I stumbled out of the room and down the stairway the next morning. My memory was a bit of a jumbled mess. The common room had been cleaned up from what I remembered the night before. The people who didn’t have a place to sleep were kicked out on the street, and the maids had done their job cleaning and sweeping. As I stumbled to a table and ordered breakfast, I received a grin or two a few other guests awake this early in the morning.
As to Bryson, he was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t the only one. Perhaps Fanreek had been kicked out in the middle of the night as well. At the very least, I didn’t see his ugly face lying under the table anymore. I sighed as I ate my breakfast in silence. It was at that point that I noticed a young man was looking at me. I lifted my eyes to him and raised an eyebrow.
“What is it?” I asked as politely as I could manage.
“You really are beautiful.” The man spoke with a strange accent which flickered at my memory.
“Oh… thank you…” I added the blush to my cheeks.
It was normal for a girl to feel flattered when she was complimented, right? My beauty was something I had grown so used to, that it was rare I noticed the stares and looks I received unless I went out of my way to observe them. I knew my charm was game-breaking and even without it, or perhaps it was in part because of it, I was also a very beautiful woman with a nearly perfect body. My skin had never been clearer, I hadn’t noticed a single pimple in months! At least, that was something about this world that I could be happy about. Either way, this sort of flattery was also something I came to ignore.
The only reason I noticed his expression was because it was somewhat intense. He was looking at me not quite in the same way is most men. I wasn’t exactly sure what the difference was until he spoke a second later.
“You’re a slave, I’d like to buy you.” The man spoke so casually I had to blink.
Instantly, my hand raised part way to the collar around my neck. My expression darkened slightly as I realized what the look on his face was. It was an appraisal. He was looking at me like you might look at something you were looking to buy. I wasn’t just a pretty girl he was admiring, I was good he was contemplating buying. Despite my enslavement, I had never seen myself as an object in this world. Suddenly, the way this man treated me irritated me.
Now that I got a better a look at him, he looked slightly posh. He certainly didn’t have the sophisticated appearance of many of the noblemen I had met, but he had to have a position a bit better than your typical adventurer. He was a medium sized man with fairly basic features. He might have been handsome, but I didn’t notice such things as much as I used to. What was most important was that he was a man who looked like he had money. More than that, he looked like a man who wasn’t used to being told ‘no’. As far as his race, without using Examine on him, I couldn’t tell. Many demons hid their animal parts cleverly and you could never be certain. I made it a habit of not using Examine very often. Most people could tell when they were being Examined, and it was often considered disrespectful. The social situations where Examine was acceptable were few and narrow.
I put on a sweet smile to hide the dark look in my eyes. “Trust me, you couldn’t afford me.”
I immediately stood up and walked away. The man stood there staring at me with his mouth open. Meanwhile, the bartender and a few others near enough to hear chuckled at the scene. They had all seen me the night before, and while I couldn’t say they would look out for me, they felt positive about me and enjoyed seeing the other guy knocked down a peg.
“Your master said he’s going back to camp. He told me to tell you that you’ve earned a day off, and to return to camp by tomorrow night so you can serve at the talks.”
I stopped and turned back. “Is that all?”
The bartender smirked. “He said sometin’ about staying out of trouble, but I’ve got a feeling it wouldn’t matter what I say.”
I gave him an appreciative smile. “What is that supposed to mean? I’m always a low-profile girl.”
Bartender chuckled with a grin, otherwise not reacting to my comment. What’s with that vote of no confidence? I straightened my back and pushed out the door. It was clear that Typhon was up to something. Letting a slave have a free day was something I found difficult to believe. Perhaps, he was just looking to see what I would do. If I fled, then I would no longer be trustworthy. Even if the collar couldn’t control me, it probably had some kind of locator. I’m sure if I fled, I would have to keep running. Thus, I felt like this must be some kind of test. What would the slave Aria make of her freedom?
“H-hey, wait!” The man who had offered to buy me stood up and followed me outside.
My exchange had given the posh man enough time to recover. I had barely made it halfway down the street by the time he caught me and grabbed my arm. I schooled the annoyance I felt. I was beyond slipping up and showing my expressions. Then again, perhaps I’d be better off showing my annoyance. Then again, as a slave, I truly had no rights. Any great amount of disrespect and I could potentially be hurt. As a slave, it made more sense to be respectful. All of those thoughts went through my head in the instant I turned to. In the end, I chose to give him a polite smile.
The man seemed slightly agitated despite the degree of respect I had already shown him. He straightened his back and nodded.
“That’s better. I’m a representative of the merchant’s guild. I have a great deal of money. Your beauty would serve me well-“
“You’d have to ask my master about that. He’s General Typhon. I warn you though, he has a temper and doesn’t like to see his things played with.” I gave the lie, using General Typhon’s name to free me from this predicament.
“General… a demon?” the man made a disgusted look, showing he was likely a human. “Those demons dare keep human slaves? I think I better just take you with me. No worry, I’ll send this General a recompense for you. You’re lucky I found you-“
Finally becoming irritated as the man pulled on me, my hand reached out a grabbed his balls. He immediately stopped, his eyes widening as my hand grasped softly on his crotch.
“Rock a Bye,” I said in a light whisper.
His eyes rolled up in his head, and he suddenly collapsed to the ground. Few people were truly paying attention this early in the morning, so I quickly walked away. I raised up and looked at my palm in amazement. Was it really that easy? I little fondling and I could activate the skill? Of course, there was only a 70% chance it would work. That meant there was also a 30% chance I would have been left there staring at him with my hand on his balls.
“When I level, perhaps I’ll try to put it in Rock A Bye.”
I still had the theory that I could evolve special skills using points. It’s something I had always left as a random chance, but I was pretty certain it was something I could do. I just needed to gain a level to test it. I had not leveled up is quite a long time. My lifestyle in the army camp had decreased my sexual encounters to practically nothing. Leveling wasn’t really important for me anymore, but could I use my day off to gain a level?
That didn’t necessarily mean I needed to go have a bunch of sex. I could always level the way normal people level. I had the ability to use a sword now. I could go on a quest and hunt some monsters. Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be? My smile grew as I considered it. Before, the adventuring guild had rejected my credentials because I wasn’t a 2nd classer. Now, I was a second class!
I immediately started asking around for the adventuring guild. Nearly a year in this world, and I’d get to go on my first adventure! The town wasn’t particularly large, so it only took about ten minutes before I stepped inside the adventurer’s guild. I breathed in the atmosphere, the people, and the environment. It was a pleasant place, where men and women of talent offered to put their lives on the line to fulfill the requests of towns and nobles. It smelled of alcohol, sweat, and men. Basically, I felt completely at home.
Browsing through the mission board, I finally found a quest that looked like one I could do. I still had a guild card which I had registered with Min an eternity ago. It wasn’t that I couldn’t become a member of the guild, it was just that I couldn’t take on any quests. I would have had to join a group, and I would have essentially become their bag girl and worked as an apprentice under them. I might have done it, but there was already a negative stigma against female adventurers, and having a girl apprentice under several men was something the guild wouldn’t allow. The chances of a woman being taken advantage of were too high, and regardless of my insistence that I didn’t mind even if they did, eventually, my only option was to fight for my second class.
“Aria?” A voice spoke up, causing me to glance up in surprise.
Speaking of the rarity of female adventurer’s, a group suddenly emerged in front of me. It consisted of one man and three women. All of them were familiar.
“Je-jerard?” I nearly forgot the name, but this was the boy who had boughten a bunch of potions from me back in Magroove nearly three months ago.
“You’re alive?” a busty woman I believe was named Rosetta said, her face twisting in disgust. “Knifefall said you lot were killed in transit.”
Jerard’s eyes flashed and hit his hand. “I knew those bastards were lying!”
“Ah, it’s no big deal!” I held up my hands. “I managed to complete my mission… well… my companion… she…”
I looked away, my face tightening. Despite that dream last night, I couldn’t fight the reality. My Min must have perished. Voyeur should work had Min still been alive.
“That’s the…” Jerard shook his head with a blush. “I apologize. If I had just taken you like I wanted to, you never would have…”
“I-it’s not your fault, Jerard…” The small one named Mia spoke up.
“Don’t beat yourself up, my lord.” Daria nodded.
I raised an eyebrow. “My lord?”
Jerard let out a noise. “Ah! She… she just calls me that. Don’t let Daria confuse you. I’m not a lord. It’s just some things happened since we last met…”
“Yeah… things…” I nodded in agreement, then looked up. “I’m a second classer now! I was looking at taking on a quest!”
“Re-really! Awesome!” Jerard smiled, instantly recovering from the damp mood. “We were just going to take a quest too! This town is way more expensive than we were expecting, especially with the peace talks going on. Where is your group?”
“Eh? No… just me…” I shrugged.
Jerard shook his head. “No… don’t you see at the bottom, you can’t take a quest here without a group of three or more. It’s a requirement in Whitewinter!”
“Seriously!” I gave a cry.
“This is the borderlands of the demon and human realm! The border disputes prevent monsters from being hunted efficiently. Monsters get stronger in this no man’s area. The peace talks are a rare opportunity where adventurers can hunt these beasts without worrying about slavers and such!”
I grimaced, the idea that this area would have more monsters did make a sort of sense. Then again, with the massive armies camped nearby, wouldn’t they clean up all the monster threats? No… not really. This world wasn’t like a video game despite the status. Monsters didn’t aimlessly rush out a fight people. In fact, a massive army like that would terrify any sensible monster, even a high level one. They would likely be hiding in their caves.
“W-would you like to join us?” Jerard suddenly asked.
“Jerard!” Rosetta snarled.
“Ah!” Mia reached out and grabbed the back of his shirt.
“Are you sure?” I asked, eyeing the glares from the other three women.
“The potions you sold us really saved us out of a few jams. In reality, they were actually quite excellent. Once we headed north a bit, I was able to sell one potion for the cost I paid for all of the others together. I always felt a little guilty how much we made out from that transaction. The alchemist even said that you must have been a master given the quality…”
“They tasted funny…” Daria frowned.
“Really, I liked the taste…” Rosetta shrugged, then glared again. “But just because she can make good potions doesn’t mean she can fight!”
“Ah? But can’t we give her a chance?” the way he glanced at the three women, he seemed to instantly influence them with a single look.
Maybe his charm was as dangerous as mine? I still couldn’t see what made these women simper and heel around him. He was a rather ordinary guy and didn’t impress me much at all. He was a pretty boy, but I had met many pretty boys.
“Alright…” I smiled lightly, keeping my thoughts to myself. “Show me an adventure.”