33. Guild clerk
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It took me a while to digest what she just said. “That means…”

“Yup, she ded! No need rescue her now!” Katherine gave me one of her stunning smiles and looked around. “She gone?”

Slowly nodding, I came closer to closer to her and hugged her. “Poor Lisa. I let our enemy go.” Katherine accepted my hug, but then she threw up her hands and shook her head. “Hey, it wasn’t for naught! She was my prisoner!”

“She lied. Her story wasn’t possible,” Katherine protested and crossed her arms. “Better to slay her.”

“Really…” I sighed and could see her facing away from me with a disappointed expression. Not so fast, Kat! As I got her attention by waving my hand in front of her, I pointed towards the woodland. “She escaped there. What’s better - one lone bandit, or to hit their lair in the middle of night, when they have minimum defense?”

It was funny to watch her face when she realized what I said and followed my fingers with her stare towards the dark. “Can we follow?”

“It won’t be easy, but this isn’t my first foray,” I said, and went slowly there, examining the ground. When we reached the first trees, it was more than easy to spot her path - she left a visible trail even a novice could follow. Yeah, game mechanics did not guide me, but even a total ignorant would spot the broken wig.

“Why here?” asked Katherine after she followed me without a word for a record time. Okay, slight correction. Almost everyone could spot our prey’s path.

 

We followed her trail for a while until we could spot something faint in distance. Even though the trees were sparse, they blocked out the view to a few hundred feet, despite the bright moonlight. The something had a vague outline of an enormous building, but that was nonsense. As far as I knew there wasn’t anything like that and who ever heard about bandits building structures?

The trail led us straight there, so we had no other choice than to follow it. With every step, the structure reflected more and more moonlight, and I could clearly see a crumbling wall, at least twenty feet tall. I glanced at my companion and pointed at our target. “This might be their base. I don’t like it. Wanna fight or not? We can always report it and get money from the guild.”

Katherine stopped and leaned on a young tree, which almost bent ninety degrees under her weight. She was pondering for a while, forming wrinkles on her forehead. “How many can we kill?”

That was a good question. If there were a lot of enemies, we would only die achieving nothing. However, we both weren’t level five wolf-killers. “Between my dance and your pulling? Three level ten, four at most.” That was my estimate, and I was being generous, because I assumed I won’t fail my spell even once. Yeah, sure, that’s easy.

She peered into my eyes again and bit her lip. Oh god, save my soul. After that seduction attempt, she asked, “You sure? We had problem with one.”

“That was a bandit leader. Of course she was hard to deal with!” Katherine didn’t answer me and glanced back at the crumbling wall. Now, when we focused on it, we could see flickering flames coming from the other side and if we strained our ears enough, even muffled voices.

“Let’s go back.” Katherine stopped torturing the tree and started walking to the way we came. It was probably the smart decision, even more because we would have to kill humanoids and that was troublesome every time. Despite that, it stung a bit, because they might hoard their stolen treasure here.

“Wait,” I said, and raised my hand. “I want to try something, and if it works we need to run like drunk Italians.” One thing was to return and say we found an outpost. Totally different thing was if we returned with a proof and that was exactly what I wanted to do.

Well, the clerks were always annoying, but they should accept me even though I didn’t have a quest for it, right? Normally I would need a focus crystal, but Duke granted me a ring as a symbol of nobility. It wasn’t just any trinket, but a magical tool, so it might work.

Pointing the ring towards the wall, I closed my eyes and focused. As a warrior, I used this method of surveying hundreds of times, but this was a first without a proper tool. I shut my mind and focused on my inner senses - that was on my sensitivity.

Hard to describe the feeling - even if Katherine tried to plead with her puppy eyes, I wouldn’t be able to teach her. Once I read a book where the guild taught surveying and the light version had over thousand pages. First thing - shut down all your senses. Vision was easy - I just shut my eyes. Taste - why would I eat now? Hearing wasn’t much problem either, because the night was quiet.

Smell - that was harder. Normally I just ignored what my nose was telling me, but now it screamed about a smell of pine needles and because cold crawled on my skin, sending shivers all over my not-covered body. I frowned. Come, come on! Focus John, nothing is here!

My senses shut down and a familiar feeling of an air pushing down on me arrived without warning. This time let’s go with red like fire. Maybe they won’t know what it is.

“Scout!” I shouted, probably revealing bandits about our position, but that didn’t matter. The moment I cried, a red light rushed from my ring and penetrated anything in a cone in front of me, recording the position and structure of their base. Perhaps.

An angry shouting came from the other side of the wall, but I didn’t wait for them and ran as fast as I could. Katherine ran in front of me, and her face paled when she looked back at me for a second. “Six archers,” she said and jumped over a sticking root. Just then, arrows whooshed all around us.

After ten seconds, a long howl penetrated the now noisy night, and I quickened my pace, although my stamina disagreed. How could I forget about Bandit Leader’s Wulves? No matter, we ran in a random direction in silence and I dreaded what would happen if the wulves caught with us.

Thankfully, it didn’t happen, and we ran out of the forest after a few minutes, with no sign of bandits, and I had to squat down. My lungs burned like I’d drunk absinthe and not whiskey, and I was panting like a dog. Katherine grinned at my poor stamina and pranced around me. “What was ‘tat?”

“That,” I said and paused, catching my breath. “That was a handy chant. You don’t. Much mana for it. You can too - do it.” I had to refrain from speaking about how to use it, because I gasped for air between my words. Yeah, no wonder people are always walking slowly in dungeons - they need to wait for their squishies. “Let’s go back to the guild, before bandits move somewhere else.” Katherine winced about walking uselessly, but agreed about going back, still glancing back where we came from.

 

Going back to city took twice as long as coming here, because there wasn’t any carriage on the road. We met a few groups of players running somewhere, and because they didn’t stop to chat with us, we just minded our business. When we entered the guild building, it was more crowded than before. Rows upon rows of players shouted, chatted and even fought.

My fellow adventurer stopped the moment she saw the crowd and said, “Too long! I need to stream, ya wait, I’ll stream and level, ‘k?”

I glanced towards the side door, where was standing the same guard who shooed me away. Damn, no shortcuts. “Okay, let’s play later.”

[Katherine wants to add you as a friend.]

“See ya!” She flashed at me her stunning smile again and vanished into the crowd behind me. It was only natural she piled the waiting on me, right? Well, maybe. Thinking about a way how to skip the queue, I went to stand at the end and examined other players. Nope, there wasn’t any way. Stupid guild!

 

Katherine was right - it took too long than it should. It was partly my fault, because I choose a wrong queue, which moved the slowest! A girl in a green robe, probably a novice mage, came after me to the next desk and they called her when I still had three stupid players in front of me.

My clerk was very slow, because it took every player at least ten minutes to solve their request and judging by their shouting, it didn’t go well. Not good, but I couldn’t change queue now.

When my turn finally came, I stepped up to the counter and glanced at a lady behind it - the most Ian person you could see, average in every way, wearing a gray suit. “Hello, it took you long enough. I want to report bandit outpost.” At my remark about her slowness, she glared at me with her yellow eyes. Who was she?

[Guild clerk Lv.5]
Type: 1-common | HP: 99/99

A rookie then. She prepared to write my report with a long writing pen, but before that she asked, “Quest number?”

What? “No, you don’t understand, I don’t have-”

“No number, no quest. Next!” she shouted the last word, and I stood there as if I realized the bar has no alcohol. A hunter who was waiting behind tried to push me away and almost succeeded, despite his lower than average strength.

No way, I was waiting for over two hours to hear this? I slammed my fist on the counter. “I want to report a bandit outpost and I have scout-”

“No number, no quest,” she insisted with closed eyes and a satisfied smile. “Now go away, or I call guards.” She moved her hand towards the wall, where was waiting a few armed warriors. When she saw my pained expression and boiling emotions, she just beamed like she just served me a drink and didn’t know what was going on.

“Please, lady, I want to report-”

Now she almost unknowingly rubbed her hands and answered, “Denied!”

Wanna fight, you stupid girl? Do you think you can win? Our word contest commenced.

“Filling complaint section seventy-three.”

“Denied.”

“Filling complaint according to section sixty-three. You are rude.”

“Denied, I am not.”

“You need to confirm the last answer to my complaint. Requesting manager approval.”

“Denied. I am manager assistant with enough rights.”

What was this? Was she enjoying burring me in this mess? I didn’t want to do it, but she forced my hand. “Requesting assistance in emergency, section two hundred-one.”

“Denied. There in no emergency.”

“Requesting a confirmation of discovered threat - Bandits. Severity at least three.” I placed my ring on a crystal standing in the counter's corner. “See? Now process my request.”

[Emergency confirmed]

That stupid lady didn’t even glance at the result of my scan and yelled, “Denied. Guards!” Now she waved at the guard with two long swords at his back. That stupid brute revealed an amused smile and walked towards us to solve… me. The hunter behind me stopped trying to shoo me away a backed a few feet. Huh, look at you, hero.

“According to guild tradition, I hold a novice title and you insulted my honor. Requesting honor duel.”

“Den-” she wanted to say, but a golden light at least ten inches in diameter bound us together. Her eyes widened and system confirmed my guess.

[Duel approved.]

“Never mess with The Exploiter, bitch.”

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