Chapter 1:

Ch. 1: The First Visit and Application

The Adventurer, Amaris

The outside of the building was mostly gray stone and a dirtied, cream colored plaster. The general shape was haphazard, as if someone had randomly built additions to a main building without any care or planning. The blue tiles of the roof had likely been expensive when they were first purchased, but they were well and thoroughly faded from exposure to the sun.

Despite all initial appearances, however, it didn't seem to be in a state of complete disrepair. Someone was maintaining its habitability, even if they weren't maintaining it aesthetically.

I stared at the main door to the impressively large building, shifting my weight from foot to foot uneasily. Hesitantly, I steeled myself and made my way inside. I quickly looked around the room for the receptionist's desk, aware of how out of place I was amongst the battle hardened that now surrounded me. A wide room, separated into several levels, spread out before me.

To my left were wooden tables and chairs, only about a third of which were occupied. Despite that, at least twenty were seated in that area. To my right were stairs, leading up to a second floor whose balcony overlooked the first and gave a clear view of the main door.

A young man leaned over the railing, grinning, and waved when I accidentally made eye contact with him. I promptly looked away. In front of me, tucked between the stairs and several large signboards was the desk I was searching for.

It wasn't so much a desk as it was a counter. It was framed with the same dark wood used in the structural supports. Above them was a faded sign, of a much lighter type of wood; I could just barely make out the word 'RECEPTION' on it.

Before I could convince myself otherwise, I somehow put one foot in front of the other and approached the desk. I struggled not to stare at the floor as I crossed the room, feeling the eyes of several of the building's patrons on me. Who thought this was a good place for the front desk?! Why is it towards the back of the room?!

The raucous laughter that had filled the room when I entered quieted; though it remained a cacophony of sound, I wouldn't have to yell to be heard. Probably. My fingernails dug into my palms as I fought the urge to run away.

"I'd… I'd like to…" I tried to speak, but the thought that the people at the tables might be talking about me…

I had heard stories that those registered here frequently made bets on who was a client versus fresh meat… And how long said 'fresh meat' would last. My chest tightened as I trailed off. I don't belong here… I… Everyone is going to laugh at me.

"You're going to have to speak up, hon; can hardly hear a thing o'er this bunch," Said the female receptionist, her voice only a little rough but still friendly.

I took a deep breath and looked up from the spot on the counter I had been staring at. The receptionist's red-brown hair was pulled back into a messy bun that looked like it was on the verge of falling down; a light smattering of freckles dotted her cheeks.

Her face was drawn up in a patient smile, almost as if she was used to people who were anxious about being here. She wore a uniform, a few shades lighter than the faded tiles outside with a belt at the waist. She wore a half cloak about her shoulders, held together with a pin depicting a sword and a potion. She seemed nice enough.

I took a deep breath. I can't run away. I've already come this far! I steeled myself and quickly met her eyes, "I-I want to be an adventurer!"

Her hazel eyes, framed by thick lashes, held my own for a moment, as she studied me. I held still, not wanting to give her any further reason to reject me.

"I know… I don't l-look like much, but!" I added, a little hurriedly. I can't fail now. I worked too hard to get here.

That said, I was small: petite and short. My long, blonde hair that curled at the tips framed my face in a way that made me look younger than my age, but today, I had taken care to pull it up with an old ribbon. I couldn't do much about my clothes, old and ragged that they were, but I had given them a quick wash near one of the wells… It would have to be enough. "But I'm fast! I'm a quick learner, too!"

"You have to be at least fourteen years of age and pay a non-refundable 35 bronze coins as an application fee. After the fee has been paid, you will have to demonstrate adequate fighting prowess in combat against one of our members. In the event you fail, your coins will not be returned to you, and you will have to pay the same fee to reapply at a later date," The receptionist finally spoke, worry permeating her voice.

She didn't turn me away… Despite her doubts, she was giving me a chance. The tightness in my chest lessened but did not fade entirely. I have a chance… But would I make it?

I smiled, feeling my heart beat faster out of sheer joy, and replied excitedly," I-I'm..!" I took a breath and tried again, "I'll be turning sixteen in just a few more months, a-and here…! I have my application fee with me."

Someone cried out, "No way! She looks eleven," as I grabbed my leather purse, but I chose to ignore them. I mostly certainly look like the mature woman that I am with my hair pulled back. Obviously, they had to be talking about someone else.

The coins clinked together as I counted out thirty-five. The receptionist smiled softly as she watched before storing the coins somewhere under the counter.

"My name's Lorna. I'm one of the three receptionists for the Dalton branch Adventurer's Guild." She walked away for a moment and returned with a pen and a few pieces of parchment, which she set on the counter.

"Can you read and write? I'll need you to fill this out, but if you can't, I can assist you with the process."

"I can, thank you." I picked up the pen and looked over the paper.

The first one stipulated that in the event of an injury, I cannot seek recompense from the Guild. In addition, if I inflicted injury beyond acceptable levels outlined, such as killing my examiner or inflicting permanent damage after they had already submitted, I would be forced to pay a fee to the Guild, the Victim (or their family), and I would be arrested by the guards.

I don't think that's going to be a problem. I don't think I would be able to forgive myself if I did do something of the sort to someone. I signed the document before moving on to the next one. This was my actual application itself, and if I successfully join the Guild, it will become part of my permanent record within the guild. I went to fill it out, but Miss Lorna stopped me.

"Ah, that one we'll fill out a different way," she accepted the parchment from me and put it inside a strange looking contraption with a singular, large crystal sticking out of it."Touch the crystal; it won't hurt."

I frowned, not sure what was going on, but I did as she instructed anyway. It was long and looked like it had several sharp edges, so I wasn't sure how I should go about touching it. In the end, I just poked it. The crystal glowed, and I could feel a bit of my mana draining.

Jerking my hand back, I looked at Miss Lorna for an explanation. She chuckled, before removing the parchment from the device. After she handed it back to me, I was surprised to see that it was completely filled in. My blood ran cold as I saw my full name on the document.

"To ensure one hundred percent honesty, all Adventurer's Guilds are required to complete applications utilizing this system. The magic crystals for its operation are rather expensive, but this device allows us to gather all the required information of our examinees," Miss Lorna stated as I stared at the document, dumbfounded, "Of course, we could just have them show us their status boards, but there are the occasional skills that allow one to falsely alter what's displayed to others… We have yet to find anyone who can hide or manipulate information usin' this; it's top of the line technology!"

She watched me for a moment before adding, "We won't be sharin' this information with anyone. This is strictly confidential and for our records only."

Name: Amaris Valentia de Moriselle
Age: 15 LVL. 4
HP: 468 MP: 2389
STR: 3 VIT: 4 AGI: 19 DEX: 23 INT: 13
Stealth Lvl. 3
Taunt Lvl. 2
Dual-Wielding Lvl. 3
One-Handed Dagger Lvl. 5
Aether Manipulation Lvl. 8
Blessing of the Gods

The information on the parchment DID match my status, but… What was this 'Blessing of the Gods'? I opened my status. I knew there was no way I'd miss something like that. There was nothing in the Other category of my status. "Miss Lorna… Why does this 'Blessing of the Gods' not display… on my status?" I showed my status to her.

"Oh, your stats are actually pretty decent but unbalanced. Considerin' your level, I'd say these are pretty amazin'… If you really want to make it as an adventurer though, you're going to have to increase your strength. I'm not sayin' it's the end all, be all, but at least you should be strong enough to carry your own pack in the case that you take on a request that's a ways away from here." She mumbled as she looked through my status, "Oh, but I see what you mean. You're not usin' anythin' that manipulates your status, hon?"

I meekly shook my head. I hadn't known that there were skills that could do that until she told me, but I honestly don't understand what use they would be.

She frowned for a moment, before she responded, "Maybe someone altered your status without you knowin'? I've never heard of 'Blessin' of the Gods', but it sounds like it'd be pretty interestin'. I'll file these away for now," She collected the papers and put them somewhere close to where she had originally grabbed them from. Then she walked out of view, emerging from a nearby door, closer to the stairs.

"If you'll follow me, Amaris-"

I interrupted her, "C-call me… Ami, p-please."

She smiled gently, "Of course. If you follow me, Ami, we'll begin the combat test shortly. Darin! Come on, you're going to go up against her."

A large man stood up from a nearby table, knocking over his mug in the process. A golden brown liquid seeped across the table, dripping onto the floor. The man, presumably Darin, grabbed the great sword that was propped up behind him, protesting all the while, "C'mon, Lorna… I was just about to take a job. Wouldn't it be better to have someone else spar with her?" He grumbled in a whiny, childish manner that otherwise did not seem to suit him, as he cast a glance down towards me.

He was probably close to two feet taller than me and about as broad as four or five of me standing shoulder to shoulder. He wore leather armor that looked worn, but not the kind of wear and tear it would see if it was used in combat. It was likely extra protection that he wore under heavier armor. He was muscular, and the armor seemed to showcase that off all the more so.

Is he worried that's going to hurt me? She certainly chose an ill-matched pair up, but… she's probably trying to instill caution into me early, right? It wasn't uncommon to hear of an adventurer, particularly a newly registered one, dying while on a request.

Miss Lorna's eyes narrowed. Suddenly, her smile didn't seem so soft, and I felt my earlier anxiety with a renewed intensity. "We all know you were goin' to do no such thing. All you've done all week is wallow in your cup. You're doing it, or you're cut off."

Darin paled and hastened after us as Miss Lorna headed towards a large door on the side of the room. She led the way to a large courtyard, just behind the guildhall proper. Unlike other courtyards I've seen, this one had very little in the way of grass or greenery. Instead, that had all been worn down, and dry, dusty dirt covered the area.

On one side were targets; the man I had seen earlier on the balcony was shooting arrow after arrow at them. His long, dark red hair was pulled back, but it seemed to be sticking to his face with sweat. Near those, several dummies were lined up. A couple of them were torn and damaged, probably nearing their end of life.

Miss Lorna stopped in front of an area that had been roped off. "Here we are!" Her cheer was, unfortunately, not infectious.