It was early the next morning when the trio met at the southern gate, Ethan grumbled as he remembered the guild master’s orders. “That girl is going out tomorrow to gather herbs, follow her and do not let anyone interfere with her while she does.” It wasn’t all that uncommon really, a noble brat wants to play adventurer, so the guild sends babysitters with them on missions until they get bored.
Most of them give up halfway through the first request when they find that being an adventurer isn’t at all like the stories everyone hears. There isn't a grand quest, heroic monster hunts… well there are, but everyone starts out the same. A F-rank, picking flowers. Even the god-king was an F-rank at one point in time, you don’t get to even take a subjugation mission until at least D rank and even those are very basic population control requests.
“We are B-rank damn it,” he grumbled kicking the dirt, “we shouldn’t be sent out babysitting. Let some low-ranking C’s take care of this shit. And what’s with the “don’t approach her either” part of this all?”
“Now Ethan, it’s an easy job.” Mira replied as she scanned the crowd.
“It pays super well too, just who is this girl anyway?” Fiori asked, leaning against the wall. “To send an established B-rank party out and pay 50 gold… she must be important.”
“It’s just some noble wanting to play hero,” Ethan hissed, “clearly just some brat whose so wet behind the ears the guild master is afraid she will get herself offed picking flowers.” Ethan hated jobs like this, escorting some pompous noble into the woods so they can frolic, “her parents must have paid the guild to keep an eye on her.”
“don’t be like that Ethan,” Mira rubbed his shoulder in an attempt to calm him, “think of it this way, if she is a high ranking noble, she has to have some training. We just watch her for a few hours, maybe fight off a horned rabbit or two and we will be back by noon.”
“Hey, if we have to save her maybe we can get in with the ruling family here,” Fiori said excitedly, “we might be able to get noble backing, sponsored adventurers always make way more gold right?” She said biting her lip, “I hear the noble family here is super high up too. If we get on their good side, we might be able to score big.”
“Careful cat, your eyes are turning gold.” Ethan said glaring at the excited cat woman, “besides, “backed” adventurers can’t leave the territory they are being backed by.”
“And I doubt they would bother; they already hire anyone who breaks into B-rank as a guard. Why would they need to hire adventurers like a small village when they have an army at their call?” Mira added with an eye roll. Backing was another common practice by lower nobles, they shower a high-ranking adventuring party with gold and in turn that party acts as town “heroes” who solve all the big problems that pop up.
“Did you two forget that the forest is packed with mana beast right now?” Ethan sighed, his anger subsiding momentarily. “No matter how much “training” she has she’s still just a F-rank. With the war in the north, a lot of wildlife is being pushed south, I hear rumors of a basilisk being spotted near the mountains.” He shook his head, “we should be hunting that to raise our ranks.”
“shh.” Fiori interrupted his thoughts as she pointed to the now parting crowd. “There she is… wow.”
Ethan followed her pointing to see the red headed woman standing in the middle of a group of guards. The morning crowd of people around the gate cleared as they made their way though, the small girl walking with her head down behind the taller woman as people greeted them with a bow.
“She must be super important,” Ethan ground his teeth, “what the fuck do they need us for if she has a platoon of guards with her? And who the hell brings their maid on a request!” He glared at the young woman finally looking at her.
She was barely five feet tall, if even that, with long jet-black hair that flowed out from under a strange wide brimmed hat that she was using to cover her face. She wore what looked like dark black mage robes that had the sleeves cut in an odd pattern along her upper arms before reforming into solid fabric along her forearms.
“Just what kind of robes are those?” He asked looking back at Mira who was in her own set of mage armor robes. “You think she’s some kind of caster?”
“I don’t know any magic caster that wears that much armor,” Mira whispered, “or carries a long sword.”
Ethan quickly snapped his eyes back to the girl who was closer now. He had missed it the first time but now he could clearly see her gauntleted hands that gripped the ends of her hat. Her top, which he thought was part of her robes at a distance, was actually a blackened breast plate that blended in with the robes she wore beneath it. The robe stopped well below her knees, yet he could clearly see the glimmer of metal around her ankles leading him to believe she was wearing greaves beneath. Hanging at an odd angle from her waist was a long sword that was clearly too large for her, yet she seemed to be acutely aware of it as she moved to keep from bumping people she passed with it.
“What the hell is with that get up?” He asked, normally mages wore armored robes for mobility. They would offer less protection in lieu of allowing the caster freedom of movement, even a magic swordsman like himself wouldn’t wear full armor gauntlets as they would impede the flow of mana in his hands and make the fine hand movements of casting impossible.
“Maybe she’s just a really bad mage so she switched to a more physical combat style?” Fiori suggested as her feline ears flicked, “then again, that armor has to be enchanted, she’s as silent as a mouse.” She added.
“Then what’s with the robes, and that ridiculous hat?” Ethan looked at the pitch-black hat she wore. It was the same kind old depictions of mages had, a wide circular base that led up to a floppy point.
“Deception maybe,” Mira shrugged, “could be to trick people into thinking she’s a caster before running them though with her sword?”
“Maybe she doesn’t like the sun, she is super pale.” Fiori grinned.
“Don’t you three have a job to do?” A voice called from behind them causing them to jump.
They spun to find a man in full guard’s armor standing there, his piercing blue eyes causing a chill to run up Ethan’s spine as he investigated the open face of the helmet. A large tower shield was strapped to his back causing the man's red cape to billow out strangely showing off the suit of engraved armor beneath.
“She’s leaving, you know.” The man said, pointing over the trios’ heads.
“Shit.” Fiori swore as she looked back to the group of guards that had stopped at the gate alongside the red headed maid. “They didn’t go with her!” She nearly yelled taking off into a sprint, her words breaking Ethan and Mira out of their staring contest with the guard as they rushed to catch up.
They didn’t hear the man chuckle as they left, “that was the best she could come up with? Really?” Hans said, remembering his wife telling him she had hand picked the team to watch over Amethyst.