And so the heavy metal door opened.
The scene that welcomed me behind it was absolutely something I’d expect from an underground room. The voices around me, and the atmosphere of the place in general, very closely resembled that of the Adventurers’ Guild. What was different was the people present. I did recognize some faces as those I’d seen at the Guild, but none that I would consider an acquaintance. The age range didn’t seem that high, either. No teenagers, at least from what I could see, but most were still in their early twenties.
Despite how busy it looked, there was an air of calmness to the whole scene, like everyone having a sense of purpose.
Why was there even a place like this under the Colorful Food District?
With that thought in mind, I turned over my shoulder to Dallas.
By now, Dallas already was right behind me, and Pochi was already sitting in one of the empty seats.
Needless to say, I was surprised more by Pochi’s lack of courtesy than Dallas having figuratively teleported behind me.
Dallas peered into my face, and as we made eye contact, he seemed to have laughed a little.
“I knew we’d get a different reaction for every visitor.”
Really? I thought just about anyone would be surprised, though.
Or by ‘different,’ did he mean they’d normally be more surprised than I was?
“Sir Dallas, what is this place?”
“…A hideout of the Resistance.”
“Wha-?! Did I hear that right?”
I exclaimed, my voice initially quite loud by the surprise and gradually quieter by the following embarrassment, but Dallas made no fuss out of it.
So… he’s part of the Resistance?
Did that mean he was already acquainted with Warren back when we’d gone to fight the Ogre King? Did Dallas invite Warren into this? Wait, no, probably not. How about the other way around? …No, I don’t think that’s it, either.
“Pochi, we’ll be bringing you some food. Go wait over there.”
Pochi shot me a wink.
Dallas then turned to me and waved his hand.
…So he’s telling me to leave Pochi and follow him inside.
“Asley, you’re needed over here.”
I followed Dallas while looking off to my side at Pochi, who was now drooling all over the table.
Feels like I’m getting… strange looks around me, or rather, looks of interest trained on my back.
I was very much aware that my face was recognizable among certain crowds, but this didn’t feel like they were looking at me as that sort of famous character.
The far end of the room had a door of the same design as the entrance. This time, Dallas was the one to push it open and step inside first.
“You are… Mister Asley.”
The voice was that of a woman who was sitting in a bulky leather swivel chair. Although she wasn’t facing us, I could feel her intense aura of arcane energy practically striking me.
Her voice was slightly crackled, but still sufficiently loud and clear.
Once I replied after a single beat of delay, the woman slowly turned her chair around.
Her light blue hair fluttered with the smoothness of water. Her face gave off an air of kindness, but I could tell from her eyes that she was scrutinizing me.
From what I could gather with my first look… she should be fifty, or at least somewhere close. Her gray eyes also served to make her under-eye circles all the more prominent.
“Good work, Dallas. Now please step aside.”
Dallas bowed and stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him.
A brief silence ensued, with her staring at me… and me avoiding all eye contact.
See, I’ve never been good at looking strangers in the eyes.
Besides, why is this stranger even staring at me, anyway?
Guess I’d been right to think that Warren wasn’t the overall leader of the Resistance.
Considering how Dallas had said that this was a ‘hideout’, and how there was this super powerful woman sitting in the back room… this woman may very well be the leader.
But… why… is she drawing up a Circle?
Huh, did she just… smile?
In reflex, I swiped away the needles with the Torrent Dragon Staff.
She WAS indeed smiling… while shooting at me?!
She’s fast! Drawing up a Circle for intermediate-level spells that quickly meant she was quite a high-leveled mage.
I covered my hand in arcane energy and caught the attack, then terminated its effect.
Wind blew violently in the sealed room, sending the books and parchment sheets flying in a whirl.
Another troublesome spell… bah, fine. I’ll have to use it.
“Rise, Quadra Boundary!”
In one go, I enveloped the wind in the Boundary and compressed it down with arcane energy control, letting it die out.
For a second, the woman narrowed her eyes. Bah, was she trying to get me to use magecraft or something?
“Why thank you… NOT! What’re you trying to pull?! You looked pretty damn scary, smiling while shooting at me like that!”
“Oh? I was having fun, though?”
Yeah, just look at her grin – I’d be out of my mind if I didn’t find that scary.
Besides, she never even introduced herself, so I didn’t even get her name despite her already knowing mine… Oh, right.
I could just use my Appraisal Glasses.
TITLES: Magic University Graduate; Rank S; Six Archmages; The Frostgazer; Great Mage; Supervisor; The Leader
- Attack Magic (Skilled)
- Support Magic (Skilled)
- Recovery magic (Skilled)
…Huh, feels like I’ve heard of her name before.
I looked at her name again, and then the titles below it – that was when it hit me.
“You’re one of the Six Archmages… Sayla the Frostgazer?!”
“The one and only.”
Sayla continued to stare at me, never breaking her smile.
The wrinkles that appeared in the corners of her eyes had a certain… flair to them. Ugh, scary.
“What are you trying to pull?”
“Oh? That was the Resistance’s entrance exam. Didn’t Dallas tell you?”
“…First I’ve heard of it.”
“Heh, perhaps he thought you could get through it without needing a warning.”
She said calmly and then stood up from her chair, with her stare still on me.
But this time… I could see her putting up a kind look in her eyes.
“Anyways, your performance was impressive. Especially your drawing speed – almost as good as Ishtar and Lloyd.”
“I could say the same for you. If I’d been a second slower, I would’ve gotten hurt.”
“Is that so? I thought you had a pretty wide margin for error, though?”
“What made you think that?”
“For one, you could take care to minimize the damage to this room…”
Sayla shot me a wink, but in a different way that Pochi and Duncan would.
Rather, the gesture reminded me of Warren – as the people in charge, they were quite similar, though ultimately sporting different styles.
“I was surprised by you being able to use magecraft, too.”
“So? When do you plan to officially join us?”
“I never even said that I would join, did I? And no, I have no interest whatsoever.”
Hearing me say that, Sayla returned with an expression of apparent confusion.
“That’s… strange. I thought Warren said that you fully intended to join our cause. He even vouched for your trustworthiness and everything…”
…That little shit.
I could vividly imagine him having his widest grin in history as he falsified that report.
“Not the case. At all. The most he said was that he had ‘plans for me to potentially be part of the army’s activities’, but even that was made up on the spot.”
“Hmm, then we might have a problem here… For instance, I’m afraid I cannot let you leave, Mister Asley.”
Sayla cracked another smile.
Now that’s what I’d call a cold, penetrating grin. Oh, I see – now her ‘Frostgazer’ name makes sense.
“I will leave whenever I please, thank you very much. I’m sure I’m perfectly capable of doing that.”
“Oh? Then what about your Familiar? She should be eating our drugged food right about now…”
“What?! Look, if anything happens to her, I’ll-“
“If you’ll jump to conclusions, then I’ll do as well. Let’s not go there, hmm?”
Damn this little…
No, stop. I mustn’t let her get her way.
First I get out of here, then I can just work something up from there.
“Just so you know, we have eyes everywhere. Where you live, your associates, even your adorable students, are all under our watch.”
Sayla’s threat also came off as a sort of provocation. Upon hearing that, I might have also heard something snap in my head.