She doesn’t care-- she can’t even imagine that my computer is worth more to me than anything else. That computer had been his only connection to the world these last three years. It was no exaggeration to say it was his life.Bookmark here

“That depends on you, Den,” GrandPre said, crossing one arm over her chest in a stretch. “If you’re going to live in my home and assist me with my sickness, I cannot allow your condition to go unaddressed. What kind of grandmother would I be?” She gave him a wink. “We’ll get your computer back to you soon. We just need to rehabilitate you to the world first. Don’t expect your parent’s leniency from me. We’re going to break your computer addiction once and for all.”Bookmark here

Den sighed and rubbed his forehead. “It’s not an addiction,” he said. “It’s not that simple. It’s not like I’ve only been mindlessly playing games these last few years. All my friends are online. I know I can’t use the computer nearly as often, but I still need it. My life is on that machine.”Bookmark here

She laughed softly. “Come now, Den. You have a phone. You should have no issue communicating with friends. You don’t need that computer. That way of thinking is why this method is necessary.” His grandmother finished her stretch and rose to her feet. She walked past him and knelt down at the blanketed table on the side of the room. She looked up at him and gestured for him to sit across from her. “We did not have a long time to talk yesterday, Den. Please forgive me for retiring early and leaving the dinner cleanup to you. You did a fine job.”Bookmark here

Den grit his teeth. He did not want the conversation to end like that, but he supposed forcing the matter would only convince his grandmother further that he had an addiction. “It’s no problem,” Den relented. He would not accept her offer to sit however and so he held his position at the doorway. “You can’t help it when your migraines act up.”Bookmark here

“I’m glad you understand. From what I’ve heard, it’s not too different from your lack of control over your computer use,” his grandmother continued, letting her hands fall and cross on the table. “That is addiction. Your parents resisted calling your condition what it is. Recognising the problem is the first step in addressing it.” She took a drink of water from a tall reusable bottle. “We are not very close, Den, I know this. Especially given the way we left things after the funeral, but know that as your grandmother I only wish to help you. I want you to be healthy.” Bookmark here

Den let out a long sigh. It was only nine AM and with his body still in pain physically from the adventure of the night before, he was not at all ready for this mental battle. “What can I do to convince you to give my computer back?”Bookmark here

“Let’s make a deal,” GrandPre said. Her smile faltered. “Come and sit with me, Den.” Bookmark here

While Den resisted for a long moment, he assented and entered the room, lowering himself to sit on his knees before his grandmother, his sore muscles screaming. He couldn’t help the grimace that came to his face. He hadn’t sat like this in a long time, and the fat he’d gained the last few years weighed on his ankles. Bookmark here

“Are you alright?” GrandPre asked.Bookmark here

“I am frustrated, and hurting after moving a lot more than I am used to.”Bookmark here

“That pain is also the result of your choices. The work I have prepared will help you build yourself up,” she said. “As you work, you’ll be able to earn your computer back as well. Buy it back to be precise.” She gave a half-hearted apologetic shrug with her wiry shoulders. “I sold it to a pawnshop downtown to give you a little focus. If you can save up 30,000 doubloons as a downpayment, I’ll buy the computer back for you. If you wanted it earlier, I suppose you could buy it back yourself. Though I will kick you out if you can’t make your rent-- just as a warning.” Bookmark here

Den rubbed his brows. “I had planned on working even if you didn’t steal the computer.”Bookmark here

“I was going to ask, but you stormed off last night somewhere almost as soon as you arrived.”Bookmark here

“Can I at least have the doubloons you pawned my computer for?” Den asked.Bookmark here

“Why?” GrandPre asked with a confused grin. “It’s not like it was your own money. I helped your parents buy it for you as a high school graduation gift. I think you’ll feel so much better if you earned it back yourself.”Bookmark here

Den slid his weight off his feet and threw his head back, balling and unballing a fist. He wanted to complain, but while he was infuriated at the situation and his grandmother’s plot, he was more mad at himself for ending up in this situation. “Fine! Fine. I’ll do it. But don’t expect rent from me for long. I’m gone as soon as I can be.”Bookmark here

“I look forward to that day as well,” GrandPre said with an angelic look. He could almost hear a tightness in her tone however. He didn’t like this situation, and he supposed GrandPre wasn’t any more prepared for it than he was. As much as he hated her right now, he comprehended that she didn’t want him at her house any more than he wanted to be there. She gave a stretch with a satisfied smile. “When you are not working, you have permission to use the family computer one hour a day. I will allow you to decide that time for yourself, but it must be within my waking hours as I am the only one to turn on power at the breaker.”Bookmark here

“Thanks,” Den said without enthusiasm. “It seems I get a lot out of this deal.”Bookmark here

“Your parents have mentioned multiple times that you have some sort of online startup? They’ve placed their hope in it for so long. I supposed I would offer my assistance. ”Bookmark here

Den sat up at that. His skin crawled as he brought out his prepared pitch. He couldn’t manage to keep eye contact, looking away from GrandPre’s expectant gaze as he said, “I’m a streamer. I stream games and provide entertainment. I manage a blog about hot topics too.”Bookmark here

His grandmother’s smile soured. “You thought you could make a living off that?” She laughed once. “Well, I am sorry to say I can’t help you. I will not support such fantasies.”Bookmark here

“Why?” Den let the question burst out. “Why do you hate gaming so much?”Bookmark here

“It’s escapism. It steals time and resources while blinding people from reality. Gaming doesn’t create anything.”Bookmark here

“That’s wrong,” Den said, a quiver entering his voice. He looked down at the floor. “There’s more than that.”Bookmark here

GrandPre’s hot gaze held him. “I’m listening,” she said.Bookmark here

“Games saved me,” he said, his voice barely over a whisper. His grandmother didn’t say anything, so he pushed forward. “I made friends in games. They’re entertainment that give life meaning.They make me excited like nothing else does.” The feeling welling up in his chest gave him the strength to return his gaze to his grandmother. “They’re important.”Bookmark here

He was surprised to see that GrandPre wasn’t angry. She slouched, her wrinkled skin sagging as she looked at him evenly. She let out a long sigh and shook her head slowly. “You’re just like your grandfather.”Bookmark here

Den’s eyebrows wrinkled. “Is that a compliment?”Bookmark here

“No,” she said flatly. She lifted her bottle and turned it in hand without looking up. “You inherited his inability to be satisfied with the real world.” She grimaced. “He was a fool. Why couldn’t he have just been happy?”Bookmark here

“Granpapi wasn’t a fool,” Den said, balling his fists. “He protected Suburb 43 during its building! He even made it down to Layer Twenty-Eight! He was a great adventurer!”Bookmark here

“He worked hard, I’ll give him that. His work ethic wasn’t the problem. It was running from his real world responsibilities that caused us problems. You need to understand. You’re an adult. How old are you now? Twenty-four?”Bookmark here

“Twenty-five…” Den mumbled, lowering his chin.Bookmark here

“And you were still lazing around at your parent’s house?” She rubbed her brow. “Yes, he was a great adventurer, and he was a fool for it. He was a fool to put so much of his worth on his pride as an adventurer. When he gave it up he didn’t know how to be happy with the wonder found in everyday life. He could never get his head out of the clouds.”Bookmark here

“He loved his dream of adventuring until the day he died,” Den said. “It gave him hope.”Bookmark here

“And it was that hope that killed him,” GrandPre said softly, looking off into space with a strange conflicted look. “Adventuring is a game. Like any other, you cannot hope to find any success with it unless you have money to pay or overwhelming talent. You, like your grandfather, have neither. Everything we have now came from abandoning the fantasy and getting a real job. Fantasies create nothing. His fantasies died with him. They have no legacy.” GrandPre waved her hand as if to brush off his life.Bookmark here

“I’m here,” Den said, looking up at his grandmother. “His stories gave me hope too.”Bookmark here

His grandmother smiled sadly. “We see how much good that’s done for you. His influence sure put you on a path to success.”Bookmark here

Den could not accept that. Sure he was a loser, but Grandpapi was his hero. And he wasn’t the only one in their family. Den raised his eyes to GrandPre. “GG Grandfather Stormbringer07 came to this planet to live out his fantasy. He was successful.”Bookmark here

“Your Great Great Grandfather was an Isekaijin,” GrandPre said with a roll of her eyes. “He had more money than either of us could ever imagine. His success was not in adventuring but from his contributions to building the empire.”Bookmark here

“But he only came here in the first place to play a game…” Bookmark here

“And when the Earth Gate closed, did he continue to play pretend?” She shook her head. Den had thought of this argument ages ago, and the fact she had twisted it around on him so quickly made him bite his lip. “No,” she continued. “He adapted and was a key worker in the founding of Densetsu Electric. It’s thanks to company work that we have always lived well.”Bookmark here

“Maybe if he had actually stuck with adventuring, he could have been part of one of the royal guilds. He was an Isekaijin after all. With all those augmented superpowers, he could have accomplished something really incredible.”Bookmark here

“And do you know how many Isekaijin died in the Primordial Hollows thinking exactly that?” She shook her head again. “It took your grandfather a long time to realize that adventuring is just what it always was-- a pay to win game where your life itself is on the table.” GrandPre stood up. “I could never live in the same house as an adventurer again.”Bookmark here

Well little do you know, you already are! … he wanted to say, but he had a strong feeling that if he said that right now, he would immediately be kicked out on the street. He grit his teeth and bore it. Bookmark here

“It appears there is nothing else I can do to help you,” she said. “Either you work and learn the benefits, or you leave this house. It’s up to you. You think you would learn from your younger sister. She’s made a successful career.”Bookmark here

“Don’t talk about Setsuko. We’re nothing alike,” Den spat. Bookmark here

GrandPre raised her hands in acceptance as she turned away. Bookmark here

Damn it. This was just how every one of their conversations had always gone. For once Den had hoped he would be the one to come out on top. The least he could manage this time would be to end it on his terms. Just as his grandmother made it to the door, Den pushed himself up. “When I leave this house, I am going to be successful. And by doing what I love.”Bookmark here

His grandmother gave him a tight smile. “If it is within your power, do it. Otherwise, do your job, get a girl-- life is not that hard. Don’t overthink it.”Bookmark here

--- Bookmark here

Den brought his metal rake down on a bag of mulch, pulling bright red woodchips out of the plastic bag. He stood up and held himself up with the rake as he caught his breath. The afternoon was hot and a heavy coat of sweat soaked into the XXL t-shirt given to him by the landscaping company his grandmother had scouted out for him. “Life is not that hard, my ass--” he wheezed. Bookmark here

While light headed and hurting, he continued his job out of spite alone. After his claims to become successful, he was not going to pass out on his first day working his new part time job. He was thankful to be left alone for the last portion of work and able to make a call. Reaching up to his earbud, he spoke louder for his friend to hear. “How is our world holding up? I wish I could be fighting with you.”Bookmark here

Laserw0lf’s voice came through his earbud as he continued to rake. “We’re somehow making do. The team hasn’t had to fight without you since you were still trying to make it to your college classes. How long ago was that now?”Bookmark here

“Almost three years.” His arms and legs trembled with each step, feeling even more exhausted than he had the night before. Still, he was near the end of his job for the day. After weeding flower gardens and mowing the massive lawn of the hillside mansion, the crew’s job would soon be done. Den had been left this final rear section to mulch. What made the job all the harder was he had to be careful not to disrupt his phone’s connection to his external charger sticking out of his waist pack.Bookmark here

“That long already? We’re getting old.” Laserw0lf’s voice came with the soft click of keys-- a level of normalcy that set Den’s heart at ease. “Scope Sisters’ Final Days Mission is as insane as you would have imagined,” Laserw0lf said. Den could almost see the campaign LazerW0lf was playing. Any normal day, they would be playing co-op at this time. It gave him whiplash thinking about how far he’d been transported from the world he knew. “High Noon is going all out to give us normal folks a great mission before the paywall falls on the game.” His clicking intensified before he hissed a soft, “Shit.” His voice came clearer, and Den could feel his full attention. “Missing your support. There are noobs everywhere with people rushing in to get in the last three days of free gaming before it’s cut off.”Bookmark here

Den laughed weakly. “I wish I could be there instead of landscaping rich people’s houses and suffering under GrandPre’s pity and tyranny.” Den looked out over the carefully tended back garden. Everything about the work pissed him off. The insects, the summer heat, the fact that he was putting red mulch behind bushes on top of perfectly fine barely faded mulch. He could see the two other co-workers down the hill talking and laughing as they tended to potted plants along the front driveway. Bookmark here

Laserw0lf’s keyboard clicks intensified before he slammed his desk-- a sure sign he’d been taken out. It was so strange to hear, compared to the bright outside world. “As much as getting kicked out sucks, I’m jealous you got to hang out with a girl,” Laserwolf said. “Was she cute?”Bookmark here

Den gave a halfhearted humph. “Sure? I liked her energy. I think she’s probably cute.”Bookmark here

“Regardless of how dangerous it is, that’s enough reason to stick with it. Complete her route. You would rise above all us other losers.”Bookmark here

“I don’t know about that…” Den said with an uncertain chuckle. Sure he liked Rika well enough from their first encounter, but it made him uncomfortable to act based on such an insubstantial feeling. Sure, he’d always admired the thought of falling in love, but he had no idea what he was supposed to feel for that. Rika seemed like she would make a good party member, but the thought of her as a romantic target hadn’t even crossed his mind. He supposed even if he didn’t have any skill in romance, he should still do his best on that front in this new world too.Bookmark here

“You settled on it then? You’re going to be an adventurer, you madlad?” Laserw0lf asked.Bookmark here

“At this point, I want to do it because I know it would piss off GrandPre if nothing else. You’re the closest friend I got, Lazer. Am I crazy to risk my life for such a petty reason? Did the whole world falling apart finally push me over the edge?”Bookmark here

“Maybe, but hell, why shouldn’t you go for it?” He clicked his tongue as he died in-game. “You’ve always been a coolheaded planner. I can’t imagine you getting into more than you can handle. If anything, you’ve always played it a little too safe. With the world ending, it seems like the right time to go for broke.”Bookmark here

Den spread red mulch, feeling his excitement grow. “It felt good fighting. And while she is a cocky piece of work, Rika is fun. It was amazing getting excited and fighting on a team with someone out in the real world. I never imagined such a day would come.” Den paused as he looked over his completed garden. The unease he felt over the whole situation tickled his spine. “Am I wrong to be excited about this?”Bookmark here

“Hell, Den, you’ve been trying to find something that excites you for years. I’ll miss streaming with you, but I think you’ve found something even better to shoot. I want to see what you’re doing in the Primordial Hollows. And I want to see Rika too, of course.”Bookmark here

Den’s stomach stirred in a mixture of uncertainty and excitement. “Adventuring isn’t a game. It’s not like I can stream from the Primordial Hollows.” He paused. “Can I?”Bookmark here

“Can you?” Lazerwolf asked. “Now that would make an interesting channel!”Bookmark here

Den paused as he looked over the large white manor. Above the roof, he could see the not too distant shape of the peak of the suburb’s center hill. “I don’t know how we would even begin to go about doing that without killing ourselves, but I’ll run the idea by Rika when I see her at the Guild later.”Bookmark here

“I can’t believe you just said that,” Lazerw0lf said. “You really are in a different world, aren’t you?”Bookmark here

“It feels like it,” Den said. The clicking started up again on Laserw0lf’s side as Den picked up his empty plastic mulch bags and threw them in the crew’s wheelbarrow. He nodded at the freshly mulched garden. He did a good job if he did say so himself. “I’m going to become the best adventurer I can be, Laser. Thanks for listening.”Bookmark here

“Do it. Just don’t get yourself killed.” Bookmark here

“I’ll try.” Den ended the call. With his tools in hand, he started down the small front path through an elegant garden back to the driveway. He set his sights on his relaxed co-workers. He arrived and the young man in a sleeveless shirt showing off his muscled arms gave Den a wide grin. Den could barely return it. He had never been good with these normies. Bookmark here

This kid was exactly what GrandPre wanted Den to become. It irked him all the more to think he was younger than Den. The worst part of the situation was that he’d completely forgotten his name. In his mind he was only a Dudebro. He would think of him as Chad the Dudebro until he learned the guy’s name, if ever. Chad sauntered up and clapped Den on the shoulder. “Nice work today, bro. We’re planning on heading to the stables next for a walloping--”Bookmark here

“Hold on,” Den dropped his wheelbarrow handles and pulled out his earbud. “What’s happening?”Bookmark here

“Cassie and I are going down to the stables with friends. We give the Shield Cows a walloping. Wanna join?”Bookmark here

Den stood frozen, unable to comprehend half the words the dudebro had said. He was already uncomfortable enough as was, so his answer was simple. “No-- thanks-- I’m good.”Bookmark here

“Don’t be that way, man! We’re on the same team. You’re big so you could probably give the cows a great walloping! I want to see that.”Bookmark here

“You’re... beating up cows?” Den asked in disbelief.Bookmark here

“Not real cows. Just some monsters we’re keeping for the Gambit in the fall. They can take it.” Bookmark here

Why?” Den asked, unable to keep the grimace off his face at the thought.Bookmark here

“Well, it’s not like we have very much else to do with the internet down and all.” Chad wrapped his arm around Den’s shoulder. “Anyway, there’s nothing that brings people together more than a good rumble in the mud. When we’re done with the cows, we have a good wrestling ring too. Don’t underestimate Cassie. She’ll plant you headfirst in the mud before you can say ‘hogwallosh.’”Bookmark here

Den squirmed out of the man’s grip, taking several unsteady steps back. “Sorry-- really-- sorry. I’m meeting someone. Have fun with… that.”Bookmark here

He spun and made his way to the truck at the end of the driveway as Chad the Dudebro called after. “Maybe another time then!” Den retrieved his heavy backpack and was set free by the skinny, orange faced company leader. He made it back out to the road. Bookmark here

Den walked his way back downhill from the wide rich houses into tighter housing then to the apartments surrounding the downtown. He arrived at the door of a thin three story wooden building squeezed between a dry cleaners and an out-of-business ramen restaurant. The faded sign over the door announced the shack as Suburb 23’s main Guildhouse. Den had doubted the map Rika had messaged him, but while not the rowdy adventurous location Den had expected, he supposed he had the right place.Bookmark here

He pushed his way in, and a quiet bell over the door announced his arrival. Pale light streamed in through the dirty poster-covered windows, catching streams of dust in the tight interior. Shelves lined the walls and large wooden crates were stacked everywhere, even being covered in blankets and pillows to act as seating on either side of the room. Rika turned to look at Den from the tall standing desk in the center of the room. Her eyes lit up and she gave him a sharp toothed grin. “Took you long enough to get here,” she said. Bookmark here

He gave her an exhausted nod and made his way to her, feeling hungover. Running on fumes, it was all he could do to stay on his feet. “I brought my portion,” Den said, dropping his heavy backpack to the floor with a clatter. “How much are we going to get from this?” Bookmark here

Rika stood aside and beyond a pair of monitors, a few towers, and other equipment on the desk, Den caught sight of an old man with thinning grey hair slicked back. He looked at Den with half lidded eyes, holding a pair of spectacles as he looked at a pile of Essence Ore. “That will be for me to decide,” the man said.Bookmark here

Rika held up a hand. “This is the Guild Master. He will get us all set up to be adventurers. Once we turn over our haul, we’ll have the funds to start our party.”Bookmark here

The old man adjusted the ragged coat he wore over a faded suit. “You are Den, I suppose.” He gestured to the pile of crystal on his desk. “I take it that you have a similar amount?” Bookmark here

Den gave a nod. The man picked up a dull brown stone as Rika pulled a pillow case she seemed to have brought the crystal in with off the desk and shoved it in her own bag. The Guildmaster slowly ran his smartphone back and forth over the crystal as he squinted at the screen. He snorted once softly. “This is a First Layer haul alright. Mostly Grade F with a sprinkle of Grade E. You two collect this alone?” He set down his phone and put his hands on the desk. In the half light of the messy store, his gaze held a surprising intensity.Bookmark here

“You bet we did!” Rika said, hands on her hips, puffed up and grinning so bright, it made the Essence Ore look as dim as roadside gravel. Bookmark here

The Guildmaster groaned as he lowered himself into a chair. It squeaked as he leaned back against a bookshelf with sagging shelves. “This is a good haul, especially for only two running the First Layer. In electricity, you could get a couple hours. An Essence Ore converter could double that, but I don’t suppose you two already have one of those.”Bookmark here

Den shook his head. “How much do the converters go for on Nile Shopping?”Bookmark here

“They’re surely out of stock online. With the energy crisis, you should give up on finding one at a reasonable price.” Bookmark here

Den shrugged. “Whatever.” It’s not like he had a computer to run anyway.Bookmark here

“So how much we getting off this, old man?” Rika asked, eyes sparkling.Bookmark here

The Guildmaster glanced at the pile and ran his hand over his beard. “It’s been ages since I’ve appraised a First Layer haul. It looks like in total you have profited 700 doubloons.”Bookmark here

Den stood up straight. “Wait, only 700 total for us both?” The man nodded and Den’s heart sank. 700 doubloons was less than half minimum wage-- not to mention it had been two of them working the better part of an hour. Bookmark here

Rika only shrugged, seemingly unsurprised by the painfully small turn-in rate. “It’s only the First Layer,” she said. “We’ll earn more as we go deeper.” She waved a hand at the Guildmaster. “We’ll take whatever it's worth. Get us set up as a party. We’re going back in today.”Bookmark here

Den could only smile at the confidence with which Rika commanded the head of the Guild. While he was barely on his feet, the thought of moving forward anyway on the current Rika was making gave Den a tingling excitement. Soon we’ll be adventurers! Bookmark here

The old man leaned forward crossing his fingers on the desk. “I admire your determination, but before we can get to that I should probably mention that this haul is illegal.” The man pushed up his glasses and looked down at his smartphone. “It’s a minor felony for non-guild members to enter the Primordial Hollows. I am sorry to tell you that the rules will not allow me to let you into the Empire Guild as a party.”Bookmark here

Den’s heart skipped a beat. Right. They did kind of break in, didn’t they? Den raised his hands. “I want to be an adventurer so I don’t care we broke in. If the money’s the problem, keep the Essence Ore.”Bookmark here

“Hey! Don’t let him have the Ore! We worked hard for that!” Rika brought her fist down on the desk. “It looks like it’s too late for us to walk the path of light, Den.” She swung her left arm down, and a foot of her spear slid out of her jacket sleeve into hand. She pointed it at the Guildmaster. “You’re going let in as adventurers AND let us keep our eight doubloons!”Bookmark here

The old man wheezed with laughter. “You two definitely have the right attitude for adventurers. Unfortunately, you’re going to need more than a sharp stick to intimidate me.” He lifted his hand and tapped a faded gold band with a green crystal on the back of his wrist. The crystal grew bright, and Den’s stomach dropped away as a tingling tightness gripped his body and lifted him into the air.Bookmark here

“Hey, no fair!” Rika said. “Using an Enchanted Item on people level one should be illegal!”Bookmark here

“Hmm…” The old man lifted his hand, a green magic field wrapping around Rika’s spearpoint and sliding it out of her fingers to float in the air before him. Bookmark here

“Not my pointy stick!” Rika shouted, grunting as she twisted her head left and right, her body remaining restricted midair.Bookmark here

“Is this what you used to clear the First Stratum?” the Guildmaster asked.Bookmark here

“It was longer before!” Rika pouted, giving up her struggle. Bookmark here

The man’s eyebrows rose and he nodded slowly, examining the sharp stick as it floated in front of him. “I see. And what about you, young man?”Bookmark here

“A pry bar for the most part,” Den said with a tired grin. “Planning on upgrading to dual wielding a hammer and screwdriver though.”Bookmark here

“And you two took on the First Layer with that alone? That is some guts!” The spearpoint slid back into Rika’s hand. “We need young people like you two,” the guildmaster continued. “I want to let you into the Guild but you literally do not meet the criteria yet. You didn’t give me a chance to explain.” The old man laughed. “The doors were locked by the Primordial Hollows Administration Division to put an end to lawsuits filed by idiots that got hurt or had sex in the unsupervised caverns. Those rules locked out a generation of potential adventurers, and put the suburb guilds in this sad state. I don’t care that you broke the rules. I just wanted to hear your answer.” He gave them a deep nod of respect. “I approve of it.”Bookmark here

“You’re not going to turn us in to the cops?” Rika asked. “That’s rad. Less bodies.”Bookmark here

Den laughed. “I don’t care because I have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” he said. “Rika, you just don’t let anything stop you from winning. I like that. I want to party with you.”Bookmark here

She raised her chin up high and put her free fist on her hip. “You heard him, Mr. Guild Boss. We’re not scared of your Enchanted Item. Cough up the Guild Badges.”Bookmark here

“We’ll gladly have you if you complete the sign-up forms,” the Guildmaster said. “Are you ready to listen now?”Bookmark here

Rika puffed out her cheeks. “Fine, but Den is doing the paperwork.”Bookmark here

The guildmaster set them down. As soon as they touched ground and the green light in the bracelet Enchanted Item gave out, a dozen Essence Ore on the desk burst. “Oh no,” the man said dully. “It appears I accidentally used your product. Now unless you want me to use more, you will listen.” He lifted up a tablet and after a few moments of searching, he set it on the desk in front of them. “As much as I would like to accept your request to form a party, the minimum size accepted by the Empire Guild is five members. I can enter you on a two week trial period and give you Guild Badges and access to the first nine layers. In that time however, you’ll need to gather up three more members. Do you think you can do that?”Bookmark here

“Rika, I’ll do the paperwork,” Den said, crossing his arms, “but I literally don’t know anyone in Suburb 23.”Bookmark here

“I’m already way ahead of you, Den,” Rika said, throwing her nose up high. “We’re going back in tonight, and thanks to my greatness, you should prepare yourself to meet our first new party member!”Bookmark here

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