A few days had passed since Reiji and the others had left. Traveling alone, and having already confirmed his plans for the day, Suimei left Camelia Palace.
When the others had left the palace, their departure had been met with great fanfare and been accompanied by a parade; Suimei’s only companion, however, was silence. That was to be expected, though. Before he’d left, he’d said his farewells to Aster’s King, King Almadiyauss, and Felmenia, before silently making his way to the capital of Mehter.
“I never thought he’d provide me with some funds…” he mumbled hesitantly, hefting the pouch in his hands. The sound of metallic clinking could be heard as the bag shook. As Suimei had prepared to leave the castle, Chancellor Gress had handed him this pouch, within which some 20-odd coins were stored.
This had happened just before he’d set out. The chancellor had informed him in no uncertain terms that he should thank the king for his generosity, open disdain in his eyes. After a long-winded and mind-numbing speech, this small bag had been forced into his hands like a divorce settlement and he’d been speedily driven from the palace.
Judging from the chancellor’s words, Suimei determined that this had been the King’s idea, and that he had ordered the chancellor here in secret.
At this unexpected turn of events, Suimei could only scratch his head weakly.
I was pretty explicit about not needing anything. Isn’t this just the King putting me in his debt…
Despite his having protested quite adamantly against any assistance during their discussion in the audience room, he’d nonetheless had some idea that they’d try to assist him somehow. As far as the King was concerned, this wasn’t likely part of a scheme or anything, but rather purely out of his good will. Be that as it may, when it came to the “debt” he’d incurred with this favor, Suimei would have preferred to do without. It had not made him happy.
When it came to debts of favors, having someone in your debt gave you the right to call in a favor when you needed help. This had forcefully created a tie between him and the Aster Kingdom. Although he’d never say it out loud, that it had been a fairly underhanded thing to do was indisputable.
The goal had been to take advantage of his goodwill and conscience, to ensure that future dealings with him would be smoother. As the saying went, favors aren’t done for others, they’re done for yourself.
“Ha… What a nasty trick. Then again, I guess if he couldn’t do this much, he wouldn’t be fit to be the king of a nation…”
Suimei had considered returning the gift on the spot, but the King had foreseen this, knowing that if he did not show himself, but rather entrusted the task to one of his officials, then Suimei would find it hard to do so. Indeed, if he’d rejected the King’s gift to the face of that chancellor with the parted hair, then there would definitely be grave consequences once he’d left the safety of the palace. His desire was to remain as low-key as possible, and depart from the palace in peace. For that reason, he’d had no choice but to quietly accept the gift.
Of course, if the purse had come with strings attached, he’d have had a reason to decline. As it categorically had not, however, finding a reason to say no had been hard, all the more so because it had been money, something he would need a great deal of in the days ahead.
From transportation to lodging fees, from magical components to food, money was necessary for a countless number of things. The more money he had, the better. In his current situation, that was indisputably a major weakness of his. As he weighed the pros and cons, he had, in the end, taken the money.
In any event, an owed favor was still far from an actual obligation. The other party would, in the end, have to rely on his willingness to repay the favor out of good conscience. No matter what were to happen or what were to be asked, if he really didn’t want to do it, then that would be the end of it.
The only problem was… he wasn’t sure whether he was capable of something so cold and calculating.
…Suimei’s gaze fell upon the letter that had come with the pouch. On the top-quality paper was written the King’s hopes that, no matter what, he would accept this sign of goodwill, words that surprised him. Moved by the words on the paper, Suimei sighed.
After this, or rather, because of this, he’d have to show his gratitude for the King. Turning to face the palace, now off in the distance, he bowed his head once more in respect.
“You old fox.”
Although, as expected, that wasn’t nearly enough to dispel his poor mood entirely.
“…Alright, I should look pretty normal with this now.”
After leaving the palace, Suimei’s first stop had been a clothing store. Confirming that he’d successfully passed for a member of the populace, he finally relaxed.
His thoughts had been straightforward.
In this Medieval-era European-like city, his school uniform had stood out like a sore thumb. This was not something that had occurred to him only after setting foot in the city, but rather a necessity he’d foreseen ahead of time. Although for Reiji and Mizuki, modern clothing was almost something like the symbol of their status as heroes, for Suimei, who desired to live from today on as a normal member of society, his school uniform was far too conspicuous. While the need for him to don his modern clothing might later arise, for the purposes of daily life, it was better not to do so.
And so the acquisition of normal clothing had become a top priority, which had led Suimei directly to a clothing store. Although he’d successfully managed to sell the textbooks he’d brought from his own world, he’d spent the gold coins he’d received from the king, changing them to silver.
He hadn’t bothered concerning himself with price, instead prioritizing dressing up in the same manner as others of his age, resulting in his current appearance. As might be expected, the clothing he’d purchased did not fit him nearly as well as modern clothing, not to mention the material was considerably stiffer. It was probably impossible to find anything that would fit him that well here.
That aside, thanks to his new change of clothes, he didn’t have to worry about standing out too much anymore.
“Right then. Next up is the adventurer’s guild…”
Verifying the feel of his sleeves, he set off for the adventurer’s guild.
The reason the adventurer’s guild fell next in priority after the clothing store was because he’d decided that the need for proper identification was imperative. After registering with the guild, he’d be able to obtain an adventurer’s status, something that he needed given his current circumstances.
Although he thought nothing of leaving the palace and surviving by his lonesome, this would allow him to switch his status from that of a guest in the palace to that of a vagabond.
He was, after all, from another world altogether. Although he could pretend to be a traveler from abroad, he would nonetheless be suspicious to those around him as a person of unclear identity. That could be very inconvenient for him. Purchase of food, clothing, and lodging were the best examples. When it came to the role identification played in daily life, this fantasy world was no different from the more modern one from which he’d come. If he were caught without a valid form of identification – the only tangible way to verify someone’s identity at a glance – it was possible that situations might arise that would prove far more dangerous than they would in his world.
Of course Suimei, as a magician, was in possession of magic that could allow him to lie his way through many a problem should the occasion require, but piling up lies one on top of another could land him in a predicament of his own creation should something unfortunate and unforeseen occur.
Alternatively, it was possible to obtain government ID from the nearby municipal office for a small fee, but as Suimei had no intentions of staying in the area, he had rejected such an option out of hand.
Even though he’d already decided to leave Aster, and thus acquiring ID wasn’t an immediate need, but seeing as it was something he’d need no matter where he went, he’d decided that getting one as soon as possible was still the wiser decision.
Additionally, were he to join the adventurer’s guild here in Aster, given the relationship between Aster and Nelferia, his guild membership would automatically be valid in Nelferia as well.
Finally, among the information he’d gleaned from the books in the palace library, he’d learned that the adventurer’s guild was a rather unique existence among guilds – they accepted anyone and everyone.
When it came to other guilds, particularly crafting guilds – the merchant’s guild, for example, which existed to preserve commodity prices and establish trade routes – created by those who belonged to a specific craft, commissions dealt with the provision of needed materials. Most of these thus had entrance requirements, necessitating either prior experience in the field or a guarantor.
The adventurer’s guild, however, operated by different rules. Stated rather bluntly, even someone without so much as a penny to their name could easily join the guild; as long as you could handle the work, nothing else mattered.
That notwithstanding, the adventurer’s guild was not to be taken lightly either. What mattered most to the guild was skill and reliability. As guild commissions consisted of dangerous tasks such as monster hunting or frontier exploration, trust had to be earned before one would be entrusted with commissions. As might be expected of such a place, normal people never visited the guild unless they had requests of such a nature to make. For this reason, those without combat ability would not be accepted into the guild ranks.
On that note, why would Suimei, a magician, not aim to join the mage’s guild instead? Well, understanding that requires an understanding of what makes the mage’s guild unique. In this world, magic and swordsmanship are together the twin pillars of martial force. Accordingly, magic is a treasured weapon when nation wars with nation, and subsequently, the mage’s guild is an integral part of each nation’s military.
More specifically, members of the mage’s guild were only allowed to wield their powers on behalf of their host nation.
When it came to Suimei, both his magic and research were something that he would only ever wield on behalf of the Magician’s Society which shared his ideals. He would never give a moment’s consideration to doing so on behalf of another organization, and so the mage’s guild had been eliminated outright as an option.
Moreover, in order to avoid leaks of intel, when members of the mages guild crossed international borders, they did so under heavy restrictions and per specific procedures which would prove an unneeded hindrance to Suimei’s goals.
Simply put, the mage’s guild was different from other guilds in that it was under the direct management of the nation itself. Obtaining ID from the mage’s guild simply wasn’t a preferable choice in light of that fact.
From what he’d gathered of what he’d heard from Felmenia and Reiji, who’d been under her tutelage, this world had no notion of magic systems. Magic was likely something they employed rather recklessly. Of course, there was always the possibility this was simply due to his unfamiliarity with their world – something which concerned him greatly. Unfortunately, failing a propitious encounter, he would likely never have the opportunity to find out the truth.
Collecting his thoughts as he walked, he soon arrived at the adventurer’s guild.
The building was, like those around it, a two-story, wooden structure.
Erected before the building itself was a sign with a name, “Twilight Pavilion” in huge letters; the sign giving one the feeling that they were standing before a restaurant or a bar of some sort. Posted before the door stood two guards in plate mail.
Structurally, the building didn’t really look that different from the others around it. If a difference had to be highlighted, it would only be that the space it occupied was vast indeed.
Cities in this world – Mehter not being alone in this – had massive, 20-meter tall walls encircling them to prevent attack from both invaders and monsters. Thus, the amount of space allotted a city was fixed and consequently buildings were small and thin, and typically two or three stories tall.
With this in mind, the space occupied by the adventurer’s guild was definitely an exception. Not only did it stand in a conspicuous location, but it took up far more room than its surrounding buildings. If this was allotted by the government, then the importance of this building – and that which it housed – was self-evident.
If one were to look further, one other drastic difference would soon become apparent: scattered all around were dangerous-looking individuals. There were those who looked like characters from a game or a movie, strong warrior-types wearing incredible armor. There were also slim men and women who, like Felmenia, were attired in mage robes. Some of the men carried enormous claymores on their backs, while others hefted vicious maces that looked like they could smash human heads like watermelons.
Were such individuals to be found in modern day society, they’d have been arrested in moments for violating the Firearms and Swords Control Law, but there were likely no such regulations here. In this world, weapons could be said to be a vital tool of everyday life, whether that be for self-defense or for hunting. Regardless of whatever weapon type a person might choose to carry on their person, a law restricting its use was unlikely to exist.
That, however, meant the atmosphere created was incredibly nerve-wracking. Simply a step or two in the direction of the guild made it feel like the air was charged with energy.
For Suimei, a member of modern society, the feeling was decidedly fresh.
Suimei walked toward the door to the adventurer’s guild, Twilight Pavilion, taking in the excitement around him as he did so, arriving at the front door moments later. At first, stopping before the large doorway, he paused, wondering if he was in the right place; the guards, after all, had not said a word. Seemingly understanding his confusion, however, they gave him a brief nod and a light wave, and he entered.
Inside, it was laid out much like described in fantasy works he’d read before. Looking around, it was clear that it had, at one point, served as a tavern. Taverns from the middle ages were unlike the bars of modern society. Instead, they served simultaneously as both general stores and a meetingplace; mixing these two together resulted in the adventurer’s guild, which gave off an impression roughly equivalent to an old tavern.
There’s no way it’s really just like this, right? Suimei thought to himself. As he looked around the inside of Twilight Pavilion, and realized that the image in his mind indeed quite closely approximated reality, he sighed.
At the front of the large hall was a reception window where staff received clients. Before the window, a number of benches had been laid side-by-side. A small shelf housed what appeared to be newspapers and magazines. Next to it stood a request board which advertised available commissions.
The majority of the space within was consumed by what appeared to be a bar. Numerous tables and stools littered the area, and oaken kegs were piled like small mountains. Restless, red-faced individuals poured wine and ale down their gullets, completely uncaring that it was still bright out.
This scene would have been quite a shock to anyone from modern society.
As Suimei took in the scene before him and walked further in, a sound escaped his mouth, though whether it was a sigh or a gasp of surprise he wasn’t sure.
On the benches, a number of people were seated, awaiting their turn. Suimei followed their example, finding a seat at the tail end of the line.
As he took his seat, he noticed a woman by his side, and a rather stunning one at that.
Unconsciously, he sighed at her beautiful appearance.
She had brilliant crimson hair that flowed to the waist, a dignified face with two piercing vermilion eyes, and a calm demeanor that spoke of a noble upbringing. Her armor of predominantly white, dotted with flaming red, hid a soft and slender figure. At her waist, she wore a decidedly unlady-like longsword. Her posture was refined and yet sturdy as a rock. In all, she radiated calm poise. If he were to describe her, she was like a still blade.
Even with his meager ability in swordsmanship, he could tell that she showed no openings. Simply put, this was someone of ability. From her appearance, he judged that she was similar in age to himself, but the impression he got from her felt anything but.
Were he the more flighty type, then he’d already have hit on the girl by his side, but he kept his actions to a light sigh. Because of his line of work, someone as full of secrets as Suimei had never been in a relationship before. Conflicting thoughts crossed his mind. This has nothing to do with me, he thought, even as he remembered all the girls he was acquainted with, who all seemed to be troublesome individuals, but that wasn’t important right now.
As Suimei waited his turn in line, whiling away his time thinking about trivial matters, all of a sudden the girl spoke to him.
“—Excuse me, but can I ask if you’re a frequent visitor of the Twilight Pavilion?”
A surprisingly gentle voice.
Her tone had been neither hesitant nor rude, but was instead remarkably polite, which perfectly fit her image.
Taken aback by the fact that she would speak to him, Suimei almost reflexively replied in his normal manner. Struck by the feeling that that would be inappropriate, however, he answered her with the same polite manner with which she had spoken to him.
“Oh, no, not at all. To be honest, this is my first time here.”
“What a coincidence, this is also my first time coming. I’d been wondering if this was the right line for guild applicants.”
“I believe it is. If you look at those other windows, they seem to be for people accepting commissions.”
As he spoke, he pointed in the direction of the alcohol-serving area. More reception windows like the one before them could be seen there with a collection of guild staff.
“Are you an adventurer as well?”
“Yes. I’m a woman who can’t do anything else but fight. This seemed like the best place to come to earn a daily living.”
The girl lightly tapped her sword as she mocked herself in a lively voice. As expected, she was someone who depended on combat to make a living. Judging by her appearance, she was either a warrior or a knight, so this was natural.
The girl suddenly offered her name.
“My name is Lefille Grakis. If it’s not inconvenient, would you mind telling me your name as well?”
What did she say? Did she just ask something? The situation had suddenly become an exchange of introductions, and Suimei unconsciously voiced his shock.
Her polite manner notwithstanding, this turn of events was really too sudden. They were just neighbors standing in line, why were they suddenly introducing themselves?
Lefille looked apologetic.
“Sorry. Suddenly asking for your name must have come as quite a surprise, but there’s a reason for it.”
“…And what would that be?”
“There’s no need to be so guarded. When I visited the Church of Salvation earlier this morning, I received an oracle from the Goddess Arshuna: to exchange names with the people around me,” she answered, half-sighing.
It looked like it wasn’t just the person being questioned who was confused; the one asking the question was similarly bothered.
The Church of Salvation was the largest church in this world, one which worshipped the Goddess Arshuna. Back in the audience room, when they’d heard about the Maou, apparently intel on his existence and movements had similarly come as oracles from the Goddess Arshuna. A young girl like this had been given an oracle as well?
“Why would she ask you to do that?”
“I don’t really know myself. The priest in Mehter told me that the oracle from Arshuna meant that someone near me today would eventually become someone important to me.”
“And that’s why you asked for my name?”
“Oracles, huh. They sure are fishy… Oh, no offense.”
The vague nature of the oracle had irritated Suimei to the point that he’d spoken without thinking, although he hastily corrected himself. As mentioned earlier, the Goddess Arshuna had countless believers. In this world, blasphemy was a dangerous thing, and was likely to draw the ire of surrounding people.
To have said something like that in front of someone who was a churchgoer… Suimei was regretting his disrespectful choice of words when Lefille smiled warmly.
“Haha, I know, right? That said, it’s better to be careful. I personally don’t mind, but if you were heard by someone particularly pious, you’d be in for a loooong sermon.”
“I’ll watch myself. I was a bit hasty.”
“That’d be best. However, it’s not like I have any right to talk, having raised objections myself after receiving this kind of oracle.”
Suimei blinked in surprise. Perhaps that “loooong sermon” she had mentioned had been experienced firsthand.
Lefille laughed again, mocking herself.
“Honestly. Having something like this happen after praying for so long… I’m running way behind schedule because of that.”
“You have my sympathy.”
“No need, I did it to myself more or less. The fruits of my own foolishness, so to speak.”
“Let that be a lesson to me,” she added as Suimei posed a question of his own.
“So that’s been going on all day?”
Understanding the question implicit in his words – “You’ve been asking people like this all day?” – Lefille nodded strongly.
“Yeah. You’re already the tenth person today.”
“Wow. That’s awful.”
“Tell me about it. Once I mention the oracle, the predominant reaction has been to treat me like some kind of weirdo… but there’ve been a few who thought I was flirting with them.”
Suimei expressed his understanding of the situation as she sighed gloomily.
Although he wasn’t quite sure just what kind of weirdo they imagined her to be, but the other kind he more or less understood. If someone as beautiful as her were to ask for someone’s name, then all men – not just those with ulterior motives – would likely think she was flirting with them.
That heavy sigh was an indicator of just how many times this must have happened already.
“So, how about it? If it’s not a problem, would you mind telling me your name?” Lefille asked once more, adjusting her posture.
What should I do about this…? To be honest, it wasn’t really a big deal. As described by the oracle and her, perhaps this once-in-a-life-time chance meeting was really something more.
Just revealing his name would be harmless, so he answered.
“I’m Suimei Yakagi.”
“Yakagi-kun, is it? Sorry for bothering you over something like this.”
Seeing her apologetic look, Suimei shook his head.
“It’s not a problem at all. On that note, can I ask? Are oracles from the Church of Salvation a common thing?”
“I don’t think so. I’m a pretty frequent churchgoer, but this is my first time experiencing anything like this. It might be common for people more pious than myself though.”
He replied in a tone of mixed interest and disinterest. So the Church of Salvation has oracles about individual lives, and not just governmental affairs, huh? Is this all part of some greater plan or just a hobby of the person giving the oracles?
Although the intent was unclear – assuming, of course, that it hadn’t been fabricated by the priest in the first place – an oracle was a product of spiritualism, a kind of magic that drew supernatural existences into humans acting as divine mediums.
“Next customer, please.”
As Suimei was pondering the oracle from the Goddess Arshuna, a voice called out for the next customer in line. There was no one else left but Lefille, and so it seemed to be her turn.
“I guess it’s my turn.”
Suimei bid her farewell as she stood to rise.
“Yeah, I hope your commission goes smoothly for you as well,” she answered as she approached the reception desk.
Why had she suddenly mentioned a commission? This Suimei would come to understand a short while later.
As Lefille finished her conversation, from where he was seated, Suimei watched as she followed the female receptionist further into the guild. Deciding that she must be getting interviewed or something like that, he straightened his appearance a bit when the receptionist called out to him.
He rose to his feet and walked over.
“—Welcome to the Twilight Pavilion, the Mehter branch of the adventurer’s guild. This is your first time, I presume?”
“That’s correct. Is it that obvious?” Suimei asked frankly, having been correctly evaluated with a single glance.
She smiled in response, and explained why she’d known.
“Yes. You were looking around with interest: that’s something that only first-timers do. —Now then, what’s the nature of your commission?”
Because the other counters were reserved for people accepting requests, the vast majority of customers at this window were here for this reason.
Urged by the receptionist, Suimei explained his purpose in coming.
“Actually, I’m here to join the guild.”
His response stunned her.
“I said that I would like to join the guild.”
She must have misheard me. Suimei repeated himself, unaware of why the young lady standing before him had reacted in that way.
An awkward look appeared on her face in response. She kneaded a brow with one hand as she sighed loudly.
In a tone both serious and irritated, she asked, “Um… This might be a bit rude of me to ask, but you do know that this is the Twilight Pavilion of the adventurer’s guild?”
“Yes, I do. Is there something strange about this place?”
“Well, yes. It’s full of many unreasonable things.”
Her earlier welcoming attitude had quickly turned cold. Why is she acting like this? All I did was say what I wanted?
As Suimei was lost in confusion, she continued.
“…If this is a prank, you had better stop before going too far. We don’t have time to waste on pranks.”
Now she’s mad! What the heck? What’s going on here? From what he’d read in the novel he’d borrowed from Mizuki, a short conversation was all that was needed to join the adventurer’s guild. While it was obvious that reality would diverge from what he’d seen in a fictional work, but Lefille had clearly been led further in without mishap.
Lefille’s experience had been extremely smooth, so why had he run into trouble? Had he overlooked something important? The books in Camelia’s library had said there weren’t any particular documents or qualifications necessary.
As he silently submitted to the receptionist’s scolding, he searched his memory for any hint of what he might have missed. Suddenly, a loud, angry roar bellowed forth from behind him.
Suimei turned toward the voice. Standing there was a muscled man with at least ten or twenty centimeters on him. At first glance, he seemed almost like a small mountain. On his back, he carried a claymore, and his limbs were thick as tree trunks. This man was apparently a warrior.
Following up his roar, the man continued in an enraged, threatening tone.
“You little brat. Did you just say you wanted to join the guild?”
“Ah, yes I did.”
“Is that so. Well, for now we’ll just pretend it was a dumb joke. Get the hell out.”
A word of advice, and an ultimatum. The veins in the man’s forehead throbbed as he forcefully told Suimei to leave.
I have no reason to leave, though. Joining the guild was the first step toward exploring this world, something necessary for him to fit in in their world.
To that end, Suimei couldn’t afford to anger the other party.
Doing his best to keep his calm, he countered, “But the girl just earlier wanted to join the guild too.”
“You’re seriously still talking? Even while looking like that, do you really think you’re on the same plane as one of us?”
“Yes, I do.”
That was indeed the case, after all; what of it?
If he hadn’t had confidence in such a thing, then he wouldn’t have come in the first place. If he’d retreated after the cold reception just now, then that’d be a different story, but he had no such intentions. Plus, he’d seen other magicians around here, so it didn’t seem like it was because he was lacking in physique. Even if he was relatively slender, that shouldn’t have been a problem. He honestly couldn’t understand what it was that he was seeing differently from this man.
However the man, seemingly no longer able to stand Suimei’s calm assurance was infuriated.
“Do you think this is a joke, you punk? This is a place for warriors and mages, not some moron who doesn’t know the first thing about battle!”
“Eh? I’ve been through my fair share of life-and-death crises, though…”
Suimei was referring to the fact that in his tenure as a magician he’d experienced life-and-death combat more than once. As he spoke, however, something the man had said resonated with him. What was it that guy just said? Warriors and mages. That this was a place where such people gathered.
That part was fine. But as he considered how they set about determining who met such a standard, he suddenly realized what was wrong.
When he’d purchased his current set of clothing earlier, he’d used those around him as reference. It went without saying that these were people who passed their days peacefully within the walls of the city. They, of course, did not wear armor nor did they carry weapons.
If he thought about it that way, then were anyone who looked as he did to attempt to join the guild, they’d warrant just the reaction he’d gotten. This was a different world, and not the one he’d come from. Here, judging someone by their outer appearance was the norm.
Indeed, Suimei had made a terrible miscalculation when it came to how he was dressed.
“—Craaaaap. I bought the wrong clothes!”
His realization had come too late. Now that things had reached this point, regret was unproductive, for it would do naught to dispel the irritated, hostile gaze lancing through his body.