We are officially past the halfway mark for this book/arc! Woot woot! Everything up to the ending was written on schedule; the last few chapters actually took longer to write than the preceding chapters combined! On a side note, the releases on RoyalRoad are on catchup, but will eventually align together, thank goodness. (It is pretty hard coordinating releases on both sites *cough cough*).
Before they had arrived at the town, Paige changed their party class designations to fit their looks, and then together with Nick she had forged their own copy of the guild papers to match their new classes.
“Paige Alduit and Tyler Merk. You can check our credentials.” As they walked through the gate, a team of guards quickly stopped Paige and Tyler and they were quickly shown into a side room at the gate. Isabella watched them get detained, and soon Nick stepped forward and handed them their forged papers. She was nervous that they would get detained just like her aunt when the head guardsman quickly scanned their papers and looked them over. But she let out a sigh of relief when he asked them to step through the gate and motioned for the next group to step forward. Isabella glanced at the words that floated in front of another guard as they went past the gate. A single line of words still hung in the air. Isabella Freal. Apprentice Deerslayer.
Paige had elected to keep herself and Tyler as high rank classes, as they were well known in Alcudia to begin with. Nick’s class was changed to Bodyguard Huntsman; and Zenith and Isabella classes were changed to Apprentices that Nick was tasked to protect. That was done intentionally, as it would be expected that two young girls would have a protector of some sort watching over them in a city this size. Isabella’s hair had faded to a light blonde, which sort of matched Nick’s sun-bleached hair. A daughter inheriting the same type of class as their father would draw less attention, although Zenith had talked about dyeing their hair again tonight if they had some time.
“So, what would Trulton be?” Isabella asked Zenith, talking loud enough to be heard over the sound of shopkeepers hawking their wares. Trulton had a fully functioning gate and guards, but she had taken her previous lesson to heart. She did not want to stand out as ignorant, especially with the amount of people around her. “I remember you said anything bigger than a village would have guards, but why did Aunt Paige and Mister Tyler get detained for no reason?”
“Trulton would be a small to medium sized city. Although, Tyler would know if there is a Mayor or a Duchess governing the land here.” Zenith replied, moving closer to Isabella so she would not have to speak louder. “In truth, Paige and Tyler were detained because of their classes. Paige knew that we would all be detained if our actual classes were shown. That is the reason why we are moving in two separate groups right now.”
“Anyone with a high or medium ranked class are automatically placed on the guards watchlist and they are detained while they talk to Guild Hall to see if there are any warrants for their arrest or if they should be allowed in a city. The guild had detailed records available, for a cost, so most cities that could afford the cost did so.”
“It’s easier for the guards to stop a person from entering than trying to get a person with a high ranked class to leave.” Nick supplied as well, keeping close to them. “Just imagine if a Warrior came to a city and was known to have an issue with the local lord. If they ignored the guards and broke into the city, the lord would have a valid reason to have the Guild issue a warrant for their arrest. Now, whether anyone would try to arrest them is another matter entirely. Having your reputation take a hit like that is usually not worth it in the long run, since it would affect the missions you could take at the Guild.”
Nick shrugged. “With them being affiliated with Alcudia, it would be no problem for them to get released. There would be bigger problems if they detained me or Zenith though, since we are affiliated with another country. We would need a valid reason to enter the city and would be watched heavily by the Guild.”
“Why would the Guild care?” Isabella asked. It seemed odd that they would care so much.
Zenith answered that question while stepping around a hole in the street. “Because they don’t want to take responsibility if someone they let in causes an incident. What do you think would happen if a mercenary suddenly went and killed a prominent merchant, or a local hero?”
“The Guild got its reputation of being fair by heavily enforcing their own rules and actively protecting their image in cities.”
“Ah, that makes sense.” Isabella responded. “Mister Nick, what are we looking for? We’ve been wandering the city for a while now.”
“A good inn. I didn’t think it would be so busy this late in the harvest season.”
They had been to a few inns so far, but all the inns they had visited had been fully booked. There were many farmers waiting in line with them at the city gates, and by the looks of it, many of the local merchants had booked the inns for their customers. “Should we go to an inn affiliated with the Guild Hall? Those should be available for adventurers.” Zenith asked quietly, dropping back to walk in step with Nick.
“We could, but then they would check our credentials with their own internal guild records.”
Nick and Isabella were wearing Archer equipment, and the young girl could easily pass off as an Apprentice to Nick. Zenith had changed back into her modified Apprentice Robes. But it would be hard to convince the inn not to check their identities against official guild records.
‘I wonder if Paige can change our names as well.’ Zenith thought to herself. Seeing as Paige was able to change their classes at will, she had a heavy suspicion that their Party Leader could also change their names if she wanted to. ‘She said a good teacher would know how to do this, but this begs the question of how many actually have knowledge of this.’
Zenith had known that what Paige was doing was a very dangerous, as most cities and borders only checked the class and associated rank. It was too much to ask guards to record every person that entered, but the more important classes were regularly recorded. What guard would care about a low ranked class such as Farmer or Blacksmith, if a middle-class Merchant or Spear Master were trying to pass by? Even if Trulton’s guards did not know Paige or Tyler’s reputation, their classes were too conspicuous to ignore, even for an Apprentice Guardsman.
Nick hesitated slightly but decided the benefits of using a guild affiliated inn outweighed the costs. If nothing else, they could get an idea of how the frontlines are doing from a civilian point of view. “Let’s go find an inn, and then we can go shopping for supplies. We’ll let the inn know that Tyler and Paige will be staying there as well.”
“Wouldn’t that be suspicious?” Isabella thought for a moment and asked hesitantly.
“Not too suspicious; we can just say they paid us with room and board if we saved them a spot at the inn.” Nick supplied “High ranked classes have certain benefits when it comes to Guild matters. It’s almost expected that the Guild would accommodate anything they requested.”
“Ugh, Guild regulations are such a hassle to deal with.” All Paige wanted to do now was drink her night away. ‘First I had to spend my morning forging documents and then I still had to be stuck in a room with Tyler for a good part of the morning.’ For the most part, Tyler had talked about the past and all the hassle she put him through while he was the captain of the royal guards. Although Paige was surprised that Tyler had asked outright if she had met Rebecca in the woods by accident. She truly had met the crown princess in the woods by accident, or if she was more skeptical, by fate. In fact, she was headed out toward Evidia and by extension Trent when she first met Rebecca and wasn’t all too concerned about the girl at the time. It was purely a coincidence, and out of politeness, that she had decided to ask if the girl needed help; she had seen one too many young masters disregard her outright initially, only to ask for help later when things got desperate.
‘Heh, and that was the start of our friendship. Although I did paint a prettier picture of the situation to Isabella than what actually happened.’ She had fought off the assassins every day that they were traveling, using the daily requests as an excuse to fight the enemies away from other people. It was only after reaching the capital that she had realized they were after the crown princess, and not her.
She had become fast friends with the sheltered girl and used it as an opportunity to make some happy memories. Some of her best memories, at least of those she could recall. She had forgotten how much joy a good friend and children could make. She sighed sadly in her mind. ’At least it lasted until I got caught. Shouldn’t have strolled in like that and rescued her. Rebecca’s attitude has been more polite after that.’ The one good thing Paige had salvaged from that was a promise that she never told anyone. ‘She’s always been true to her word. Although our conversations have been strained ever since then.’
She didn’t quite hold it against Rebecca, since she herself knew the feeling. But it still hurt, even more when her children still called her aunt, but her friend no longer called her by informally by name.
“Aunt, was it that terrible? What’s it like being detained for no good reason?”
“No, it wasn’t terrible. Tyler is just a bad conversationalist.” Paige hmphed.
“You mean he didn’t even try to take any liberties with you?” Zenith asked behind her back. She glanced back and saw the girl sticking her tongue out. Zenith had wanted to get Paige for her little trick, but Paige ignored the comment outright.
“No Zenith. I may be a man, but I still want to live another day.” Tyler grunted. “She could kill me in half a heartbeat if she wanted to.”
Nick evaluated their faces. “Did anything go wrong at the guild? You were detained for quite a while.” He had thought it would have taken only a quarter hour at most, but they were stuck there for over four hours.
“Yeah. Tyler went down to the Guild and got in touch with William. He had wanted to talk about the spies we found a few days ago and let us know what they plan to do.” She didn’t add that she had gone and covered up her forgeries. Luckily, she was able to remove all records of them coming to the city before anyone had noticed. The record room was still being guarded by only a few guards and a standard detection magic circle. Without an official record, most people would forget that they had even visited this place after a few years.
Afterword she had gone back and waited for Tyler to come back. The Guild had politely informed them that their accommodations had been placed by another team. Both knew from experience that this was a benefit they received, and most parties wouldn’t hesitate to get a free room for informing the innkeeper to reserve a room for a high rank class while they were detained.
“Nick, please tell me the rooms are at least high-grade rooms available. I want to eat and sleep the rest of today away.”
“Nope Paige, those were already rented out. We had to rent a Party room instead.”
“Ugh, so now I have to share a room with you two as well. Wake me when it’s dinner time.” Paige said frustrated. “Make sure there is something to drink too.”
After Paige had left to go rest, Tyler quietly briefed everyone on what he had learned. They selected a corner table that was adjacent to the inn’s kitchen.
“Zenith, can you use a warding spell?” Tyler asked, sitting down across from Nick. Nick had chosen the best spot to watch the crowd, and he lazily scanned the room.
“It’s not too busy yet, so we should be fine without one.” He spoke after assessing the room.
“Just in case. The Guild provides warding spells at the tables, but I’d rather not risk it. Who knows what else the magic circle can do.” He pointed to a small circle in the middle of the table. A few mana cores sat next to it in a bowl.
“I could, but the spell is not something an Apprentice could do. They wouldn’t have enough mana for it.” Zenith replied. Since she was currently a fugitive, in her eyes at least, she did not want to break her disguise.
“It doesn’t have to be [[Prison Wind]], just conjure up a breeze that will stop the sound from travelling past us. I’m sure you’ll be able to tell if someone is trying to listen magically.”
Zenith thought about that for a moment. “That could work, although it will be harder to detect if someone is listening, since I am not technically creating a mana bubble around us.” Closing her eyes, she finalized her plans. Tyler could hear her say under her breath, “[Mana Confinement], [Mana Sensitivity], [Air Molding].” Their eardrums popped as the air around them increased in pressure. Nick idly noted dust swirling in circles around their table. It was hard to spot if one wasn’t looking for it, but it could be explained naturally; since the kitchen’s door was swinging open and closed as the young waitress brought drinks and food out from the back.
“There. That should be good for our purposes Tyler. An Apprentice could probably hold it for an hour at the most. One hour on, off two hours minimum.”
“Are you okay Zenith?” Isabella asked after watching Zenith wipe a bead of sweat from her forehead. She had also noticed that Zenith’s hair had slightly glowed a faint, pale green when she had used her spells. She watched as the pale green glow of her mana slowly faded and was replaced by her dyed brown hair. ‘Looks like the tea dye only darkens the hair, but it cannot suppress her natural mana. I’ll let Zenith know about that later.’
“I’m fine. The skills cost me little to maintain, but it takes a tremendous amount of energy at the start. Tyler chose a hot spot as well.” The hot stoves in the kitchen was causing the air around them to be slightly warmer than the rest of the room.
“Was everything fine with the Guild?” Nick wondered if using forged documents was a great idea, since the Guild knew was accompanying Paige and Tyler.
“Everything is fine, we told them that you were staying outside the city. Do you think anyone noticed when you entered?” Tyler asked.
“No; our identities are solid. We registered as a new team when we arrived.”
Tyler sighed. “I still don’t know how I feel about Paige being able to hide our classes.”
“It’s dangerous. That’s what it is.” Nick said under his breath. Tyler fully agreed with that statement.
“Is Paige alright though? Why was she so tired?” Isabella asked worriedly.
“She’s fine. I tried to press her about her past. It didn’t work out as well as I hoped.” He stopped talking as the waitress came and gave them drinks and some snacks. The innkeeper knew her stuff, little perks like this was always appreciated. Tyler noticed that the waitress’s eyes darted toward Zenith and the magic circle covertly.’ She must be a former adventurer. She recognized that a warding spell was being actively used.’ He watched as she went about her business. ‘I’ll tip a bit more for discretion.’ he thought to himself.
Taking the chance to sip his drink, he continued. “I think Paige was a little depressed. She doesn’t like to talk about anything prior to meeting Rebecca”
“Depressed? Why would she be depressed? She was probably the most powerful person in Alcudia until recently.” Nick was incredulous.
“She doesn’t like her class.” Isabella spoke up. They all looked toward her. “Although she says it has opened a lot of doors for her, she would also says that her class is a burden as well. Mother once said that Aunt Paige would rather be a Farmer than a Warrior.”
“A Farmer?” Zenith repeated. “Why a Farmer, Isabella?”
“Aunt Paige used to tell a lot of stories when she would visit.” Isabella said quickly. “But I don’t think all her stories were fake. She once told me that her mother and father were farmers.”
“Improbable. A battle class being inherited from a support class? Not unless her family was fighting against bandits or thieves their whole life or something. It would be debatable if a Farmer could even kill a bandit. There is a reason why most Farmers live in communities after all. And even the gods wouldn’t make a mistake like that.” Nick refuted that idea. He looked at Tyler and Zenith, who shared the same disbelieving look.
Isabella wasn’t so sure. “I think she did tell the truth though.”
“Maybe you could share with a few stories later then. Tyler, has Paige decided which way we are going?” Zenith asked.
“I think she has.” He saw that the inn was starting to get crowded with the dinner crowd. “It’s been awhile since Paige left to go sleep. Isabella, could you go and get Paige up for dinner?” Tyler asked after a moment.
He watched as Isabella quickly ran up the stairs to the sleeping quarters. A few people came down the stairs, but few would bother an Apprentice running an errand. And he definitely recognized the two people coming down. “Nick. You said the high-grade rooms were already occupied, correct?”
“Yeah, a few local parties are evidently heading toward the frontlines. The innkeeper didn’t mention any names though. Why?” He picked up Tyler’s agitation.
“We might have a potential problem on our hand.” Tyler sighed. “And they have a problem with Paige.”