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“While Ella is recovering, Aria will be her replacement.”

“Does she have healing spells?” A gruff man asked. “Ella could use healing spells.”

“She’s an alchemist. She can make potions for us.”

“I can buy potions. It doesn’t matter if you can’t drink them.” He responded.

“I do I have some healing ability too.” I interrupted their conversation.

The group of us were sitting in the adventuring guild. This particular one had a section built for eating. That wasn’t always the case. The main point of the guild was to offer missions to young adventurers. At least in the demon realm, those adventurers had to reach their second job or at least be in a team with second-tier of a certain rank. I had not been able to join when I had wanted to, so it was a bit of a shellshock that when I walked into the guild, I was handed my own badge so quickly.

More than that, I was already assigned a ‘B’ rank. Actually, my rank was ‘F’ because I had just joined, but the team was an ‘A’ rank. Thus, with me along, they would only be allowed to take on missions ‘B’ rank and lower. This was a compromise the adventuring guild made when a low rank joined a high-rank team. Until they proved they could handle the missions and raise their rank, then the team could only do missions a level under their ability that would otherwise have been considered easy for them. This allows them the room to protect the younger rank.

There were other protections for the lower-tier members too. For example, if I died on a mission, the team would have to pay a large penalty fee. This prevented people from carelessly dragging incompetent companions along, as well as Rookie killers like the group that had sold Min and me into slavery. Had we been official members of the guild, then the fee they would have paid for losing us would have made the profits from selling use negligible. This kept that kind of thing from happening.

This reminded me back with Ricardo and his team. They had saved me from the goblins in what felt like forever ago. He had been bringing along a recruit. He must have been paid a handsome amount of coin to be allowed to do so. I wondered if they had to pay a massive fee for losing him as well.

Of course, that put me in a negative light for this team I was joining. I was a high-risk target that needed to be protected, and if I died it’d cost them a lot of money. On top of that, they’d have to do easier missions for smaller rewards. There was a lot of reason for them to not want me to join, especially if I was unable to pull my own weight.

The other girl on the team hadn’t said anything, but the gruff man had put up an argument. Thus, we had ended up getting a table, and while they drank, the two men debated the merits of having me on the team. Bradrick was naturally arguing in my defense. Whatever he said would ultimately go, so it wasn’t really a debate, more the gruff man desperately trying to change Brad’s mind, while he was digging his heels in stubbornly. I had a feeling he was just humoring the friend, and if it carried on for too long, he’d shut him down decisively. Thus, I thought I’d speak up and give them another reason to use me. I had rarely spoken up in my defense so far, but it seemed to be as good of a time as any.

“Really?” Bradrick turned to me, a surprised look on his face.

“Ah… the casting is a bit… nontraditional,” I admitted while trying to look modest and reserved. “But I can heal. I can also dispel status misalignments.”

I added that last one at random, but the gruff man’s eyes perked up. “Seriously? That would be useful in certain dungeons.”

“See? I told you she’s a good pick.” Bradrick laughed like he had known this the whole time.

If Chief hadn’t lied though, Bradrick’s team only existed to entertain Bradrick. He’d ultimately do whatever he wanted, and they had no choice but to go along with his whims. I was now caught up in that, all because I could no longer stand being in that mansion with a love-sick puppy, where I frequently had to be reminded of that little monster that had sprouted out of me.

“Ah… that reminds me, I didn’t even introduce you all yet!” Bradrick cried out. “Aria, this girl is named Beedle, she’s a mage of the dark arts.”

“I-it’s not dark arts…” She finally looked up, speaking quietly before blushing.

Bradrick ignored her, breaking into another laugh. “She’s really quite powerful. She’ll handle the destructive spells while you can make her more mana potions. It’s like a match made in heaven!”

“I’m Rio.” The other man said. “I’m good at more physical work.”

As he said this, he cracked his knuckles. In fact, he did remind me of a bouncer I once knew at a club I frequented in college. I had heard that he got caught getting blown by a girl so that he would let her into the club. That girl turned out to be underage, and he lost his job shortly after. This guy kind of reminded me of him.

As Bradrick introduced the pair, my eyes naturally wondered about any demonic traits. I was disappointed to find the pair of them looking rather normal. Bradrick seemed to be the only one at the table with horns on his head. When he noticed me checking, he let out another laugh.

“Rio has just a pinch of demonic blood. He’s a fourth-generation and very diluted. Beedle isn’t even that. She’s completely human. However, she was born in the demon realm and grew up with demons, so I can vouch for her.”

“I understand,” smiling and nodding toward the girl.

She lowered her head and didn’t say anything in greeting.

Bradrick smacked the table. “What am I doing? I’m introducing you all, but we don’t even have a drink to toast?”

He grabbed his empty cup, walking to the bar to get more. After a moment, Rio stood up as well.

“I better go as well. He’ll forget to get any of us drinks if I allow him.” Rio said in a deep voice before turning away and joining the other man.

This left me alone with the other girl, who was sitting directly across from me. I had hoped to get along with the people in Bradrick’s party, but this girl had a gloomy atmosphere about her.

“It’s Beedle, right?” I asked, trying to give her my best smile.

“Do you think if you keep smiling, Bradrick will just eat your pussy if you ask?” Beedle suddenly asked, her voice filled with spite.

Rather than being caught off guard, I chuckled and leaned forward. “It works with most guys. I bet Brad will like the taste of my pussy.”

She finally raised her head, her pupils dancing wildly. “You bitch!”

“So, you have a thing for Bradrick, huh?” I asked, my finger tracing the grains of the wood on the table as I leaned toward her, the smile still on my face.

“That’s… it’s not like that…” She looked away. “He’s important to me. I don’t want some hussy coming in and ruining the dynamics of our team.”

“Dynamics of the team, or the relationship between you and him?” I asked quietly.

“I said there is nothing between us!” She hissed under her breath.

She was a pretty girl, but she had a slightly unclean quality about her. She looked like someone who didn’t take baths frequently but wore a lot of perfume to cover it up. She had a look of laziness about her. If I could read her right, while she might have convinced herself that she’s in love with Bradrick, I didn’t think that was the case at all. I shook my head.

“You’ve been sucking on his tit so long you’re afraid to let go.”

“Do you want to die?” She said, panting.

She was someone who liked what he gave her and how she made him feel. In short, she was a fangirl, just like Chief had warned me about. She didn’t love Bradrick. She loved not having to work hard while getting to watch him prance around like a hero. She loved the idea of being a hero, but any part of actually being a hero. Well, it wasn’t like I minded. I had a phase of wanting to be a hero for a while. I got over it though. That’s when a thought hit me.

“Hmmm… I wonder about the accident that put Ella up.”

She jerked in her seat, telling me everything I needed to know. I smiled.

“Oh? Was she threatening the dynamic of your group?”

“Sh-she wanted to leave Bradrick and take Rio with her. She was planning to tell him all kinds of hateful lies. He might have quit adventuring if he had a blow like that. I-“ She stopped herself as she realized she said too much.

“So, you are responsible?” I crossed my arms. “What was it? Throwing a spell that missed and hit your ally? Letting a baddy through the line you were holding?”

She had a smile that looked half like a grimace. “If I cast a spell, it hits the target I aim.”

She held up her hand in a manner that only I could see, and a small blue fireball formed in it.

“Are you threatening me?” I asked darkly.

“I’m just showing you your place. Be quiet, and don’t push your luck, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.” She hissed.

Her hand closed and the fireball snuffed out just as the two men returned to the table. They sat down on either side of us with mugs of alcohol for everyone. It was Rio that held the cups for Beedle and me.

“To our next mission!” Bradrick cried out.

All of us clicked our cups together. After Rio got a few drinks in him, he loosened up a bit and even apologized for being so confrontational earlier. He also felt me up slightly. I thought about rocking his world, but it was a bit too earlier for that, so I just politely pulled his hands away and retreated. After Rio was already very drunk, and even Bradrick was red-faced, he pulled out a scroll.

“What is that?” I asked.

“It’s our mission. ‘B’ ranked, unfortunately, too easy. We’ll get your level up soon. This alone is enough to bring you to ‘E’ rank. Once you’re up to ‘B’, we can start doing ‘A’ missions again.”

“Okay, so what is this too-easy mission?”

“Goblins. We need to clean out a group of goblins.” He explained.

“Goblins, huh?” I felt a strange sense of things going around full circle with the goblins.

I had started in this world by being taken by a group of goblins. My christening had been to be raped repeatedly by nasty goblins. Now, I was going into a goblin nest where I would help them kill and destroy them. It gave me a complicated feeling.

 “The nest is only about a day’s travel away, so we’ll start first thing in the morning.”

“So, close?”

“Yes, it is a bit strange for a nest to show up so close, which is why it’s a B request. Normally, even a C could take care of it. This will be a really easy one.” He smiled.

“Then, I guess I should return to the mansion until tomorrow?”

“Nonsense! We’re bonding as a party. While on a mission, we stay together! That’s the rules!” He declared.

“To the rules!” The drunk Rio called out, raising his cup before dropping his head back on the table.

“The guild has a few rooms on the second floor. They’ve let me rent them. I will share a room with Rio, and the two of you can share a room.”

Great, I had to share a room with the woman who just threatened to kill me. I already had a feeling this mission wasn’t going to be a smooth ride. If I only knew.

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