KASPIAN BLADEHEART’S POV:
After escorting the runt of the Wykes House, I arrived back to my seat, tempted to burn the towering stack of paperwork that had accumulated over the past few days. After taking a deep breath, I slid a parchment from the top of the pile when the faint creak of the door tugs at my attention.
It was that adventurer, Note. Closing the door behind him, his warbled baritone voice whispers out in a barely-discernable sound.
“Mr. Bladeheart, you haven’t forgotten what you said about wanting to truly help me, correct?”
I sharp chill runs down my spine; his seemingly harmless words stabbed into me like a looming threat. Ignoring my angst, I held my stoic facade, straightening my glasses before responding. “Of course. Your personal connection to Mrs. Flamesworth, as well as your own potential, had been regarded favorably by the Guild.”
The masked adventurer, whose identity—or even age—I could not guess, nodded his head. I knew he was somehow connected to the Leywin household but even a thorough background search had turned out fruitless.
“Good,” he answered. “I plan to take a very extensive break from being an adventurer, Kaspian, so I would like to implore you for a favor.”
The way he talked sounded anything like an imploration, but I motioned for him to continue.
“Please, go on,” I said, my curiosity aroused.
ARTHUR LEYWIN’S POV:
After the whole debacle regarding Lucas and his unwholesome actions down in the dungeon, there were a few things that needed to be settled.
For one, Lucas was to be tried for his ‘un-adventurer-like’ conduct, which needed to be held in front of a panel of judges comprised of high-rank guild workers.
Seated in the descending gallery of a small amphitheater-like room, I faced the panel along with Lucas as the elderly robed men behind the raised desk looked through their notes.
After a seemingly endless moment of unnerving silence, one of the elderly men that was taller than the four beside him stood up and cleared his throat. “On behalf of the Adventurer’s Guild and the panel that is present here, I hereby declare the conjurer, Lucas Wykes, formally stripped of his A class ranking for sabotage and endangerment of his party members during a dungeon excursion. Furthermore, he is prohibited from re-enlisting as an adventurer until otherwise stated by the Guild. You may now hand in your card.”
A thick-bearded panel member beside the one that had just spoken banged his gavel, creating a loud echo across the room as Lucas begrudgingly handed his enchanted card.
While normally, the sentencing would be filled with anxious family and friends, Lucas and I were the only ones present besides the judges. I had come to the conclusion that this was to keep news that could slander the Wykes House’s name contained, but after hearing Lucas’s verdict just now, I thought otherwise. Normally, what Lucas had done, down at the Dire Tombs, would be enough for him to be sentenced to imprisonment—on top of getting his title stripped. However, the vague addition that the elder made at the end, about him being prohibited from becoming an adventurer until otherwise stated left for a lot of loose ends.
I could only hold my tongue back and wait for this crooked sentencing to come to an end. Despite the rather lax sentence that Lucas had been given, the noble half-elf brat had an expression stitched on his face as if he’d just swallowed a live frog.
The only silver lining I could see in this was Lucas’s family beating some sense into the twerp for shaming his family’s name.
Lucas had been pretty riled up from my brazen act of retaliation back at Kaspian’s office. Ever since then, I’m sure he had nothing but boiling rage pent up in that little body of his, but after learning from Kaspian that I had defeated the elderwood guardian, rather than escape from it, his rage-fueled vendetta had been filled with doubt.
“Next to be put on trial is the augmenter, Note. Faced with the clear enmity with Lucas Wykes and possible the whole Wykes Family displayed by the act of aggression against Lucas, on behalf of the panel and the entirety of the Adventurer Guild”—the judge glanced at his peers to his left and right—”I hereby declare a temporary ban from Xyrus City during the entire duration of Lucas Wykes’ attendance at Xyrus Academy.”
The gavel, once again, boomed throughout the room. To my right, I could feel Lucas’s gaze bore into me as he waited for my reaction.
Putting on my best angry voice, I leaned forward on the podium. “Sir! I object to this punishment! Why am I to be reprimanded for Lucas’s betrayal at the dungeon?” I slammed my fists down on the bench in front of me. All the while, even from my peripheral view, I could see Lucas’s anxious face turn smug from my discontent.
I knew revoking his license didn’t mean much to him and with me “out of the way,” he didn’t have to worry about anything.
“This is not a discussion! We are aware of the circumstances, which is why we chose not to revoke your license. You will be allowed to continue being an adventurer as long as we do not catch you near Mr. Wykes or his family.” The judge’s stern face glowered fiercer as his sharp gaze pierced through my mask.
“Wait! What about his identity? Wouldn’t he be able to easily take his mask off and slip through inside the city and potentially harm me or my family?” Lucas raised his finger at me, now confident enough to push me down even further.
“We have already decided to have his identity recorded once this sentencing is over, Mr. Wykes. You will not be allowed to know of Mr. Note’s identity for obvious reasons of ill intent against him or his family while select Guild Hall mages will keep tabs on Mr. Note’s whereabouts, masked or not. This is not up for debate. This sentencing is over,” another judge declared. All five of them stood up and left before either of us had the chance to refute.
Clicking his tongue, Lucas whipped his head, sending me a threatening gaze before walking with his entourage of guards that were waiting outside the door. Before stepping out of the room, he looked over his shoulder and shot me a look of haughty derision. “If you know what’s good for you, you’d best be at least five towns over from me at all times.”
“Idle threats as you run away make you seem petty, boy,” I shot back. The problem child of the Wykes House turned scarlet as I turned back around to be escorted by the guards. Behind the raised desks that the panel of judges were seated behind was a narrow door that opened with a touch.
“No need to trouble yourselves, gentlemen. I know you all have been dying to get back. I’ll escort Mr. Note here out through the back with the guards,” the judge who had spoken throughout the trial said.
The rest of the panel must’ve placed a lot of trust in the man because the four of them graciously left just as we were about to head back. Stepping through the doorway, I readjusted my mask to make sure it wouldn’t slip off as one of the judges let out a sigh.
“I trust that this little charade was to your satisfaction, Mr. Note?” His sharp white eyebrows furrowed even deeper.
“Your acting was bit over the top, but I think it was fairly well done,” I shrugged. “Thank you for your cooperation.”
Shaking his head, he gave me a helpless look. “No need. It wasn’t on your behalf that I did this. I sincerely hope that I can trust you not to cause any further trouble? We will not be able to hide the truth from the Wykes Family forever, but as long as you do not go against them, they won’t bother with you.”
“I’m more careful than I look, Your Honor.” I dipped my head in a quick bow. “Kaspian mentioned that there would be a passageway where I can safely remove my ‘identity’, right?”
“Yes. Your acquaintances await you on the other side.” The judge fumbled around with a couple of the books on a nearby shelf and suddenly a passage opened up from the ground.
“I bid you farewell, Mr. Note, and I do hope that you will not forget this act of kindness from the Guild. I predict that there will be a time when we will call upon you for a favor, and it would be much appreciated that you remember what we did for you today.”
“I see the top heads of the Adventurer’s Guild are sly and crafty,” I let out a chuckle. “At least you have the sense to know who to back. I’ll remember.”
I stepped down the stairs leading to the brief underground passageway as one of the guards closed the entrance behind me.
Opening the door on the other side, I was greeted by a rather painful head-butt from Sylvie.
“Gah!” I breathed out, clutching my stomach.
“Kyu!” Sylvie chirped as she scuttled to the top of my head. ‘How did everything go, Papa? Is it over now? Can we go home?’
Jasmine and Elijah greeted me as well with a faint smile on their faces. “Everything’s over. Let’s go back home,” I said to everyone.
Elijah asked, “Did you not want to visit Samantha?”
“I think it’d be better if I don’t visit her. Jasmine, maybe you should stop by the hospital next time to check up on her?” Jasmine, who had remained silent the whole time, gave a slight nod as we continued walking.
We trekked across the border of the Beast Glades toward the nearest teleportation gate. While I had a few mental conversations with Sylvie, both Jasmine and Elijah stayed silent until the site of the gate came into view.
“Well, I guess we should split ways here, right?” Scratching his untidy black hair, Elijah shifted glances between Jasmine and I with a forced smile.
“What?” I spouted in surprise. “You’re not coming with us, Elijah? Did you have something you needed to do?”
I automatically assumed that my newfound friend would come with us, but thinking back, I remembered that he wasn’t from the Kingdom of Sapin.
“W-What? I mean, I don’t really have anything planned but are you okay with me coming along with you? Elijah seemed taken aback by my surprise.
“W-What? I didn’t really have anything planned but is it really okay to come along with you?” He straightens his glasses and coughs, trying to cover his embarrassed face.
“Well you and Jasmine should go through the portal separately from me, just in case anyone suspects something, but I thought it’d be good for you to stay with us for a bit before we go to school,” I scratched my head.
“We? I-I don’t understand. I never had plans to go to school.” Elijah’s eyes seemed even more lost behind his glasses than before so I filled him in.
“Well, seeing as your goal is to make a name for yourself in Sapin, it doesn’t hurt to get yourself an education from Xyrus Academy,” I smirked.
Elijah looked at me as if I had misspoken while even Jasmine raised a brow at my idea.
“I’m sorry, I still don’t follow. How would I even get into the school? I mean… I might have the qualifications but not the background. Even the fact that I’m from Darv wouldn’t give me any leeway to get into the school.”
Putting an arm around his neck, I leaned against my friend. “Don’t you worry about a thing, my bespectacled little nerd. Let your big brother take care of the small details.”
“What big brother? You realize that I’m older than you, right? And what does ‘nerd’ mean, anyway?” Elijah chortled, throwing a light jab at my ribs. “Besides, I’m not so sure about the idea of going to school with so many students. How would I even fit in after spending my life with those antisocial dwarves?”
Just to sweeten the deal, I added, “You know, Lucas is going to be attending Xyrus Academy. Are you okay with me having all the fun?”
“I agree with Ar…Note. You can always go back to being an adventurer later.” Jasmine glanced around to see if anyone heard the mistake she almost slipped out.
“Okay!” he relented as I squeezed him harder. “If you can somehow get me in, I’ll go! Besides, someone’s going to have to hold you back from murdering Lucas on the first day of school!”
“Good! Jasmine, can you take Elijah back to Helstea Manor? I have something I need to do first. I’ll catch up to you guys!” I pushed them toward the portal just a bit ahead.
Jasmine nodded wordlessly and led Elijah away. After they were out of sight, my smile disappeared as I let out a small sigh.
“Come out,” I called out calmly.
With a swish, Kaspian appeared beside me with his sheathed rapier tied to his waist.
“I am glad you took some precautions by sending the two of them away first,” Kaspian nodded approvingly.
“Thanks for getting the judge to play along with the act. Lucas shouldn’t be suspicious anytime soon,” I replied with a nod.
“My pleasure. At this point, I’m simply glad that this has been solved without anyone dying.” Kaspian chuckled, but I sensed his words were serious.
“I’m glad you think that way,” I answered.
“Anyway, here’s a little parting gift from me,” the Guild Hall manager said, handing me a small pouch.
I pulled at the drawstrings, opening the red sack he had given me. Inside was a heap of gold coins enough to make a countryside boy like me faint.
However, I remained silent behind my mask and thanked him for the gift. As I turned and walked away, Kaspian called out from behind. “I advise you to use it to take appropriate precautions, Mr. Note. It’d be unwise to let your guard down, thinking you’ve cleared the mountain.”
Without looking back, I raised an arm and waved back at Kaspian, heading towards the teleportation gate myself with Sylvie perched on my head.
Elijah attending Xyrus Academy wouldn’t draw too much suspicion. Jasmine was close with the Helstea Family now, so having her vouch for Elijah would seem natural. I would make sure not to draw Dawn’s Ballad whenever I was with Lucas on the journey. The only problem was that the brat would be sure to recognize Sylvie; he’d seen the small, feline form of Sylvie back at Guild Hall, after all.
“Sylvie?” I asked in concern as a bright glow emanated from atop my head. Taking her off my head, I could see my bond transforming once more.
Her pitch-black scales turned white as the horns sprouting from her head had completely receded. The scales on her lizard-like tail extended like fur as the scales on her body thinned out as well. As the bright glow subsided, I looked in surprise to see that my bond had once more taken on a complete transformation. The feline-lizard form that she once had been was nowhere in sight, replaced by the form of a fox. As I carefully ran my finger through her back, I could feel a soft pelt where her scales once were. Upon closer inspection, I could see that her fur was actually incredibly thin scales that took on the appearance of a soft coat over her body. Sylvie’s body was almost completely covered in a snowy white pelt as her nose, paws, and the tips of her ears remained black.
‘Is this better, Papa?’ Sylvie’s voice rang in my head as she curled up in my arms.
“How many forms can you change into?” I asked, astounded.
‘I don’t know, but I’m tired,’ she replied. ‘Good night.’
“Y-Yeah… Good night, Sylv,” I muttered aloud, still baffled at her mysterious abilities. Did all dragons have the ability to alter their forms so completely? I knew her main form was that of a dragon, like the one we saw down at the dungeon, but being able to change her color and size even more wholly than her miniature black form was astounding.
I couldn’t help but let out a wry smile at how conveniently my biggest problem had been solved.
Before going into the town the teleportation gate was in, I casted a weak electric current into the air to make sure I wasn’t being spied on like I had been earlier. After confirming that I was alone, I removed my mask and coat behind a tree, placing it inside my bag.
Reaching the small town that looked more like an outpost, I weaved my way around the crowd of heavily-armored adventurers and robed merchants calling out the goods that they had collected. Clutching my sleeping bond tightly, I made my way to a random merchant and quickly sold my worn and chipped short sword for a few silver coins. Dawn’s Ballad, my unimpressive-looking black stick, was still strapped tightly across my waist as I practically tumbled my way in through the front doors of an artifact shop.
“Welcome to Ecvius Artifacts,” the store clerk said on impulse before looking at me. “Oh, hello little boy, are you lost?”
Playing along I shook my head, wiping the sweat off my brows. “No, my father just asked me to buy something for him since we’re about to leave town.”
“Aww,” the woman cooed behind her desk. “How old are you?”
“Eleven,” I replied, flashing an innocent smile.
“And you’re already going on errands by yourself?” she smiled.
“Well, I have my pet here. But she’s sleeping,” I replied, cheerily holding up Sylvie, already getting tired of acting like a kid.
“I see, well how can I help you?” The store lady clasped her hands eagerly.
“I’m looking for a small dimensional storage artifact,” I answered, surveying the tidy little shop filled with trinkets.
“Oh…” The store clerk looked at me in surprise but she quickly went to the back room behind the desk. “Here we are!”
The lady brought out a small box filled with a few cases. “This is where we keep all of our dimensional storage artifacts,” she answered, unlocking the box. “Was there a particular size that your father wanted?”
As she opened containers one by one, bracelets, rings, necklaces and other accessories sparkled from the various gems that adorned them.
Just like the books I had read about the dimensional storage artifacts, they all seemed to be accessories that one could easily carry around without it being suspicious. This was because these particular artifacts had the ability to store and preserve items inside it, depending on its quality. Some highly-valuable dimensional artifacts were able to hold a wagon’s worth of storage inside and its weight wouldn’t even change.
The prices of these items were astronomical, but for people carrying valuable goods all the time, it was well worth it for them.
None of the books I had read really went into detail on how you could actually create one since most were handed down for generations, but one method was carefully splitting the storage space in a particular dimensional storage artifact and creating multiple lesser artifacts out of it.
“I just need one big enough to store this,” I replied as I held up Dawn’s Ballad for her to see, my eyes still focused on the few dimensional artifacts she had out.
“Hmmm… if it’s only that, I think this ring should do it,” she said, picking out a particular ring. I looked down to see that she had chosen an extravagant gold ring with a diamond imbedded into it, alongside other smaller gems.
“Do you have any that are less flamboyant?” I said, giving the ring back to her.
“Hmmm.” Scratching her head, she combed through the box once more. “Aha! How about this?”
I opened the small box she had given me to see a dull, silver band inside.
“This ring’s storage capacity is actually better than the gold ring I showed you before, but the smith that forged this insisted on leaving the ring in this plain state. This ring probably has enough space to fit your stick and a large luggage bag inside,” she declared proudly, flashing me a very business-like smile.
I didn’t waste any time in my decision. “I’ll take it.”
After haggling with the insistent woman, I managed to buy it for a handful of beast cores that I had picked up over that past year along with two hundred gold coins—and that was only because that was how much my ‘father’ had given me.
My total savings now consisted of a few silver coins and the S class elderwood’s beast core that I had already partly used. I let out a deep, depressed sigh, reminiscing of the times when I could live happily with just a couple of copper coins back in Ashber Town. If Kaspian hadn’t given me the a hundred gold coins to use to ‘take precautions with’ as I left, I wouldn’t have had enough to even afford one.
After slipping the ring into my right thumb, since it was too big for any of my other fingers, I willed mana into both the ring and my sword. Instantly, the black sword glowed and got sucked up into the ring. I did the same with my mask and coat that was inside my bag and proceeded towards the teleportation gate Jasmine and Elijah had gone through at the center of the town.