Nineteen

Wisteria sat in her inn room, going over every part of her rifle. It had been dismantled and taken in for maintenance, and though it had been serviced, she always preferred to put it back together herself. The spring had completely worn through, so she had to get a new one, inspecting it for any flaws. Perfect, as always. The barrel had been cleared of any accumulated wear and debris, the bolt slid well, the polish on the wood even brought back some of the shine that had worn away recently. 

There was something about the craftsmen of the Northern Ward that paid such close attention to detail in their work. Perhaps it was the weather. Nevertheless, she slotted each piece back where it belonged, a process she could do, and had done, blindfolded. She folded the whole ensemble, placing it carefully into its carrying case. 

Satisfied, she decided to head outside and grab some food. The bracing air of the Northern Ward was refreshing, especially having just come from the south. Even though it had only just entered fall-time, it was already scarf-weather up here, and, soon enough, it would become time to don heavy winter jackets that turned everyone into indistinguishable piles of fur and wool. 

A local stand was selling cups of hot broth with fish cakes floating aimlessly throughout. She tossed a coin their way, sipping the hot broth, delightfully light and savory, a not-unpleasant fishy-aftertaste lingering on the tongue. 

She carried her soup in a cup to the nearest guild outpost, scanning the board for any interesting jobs. Her eyes glazed over as they passed through job after job, most ill-suited, most ill-paying. It was, she was told, always like this following a heroic journey. Plenty of people needed help, but very few had the resources to request it. Naturally, there were always people willing to take those jobs, a circle of desperate people helping desperate people. It was beautiful, in a way, just a shame it was the promise of coin exchange that facilitated it. 

“Miss Fay!” A voice called from one of the kiosks. 

“Lai, darling, what is it?” She wandered over. Lai was one of the desk workers who helped to process jobs and rewards, and the one Wisteria had had the most contact with over the past couple days. Her attention pulled, Wisteria talked over to the kiosk.

“Congratulations on your promotion! It’s rare to get talent like yours here at the guild. Why, soon, you might be at the top. You’ll remember me when you’re famous, right?”

”Of course I will. You’ve been ever so sweet to me.” 

“I’ve been told by the higher-ups to give you this,” she said, handing over what looked like a bounty. Bounties were a nasty affair, and despite the fact that she carried a rifle like this, she made it a point not to turn it on other people unless absolutely necessary. Perhaps there was hypocrisy in carrying a weapon like this and not wanting to use it against others, but it was one she carried always. 

“Sorry, hun, I don’t take bounties.”

“It’s a top-secret job that only those with clearance should know about. At the very least, you need to know about it.”

“Very well,” she sighed, taking a look at the paper before tucking it into her pocket. “Heroslayer Ye-Eun, hm? What’s the story here?”

Lai waved her closer so she could whisper.

“No one knows who she is or where she came from, but it’s said she went on the hero’s journey and betrayed the hero Nari Han after the Demon Lord’s defeat.” 

“Well, isn’t that quite something? Hasn’t it been some time since then?”

”6 years and they still haven’t caught her. She must be some kind of criminal mastermind, versed in the ugly underbelly of society.” 

“Oh dear. I’ll keep an eye out.”

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