The humongous door opens, where lies the most renowned and cherished position a man could be in, second to being a nobleman — a guild master. To think I’ll meet him face to face. It warrants me that the job or task that I am about to be assigned must be so important or crucial enough that I have to report directly to the guild master himself.
「 After you, sir Renald. 」
I step into the room at a slow, but steady pace. The afternoon light that shines through the window across the room, hazes me for a moment. It takes a while before it adjusts itself to reveal the interior of the room.
And there he is in front of the huge window. The one and only, the《Veinard Trading Guild》guild master of the Kasanra branch.
I’m used to guild masters with muscles shaped from years of training. Scars from years of fighting. Flowing mustaches and beards with little maintenance. For me to see the guildmaster with a thin figure and wearing monocle glasses, is quite shocking. Albeit in a good way.
Especially as there’s no advisor or secretary beside him. A positive trait in my book. As the existence of them, commonly in the adventurers guild is due to the ineptness of the guild master in handling administrations and managing the guild operation.
The room is not that different from an adventurer guildmaster with its array of weapons and other items on display. Though there is a huge map with the center of it being most likely the Kasanra region.
It’s been seconds after the attendant and I entered the room but he still didn’t take heed of our present, opting out instead to meticulously pay attention to what’s on his table. A checkered board with rows of pieces at each end. The chess. A rather out of placed possession. As this is the first time I’ve ever seen such a once common item in my previous life in this new life of mine.
Wasn’t chess supposed to not exist in this world? If so, why after all these years living in this world, this is the first time I ever see one? The strategic nature of the game would’ve made it quite the popular game for nobles.
「 You know… 」He starts slowly, his whole attention still with the chess pieces,「 I always wonder about those who have come before us. They live lives that are beyond our imagination. Surviving beneath the dark and harsh earth, continuously running away from the threat of the almost omnipotent monsters. Compared to them, our experience on the surface surely must be heaven for them. 」
He picks up the king’s chess piece up to his eye level, looking meticulously at it, prying deeply to its core beneath its silver exterior.
「 They say pressure creates diamonds, 」He continues,「 Beneath humanity’s darkest era, I’m sure, lies the most valuable lessons and wisdom of our ancestors that none of us — spoiled descendants — can learn. Like a miner seeking diamonds, I want to dig deep. Unearth its core, and reveal the diamonds of the wisdom they’ve obtained from their endless struggles. 」
He slowly looks at me.
「 Have you seen this board game before? 」He diverts its eyes directly towards me, looking at me as if I’m just another chess piece.
「 Quite so, sir. 」I plainly reply.
「 I hear doubts within you, so I will explain. 」
It looks like my facial expression betrays me.
「 This… is a board game called chess. 」He puts down the king piece,「 a game for generals and kings, from a once extinct ancient human board game. With how rare and unheard of this game is, you wouldn’t be wrong to call it a historical artifact. If it weren’t for an ancient book on how to play chess, we would not know that this is a game. They say it is a game to imitate warfare. 」
His expression then changes. To the worst.
「 What a load of bullshit. 」He curses with a mocking smirk, his eyes scanning through the rows of individual pieces,「 every enemy’s moves and position are well known, and they are completely loyal with no pieces changing sides. How does this reflect real-life warfare? And most important of all the king is as weak as his lowest vassal, the pawn… 」
He snarls and looks far out through the window, trying to divert away from the chessboard.
「 I wonder what our ancestors were thinking when they devised this… this puzzling game… 」He says out loud, with a very stretched falling tone as if subtly asking for my input.
Multiple ways on how to answer it flashes across my mind. Should I boast about our ancestors’ unorthodox thinking? Explaining how they might have such fascinating thoughts that are beyond our experience? Or should I jump on his hatred bandwagon and ridicule the creator of this game?
So many answers to sort through. So many possibilities to think of. The lingering silentness forces me to speed through it all, leaving me panicking on the inside as I scramble on how to answer back.
In the end, the simplest, most authentic, yet riskiest answer wins.
「 Rather than it is a game to imitate warfare, perhaps it’s a game that symbolizes our ancestors ideal social structure? That a king must be wise and is capable of strategic thinking. To let his stronger, powerful vassals be the one to fight for him in the frontlines. 」
「 Hmmm… Interesting…. 」He says intriguingly.
「 I’ve experienced it myself. 」I continue my point thanks to his positive reaction,「 The adventurer guild master in my area, although definitely powerful and a master in 《School of Assault Magic》, seems to be rather clueless regarding administration and high-level thinking for the organizations as a whole. 」
「 Of course… Of course…. 」He says slowly, holding his laugh with a big smirk, 「 There are only two criteria that are considered in becoming an adventurer guildmaster, his track record of quest accomplishment and the level his school of magic is. They excel in tactics on how to deal with monsters and warfare, no doubt. But the big picture strategy and dealing with the mundane — yet almost equally as important — guild operation is an arcane art for them. 」
「 Sometimes, I wonder… Why have we become such power and magic obsessed when our ancestors survive using every bit of their brain? 」
「 Perhaps… A somewhat subconscious inferiority complex to the same monsters who now adopt human-like characteristics. It is no secret that we used to be inferior to them. We are just lucky that now we are at the top. 」
「 Indeed, 」He nods, then he looks back at the chess.
He flicks the king piece, causing it to crash into other pieces. His demeanor stayed relatively the same.
「 A king doesn’t need to be the most powerful being in the world of course, but it does need a decent amount of strength to earn the respect of its vassals. Nobody wants to serve a powerless king. Do you know who is the weakest king in the Veinard Kingdom history? 」
「 I assume it is the late majesty, King Pollard Veinard. 」
「 That is right. The late majesty, may his soul rest in peace, was an Intermediate level in the《School of Aegis Magic》. But even then intermediate level is nothing to scoff at. As low-level adventurers wouldn’t be able to pluck even a single strand of hair from him. Unless… What truly defines a king? 」he says slowly as he looks directly at me, seemingly savoring the thought.
Another ambiguous question directed to me. Is this some sort of an interview test? I hold the temptation of saying the obvious answer ‘they have the royal bloodline’ as that won’t get me anywhere.
「 On the contrary the Queen piece is the most powerful piece in this game. 」he goes off to another topic on a whim,「 his wife, his champion, is much more powerful than him. What a strange notion our ancestors can come up with. 」
I need to move the conversation forward somehow.
「 Doesn’t that further prove the point that our ancestors thought that the strong should be the one in the frontline, instead of behind the lines. 」
「 If that was the case, my job here would be much easier. 」 He laughs wholeheartedly, although I can’t help but spot a bit of sarcasm within it,「 The Woso Canids is hard to deal with. If we can get the abundant resources the headquarters have, dealing with the Woso canids would’ve been much easier. 」
The Woso canids huh… I don’t have much clue regarding them, even Sir Aston is a bit clueless. From his explanation, they seem to be quite isolated. With how the guildmaster seems to always be fussing around Woso Canids, it seems very likely that my diplomatic task would be regarding them.
I can’t help but feel there’s something off with this, however. When dealing with a bad hand most people would subtly hide it, or present it in more favorable terms, and might even go as far as completely lying about the real situation.
Is he trying to open up and to advertise the guild to be a transparent and open organization? Or am I just in a unique case where the guildmaster emotions somehow leak through?
For him to be very transparent regarding the situation…
…That means the guild is in a desperate and dire state.
「 If it doesn’t cross my boundaries, may I ask a question? 」
「 Hmm? Go ahead, I’m listening. 」
「 Woso kingdom used to not be in our attention, so what happened that changes this? 」
「 You will learn the details from your seniors. But to give you a general idea, we’ve recently discovered the Woso Canids hold vital resources for the growth of our Veinard kingdom. Trade talk ensues… Although it’s not going anywhere. 」He says quite slowly, as if choosing his words carefully.
「 Is it due to incompetent diplomats? To relate to our ancestors’ thinking in chess, you want to make sure to put the best in the frontlines. Queens in the front you would say… If the trade talk or any important mission then send in the top envoys.」
「 A weak, but wise king with multiple powerful loyal queens? 」He laughs sardonically,「 Such an unconventional concept wouldn’t happen in this era. As it would shake the very foundation of human society. Proven by how little the headquarters gives to us. 」
Another long silence begin, with what seems to be in his state of deep thinking, I’m starting to realize how long we have been talking about these ambiguous concepts. I think it’s about time to ask the real question.
「 …Is talking such an obscure philosophical question to a new hire how things are done here? 」I can’t help but raise a question after his remarks.
「 That’s unimportant. I presume you are the new official hire from the headquarter? 」
He says with a small smile out of thin air.
「 Yes, sir. 」I follow along with his sudden change of subject. It’s best to ask questions later after my employment is finalized and stable,「 I’m Renald Alderhide. The headquarter deemed me the perfect man fit for your diplomatic purposes. 」
I step closer to him as I reach out the paper to him.
「 Here are the papers from the headquarters. 」
He grabs the paper nonchalantly, silent fills the room, as I dread the result of this very unusual style of interview. He finishes and puts down the letter, leaving him eyeing me particularly judgmental with one of his eyebrows raised.
「 I initially had my doubts when the letter first mentioned you were a former adventurer but I decided to still give you a chance since you’re the top graduate in your class at《School of Wits Magic》And from this initial conversation of course. 」
He lets out another familiar small smile, a knowing, slightly mocking smile instead of a polite smile. A tease.
I’ve been played like a fool.
「 As what this position requires is not brawn but strategic thinking. That most adventurers simply don’t have. 」He continues,「 oh, and also a nobility background. As you will be assigned with the most two-faced being you will ever meet. 」
He stands up, walking to the wall where the huge map and numerous exotic items are on display.
「 Renald right? Did I get your name correctly? 」He says as he pays attention through the arrays of exotic items.
「 Yes, sir. 」
「 Have you ever met a Woso Canid before? 」
「 Other than the Canids slave on a sale show then no, sir. 」
「 I thought so. You will learn more of the characteristics of the Woso Canids, but this… will give you a general idea of their kind. 」
He grabs what seems to be a short sword or a dagger. Its wooden sheat is emboldened by a layer of intricate gold on some sides. With a rather distinctive curve that goes up near the grip. The handle grip closely reminds me of firearm grips from my past life.
「 This is the Woso Canids most distinctive weapon — the keris. Other than it being a rather unusual design of a dagger, 」He inspects it with a mix of awe and disgust contempt,「 it also acts like a wand. They cast spells and circulate mana through this weapon. Holding magical powers that are unheard of to us Veinardian. 」
He slowly unsheathes the unusual dagger, revealing the wavy design of the blade that twists like a snake. What’s more is the distinctive black and silver Damascus pattern. The silver lining that contrasts its dark base stood out and shines brightly — like veins pumping live to this very dagger.
Just when I thought I finally comprehend how different this world is, this dagger comes and ruins it.
…Why a dagger out of all things instead of the classic sword?
Most civilizations have their own version of the sword. For the Woso Canids to create an intricate design of a dagger, it definitely means something to these people…
Without a word, he sheathes the dagger back and places it on its original stand. Completely throwing me off. The suddenness of it leaves me with more questions as to why he would display the Canids weapon of choice.
A forefront? A warning? Or something else?
Although it indeed does pique my curiosity, I can’t help but feel if it was done to any other people they would lose moral and motivation to follow through the diplomatic mission. If not then leave them confused as I am right now.
He goes back to sit in his usual chair, and starts to write on a piece of paper.
「 You will be assigned with one of our senior envoys. 」he says, without breaking the momentum of his writing, his eyes still focusing on the paper,「 he will be your impromptu mentor while together on your diplomatic mission. Remember, diplomacy is a cat and mouse game between noblemen. You would need all the grace and refinement you could muster to excel in it. Speaking of which, which noble family are you from? 」
He asks, while putting down his pen and stamps the paper.
「 Count Alderhide, sir. 」
「 Ahhh, 」He says, seemingly reminiscing into the air,「 I’ve talked and met with the great Count Fabien Alderhide a couple of times in the annual noble gatherings. He’s a fine man, although becomes quite the prudish person from a mere few sips of wine. 」
He lets out a small grin but is immediately followed by a raised eyebrow, presumably as he notices how he just casually talks bad about my “father” in front of his son.
「 Forgive me, for giving off remarks about your father. 」
「 Please sir, relax. I’ve taken no offense from you. 」
By no means I am offended by that offensive remark of that father of mine. I don’t consider him as my father as he rarerly pay attention to me. He can go to hell for all I care.
「 You should report to your senior envoy as soon as possible. 」He gives me the freshly written paper, where I gladly take it,「 Find a temporary housing near the guild for your stay while you’re on training. The budget for your housing is listed in this paper, which should be enough to rent a decent house for a couple of months before your diplomatic duty departure. After you find the house of your liking, give the rental contract alongside this paper to the treasury for reimbursement. 」
「 Thank you, sir. I should be on my way then. 」I say as I nod.
「 Renald. A last reminder. 」
He calls me out in a hurry, stopping me on my track as I look back to see him.
「 They are a cunning and subtle kind. There’s a reason why they always tucked their dagger — keris — behind their backs after all. 」
He nods with full conviction, then he looks behind me. Presumably to the attendant that escorted me before.
「 Marvin. 」
「 Yes, sir. 」
「 You may escort the official envoy, Renald Alderhide to his senior, Werner Duvine. And help him to get acquainted with our organization and his duties. 」
「 Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. 」With a loud step, he walks until he’s beside me where I can see him,「 sir Renald, if you please. 」
With the escort of the same attendant, I walk out of the room. Though with less vigor than when I entered it before. The bizarre reflection of the uncanny dagger is still fresh in my mind, as I thought of how just deeply I’ve gotten myself into.