Sweaty Hands and Crappy Calligraphy

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It only makes sense that Boss is curious about where the heck I'm going with my sudden demands, so I make sure to explain everything to him as quickly as I can. Long-winded explanations are more his thing, not mine. "Get this, I just remembered a friend of mine back home, right? She's a real strong Mage, super cute, and I'm pretty damn sure she even has an adventurer's license, too! If I give her the heads up, I bet she'll come over and..."

Boss gives me a dry look, raising an eyebrow as he interrupts me. "And what, exactly? Are you inviting a random friend of yours into our bed so soon?"

Figures that he's more than a little bit skeptical. Even after I helped the damn guy make up his mind to start picking up more chicks, he still can't get over that part of his brain which keeps focusing on stupid crap like 'logic' and 'reason'.

"She's not just some random chick. She’s my best friend! Besides, would ya really be complaining if I did invite her into our bed?"

"That remains to be seen," He shrugs his shoulders. "It's just a bit odd to me how fast you're rushing to rope someone you know into our burgeoning relationship."

"It'll be fine. We’re just gonna see what happens! Zuzu is kinda weird, so I got no idea how she'd feel about joining a harem, anyway..." Knowing her as well as I do, though, I think she might be all for it. She's definitely lonely enough, and I know she wants attention, given the stuff I've found in her underwear drawers... "But hey, even if she doesn't wanna jump your bones, I bet ya anything she'll still hang around and go on adventures with me! That'd help out just as much, right?"

"Hmm. I suppose I can't argue with that..." Boss frowns and takes his chin between his fingers, scratching his three-pronged beard. He thinks about it for a minute, then dips into his office to grab everything I need.

"There's just one thing bothering me. Are you sure that sending a letter back home is a good idea?." He asks, setting out some paper and an ink pen, along with a tiny square piece of paper that I've never seen before.

"Uh, why would that matter?" I take the quill in hand while averting my eyes away from the crafty bastard. I thought the same thing, actually, but I don't wanna let him know that.

"Well, since you're the daughter of such a wealthy, important merchant, I can only imagine people are looking for you. Wouldn't that be the case?"

"...Yeeep, you might be right about that... I guess," I grumble, trying to avoid the topic. Luckily, Boss ends up dropping it for now, but I think it's pretty obvious that he doesn't fully believe my story. "What do you think we should do about it? Even if it's not about inviting her to Dewhurst, I still wanna let her know I'm doing ok..."

Boss closes his eyes and looks up at the ceiling. He must've picked up on how important this is to me because he comes up with a great plan in no time at all. "Well, it should be ok as long as you let me handle signing the address. I can make it resemble an official letter from the Association of Adventurers using my wax signet, which wouldn't attract too much attention."

"Nice! Good thinking, Boss. There's just one little question I have left..." My eyes dart to it, and I pick up the little square and hold it up. "What the heck is this thing?"

Boss looks at me quietly, making an expression showing he thinks I'm stupid. "That's... a stamp?"

I grumble because it's not like telling me the name helps all that much. "And? What is it for?"

"It's a thing you put on letters which pay for the Mailmage to send it to its destination. Does this really not sound familiar to you at all?"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. We have to pay? To send letters?! I thought people would just come and take it!"

Another small silence from Boss as he chooses his next words carefully. "Have you ever written a single letter in your entire life, Sam?"

"I... uh... no. No, I have not." I gulp, feeling more than a little called out.

He sighs and hangs his head, stating, "Right, that would make sense. My apologies. Just say what you need to say, and don't worry about the rest, then. In the meantime, I'm going to make us a light breakfast and gather a little gold from the vault so we can go on a shopping trip."

I get the feeling that he's looking down on me, but whatever. There's not enough time in the day to get grumpy over every little thing. "Okay..." I frown as Boss heads into the kitchen.

As a sheltered Princess, there's a whole lotta crap out there that I haven't ever done, writing letters included. So what? This is my chance to learn how the real world works, bit by bit. I'll blend in perfectly with the commoners one day, just you watch me, Boss!

For now, though, there's something more important at hand- and that’s handwriting this letter. Since I'm a pretty straightforward gal, it doesn't take me very long. After a certain point, I start rambling on and on, but that's ok by me. There's so much to tell the girl that I can't cover it all without getting chatty.

I tell Zuzu that I miss her real bad, and I apologize my sorry little ass off for not telling her I was running away from home in the first place. I even give her a brief rundown of the junk that happened in Perlshaw that led to me going to Dewhurst. Most importantly of all, I explain where I am now and how much I think it'd be a dope-ass idea for her to leave that dusty, lonely tower of hers to come and join me.

Every part of me is convinced that coming to Dewhurst would be the best thing that ever happened to her. This could just be wishful thinking, sure, but after seeing what freedom has done for me so far and alongside the peace of mind I get from being around Boss, I can't imagine she wouldn't feel the same way.

After finishing up, I look back and re-read the whole letter only to find something that bothers the heck outta me. A lot of it is just me gushing over Boss without even meaning to. I know I literally just said being around him makes me happy and that he's great, funny, smart, and pretty hot, but... c-c'mon, Sam! This is just embarrassing!

I basically wrote a big ol' letter telling my best friend about how much I've been getting railed for the last four days while not so subtly hinting that she should come and get a piece of this for herself! Gah, I'm halfway tempted to rip the stupid thing up and start all over again from the beginning, but there's no time for that. Boss re-enters the room with a tray carrying a breakfast sandwich and a glass of milk, plopping them on the table next to me. There's also a small bag of gold strapped to his belt now, too.

It looks like he's a little annoyed, but before I can even comment on it, he looks down at my letter and raises an eyebrow like he can't believe what he's looking at. "Sweet Goddesses above and below, that handwriting is simply atrocious." He says, unable to stop himself from blurting it out, even though it's rude as all hell. I mean, I'm not much better... but still.

"S-Shut up!" I cover up the letter with my hand before he can read any of the embarrassing parts with those damn magic eyes of his. "My handwriting is totally normal. You’re just exaggerating! But... uh... you didn't just read any of it right now, did ya?"

Boss shrugs his shoulders and adjusts his glasses with his middle finger. "I sure as hell tried, but for the life of me, I couldn't even make it beyond the first sentence. 'Tew Zuklinez Sicklodok' was as far as I got, and I have to ask if this bizarre collection of scribblings are actual words or if they're meant to be some sort of magical spell that I'm unaware of?"

"What the fuck! It's not that bad. It says right there, plain as day, 'To Zutiria Syndaline', you dummy!"

"If you say so, my dear." He smirks, holding out his hand for the letter. I grumble and hand it to him before shoving the sandwich into my mouth and going to town on it- after I stick my tongue out at the bastard, of course.

Boss wraps the letter in an envelope and then seals it closed using a magic wax ring he pulls out of his pocket, which has the Association's emblem on it- basically a stylized ‘AoA’ symbol on a shield. Next, he licks that stamp thingy to make it sticky enough to stay on the paper, and then finally he takes the quill I was using, asking, "What is Zutiria's address?"

There he goes again with his weird-ass mail words I don't understand. "What's her what now?"

"Where does she live? Rather, where does this letter need to go to make sure that Zutiria receives it?" He breaks it down nice and slow for me, which makes the explanation feel a little condescending, but I'm probably just taking it the wrong way.

More importantly, I'm panicking because now I gotta tell him the truth, kinda. "She, uh... lives in Imperalis, just like me."

"Needs to be more specific than that, Sam."

"Well, y'know... she lives in... uh... the biggest building in the city. Yeah, yeah! Let's go with that!"

"I've never been to Imperalis, but if I'm correct... wouldn't that mean your best friend lives in Castle Lundreame?" Erk, his eyes are getting all suspicious of me again.

"Yeeeep, she sure does. Isn't that crazy? Hahaha... man, I wonder what that place looks like from the inside? I wouldn't know, of course, since I've never been anywhere near Castle Lundreame myself..." I playfully roll my eyes and look away, hoping to the Gods that Boss doesn't press me on this latest bullshit of mine.

Thankfully, he doesn't bat an eye this time, and instead, Boss just writes the address down on the envelope after refilling the quill with ink. Man, his handwriting is all neat and fancy. He even uses that fancy cursive crap or whatever it's called that my tutors tried to teach me.

Instead of learning how to use a sword like I wanted, I was forced to learn all sorts of girly junk that never stuck with me for very long. Calligraphy was boring as all hells, and it sure as shit didn't make my handwriting any better. Most of the time, I ditched my classes and went exploring the dungeon-like upper levels of the castle, or sometimes when I saw a chance, I'd sneak out to the city.

That was where my lifelong fascination with adventure all started, come to think of it...

Boss snaps me out of my nostalgia by patting me on the head as he leaves to drop off the letter into the mailbox, or however that works. He comes back real fast, and there's definitely something wrong by the looks of it. That annoyed expression of his went from subtle to full-on upset. In his hands, he's got a big envelope and a stack of papers that he stares angrily at, one of his eyebrows twitching from stress.

I set down my sandwich and finish off my milk to go and join him. I only had about half of the sandwich, but I felt full anyway, and Boss needs help, so I gotta do my best to cheer him up.

"You good, Boss?" I put my hand on his back and rub him through his shirt, feeling the thick muscles he's got back there... damn... it's still so hard for me to believe he was a shut-in sometimes, what with how shredded and hot he- damn it, you slut! Stop getting sidetracked!

"No, I'm not good. We have a small problem on our hands. When I was in the Guild's vault a moment ago, I noticed that the gold from your defeated Slimes hadn't been magically deposited yet. That alone was enough to rouse my suspicions, but I had to check the mail to be sure. As you can see," Boss waves around the envelope, "The report was never sent, so it's no wonder we haven't been paid."

"What?! Why the hell not?" No wonder he's upset. That’s awful news if I ever heard it!

"No clue. We'll have to take it up with the Mailmage branch, although the mayor's office might be a better place to start since I can't think of a reason that the Mailmages would deny me service..." When he brings up the mayor, Boss screws his face up even more from stress.

"No big deal," I keep rubbing his back, trying to fight back his sour mood. "Don't go bothering yourself to death about this. We’ll get it sorted out!"

"It's awful hard not to." He says, grumbling under his breath. Poor guy. Boss has trouble focusing on the positive when negative junk crops up like this, and I wish I could help him somehow. 

"What else ya got there?" I try and lighten the situation, asking about the rest of the papers he brought in from the mail.

Boss shuffles the sheets around, flipping through 'em like he's done it a million times. "Oh, nothing important. These are just Quests issued by the Association. None of them are all that interesting, regional kill quests... a price change or two in monster bounties. Really, the most exciting among them are little more than glorified fetch quests.”

“That doesn’t sound all that exciting...”

“Sarcasm, Sam. They’re little more than go here and gather this and that so we can make potions and then sell them back to you at exorbitant prices, things like that."

Wait a second, did I just hear him right? "Boss, I know I ain't the brightest, but that last thing you said sounds kinda shady as all hell."

The man smiles, looking off into the distance. "Shady is a good word for the Association as a whole. Potion racketeering is just one of their many schemes. They pay rookie adventurers like you to keep their alchemists well-stocked, passing none of the savings down to the adventurer... unless, of course, you subscribe to their monthly potion subscription service, but that's just one big scam, too."

"Geez. I had no idea that there was so much bullshit going on with the Guilds... you, uh, ya don't gotta do stuff like that to people... do you?" I don't know how I would handle it if Boss had to make money through exploiting innocent adventurers who don't know any better. I wouldn't like it, that's for sure.

Thank the Gods, he sets the record straight right away and proves he’s a better man than that. "No, explaining all the reasons why would be a chore, so I'll just sum it up and tell you that the Dewhurst Guild is fairly free to do as it pleases, as long as I pay my dues."

"Nice," I sigh because I'm just so damned relieved to hear that. "I woulda been mad as hell if you tried to sell me a potion subscription. I ain't sleeping with my Boss for nothing, y'know. I expect perks! A potion here and there to keep me from dying on the job is the least ya could do!"

Boss has himself a laugh at my joke, and some of his stuffiness looks like it clears up. "I'll keep that in mind, Princess."

I actually kind of want to ask him more about some of the other shady shit that the Association does, but I know that'd just wreck his mood. Some other time. For now, I wanna make sure that my man- er- that my Boss keeps his head in the game.

"Go ahead and do what you need to do with the papers. I’ll wait for ya outside. Gotta fit in some stretches before hitting the town!" Even though it's embarrassing, after getting up from the table, I lean in and give him a kiss on the cheek before running off to grab my sword. Seeing the satisfied smile on his face was totally worth it, and his eyes linger on me as I go.

I pick up my sword from the dusty storage closet after almost tripping on a giant, fat rat which got in my way while scurrying into the nearest hole in the wall. Fucker almost scared me half to death! This Guild is always full of surprises...

Funny, this big ol' blade of mine feels a little lighter than it usually does. Wonder if that means that the training I did the other day was even more effective than I thought? If that's the case, then I'm even more excited to get back on the field and right back to work!

Rushing out the broken front door, I do some stretches to get nice and warmed up. After being mostly bed-ridden for the last few days, getting my body limber again feels fantastic. My back keeps cracking in all the right ways, and I'm loving every second of it! I should probably avoid lazing around again so much if I can help it, but it was a special circumstance.

While I'm still waiting for Boss to show up, I draw my sword and put in a couple of practice swings. With each slash, I focus on all the things that Boss taught me about my footwork, grip, and posture. His advice is a game-changer. Even though superhuman strength naturally runs in my family, it still took some effort to whirl this thing around.

Now, though? Now, slicing and dicing feel as smooth as a hot knife going through butter.

Boss steps out of the Guild right as I return my weapon to the sling on my back, carrying the last bite of his own sandwich. He gulps it down, wipes up the mess on his chin with the same handkerchief as before, and then claps. "Looking good today."

"Damn right!" Feeling a little sassy because of all the confidence I got going on, I give him a wink, a smirk, and a spank on my butt.

Boss laughs the teasing off, shaking his head and crossing his arms. "I was talking about your skill. Looks like you still remember everything I taught you, color me impressed."

So he's impressed, huh? Gah, why does that make me feel all warm and cozy inside? Trying not to get all flustered again, I brush his praise off. "Oh, uh... well, duh. Of course, I remember. You're an excellent teacher, Boss, so it'd be super hard to go and forget!" I don't tell him this part, but it's not like I could ever forget his 'hands-on' lesson even if I wanted to.

He was straight up groping me- that bastard- even if I know he didn't mean it like that... but now, whenever I slip up and need to fix my form, it's almost like I can feel his hands on my body correcting my mistakes. I'm really grateful for what Boss did for me, even if I can't express it all that well.

"Nonsense," Like usual, he ignores my praise and humbles himself. "You're a natural at this, and that's a fact."

And there goes any chance I had at keeping calm.

I feel the heat building up in my cheeks so hot that I clench my trembling fists to keep calm. That's when Boss makes it even harder on me, stepping forward and offering his hand as he asks, "Do you want to keep practicing, or are you ready to go out on our little date?"

Uh. Did Boss just say... d-d-date?! Like... as in a DATE date? That thing that couples do, or whatever?!

I look awkwardly at his hand, realizing he wants me to hold it. Sure, we already held hands three days ago, but that was different. This is... something else. Why does Boss keep doing this to me? He's so embarrassing, and he's only getting worse day by day!

This is it, Sam. He's getting way too cheeky, and if I don't put him in his place now, then... then...!

"Y-Yeah, sure. No time like the present!" Like a total dumbass, I grab his hand in mine and squeeze it tight with a dopey ass smile on my face. At least I have gloves on, and Boss can't feel how sweaty I'm getting under the hood...

Man, I'm hopeless, aren't I? Whatever, even if I am, at least I got myself a date...

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Rise of the Guild Master