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Author: EnroItzal Original Source: Scribble Hub

“What was that about?” asked Lyra as she sat down on the couch provided alongside Erin.

Everything had transpired so fast. Minutes ago, Erin was caught with a breach of privacy but now, she was seated on a cozy couch.

The two weren’t in the Guild Master’s office but a small reception room on the first floor of The Guild building. The only individual present with the two was the reliable and competent Samira. Immediately after Erin was caught by the scantily clad woman for appraising without one’s consent, the two were escorted to this room by Sam. The Guild staff were swift in taking action, almost as if they anticipated the quandary, Erin thought.

Within the small room with ample space, Erin alleviated her vigilance and concentrated on her hearing. Going by the sound, Erin could tell Hegan and the dark-skinned woman was escorted to the Guild Master’s office. There were others with them, most probably their bodyguards, Erin surmised.

Sam let off a sigh before taking a seat on a similar couch across from them. “Apologies about that,” she said.

Erin furrowed her brows. She was sure she was the one who was at fault for prying into someone’s personal information without consent but here Sam was, apologizing to her instead.

“Sam, spare the courtesy. Just tell us what was that about?” Lyra said.

Sam took a glance at Erin before clearing her throat. “We weren’t actually looking for you.”

Both Lyra and Erin drew a blank on their gaze.

“Like when you called out to us among the crowd?” Lyra asked?

Sam nodded. “It was never our intention but… we had to know. We just want to gauge the merchants’ reaction.”

“The merchant…” Erin raised an eyebrow. “You mean that woman’s a merchant too?”

“One of the most powerful. Her name is Iris. Her influence spans to the thrones of kingdoms.”

“What’s someone like her doing in a backwater town like this?”

Sam shook her head. “We do not know either. She had never been part of the caravans. We were surprised too when we saw her among the other caravans. She was being quite subtly inquisitive about matters she wasn’t known to be involved with. Going by her questions, we assume she is looking for something or someone. Our first thought was—”

“Me,” Erin intervened with the last word.

Sam nodded. “They certainly looked surprised at a Fox-kin with three tails but… Lady Iris’ was simply dazed by the unexpected. It told us that you are not the reason for her presence.”

“That’s a relief,” Lyra breathed out and leaned her head against Erin’s shoulder, incurring a frown from the Fox-kin.

Sam smiled sweetly at Lyra’s one-sided affectionate display.

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Though it may have nothing to do with her, Erin couldn’t help but be bothered with the presence of Iris. Sam said the woman was looking for something or someone. If she herself wasn’t the reason, it was clear to her who was the next person on the suspected list.

Erin said nothing of it, however. It was something she could only discuss with the Guild Master alone behind closed doors.

“That Iris… what is she?” Lyra asked a question Erin was also dying to know. “She’s certainly no human or Fae.”

“She’s an Umbrun.”

While Lyra could only blink emptily at the revelation, Erin nodded knowingly albeit with amazement.

Lyra looked at Erin in surprise. “You know what’s an Umbrun?”

Erin had an offended look. “I’m not as daft as you think I am.”

“I am of the same belief as Miss Lyra here. I didn’t think you would know about Umbruns when even Miss Lyra doesn’t.”

“Who said I don’t?” Lyra shot Sam a glance.

“Do you?” Sam merely smiled back.

Lyra clicked her tongue as she remained silent.

Though Erin had nodded as if she had personally known an Umbrun, the truth was far from that notion. Umbrun was just another myth in her former world. A figure from fairy tales. Umbruns were the antithesis of Elves. While Elves were known to be graceful and elegant, Umbruns were vulgar and brutish. Before meeting Iris, Erin had thought them to be Demon-kin but the nuance lay in their conducts and some of their minor outer features.

Still, Erin didn’t have a good feeling about Iris.

With such thoughts swirling in Erin’s mind, Sam moved on to another topic. “Well, let’s cast those irrelevant matters aside for now.”

“Just like that?” Erin asked.

“Yes, Miss Erin. If you wish to know more, I’m sorry to say that I’m not permitted to tell you anything aside from what I had told you. I hope you can understand. If you’re worried about Lady Iris, you don’t have to. I’m sure she wasn’t actually offended as she is known to enjoy… pulling one’s leg, shall we say.”

Erin was a little bit irked at the superficial explanation but since she practically got off a predicament scott-free, Erin accepted the change of topic.

“Now, judging from your expressions, I assume the two of you have something significant to report?”

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“We’re not waiting for the Guild Master?” Erin asked.

“The meeting with the two would take an arduous amount of time. He has entrusted me a few of his tasks, including handling and processing your reports.”

Erin and Lyra exchanged glances, in which Lyra nodded. Erin then laid the Magic Relay rod onto the table between the couch.

Sam’s eyes widened at the item presented before her. It was apparent she knew what this item might be. “This is—”

“The rod used to control the Dire Wolf. It’s the same tool but this one’s… smaller.”

Sam had put on a pair of spectacles before Erin knew it. The lens glowed a faint cyan. “This is unbelievable,” she gasped at the results. “You found this where?”

“At the sites where Goblins were sighted. If I have to guess, the sightings and the marks the Goblins left are deliberate.”

“Deliberate?”

“Obviously, whoever it is, they have the means to control a being. It won’t be far-fetched to say that the Goblins might be under the same influence. It was a trap. I was ambushed by a puppet, from who I pulled this rod from.”

“A puppet?”

“Some low life bandit I encountered days before. I didn’t give them too much thought because they were in a situation bordering their demise. I didn’t think they would somehow live through that and became a puppet.”

“Controlling humans…” Sam’s voice turned grave. “And this bandit… is he…”

“Dead.”

“You’re sure this time?”

Before Erin could retort, Lyra cut in. “The bandit is in three pieces. Who knows?” She shrugged.

“I see.” Sam merely nodded without minding Lyra’s sudden intercession. “So someone or something might be controlling the Goblins. This explains the Goblins’ odd behaviors.”

Erin and Lyra waited for Sam’s verdict. Lyra was trying to get a feel on Erin’s tails for the entire conversation but Erin eventually trapped her hand under her own. It wasn’t a complete loss for Lyra, however.

“It has become more dire than we feared,” Sam finally spoke. “This is a heavy subject. One that I can not decide without the presence of a Guild Master. Putting that aside, The Guild has a request.”

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“For the two of us?” Erin asked.

Sam glimpsed awkwardly at Lyra. “Sadly no,” she answered.

Lyra leaned forward. “Why?” she demanded.

“Before I tell you that, let me explain the situation. This happened long before the confirmation of Goblins. At that time, the Goblins sightings were just whispers and rumors on the horizon. The Guild received a request from a village nearby, just over the hill after the dark woods. They claimed that their livestock and crops were decimated by some small palish green creatures, incessantly every night. Some of their structures were even involved in the decimation. Their night watchmen were killed or gravely injured. The village is one the town’s major suppliers of milk and eggs. We sent two adventurers to investigate, one of them is Marcus.”

“So that’s where he went.” Lyra nodded in understanding. Noticing Erin’s baffled gaze, she explained, “Marcus is the second highest level adventurer in this town at level fourteen.”

“Yes, he is,” Sam attested. “However, it has been more than a week since he left and we have not heard from him since.”

Lyra fell silent. Erin gulped in apprehension.

“Which is why we have a request for you, Miss Erin. We’re sending you to the village.”

“Me?”

“You have proven yourself to be more capable than your level suggests. Of course, you will not be alone in this quest.”

“Then, why am I not requested?” Lyra questioned.

Sam cast a patient look. “Because we need you here, Miss Lyra. With the Goblins roaming around, we can’t just send off anyone without any consideration for the worst.Your… ability is highly valued.”

“I wasn’t aware that I’m that highly valued.”

Sam smiled. “All of the adventurers are valued profoundly. We just don’t say it to anyone or everyone.”

“Why not?”

“Compliments, praises, commendations, they tend to get to the adventurers’ head. You have met Kane, Freed, and Cal. What do you think would happen if we uttered even just a few praises to them?”

Lyra scoffed but she got the message. “But what about Nivia? Can’t The Guild send her instead?”

“Nivia is unavailable.”

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Erin creased her brows. “Explain.”

“The merchants have requested her service as an escort. We do not know why but somehow, they caught wind of the Goblin rumors and they are now hoarding the best adventurers to themselves, until they reached the safe borders of the next town.”

“She can’t reject it?”

“For the sake of this town, she might just have to accept it. A good portion of the town’s livelihood is at stake. These merchants’, their opinions meant a lot. We can’t risk offending them. Besides, her relations with the merchants will affect the Faerie-kin’s reputation.”

Can’t risk offending them… Well, oops. It’s kinda too late for me.

Erin looked away.

“These merchants don’t sound like good people,” Lyra remarked. “And we’re treating them this well because they have gold.”

Sam smiled sympathetically. “It’s not our place to decide where they sit on a moral scale, Miss Lyra.”

Lyra clicked her tongue but she slouched back to the couch.

“What say you, Miss Erin?” Sam asked.

“What say I?” Erin questioned back. “Of course, it’s a yes. People’s lives are in danger and I’m the best possible choice to help at the current moment. If I said no, I don’t think I will have a good night’s sleep again.”

“Thank you, Miss Erin.” Sam bowed from her seat. She sighed in relief. “It would have been problematic had you declined.”

“Well, I have already accepted it. No use lamenting about a future that will never exist now. Anyways, has it already been decided who will be the ones accompanying me?”

“It has. Do be reminded, our choices were limited. We didn’t gather the strongest. We gathered the best for the current situation.”

Lyra had an adverse reaction towards the ones who were going to be Erin’s companions.

Sam’s smile diminished in vigor.

“Kane?” Lyra raised an eyebrow.

“God, no. Of course, it’s not him. Kane and his cohorts can barely trust each other, let alone anyone else.”

“Then who?” It was Lyra that kept on asking.

“There’s Freed.”

Erin’s tails moved before Lyra could, preventing her from rising from her seat in anger. The feat was sudden and astonishing, even to Erin herself. Once again, she acted on instinct.

Sam was startled by the development but she quickly recomposed herself. “Miss Lyra, I have to ask you to be calm.”

“I am calm.”

“No, you’re not,” Erin argued.

Lyra had a face as if she had been betrayed but it didn’t last long as comfort of Erin’s furry tails was quick to douse her anger.

“Continue,” Erin urged.

Sam cleared her throat. “Besides Freed, there are…” She paused and looked at Lyra who was ready to snarl at the next mentioned individual. “Aedan….”

Lyra was about to yell out her disapproval but her voice was muffled by Erin’s tail.

“Aedan isn’t an adventurer, as far as I’m aware,” Erin said.

“He isn’t but Mister Geron insisted that his role is essential. He could be of a huge help towards the repairs of the village’s structures.”

Erin held a dubious notion but she didn’t let it surface. It was obvious there was an ulterior motive for that decision but Erin kept it to herself.

“There are also Cal and Selene,” Sam continued.

Erin widened her eyes. “Those two?”

“Before you dispute, Miss Erin, let it be known that the Guild are well aware of their abilities.”

Erin waited for Sam to finish before giving her remark.

“I’m sure you are already exposed to Mister Aedan’s capabilities, no?”

Erin nodded, incurring a questioning glance from Lyra but that was all she could do as she was still restrained to the couch with Erin’s tails.

“This quest will be a good experience for them. As for Freed… well, you have seen his attitude. I’m sure you know why.”

Erin smiled wryly as a response. It was clear Freed was requested to accompany Erin to prevent him from making any troubles in the presence of these merchants.

“But what about Kane?” Erin asked. “He’ll cause trouble, more than Freed, I dare assume.”

“We trust that the merchants will keep him in line.”

Erin raised an eyebrow.

Sam continued. “As long as the merchants keep paying him well, he’ll even wag his tail and bark for them.”

“What about Freed then? The merchants can’t do anything about him?”

“Freed is more worried about where he can sheathe his sword than gold.” Sam smiled wryly. “I’m sure you have already seen the caravans. Merchants have brought along their pretty daughters and beautiful wives, and The Guild doesn’t have anyone to spare watching after him for even a day.”

“And someone like that is going to be part of the team?”

Lyra nodded furiously as if to agree with Erin’s point.

“You and Aedan are there. Selene is outside his preference. His skills are not extraordinary but he is a little better than the average. Despite what you heard about him, he’s not too bad of an adventurer.”

“I see…” Erin mused.

“Anything else, Miss Erin?”

“No,” she answered.

Not for now, at least.

“Good. Then you’ll be going to the village on the morrow. The sooner the better, I’m sure you can understand.”

Erin nodded. “ I understand but what of this town?”

“The merchants brought their own guards and none of them are callow. The town will be fine during the stay of the merchants. Whoever is controlling the Goblins and monsters, it’s safe to say they have some degree of intelligence. I’m sure they won’t make any move with the merchants’ presence. However, the same couldn’t be said for that village.”

Lyra somehow struggled her mouth out of Erin’s restraining tails. “Then by that logic, I should be able to accompany them, right?” She was immediately shut up again by Erin.

“Like I have said, Miss Lyra, you are needed here. Though a major clue has been found, the Goblin investigation is still ongoing. Miss Nivia is occupied. Miss Erin has been re-allocated. If you’re gone too, The Guild would need to find someone new to confide the Goblin situation in. And we prefer the circumstances being kept under wraps and the knowledge known to fewer individuals.”

Hearing her explanation, Lyra eventually relented.

“I hope you understand, Miss Lyra. We don’t mean to offend.”

Sensing her hostility dissipating, Erin released her restraint on Lyra.

“I was under the impression adventurers have a lot of freedom,” Lyra retorted.

“You’re confusing freedom with lack of inhibition and regulation, Miss Lyra.”

Lyra grumbled but she didn’t argue any further. Not because she understood but simply because she didn’t want to be found out that she understood nothing of what Sam had told her.

“I guess that concludes the briefing?” Erin asked.

Sam let out an apologetic smile. “Yes. I am sorry that I couldn’t bear better tidings.”

“It’s alright, Sam. I don’t think it’s fair to blame the messenger. Besides, we’re not going to war here.”

Sam didn’t have anything to say to that. She didn’t want to jinx it.

“Anything else I should take heed of?”

There was a brief pause before Sam eventually said, “expect the worst for the village, though we are obligated to tell you to remain on the bright side.”

“Hmm,” Erin mumbled in response.

“That’s just the formality, Miss Erin. In truth, like I have already told you, we haven’t heard from the adventurers for a long time, not even from a single one of the villagers. Not even a letter by pigeon. So… with all the evidence considered, the worst is the only thing we could infer.”

“If it’s that dire, shouldn’t we move now?”

“Razor Grizzly,” Lyra answered.

“Dusk is near,” Sam said. “Not only is it unsafe to move in the night due to the monsters, mainly the King of the Forest but it would also raise numerous questions for the town folks and these questions often lead to assumptions, and assumptions lead to panic.”

“Well, let’s hope we’re not too late by tomorrow.”

“We can only hope, Miss Erin.”


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