Luke had arrived in front of the Bounty Hunter’s Association building.
‘This building’s size is comparable to a three-story apartment building from Earth…’
This building, along with many buildings in Millef, had an odd mix of medieval western and eastern architecture.
Even some elements of ancient middle-eastern architecture was present in some buildings.
Luke was always passionate about history, so this oddity felt weird to him.
‘It may just be a coincidence… but if not…’
Luke raised one of his eyebrows and made his way to the tall door.
The door was around 3 meters tall, accommodating all kinds of people that would come here.
‘I refuse to believe that people who are more than 2,5 meters tall exist.’
He entered the building, and was welcomed by a lofty lobby, perhaps a mix of a tavern and a standard lounge.
Some people were drinking and relaxing, while others were talking business. On the other hand, there were a bunch of people gathered near the reception desk, looking at a certain wall.
Luke approached that very same wall.
‘A notice board…’
There were a bunch of posters, depicting various creatures, along with a bunch of text written on them that Luke couldn’t read.
‘This is going to be a problem.’
He decided that just looking at these posters would be useless so he made his way over to the reception desk.
A middle-aged man glanced at Luke.
The man had droopy eyes, as if sleep deprived, and had messy black hair with gray lines making their way across his head.
Luke smiled bitterly.
“I am unable to read the posters. Could you perhaps help me with picking one of them?”
The man snorted.
“Are you saying that you are illiterate?”
Luke sweated nervously and started scratching the back of his head.
“Haha, well, I guess.”
The man let out a sigh and stood up.
“Fine. I’ll help you out this once. But learn how to read before coming back here again.”
Luke crossed his arms as he looked at the posters.
“I want to, but I’m broke and I don’t even know who could teach me that.”
“Visit Miss Lian. She lives seven buildings away, west of here. She should be able to help you.”
Luke slightly bowed towards the man.
“Thank you, mister.”
The man looked slightly annoyed as he waved his hand.
“It’s Joseph. Now tell me, how strong are you? I don’t want to send you out just to die.”
“Well, I have a wind elemental. I can augment my speed and field of vision, and I can conjure wind blades and spikes and shoot them out.”
Joseph narrowed his droopy eyes.
“Are you telling me that you’re on the level of a 7 year old wind elementalist?”
Luke’s face looked as if a fly was stuck in his throat.
He learned from his encounters with the Wind Temple priests that even an 8 year old could slaughter dozens of Gleems with ease.
‘I’m still not on the level of an 8 year old?!’
Luke shook those thoughts.
“There’s only three options in that case, really.”
Joseph tore off a couple of posters.
“First, Gleems. Wind type. They pay one denar a pop with valid proof, or two denars if you bring the whole corpse.”
‘That’s a problem, I don’t even have a backpack. I’m stretched thin just carrying the dry meat and the leather water pouch around, let alone if I started carrying Gleem talons in my pockets. Not that they would fit there in the first place…’
“Second, Earthworms. As the name implies, earth type. Three denars with valid proof, four denars for the corpse.”
‘I know nothing about this monster.’
Luke was looking at the Earthworm poster. The poster depicted a seemingly sleazy worm, with four rows of sharp teeth and tiny eyes in the front, and a weird, round shape at the other end of the worm’s body.
‘Why would one of its ends be shaped normally, while the other is that abnormal? There must be a reason…’
“Third, Coors. Wind type. Considering they’re trickier to hunt than the other two, six denars with valid proof, eight denars for the corpse.”
The Coors. The poster depicted a bird-like monster, but they looked nothing similar to the Gleems. These were actual birds that looked like oversized crows, with very long and pointy beaks.
‘Those beaks are seriously absurdly long. Are these birds compensating for something?’
“So, which one will it be?”
Luke put a hand on his chin.
“I already know about Gleems, but can you give me some information about the other two monsters?”
Joseph was annoyed.
“Look, I’m a receptionist, not a monster hunter guide. Pick one, and go learn how to read. All the additional information you need is on the poster.”
“…I’ll take the Earthworm one.”
Luke took the poster and exited from the building.
‘It seems these monsters all have their elemental types. Gleems and Coors are both wind type, but the Earthworms are earth type, meaning they would probably possess earth elementals.’
Luke’s eyes lit up.
‘Time to expand my arsenal.’
He put the poster away and took out his compass.
‘Seven houses to the west, was it?’
Luke soon stood in front of the house that Joseph pointed him to.
It was a completely ordinary house.
Luke would never guess that someone who could teach him read would be here of all places.
He approached the wooden door.
“Miss Lian? Are you home?”
Luke waited for a minute or two, but there was no answer.
He waited for a couple more minutes to no avail.
‘She’s probably not home. I’ll come by later.’
Luke turned around and started wandering the streets yet again.
He was keeping an eye out for anything interesting, especially for those elemental merchants.
‘It would be interesting if I could just steal and absorb the elementals, so even if I were to die, I’d still keep them. I mean, it’s not really stealing if I go back in time and both me and the merchant still own the elemental, right? …Dying is very painful though, so I wouldn’t go through that ordeal except if it was a pretty powerful elemental.’
Luke wandered around for another couple hours, but, having found nothing of too much interest, he just went back to Miss Lian’s house to try again.
“Miss Lian, are you home?”
After no one answered, Luke started growing suspicious.
‘It’s been hours. Is she really still not home?’
“Miss Lian, I’m coming in.”
Luke pushed down on the door handle and opened the door. It was unlocked.
He narrowed his eyes and slowly made his way inside the house.
What appeared to be the living room was in front of him, with nothing out of the ordinary.
It was only afternoon, so the inside of the house was still pretty brightly lit.
But it was too damn quiet.
Luke heard footsteps. He turned his head towards the source of the sound in an instant, and started walking towards it silently.
He conjured a wind blade in his right hand, ready to strike.
Luke soon felt a strong stench he was familiar with.
‘A corpse is nearby.’
He made his way to a closed door.
Slowly pushing it open, Luke came face to face with it.
The mutilated corpse of a woman. The window was open.
Aside from the corpse, no one else was here.
‘The murderer must have been escaping when I heard those footsteps. Damn it! I should get out of here…’
Luke turned around to leave, but then he spotted something on the wall.
On the flat wall, moist, scarlet symbols were present, seeminly painted recently.
It were the familiar, yet unknown letters.
‘Someone left a message? I wonder…’
Luke transcribed the symbols onto his memo pad multiple times until he memorized them, and then made his way to the front door.
When he pushed the door open, Luke’s brows furrowed, and his eyes were red in rage.
In front of Luke were around ten soldiers, all pointing their spears at him.
“You are under arrest for the murder of a town official!”
“No, this is a misunderstanding!!”
Luke was enraged.
“You were caught red handed! Surrender now, or we will be forced to take measures!”
Luke gathered wind around his arms and legs, and started conjuring up wind blades.
He cut the soldiers’ spears in half, and started charging at them.
They were heavily armored, but Luke’s wind enhanced body tore through the soldiers.
‘I need to escape for now.’
Before Luke even took five steps, he felt something sting him around his lower back, and was now falling face down into the ground.
‘What the hell?!’
Luke glanced at his legs. They were still there, but strangely, he couldn’t move them, no, he couldn’t even feel them.
If he wasn’t looking at his legs, he couldn’t even be able to tell that they’re still there.
He then heard a loud voice.
“Murdering an official in broad daylight, and then trying to escape?! How dare you!”
Luke barely rolled his body to take a look at the person who was talking.
He made eye contact with a certain pair of droopy eyes.
It was Joseph, the Bounty Hunter’s Association receptionist.
He was surrounded in white crackling electricity, looking like a living Tesla coil.
“Joseph! I didn’t kill anyone! You know well that you were the one who sent me to that house so I could learn how to… read…”
Something clicked in Luke’s mind.
“You fucking bastard! You set me up!”
Luke growled and glared at Joseph, prompting the latter to form an eloquent smile.
“Your lies make no sense… Why would Miss Lian, the Trading Association Head, teach YOU how to read?!”
This made Luke furrow his brows even more.
He was tricked.
‘I’ll kill that bastard… I’ll completely destroy him and make him regret ever being born!!!’
Joseph evilly grinned.
“Usually, you’d be trialed, and then sent to the gallows to hang, but since you tried running away… we have the authority to kill you on the spot.”
Electricity started crackling in Joseph’s hand.
“With the authority the Exul Empire has vested upon me, I, Joseph Arely, the Bounty Hunter’s Association Head, order the execution of this filthy criminal!”
‘Wait… The Association Head? Not the receptionist?’
That’s when Luke remembered a certain whisper.
[“Don’t let your guard down around the Association Head...”]
‘How did I already forget about that…’
Just as Luke was cursing himself, white electricity made its way to him and started dancing throughout his whole body, making his face contort in pain.
He couldn’t even scream because of the electricity paralyzing him, instead just dying in silence, his body unmoving.
This would be Luke’s first time facing a thunder elemental.
A blue light shined out brightly from his chest and the silver hourglass rotated upside down, sending Luke down another rabbit hole.