We were planning to meet with my party near the tavern the next day, but first, I had to go shopping with Rin.
“Why do you even need a sword?” I asked her as we strolled through one of the streets filled with currently opening shops. “Can’t you use magic?”
“I can,” she replied casually walking with her hands locked behind her head and gazing around. “But magic is boring. I want to get up close, feel the wind of steel passing a hair width away from me, outsmart and outplay my opponent. O-o-oh! Here!”
Rin grabbed my arm and suddenly pulled me inside one of the stores. I didn’t even have the time to notice its name. Inside, I realized why she chose this exact store. Few of the weapons on display were simple, but all walls were covered by weapon stands and holders mostly filled with enchanted weapons. This place had everything: different types of swords, spears, crossbows, bows, and ammunition for them, axes of different sizes, a fancy looking mace that oozed holy magic, and a 3-meter long glaive. Many were made out of materials like adamantine or mythril, some of them I didn’t recognize by look. On one of the stands covered with glass laid a strange contraption that was probably some dwarven mechanical weapon, it had a handle for one hand like a crossbow, but it didn’t have a bow, and I was sure it didn’t fire bolts. A young-looking dwarf with a pristinely kept chestnut beard stood behind the counter, some especially interesting magical weapons hanged on the wall behind them.
“Welcome to ‘Fireanvil and Children’, I’m Fosdren Fireanvil, how can I be of service?” The dwarf greeted us.
Rin immediately rushed to the counter and pointed to one of the swords behind the dwarf. “Old man! Show me this sword!”
“Ha-ha, I’m not a man nor I am old,” the dwarf corrected her but didn’t get offended. “But you have a good eye for weapons, I should give you that!”
They reached behind and placed a sword on the counter before Rin. I came closer to see. It was sheathed, but I still could feel magical energy in it. If I had to guess, I would say it was enchanted with some form of the wind element, but it was an easy guess since it’s a very fitting element for swords. The sword itself was long and thin, slightly curved with a small circular guard and a grip long enough for two hands. The scabbard was simple, all the magic was in the sword itself. Fosdren unsheathed the sword and I saw a single-edged blade with blue-ish tint, the base of it was embossed with runes meaning of which I didn’t know.
“This katana will suite a woman like you,” the store owner started their pitch. “It’s made out of mythril and is extra light, enchanted with wind runes to give the wielder speed and the blade more cutting power. The mythril is treated with moon crystals to make it easier to channel magic through the sword to use fighting techniques.”
Rin’s eyes almost sparkled as she looked the blade over and spun it in her hands. The thin light blade was a good fit for her smaller and lithe frame. I didn’t know how fast she was or how good she was with a sword, but Lilim said she was capable, and I really hoped she was.
“We’ll take it!” She said.
“Great, that will be 3000 gold coins, no credit.”
“Vivi, Vivi.” Rin pulled my sleeve.
“I don’t have any money, buy it for me!”
I nodded at her. “Mhm, yes. That makes… You what?”
“You’re adventurer how should I have known you don’t have money. Aren’t all adventurers very rich?” Rin complained after we left the store promising to its owner to return after I received my payment and buy a bit simpler sword.
“I’m not an adventurer yet. Besides, 3000 gold coins is a lot of money. Why I should pay for you, shouldn’t you have money of your own? Didn’t Lilim said it’s her city or something?”
“Eh…” Rin scratched her head. “It’s not like she has to provide for me or anything, and I thought it would be fun to leave with nothing and start from zero… I didn’t think that I would need money, I never needed any before!”
“I never really been outside… separate from Lilim… She or Sitren usually handles our interactions with the outside world.”
“Are you like… her offspring?”
“It’s more like we are parts of the bigger whole if it makes any sense.”
I nodded without any idea what she was talking about, but there will be time to study this species later. “Can you go back and ask for money?”
“That would be embarrassing. I asked to go on a real adventure, not just read about it in countless books, and returning before we even started would be admitting that it was a bad decision without even trying.”
As we walked back to the tavern, I noticed my previous party gathered near the entrance and Helena waving at me.
“Hey! Vivi!” She greeted me across the street. “Hey, good morning, who’s that young lady with you?” She asked with a smile as we came closer.
“Hi everyone. That’s Rin, she is… traveling with me.” I introduced Rin. “Rin, this is Helena, Arthur, and Silai.”
“O-oh?” Helena interrupted me with a sly smirk on her face. “One day in town and already found a girlfriend? Good job, good job,” she patted me on the shoulder.
“That’s nothing like that.”
I expected Rin to join in with the teasing, it would fit her character well as I understood her, but instead, she stared in Helena’s face with the look of excitement. She jumped close to Helena and grasped her hands.
“I want her!” Rin said not to anyone in particular. Helena looked no less confused than I was, and maybe slightly terrified. “Can I have her, please?” This time she looked at me when asking.
“What do you mean, you want her? She’s her own person, ask her!”
Rin returned her look to Helena. “Please, can I have you?”
Helena instead of confused looked surprised and terrified now. She tried to chuckle in response, but it didn’t sound genuine. “Ha-ha. No. As much as I love cute girls, shouldn’t you first ask me out for a mug of tea before making such requests? Ha-ha.”
“I’m sorry!” Rin released Helena’s hand and bowed to her apologetically. “I got carried out please accept my apologies! I hope I can earn your trust in the future!”
“It’s okay, ha-ha.” Helena relaxed a bit.
Rin sighed. “I think still need a weapon…”
‘How’s that related?’
After this weird introduction, we headed towards the adventurers’ guild. It wasn’t far from the tavern and we quickly found ourselves in front of a sizable building. The adventurers’ guild occupied one of the more impressive buildings in the middle part of Arturel. It stood out mostly because it was four stories tall instead of typical two and built primarily out of stone. A fancy sign ‘Adventurers’ Guild’ with a logo of shield and sword hanged above the double door entrance. We stepped inside into a spacious hall lit by sunlight from multiple windows. One of the walls of it was used as a huge bounty board with dozens of notices on it separated in multiple sections. Opposite to the entrance was occupied by a long counter at the moment manned by 3 people of different species, each discussing something with patrons. Behind them, the wall was made into a shelf with countless scrolls and books. On both sides of the counter, two wide sets of stairs led to the second floor.
The hall itself was filled with many patrons, much like guests of the tavern before, they looked adventurous, equipped in different armors, robes or just comfortable traveling clothes, and armed to the teeth. One of the tall elves had a strange huge sword strapped to their back that looked like a jagged meat cleaver. I wasn’t sure how they wielded it with such a lithe body, but I’m not the one to judge people by their appearance. Of course, many of the adventurers had strong magical auras, nothing too impressive, but I committed to memory a few of them. There weren’t any tables or anything like that, most people were either standing and chatting or were clustered around sections of the notice board. Some of the people in the room stood out as guards, not by their appearance but by their attitude. Each corner and each flight of stairs was guarded by a person vigilantly watching over the crowd.
Arthur approached one of the clerks and without any problems received our reward with the promised bonus, 4000 gold total. Which meant I was a 1000 gold richer and an unknown part of it will go towards Rin’s equipment. I wondered what I should buy for myself and what places I wanted to visit. A succubus friend of mine, Lyra, spoke fondly about many places of relaxation in this realm. Arthur recommended me and Rin to the guild, and we’ve been given some papers to fill in before we could join. It seemed like a comprehensive form, but nothing except name and signature was mandatory, so I just signed it as ‘Vivienne’ under multiple waivers of guild’s responsibility and disclaimers, handed it over to the clerk along with 50 gold fee, and they stamped me my bronze badge. It beared my name, number 481004, a logo of the guild and a set of dots and lines that probably only made sense to workers of the guild. It was certainly a magical item, with a simple enchantment to help prove it’s legitimacy. It didn’t bear my rank of anything, it looked like adventurers’ ranking wasn’t a thing here, or at least it was not obvious. Rin also finished her form and handed it to the clerk with my 50 gold coins. I took a peek at her papers, she filled in a bit more. Her species was listed as ‘human’, her city of residence ‘Arturel’ and her emergency contact person was ‘Lilim Neorre of Arturel’. The clerk gave her a similar badge with the number 481005.
After we were done with the bureaucracy, Rin pulled me towards the bounty board. The rest of the gang came along.
“Already looking for more, girls?” Helena asked teasingly.
“I would rather explore the city before leaving again.” I replied with a sigh and looked worried at Rin scanning through the bounties in the section marked as “S”, the hardest one.
“This!” She spun around with a piece of paper in her hand and presented it to us.
“O-oh! Dragons! Count me in!” Helena replied before I could even read it.
I snatched the paper and looked through it.
A foul creature, a dragon from Carabo Mountain, kidnapped my daughter, Edelin. She was last spotted near Drumboria Woods.
According to brave survived guards’ description, it’s a young silver-green dragon that flew towards Carabo Mountain after taking my daughter.
I promise the reward of 40,000 gold coins to anyone able to return my daughter to me alive, and 10,000 coins more if you bring the head of the dragon along.
Duke Falon Tyr of Arturel.
“A dragon?” I looked at my companions. Helena looked ready to battle, Silai was undisturbed and Rin was excited.
“And a kidnapped princess! Well, dutchess, but who cares… that’s the perfect adventure plot!”
“We are not in one of your books. Can we even take a dragon?”
“With what I’ve seen last,” Arthur replied to me, “and if Rin at least half as good as any of us-“
“Hey, I’m strong!”
”- then we should be strong enough to take on a young dragon. I would rather we not kill it, though.”
“Dragons, even not good ones, are important to fend off more evil and stupid monsters. Usually, they are not malicious towards humanoid species, they’re smart. I am curious why this particular dragon decided to kidnap someone. It’s not unheard of if it decided she will fit its treasure hoard, but still…”
“I don’t mind not killing it as long as we can fight it,” said Rin.
“Hell yeah,” Helena replied to her and high-fived the pink excited girl.
“Do we have to go now?” I asked pleadingly.
“How about we visit the market, buy some things we might require on our journey with the money we just received?” Arthur proposed.
“And then bathhouse and tavern! I need to pay my tab and start working on a new one, ha-ha.”
“Yes, and we can go out the next morning.” Arthur continued after Helena’s plan of rest. “Trip to the mountain will take us around a week and who knows how much until we find the dragon…”
We returned to Fireanvil’s store (who turned out to be a good Helena’s friend) and bought Rin a katana. She ended up with an enchanted steel weapon that cost me 700 gold. She wanted to buy two, but I didn’t have money and she still kept the hope of buying the mythril one. I bought myself 3 slivered daggers for 100 gold and was left with not much to spare. We all purchased some supplies for travel, like bed rolls and emergency rations, and dropped them at the tavern. Helena paid her tab with a heavy punch of gold coins, promised Betty to return soon, and we went to find a bathhouse.
After a bit of arguing between Helena and Arthur which one is better, we found ourselves in front of a pretty building with a sign ‘Relaxed Undine’ depicting a mermaid in a bathtub on it. The building was made in a different style than other houses nearby. It didn’t use any stone, instead, walls were made of wood painted white. It had a small front yard with decorative bushes, vines were covering its walls and handles of the porch.
“I admit, it looks nice.” Helena agreed with Arthur’s choice.
A short elven or half-elven lady in a long coat met us inside. She had black hair gathered in a big bun and strangely looking wooden sandals. She spoke in a soft voice, gave us coats and blankets, took 2 gold coins from each of us and showed us the way to the baths. It confused me for a moment that Arthur and Silai went to the other bathroom, but then I realized it’s a separated bathhouse and I’m currently in what looks like a woman’s body. I subtly adjusted parts of it that were usually covered by clothes so my naked form wouldn’t blow my cover, and stepped in the changing room with Rin and Helena. We undressed and went into the showers room. Here we quickly scrubbed each other’s backs. I was impressed to see no scars on Helena’s body. It was something I would expect from shapeshifters like Rin or myself, but not from a close-range fighter like Helena. Even if she was too good, she had to have some scars from her training. Was she also not what she seemed? Or she has used magic to remove them, it probably wasn’t hard to do.
After the shower room, we walked to the bathroom and found ourselves outside. Not completely outside, just in the backyard of the bathhouse. The backyard was surrounded by a tall wooden fence, completely blocking the view from the outside. In the middle of it was a hot spring, adorned with small stones. It was big enough for ten or more people to relax freely, but there were only three of us. The space between the spring and the fence was decorated with grass, flowers, shrubs, small trees and figures out of stone.
I stepped in the spring. The water was warm, almost hot. I laid in the water and felt as my body relaxed. Even though it was a construct of mana shaped by my will that can not get tired as long as I have mana to spare, it somehow felt great and relaxing. I closed my eyes and relaxed my mind too. The water and this place were definitely magical, which would have explained the effect. It was also eerily quiet and calm. This alone probably made it all worth it. There are no places like this in Hell…
It felt like an eternity has passed before Helena broke the silence.
“You look like you’re enjoying yourself, Vivi.”
I nodded without opening my eyes. “There are no places like this where I am from.”
“What about you, Rin?”
“I’ve been in hot springs before, I’m from Arturel after all.”
“Speaking of… how did it happen that you two are together? Just yesterday Vivi was new to the city and today you’re traveling with another cute swordswoman.” I didn’t hear any jealousy in her voice, just genuine curiosity.
“I got bullied into taking her with me.”
“By Lilim,” I replied offhandedly as I heard a splash of water. I opened eyes and saw Helena’s shocked face.
“By the Lilim? The dragon of Arturel?”
“Probably?” I replied confused. It was obvious that denizens of the city would have heard about the creature that called Arturel hers, I just didn’t think it was important to hide.
“Is this true?” Helena looked at Rin.
“Ah… yeah,” Rin replied with a smile.
“You know what? I will not ask. Whatever has happened between you, it’s your deal, but if you’re from Lilim, I trust you.”
“You aren’t from here, but it’s still strange that you haven’t heard about her. She is the protector of Arturel. She singlehandedly stopped three major threats to the city only in the last 100 years, maybe more that we don’t know. I grew up wishing I would be as cool one day!”
“If you say so…” I saw Rin roll her eyes, but Helena didn’t see it.
“I want to meet her so much. If you know her, can you make it happen? Please?”
“Sure…” Rin replied. “When we return from the dragon hunting I can introduce you.”
“Yes!” Helena shot her arm up.
Author’s note: This was the mandatory hot springs episode! And a shopping episode! And the start of a new arc! Are you excite? I am excite. I just need to figure out travel and geography… in D&D I hate filling long-distance travel so much. Maybe this will help me learn? Who knows! But there are some things that still should happen and places to visit before this bunch finds their dragon. Or will they? Who knows, Celestia is the witness, I don’t!
If you thought I died, no, I’m fine, just really slow… I don’t know if anything will change about it or not, I’m not good with deadlines and making things regularly :S I am somehow still making chapters longer and keeping the pattern of action and relaxation, huh.
Slap that star and heart if you enjoy what I’m doing so far, comment if you have some advice or just for fun :3