During the fight at noon, Leguna only managed to look at Annelotte from afar. Given the chaotic situation, he didn't have the leisure of looking at a girl as beautiful as her. Even so, he couldn't help but be surprised by her looks now that she was up close. Her short light-blue hair and intricately-shaped face made her emanate a unique aura difficult to describe. She was cold, yet commanded respect. She seemed confident, yet not overbearingly proud. Her cool demeanor belied her quick wit. All in all, the beautiful girl made quite the impression on him, a really deep one. Even though they'd already met once earlier in the day, he still fell into a daze after seeing her again.
Annelotte's facial features were sculpted to perfection. A single look told you she couldn't have a human originator. Only nature could create such beautiful lines and meld them together flawlessly. Her skin was fairer than most, like the first bright drops of snow that fell on tree branches. Beneath her fair skin was a shade of light pink that made her look less pale then she would've with her abnormally fair skin.
Being stimulated visually from such a short distance overwhelmed Leguna. Currently, he was trying hard to snap himself out of his stupor.
"May I enter?" asked Annelotte with a tone that sounded more like a query of fact than a request.
"Oh, of course. Please come in," answered Leguna hurriedly after he snapped out of his stupor.
Annelotte chilled those around her. Leguna, right next to her, somehow felt every one of her breaths carried a hint of coolness.
"Oh, it's the magus from earlier. Welcome," greeted Kurdak warmly.
"Many thanks for what you did," said Vera in a friendly manner.
Since Annelotte had saved Leguna's life at the very last moment, Vera's impression of her was rather good.
"Umm..." Leguna had tried to say something, but both welcome and gratitude had already been expressed by Kurdak and Vera. After a long period of thought, he could only think of one thing to say.
"Please... please sit down."
Annelotte found herself a spot and looked at the three before she introduced herself.
"Good day. I'm Annelotte."
"Ah, Miss Annelotte, thank you so much for lending us a hand. Our little friend would've been in great danger otherwise. Oh, apologies for my rudeness; I'm Kurdak, this is Leguna and this here is Vera. We're all mercenaries."
Kurdak understood how great the young maiden's power was and didn't dare to take too much of her time.
"I know your names already. Please don't misunderstand. I wasn't spying on you or anything. It's just that you're quite well known in Starfall," explained Annelotte.
"I wonder why you came, Miss Annelotte?" asked Kurdak.
The manner in which the girl performed during the incident earlier in the day was still fresh in his mind. He'd wanted to visit her personally with Vera to thank her but neither could find her no matter where they went. In the end, they had to give up.
It made him even more curious now that she was right in front of them.
"Since you're all here, I'll be straightforward. You all three have to agree. I'd like to join your mercenary party."
Kurdak, Vera, and Leguna were flabbergasted. They'd never considered she might wish to join their party. Kurdak had already prepared to express his gratitude and think of some ways he could make up for her troubles. After all, she had saved Leguna's life, so if Annelotte's request wasn't too excessive, he was prepared to help her out with whatever she needed. What Annelotte said was completely out of their expectations. Kurdak wondered why the magus of at least the eleventh stratum wanted to join their little mercenary party?
It was common knowledge that magi were the rarest class in the world. Apart from those apprentices who only knew how to cast eye-catching but impractical level zero tricks, magi were generally rich and arrogant people. Not only did they feel associating and working with lowly fighters was beneath them, they wouldn't desire the measly reward mercenary missions could offer. So, magi were a rare breed among the many members of the Association.
The reason for the high status of magi, apart from their relative rarity, was their ability to call on the power of the elements to wreak havoc.
A magus could easily suppress other classes even if they were on the same stratum. It was also common to hear of situations where magi defeat enemies of slightly higher strata than them.
There were none that doubted the fact that magi were the scariest people in the world. It was obvious in the case of Eye of Arcana. The Eye was the faction with the smallest number of members, only a fourth of the Association's, yet they were able to control a quarter of all the influence in Lance. It was mainly due to the fact that three-fourths of all magi on the continent belonged to the Eye.
In actuality, apart from Moonshadow Thieves, which had a saint-order fighter as their leader -- which allowed them to deal with the Eye on equal footing -- the other factions often humbled themselves as testament to the fearsome power of the small faction, and by extension, of magi.
Kurdak didn't suspect that, even if the three of them ganged up against her, once Annelotte gained some distance, both Kurdak and Leguna would be helpless targets. Only Vera would pose some form of threat to the magus girl.
Yet, someone who had the power to crush their whole party actually wanted to join it? It was like a piece of delicious biscuit had fallen from the sky. It was practically a gift from the heavens; the mere prospect of which was so unreal the three doubted their hearing.
"That's right. I want to join your party and become a mercenary," repeated Annelotte with a cold voice.
She did not react to their surprised stares at all. After making his hearing was really fine, Kurdak began to consider the matter seriously.
It goes without saying our party's ability decreased quite considerably after losing an all-rounder like Cyranos. It would be helpful if someone this strong joined our group. But why would someone like her want to join us in the first place? thought Kurdak cautiously.
He was no idiot blinded by the slightest benefit. There had to be some sort of reason for Annelotte's sudden request.
"May I know why you wish to join us? Please forgive my frankness, but while our party could do with an additional member or two -- and you definitely qualify -- your abrupt request is a little... Well, you know," explained Kurdak in as careful a manner as he could.
"I understand your concerns. It's not like this is something I have to hide. My current teacher is a high-order magus living in seclusion here in Starfall. He started teaching me magic after seeing my talent when I was four. I've already been learning for twelve years and my teacher feels I've done quite well. He wants me to go out adventuring and train myself. He said I can only advance through facing life-threatening hardships and challenges. So, after looking around, I felt your party has a rather good reputation, so I want to join."
"Ah, I see." Kurdak lowered his head in thought before looking at Vera and Leguna.
"No problem. I don't mind," said Leguna without hesitation as he nodded so hard his head felt like mush.
Vera looked at him for a moment.
"I'm fine too. I'll be glad to have another girl in the party to talk to, not to mention one as cute as you."
Kurdak looked Annelotte in the eye. He understood Vera had a reason for saying so much. It was all too common for magi to develop odd personalities after being praised and sucked up to for long periods of time. That was probably why Annelotte acted so cold. Vera intentionally called her cute because she wanted to see her reaction and check her personality.
If Annelotte flipped out angrily after being regarded as a child, Kurdak would not accept her. After all, they would have to spend quite some time together and rely on each other in all sorts of situations. If they had to pay attention to the words they said every single moment, their party wouldn't last. Fortunately, Kurdak was relieved to see Annelotte retain her cool composure.
"I have no objection either. However, before we finalize this, there are some conditions we have to discuss."
Kurdak saw that it would soon be dinnertime and wanted to settle the matter as soon as possible since a powerful magus was always in high demand. If their party could have one, many doors would open for them.
"Please feel free to state them. I'll be okay with them if they're not excessive," said Annelotte.
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