Can you… hear… my voice…?
The voice resonates through the dark. It is a beautiful voice, chiming like bells, but Rayas also hears the desperation in the voice. It’s as if the one behind the voice is straining just to speak.
The voice is compelling. Rayas wants nothing more than to run towards the voice, to find the one who speaks so fervently to him. But he finds himself imprisoned in the nothingness. He cannot see or move, and no words escape his mouth. It is as if he lost his body, reduced to nothing but a stream of thoughts, and all he can do is to listen.
So he listens.
The Demon Seal will be broken…
The world will be destroyed…
And I… I can do nothing. For I… will soon be gone…
You must save the world…
The voice feels foreign and familiar at once. Rayas realizes that he has heard the voice before. Not in his waking moments, but in dreams – this voice had come to him, night after night. It warned him of the dangers to come, pleaded with him to take action. With each rise of the sun the memory dissolved away, but each night it returned, and it was like he had never forgotten it at all.
I shall give you the power you need…
And just as the recognition hits, the voice starts to fade. Panic rises up, and Rayas tries to shout into the void that surrounds him. All is quiet, except for that voice, now a mere whisper.
My name is……
“Was that… the dream I keep having…?”
Rayas, 25-years-old, stood still in the middle of a clearing. He blinked. Frowned. The feel of the clothes against his skin, the sunlight reflecting from his sword, the shifting of his weight as he swayed where he stood – it was almost too much, after the dark.
The dark. The voice. He remembered. It was the dream that he’s been having, the dream that he struggled to remember each morning as the memory slipped away like sand. At last he remembered, but it was more than that. Just now, it was as if it all actually happened. He thought he could still hear the echoes of the voice, fading into nothingness.
Before he could reflect on what had happened, a loud voice demanded his attention.
“Rayas! What are you doing?! We’re in the middle of a battle!”
Rayas jumped, and nearly tripped turning towards the man with an eyepatch. Ganan’s hefty stature, combined with the scar across his face, often intimidated those who dared to cross the Guildmaster of the Isliid Adventurer’s Guild, Reigard branch. Rayas, usually on a friendlier terms with the man, was no exception to this.
“Huh? What was I…”
Ganan cut off Rayas’ confused ramblings. His voice was loud and firm.
“If you can’t keep your mind on what you’re doing, you’re going to fail the test! You OK with that, kid?!”
Test. Test? Tests were not something Rayas often had to deal with. Long pasts were days when he was forced to sit in classes, wondering when he would next get the chance to explore the ruins. Compared to a knight like his friend Roy, Rayas wasn’t required to have an extensive background in education to become an adventurer. But while there wasn’t much book smarts required for the Adventurer’s Guild, one still had to go through a process of sorts for entering the Guild. And at the end of the process, the final step to becoming a Guild member was—
“Oh, right! The Adventurer’s Guild exam!!”
And it all came back to him. They were at the plains of Isliid, past the edges of the town. The civilians didn’t often venture out deep into the forest, and the monsters rarely breached the borders of civilization. But here, the open field between the two, was the no man’s land. Whoever entered here were fair game to the other side.
Which made it the perfect setting for the Adventurer’s Guild exam.
“Hey, you sure you’re all right?” Ganan looked concerned. The field still wasn’t a place to let one’s guard down. It was strange, even foolish, for Rayas to be distracted in a place like this. “You do know I’m only overseeing your test myself as a favor to Roy, right?!”
“Of course, but-! Just now… There was a girl, and-!”
Rayas tried to explain, but it all came jumbled out. To be honest, he wasn’t sure if he himself understood what was going on either.
“Get hold of yourself! This is no time for romance!” Ganan yelled. “Just hurry up and take care of those monsters!”
Well, there’ll be time to sort it out later.
“Gotcha! I’ll take care of these pipsqueaks!”
And just like that, they were back in business.
Ganan didn’t seem to be able to shake off his concerns as Rayas progressed through the field. He stayed close to Rayas, rambling about effective combat and elemental advantage – all of the things the Guildmaster had already drilled into Rayas long before the entrance exam. Rayas must’ve really unnerved the old man when he spaced out in the middle of the field.
Rayas couldn’t have the Guildmaster think he was a poor fit for combat. So he gave his all against the monsters. By the end of it he had worked up quite a sweat.
“How was that?”
“Hm, not bad.” Ganan mused, and Rayas’ heart skipped a beat. This was good! Maybe he did impress Ganan with the battle. If he passed this final hurdle, he was going to be officially part of the Guild.
“Let’s head back to town for now.”
“What’s wrong? See something? You keep looking around like crazy.”
Rayas turned to Ganan’s voice. He did feel just a little bit crazy. ‘Overwhelmed’ was probably a more accurate term. The orphanage he grew up at met his basic needs and the staff were kind, but Rayas didn’t really get to travel much in his childhood. He snuck out when he could, but a young, untrained child could only get so far.
And now he was at Reigard – a busy place, everyone bustling about, and there were so many of them – and it was a lot.
“Oh. I’m just not used to Reigard yet. It really is a big city.”
“Bwahahahaha!” Ganan laughed, not unkindly. Rayas knew Ganan wasn’t someone that liked to embarrass others. “I’ll tell you about what’s in town later. Let’s get to the Guild, first!”
“All right, then – your entrance test is over, but let me ask again…”
The guild office at Reigard was a cozy little thing, if a little cluttered. Rayas loved it. He probably would’ve loved it even if the building was at the brink of collapse – what mattered was that this was the guild, that this was what he had worked towards. Whether this could be his place now rested on the man sitting across from him, and so he paid attention to Ganan’s every word.
“Rayas – why do you want to join the Guild?”
This was the big question, wasn’t it? It was the question that defined his training up to this point. The question everyone asked, and never quite understood his answer to.
“Your old friend Roy is a famous knight of the empire… Couldn’t you have joined him?”
“I want,” Rayas hesitated just a bit. Everyone meant well, of course. But he knew what he wanted, what he needed. Now, he was finally at a point in his life where he could pursue it. “—to see more and learn more about the world!”
Ganan said nothing, just kept a serious look on his face. Encouraged, Rayas continued.
“Sure, being a knight seems cool and all, but I don’t want to be cooped up in just one place! I want to adventure, free as a bird! It’s a big world out there, and I want to see it all!”
Rayas was shouting by the end of it. There was a pause, and for a moment Rayas was worried that he had overdone it, that Ganan would laugh at him.
Then Ganan smiled.
“…I see. Sounds good to me!”
As Rayas’ face brightened, Ganan’s voice took a more official tone.
“As master of the Reigard Branch of the Adventurer’s Guild, I hereby admit you, Rayas, to the Guild!”
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! He did it! He was in! He was part of the Guild now! His body jumped up from the chair on his own, and there was no way he could keep his voice down now.
“All right! I’m officially an adventurer—“
“Now, not so fast!” Ganan cut him off before he could start jumping up and down in pure excitement. “I’ve admitted you, sure, but I’m still not sure you’ve got what it takes!”
Ganan’s words hit Rayas like a bucket of cold water. What did it mean, he didn’t have what it takes? He passed the exam, didn’t he?
“I’ll teach you a few things – come with me!”