It was awkward at the hideout, made worse by the immature voice within myself that urged me to blame it on her, for not wearing the amulet. But of course I knew that didn’t mean a thing. It was my responsibility to avoid overdoing it. I had been taught so since childhood.
For my own sanity’s sake, I decided it was time to prepare for my dungeon dive. Which meant getting out and heading to the Carael Mines Jobs Office to get a permit. So I shook off my depression and made myself go, with the boy as a guide.
Lute bid me goodbye and ran off as soon as we arrived. It seems he wasn’t too fond of this place after what happened to his mother. Nor was he too fond of me after learning what I had done to Melione. I was on my own. I strode across the floor toward the first window…
They don’t have a massive international adventurer’s guild on Huade, that weirdly ubiquitous institution that is seen in so many games and stories. Guilds do exist, usually in large cities, but they are independent of each other and adventurers don’t have to belong to one. The crown had hired Brigitte, Graham and Melione by seeking the highest ranking members present at the Guild in Atius, but that is a small outfit, where dozens, not hundreds, of adventurers gather. In smaller towns, there might be a little guild with a small membership headquartered in some tavern, but Cara Ita doesn’t even have that much.
Despite that, here I was, looking at a lobby with windows along one side, a board with jobs posted, tables and chairs, many with adventuring parties seated, discussing their plans and potential jobs. I swear it looked for all the world like the classic RPG adventurer’s guild.
That moment I said never happens, where everyone goes silent and turns to look at the newcomer?
It happened. I hoped my blush wasn’t too visible. It’s hard for a girl to keep her cool with many large men staring at her. Of course, fairy armor is intended to attract male eyes. Thanks, Mom.
Here they hired newbie adventurers short on funds to directly guard the active mining areas, and everyone else to take the missions posted on the board, which would be either to go after known threats inside the mines, scout ancient sections of the mines for new threats, or subjugate the monsters in the hills surrounding the mines.
One could learn about other adventurer-like jobs, like guarding caravans and searching for things in the wild, but they didn’t arrange those here. One went straight to the employers for those. If it didn’t have to do with the mines, you didn’t get that job here.
The wolf girl in the window didn’t have Genette’s dignity and maturity. Frankly, she was downright cute instead. And rather than the frumpy style that was nearly ubiquitous in the rural North, her kirtle had a laced bodice like a dirndl, and it was emphasizing things the way Genette’s maid uniform never did.
This girl belonged in an anime.
She looked up from her work– she had some sort of ledger in front of her– and her eyes went round. “Um… uh… what may I do for you… ma’am?”
“I wish to enter the mines to look for some missing persons,” I told her. “I’m not interested in taking any of the posted jobs. How do I obtain permission?”
“Uh… the window at the other end. Th… they will check the records and c… confirm the missing people. I need to take down s… some information first. H… how many in your party?” She prepared to write my answer down with a quill on a sheet of blank paper
“One.” I said, flatly.
She paled. “We… really don’t recommend solo expeditions in our mines, ma’am.”
My Tiana instincts were saying that, really, I should have a party, because I was not that impressive as fairy knights go, but I couldn’t just accept the recommendation. I needed to maintain the image. So I just glared at her until she paled again and nodded. She wrote the information on the paper.
“Alright. Name of … the one party member?”
“Tiana of the High Forest”
She cleared her throat and asked “Is ‘High Forest’ the name of your clan?”
With a nervous nod, she wrote ‘Lady Tiana, Clan of the High Forest’. She was assuming the ‘Lady’ from my fairy armor, but she wasn’t wrong.
“Place of Birth?”
“Tëan Tír, in Relador.”
“Tëan… Tír?” she paled. It seems she knew the significance of that name. Fairies don’t have an official capital, but Tëan Tír is known far and wide as the gathering place for the highest echelons of fairy society. Being a native of the place means you’re more than just a common fairy. And it was not a lie; I was born there because Mother has some sort of kinship to the Fairy King.
That was all the wolf girl needed. She handed me a wooden slat, about four inches long, with the number ’37’ on it, and told me to take it to the window at the other end.
It turned out, that was where they could confirm whether the people I was looking for had really gone in and never come out.
“Ryuu Kowa, human, unknown birthplace,” the dwarven girl at that end of the counter read off from the register. “Went in five days ago, no return. Next?”
“Brigitte, Fox-kin Demihuman, rural Alador,” I told her, while wondering, if the first name I gave checks out, why do you need to confirm the rest?
Bureaucracies are alike no matter where you go, I suppose. She confirmed Brigitte and Graham as well, but then stated, “I can approve a personal search mission, but I must obtain permission for the solo expedition. That will take approval from the managers.”
I glowered at her, hoping the fairy knight mystique would power me past it, but she held her ground. Actually, I had the impression ‘the managers’ were just as scary as me, and I was putting her in a serious bind. I took pity and relented.
“Fine. How long will that take?”
“Until tomorrow, at least.”
I had hoped to start my dive early the next morning. This would put me back a day.
After another glower, I told her, “Please let them know I desire a swift reply.”
Not bothering to wait for her answer, I went to an unoccupied table and took a seat, so I could sort out my next move. It did occur to me for a moment to start trying to recruit party members from amongst the men in the room, but I had no idea how to start. Worse, would a real fairy knight bother doing such a thing?
The Jobs Office also resembled an adventurer’s guild hall in another way: the well-stocked ale cellar, kitchen and girl waiting tables. This time the girl was a Rabbit-kin.
That’s right, a bunny girl.
No, she was not equipping the legendary bunny girl outfit. She wore a kirtle with a low-cut bodice, just like any other tavern girl. But the ears and tail were all fluffy and real. I paid her a silver for an ale.
I didn’t expect an immediate answer from ‘the managers’, since the dwarve had promised it would be no earlier than the next morning. So, I didn’t have anything to do. At best, it would be two days before I could go into the mine solo.
Cara Ita’s wealth came from the ingots produced by smelters in town that process the ore that has been mined out of Carael for millennia. Most adventurers there protect miners from the monsters that inhabited it.
Just going into the mine on one’s own was not allowed. The entire livelihood of the city depended up the Carael Mines, so naturally, they kept control of what happened there. The only way in was by riding the wagons that started from this office. I wasn’t going in without their permission.
While I was sitting, trying to figure out any alternative plan, the first wagon arrived back from the mines. From the comments of the staff, I gathered immediately that it was unusual for one to come back so early.
“Take him into the clinic immediately!”
“Hang in there, big bro! We’re almost there!”
A commotion passed through the front door, right through the lobby and into the back. Watching them dodging tables as they ran with a stretcher left me wondering why the office didn’t have some sort of ER entrance.
The fellow on the stretcher was in seriously bad shape. His left arm was laying on top of his body. I don’t mean, he held his left arm over his belly; I mean it was detached and draped over him. It looked like both legs might be broken, too.
Behind them came two very familiar looking girls, although they were wearing clothing this time. Human girl had a glaive rigged with a strap slung across her back and a short sword on her hip, and wore a heavy leather brigandine and skirt. Cat girl had a magician’s staff and a short sword, and wore jack of plate and a leopard pelt skirt, which was a little cringy. I mean, she’s a cat, and a leopard’s a cat, right?
They didn’t show the same sense of anxiety for their fallen party member. In fact, they just looked tired and fed up.
Aaaaand they parked themselves at my table like I wasn’t there.
The tables aren’t exclusive. I know that you don’t necessarily get a whole table to yourself. But there are three empty tables, you two?