The librarian who had taken Rox away passed him over to the city guards shortly after leaving the building. Two guards took custody of him, put him in steel shackles as if his guilt were assured, and led him to the very center of the city; where the barrier stone’s building would be located. Unfortunately, the shackles slowed them down, so it took quite a while to get there. Most people would be humiliated due to the treatment, however Rox looked around the city as if sightseeing.
The barrier stone’s building was actually much smaller than one might imagine such an important place to be. It was only two stories, the top floor being entirely dedicated to the barrier stone itself, and the bottom floor serving as an office for the barrier mage, his apprentices, and his secretary. It really seemed more like a large home than an office building, and the design seemed reminiscent of one as well. A barrier mage is too valuable to risk causing harm through overwork or injury, so they were instead tasked with raising up their potential successors and maintaining information regarding the city’s external defenses.
The guards led Rox through the front doors. A female secretary was seated at a large desk in the center of the lobby. She seemed to be a half-elf in her twenties with crimson eyes and blonde hair, worn in a bun. The woman had quite the stern look to her as she spoke to the two guards in hushed tones, supposedly so that he would not be able to hear. After a few moments, she stood up and quickly left the room, going to what seemed to be a search panel on the western wall. She put her hand up to it and channeled magic into it, after which a rectangular outline appeared on the wall. It seemed to move backward so that it could slide to the right, allowing the secretary to pass. The door shut behind her, and Rox spent a few minutes with the guards who were trying to act intimidating. When she came back into the room she was accompanied by an older gentleman, an elf with graying hair.
As soon as the new man had seen Rox, his eyes seem to light with realization and he raised his voice at everyone in his presence. “You disrespectful fools!” He bellowed, startling both his secretary and the guards, “Do you all not know who this is? This is Rox Nihil. How dare you arrest this man, and worse, shackle him like some kind of criminal? Release him this instant!” The two guards paled. Galvanized into action, they quickly did as instructed. They collected the restraints from Rox and quickly left the building, all while being berated with insults. The secretary could only stare in shock as he then asked her to clear his schedule and ask someone named ‘Jeerae’ to come to his office at their earliest convenience. Before she could even respond, he led Rox into his office.
Once the door had shut behind them, the man took a seat behind his elegantly-carved wooden desk. The room was relatively spacious, since it doubled as a teaching area. If necessary, around thirty people would probably fit with ease. It really gave off a ‘classroom’ feeling, there were even a few smaller desks located against the walls. There were teaching materials located all around the room ranging from books to magic item materials, as well as a large blackboard.
Rox seated himself on the opposite end of the desk and the other man began to speak directly to him for the first time. “I’m sorry for the way that they treated you. I’m amazed that people around here don’t know your face, let alone your description or importance. At least those imbeciles have the sense of self to remember your name.” The man vented in anger to Rox. He was a man of average height and build. His hair a peppered green, since it was in the stage of his long life that it was slowly turning to gray and his eyes were a dull golden color. The man was quite long-lived, even for an elf, at the ripe age of around eight hundred years. While previously he had given off an air of dignity befitting his age, now he was more like a pouting child.
Rox waved his hand dismissively, “There’s no need to worry, it’s probably a good thing that they don’t remember. Besides, this town is mostly humans and half-elves. I was gone for quite a long time for their lifespans, you know.” He leaned back in the chair and continued, “Also, I’m not your master anymore. I am just ‘Rox’ now and you’re the barrier mage of Fira., Chiron. I am not owed the level of respect that you show me.” He said this part in an uncharacteristically serious manner, more like a warning than a reminder.
The other man, Chiron, stiffened in his seat at Rox’s words. Then forcefully relaxed and spoke with a controlled tone, adopting the tone of an authoritative figure once again. “You’re right, my apologies. Seeing you again just brought me back to when I had first met you, it won’t happen again.” He gave a sincere apology before he got down to business, “So, you tried to access the restricted section of the library. What reason do you, of all people, have to go to that place? I doubt there’s anything there you need.”
“My current employer, Kara Aqua, is researching seals. This is our first stop. Seeing as sealing magic is knowledge kept from the general public, it’s the only place she will find books with the kind of details she’s looking for.” He explained to the man, in hindsight he was not sure why he did not think of coming here in the first place. A barrier mage is well past the level necessary for performing seals, it’s likely he knew plenty about the topic.
“Kara Aqua, as in the daughter of the head of the Aqua family?” He asked with an inquiring tone.
“The very same, she’s a very curious girl. Oh, and I’m supposedly her student according to the contract she made me sign after she saw my adventurer’s rating.” Rox chuckled after speaking, remembering her persistence and arrogance, as well as her surprise later that same night.
Chiron had to pause to process this information. Then, as if something had occurred to him, he spoke again, “You registered with the guild? What did they rate you, with your deceptive on-paper abilities?”
“Bronze, it’s not very surprising really. It’s a good system for the general public, but for people out of the norm it doesn’t display accurate ratings. Then again, if I wanted to get rated properly, I would have gone to the guild in Croatia.” He answered and explained to the man. “Apparently I got the job because Kara was curious about my level zero ratings, and wanted to teach me magic. She wants to take an apprentice even though she’s only nineteen; although I suppose she does have the skill and potential to do so, I still think it’s too early for her.”
The old elf nodded in response, “So you all traveled here from the town of Nil, if you were recruited by someone of the Aqua family, given that’s where they lay their roots. So that report I received of an explosion in the forest, and the White Spider slave ring being annihilated had something to do with you lot, I assume?”
“Is that what they were called? They tried to sneak up on our camp, so I paid them a visit.” He said, as if that were enough to explain what happened.
Chiron, however, was shaking his head and rubbing his temples. “Even after all these years, you still have that bad habit.” He lamented, then returned his attention to the conversation, having long given up on changing Rox. “Regarding the case of seals, would you like me to explain to her what I know? I can at least tell her things that she won’t find in our City’s library. This city’s mages don’t specialize in that kind of knowledge, so we have very few books on it.”
The city of Fira was primarily the first line of defense against the monsters of the Forest of Giants. Any monsters that left the forest would be dealt with by guards, mages, or one of the guilds before they could cause destruction elsewhere. There was a strict watch on the perimeter, and skies, of the area; so it was quite rare for the powerful forest monsters to go to other areas. The city was also there to serve as an early-warning system, should a large number of monsters emerge from the forest, and a defense force could be quickly mobilized to hold back monsters while other cities sent reinforcements.
“That’s kind of you, I will take you up on that offer.“ Rox said, “In return, I’ll owe you a favor.” He finished while taking something small from his cloak before sliding it over to the other man, who examined it briefly and pocketed the object.
At that moment a knock was heard at the door before a young elf entered the room. His hair was like fire, with flecks of red, orange, and yellow throughout. It was short, but long enough to show that it was naturally wavy. His eyes were emerald green and he held himself like a noble. He looked towards Chiron, glanced at Rox, and smirked. The boy spoke with a tone that showed he was similar to Aqua in the sense that he was confident in his ability. “Hello Master, I see you’re planning on taking in a new student. I hope he’s not like the other students, and actually has some talent. Even if he can’t be the next barrier mage, because I’m going to be, I’d at least like a good sparring partner to practice my magic on.”
Before Chiron could silence the arrogant youth, Rox signaled the man to let him handle it. He then spoke to the boy, “Hello. No, I’m not here to be a student, I’m an adventurer looking for information about a certain type of magic. Your teacher here is a high-level fire mage, so I was hoping that he’d have some information about it.” Standing up, he continued speaking while walking towards the young elf. “I’m only a bronze rank adventurer, but I’d love to have a sparring match to help you hone your magic, if you’ll have me. I’m not very confident in my raw magic ability, but I’m sure I can hold my own long enough for practice at least if you’re that short on partners. It’s the least I can do, since I’m asking a favor of your institution after all.” He pretended to think for a moment as he paused, “Oh, my name is Rox. May I ask for yours?”
One could see the boy’s desire to flex his power in his fire-like eyes. The boy took a barely-veiled condescending tone as he spoke, clearly thinking himself above Rox after hearing that his opponent was a mere bronze rank. “Oh, I’d love to. My name is Jeerae Fira, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m sure having someone who’s had real combat experience would help me out quite a bit. If you’re alright with it, could we spar immediately? I’d also love to invite some friends to watch and learn from our match.” He spoke the last sentence with obvious malice, it was positively dripping with a lust to show off by beating on a weakling.
However, Rox smiled and feigned ignorance. “Of course, I’m the one asking for a favor after all. Let’s go.” He said, leaving the building with Jeerae, heading for the mage’s arena a few streets away. The arena was a place to practice one’s battle-related abilities on other people who were also training their combat abilities. There was a powerful space magic cast on the entire building that ensured any damage taken inside the structure would disappear when leaving the area. It was also a place for people to observe, and commonly was a place for people to go if they were in the mood to watch a few mages fight it out. Occasionally, it was also used to settle disputes or host tournaments. There was also space magic to teleport fighters from the battle queue rooms to the battle arenas. It would match people of similar strengths, according to a Virrat rating, so that you do not need to make prior plans with people to fight. You can enter and fight other random people for practice, or you could enter a room together to choose to fight someone you know.
After the two had left the room, Chiron sighed. He put his head in his hands, using the desk to support them. He was pale after seeing that exchange. He had never seen someone speak to Rox like that in all the years they had known each other, and he knew it was foolish to do so. Even if Chiron was powerful enough to obliterate an army, it still went against his every instinct to be that disrespectful. Maybe because he still thought of Rox as his master. However, he knew that the next time he saw Jeerae, there would be a noticeable change in his attitude. “Maybe this is actually a good thing.” He tried to convince himself.
(Author’s note: Heya everyone! Another week another release and an annoying author’s note at the bottom ((not the top)) of the chapter. Well looks like Rox has managed to get himself dragged into something again. He also somehow managed to meet someone even MORE stuck up than Kara, but with even more of the trained open arrogance huh? If I’m being honest, chapter 8 is my favorite to write so far and I’m pretty excited to show it to you all. So if you all would like me to do an early release, maybe mid-week or a couple days early, then leave a comment. If I get enough, I’ll whip my editor with my shiny new nine-tail whip until he finishes it early <3)