Chapter 4:

Chapter 2.0, Gearing Up

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

It was the second week of the semester and classes will begin in session next week. Most students took this time to relax after having a long journey to the Academy, but Alice had no intention to skip her morning training. Bookmark here

As she was getting herself ready, there came three gentle knocks on her door. Bookmark here

“I’m coming,” She responded to her calling as she made her way to her door and opened it, only to find a boy about her age. Bookmark here

It was Jayce; he wore a white T-shirt, a pair of black spectacles, and a pair of black trousers. Bookmark here

Is he going to have morning training, too? Bookmark here

“Good morning, Alice. I hope I’m not interrupting your sleep,” He greeted apologetically.Bookmark here

“Oh, no, it’s fine. I was just getting ready for my morning training.” Bookmark here

Although they’d just met yesterday, it was his second nature to speak to her formally. But she began to wonder: what could be the reason for him to wake up at 6:00 AM in the morning?Bookmark here

“In that case, may I join your morning training? We can hold our discussion while training.” He suggested.Bookmark here

Her agility training was straightforward—on second thought, it was rather extreme for a normal person. The objective was to run fifty laps around the school’s perimeter. Alice decided to increase the intensity of her training regimen to raise her agility, due to her recent battle. Bookmark here

After two laps, she broke out the silence with a question. Bookmark here

“So what do you want to talk about?” Bookmark here

Sure, she could have waited for him to speak since he was the one who was looking for her, but—Bookmark here

“Sorry. I was thinking about something else just now.” Bookmark here

With her reminder, he immediately pulled himself together to bring the topic between them. Bookmark here

“I wanted to talk about yesterday.” Bookmark here

“What about it?” Bookmark here

Although she knew where this conversation was going, she can’t help herself to anticipate his next words. Bookmark here

Is he going to decline my application to join his guild?Bookmark here

It was true that most guilds were interested to recruit her during her first visit to the Academy. But during those events, she knew they were lying. Anyway, back to the current state of her situation, she steeled her mind, doing her best to keep her composure.Bookmark here

“Are you sure you want to join my guild?”Bookmark here

She can’t make out of his expression as he was still facing forward, but his tone was a mixture of serious and concern. In her mind, she breathed out a sigh of relief. A thought occurred to her that what made him asked this question instead of declining her application?Bookmark here

A guild was meant to build trust and bond among members. As for the funds to improve the club’s utilities and Research and Development, students were encouraged to earn them by completing quests of their own choice and within their rank.Bookmark here

During Jayce’s experience, he rarely got recruited as a temporary party member—mostly due to his cloaking spell. However, there were some parties saw through his spell and required his assistance. Deep down, he knew they were just using him for their benefits. Despite that, he used those opportunities to hone his skills.Bookmark here

From what she had seen in his guild room, he did possess a huge variety of grimoires and books regarding alchemy and blacksmithing. The strange part was that there were no presences of any anvil or alchemy table in the guild room. Bookmark here

Then where did he create his weapons then? Bookmark here

She then realized that Jayce was waiting for her answer. She shook her head to keep her mind rationale and gave her answer, her eyes spoke of determination. Bookmark here

“Yes, I would like to join your guild.” Bookmark here

He was slightly taken aback by her unexpected answer, but whatever decision she had chosen, he had to respect it. Now that he had received her answer from his end, he moved on to the next topic. Bookmark here

“All right, I will handle the applications for you. Now, about your apparel—”Bookmark here

“What about it?” She asked quizzically.Bookmark here

Yesterday, Alice and Jayce had battled against a chimaera. During the battle, he analyzed both her mental and physical state. With that, he explained his opinions about her performance and equipment. Bookmark here

In terms of throughput, she could prepare and execute spells in at an impressively short amount of time. Her apparels, however, were not suited for close quarter combat as it lacks manoeuvrability and defence capabilities, and not a single enchantment applied to them.Bookmark here

“That’s why I recommend you getting a new set of apparels,” said Jayce after giving his opinion.Bookmark here

During their battle with Chima­, the name of the chimaera they had fought, she wasn’t able to defend herself when its claws closed its distance in a fraction of a second. Her eyes could barely trace its movement. She contemplated this battle further until she reached a conclusion. Bookmark here

“I will switch out my apparels but…”Bookmark here

“But?” He repeated.Bookmark here

“My hat stays. But the problem is that I never thought of the designs yet.”Bookmark here

Alice’s hat was gifted by her parents when she reached the age of fifteen. It was a tradition for every adventurer to create either an item or equipment as a blessing to their student. Because of that, she treated it as a good luck charm and a reminder of her masters, which in this case, her parents. Bookmark here

“As for the designs, I’ve already drawn the schematics last night.” Bookmark here

Hearing that, she asked him for further details, but he said he wanted to keep this as a surprise. She puffed out her cheeks. Bookmark here

He was about to burst into laughter, but he was sure that she will convey her anger toward him even further if he did. He cleared his throat and continue.Bookmark here

“I will submit your application to the faculty. After that, I’m going out for grocery shopping.” Bookmark here

“Can I come along? I always wanted to visit the capital.” She asked, her eyes gleamed with sparkles. Bookmark here

“I don’t mind, as long I don’t stand out too much. Don’t forget to get your equipment, you might need them.”Bookmark here

“Why?” Bookmark here

“Some adventurers in the capital might be interested to fight you. Don’t worry about getting injuries, the magic gloves will protect you. The battle can be initiated if both adventurers agree to battle and equipped with either magic gloves or bags. The shield’s capacity varies depending on the bearer’s mana and magic gloves themselves. If one of the adventurer’s mana shield can no longer be replenished, that adventurer loses. There are two types of battle, the first is friendly sparring between both parties. The other involves both adventurers placing their bets and winner takes all. Are there any particular items you’re looking for?”Bookmark here

It wasn’t uncommon for adventurers battling each other in public. Battles such as these can be held either in the academy’s arena or the capital’s Coliseum. The former required permission from the Academy’s faculty, while the latter required permission from any one of the receptionists from the capital’s guild headquarter. Bookmark here

For the Academy, only students and lecturers could spectate the battle. The capital’s arena, however, had an entry cost depending on the spectators’ status. Bookmark here

“Do you know where I can replenish my potions and some ingredients for alchemy.”Bookmark here

“I know the place.”Bookmark here

                                                           ____________________Bookmark here

The merchant district was loud and lively. Merchants were promoting their goods, customers attempted to haggle with merchants over specific items, and couriers ran around with goods in hands.Bookmark here

Alice outfitted herself with her usual white robe, a staff, a white witch hat, a pair of magic gloves, and slung her magic bag over her left shoulder, and a pair of leather boots. Bookmark here

Jayce equipped himself a double layer navy blue coat, white shirt, a pair of black magic gloves, a pair of black trousers, a pair of obsidian scimitars, sheathed and holstered at the side of his waist, and a pair of brown leather boots.Bookmark here

“I need five red apples, ten potatoes, one bundle of carrots, three small bags of all spices and two small bags of dried mushrooms.”Bookmark here

He made his requests to the merchant slowly, making sure she heard everything. Bookmark here

The merchant deftly gathered every ingredient he had requested in order and packed them into a few paper bags. Bookmark here

“Here you go, that would be two silver coins and thirty-five copper coins.” She named the price as she handed out the ingredients to him. Bookmark here

He paid the merchant and received his order. Bookmark here

“My, my, Jayce, is that your girlfriend?” asked the elderly saleswoman. Bookmark here

“Oh, no. We’re just friends.” He waved his hand to brush off her assumption.Bookmark here

“Such a shame. You two look like a couple from my point of view,” she added.Bookmark here

Jayce continued to deny her presumptions, but when he turned to look at Alice, her eyes were downcast with reddened cheeks. Bookmark here

“Is everything alright?” He asked, looking calm, but his tone was evident of concern.Bookmark here

“Oh, my.” The saleswoman interjected, a hand placed on her cheek. Bookmark here

“I-it’s nothing, let’s move on,” prompted Alice as she moved ahead to another store. Bookmark here

After they settled their business, he gave the saleswoman his thanks and hurried to her side, guiding her to his personal favourite alchemy shop. Bookmark here

The alchemy shop had a large wooden sign hanging overhead written Nora’s Cauldron. Large display glass showing specimens in glass jars such as dried herbs, lizard tails, dried fish scales, mountain rock salts and the list went on. Bookmark here

“Welcome to Nora’s Cauldron, how can I help you?”Bookmark here

When they entered the shop, they were greeted by a young girl. She wore a purple robe and a purple witch hat. She had red eyes, straight, black, waist-length hair, and a beautiful complexion. Her height was about the same as theirs. Bookmark here

Maybe she’s a student working as a part-time saleswoman?Bookmark here

“Hey, Nora. Did you manage to get the ingredients I’ve ordered?” asked Jayce as he entered the shop after Alice.Bookmark here

Nora? This is the owner of the shop?! But she looked like a sixteen-year-old girl! Bookmark here

She almost blurted it out loud. This was the third time she met a young-looking person.Bookmark here

“Sorry, Jayce. I had a lot of requests came in before you. But they will be ready by next week.” She answered apologetically.Bookmark here

“That’s fine. I can wait. For now, I’m not your customer for today. She is.” Jayce indicated Alice with his right thumb. Bookmark here

Nora immediately approached her then shook her hand with both hands. Bookmark here

“Nice to meet you! I’m Nora, owner of Nora’s Cauldron.” She introduced herself, although not in a professional matter.Bookmark here

“I’m Alice, nice to meet you.” Bookmark here

She decided to use a formal approach, thinking that she might be older than what her appearances might suggest.Bookmark here

“You don’t have to be formal with me. We’re adventurers, after all. We treat each other equally, no matter what our age may be.” She reassured, reading her expression like an open book. Bookmark here

She took another step closer to her, close enough to make a whisper in her ear, inaudible to Jayce. Bookmark here

“Say, what’s your relationship with Jayce?” Bookmark here

Does everyone really think we’re a couple? Bookmark here

From the outsiders’ perspective, they looked like a couple. Jayce looked like a kind of guy who, for most people, be the one who would ask her out for a date. Sure, he looked like an average teenager with no special status, but he was the one who was doing the shopping and giving her a tour around the capital.Bookmark here

Before Alice could give her a response, Nora continued, “I’m only kidding. Back to business. What ingredients were you looking for?” Keeping her pride as the owner of her shop, she wouldn’t want to dissuade her from any further.Bookmark here

“I need five bundles of herbs, ten blue beetles, five yellow herbs, three void salts, three fire herbs, a pack of herb seeds, ten small vials with corks, and three vials of snake’s venom.”Bookmark here

“Got it, feel free to browse around the shop while I go get your order.” She turned around and withdrew back to the storage room.Bookmark here

Given by Nora’s suggestion, Alice went to browse around. Bookmark here

Jayce went to sit in a nearby chair, then materialize a book from his magic gloves and began reading.Bookmark here

“Frogs, eyes of newt, Gryphon’s talons, wyvern scales, goblin toes, rainbow fish scales, Phoenix feathers? This shop does have all kinds of ingredients you really need.” She muttered to herself.Bookmark here

Jayce answered her remark while reading his book. “She is, after all, one of the best magicians in this area. She knew every location of all sorts of ingredients you seek.” Bookmark here

She wasn’t expecting anyone to answer her, but that assertion did surprise her.Bookmark here

“What do you mean ‘in this area’? I’m the best magician in the world!” Nora proclaimed as she came out of the storage room with an opened crate containing Alice’s requested ingredients.Bookmark here

“Since when?” asked Jayce nonchalantly.Bookmark here

“Why you…!” With a slight gesture, multiple glowing orbs surrounded Jayce Bookmark here

“Spirit magic?” Alice gasped at the spirits’ presences. The spirits had different colours: red, green, and blue. Just a single glance at them sent a chill down her spine.Bookmark here

Spirit magic was one of the Lost magic; only a handful of adventurers could execute it if one of the conditions are fulfilled. In Nora’s case, one of the conditions she had fulfilled was the ability to perceive and communicate specific spirits.Bookmark here

“Come on, let’s not fight here.” Bookmark here

She slid in between them, trying to defuse the situation. Nora’s spirits were ready to fire off at any moment, while Jayce was still sitting in his chair, casually reading his book. Knowing Jayce’s ability and Nora’s title, they might end up destroying Nora’s shop and any nearby buildings. Bookmark here

Nora understood what she had meant, so she immediately called off her spirits and turned her gaze towards Alice. She returned to her usual cheerful expression, bringing the issue to a close. Bookmark here

“You’re right. I shouldn’t waste my mana on this guy. Here are all the ingredients you had requested. Is there anything else you require?” Bookmark here

She placed the crate on her counter between them. Bookmark here

“Yes. I need four phoenix feathers and that would be all.”Bookmark here

“That would be two gold coins, seven silver coins, and forty copper coins. That’s the normal price. But since you’re Jayce’s friend and not to mention you are buying ingredients in bulk, the price will be one gold coin and fifty silver coins.”Bookmark here

Alice was fine with the initial cost; she had earned quite an amount from her expedition with Jayce in the grimoire’s world. When she attempted to pay Nora at full price, Nora kept insisting her to pay a discounted price.Bookmark here

“Here’s your fifty-seven silver coins and forty copper coins change. Thank you, for your patronage. Now that our business is settled, would you like to join me for a cup of tea?”Bookmark here

“Sorry, Nora, I have to bring her somewhere else. There is something that needs to be done today.” Bookmark here

However, that wasn't enough to stop her. Bookmark here

“Don’t be silly. I’m sure she has time, right, Alice?” She gazed towards her.Bookmark here

Alice gave a side glance to Jayce, her eyes asking whether it would be fine to stay a bit longer. Bookmark here

“Yeah… I guess we can stay a bit longer.” He sighed.Bookmark here

“Oh. So you are dating her.” She teased further.Bookmark here

“No.” He then returned his attention to his book again.Bookmark here

Nora went up the stairs to prepare their afternoon tea. Her entire shop was her home; it was a two-story house, where the ground floor was her shop, while the above was her home. Bookmark here

“You can come up, too, you know. Don’t worry about my shop. My familiar will handle everything here.” Bookmark here

Halfway up the stairs, she beckoned Alice to join her. Bookmark here

“Familiar?” Bookmark here

She looked around the shop, in search of the familiar she spoke of. Strangely, she didn’t see it anywhere, then where could it be?Bookmark here

“Looking for me, nyan?” Bookmark here

Suddenly, a figure made an appearance in front of her. Bookmark here

“Whoa!” Bookmark here

She stumbled back by two steps, almost fell to the floor on her rear end.Bookmark here

“Come now. You don’t have to be that surprised since you hung out with Jayce for only a day. Surely you had met with familiars with the ability to communicate with humans like me.”Bookmark here

The familiar, you guessed it, was a cat-like form, but…Bookmark here

“You’re… flying…?” Bookmark here

She pointed it out.Bookmark here

It was floating in midair, without any physical part of it to support that fact. It had a short white fur, red eyes, and four tails. Its eyes exhibited gentleness. Bookmark here

Anyway, back to reality, it was flying! Bookmark here

“Hello, my name is Snow. I’m Nora’s familiar.”Bookmark here

“I’m Alice, nice to meet you.” She introduced herself with a bow.Bookmark here

She flew around Alice in one smooth motion, examining her mana closely. Once she finished, she went back to her post at the main counter of the shop without a word.Bookmark here

“Now that both you know each other. Shall we head up?” prompted Nora. Alice bowed slightly to Snow to excuse herself and climbed up the stairs.Bookmark here

                                                           ____________________Bookmark here

Alice and Nora had their tea break in one of her guest rooms. Probably meant for conducting business between her clients and herself. The room was filled with a variety of plants, vines stretched throughout the wooden supports that were placed on each side of the walls. She recognized some plants, but what interest her the most was the surrounding air was refreshing and soothing.Bookmark here

“My apology on behalf of my familiar. She didn’t mean any harm.” She began, taking a sip of herbal tea she had prepared. Bookmark here

“Oh, no. It’s fine. I’m sure Snow didn’t mean any harm.” During her recent encounter with Snow, she didn’t sense any malicious intent as she was looking for her. Bookmark here

At some point in their conversation, they reached to a topic about her and Jayce. Bookmark here

“So, how did you meet Jayce? Not many people can notice his presence,” she asked, curious about their relationship. Bookmark here

“I met him at his guild room yesterday. Although that happened by coincidence.” Bookmark here

“Oh…” She leaned back in her chair, a mischievous smile appeared on her face. “I would love to hear more about it.”Bookmark here

Alice explained to her about her recent adventure with Jayce in the grimoire world, their battle against a chimaera, and how he had offered to give her a tour around the capital, recommending the shops that can supply her necessities. Bookmark here

And so, they resumed their talk with Nora telling her about herself. To her surprise, Nora was apparently a three hundred years old witch. She possessed the title of “Witch of Mysteria.” She earned her title through exploration and gathering rare ingredients for research and development of lost magic and items. Bookmark here

There were a few witches left in this world, so it was difficult for the alchemists in their current generation to continue their magic research. Despite that there were a few witches, they had assisted a lot of adventurers during their journey and they respect them for that, so no matter what happens to the witches, the adventurers will support them, knowing they had no intention to harm anyone.Bookmark here

As they were approaching the end of their conversation. Nora stood up. Bookmark here

“Thank you for your time to join my tea break, Alice. You have to go now; your boyfriend is waiting for you downstairs.” She chaffed.Bookmark here

After getting to know her during their tea break, she knew Nora didn’t mean it. Bookmark here

“Thank you for your hard work and service, Nora.” She waved her hand and took her to leave. Bookmark here

Looking through the window, watching Jayce and Alice leaving her shop, silence returned once again to the guest room. Bookmark here

“Alice, I hope you can save him.” She muttered.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.