Alice grinded her teeth against the hard biscuit in her mouth as she stared at the report on her table, quill in hand. The ink on the page was dried, but there were only a few sentences written down. She crunched down, breaking the biscuit, and muttered, “Dragon patriarch…” She dropped her quill and leaned back, running her fingers through her dark-brown hair. “Do I tell the king?”
She sighed as she swallowed the biscuit and stared up at the ceiling. Since when had she become like this? Was it when she reached the peak? Was the peak even a peak or was it a wall? Her head lowered and she adjusted her glasses as her gaze shifted to the massive shield hanging on the wall. Maybe she should go on an adventure.
A knock on the door drew her attention away. “Guild master,” a voice said from behind the wood. “The party Tafel x Vur is looking for you.”
“Those three?” Alice asked, raising an eyebrow. “Bring them here.”
A few moments later, the door opened and the boy with golden eyes and the girl with ten horns stepped into the room. “Back so soon?” Alice asked. She flinched as Vur glanced at her, her body remembering the placement test she had given Vur. It had been a long while since she lost that badly. “Don’t tell me you finished the commission you accepted already.”
Tafel glanced at Vur. He turned his head away and inspected the weapons on the wall. Tafel cleared her throat and stepped forward. “We’re lost.”
“…Pardon?” Alice asked. “Didn’t you say you knew where you were going next?”
“He knew the name of the destination but not how to get there,” Tafel said, her face red.
“It would’ve been fine if we let Stella drive,” Vur said, making a face. “If we explored the whole continent, we would’ve found it eventually.”
Alice’s gaze shifted from Tafel to Vur and back again. “And you’re here because?”
“We want a guide,” Tafel said with a nod.
“Make a commission downstairs?” Alice asked.
“By a guide, I mean you,” Tafel said.
“What? Why? I’m the guild master,” Alice said. “Anyone can guide you to where you want to go.”
“Well, that’s because you’re a freak like us,” Tafel said and smiled.
“Hey,” Alice said and pursed her lips.
“That’s a compliment,” Tafel said. “You see, Vur tends to do … extreme things, and normal people might not be willing to accept them.” She lowered her head and spoke while coughing, “Meaning they’d die.” She raised her head and smiled. “But you’re sturdy! You took over a dozen of Vur’s hits before fainting.”
Tafel continued to smile at the silent guild master.
Alice sighed and rubbed her temples. “You could get some written directions, you know? There’s no need for me to go with you.”
“I need someone to balance out the voting count,” Tafel said, taking a step closer.
“Don’t worry about it,” Tafel said as she teleported beside Alice and wrapped her arm around the guild master’s shoulder before she could react. “What do you say?”
Alice shrugged off Tafel’s arm and frowned. “I refuse,” she said and gestured towards the papers on her desk. “I have many responsibilities as guild master, and I can’t just abandon them on a whim. I’m not as free as you two.”
Tafel pointed at herself. “I’m actually a leader of a kingdom,” she said and pointed at Vur. “And so is he. We’re just on vacation right now.”
“Which kingdom?” Alice asked. “I know all the leaders, and you’re not one of them.”
“I guess you’ll have to come with us if you want to find out,” Tafel said. “Aren’t you curious? Don’t you have to assess potential threats as a guild master? This can be part of your responsibilities. Vur’s very dangerous.”
“He’s not,” Stella said as she sat up on Vur’s head. “Everything else is too fragile. Right?”
Vur nodded. He walked up to Alice’s desk and placed his hand on the documents stacked on her table. Alice’s eyes widened as the papers were set ablaze, turning to ash in an instant. “There,” Vur said, ignoring Alice’s ugly expression. “No more responsibilities. You can come now, right?”
Alice glared at Tafel. “You want me to come for some kind of voting balance, but why does he want me to come?” she asked.
“He liked your cooking,” Tafel said and shrugged.
“What?” Alice asked, blinking twice. “Everyone hates my cooking. That’s why I cooked for you, so you’d leave faster. The meat was practically raw!”
“To Vur, raw is cooked and cooked is burnt,” Tafel said.
“Because he’s a dragon, right?” Alice asked, rolling her eyes. She had heard that response a lot more times than she thought she would. Wasn’t he taking the dragon persona a bit too far? But she had to admit his eyes did look pretty interesting. Could he have actually been imprinted by a dragon? No. The holy dragons would never do that; their pride wouldn’t let them. Then what exactly was he? “You know what? I’ll accompany you. There’s a lot I need to find out about you two.”
“Really?” Tafel asked. She reached into her bag and pulled out a piece of paper. “Sign this please.”
“What is it?” Alice asked and took the paper. “A waiver? You’re not serious.”
“It’s for legal issues since I have no idea what the laws are like here,” Tafel said with a nod. She paused and scratched her head. “By the way, do you happen to know what the punishment is for, uh, punting a dwarf into the sky? Just purely out of curiosity.”
Alice glanced at Vur who was rummaging through her cabinets. “Purely out of curiosity, eh?” she asked and adjusted her glasses. “Well, the dwarves are a pretty spiteful and petty race. They also think they’re superior to all others, and in a technological sense, they are. Depending on the severity of the injury, the punishment can range from a few fines to a lifelong service of servitude.”
Tafel’s brow wrinkled. “What if a dwarf hurt a human?”
Alice shrugged. “A few fines,” she said. “You’re really not from around here, are you?”
“That doesn’t seem very fair,” Tafel said, pursing her lips.
“Life itself isn’t fair,” Alice said. “The strong eat the weak. This is just the way it’ll be until humans are stronger than the dwarves. Is it right?” She shrugged. “Who am I to judge?” She shook her head and signed the waiver. “Alright. Where did you two want to go?”
“99 Fairy Drive,” Vur and Stella said at the same time. They met each other’s gazes, causing Stella to giggle.
“99 Fairy Drive…,” Alice said. Her expression darkened. “You know Erin Koller lives there, right?”
“A wrinkler?” Stella asked, tilting her head to one side.
“Erin Koller. She’s a fairy queen that polymorphed a dragon,” Alice said. “She’s not someone adventurers want to meet.”
“Oh, wow, so scary,” Stella said with a nod. “Let’s go meet her!” Her eyes glinted as she nestled in Vur’s hair.