Ellie soon joined the waiting Asterios in the Guild’s main lobby and got back to finishing all the paperwork alongside him. They went through the forms with ease and she presented him with his new ID card and a shoulder plate.
The latter one was in the form of an oval metal badge carved out of bronze. For easy recognition, adventurer’s ranks were grouped by two with their design and material. F and E-ranks were out of bronze and were in the shape of a wide oval. D and C-rank were silver and had a more rectangle-looking shape. B and A-ranks were made out of gold and had a bit of wavy top and bottom. S-rank and EX-rank were in their own tiers and they were from mithril and adamantite and had their own fancy designs with a lot of angles. All of them had a big letter according to the rank in the very middle of the badge.
Asterios attached the metal patch to his shoulder using special bolts which came with it. They were from an ore that is highly magnetic and splitting two pins made out of it required someone to infuse them with mana. This material was often used in notice boards to make them deteriorate way less than when using common pointy-tip pins.
He was now a registered adventurer and could choose quests that matched his ranking. When alone, he could only go for F and E-ranked ones, but if he joined or formed a decent team, they could tackle some D-ranked ones too. It also depended on the adventurer’s reputation and their supervisor’s opinion of them. Who in case of Asterios was Ellie as they both agreed on it while filling the documents.
Ast wanted to act alone for the time being so he could get to know Miria better. And besides, while by the Guild’s rules that would be going alone, he technically wouldn’t be so that was fine. Just with her by his side, he felt safe, but obviously, that didn’t mean he was going to forget all reasoning and act carelessly. He did not hide his thoughts and Miria felt his praise, which made her feel appreciated.
With all things done, Ellie brought out one more thing and extended her hand with it towards Asterios. It was a coin or more like a token with a silhouette of an Elf woman holding a rapier graciously in front of her face.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“This is a Token of Fealty. The Guildmaster grants you one. It shows that she acknowledges you as one of her reliable agents. If you ever get in trouble with our or other guilds, this can help you get out of it, as it tells that she can vouch for you. Showing it at the reception can also allow you to skip the quest grading system and join emergency tasks higher than your own rank. It won't work for normal quests. You can also use it to skip queues or request a meeting with any guilds’ officials. Saying all that, I hope you won’t abuse it as it would dirty the name of our Guildmaster.”
Ast rotated the coin a few times in his fingers, examining it from up close and threw it into his magical pouch.
“You don’t have to worry about that, I’ll use it only as the last resort. Flaunting something like that while being an E-rank could lead to a disaster,” he assured her with a smile.
“Good. But don’t be afraid to use it when necessary. I think we are done here, thanks for your time and please, come to me whenever you need anything.”
“I will. I’m going to pick up something after I finish a few things I still have to do.”
“I’ll check for some nice quests and prepare a few recommendations for you then. Oh, and watch out for that guy from before, I have a feeling that he might not exactly forget that all this happened. If he tries anything funny, let us know.”
It’s not that any bullying or revenge was allowed in the ranks of the Guild’s employees, but Ellie knew the examiner’s personality good enough to suspect him of at least forcing Asterios into a rematch. She hoped he wouldn’t try something stupid instead. He already was a pain at times.
Ast went back home to inform his mother about him registering as an adventurer. She expected this to happen at some point after he would have finished the academy so she didn’t try to pressure him against the idea. She also didn’t want to restrain him. The path he had chosen obviously led him towards the open world and not just a small town in the middle of nowhere.
She still was worried as his mother but she knew he wouldn’t just disappear without a word, leaving her behind. Asterios definitely didn’t want to do that. He assured her that he would always tell her everything before he would need to leave for a quest or a journey and that he would still contact her regularly.
He decided to stay home today with his mother and Miria and return his uniforms and other things to the academy tomorrow. He would rather already forget about it, but he wasn’t someone who would run away while ignoring his obligations.
During the night, he talked some more with Miria about their cooperation. They would have to work as a two-man team right now. She suggested that she should be placed in the frontline while Ast would observe the battlefield and support her with his techniques and knowledge about his world.
Ast agreed to her plan since it was quite logical. He could easily watch her back and inform her of any potential danger. Miria was really excited to try out fighting like that and he chuckled mentioning to her that if they got used to the connection good enough, they could even be able to subconsciously look through each other’s eyes while in combat, raising their situational awareness by leaps and bounds.
She got even more fired up after hearing that so Ast had to pour some cold water on her head by saying that something on this level would require a lot of practice and time spent on sharing minds with each other and wasn’t just about the surface thoughts, but a full link where they would be able to sense clearly the other person’s consciousness, including all their thoughts, emotions, memories and such.
Miria blushed and her tail started swishing faster when she imagined such an intimate connection where basically nothing could be hidden. She already was getting embarrassed with the current level of their connection. Ast assured her that there was no rush to achieve that level and it would come naturally with time. He told Miria that he didn’t mind letting her into his mind, believing that as her master and partner, he should fully trust her.
“Really? Umm… would that be okay?” she asked, with curiosity quickly overcoming her.
“I meant what I said. Do you want to take a peek? I won’t look at yours without permission.”
She nodded hesitantly and Ast asked her to move closer and give him her hand to make things easier. They sat in front of each other and closed their eyes. Asterios focused on deepening their connection and soon Miria felt as if she suddenly appeared in an immeasurable space similar to the night, starry sky.
“Relax a bit and focus your thoughts on whatever you want to feel or see. Just let them guide you around.”
A loud voice echoed from every possible angle. It was obviously Asterios’s. She did as he instructed and soon almost fully joined her own mind with his. She knew Asterios was a very calm and collected person, but even inside his head, she felt how tranquil his thoughts were.
Everything seemed to flow slowly and in patterns. Various images and memories passed by her as she peeked at them. Some events from his childhood, scenes of Ast learning at the academy, the death of his companion before he summoned Mii and many more.
When suddenly an image of an already adult Asterios taking a shower appeared, she tried to frantically cover her eyes, but she could clearly see through her imaginary hands since she was a mental consciousness without a physical body.
She heard a loud chuckle and sensed Ast’s amusement as he freed her of the picture. She didn’t feel any anger or reproach. He really seemed to not mind her seeing him naked as he stated yesterday. She actually was a bit curious to see his body in reality. It seemed quite muscular from all the little glances she was able to take before, but obviously, she couldn’t just ask him to take off his shirt in front of her, that would be so shameless.
The memory of Mii’s death and then their own meeting arrived next. She squirmed internally, seeing the scene of her jumping into a kiss during the contracting ritual from the perspective of Asterios, and fully sensing his confusion at that moment. She wanted to run away and hide from his sight forever.
A pleasant sensation enveloped her consciousness, similar to the one when she had her head patted and hair brushed by his hand.
“I already said I don’t mind.” His voice boomed in the dark space again.
She let the warm and fuzzy feeling tickle her own mind. While watching herself in that one image of their kiss, she began wondering what Ast thought about her.
A desire to know if he liked her even a bit subconsciously overcame her mind, and forgetting that he could see whatever she did in his head, Miria started prodding Ast’s consciousness for any positive emotions about her.
Who is she?
She saved me?
What a cute face…
Her ears are so beautiful…
I wonder how her tail feels in touch…
She seems so shy, hahaha…
I want to—
“Quite bold of you, don’t you think?”
Ast’s loud, booming voice startled her. She realized what she was doing and started panicking. Her mind went into too much chaos to uphold their connection and she found herself back in her own body. She watched as Asterios opened his eyes and looked at her with raised one eyebrow.
She shrank into herself and started shaking a bit out of embarrassment and guilt. Even though he said he didn’t mind her having a peek, she did something unimaginably rude. As she was going to escape through a portal to her own realm, Asterios grabbed her hand and chuckled. She looked at him with her head down and pretty much being on the verge of tears.
“Calm down, I’m not offended. You really need to stop assuming that I will get angry at every little thing you do.”
“But… we just met like yesterday… and I just tried to do something like this...”
He chuckled and moved closer to ruffle through her hair a bit. He gently patted Miria’s head with a smile.
“Sometimes emotions just get the better of us. It was your first time in someone’s mind like that. Besides, you could have just asked if you were so curious.”
She stopped shaking under his pleasant touch and glanced at Ast’s face, quickly averting her gaze afterwards. He sighed and shook his head.
“Yes, I like you. I have no reason not to. You are adorable and beautiful, your ears and tail are just so cute, you are very cheerful and kind, you are really strong, and before all that, you saved my life. Good enough?”
Miria’s cheeks grew rosy under the constant praise and her tail began moving like crazy. She felt happy to know that, but also immensely embarrassed from being told it so boldly after she invaded his privacy so much. Yet, she couldn’t sense any negative feelings through their link.
“Don’t overthink this too much. ”
“Thank you… and… I’m sorry…”
“Another thing, stop apologizing all the time. It’s cute, but you are already plenty adorable without that, got it?”
Ast noticed Miria getting dangerously red so he released her from his pats. He sensed that she still wanted to run away as quickly as she could, but forced herself to stand up slowly and make a little bow before she stepped into the portal.
「Hahaha, really, this girl… Her mother wasn’t wrong.」
While Asterios was preparing all of the things he would have to turn in the next day, Miria was literally rolling on her bed in her own room while hugging a pillow.
“Aaaaaaaaaaa! I’m such an idiot! What the hell did I try to read in his mind?! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!”
She stopped after a few minutes, getting pretty much out of breath. She hugged her pillow closer while panting heavily. A smile formed on her lips.
“But… he said he likes me, hehehe~”