30. Hitchhiking
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While I was blankly staring at the message about my debt, the redhead grinned with satisfaction, and with a wave of her hand yanked me and sent to back to the ship. She did that without an explanation of what just happened; that wasn’t nice. Oh, I knew what happened, but I wanted her to admit it before I strangled her.

The ship was still cruising the same as if I never left, so I leaned on the railing and checked the river below us, still flowing. Clearly, that woman was Ian’s boss, and her hostility at me was strange. Was it because I exploited the game? Come on, I was only doing what anyone could!

With one quick kick to the wooden plank holding railing, I calmed myself. Her interest meant I had to be careful with my future exploits, because they marked me for sure. It didn’t matter though, because my goal changed. With the help of Duke’s soldiers, I’ll support Lisa in her fight with Dmitry. Then I’ll ask Katherine if she could help me explore the Forgotten city, so I could prepare for the main quest I got from Duke - Irwen’s declaration of war.

 

After another two hours of monotonous sailing, the port Village Number Seventeen popped up on the horizon. Finally! Captain’s deep voice boomed from the deck, but I was only leaning on the railing and observing the bustling port. Why all the villages I visited had so large ports? Did the Duke expect them to grow into cities?

As I was walking towards the crew, the ship swayed dangerously under me, and I stumbled! Desperately trying to catch a yard, I flailed my hand, but I was a few inches short and fell onto the deck. “Son of, gimme that!” The captain yoinked helm from his subordinate, pushing him with his shoulder and steered the ship properly. “Quickly, lass!” he yelled in my direction.

Not wanting to hold them longer than I should, I jumped down to the dock and wave at them. Sadly, they no longer paid me any attention and disembarked without stopping. Nobody was waiting for me; it was anticlimactic. No matter; I clutched the document from Duke and strode towards the center of the village into sunset! Wait what? It was four hours already?

The village’s architecture was the same as everywhere else, down to the now shining magical lamps. Either the developers or elves were lazy and used some kind of uniform building plans. The latter was probably closer to the truth, because as far as I knew about imperial officials, they loved to flaunt their power over their subjects and force them to build the same proper imperial way.

 

Well, except for the building in the center of the village. Every other building was one, or maximum two stories high; but the guildhall towered over them by three more stories. Some players around me were gawking at the building, clearly amazed, or maybe surprised. Hah, wait till you’ll see the Tower of Eternity for the first time.

The stream of players was heading inside, so I just let the flow take me with them. When we entered the hall, the reception area astonished even me.

Over twenty counters welcomed all the players and even that wasn’t enough, because at least an hour long queues sneaked around the spacious hall. At regular intervals, white columns supported the ceiling, and the workers used them to hang notice boards overflowing with papers - quests. All that was drowned in a calming, yellowish light from countless lamps.

For a fact I knew there was an option to skip the wait and talk with the Guard Captain - on the right wall, near the other end of the hall, was an inconspicuous door. I strode there, although all the murmur of hundreds of players silenced my confident steps and had to dance around the standing morons, they didn’t want to make a way for me!

One lone guard was standing in front of the door, blocking my way. Her medium armor tightly wrapped around her, but devs gave her much more leeway than to me, because she didn’t have any cleavage. But she had a mean look, and a put hand on her silvery sword, when I came near.

“Halt.” She stopped me with a rude gesture of her hand and pulled her sword ever so slightly. “Missy, private guild area, go back to the queue.”

My nervousness only reminded me I was in an enormous crowd, but I could speak just fine. “No need!” Flashing my nicest smile, I presented her my beautiful signet silver ring with a snowflake insignia. “I am Princess Charlie, baronetess of the Empire. Let me through, I need to speak with Guard Captain.”

The woman just laughed at my weak show of power, pulled out her sword and threatened me with its sharp point just under my chin. “This is the guild, even the Emperor has to wait in the queue, that’s the law!” What? I was thinking about my answer while she measured me and licked her lips. “But you can try.”

[Guild Guard Lv. 20]
Type: 2-uncommon | HP: 343/343

I frowned under her uncomfortable stare and shook my head, backing slowly. “No need.” Stupid guard! Was that all work for naught? Why couldn’t I even skip a queue? Her victorious smile added another salt to my injury, and I was holding up to not let my anger out.

She was right, in a way. The guild was independent and hated politics, but Mayor and Guard Captain had offices up there, so they weren’t that innocent. Why is everything set to get me? Why do I face so much setbacks? With a sour face, I joined the long queue and pondered about stupid system.

“Charlie!” a familiar voice woke me up from my slumber. What, where? Why? Following the sound, I found the culprit. “Here!” Katherine was waving at me while jumping with joy. She was roughly in half the queue! Yay, I still could save time! Wasting no time, I ran towards her, pushing the other players out of my way.

She embraced me in a hug and smiled, taking all my courage away. Damn, why was she so beautiful? Instead of her pretty face, I glanced up where should be an icon - telling me she was streaming. “No recording?”

“Nope. ‘cause that’s boring!” Gesticulating to the surrounding crowds; she threw her hands around wildly. “I killed ‘em in three hours and finished quest! This worse than gettin’ streamers’ badge!”

“Badge?” I perked up my ears. “I thought that’s difficult.”

“Wat?” Her eyes widened, and she flung her palm into my hair, laughing and making my haircut a mess. On an instinct I tried to hold hard away, but she held firm and even pushed on me. Damn! Her strength was much higher, so I staggered, but still stood up. “No way! Just ask ‘em and you get it!”

 

Thanks to her, the waiting wasn’t boring and half an hour was up in no time. Naturally, I squeezed out only a few words at a time, but that was an improvement! Katherine turned in her quest and now was my turn. John, it’s only talking with the clerk. Nothing hard. I placed my hands on the rough, white-wood counter, which was still smelling like a new straight from forest, and smiled at a young Elven man sitting across.

“Hello!” I blurted out, materialized the Duke’s message and threw it at him. “I need to talk with Guard Captain!”

The man had no problem catching it - was that a common occurrence? “A minute, please.” After breaking the seal, he adjusted his glass, leaned closer and examined the order with care. “We will do as ordered, miss.”

He jotted something on an official-looking paper with a perfect handwriting and folded my message, hiding it from me! “Our forces will bolster your fortress, baronetess. It pleases me to inform you that the Fire Tamer has been defeated, so I am empowered to deny the request for additional forces. Will that be all?”

If I said it was shocking to find out someone beat the dungeon, I would be lying. After the Lisa’s request I half-expected we won’t be faster, but this? “I… see. Thank you.” Arguing with him would be pointless - I learned it the hard way with the angels managers.

 

That meant there was a new hero, and it was Dmitry. Same as in my previous life, I changed nothing. Per usual, as it seems. “Wat now?” Katherine's voice woke me up. Her voice? In my internal pondering, I somehow left the guild and was standing just next to the waiting girl. “You said somethin’ ‘bout Lisa?”

Lisa. That poor girl. “I did, didn't I?” I couldn’t hide a sadness in my voice. “What we can do now? Dmitry is strong. Very strong.”

“That’s just naïve, Charlie!” She took advantage of my grim mood and pat me on my back. Her every slight move sent a pleasant sensation around my skin. “Ya know ‘tat!”

While quickly backing from her hand before I started purring, I realized she was right. Even I knew that, his every video was awesome! Noone could argue he was a pro at Rimelion. Yeah, people argued if it was right to support the demons, but we didn’t question his skill. Although Lisa needed support right now. What was one day of waiting compared to her friendship? “Let’s go there regardless of that.”

“Walking…” Katherine grumbled, and patted her thighs. “Tat’s tedious! Slow!”

Blushing at her action, I glanced away and for the first time focused on where we were! Strange, these days I was so unfocused, more acting than thinking and what not. Where was my level-headed, analyzing warrior? Instead there was I, scared of getting hit and… Instead of looking around, I was thinking about why I wasn’t level-headed anymore. Charlie!

Okay. We were in front of the guild building, just next to the constant stream of players. NPCs erected their stalls here and were hawking their wares - even a few players tried their luck with selling wolf furs. Just next to these idiots were swooshing horse-pulled cars on a stone-paved road. Oh yeah, that just might work, let’s ride! So I turned to my favorite streamer, who was still massaging her beautiful thighs. “Hey Katherine, let’s catch a ride there!”

“A ride? Like no walkin’?” Her eyes sparkled, and she grabbed me by my shoulders while peering deep into my soul. “Do ya hav’ quest?”

No freaking way - what was she doing? Something like this wasn’t something my stupid body could fight, so I just shook my head. “Oh,” she said, deflated, let me go, slouching her shoulders. “Teasin’ like ‘tat…”

“No teasing, we can ask.”

“Ask?” she asked stupidly, and returned her piercing eyes to me. Okay, no more talking. So I grabbed her hand and pulled her along the main street. Players like her still didn’t know the NPC were almost… were alive. In our world hitchhiking was a thing of past, but here?

Sadly, hitchhiking was hard. Despite my initial enthusiasm, there was a slight problem - almost nobody wanted to go through the area we were heading to. Yeah, I should have known that! Who would want to travel next to the barren lands crawling with fire monsters? In the end, after I asked like hundredth farmer if he goes there I got a positive answer and he even agreed to take us with him.

His cart was average, clumped together with nails sticking everywhere, but hey, don’t look a given whiskey in the bottleneck. Sacks of smelly goods, wheat and what-not were haphazardly flying around when we squeezed in and he cracked his whip. Hey - a fellow whip user!

As a bonus Katherine was grinning at me like if we won a lottery, and she repeated “Wau, ‘tis like real” until I silenced her with my dismissive look. Only an icy evening wind remained and we rode tens of minutes, enjoying the atmosphere. At moments like this, the game was shining the best. Riding under stars on a wobbling cart dangerously fast, with a streamer I always wanted to meet and towards a fight with a dangerous enemy.

“Katherine-”

“Just Kit, please.”

“Okay, Kit, what do you want to select after you get to level ten?”

She pondered for a moment, leaning on a bag and said, “Dunno. I was-” The cart shuddered, yanked me to a side a nailing on a nail for a minus ten hit-points. Before I could curse at the stupid driver, a deep howl pierced the silent night.

“Wulves are attacking!”

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