Two men stared at each other for a moment.
Nobody would bring up the fact that the Village Head had been tossed around like a rag doll by his wife. Instead, Owen thanked the woman for the cool glass of lemonade she brought him along with the loaf of bread and cheese. He had eaten it, almost hesitant about the consequences of not accepting her hospitality, but proceeded to go to business once the woman went away to get the laundry.
"Here are my documents and references, Mister Vernon." Owen submitted the papers to the Village Head. He wasn't sure how things proceeded here in a village as small as this one, but he was prepared for an interview or any truth spells and other measurements to affirm his identity.
Instead, the man looked a bit surprised. As if they simply accepted villagers without going through lengths such as this. He accepted and gave a careful look over to the paper. "Ahh, thank you—Owen… Liddell?"
The tone of the man made him smile. "I heard my father once lived here."
Mister Vernon nodded, looking thoughtful. "Yes, I think I can remember him. He was the one who liked digging out roots in the Oaken Ashwoods—once he grew a bit older and earned some coin, he left for Kraelonia Academy. I'm not sure how good he was, but he returned here to apprentice some of the interested villagers to become Alchemists. He would drop here from time to time actually and had even mentioned you, boy..."
He needed not to go any further.
Both of them were aware of what happened next. Owen cleared his throat. "It's one of the reasons why I wanted to settle here. I'm not sure if my father had any relatives here, since he made no mention of them, but I wanted to experience what it's like to live in the place he grew up."
"Unfortunately, we haven't actually got any houses for you to stay in at the moment. We'll try to have carpenters get a house ready within a couple of days. The uh, living situation here isn't as great as the cities but—"
"Don't worry about it, sir. I don't mind staying at an inn or anywhere really—there's no need to cause so much of a fuss."
"Well, you're in luck then, my boy. We only have one inn here."
It was natural that a small village would have few business establishments, but what were the chances of seeing a face you had already seen?
Probably ninety-nine percent.
That was how small this place was, and he should have known it. Wolfcrest Village was a place close to the Oaken Ashwoods, and the forest still triumphed over the village in terms of size and stretched out until the end of the continent. It was still unsettled land on the map, one might have missed it actually—and this was all irrelevant information he kept in his mind.
Too much geography.
What was important was that Owen would find himself staring once again at the frowning face of Tobias. When he stepped inside the inn, he saw the man holding a mop. The two of them stared at each other until the two of them noticed a toddler scamper out from underneath the table and run around the common room. The other young man clicked his tongue, caught the figure and picked them up. "Nire, quit running or you'll trip over the floor, I just mopped them."
"But it's fun!"
He had no siblings himself, but the sight of it was—
"Lovely place you have here." Owen eyed the shiny and spotless wooden floorboards and the spacious common room. He cleared his throat. "Mister Vernon told me this was the only inn here, so I guess we meet again."
"Of course. One gold coin per night, city boy. Second floor." Tobias fought off his little sister trying to tug out his hair and who was giggling. "Breakfast's free."
"I did say this place was lovely, but I don't think it's that expensive." He had more than enough to pay for it and it was easy enough to request money again if there was ever an off change he managed to burn through his allowance—but he didn't like the guy's attitude. Younger sister aside, their treatment could use some work.
Tobias quirked a brow. "Do you have any complaints?"
"Is it just the two of you? Where are your parents?"
"My mum is out, dad's gone." Tobias sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "Get settled into any room you want on the second floor. I'm sure my mother would give you the change once everything's over. I don't make the rules here."
"I see. Thank you."
"Toby, who's he?" Nire asked, tugging Tobias' brown locks and pointing at him.
"I'm Owen, nice to meet you." He nodded briefly and smiled to the child's delight.
"Nire," Tobias warned, but sounded resigned.
He ended up shaking the girl's tinier hand. "Now who's this lovely child with the bright smile—did you soak up all the sunshine and left your brother with all the doom and gloom?"
Tobias gave him a glare, but the girl beamed at him. "Nire, Nire!"
It was easier to smile and actually talk when it was with a child. He cleared his throat and motioned upstairs. "Well then, Nire. I have to go up and leave my things, I still have a lot of stuff to do. This visitor of yours is a busy man."
"What do you do, Owen?
"Me? Well I…" He was dabbling to become an Alchemist? He didn't get the Class at all and thought this was a good place to get it. "I'm here to visit the Oaken Ashwood and collect ingredients."
"Like big brother!"
"Oh, are you some sort of Herb Gatherer, Toby?" he asked.
The man's gaze narrowed at him. "That's Alchemist Apprentice to you. I'm running errands for one of the best Alchemists in the entire kingdom."
"Sounds a bit inaccurate."
"Well, you haven't met them. Alchemist Mossblossom is one of the best you'll ever meet. Didn't you come here because the Oaken Ashwood is filled with a variety of different herbs, flowers and other ingredients only available here? If you've come to become some Alchemist, then you have to meet her, not that she'd give any time of the day for you."
Owen raised a brow. "Aren't you so confident of that?"
"Well, let's see you visit her shop, then."
Author's Note: ...this is embarrassing. But here's a chapter at last! Being a pantser who writes as they go with a bare minimum outline is something a little troublesome, but no time for excuses. I must go back and return to writing.