Various things happened after that, and now Haruhiro found himself standing alone at a street corner in an area of town called Nishimachi .
“It’s supposed to be this building here…” he said to himself .
Nishimachi was where the destitute and impoverished lived; in other words, the slums . All the buildings were old and dilapidated, falling apart or falling over, and badly run-down . All the people he passed, also, were shabbily dressed . In truth, this wasn’t a place where Haruhiro would want to walk in by himself .
Why did he make that decision? He should have changed his mind when he had the chance . It was too late now though, the choice was already made .
Haruhiro decided to take a look around the building, which was made of a complex mix of stone and wood, but soon found it impossible . Even when he, with difficulty, navigated the narrow pathway that seemed to circle it, a wall made out of the same materials as the building cut off access to both the sides and back of it . However, the pathway did lead down to an extremely low door .
At the center of this rusty door was a device that had some sort of emblem-like design on it and which had a keyhole carved into it . Strange . Was this really the entrance?
“Excuse me!” When Haruhiro’s inquiry got no response, he tried knocking . That made his hand hurt, so he tentatively grasped the doorknob, turning, pushing, and pulling on it . It wouldn’t budge .
Maybe he had the wrong place . He had made to turn back when a low voice echoed through the alleyway .
“State your business . ”
Where had it come from? Haruhiro didn’t know . There was no one else there but him and the door was still shut tight . He didn’t think that he was just hearing things either . It was definitely someone’s voice .
“Erm… I wish to join the guild,” he replied .
“Enter,” said the voice, and at the same time a clanking sound reverberated from the door .
Had the door been unlocked? When Haruhiro gripped the doorknob this time, it turned . He pulled, finding it unusually heavy, but it opened . Beyond the door was a narrow walkway that smelled of old dust . Both sides of the path were lined with shelves crammed full of ropes, metallic objects, cogs, and other objects unfamiliar to Haruhiro .
As he nervously closed the door shut, he found that it was brighter inside the building than outside . The light came from a lamp down the pathway and it was also there that the path turned and became even narrower . Haruhiro turned his body sideways and somehow made his way down until he finally entered a room .
It was dim, so he had no idea how large the room actually was . A desk had been placed in there and sitting cross-legged on top of it was a woman . She was casually twiddling with a knife she held in her hands . Her hair was long enough to keep half her face hidden but the rest of her body was much less intentionally concealed . In fact, her arms, legs, and chest were all broadly exposed .
“So you wish to join the Thieves Guild . ”
“Y-yes,” Haruhiro gulped . It was probably better not to stare, so he averted his gaze . “That’s the plan, anyway . ”
“By your appearance, you’re a Crimson Moon trainee . The second to come here today . ”
“Not that it matters . If you wish you join us, your training will be one-on-one for seven days . I will be your mentor . An honor, isn’t it?”
“Uh, I…” Haruhiro stole a glance at the woman from the corner of his eyes . It wouldn’t do to look at her legs or chest, so he focused on her face instead . What was her age? Probably not that young . Somewhere in the thirties, he guessed . Pretty up there for Haruhiro’s sixteen years .
That didn’t change the fact that she was HOT . Her sex appeal was off the charts . He continued, “…an honor . Yes . ”
“If you find this unsatisfactory, another can teach you . ”
“No! No, not at all . ”
“But let me tell you this,” she licked her lips and thrust the tip of the knife into the desk . “I am very demanding . If you can’t keep up, you will be punished . ”
“…Please go easy on me . ”
The woman chuckled softly and tied up her hair . “Are you familiar with the rules and regulations of the Thieves Guild?”
In Altana, there were organizations consisting of people who worked in the same profession, called guilds . The Blacksmiths Guild, Carpenters Guild, Masons Guild, Chefs Guild, and so forth . Additionally, there was the Warriors Guild, Mages Guild, Paladins and Priests Guild, Hunters Guild, Dread Knights Guild, and finally the Thieves Guild .
The guild protected an individual’s rights, offered a place to learn the trade, and guild members offered mutual protection for each other . Those who wanted to pursue work in a given profession within Altana must join the related guild . Anyone attempting to enter a trade without becoming a guild member would soon find their businesses purposely impeded upon by the guild . And because everyone knew about this consequence, no one did business with those who operated outside of a guild anyway .
Having two professions was frowned upon, but even though this was a rather severe restriction, the guild did also put effort into fostering younger generations of members . Once one became a guild member, the guild would also teach them the craft . In reality, there was no other way to learn the skills and techniques required of a profession without joining the guild .
Of course, it wasn’t about simply being listed as a member . All members had to abide by established rules and regulations or risk being penalized .
Well, according to what Manato had said, that is . Manato had even informed Haruhiro of one of the Thieves Guild’s more peculiar laws . But even taking that into consideration, the Thieves Guild was still the one Haruhiro picked out of all the others .
“If I recall, the rules were that there aren’t any rules,” Haruhiro replied .
“Precisely,” the woman yanked the knife out and gave it a twirl . “That isn’t to say, of course, that we don’t have a code of conduct . For example, we don’t operate in an area claimed by another, nor do we conduct our business on fellow members . Conditions that apply to Crimson Moon soldiers are that one party is allowed only one Thief and that we don’t steal from fellow Thieves or other reserve force members . You will be taught this code of conduct gradually; if you become a Thief, that is . ”
“I want to become one… I think . ”
“It’s not about what you ‘want’…” the woman turned to face Haruhiro and held out her hand, palm up . “…if you can’t afford it . ”
Joining a guild wasn’t simply just about applying for membership . Haruhiro reached into his pocket, pulled out the leather pouch he had forcefully stuffed in there, and loosened the drawstring .
According to Manato, payment was necessary to join any guild, and on some sort of previous agreement the fee was the same across all guilds . Newly inducted members into any of the guilds were also required to make it through a demanding 7-day crash course on the basics of the trade .
Haruhiro started pulling out silvers from the pouch . One silver, two silvers, three silvers… the membership fee was very expensive in his opinion, but he had no other choice but to pay . It was impossible to become a Crimson Moon member without any knowledge or skills . Haruhiro acknowledged the necessity, but that didn’t make it any less expensive . Four silvers, five silvers, six silvers, seven silvers… eight silvers total .
Eight silvers . Eight hundred cappas . Four cappas per kebab meant he could buy two hundred kebabs . Did he really have to join the guild? Yes, there was no way around it . Everyone had listened to Manato’s explanation and agreed on this course of action . Everyone else was supposed to be joining their respective guilds at this time too .
Haruhiro took a deep breath and without further thought, placed the eight silvers in the woman’s palm .
The woman closed her hand and smiled pleasantly . “Our modus operandi is self-responsibility, freedom, and lack of restrictions, so we’ll have you swear your oaths later on . You are now a Thieves Guild member . Feel relieved?”
“I guess? But, now that I’m a member, what about my trade name?”
“Your trade name is what you make for yourself as a Thief . As of right now, you’re simply called ‘New Member . ’ Your real name has no more use here . After seven days of training, I, as your mentor, will give you a suitable trade name . If you want a respectable name, then work hard and learn fast . ”
“Um, would it be okay to call you a ‘Master’?”
“My, my,” the woman leaned close into Haruhiro and cupped her hand under his chin . Her chest… was even more absurdly large this close . Haruhiro was dangerously close to falling over right into it . “That’s not bad at all . How very nice of you . ”
The woman grinned broadly and stroked Haruhiro under the chin with the tip of her finger .
“My name is Barbara . This is going to be an enjoyable seven days . ”