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Grim topics indeed, but it served well enough to get a grasp on Meira’s character. Cassius followed her from behind as their conversation dwindled down, his gaze briefly caught by the swishing and swaying of her tail before being redirected back to his surroundings. She considered herself one step above mercenaries, so she disdained the idea of monetizing her violence for a private group’s interest. She thought little of treasure hunters too, so she wasn’t someone entirely driven by profit at the risk of her own life. Her work pertained towards slaying monsters that would prove a problem for the local populace, or in patrolling such wretched places like these in order to provide some form of protection for the living and dignity to the dead.

Fundamentally, a decent sort. He supposed if she wasn’t, he’d have been lead to an alleyway and gutted by now. Or just knocked unconscious and shipped off to a slave merchant.

That was enough to send a message then.


The translucent window emerged once more, and he glided through the messages from C and Slime that he had missed. Nothing of importance, and nothing that he would be able to change now. Oh well.

The Adventurer’s Guild exists, and Meira, the woman I left with, is part of them. Slimes are categorized as monsters, but are thought of as useful for cleaning up corpses. The city’s name is Neir, the country’s name is Cethaim. King Selm is the top of the hierarchy, and nobles manage territories beneath him. There are no ongoing wars of note. A convenient excuse for our appearance here is a ‘teleportation’ spell. You can make money as a treasure hunter in ‘dungeons’ here or pick up odd jobs as an adventurer, but if both of you finished school, you would likely be able to get a job inside the city.

Also, my name is Cassius.
To: C, Slime

He pressed 'send', and in that moment, as the High Elf wiped away the screen, something stuck out to him. It wasn't something in the air, nor something that he could hear, and certainly not something that stuck out to him as something he could see, but rather...an anomaly. The presence of something misplaced, even here amongst the destitute and decrepit. Nothing more, perhaps, than just a bad feeling, except a weighty enough impression that his golden eyes turned towards a lump of nondescript garbage piled up in the space between two half-collapsed shacks.


He kicked the pile, and the mess spread out further. The carcasses of cooked vermin, scraps of decayed vegetables, rags too soiled and damaged to be worth even cleaning. A litany of trash designed to be too disgusting to interact with, but organic enough that the vermin would take care of it so that you didn't need to.

And within the pile laid a package of something, wrapped up in a leather of unknown origin and bound with a thick cordage that seemed to suck up the orange light of the afternoon.

"Does this count?"


It was a creature designed with murder in mind, a great wolf formed from shadow and mist, cleaving through the air with a bladed tail while shards shot out in rapid succession, so powerful that they sunk in the dirt entirely.

And it spoke too, a thoughtful rasp that didn’t match its savage attacks.

“Adapa,” Otis spoke, springing up from the dive-roll he executed to avoid the arrows, “record.”

The Door remained present, a perpetual escape route that would be a death sentence for any enemies to enter, and his Personal Barrier would ensure that he’d be able to absorb at least a few hits if he had to. Information, then, was what he wanted. The arcane tome opened up beside him, burning with that heatless flame, as Hildegunde’s own bullet cracked through the air.

“Only if we leave,” the Strigidae replied, chambering his firearm with ensorcelled bullets. “Watch your eyes.”

The trigger was pulled, and essence-imbued steel flew through the air, the heat generated by air friction triggering a particular reaction mid-flight as it exploded in a blinding flash of light. It was only a distraction, a pause that’d allow him to break up the flow of combat as he aimed his gun skywards next, sending a second bullet upwards past the canopy. That one exploded too, a burst of brilliance to serve as a signal.

“Best to surrender now!” he called out to the shadow-wolf. “Wouldn’t take much longer for Alto to arrive. And amongst the student population, there’s at least ten who have Ethos specialized in hunting and tracking, so it’s a waste of effort to try escaping.”

Lies, all of them.

If conflict could be won with empty threats though, that would be for the best.


He was beginning to see what it was then. The Guild existed as a job board, perhaps similar to Upwork or Craigslist, while adventurers were fundamentally freelancers whose trade generally involved violence or travel. Adventurers leveraged the reputation of the Guild in order to get work, while the Guild got a cut of the profits in return. No doubt, there was some sort of vetting service at play, and perhaps more famous adventurers would find themselves working directly for specific employers, but that’d be the gist of it. In the meanwhile, those who eschewed from working with the Guild were still considered adventurers, but spent their time more as treasure hunters, digging through ruins for the gold of dead kings or the like. He had heard of treasure hunters breaking into pyramids; greed and sacrilege were commonalities of humanity, after all.

And, of course, with treasure hunting came sudden deaths. Flammable gas, decaying structures, and perhaps monsters too. Or maybe you just run out of money, after coming across such worthless things as just rusted armor and dry bones, and you end up starving to death instead.

“But people who’d do such things are optimists. There’s only fortune to be had.”

And those who weren’t optimists were snakes, in their own way. Those with a clearer view, indeed, ended up as…

“I was in finance,” Cassius replied. He paused a moment afterwards, trying to figure out how to explain that to someone who didn’t live in a world of global trade and public companies, where the profit of a single company could be worth more than the GDP of a nation. “There are people who give money to businesses, in exchange for the future possibility of getting that money back at a greater or lesser amount depending on how that business develops. My work is in finding out which business is most worth giving money to, before others notice it too. Or do the reverse, and know when to take the money back before the business crashes and burns.”

They shared in the bitterness, perhaps. It was only here that Cassius let out a laugh, like a crack emerging in a frozen lake.

“Fundamentally, I help make more money for people with too much money, so they can spend it on vanity projects. Does that make sense?”


The country, Cethaim. The city, Neir. A feudal ruling system, with a King Selm and the nobles that likely managed the cities or provinces. School had stopped teaching medieval history after the eighth grade, but media had kept the knowledge alive regardless. No war though, so it must be a time of peace.

And regarding the cat-eared girl’s response to his own story…

“Too many possibilities,” he echoed.

That was an apt way of describing the difference between where he came from and where he now was. Amoeba the size of basketballs, possessing human intellect. Heads-up displays invisible to all others, yet capable of assigning numerals to vague values. And, of course, mercenaries that hunted monsters while taking the form of lanky youths. It was fictional, and perhaps it was made even more fictional by how ‘C’ had predicted all this through his own consumption of media.

“I’ve no problem with testing. As for the other one, I’ll help him out afterwards, if he wants work.” The elf retracted his hand. Her grip was solid. He felt the calluses, formed by the hilt of that two-handed sword. “And mine…Cassius.”

He blinked, eyes flickering upwards briefly as he reconsidered his thoughts, his words.

Ah, no. It made enough sense. In this feudal, miserable age, where there were no cars, no internet, no central heating, no plumbing, no good food, no entertainment, there was nothing to distract from the mind-numbing nature of ‘work’.

If he died and returned to a world with more possibilities but less quality of life, and if there was no guarantee that his modern education would mean much to aristocrats and those who had wealth, why should he be so eager to delve back into an office job?

Why indeed?

“If you’ve got nothing else to do but patrol, would you mind telling me about your life as an adventurer?”
It’s finals week for me, so yah, I’ll update on Sunday or something, probs.
Well, we were going fairly fast at the start, and for a fairly long while too. Covered a lotta ground then.


“Because I don’t live here.”

The answer was direct, without hesitation. Trust was built upon the impression of being straightforward, without any attempt at bullshit or deflection, after all. He matched her gaze, holding it briefly as he recalled everything that C had mentioned they ought to figure out. The Adventurer’s Guild existed, and with a positive enough impression, he’d be able to get a reference from someone who was associated with them.

“I’ll tell you more if you tell me about this place and yourself. The other one in the shack was worried about demonic kings and wars.”

If she agreed, of course, the elf would begin speaking himself, his gaze turning towards their surroundings once more as he followed her patrol route through the winding corridors made by the shantytown’s residents.

“Where I came from, everyone is of one race and you spend perhaps a quarter of your life in schooling before you’re expected to obtain a profession, where you would spend the remaining three-quarters of life contributing to society and the betterment of your family through work. If you’re lucky, you’d have opportunities to travel and relax, but for most, they need to work hard just to pay for food and rent.” Unless one was fortunate enough to be born with wealth, connections, or talent. Or lucky enough to have risked it all on an investment that paid off. But even that could be lost with a surprise medical bill, a downturn in the economy, pandemics and technological advances blasting apart preconceptions like a double-gauge shotgun. “So, for many, the space between the end of the first quarter and the start of the three quarters is where they find an opportunity to enjoy their lives while they are young and fresh.”

That wasn’t his own experience. He didn’t have the space for such a whimsical adventure, even if he had booked that flight and flown on that plane. He lifted his gaze towards the sky, one so desperately blue, one so uncaring for the desolation of those beneath it. Was Heaven real in this world? Was Heaven just another person’s Earth?

“That’s what I did, but instead of enjoying anything, something I don’t quite understand happened to me, and when I woke up, I found myself in that shack with the other guy.” The elf turned back to his companion. “The distance between where I am and where I was is uncrossable, so now, I suppose, I’ll have to find work.”

His palm turned towards her.

“And a knowledgeable guide would work wonders there. Especially if she’d work for free.”

He did not smile.


“He’s the cautious sort. I wouldn’t expect him to get himself into trouble, so long as trouble doesn't find him.”

Though he didn’t really know C either, outside of immediate impressions and the fact that the youth remained inside that rickety old shelter with the slime. More notifications for messages were popping up in the corner of his vision, but the elf did not attend to them yet, only turning slightly to cast a gaze through the shoddy woodwork of the shack towards the others. The cat-eared girl spoke of hunting monsters, and one of them was stuck in a body that could be considered monstrous. The other, of course, was waiting for nightfall before advancing outwards, and they were all capable of communicating through some form of holographic display, so at this point…

“If you’re stuck in this area, I’ll join you. Need to get my bearings of this place either way.”

And with that, he strode in sync with the patrolling swordswoman, avoiding puddles of stagnant water and piss that were too deep to risk with the sandals on his feet. Now that the elf was moving properly, his clothes really did feel mismatched with his environment. The fabric was richer than what he was accustomed to, silken against his skin, while he honestly couldn’t comprehend how it was wrapped around his body. It reminded of a Grecian or Roman robe, the extra cloth thrown over a shoulder, and its coloration was a white that sparked like quartz in daylight.

“I’ve heard of an organization called an ‘Adventurer’s Guild’ before. Would you be one of them then? The type to hunt…slimes and such, when you’re not keeping the peace?”


It was intense, the type of poverty present, but it was clean too, if he had to describe it in a way that differentiated such things from the poverty he had seen before. Their bodies were skeletal or their stomachs distended, but they weren’t perpetually hunched over, and their bones were still strong enough to support their flesh. Some nursed wounds, others nursed hunger, but they didn’t push around shopping carts filled with garbage, and they still had sense enough to keep quiet in their own misery, to minimize the space their bodies took in these ghettos.

In the distance, he could see city walls, proper walls to keep out those who could not afford to live within them. If there was any organization that C would be willing to trust, it’d be there. However...

A voice, a shadow, and a girl, dressed a way that seemed to intentionally highlight her stomach, which certainly wasn’t so concave as the other destitute individuals present. He glanced back up at the shack behind him. Unstable and rickety, yet capable of supporting a cat-eared human’s weight. His golden eyes stayed longer on the weapon strapped to her back. And in the other corner of his vision? Artificial notifications popping up already; C or the slime must be coaching him about the situation, not that he would be able to read those messages now.

“No, I wouldn’t be too surprised,” the High Elf replied, stepping sideways away from the doorway in case C had any interest in leaving. Though where he came from, the loudest ones were usually just ignored and quietly disdained. “The other one’s just happy to be alive though; he settled down quickly enough, as you can hear.”

He motioned towards her with one hand. At her healthy complexion, her colorful, clean clothing, at the sword that could make plenty of meals if sold or used.

“You appear mismatched with our surroundings in the same way though. Are you part…” His eyes narrowed in thought. She didn’t have the look of police, but approached loud shacks regardless. “…of some sort of community safety patrol?”


“Pointless question to ask,” the elf replied, taking the youth’s hand in a business-like shake. “I died before the election was over.”

C proved himself to be the talkative sort, in the way that people who don’t get to talk too much are. Information flowed like a broken faucet outwards, based off of consumed media. LoTR was recognizable, at least, but he had the sense that he himself was not something akin to Tolkein’s elves, despite his heightened awareness of his surroundings, despite the curious intuition that told him that he and C both were aware of the dangling board hanging off the shack.

“And yes, I can see that.”

The status report was reasonable enough, though his physical limits felt vague at the moment. He clenched and unclenched his fists, wondering what the numbers translated into, but no matter what, they seemed on the small side of things. And Luck? His surroundings did not appear to be that of a ‘fortunate’ one, unless it was for the better they were not immediately presented before the royalty of this world. Unless? No. It was definitely for the better.

He stroked his chin still, a thumb grazing far-too smooth skin. Then, he stated the obvious.

“So we need to leave after all. And trust that the ‘NPCs’ aren’t hostile when we ask things of them. Ok.” A shallow nod, then a turn towards slime that was once-more bound to the ground. “And ‘add contact slime, C’.”

Without any further delay, he headed out the shelter, to, as C spoke before ‘get their bearings’.
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