Lying down on the couch, Shina’s eyes were closed as she fell asleep almost right after the wyrm started flying.
At the opposite of the relaxed Shina, the wyrm had it hard as it constantly avoided the roads filled with flying creatures no matter how strong they were. While the wyrm considered itself as a king within the sky, he did not dare engage in a fight even against an inferior creature with the girl on its back.
Being responsible for Shina’s safety during the travel, the wyrm had the feeling that he would definitely regret it if she were even scratched while she remained under his protection. Because of this, while the travel was far longer than her previous visit due to him only taking safe roads, allowing Shina to have a nap in peace and without much disturbance.
When the wyrm finally arrived, the sun was fully illuminating the sky and the pure blue sky announced that today would have a great weather.
As the wyrm landed down at the same place as yesterday, it let out a small cry which disturbed Shina’s nap, making her eyes open slowly.
“We’re already there?”
Getting off the couch, she stretched her small body while letting out a faint yawn. The wyrm made a strange expression somehow similar to a human’s sigh as it curled up like a ball and relaxed.
With Shina safely arriving, it could relax until the afternoon where she would come get him to go back home.
Tapping the creature's forehead with the palm of her hand, she started walking in the same direction as last time when she was with her father.
“See you later lazy lizard!”
Nodding in agreement, the wyrm went to sleep after seeing Shina left his surrounding.
Just like last time, Shina saw the last city with its massive wall protecting it from any enemies and a large amount of wagon as well as travelers waiting for their turns to enter. The shock wasn’t as big as the first time for Shina as she got used to many things during her ‘travel’ with Mystel.
Looking at the surrounding of the city, Shina couldn’t help but notice something that wasn’t present the last time she visited. There were a lot of children sitting on the grass around the city as if searching for something.
Their numbers were close to one or two hundred. This strange event made Shina particularly pay more attention to them, some of them were talking and laughing with a large smile, others were solely focused on their tasks while ignoring their surroundings, she even caught some of them crying like it was a punishment to be there. Most of the children belonging to the last kind were being taken care of by some adults dressed in leather armor.
“They are probably just some regulars children.”
Shina quickly noticed that they were all here for the same reason; collecting some kind of herbs, making her at first think that they were probably all from the slums and looking for some money.
But after looking at each one in search if by chance Eniel wasn’t in the group, she realized that her first idea was wrong. From their clothes and relaxed attitude, it was obvious that they had a family and someone to take care of them.
Some of them were dressed in very simple but clean clothes while others were wearing some piece of leather probably bought at a blacksmith or custom made by a specialist. It wasn’t something children from the slums would wear even if they had the choice. It was the same as exposing their riches and most of the time, it ends badly in the underworld.
The adult supervising them also weren’t harboring some kind of angry expression, even the ones who had to take care of the crying children were trying to maintain a certain respect for them, showing that they weren't orphans or from the slum.
Most of them were very young adult using the standards of this world, barely above sixteen, only two or three of them were older but unlike the younger, they were supervising the whole environment and not taking care of the children. Their equipment also looked more expensive and used as if they were used to fight.
Full of curiosity, Shina sneakily approached the children while avoiding to attract the adults’ attention. She arrived close to a small boy probably a few years older than her who was gathering some herbs on his own.
While tapping his shoulder, Shina greeted him with a small voice which startled him, almost letting out a scream.
Realizing it was a girl, the boy looked at Shina’s face for a few seconds as if in a daze before suddenly lowering his eyes, his cheeks blushing like a tomato.
The silence lasted several seconds as Shina wondered why the boy was acting strangely. After somewhat calming down, he managed to lift his head and finally meet Shina’s eyes.
‘Y-you aren’t a part of my group… Right?”
Looking around, Shina indeed saw that most of the children were separated in an ordered manner so that an adult was in charge of twenty to thirty children at the same time.
“I am still new… so… I don’t really remember everyone.”
The boy still felt some doubt when he looked at Shina, her appearance made her really hard to forget but at the same time, he wasn’t really integrated into the group yet.
“I am not a part of your group, in fact, I am not from this city.”
“Ah… Is that so? You’re a traveler?”
Looking toward the large crowd of travelers seeking to access the city, the boy looked at the adults as if to find her parents but quickly gave up after noticing the large crowd waiting in line.
“What are you all doing here?”
“We’re gathering many kinds of herbs, from medical herbs used in medicines and potions to cooking ones.”
Showing a few herbs he had gathered in his basket. There was various kind of herbs that Shina had previously seen in the market being used in cooking.
The boy smiled as he described them one by one. None of them were actually rare or valuable, they could be purchased for a few coppers by the resident of the city or even collected by simply leaving the city and walking a few minutes.
Shina actually listened with an earnest expression to the boy’s descriptions. Under her undivided attention, the boy sometimes blushed and avoided her bright eyes with a strange face.
“Earlier you said something about belonging to a group, do you all belong to some kind of association?”
“Hm? Yes, we’re all apprentice at the mercenary guild.”
Shina was surprised after hearing him talk about the mercenary guild. She remembered first hearing of it from Eniel when she talked about her dream. She wished to join the guild and become a warrior, traveling the world and relying on her sword to live freely.
“You can be an apprentice in the mercenary guild?”
The boy looked at her strangely after her inquiry. Most of the city and even town provided this kind of service in this country. It was of course in exchange for a monetary compensation and while it wasn’t that popular among the civilian, a certain amount of children still participated in this apprenticeship.
Maybe she is from another country? I’ve never seen someone as beautiful before…
He had seen many girls of his ages during his lessons at the mercenary guild but he had never seen someone like her. She possessed some kind of aura that seemed to form a halo around her, making his heart beat faster?
“Is that thing interesting?”
Brought back to reality by her question, he realized that he had gone in a daze while staring at her. Shina obviously realized it as well but didn’t realize the reason why and merely considered that he was thinking about something else.
“Is what you’re learning interesting?”
Considering her question for a while, the boy didn’t know how to answer. While he himself did kind of enjoy it, some other kids weren’t sharing his opinion.
Most of them thought that what they learned was kind of boring and useless, only enjoying physical activities and using their wooden weapons to train.
“It’s sometimes interesting… But the actual term is useful?”
“We learn of course things that are useful for mercenaries like making fires and other things, but also how to defend ourselves.”
As the boy started to describe their activities, Shina started to realize that being an apprentice was highly like a student going to school. While they, of course, learned a lot of things relevant to the job of mercenary, they also learned how to defend themselves and very important skills like bargaining, mathematics and other things as they grew older.
They provided lessons until the age of seventeen where one becomes an apprentice senior and made it far easier to become a real member of the mercenary guild.
One could, of course, become a member without starting as an apprentice, but the knowledge provided gave them some experience in the domain and the dying statistics between a beginner who was and wasn’t an apprentice before is extremely large.
But the reason why it wasn’t popular was mostly because of its price which despite being most of the time affordable for regular people, must require for parents to save money and manage their spending.
Moreover, the sons and daughters of merchants or farmers could learn what was relevant for their futures from their own parents which most of the time made this an unnecessary expense if they expected for their child to follow their trails.
All of the boy’s words made Shina feel more and more interested in the mercenary guild’s apprenticeship. She wondered why Eniel wasn’t a member of it since her dream was to become a warrior within the guild.
Maybe it’s a problem of money? She is extremely careful with her expenses after all.
Shina patted a strange purple purse on her waist with a small smile, it was a present from her mother and contained some pocket money.
As the boy continued to describe the activities they had until now, Shina sensed someone approaching from behind and turned around.