Every head in the Runner’s Guild turned as the door opened. It was a conditioned response; those who ran were either quick to notice things or they were dead.
Unlike adventurers, Runners didn’t slay monsters, but there were requests posted that weren’t average letter deliveries. Emergency rush jobs, dangerous assignments all went there, and naturally, the Runners who were relaxing between gigs sat at the tables and talked, watching the bulletin board, exchanging interesting tidbits, and listening for hot gossip.
Everything could be sold for a profit, and while there was such a thing as the Runner’s Handbook, some Runners were less upstanding and would crack open a delivery and see if it was worth ‘losing.’
Most were trustworthy, and a Runner’s Guild like this one, in the city of Remendia, was more well-known than the city itself. After all, Runners went everywhere, and so any City Runner in the region—even Couriers—might walk through these doors.
Today, the newcomer was a young woman. Again, not unusual, but she still stood out from the other Runners present. Her skin was a light brown, and her hair was black, reaching down her back in a ponytail. She looked—different.
Drathian, perhaps, was the guess of most, but she stood out around the crowds of fairer skin tones in general and hair that ran from fiery red to brown, and occasionally, more magical colors as well.
Her feet were bare, another departure from the norm. No one ran barefoot. Only a Centaur would be that crazy, and there was only one Centaur in all of the north who was a Runner. At six feet and one inch, the young woman had long, long legs, but they were Human, not equine.
Her eyes were bright green, like green turquoise, dancing with amusement when she was excited or happy. Narrowed and sharply hostile when she was upset. She did not often look happy, but her default expression was of a half-frown, a blank look that clearly said she did not want to talk.
The final notable thing was—or had been—her clothing and the odd, rectangular object and device which sometimes could be seen attached to her ears. It was the oddest thing, a bright red piece of string that looked magical. The same with her clothing, which had been brightly dyed and expensive-looking—until she’d bought some conventional leggings and a simple, off-grey tunic to run in. She shrugged the rucksack she carried onto one shoulder and glanced around as the door swung closed.
Ryoka walked over to a counter on one side of the room, ignoring the appraising looks she received. She waited until the female receptionist at the counter looked up. The woman had a uniform, a green vest over a white undershirt, that made her look like an official attendant. Which she was. She even had a hat with the Runner’s Guild logo on it and the local city’s emblem.
The moment of inspection turned relaxed, despite the appraisal of Ryoka herself. She was one of their own and not a threat. Not that you were supposed to be attacked here, but gossip was the only thing faster than Runners. And for exciting things to break up the humdrum lives of the small towns or cities in this area, you should sit in either the Adventurer’s Guild to see someone taking on a request to slay a monster or enter a dungeon, the Mage’s Guild to hear gossip or events from further around the world relayed by [Message] spells, or the Runner’s Guild, where valuable items or sometimes letters with profound impacts on events were entrusted to the people inside.
You could tell who belonged here, because they were almost always wearing light clothing meant for prolonged travel. They looked fit—they spent most of their day exercising—and they were a kind of unique subset of almost any settlement.
Runners. You could spot them by appearance, just like this ubiquitous building, which was open, flat, with a small second floor devoted to offices and managerial work or private meeting rooms.
A Runner’s Guild could be found in every city of Izril. The bottom floor was where everything was done, and it was dominated by several counters along one side of the room and a kind of bar and meeting space on the other side.
Appropriately, this had once been a tavern, and it still was. Runners, notable by their worn shoes, light clothing, and, usually, athleticism, lounged or stood in groups when they weren’t clustering at the desks.
Ryoka barely looked twice at any of the other Runners, and she didn’t greet anyone by name, but the woman at the desk clearly knew her.
“Good morning, Miss Ryoka.”
The [Receptionist] treated her to a friendly smile. She smiled in a determined way that said she knew she might not get a response. Ryoka nodded back. She did not smile.
A pause, so infinitesimal, but noticeable, and the [Receptionist] moved forwards.
“It’s a pleasure to see you’re doing well! Do you have any requests to turn in? Magnolia Reinhart’s delivery…?”
Ryoka nodded again.
“Three seals. I got it to her.”
“Very well. I’ll witness your claim.”
The receptionist waited patiently as Ryoka scribbled down her name and listed the seals she’d brought in. She had to write down the composition of each seal. Two red hardwood seals and the expensive silver-sapphire seal.
Each desk had a [Receptionist], a trained man or woman—all Human, here—who would take Runner’s Seals, hand out coins, or head into the back to retrieve a bundle of letters, a wrapped item, and give a Runner instructions on where to go.
There were maps on the far walls showcasing various cities, and often, a pin would be stuck into the worn paper showcasing some natural or monstrous threat. [Bandit] groups, some idiot [Hunter] leaving snares unattended, and so on. Next to those maps was the last fixture of both Runner and Adventurer’s Guilds: a bulletin board made of cork from which delivery requests hung.
But the real paperwork and coordination of information and items was done behind the polished desk counter, and the woman had a ledger out and was jotting down a few notes in moments.
“Wonderful. You were lucky to pick up that delivery for Lady Reinhart. She was pleased, I hope?”
Ryoka finished writing and slid the paper and quill over to the receptionist. The other woman’s smile flickered, but she added her own signature to the log. She kept speaking, as if trying to coax a longer response out with sheer momentum.
“Most Runners fight over the right to deliver something to her. She pays extra for speed, and of course, she’s been known to tip generously too. You’re all signed out.”
The receptionist waited for a response. She got a silent nod.
The [Receptionist] sighed. Someone else gave her a sympathetic look, but only just. A male [Receptionist] had breathed a sigh of relief not to get the surly newcomer at his station. Then again—she was efficient, but he had long since given up even trying for smalltalk.
The City Runner turned away. She began to stride over to the far end of the room—then halted. Reluctantly, she peered over her shoulder. Then she came marching straight back.
A Street Runner, all nerves, fourteen years old, was queueing up for the female [Receptionist]’s attention next, but he backed up as the City Runner marched straight back into spot. The [Receptionist] hesitated.
“Something else, Miss Griffin?”
“Yeah. Goblins. I ran into a small tribe outside of Celum in the tall grass. A Hob, some Goblins. One had a bow. They jumped me, but I got out of it. The Watch knows, but put up a notice.”
Goblins? The Street Runner and a few heads turned at this commonplace threat. That did get the other [Receptionist]’s attention. In a trice, the woman at the counter had a map out and was asking Ryoka to pinpoint the area.
“You escaped a Goblin ambush? And a Hob? Are you sure it was a Hob?”
“He was taller than me, so yeah. Had a sword, shield…decent armor.”
“That’s no good. How did they sneak up on you?”
Ryoka grimaced as if it were a personal failing.
“They were lying in the grass. Leapt up and almost stabbed me. I outran them. I don’t know where they went.”
Some of the Runners inspected Ryoka as she pointed out the location and turned away. She didn’t look frazzled for someone who’d survived a Goblin ambush. Even a small group could kill a City Runner, and she’d outrun them? No emergency alchemy items or Skills?
The [Receptionist] looked approving.
“No wonder you made City Runner so quick! I’ll let the local Runners know to watch out.”
“Eh. They weren’t that fast.”
Ryoka shrugged and stepped back again. She headed over to the large bulletin board with the requests on it, ignoring the stares and murmurs. Ryoka peered at the bits of paper and looked for anything exciting.
Like the Adventurer’s Guilds, the Runner’s Guild used a first-come-first-serve system when it came to giving out delivery requests. It was this board that Ryoka studied intently, ignoring the eyes still boring into the back of her head. She was used to them.
What she wasn’t used to was the loud, cheerful voice that cut through the silence.
The young woman tensed up. Her head twitched towards the door, but it was too late. Another girl was making a beeline towards her. She was shorter than Ryoka, but wider. Not from fat; rather, she looked sturdy. So sturdy that her pack was three times the size of Ryoka’s, and even without a high-grade bag of holding, she ran ore and heavy deliveries for the Merchant’s Guild on a regular basis.
Garia Strongheart slapped Ryoka on the shoulder. The taller girl’s left eye twitched, but Garia didn’t notice.
“Did you just finish your deliveries to Celum? That’s fast! I normally have a bite to eat in the markets. They do a wonderful cinnamon bun in the mornings, but I guess you already ate, right?”
The taller girl looked over at Garia and gave her a fractional nod. Garia made a show of studying Ryoka’s bare feet; she had good, worn shoes, the closest this world had to sneakers without plastic. Comfortable, shaped leather, undyed but buffed shiny from so much wear.
“And you did it barefoot? I thought the others were just playing a prank on me when they said you ran everywhere without shoes.”
Ryoka sighed inaudibly.
“I run everywhere without shoes.”
“Why? Too cheap for them?”
Garia laughed. Ryoka did not. Her voice took on an element of strained patience which Garia noticed.
“I’m just slower with shoes, that’s all.”
Like the [Receptionist], Garia tried. She put on a smile and felt around in one pocket.
“Oh, so it’s a class thing? That makes sense. But is the, uh, [Barefoot Runner] class better than the [Messenger] class?”
Ryoka shrugged. Below the bulletin board’s specific requests were listings of each Runner’s Guild and how many letters or bulk-delivery parcels were waiting. Ryoka did some math, calculating how much she could carry. You could pay for a bulk-delivery to another city, and whichever Runner picked it up would get a smaller fee, but it was reliable work.
The taller girl’s continuing silence and clear disinterest in conversation didn’t bother Garia, at least outwardly. The friendly girl continued to press Ryoka, asking about the road, what dangers she’d encountered, and so on. She got monosyllabic responses if she were lucky. But Garia had a secret weapon today.
“How about a nali-stick, Ryoka? My dad’s a [Farmer]—I told you, remember? He was trying to grow some on his farm, but most didn’t grow well. It’s super sweet. Want some?”
She pulled a thin, pale stalk of something out of her pocket and offered Ryoka a bite. The other young woman hesitated and eyed the unusual food, but she raised a hand.
Garia looked disappointed and took a bite. Instantly, her eyes went wide with a sugar rush. She missed Ryoka’s vague look of disappointment. The City Runner shifted, and one foot silently kicked the other.
Ryoka went back to studying the requests. Most were generic delivery requests. Unfortunately, they were all spaced out so that it would be hard to do more than a few without running twice as far.
A scrap of paper hiding behind two other requests caught her eye. Ryoka pulled it out and studied it. Then she showed it to Garia.
“What’s the reward for this one?”
Garia looked at the piece of paper and shook her head.
“Oh that? It’s one of the old-style requests. You get them now and then. Someone sends a [Message] that they want a delivery and they promise payment. But we have no idea how much they’re willing to pay and who they want the package delivered to. At least it’s confirmed.”
“That means we can at least prove they’re not [Bandits]. Who’s this one from? Oh. Don’t take this request.”
Garia had instantly spotted the delivery location, and she tapped it.
“It’s for the High Passes. I know you’re not local to here, but you know the High Passes?”
She pointed to one of the windows and the huge mountain range to the south. Ryoka had seen it; no one could miss it. Garia went on, looking solemn.
“Very nasty place. More Runners have died there than—well, it’s bad. Tons of monsters live around the area. It’s a Gold-rank threat. Or…Named-rank. Even a Courier wouldn’t do that lightly. How much do they want?”
“Hmm. It says the price is ‘to be agreed upon.’ But they’re offering twenty gold just to visit…”
“Twenty gold? That’s a fortune for City Runners—and way too little to risk for the High Passes! This has to be a joke. No one lives there. Here—”
She plucked the piece out of Ryoka’s grip and stuck it back under the other requests where it belonged.
“Maybe if we get a famous Courier like Tritel, the Moonlight Rider, he’ll take a look, but otherwise, I bet it’s a prank. Like asking someone to visit the moon.”
Ryoka’s expression didn’t change as her eyes flicked to the buried request, but she nodded. Then she looked elsewhere. Garia picked out another request and showed it to Ryoka.
“How about you and I do this delivery of ore to Pelingor? It would be a long haul, but they’re offering a gold coin for delivery today! Plus the roads are very safe. Whaddya say?”
The other girl studied the notice and eyed the packs waiting against one wall. A valuable delivery was often stored in the back rooms…but the ore samples bound for Pelingor were just light enough that they didn’t warrant a wagon or caravan from the Merchant’s Guild, the slowest method of transit.
Barely light enough. Each one probably weighed fifty pounds. More? They were filled to bursting and were as heavy as they looked.
Garia looked disappointed. Ryoka shrugged awkwardly.
“I’m not good at running in groups. Or with that much weight.”
“Well, if you’re sure. But we should run together sometime. How about in a few days we do the Tern Road run and deliver the spices to Celers and Remendia?”
Again, Ryoka’s expression didn’t change, but she looked up at the ceiling as she considered Garia’s request.
Garia beamed and slapped Ryoka on the back. Again, the other girl’s eye twitched.
“Great! I’ll let you know when it comes up.”
Ryoka selected a piece of paper as Garia turned away. But then the door opened, and she heard Garia call out. This time, her shoulders did hunch, and she closed her eyes in resignation.
More Runners walked into the guild. Their arrival was greeted with much more enthusiasm and energy than Ryoka’s had been. A few other Runners moved over as the three people who had entered strolled up to the receptionist’s counter and offered her silver seals.
Garia joined the group around the Runners and grinned up at the tallest one. He was a blond, tanned Runner with long legs and a red shirt and long, grey rose leggings that were better quality than the other Runners around him.
A striking look that said he wasn’t as wary about being picked out at a distance as a Runner. For further proof he was capable of defending himself, he also wore two daggers at his belt. Neither one was enchanted, but he’d used them to defend himself more than once. He’d even slain a Creler and claimed the bounty when it jumped him, or so the local rumors went.
“Fals, how’re you doing?”
Fals grinned at Garia and exchanged slaps on the shoulder. He pointed to the other two Runners accompanying him, a young man and a woman.
“We just finished a run to a group of adventurers out near the old ruins. Albez? They bought a bunch of potions and supplies. And tipped well, so we’re going to celebrate.”
Garia sighed enviously.
“And you don’t have a scratch on you.”
“We’re not stupid enough to get near the monsters. I saw a few undead, but we kept well clear of them.”
Fals laughed, and the other Runners laughed with him.
“So why are you here? Going to accept another assignment?”
He shook his head.
“Nah. I’m too tired for that. No, I just wanted to have a word with our newest Runner here.”
He walked over to Ryoka. The other Runners who’d congregated around him fell away, leaving just his two friends and Garia.
“Ryoka, how’re you doing?”
The other girl had finished picking out two requests. She looked up from stowing the deliveries in her backpack.
Fals waited, but that was it. Garia shifted uncomfortably, and the other two Runners glared at Ryoka. She looked expressionlessly back at them. However, Fals took the lapse in stride.
“Good, good. I was wondering if you needed any advice, what with you being so new. Normally, most Runners begin as Street Runners first. But you impressed the Guildmaster so much you made City Runner in two weeks. It was that or you’d run the rest of the Street Runners out of business!”
Ryoka shrugged. Again, Fals broke the silence before it grew too onerous.
“Well, I noticed you took Magnolia’s request this morning. It’s a good run, isn’t it?”
“There were a few Goblins on the road.”
Fals scratched his head and shifted uncomfortably. Ryoka finished tying her pack closed and hoisted it onto her shoulders. She looked at him expectantly.
“The thing is, it’s a really good delivery. It pays well, it’s safe—well, mostly safe—and Runners like Magnolia. She tips well and shares her deliveries.”
“She once gave me a few treats she imported from overseas. They were frozen bits of fruit and sugar. Tasted amazing.”
Fals nodded knowingly.
“Exactly. We all like her. I know she wanted someone to deliver that blue drink she likes so much. Did she share any with you?”
Ryoka shook her head.
“I wasn’t interested.”
This time, she definitely got a glare from every Runner in earshot. Fals shifted again. He lifted a hand and glanced around, smiling peaceably, and stepped closer to Ryoka. She, accordingly, stepped back, but the other Runners turned away as Fals spoke a touch more seriously.
“Right, well, it would just be best if you let another Runner take the request next time. Not that you don’t have a right to it—it’s just that we like to share the request. Give others a chance to take it easy, okay?”
He gave her a smile which went unreturned. Garia eyed Ryoka nervously. Ryoka stared at Fals expressionlessly and then nodded.
The two other Runners accompanying Fals shifted on their feet. They looked at Ryoka with a lot more hostility than Fals and Garia. For his part, Fals nodded and gave Ryoka another friendly smile.
“Just so you know. Good luck on your run! Let’s have a drink next time, alright?”
Fals and the other Runners walked away. Ryoka watched them go. Her face betrayed no emotion, but Garia saw her hand go up and tug at one ear. She made a vexed expression—until she noticed Garia staring at her. Then she turned hurriedly and strode for the door. She glanced back once at Garia and nodded.
What was the receptionist’s name? It’s still bugging me. I think it started with an ‘S’. Or was it a ‘Y’? No. I’m sure it was an ‘S’.
Either way, at least that’s done with. And now I can get out of the city and away from annoying people*.
I feel a lot better as I jog out of the city gates. Running calms me down. And I need some calming down after having to deal with idiots**.
Okay, okay, calm down. I adjust my pace as I sprint out of the city gates. People are staring. Not that it matters too much, but I don’t want to waste my energy running too fast right now.
Destination: Wales. It’s about thirty miles away, which makes it one of the furthest cities to travel to. I’ll get over there in a few hours and then jog over to its neighbor, Ocre. Or whatever it’s called. But I’ll stay the night in Wales since it’s bigger and has better inns.
There’s a Runner’s Guild in Wales. There’s one in almost every big city, so I can receive more requests wherever I go. That’s handy, and it means I don’t have to come back here and deal with the annoying Runners around here.
Then again, they all do city-to-city deliveries as well, so I tend to run into all of them sooner or later. It’s a pain.
Well, Garia isn’t a pain. She’s just too friendly. But she’s the best of them. The rest of the City Runners can go to hell. Especially Fals.
City Runners. From what I understand of these Runners, they’re like postmen. Or postwomen. Whichever. But you can divide them into roughly three categories. There are the Street Runners, the City Runners, and the Couriers.
Street Runners cover individual cities and don’t stray outside of them very far. They take the safest, easiest jobs and receive the least amount of money. They also seem like they’re not that high in the social hierarchy in the Runner’s Guild. They’re the youngest or the oldest, and that’s about all I know.
City Runners are what I guess I fall into. They—we run from city to city and make deliveries in a general area. A City Runner might run for a few days if they have to make a really long delivery, but they won’t stray from their ‘territory’*. They take on the more dangerous jobs, but again, they’re not adventurers, so a City Runner mainly runs away from any trouble and tries to make their deliveries as quickly as possible.
*Territory. What are we, dogs? But apparently we are, with all the little groups and infighting the Runners seem to do. It’s a mess of politics and friendships in each Runner’s Guild.
Then there’s Couriers. I haven’t personally met one, but I hear they’re the equivalent of long-distance mail. They can go from one end of the continent to the other or even across the sea, if their delivery calls for it. They’re quick, efficient, and apparently they cost incredible amounts of money to hire. But they’re also supposed to be really good at their jobs.
I want to be one. If only because they don’t have a clique and they make their own rules.
From what Garia told me, each one is at least Level 30, and they all have levels in other classes as well, so they’re not easy to ambush. And that’s…
I look around as I run. I’m going down one of the main roads, but it’s empty at the moment. Still, I jog off the road and into the short grass. It’s not like I’ll go much slower out here. I wait until I’m a ways away from the road before I shout.
“That’s so stupid!”
Well, it’s not much of a shout. It’s hard to shout and breathe at the same time, and it feels really awkward to talk to myself. Who does that? Anyways, I’m still not over it.
Levels. It’s one of the weirdest things about this world, and this is a weird world. It’s like a game, but it’s not a game. At least, there’s no evil demon lord or end of the world coming, and I’m no hero from another planet summoned to defend this place from evil.
I’m a girl from California. I should be a freshman in college in New York, and I was running barefoot around the track on my first day when I ended up here. One second I was doing a lap, the next, I ended up in this crazy place with my iPhone, my wallet, and my watch. Some might call this destiny or fate. I think it was a mistake.
I’m no hero, but this place is exactly like a video game. Or, failing that, a fantasy book. Something out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, except the cities I’ve visited don’t have any Elves or Dwarves. In fact, they don’t even have many Humans with skin darker than tan. I’m practically an outsider because I look Asian. Not that this is the most homogenous place ever*, but I still stand out.
*Thankfully. But it seems like this continent’s equivalent to Europe? Europe with hints of globalization, but I’ve been told I’d ‘fit in’ more on another continent. By Persua, predictably.
Back to the road. It’s not good to stray too far from it, I guess. I hate having to dodge around wagons and listen to every idiot I meet shout at me about my bare feet. But it beats Goblins, I guess.
Anyways, what was I thinking about? Oh yeah. This is a stupid world. A really stupid one, and the worst part is that it’s just like the one I left.
Fals. He was hinting—no, he was telling me not to take any more of the good delivery requests. And judging by the crowd back in there, they all think the same way. Did they nominate him to ‘warn’ me? Of course they did.
Politics. No one takes all the good deliveries or we’ll make life tough for you, huh? And this Fals is their…what? He’s popular, I know.
I grit my teeth. I don’t like him. He’s always giving me advice, usually about things I should or shouldn’t do. And since he’s a senior Runner, he’s got some kind of priority with deliveries and everything else. I really hate running into him in the guilds.
Already. It’s only been two weeks and a bit*, but I’ve gotten used to this world, at least a bit. You really can get used to anything. But I’ve never liked social climbing, and it feels like half of being a Runner is doing just that.
*Has it really only been that long? It feels…so much longer.
I hate Fals. I run into him too much. And now, I’ve got to run with Garia, dragging a massive backpack thirty miles for terrible pay. Why did I agree to run with her? Because it was too hard to say no.
Damn. Damn me, damn her, and Fals can…there’s not enough damnation around here for him. I hate all of this. Just let me run in peace.
So I run. Keep running. I increase my pace, and my thoughts flow out of my head. That’s better.
Things come and go, but at least I can run. Ironically, in this world, I can run even more since it’s now my job. That’s the only good thing about my predicament. The only good thing.
Well, that and one more little fact. I grin as I remember, and a wagon driver gives me a weird look as I run past him.
This world has a bunch of Runners. And they’re okay. They really are. They run far, and the ones like Garia are tough and strong enough to run with huge bags on their back for quite a long way. But you know what? Maybe it’s their diets. Or maybe they don’t know about proper hydration, running form, or—
The point is, they’re okay. But they’ve got nothing on a girl who earned a scholarship for track and field. At least—the low-level ones don’t. The high-level ones with Skills?
I’ve yet to meet one that can beat me so far.
I take off, and the miles flow behind me like rain. I may not be a social runner or even liked. At all. But I’m pretty sure that I’m one of the fastest.
It’s a long run. But I get it done with and enter Wales just as the sun’s turning the sky orange. Two deliveries. One here, and the other in that other city. Ocres? Whatever.
I take care of it and then turn in my seals at the local Runner’s Guild. Here I get more silent stares, but that’s fine. Keep the poker face up, turn in the seals, and leave.
That done, I find an inn. Hm. The first one I go to advertises bed and board for three silver coins. It’s pricy, but I’ve earned over thirty silver today. I’ll treat myself.
If you’ve got the motivation and you don’t die from being shanked by a Goblin hiding in the grass, a City Runner can make good money. True, a large part of my earnings was from that Magnolia request, but I still earn more than most people. Or so I gather.
The average worker makes about 3-4 silver coins* per day. But that’s a pittance compared to what merchants or shopkeepers can bring in. Even taking away their daily expenses, they probably earn upwards of twenty silver coins each day. And that’s small change compared to the money adventurers can make.
*Local currencies differ from city to city or by region. It’s still gold, silver, and copper, but some denominations have a unique weight and percentage of actual silver or gold used in each coin. Those who deal with money a lot care about the currency, but they’re all roughly silver, gold, and copper coins.
The famous adventurers. Heroes. People who can slice, dice, and blast things apart. I think about them as I soak in one of the public bathhouses. It feels great, but what was I—oh, right.
Adventurers. They don’t exactly look like the flashy characters with insane armor and gigantic swords you see in video games. Mainly, they look like medieval soldiers. At least, the low-level ones do. Again, Garia tells me the high-level ones look really impressive, but I’ve yet to meet one of those.
And why am I thinking of adventurers? And where’s the towel? And is that bath attendant giving me a dirty look?
Oh, right. Because of my feet. Hey, they’re dirty but probably less dirty than other people’s disgusting body parts. Leave a tip? I guess.
Back to the thinking. Adventurers? Yeah, they’re like…starving artists? They don’t earn much from hunting monsters, but the ones who survive their raids on dungeons or old ruins can earn unimaginable amounts of wealth in an instant. I guess it’s appealing for people who think they’ll survive. Not me, thanks. I’ve heard what Goblins do with people, and they’re the weakest monsters around.
So, if adventurers represent the top earners, Runners fall somewhere around the mid-categories. It’s a dangerous job, but not nearly as dangerous as fighting monsters.
Why do I care? Oh, right, money. I’ve got enough.
Back to the inn. I’m tired, but my mind is still racing. It’s been how many hours? I’m still annoyed by those idiots back in the Runner’s Guild. And Garia. I’m more annoyed than mad at her, but—
She’s so fascinated by me. Why? Because I look foreign? Or is it me running barefoot? It’s not common even in fantasy worlds, I guess. At least she’s polite about it.
Damnit, I wanted to try that nali-stick. But then I’d have had to get her a present or something—better not to. Was it just sugarcane? Do they have sugar in this world?
Back to the inn. Time for a meal. Let’s eat and think. What kind of meal? Chicken. I could go for chicken and mashed potatoes. It tastes good, especially since I’m hungry. But focus. Is that guy staring at my breasts? Yes. I hate you, random stranger.
Ignore him. Eat chicken. Gravy goes on top of potatoes. Think.
Let’s go over it again. Priorities. First and most important? Money to live on. Right now, I’m earning enough for a room at an inn and regular meals, but keep saving.
Second, I need more information. Libraries don’t exist around here, or at least, they aren’t open for the public. I need maps, but I also need a book on the cities around here. History, culture—I need a local. Can’t ask them too much, or they’ll get suspicious. Put that one on the backburner.
Next? Um. Equipment. The job I’ve got is pretty much the only one I can do. Alternatives? I could be a scribe…if my handwriting were better. But being able to write more than my name is helpful. Too bad it’s not too useful.
Focus. Equipment. There’s magical items on sale in the markets. Not many—and they’re expensive. But Runners have different kinds of enchanted items. I want one. But I’m still trying to earn enough money to buy a good healing potion for emergencies. That has to be the first priority.
Meal’s done. Do I leave the plate or…? Hm. Let’s see. Looks like they’re leaving plates. And the innkeeper puts it on my tab…? Yeah. I’ll pay it tomorrow.
Back up to my room, away from prying eyes and people who want to sit and have a drink with me. I’m not against drinking*, but I really don’t need to deal with lonely men right now.
*Well, I am if it’s alcohol.
My bed’s pretty good this time. You definitely get what you pay for. I guess I’ll spend at least two silver coins on my inn from now on. It’s expensive, but it beats a bad bed.
Hm. Final check before I have to sleep. Fals? Hate him. Got to run with Garia sometime. Get it over with. Using money for…healing potion. And then equipment. Right.
I know what to do tomorrow. I’ll go to the Runner’s Guild first thing and get some good, high-paying requests. Save up, buy that healing potion. But something else nags me as I lie in the bed with a feather poking the back of my head.
Here’s the problem. And it’s a big one. I have no idea what to do next. Not ‘next’ as in tomorrow, but ‘next’ as in what I should be aiming for in the future. I can earn enough money to live off of, but what’s my end goal? To live and die here? Or to return home? And how in the blue blazes* am I going to do that?
*Where does that quote come from? No, focus. Focus.
When I run, I can keep the doubts from floating about in my head. But when I stop and when I’m about to sleep, I feel them crawling back up from the depths.
Uncertainty. I still don’t know why I’m here, what magic or fate brought me to this place, or even what to do next. I earn money and I keep it, but I don’t know what to do with it. I run and run, and someday I’ll run into something nasty. This world is full of monsters, and I don’t know what to do.
Still, I can’t worry about it now. I have to sleep. If I’m tired or I oversleep tomorrow, I’ll miss the good deliveries.
I close my eyes. Time to sleep. My mind is racing, but at least my body’s tired. I’m drifting off on my mattress. It’s not that much different from my one back at home to be honest. Maybe more lumpy and less comfortable as a whole, but it will do. And I’m so tired.
Damn. I forgot. Before I sleep. Concentrate. Block out the messages—
[Barefoot Runner Class Ob—]
[Barefoot Runner Le—]
I hate having to do that every night.