In the early morning, the capital city, Berthe, was not quiet at all. Guards were patrolling the city, and merchants were diligently preparing their shops for business. On the west city entrance it was more noisy because this was where the headquarter of the biggest mercenary guild of Amparkland was located. This was a paradise for mercenaries and adventurers. Also, a road not far away already had heavy traffic of bustling horses and carriages. A variety of shops lined the road, purchasing items from mercenaries and then selling them. The west part of Berthe also housed the biggest auction house and slave market, so of course it was the most lively part of the city. Naturally, there were many powerful people hidden in the crowd as well. 1
"Miss, why did you come here?" Jean asked, looking confusedly at Claire walking toward the Mercenary Guild.
"To register as a mercenary." Claire didn't bother to explain. By becoming a mercenary, you could complete tasks that suited your level and in turn, get gold coins. As a magician, magic supplies were always exceptionally expensive and their materials were even more rare. Just because you had money doesn't mean you could go to any magic shop and get the supplies you wanted. Magic materials that mercenaries risked their lives for would be auctioned off at the auction house. Those prices would naturally be off the charts. Claire didn't want to ask for money in order to buy these expensive materials.
Jean looked at Claire's aloof face, stopped talking, and walked towards the Mercenary registry.
Claire quietly waited in the Mercenary Guild's hallway and looked at a wall filled with lists of tasks. From commissions to finding common medicinal herbs, to killing formidable magic beasts, the tasks' difficulty levels were from F to A. Even higher were S and even SS; they were posted there too. But the highest level of difficulty on the list, SSS, was blank. Up until now, the most difficult mission had never appeared. In the hall, mercenaries of all classes clustered into various small groups and were discussing something.
This was a world that Claire was unfamiliar with.
Looking for heartbreak grass?2 F class, the lowest level task. This type of herb grows just beyond the entrance of Gale Gorge. Newly registered mercenaries can only accept this kind of task. Well, a hundred gold coins is better than nothing. Just when Claire was thinking about making Jean take on this task, she heard a sharp whistle. Then, an ear-piercing voice sounded near Claire. "Yo! Beautiful lady, what are you doing here alone?"
Claire's shiny blonde hair, jade green eyes, and refined, one-of-a-kind face3 were naturally striking. Beautiful girls being harassed in this place was very common.
Claire glanced sideways and saw a tall and sturdy man who snickered while walking towards her, three young men following. The sturdy man in the front was obviously a warrior, and the three young men behind him were archers and magicians. The surrounding people carried on what they were doing without so much as a glance. Obviously this kind of situation had happened before. Female mercenaries, especially pretty ones, generally came with fellow mercenaries. It was unwise for female mercenaries to come alone to this place where the good and bad were mixed together.4
The tall and sturdy man looked Claire up and down unscrupulously. As for the younger men behind him, some looked helpless, some looked indifferent, and some treated it as if it was normal.
"Accepting tasks," Claire concisely said.
"Aha, so you're also a mercenary." After hearing that, the tall and sturdy man became a little excited. Which mercenary group was this petite beauty from? "Pretty little lady, why not join our mercenary group, Iron Blood. We distribute fairly, and if there is equipment that fits your class, we will prioritize and give it to you first."
"No thanks." Claire icily declined.
But it was apparent the tall and sturdy man had no plans on giving up. Instead, he continued to say, "Our Iron Blood mercenary group is the second biggest mercenary group in the country. If you join, you will definitely not be mistreated. Oh yeah, I haven't even asked, what is your profession?"
Claire turned her head to look at Jean who had finished registering and she walked over with no hesitation.
When the tall and sturdy man saw Claire had ignored him, his eyes followed where she was looking and he saw a handsome young man walking over. His face immediately steamed red. The men behind him roared with laughter.
"Jackson, you made this stupid mistake again!" The meaning of these words were obvious, the man called Jackson kept hitting on girls who already had a partner. Although he was angry, the tall and sturdy man didn't really do much, and only said embarrassedly, "Since you have company, I won't bother you any more." Claire indifferently nodded and the man and his group left to take up a mission.
"Jean, also go take on that task," Claire said while pointing at the F level task of finding medicinal herbs. That task was easy and had no time or quantity limit. In other words, the person who gave out the mission would accept any number of the herbs at any time. One breakheart grass for one hundred gold coins, meaning the more herbs you found, the more gold coins you earned.
"Miss, what were those people doing?" Jean asked, frowning at the people who just left Claire.
"Nothing. They were just mercenaries receiving tasks. Also, when we're outside, don't call me Miss, call me by my name." Claire replied in a low voice. Although the leading mercenary was frivolous, he didn't really do anything rude. Although his gaze was a bit lecherous, he didn't take action，so his nature was not wicked. There was no need to fuss or bother. Also, the Mercenary Guild did not allow fighting here.
"Yes, Claire." Jean was surprisingly flexible.
After receiving the mission, Claire and Jean walked to the city gates.
The city gates were already bustling with activity. People continuously entered, but everyone was orderly to pay the entrance tax. As Claire and Jean walked out the gates, Claire suddenly felt a shift in the air behind her. She instinctively moved back her right foot. The next moment, there was a "dong" sound. An unknown object hit the leg of Claire's horse lightly. Claire turned back and saw an old man in a black robe. The old man was hugging himself, his arms around his chest. If Claire didn't lift up her foot, then the old man would be hugging her calf.
Jean shot a glare at the old man who almost hugged Claire's calf and frowned, about to say something. But the old man beat Jean to opening his mouth and said some words that made Jean speechless: "How could you guys carelessly bump into a senior like me? Heavens, are all the adolescents of the current generation this rash? Public morales are degenerating with each passing day!"
This resentful voice caused many people to turn and look, gossiping, but nobody came forward to mediate the situation. It seemed that everywhere, nobody bothered to help if it was unrelated to them. The guards at the gate watched the situation with interest on their faces. Unless things got too out of hand, the guards wouldn't do anything. In addition, Claire and Jean were wearing common clothes and looked like the average adventurers. The guards weren't willing to waste time on civilians. If it were nobles who were being harassed, they would have already come to chase away the old man.
Claire's mouth twitched. I bumped into him? Is he a swindler? Just as she thought this, Claire saw a flash of shrewd light in the old man's eyes and changed her mind. He didn't have the greed for money in his eyes. But what astonished Claire the most was that this person was hiding his Qi. Although he looked like an average old man on the outside, his black robe released a faint magical undulation. It was an expensive magic device! This old man isn't as simple as he seems!
"This elderly man, I am so sorry." Claire didn't understand why she had felt a strange feeling, a feeling that tangling up with this old man would definitely be a hassle. Quickly resolving the situation would be better. "It was my mistake, and this is to compensate you." Claire took out a few bright yellow gold coins.
"Yes, you at least have manners. So, where are you guys going?" The old man didn't accept the money, but his eyes scanned Claire all over.
Claire's mouth slightly twitched as she saw a flash of devious light in his eyes. She understood that this old man was aiming at her! But why?
1. [literal: hidden dragon, crouching tiger]
2. [Heartbreak grass is the common name; the scientific name is Gelsemium elegans.]
3. [literal: no two of]
4. [literal: fish and dragons mixed in together]