“So? How did you even know I was on the Fifth Plateau? Much less the infirmary,” Rakna asked as they navigated through the corridors of the Pavilion.
After waiting for a few minutes, the drugs in his system had effectively made him able to move again. Sonata was back around his neck while Pronos was loosening up in Kaelith’s cleavage, much to his master’s bafflement.
“As I said before, I know whenever you enter the Pavilion. That also includes which Plateau the Pavilion you used is on. As for where you were exactly, I didn’t know. I got bored while waiting for you so I decided to come to the Fifth Plateau myself.”
Kaelith shrugged with a grin. “Anyhow, I just asked around to see if someone saw you and I got wind that you were carried to the med bay.”
“Med bay, huh?” Rakna muttered as he looked around. They had already walked for a good three minutes, give or take, and the only thing he had seen were doors leading to medical rooms and the such. From what he understood, this was still the Pavilion, and the section he hadn’t been able to visit yet. “This is a lot bigger than I thought.”
“Yes, it can be shocking at first. The private section of the Pavilion is very small compared to the commune one. In here, you have a lot of stuff like this med bay. Bars, restaurants, hotels, very very large training grounds, and much more. This is also a sort of hub for people looking for jobs or in other words, Quests.”
“Gray did mention something about Board Quests. How does that work?”
“Well, why not see for yourself,” she replied as they left the corridor to enter a circular hall with a reception. The woman at the desk looked up and bowed her head in respect to Kaelith who nodded in response before dragging Rakna to a double door on the opposite side.
“Admire,” she said and pushed the doors open with one small prod with her fingers. A very large room laid on the other side. If he had to guess, Rakna would say that it would be able to fit at least a few tens of track fields in it. That’s how far it seemed to extend and he was almost sure to not be far from the truth.
With just a glance, he could see many people loitering about, sitting together at bars, chatting, or playing games like poker or billiard. The floor was covered in a red carpet and the lighting was provided by large chandeliers. All in all, the only description that came to his mind, was a massive and luxurious casino. The merry atmosphere precisely gave him that impression.
“Nice ambiance, don’t you think?” Kaelith said as they stepped through the doors.
“I guess,” Rakna replied dully. His eyes glanced in every direction as he suddenly felt stared at. To be exact, it wasn’t only he who was being stared at.
“Ignore them,” the vixen told him as if he knew what he was thinking. “They’re just some low lives probably fantasizing about me warming up their bed. They’re probably jealous that you can walk at my side or something. If they ever try to bother you, just ask and I’ll castrate them,” she uttered with a smirk.
Rakna snorted at how aloof she sounded while saying that. She was probably used to it.
“Now, look over there. That’s the ‘Board’. At least, that’s one of the many you can access while in here,” she said while pointing at something in the distance. It was a sort of ten-meter-wide bluish silver table. There were a few people around it, who Rakna assumed to be Hosts, and he noticed that they appeared to be gazing at the said table while discussing with others.
When they got closer to it, he understood why. The table turned out to be a massive tactile digital screen and the Hosts were actually scrolling through several different texts.
Kaelith pressed her finger on the screen without saying a word and a ripple of light was generated around it before forming her own name. It then switched displays and showed a search bar along with several filter options.
“In here, you can find Quests that are requested directly by either Locals or Hosts. You can be sure that you’ll never be out of things to do with this. There are thousands of requests submitted to the Pavilion every day. Of course, both the difficulty and rewards vary. Also, the Quests you can find on this Board are limited to the Plateaus you already have unlocked.”
“So, you mean I could accept a Quest that can only be completed on, let’s say the Third Plateau, from here?” Rakna idly asked as he imitated her and engaged with the screen. His name appeared in full letters before showing him the same thing as Kaelith.
“Yes. For example, that guildmate of yours, Vegas Sazieyl, from what I gathered, came here after accepting a Quest through this Board. That guy’s a doctor through and through, he’s also quite renowned, it’s not surprising that he would be interested in investigating unknown illnesses even in Plateaus as low as this one.”
Rakna hummed, acknowledging her words, before pressing the search button without setting the filters. A list of Quests appeared before him, sorted by ‘Latest’.
‘Herb gathering, escort, subjugation, tutoring, sparring, item search… There’s a lot of variety, that’s for sure,’ he thought as he scrolled down as fast as he could.
Kaelith watched curiously as his eyes glowed gold and read every line of text at high speed. She smiled inwardly, wondering how he had managed to get such a high rank-looking visual skill and how much he was still hiding from her. Instead of feeling mad about it, she actually felt eager. She was looking forward to seeing what he would show her in the future.
Rakna continued to look through the Quests unaware of her thoughts and then stopped when he saw something in the corner of the small virtual box. “Foxy.”
He didn’t say a word and just pointed at two certain checkboxes in the filters available. She looked over his shoulder without minding about personal space and saw the words ‘Non-Approved’ and ‘Elimination’.
“Aah… those,” she took on a difficult expression. “Non-Approved refer to Quests that were not officially accepted by the Pavilion. You see, every Quest submitted must go through approval, and those that fail this step are registered under Non-Approved. There are two main reasons why that would happen; either the Quest has a dubious nature, is deemed impossible, or… the rewards are too low for the job or simply inexistent.”
Rakna frowned. “In other words, it means the pile that the Pavilion uses to ignore the pleas of the people who don’t have the means to pay for the help they need?”
Kaelith winced a bit at his blunt description. “Yes, I can’t deny that. But, come on, at least, they don’t outright reject them. You’d be surprised by the benevolence that some Hosts have. Some people literally just spend their days accepting and completing Non-Approved Quests.”
“I can imagine,” Rakna replied indifferently. “What about this other filter?”
“Right, eliminations… well, it’s a slightly nicer word for assassinations.” He turned toward her with a frown and she shrugged sheepishly. “Don’t look at me like that. At the end of the day, the Pavilion is neutral in every aspect. Feuds between unknown Hosts or Locals are none of their business and they thus accept assassination requests. The rewards are generous but the risks are very high since you could alienate entire factions because of it.”
“I see…” Rakna muttered as processed the new information. At the same time, his ears twitched as he heard footsteps approaching from behind him. He threw a lazy look over his shoulder and spotted a band of men walking toward them with malicious smiles.
He didn’t even bother to react to them as he grasped the sheer idiocy behind their actions. Kaelith was a literal noble and she didn’t do much to hide her nine tails. In fact, she flaunted them and people easily become infatuated by figures that they find both stunning and unreachable.
However, when that target of adoration is accompanied by someone like him, a young and seemingly newbie Host, they become frantic. They suddenly feel as if the stakes have been lowered and that if a mundane person can be at their idol’s side, then they can too and their desire turns into arrogance and baseless confidence.
‘I think there was a name for that typical mental behavior… what was it?’ Rakna wondered as he completely tuned out whatever was happening around him.
He completely ignored how the band of men glared at him like they were above him, he completely ignored as they subsequently addressed Kaelith whilst badmouthing him, and completely ignored as she smiled at them before activating what he presumed was a hallucination spell if their sudden screams of terror and them clenching their heads were anything to go by.
‘Ah, yes, malicious envy. That’s how you call it,’ Rakna remembered as the men collapsed with foam coming out of their mouths. They looked as if they had seen the worst of nightmares.
Everyone nearby looked on frightened and any of them who had even dared to think about doing the same thing as those men immediately ended their delusions.
Kaelith looked satisfied with her handiwork as she looked back at him. She seemed completely unfazed by what had just happened. He would even go as far as to say that she positively looked refreshed. On the other hand, Pronos had a ghastly expression as he had been on a first-class seat to watch the poor men suffer.
“Anyway, you’re done? I want my date now. This is boring stuff.”
“…so, you weren’t kidding about that,” Rakna mumbled as he closed the Quest Board. He would come back later to check it in more detail.
“Of course not,” she stated and dragged him by the arm toward one of the many staircases present in this large room. His body was so weak that he could not even give the slightest of resistances as she borderline carried him out of the Pavilion.
They quickly made their way out of the oval-shaped building that had the exact same appearance and proportions as the First Plateau. Rakna once again marveled at how it could be so much larger inside.
Other than that, he also took a look at the city they were in. Though, it would be a bit more fitting to call it a town instead. It wasn’t nearly as big as Black Steel nor did it seem futuristic. The streets were paved with stone and the structures seemed honestly quite normal.
Though, the biggest difference of this Plateau was the sky and the vegetation. Faithful to the appellation of swamp, the color trees’ colors were a bit morose and the sky was covered by gray clouds with the sunlight barely visible through it.
“Well, it’s not the best of weather but who cares,” Kaelith uttered and looked at him. “So, wolfy, where do you want to go?”
Rakna gave her a deadpan stare. “How am I supposed to know? And when did I ever accept to go on a date with you?”
“Really? You have a beautiful woman like me inviting you, and you’re going to be like that? How many people do you think would kill to be in your place? And here I was, just trying to help a friend get better,” she sighed with a mock sadness in her tone and Rakna’s eyebrow twitched.
‘Friend,’ he reiterated inwardly. It felt both weird and appropriate. This was a word that he seldom used to describe others. Did he consider this woman a friend?
“…are there any tourist spots in the area?” He finally asked after a small silence between the two of them.
She smiled widely. “No idea. But we can discover together, can’t we? Doesn’t it sound lovely?”
Rakna glanced at her. “Perhaps…” He said as the corner of his lips were lifted slightly upward.