72 Chapter 18: How Things Have Changed
In a conference room that was rather empty for the most part three people sat at a small table that was off to the side from the rest of the room next to a window. Outside you could see the bustle of people walking down the streets with the occasional few turning and entering the building the room resided in. It was a rather large building that was now home to one of the biggest guilds in the world. A guild that went by the name of the Phoenix Guild. Of course this name was based off of the guild leader who was now sitting at the table and looking out the window at the traffic below.
Laura was surprised it had already been three years since the end of the first phase and two years since she had started this guild. At first it had started off small with some people that had decided to follow her after fighting alongside her during the start of the second phase. Sense most of the members were first rate and way ahead of the normal combat job holders the guild started to become more popular and attracted people from all over the world. Of course there were a few people every now and then that got the bright idea that they could become the guild leader, but they were quickly put in their place by Laura in a match in front of everyone. If they proceeded to continue to make trouble they would be kicked out and banned from ever joining the guild again. A few smaller guilds were created because of this fact, but they usually fell apart on their own sense they didn't have the backing of someone like Laura who had several people at her command.
Although she was a guild master she still treated her members like the family she never had which got her a lot of support from not only the people in her guild, but people from allied guilds or solo adventurers. She was also known as one of the strongest explorers and held the first place ranking in the second phase. No one quite knew what happened to the person that was ranked ahead of her in the first phase, but after a couple of years the name of Joshua James Jr. on the ranking board was pushed to the back of most people's minds. Even though Laura had gained a lot of strength over the past few years her progress had started to slow down to a crawl over the last year. In the first year she was able to reach level thirty –five easily, but in the second year it took a lot of effort just to get close to level fifty. Now in the past year her rate of leveling had slowed down so much that it took a whole year just to gain four more levels and reach level fifty three. Of course the person in second place was Madalyn who had kept up in level with her even with their job differences, but she was surprised by that fact.
Having the job of magic swordsman along with the soul beast of a phoenix, even if it was a young one, had clearly given her an advantage. Being a magic swordsman had given her a rather balanced growth rate that focused slightly more on mind stats that helped out her magic than physical stats. She got plus fours in both intelligence and wisdom while getting plus threes in strength, dexterity, and will. Her vitality stat fell behind a little bit as it only got a plus two stats wise. All in all her stats were far better off than the usual job based off of some of her research. At first this had created a bit of a gap between her and Madalyn since she was stuck as a dagger wielder for now, but that changed a bit when they reached level fifty. At that point you were allowed to gain a support job that could slightly effect your combat job based on their synergy. Laura had chosen a researcher support job which had improved her wisdom and intelligence slightly while making it easier to learn spells as long as she had a better understanding of them. As someone who had a main job that involved magic this worked exceptionally well for her. It even made it easier for her to use some of her stronger abilities that she gained from her phoenix soul beast.
Even with all the perks Laura had gotten it seemed like Madalyn's support job had done even more for her. Madalyn had gone with the job of an alchemist that she seemed to be in love with. If Laura was being more specific Madalyn's job was a poison alchemist which fit perfectly with her soul beast. Whatever improvements Madalyn had gained from the combination had made it so that she was able to keep up with Laura's leveling pace. When Laura asked Madalyn why she chose that specific job she found out that her instructor had recommended it. Apparently it was important for her to gain a certain combat job in the next tier.
In the end it didn't matter to much sense even though they were masters of two separate guilds they were also the biggest guild alliance among the several groups up to this point. Madalyn had modeled her guild around a women only mindset that attracted a lot of women that didn't like how the government guild seemed to want to put men in higher positions going forward even though for the most part women dominated the top thousand rankings. That attitude was the reason the world government guild that had started out large enough was starting to crack and fall apart. Many women that were a part of it were leaving to join more open guilds so that they can aim for higher heights without rules and restrictions holding them back.
This wasn't only the case for women though, considering that names and titles were a big part of how the government was running things. A lot of people who were high up in society and held strong positions before the first phase were still given similar positions now in the guild. At the same time their children and family were often given preferential treatment that allowed them to get ahead of people like Dave and his brothers. Even though the Carsen brothers were ahead in level and had far greater accomplishments since the change happened they were looked over time and time again for second generation kids who didn't even participate in the first phase on multiple occasions.
This blatant favoritism ended up being the cause of several people leaving the world government guild and either creating their own guild or joining already established independent guilds. At this point both Laura and Madalyn had several people that had joined their guilds because of this reason. The Carsen brothers had joined Laura's and were given their own responsibilities since she knew she could trust them. They also had a hard work ethic sense they were at the top of the pack levels wise for most men around the world. The only men ahead of them were Joshua's three friends who had gone off on their own to explore the world and a few male guild masters who had probably used their positions to make it easier to level up.
"So I've come here to ask you two a favor." A voice took Laura out of her musing as she stopped looking out the window and turned her attention to Natalie who had just spoken up. Laura, Madalyn, and Natalie had been having a nice quiet meal as they enjoyed each other's company. They often did such things whenever all three of them were back from exploring. Laura and Madalyn had just gotten back from taking control of a small haze infected town a couple of days ago and they were busy consolidating their level ups. Natalie on the other hand had called them both up for this meeting which surprised them a bit. "I've been working my tail off for the current world government U.S. division and even though I'm currently the highest level in the whole guild…I haven't been given any sort of position. For the most part I stayed on sense I felt like it was my duty to serve the country, but just yesterday I was passed over by some teenager who hasn't even been exploring on his own yet. They've been babying him with party experience for the past year!" Natalie nearly screamed in anger.
"I guess you've finally gotten some sense and decided to leave that train wreck behind." Madalyn said with a smirk as she drank some wine. If before you got the slight impression of a snake from her, now it wouldn't be too surprising if you could see the visage of a cobra hovering behind her back. In fact over the past three years all of their appearances had slightly changed as their soul beast were having an effect on both their appearance and presence in some way. For Madalyn her eyes became slightly more squinted while her hair was turning a dark green color that almost screamed poisonous for anyone that looked at her. Her pupils would become slanted whenever she was angry and her eye color had changed to a vibrant green.
Laura on the other hand had changes that were just as obvious. Her hair had become a mix of bright red with golden tufts spread throughout. It made it look like her hair was on fire whenever it started to flutter in the wind. Her eyes were slowly turning to a golden color, but would seem to look as if they were on fire whenever she used any of her abilities.
Natalie of the three was the only one that didn't have to drastic of a change appearance wise. Her biggest change was that her hair was longer and had looked as if the tips of it had been died white. Based off what they knew of her soul beast they wouldn't be surprised if the rest of her hair started turning golden soon. "I probably should have left when Dave, Dillon, and Devin did. I just thought working in a job close to the one I used to have would be similar to how things were when…well before everything changed." She replied getting a nod from the two of them. "Anyways I was hoping to join your guild Laura. Although I like spending time with you as well Madalyn I don't think I'll fit in well with some of the uh…well man haters you've kind of gathered into your guild."
"No offense taken. It really doesn't matter which of our guilds you join in the end. We work together on any of our tough expeditions anyways. I just make sure that the women in my guild that are completely against working with men aren't matched up with any when we work together." Madalyn said with a smile. "Besides I think Laura could use your help. She seems swamped with all the work she's been getting lately."
"Well sense my guild is open to anyone I've got to deal with a lot more than you." Laura said with a glare, but her eyes did seem a bit tired. Ever since she got back from her last trip to earth she had to go over several files that had piled up for the guild master. She wasn't quite as good at being in command as Madalyn seemed to be, but she was making do for now. "I would appreciate the help Natalie. After working in the guild for a couple of months to get used to it I can put you in a managerial position sense your level is already high enough. There aren't many people in the guild that are higher level than you right now."
"That's good. I'll help out to the best of my abilities. It will be like old times then. Well, minus Joshua taking the lead I guess." Natalie said as they all grew a bit quiet. They hadn't heard much from Joshua recently and it was hard to meet up at all with them all doing their own things of late. The last time they had seen Joshua was when he had brought Amy over to get into Laura's guild. They hadn't heard much from him since then except for the few things Amy had said about him. Apparently he had been putting just about all of his attention into training which sounded just like him.
While they were all enjoying the silence for a moment a knock at the door grabbed their attention before a tall girl barged in with a bright smile on her face. The girl was clearly still young and coming towards the end of her growing phase, even so she towered over all three of them. She was about six foot three inches tall and had an extremely athletic build and tone body. Her hair was still in long braids like she had worn for the past few years although her soul beast had clearly affected its color a bit and made it so black in color that it made her dark brown skin seem light in comparison. The girl that had rushed into the room eagerly of course was Amy, Joshua's little sister.
"Hey guys I've got great news!" She shouted happily as she seemed to skip over towards their table. Laura really enjoyed the girls company, but her overabundance of energy could be a bit much at times. Even so the girl was clearly a prodigy when it came to combat. In one year she had already reached level thirty eight and was getting close to her next level up. Laura had sparred with her occasionally for training against martial artist and other close combat fighters. She had yet to lose, but that was mainly due to the level gap between them. Whenever Amy got in close she was a nightmare to deal with, but for now she didn't have much to counter long range attacks.
"Amy I told you not to barge into places willy-nilly like this anymore. Last time you did it you ended up messing up an important meeting." Laura said with a sigh.
"Eh, don't mind the small details boss." Amy replied without losing an ounce of excitement. "Besides I have great news. My big brother is finally going off to explore the world!"
This got everyone's attention as they all looked at the energetic girl in surprise. "Really? How come he hasn't told us anything about it? We could have helped him find a good place to start if he asked." Laura said with a slight look of confusion.
"Well he just told us last night that he would be heading out tomorrow. Apparently he had only been waiting the past few days to augment his gear a bit, but now he's ready to go exploring." Amy said as she stood next to where Laura was sitting.
"Well it will probably take a long time to catch up to us and be able to help take on some of the larger towns." Natalie said getting a few nods from everyone except from Amy.
"I wouldn't exactly say that." Amy said with an embarrassed look on her face as she shuffled her feet.
"What do you mean?" Madalyn asked as she could see the signs of a funny story behind Amy's awkwardness.
"Well when he told me he was about to go out to explore and see how things were I may have decided to challenge him to a spar. I wanted to finally beat him sense I've never been able to in the past and if he catches up to my level I'm sure it would probably go back to the same old situation." Amy said a bit embarrassed at first but soon she seemed to be a little annoyed at the fact that what she said would probably be true in the future.
"Guessing by the way your acting things didn't exactly go your way then huh?" Laura asked a bit shocked at the insinuation.
"Even with the level gap he beat the crap out of me. I was faster and stronger, but well his technique is still better than mine. Then his soul beast and job make a terrifying combo. He did tell me not to tell anyone about it yet though, so sorry I can't really explain more." She replied with a bit of a sad smile.
"Well seems like he's full of surprises." Madalyn said with a smirk.
"Maybe he will be able to help out sooner than we thought." Natalie said with a hopeful grin.
"Maybe just Maybe." Laura said as well. "I'm looking forward to fighting with him again."