Actions

Work Header

A Solid Team Does Not Mean That Friendship Is Necessary (Yet)

Work Text:

The first mission for Matt as a team up with Dom and Chris was not too bad, in his opinion. Considering that it mainly dealt with a criminal gang that had been harassing and stealing valuables from a nearby town, it sort of made sense in why the contract specifically asked for a swordsman. Using brute force and maybe a huge sword is more than enough to teach them a terrifying lesson or two.

The criminal gang that they went to confront were armed, yes, but put in a bigger picture, they were a bunch of local bullies that thought that forming a criminal gang was a prospective career and they panicked once a couple of their own people got taken down with ease by the three of them.

With three rookies from the Hunter’s Guild dealing with the gang rather than a single person whose ranking is above a rookie by one level, the three of them pretty much came out of the fight unscathed and handed the gang members over to the town’s sheriff to lock them up and receive their reward.

While it did take some time to coordinate each other in terms of roles, skills, and fighting abilities, nonetheless they took down the gang without any injuries inflicted on them, aside from exhaustion.

As for the experience of what it was like teaming up with a ranger and a swordsman on the same ranking level as he is, Matt had already expected it to be different. While the mage had teamed up with his fellow classmates before back when he was still under Bergfalk’s tutelage and there have always been differences in how one uses and applies their skills and abilities in the battlefield, to learn what and how Chris and Dom’s fighting styles are and how to work together was a firsthand experience.

From Matt’s observations, each of them are more than proficient enough in how they fight in combat, but it was more than obvious that each of them had their respective strengths and weaknesses. 

For a swordsman like Chris, he is at his best advantage in close-range combat with his sword. Meaning that between the three of them, Chris is the best physical fighter in the team. Which also meant that he has to go into the field itself to deal the most damage to his opponent. Although the swordsman is more than tough enough to take some hits and can defend himself from fighting up close and personal, nonetheless it still puts him in an unfavourable position of not only being vulnerable to attacks from his opponents, but also from potential hazards from friendly fire.

For Dom, as a ranger, with his bow and arrow and other projectile weapons at hand he can take on enemies from a long-distance. Possessing a recurve bow for longer, powerful ranged attacks and a crossbow for nearer, faster firing rate, Dom could shoot down his opponents before they can even reach to him. Although he has a dagger and quite experienced in close quarters combat to protect himself should someone get to him close enough, he mostly prefers to stay at a distance when in an open fight. Staying away from the heat of the battle is his best source of offense and defense. It is where he can have ample advantages to attack.

For Matt himself, as a mage he can dish out his attacks from any range and -should he be given the time, energy, and opportunity- even use his magical abilities to manipulate the battlefield to have the outcome be more in favour for him and his teammates. Unlike most mages and wizards, as a mage specialised in using his gauntlets to channel his powers, he isn’t squishy or physically weak thanks to Bergfalk’s more rigorous education and training in martial arts, and in dire situations, he can form a shield bubble around him to protect himself from kinetic and magical attacks. 

It would sound as though Matt would be effectively entirely invincible in both melee and range combat if it weren’t for the fact that he shares a weakness that most mages and wizards have: how much they can expend from their magical cores. For once he overuses his core while still in combat, he would be left at a state to be both physically and mentally too exhausted to protect himself. And thus, he becomes very vulnerable and a potential hostage to an opportunistic opponent.

So what they had to go through a few days while tracking down the gang that they were to take down wasn’t figuring out who should take which role, but more of practicing in how to work together and cover each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Despite the short time they had to learn, it was somehow more than enough to help in coordinating between each other. Finishing the job without any casualties on their side was proof alone.

After returning to the guild to submit their report of how the job went, Matt assumed that they will part ways and do their own activities until Dom invites Matt back to team up again. Knowing Dom over the past week during their assignment, Matt suspects that by how quickly the ranger bonded with the swordsman and in making Matt be less prickly around him, Dom would be finding another job contract just for the purpose to team up with him and Chris again. 

For now, Matt isn’t worried too much by it. They only just got back yesterday, so it will probably be a few days before Dom will find a lucrative job to take on once more. If not, the mage can always fall back on the rookie jobs for a solo one.

Waking up in his own bed after a week spent in sleeping bags and inn beds, Matt takes his time to sit up and stretch his body. He has everything planned for the day. A nice hot shower. A light and filling breakfast. Go to the guild and see what there is to do. Walk around the city and browse the stores before getting supper and going home.

It is a routine that Matt is more than ready to go through as he gets up to leave his bedroom.

“Morning, Matt!”

Only to scream in fright when he finds Dom and Chris in his kitchen, having breakfast with bowls of cereal and bread and tea and the sight of them being in his flat effectively threw Matt’s plans off the rails.

“How did you get into my flat?!” Matt shouts, after he had stopped screaming. 

“By the front door,” Dom answers while chewing on a spoonful of cereal. 

“You could’ve knocked first!” Matt shouts back in reply, eyes alight in fury. How dare they be in his safe and secure home that he often locks up at night, as though they can enter his flat freely and eating his food?

“I did, half an hour ago,” Dom scoffs after swallowing. “When you didn’t open the door after spending five minutes waiting for you to wake up and open the door, I just used my lockpicking kit to get in.”

“I tried to stop him, but he already unlocked the door before I could,” Chris mumbles as a weak excuse. Judging from the untouched spoon and still full bowl of cereal soaking up the milk, at least the swordsman has not gone as far as Dom has in making himself settle in as though he lives here.

“Tell me the reason why the two of you are here before I kick you out of my place,” Matt growls, his hands glowing and sparkling and directed at the two men. Although the gauntlets that he normally uses to channel his powers are in the bedroom, he can still use his magic without trouble, even if it will leave him more exhausted for doing it without the gauntlets.

“I got us another job!” Dom exclaims, pulling a folded paper contract out of his bag. He grins as he unfolds the paper right in front of the mage. 

“And you couldn’t have waited until I was in the guild for this?” Matt asks coldly, the threatening tone of his voice making Chris reel back in fright. Strangely enough, Dom does not seem to be affected by it.

“Hey, I had to take it before somebody else did!” Dom argues back.

“This job better be worth it for you to have broke into my home,” Matt growls, taking the contract from the ranger’s hand.

“It’s going to be worth it!” Dom corrects him.

Matt ignores that quip in favour of reading the contract. As he reads on, the frown on his face lessens down. Truthfully, he wants to stay angry at the ranger, but the lucrativeness of the contract proved to be what is keeping his emotions in check and from further lashing out at Dom.

“I snagged it and got it approved as soon as it was pinned up to the board,” Dom says with a smug grin before he eats another spoonful of cereal.

He could have kicked the both of them out if it weren’t for the fact that the ranger is annoyingly right. The job involved is one of the ones that Matt had seen is not available for rookies to take, and the reward money on the contract is a pretty good pay to boot.

“It looks like a good contract to take, but that still doesn’t mean that you have to break into my flat for this!”

“I told Chris of the new job this morning and I wanted to let you know as soon as possible. Would you rather be left out of the loop?” Dom asks.

Inwardly, Matt grudgingly admits that it would have sounded unfair if he had been left out of the loop of the news. Still, he would rather prefer that Dom had waited to meet him in the guild to tell him about it than, say, break into his flat, dragged Chris the swordsman in as well, and eat his breakfast cereal without permission.

“We just got back yesterday. Give me another two days of rest before we can venture out of town for this job.”

“Of course! I’m not that nasty to force you or Chris to go on another job right away,” Dom says. “Oh, finish up your cereal, Chris. It’ll get soggy if you don’t eat them up soon.”

Matt suspects that the day when all of the blood veins in his brain finally burst he is more than sure on who to place the blame on, even if the situation that led to the cause didn’t involve Dom in it.

-----

The next time Dom breaks into Matt’s flat, Matt is a lot more ready to strike at the ranger in return. Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to use that as his reaction since Dom is quick enough to show that he has found another new job for the three of them to do as soon as they got back. 

By the third time, it becomes a pattern. Every time they finish a job and return to the city of where their guild is, they get a new job lined up for them within two to three days thanks to Dom and then they’re up and out of the city before there’s even time to do their laundry on the steadily accumulating pile of dirty clothes.

And then came the next one, and another, and another…

It was as if once Dom saw that their relationship in working together is viable to his eyes, he wanted to take advantage of it to ensure that it can continue on and be able to get promoted from their current ranking level as soon as possible. That, or because he knows of Matt’s reactions towards him, the ranger is making sure that he is keeping them all busy enough in earning money that Matt wouldn’t have much ground to be irritated at him or the time to beat him up.

Before Matt knew it, more than a month later, he is sort of expecting such missions to come up. The reward money from each job completed was not much when split for three men, but from accumulating the number of job requests they have taken and completed together, the mage had more than enough money to cover the rent for his flat for the next two months and to afford some better items in the market. 

At the very least, it sure beats taking the rookie solo jobs. Which, incidentally, Matt had noticed that he has not taken a single solo mission ever since the first job that he took together with Chris and Dom. The ranger has been quick enough to pick and find them jobs to do that Matt barely has the time to even browse through all of the rookie level jobs.

That said, he is not happy and still not used to Dom breaking into his flat, sometimes with a reluctant yet still complicit Chris in tow, no matter how many times Matt had changed the locks of his door, installed more locks on the doors and windows, and even gone as far as to set up basic magic wards that can alert him in case of a break in from the doors or windows. 

Somehow, even with what is the magical equivalent of a security alarm, the ranger still manages to enter his flat without even triggering a single alarm. Which, if Matt had a better temper, such a feat would genuinely impress him. There are times when Matt wonders if the reason Dom had chosen to be a Ranger rather than a Rogue class is to throw off others from finding out what he is truly capable of.

Today is one of the rare days for Matt where he didn’t wake up to unwanted visitors intruding his flat this morning and the mage has stepped foot into the guild without ever encountering the ranger or the swordsman on the way. And he had time to do some domestic chores before leaving his flat such as cleaning up his home and get his laundry done. For that, he casted several spells to get his clothes washed, wringed, and hung to dry. 

However, the paranoia that Dom might break into his flat while he is gone has made him spent quite some time before he left his home for the guild in reinforcing his locks and the changing the wards from not just sending a signal in case to him of a break in, but also physically block anyone from entering his home.

Matt sits down on one of the empty tables and lays his head on top of the wooden surface, Looking around, he spots a newspaper that one of rookies may have left on the table, the papers opened on the advertisement page where various mages who have set up shop as security companies in the city that are selling their services to create magical wards and locks, and had to resist the temptation to purchase such services. These services are usually sold for those who are in of need advanced wards to keep their houses or shops secured from burglars, like a wealthy businessman’s mansion or a bank.

And he is a mage himself, so why waste the money that he had earned on something that he knows how to do by himself?

Although, he may have to reevaluate on buffing up the defense power towards creating the wards, considering that the ranger did managed to break through the basic wards that he had set up. 

Ever since Matt had started putting up wards in his flat, Dom has successfully broken into his flat at least three times. That means that Dom already knows how to get through magical wards and might probably figure out even the advanced wards when given time to learn which magical security company the mage would use and find out their weaknesses. Even if Dom fails the first time, there is no doubt in Matt’s mind that he wouldn’t make the same mistakes on his second or third attempt.

After all, if Dom knows where to find the anchors that Matt had set in place, he already is capable of repeating his feats on the more advanced wards.

Matt recalls from his studies when he was a student about the lessons of creating and breaking wards. Since its creation centuries ago and its subsequent improvements and experiments, all wards have been found with a few weaknesses; no matter what you do with it, it is considered a magical object that physically exists. The second problem is that it is impossible to keep the wards tethered in place in the location you desire without a physical object to act as the ward’s ‘anchor’ to tether it in place. 

His mentor, Bergfalk, had described setting up wards to be similar to setting up a camping tent. The wards are the tent fabric, and the anchors are the tent pegs. And much like tent pegs, the anchors stay outside from the protection of the wards, which leaves them in a vulnerable position and become weak points to the wards.

The thing about wards is that there is a difference between setting them up to protect a whole building and protecting a room. Much like the camping tent that his mentor describes, wards are like the tent fabric itself. You can either protect a whole area or a specific area, so if a ward is enveloped inside a room rather than the building itself, there are small gaps outside of the ward that are not protected. And thus, this meant that anchors can still be reachable. 

Fortunately, there are a variety of methods to get around this problem, such as having the anchors be charmed with traps, be hidden away from view, use everyday household items as anchors to hide them in plain sight, or pick the hardest, densest material in existence that makes the anchor very hard to break down. 

Nonetheless, it doesn’t get rid of the age old problem in that anchors can be broken.

Simply put, the key to opening a ward is to break the anchors. Without its anchors, nothing is tethering the ward in place and it will vanish. That means that a non-magical person with a hammer would break through the barriers of a magical ward, even advanced wards. Well, the latter can be doable so long as they have the sufficient knowledge to do so, the right equipments to deal with the nasty surprises that have been applied to the anchors, and the patience and persistence to find the hidden anchors to break it open.

Matt thinks about whether or not he should have the anchors be breakable only by himself or by those with a magical core on par of that of a mage/wizard before deciding against it. Although it is one of the only ways to prevent a non-magical person like Dom to make an attempt on the anchors, it comes with several disadvantages. 

First, in order to make the anchor be breakable only to mages/wizards, he has to constantly feed the anchors with magical energy coming from his own core rather than getting it from the magical energy coming from the natural environment itself. Although giving the anchors a more concentrated magical energy sourced from his own core will allow the anchors be put under a shield and the wards to be stronger, unless you possess a large magical core, it can be a subtle but noticeable drain to keep the anchors constantly fueled that way.

Second, to keep it constantly fed by his magical core means that he can’t leave his flat. If he leaves the vicinity of the wards or gets killed, being cut off the connection from his core, the anchors would revert back to fueling itself from the natural environment to sustain the wards. Thus, it would be breakable to a non-magical person again. 

Considering that he’s still a rookie level mage in the guild and how he has been constantly dragged from one job to the next lately, setting up such an anchor would be a big waste of resources. And he’s still too young to put himself in an isolated life like the few of the wizards and witches do when they get old. He doubts that he could even stand living in isolation.

That said, although in the future he might look back at this as effort done in futile, it would still be worthwhile to have an advanced ward be set up to surround his flat. Or even the whole building if both his landlord and the city council approves it. And instead of paying for someone to do it, maybe he is better off in purchasing a book on learning how to make advanced wards. 

“Matt?”

At least that way, the wards he set up by himself would be unique enough to keep Dom delayed at bay in figuring out how to get through and alert him of a break in.

“Hello?” A hand waves right in front of Matt. “You there, Matt?”

Matt blinks, then looks up and sees that it is Chris who has been calling his name.

“Are you alright?”

“Hm? Oh, yes. Yeah,” Matt replies. “Just got something in my mind.”

“Well, I got this.”

Chris holds up a job contract right in front of Matt to see.

“What do you think of this job?” Chris asks.

“Looks pretty good. Nothing seems wrong about it,” Matt says after doing a skim read. Although a part of himself doesn’t understand why he feels so confused at what he’s seeing at first. 

“And?” Chris presses on at the mage.

“And what?” Matt asks, confused. From what he had seen on the paper, the job is not a rookie level job. It’s a job that requires them to form a team to do it. The stamp on the paper made it pretty obvious.

He looks at the contract, and then at the swordsman, and then it clicked. 

“Wait—you picked this job for the team?” Matt asks. “Not Dom this time?”

Chris nods in confirmation. “I saw it on the board today and thought that it’ll be a good job to take with you and Dom. If you and Dom want to join me, that is.”

“Well, I’m not busy. So… yes?” Matt says, feeling like his brain has been flipped upside down. It was often Dom who finds them the jobs that involves the three of them going together. This time, Chris is the one who did the initiation.

“I can go and ask Dom next then.”

“I heard my name being mentioned!” Speak of the Devil, and the ranger arrives from behind Chris. He puts his arm over the swordsman’s shoulders. “What’s going on with you two?”

“I was asking Matt if he wanted to join me on a job and I was going to ask you as well.”

Dom blinks, then turns to look at Matt, then at Chris, and at the paper the swordsman is holding in his hand.

“Wait—You picked a job for us? For real?” Dom asks, surprised. Then, grinning from ear to ear, he pulls up his arm off of Chris’ shoulders to give him an enthusiastic pat on the back. “That’s awesome!

“Well, what are you waiting for? Get our names on it and get us approved to take the job!”

Chris rolls his eyes at the childish behaviour Dom is exhibiting right in front of him before he turns to go and get the permission approved for the three of them to take up the job.

All the while, Matt has not moved an inch from where he is sitting, his eyes staring down at the newspaper that he was reading. He isn’t reading the articles so much as he is distracted in his own thoughts of what just happened.

-----

It’s been a week since Matt, Chris, and Dom have returned from the last job. Turns out, it is possible for Dom to get burned out from constantly completing one job and going after another when he told Chris and Matt that he needs a few days of rest from exhaustion. So mostly, Matt has been having a pleasant time in not having the blond ranger breaking into his flat.

That last job was the one that Chris picked for them to take. Since then, life has been quiet, yet this quietness leaves Matt somewhat uncomfortable of it. It gives him time to think. Things have been unusual lately and he knows why. The reasons are that Dom has not found a job yet for them to do, and the last job they’ve taken was found by Chris, not by Dom.

It only just happened more than a week ago, and yet that one time has left behind an impact that is still making him think about it.

Matt hates to admit it, but looking back at it, he really did rely on and has gotten used to expecting Dom being the one to find new jobs for them to take on. In fairness, there has been more than a few times that Matt didn’t have the time to check the job board before the ranger had found a job for them to get it approved and waiting for them to complete. And a lot of them are not bad jobs to take. Still, this is not a good habit to take on and it has its drawbacks. 

The one big worry that Matt feels to be legitimately justified to be worried about is that in relying on the ranger to find jobs for them to do, Dom would eventually gain a stranglehold over picking which jobs that they should do, rather than the jobs that they want to do.

With that, Matt decides to focus on finding a rookie level job. Perhaps given that he now has the time for it, he can find a job to do by himself. No party setup needed at all.

After staring at the board for a few minutes, he starts to regret his decision and doubts if it is possible to find a job that he wants to do from it, much less willing to do it.

Looking at the contracts available, Matt can’t help but feel that the rookie level contracts leaves him wanting for anything but fighting monsters living under the sewers. Or dealing with sentient, sharp-toothed garden vegetables at someone’s greenhouse again. Is that one contract basically a babysitting job for the teenage daughter of some well-off merchant? How was such a job request even approved by the department?

After going for mission after mission of jobs that weren’t meant for rookies to take it solo and requiring to form a party with a swordsman and a ranger, it has made Matt forget the dread, the annoyance, and the trouble he had in picking rookie jobs that was the least humiliating to take.

Sick of staring at the rookie level contracts, Matt sneaks a glance at the higher ranking jobs on the board. Not too soon, several of them caught his attention. And one of them in particular piqued his interest. Breaking curses and magical traps is one of the skills that Bergfalk taught and Matt is quite proficient at it. It’s been awhile since he had a crack at it and the job would give him the opportunity for it.

But then this job is one ranking level above Matt’s current rookie level for him to take it by himself…

Part of Matt wonders why the marginally better jobs are left for higher ranking members to take, and another part of Matt is just itching to take these jobs over the rookie ones.

The reward was not only money, but also a chance to go to a well-known archeological region that he had dreamed of going. And maybe a bit of loot on the side. It was basically a paid holiday if he takes it. Yet to do that, he needs a few others to join him to even allow him to go to do the job. 

Matt makes a face, keeping his arms crossed by his chest as he look at the other jobs available before finally, unable to resist it any longer, he pulls his hand out and takes the contract off the board.

Turning around, Matt looks around the hall before he walks towards the corner of the hall where Dom and Chris are seated and having a few drinks.

“Hey, Matt! Been looking at the job board for any new ones?” Dom asks. “What do you got over there? Is it a job contract that I see in your hand?”

“There’s a job that caught my interest, just…” Matt struggles to find the right words to tell them that he wanted to take the job purely for his own selfish desires.

“It’s a job that’s not ranked for rookies and you need us to come along?” Dom surmises, having guessed and figured out Matt’s actual motives.

“I really want to take this job contract and I need a few more people with me to be allowed to do so,” Matt says, grimacing as he feels somewhat ashamed of basically using the ranger and the swordsman for a job that he wants to take on, even if he is not admitting that out loud.

Dom nods, then says, “If you wanted us to join with you just for one job that you wanted to do, you could’ve asked us straightaway in the first place.”

Matt blinks. “Wait, what?”

“I mean, there were a few jobs that we’ve done together that was actually taken for my own selfish reasons,” Dom says in an exploratory manner, pointing his finger at the swordsman. “And Chris is not innocent from it either.”

“It was the one time!” Chris argues. 

“No, you’ve done it twice now! You’re on an even number with me!”

“Do the two of you want to go with me for this job or not?” Matt cuts in, huffing in annoyance.

“Of course! We’re a team after all!” Dom exclaims, while Chris chooses to nod in affirmation.

“And don’t worry about taking a job for the team for your own selfish reasons!” Dom continues. “You can also take one more for it and then we’re all even!”

If Matt could roll his eyes hard enough, he wouldn’t doubt the possibilities that his eyeballs would pop out of the sockets.

Until he has been promoted up from his current ranking of rookie, Matt is stuck with having to deal with Chris and Dom in order to do jobs that he wants to take on rather than dealing with ridiculous jobs given to rookies. Given what the jobs on offer that he had seen on the board, it will take several rank promotions before he has a decent swathe of choices to take on as solo jobs.

For now, they are a team and it is a necessity to be a team, but Matt wouldn’t regard them as friends that he wants to spend his time with a lot. He has spent his time having their physical presence close by more than enough for nearly the past two months.