Author: John Nest
The Truth Always Reveals Itself
Seven in the morning, at the freezing parking lot mall, an encumbered Nash had a hard time breathing. Donny was straddling his back and his arms were squeezing Nash’s neck hard. His almost fourteen-year-old brother had insisted on joining on his date with Sherry, and was now playing a prank on him.
“Donny, be careful,” Sherry said with concern. “I think Nash is already turning blue.”
Nash even tried dissuading Donny by telling him that they were out to get ice cream on a cold morning like this. He thought that such an obvious ploy would turn his brother off, but Donny still persisted. The younger Smoak wrapped his arms around Nash’s windpipes, tightening it even more.
Both of them knew that Nash could easily throw his brother off, but they also knew that he wouldn’t do that, not with the hard pavement, which could easily harm Donny.
“Nah, he’s just trying to get your pity,” replied Donny. “When we were younger, he could hold his breath for almost two minutes.”
Nash stood still, patting Donny’s arms. It was not until he slapped Donny’s back, that his younger brother finally got off him.
“Donny, that was a little too much,” said Nash, gasping for air. He squatted on the parking lot, and placed his head between his knees.
The younger Smoak knelt down next to Nash. “I told you I liked Sherry, but you still went ahead and made her your girlfriend. But don’t worry, that was the last of it. I squeezed out all of my feelings for her into your neck.”
Donny patted Nash on the shoulder and laughed innocently.
Sherry hurriedly went over to Nash and checked on him.
“I’ll be going ahead,” said Donny, and led the way to the ice cream shop. “By the way, Nash, I hope you came prepared, because I plan to binge out today.”
Nash shook his head and gave Donny an amused grin.
“It’s my fault, you know,” he explained to Sherry. “I took the girl he loved away from him.”
This time, it was Sherry’s turn to slap Nash’s shoulder. “Stop it. Don’t encourage him. I was just being friendly. I didn’t think his crushing on me would turn out like this.”
“Nah, he was just like that because you’re here,” answered Nash. “Anyway, he promised me, that was the last time.”
“So, why did Donny decide to get ice cream today?” asked Sherry.
Nash shrugged. “I don’t know the whole story, but I think it has something to do with getting a week off the intensive training he has with Master Cacoy.”
After they opened the door, the cold breeze entered the shop with them. The ice cream shop was almost empty, except for the servers and a mom with her little girl at one table, near the heaters.
They quickly spotted Donny sitting at the counter. Nash could tell that Donny would keep ordering as soon as he finished with his current sundae.
Seeing as the place was almost like a ghost town, Nash led Sherry towards the nearby table. He quickly pulled up a chair for her, and then sat on the one across her.
Shortly, a plump woman with a cone-shaped hat went over to give them shop’s menus. “Hi, my name is Maves, and I’ll be serving you this cold morning.”
“It certainly is,” replied Sherry, her body was slight shaking.
“Do you want me to give you a minute? Or do you already know what you want?” Maves asked the two of them.
“A hot cup of Earl Grey tea for me,” said Sherry.
“I’ll have the same,” added Nash quickly.
“Good choice. On a cold day like this, something hot would be great,” replied Maves. She then leaned in closer and whispered to both of them. “I’m not judging, but that kid over by the counter must have a screw loose. He already ordered five sundaes in advance.”
The plump server gave them a smile and went to get their orders.
Sherry quickly blasted her questions about Vitzytl Kingdom.
“So, how were the Orks? Were they as scary as the videos?” she asked Nash.
“Way more,” answered Nash, shaking his head.
“Those uploaded videos don’t do them justice,” he added with a shudder. “There’s even this Fear status that you get inflicted with, caused by their Horde Intimidation. But you do get a resistance to it, after a couple of encounters with them.”
Sherry nodded, her eager, smiling expression made it clear she wanted to see them for herself. “Oh, talking about videos, what do you plan to submit for this month?”
Nash scratched his head. “Don’t know. I can’t give out that I’m in Sawtorn, so, no clue at all.”
“You still have a week, don’t worry about it,” encouraged Sherry, grabbing hold of his hand.
“But tell me more about the battle of Waylay Pass,” asked Sherry. “It sounded very exciting when you called right after, and what was that about Cynar? I would have never seen that coming.”
“Exactly! Now, I have to come up with another plan to free his captured children. I mean I don’t want to actually kill him.”
“But if you’re forced to, do you think you’ll do it?” asked Sherry.
“I don’t know, but I really don’t want to. I understand that he’s just out to get revenge on the Orks, and my Intimacy with him has also been steadily increasing. Sure, his methods are wrong, and he physically harms the captured aristocrats, but he hasn’t killed anyone of them,” Nash absent-mindlessly blabbed on about Cynar.
“So, if he does kill one of his captives, you’ll kill him?” she asked with uncertainty.
Nash looked away. “Definitely… maybe?”
Feeling uncomfortable with their topic, Nash quickly tried changing the subject.
“But the Orks give out insane amount of experience points. In fact, I gained a level after finishing off the remaining ones. Although, I was already at 78%,” said Nash.
“Really? So, what’s your level now?” she asked smiling, but the envy in her voice gave out a bit.
“Level 109, but I didn’t distribute any of the points,” he replied. “I think my Wisdom stat is pretty decent enough as it is, but I don’t know if I should increase my Int or my Strength?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get the picture,” said Sherry. “But what about your bag of gems? Did you get those back?”
“No,” sourly replied Nash. “I’ve been looking around Cynar’s lair, but found nothing that resembles a treasury room.”
“But what about Verbrannt and everyone else?” Nash asked Sherry. “How is everyone back home?”
Sherry let out a small laugh. “It’s not what I expected it to be. Mamelon is still out, and hasn’t been back since she left about two weeks ago. At least, all of her Avendre are intact, though.”
Smoke nodded passively. “What about Adder and Ledur? What are the two up to?” he asked with more earnest.
“Adder took his special unit of Condortlians and Centaurs and went on some special hunting expedition,” answered Sherry, uncertain. “He didn’t tell me where he was planning to go exactly.”
“Ledur, on the other hand, has broken his vow of silence for countless times now,” chuckled Sherry. “He has taken his nephew, Neffe, under his wing.”
“Really? The young Volataur?” asked Nash, surprised.
“But it’s Guro’s methods that are bothering me, though,” suddenly expounded Sherry. “She’s been expanding Verbrannt’s land at an exponential rate. I fear that we might not have enough manpower to defend all of it soon.”
“But she isn’t neglecting the training of the Avendre under her, right?” asked a worried Nash.
“They’re pretty much on the same level as those under my Druids,” replied Sherry. “Oh, and wait till you see them.”
Sherry then paused, and stared intently at Nash. “You will come back to Verbrannt after a year right? I mean three months in the real world.”
“Hopefully I’ll find the Magietrois before then. But, in-case I don’t find them, yeah,” answered Nash with conviction. “I’ll be back in Verbrannt before the war breaks.”
An awkward silence passed between the two of them.
“Jinggu still hasn’t returned, huh?” suddenly blurted out Nash, despite already knowing the answer.
“Yeah, we tried calling him, but he just keeps ignoring us,” somberly replied Sherry.
“The other core members are doing well, though,” she quickly added.
Just then, Maves arrived and brought them their hot tea.
“Here you go, dearies,” she said smiling.
Donny then pulled up a chair and joined them on their table.
“Oh, you were with them?” asked Maves, her plump cheeks turned a bright red.
“Yeah? Why?” innocently asked Donny.
“Nothing,” replied Maves. “Just thought you were alone, is all.”
“Nah, I’m with them. Can you just bring the rest of the sundae here?” Donny asked Maves.
“Sure, I’ll bring it right away,” replied Maves, making sure to avoid eye contact with both Nash and Sherry.
After the plump server left, Donny turned to Nash. “So, I hear a congratulations is in order.”
“Huh? What are you talking about?” asked Nash, apprehensive.
“About Tristan of course. His guild just got disbanded,” answered Donny. “Well, at least one of my friends’ brother said so. He says he’s a member of the DracoRicco and it isn’t out yet in the forums, but it’s suppose to be real.”
“Why? What happened?” Sherry asked Donny.
“Don’t know, something about the last of their men dying on another suicide quest, or something?” replied Donny, uncertain.
“Huh? Imagine that, the first Sonstwelter to get a city and lose it, and now his entire guild is also gone,” said Nash out loud.
“Yeah, imagine that.” added a bothered Sherry.
Nash could tell that Sherry was not concern for Tristan at all, but that she worried for her Verbrannt and their own guild.
“Don’t worry, we’re not the same as them,” Nash said to Sherry.
Then, Donny’s third sundae was placed in front of him. Maves promptly left as soon as she served the ice cream.
“Wait, does this mean that it’s just Nash and what was the other guy’s name again… Amahan fighting for domination?” asked Donny eagerly, in between devouring his sundae.
“I wouldn’t really consider myself in the running, that’s just what the people in the forums decided for themselves,” explained Nash.
Suddenly, Sherry’s phone alarm went off.
“I’ve got to go,” she said to the two Smoaks.
Nash quickly stood up, and finished his cup of tea in one gulp. “Sherry, I’ll take you home. Donny, you’re alright to stay here by yourself, right?”
He quickly fished for two hundred dollars in his pocket, and gave it to his younger brother.
“Oh, and give Maves a generous tip,” chided Nash. “I think she likes you.”
“Quit it! I may like older women, but not that old,” snarled Donny.
“Nash, it’s okay if you want to stay with Donny,” offered Sherry. “I’m fine going home alone.”
“But I can’t, I also have a lot of things to work on back in Diebe Den,” explained Nash.
* * * * * *
The pungent air of Diebe Den was still something Smoke could not get use to. Even here in the special chamber that only Cynar, Ayert, and himself supposedly have entered.
He tried integrating his special gas-mask into his earth-mask, but he could not make it work properly. This made listening to Cynar’s winded explanation about Orks very difficult to stand.
Cynar suddenly slapped Smoke’s shoulder. “Faux, hey, are you paying attention?”
“Yeah, yeah. Of course, I was,” quickly answered Smoke.
“Really? I don’t think so,” flatly declared Cynar. “Perhaps you want to talk about something else? I have been talking on about Orks for a while now.”
Currently, Smoke spent most of his time in Zectas searching for his bag of gems, and for a way to free the children. However, he only had decent progress on the latter.
“Something else, huh?” asked Smoke, focusing on the reason he was in this continent in the first place.
“How about the Magietrois? Do you know anything about them?” he eagerly asked.
“Magietrois? Sure! I mean they’re suppose to be the saviors of Sawtorn,” began Cynar. “In fact, I heard that if you won the Magi Gagnant Tournament, you’ll get a chance to meet them. Or at least know something special about them.”
“Really?” asked a piqued Smoke. “You’re not pulling my leg, right?”
“Pfft. To be frank, I’m not completely sure,” replied Cynar flatly. “But that’s what I heard from one of my sources in Vona City.”
“Hm,” said a grinning Smoke, thinking about how to enter the tournament.
“You look interested,” observed Cynar. “Do you want to be in the Gagnant?”
“Yeah, I think I do,” honestly replied Smoke.
“Then, what about this. You said you’re only here for another day or two, but what if you stayed until we finish off Wertlosvati?” suggested Cynar.
“How does that exactly help me be in the tournament?” asked Smoke with a raised eyebrow.
“Well, there are two ways you can join,” began Cynar. “First, take part in a city elimination and be a representative of that city. Or, second, help me kill my father, and I’ll give you a blank document, stating that you are a part of the contest. Of course, I’m still waiting for my scouts to find the bastard, so, it might take awhile.”
Smoke studied Cynar’s expression, he wondered whether there was a catch.
“I suggest you take the second one, since the last city eliminations has already ended,” stated Cynar.
“And why do you have this special document?” asked Smoke.
“I’ve ‘procured’ it from one of the Wizard’s officiating the tournament,” Cynar said, while making imaginary quotes in the air with his hands.
“Alright, I’ll stay, but I hope you allow me to train my abilities and leave me alone during this time,” demanded Smoke with authority. “If you can’t agree to this, then I’m gone. Even without your special documents.”
Cynar nodded and offered his hand to Smoke. “I don’t have a problem with that.”
Smoke shook his hand, and a notification window popped up.
|+ Verbal Contract Confirmed
> You have joined Cynar’s army as one of his Most Valuable Peons.
Smoke took a double take at the window. He could not believe what happened to his Alignment.
‘I wonder how that will affect other NPCS?’ he asked himself.
“Well, since I’m going to be staying here a while longer, I think I’ll take a tour around the place,” stated Smoke.
“You want me to show you around?” offered Cynar. “I’ve got nothing else to do for the rest of the day.”
“No, no, I don’t want to impose,” quickly countered Smoke, not wanting to be followed around by Cynar all day.
“Alright, go right ahead. You’re free to go wherever you want,” said Cynar. “My den is your den.”
Smoke looked unsure, but said. “Thanks!”
After he stepped out, the air became even thicker and heavier. He walked past some of the OrkElf children. Then, a curious incident occurred. He passed by Geisel’s dungeon, and she instantly shrank back against the wall of her dungeon, the same reaction she did whenever Cynar passes her.
Already, Smoke despised his Alignment towards Evil.
Then, Cynar caught up with him from behind.
“Faux, Faux, I forgot something” called out the masked OrkElf. “If you’re staying here, then I think you should have a special-room for yourself.”
“Really?” asked a surprised Smoke. “I guess that would be nice.”
“You know, Ayert used to stay here in the lair as well,” said Cynar, out of the blue.
“Really? I did not know that,” cordially said Smoke.
The masked Assassin’s eye twinkled with excitement.
“This feels just like old times. This way,” said Cynar, as he led the way.
They passed by the dungeon Jack was in.
“Hey, Jack, you have a new neighbor,” said Cynar, jubilant.
The self-declared King of Thieves then fished for a key to open the cell next to Jack’s. Yet, he dropped in right next to Smoke.
“Here, I got it,” quickly said Smoke, making sure to pick up the iron-key. He palmed it for a while, before returning it to Cynar. “Here you go.”
“Thanks,” said Cynar and proceeded to open the cell. “This is it,” said the masked OrkElf, motioning for Smoke to enter.
“Wait, I’m not going in there,” said Smoke, carefully backing away from Cynar.
“Oh, sorry about that. Hahaha,” laughed the owner of Diebe Den. “I see why you’d be hesitant.”
Cynar got one of his knives from his pocket and knelt down next to the entrance of the open dungeon. He expertly took out one of the bolts on the cell-door.
“I used to be a Blacksmith’s assistant when I was younger,” explained Cynar. “I’ve had other odd jobs here and there. It wasn’t until my sister died of illness that I became a Thief.”
Cynar proceeded to the next bolt and said. “It was then that I promised myself not to become poor. No matter what I do, I’ll never be sick or hungry again.”
The last two bolts of the cell dropped on the flattened cave floor, and Cynar left the cell-door on the side of the wall.
“There,” said Cynar. “As you can see, no tricks. I don’t plan on locking you inside.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that,” said Smoke, still hesitant as he remained outside the cell.
“Hey, Cynar, maybe you can do the same thing on my door,” suddenly said Jack.
“Jack, always such a riot,” sarcastically said Cynar. “Don’t worry you’re going back to the city soon. I hope today you don’t come back empty handed. The last time you did well was that day you got that schmuck’s bag of jewels. You really hit the mother-load on that one. I just spent half of those gems and bought five-hundred more dirus wolves.”
Cynar chuckled loudly and playfully punched Smoke’s shoulder. The thin OrkElf Assassin did not pack much of a hit, when compared with Sierra’s Werebear form.
“What race did you say he was again?” Cynar asked Jack. “Was he a HighElf?”
“Yup, yeah definitely a HighElf,” quickly added Jack, and kept his mouth shut.
“Jack? Hey, Jack, why so quiet?” asked Cynar. “No quick comeback? No witty banter? Are you sick?”
Smoke joined Cynar, in front of Jack’s cell.
“Yeah, Jack, what did you call the one you stole the bag full of gems, again?” asked Smoke. “Schmuck was it?”
“I didn’t say schmuck,” Jack said defensively. “I think I said easy-mark, fair-game, or maybe light-weight? Never said schmuck.”
Cynar clicked his tongue. “No, you definitely said schmuck. You even blabbed on and on about how he was willing to take you all the way back to the arena.”
“Really, that schmuck was that gullible, huh, Jack?” menacingly asked Smoke. “I bet if he did know just what kind of kid you were, there’s no way he would help you… now.”
“Oh, come on, Faux, there’s still plenty of kind hearted people out there,” reasoned Jack. “I mean, look at Cynar, he let you into his group and even gave you a special-room while you’re staying here.”
“Yeah Jack has a point, Faux,” agreed Cynar. “I mean, not to brag, but I have helped thousands of OrkElves already.”
“Okay, okay, I get it,” said Smoke, while glaring at Jack.
“Hm. Cynar, seeing as you’re very magnanimous, I was wondering if there was a way for Jack and the rest of the nobles to be free?” asked Smoke.
“That might be true, but my hatred for the aristocrats are second only to the Orks,” explained Cynar. “They’re the ones who created a society to discriminate the OrkElves. They’re the ones responsible for all the hardships in our lives.”
“I see,” said Smoke. He wondered if there was still a way to negotiate with him, but now he was doubtful.
“Although, Jack is a special exception to those nobles,” suddenly spoke Cynar. “I’ve never felt the scornful eyes that I usually feel when he looks at me. Of course, that may be because he’s my captive, but I’d like to think that we’re really friends.”
“Of course, we’re friends, Cynar.” hurriedly added Jack.
It was time for Smoke’s scheduled breaks, and he also needed to get a new perspective on how to free Jack and the rest of the aristocrats.
“Cynar, I think I’ll be taking a quick break,” said Smoke. “I’ve had enough of my new neighbor for now.”
“Oh, where are you going?” asked Cynar. “You want to go on that tour of the lair, now?”
Smoke wondered why Cynar was this friendly with him. He made a mental note to investigate on this further.
“No, no. I’m going back to my world for a while,” answered Smoke.
“Ah! I see,” replied Cynar. “Alright, just come look for me when you do get back. I’ll also have your room modified so that… it will look more like a ‘room’ when you return.”
“You don’t have to do that,” said Smoke, waving his hand strongly in dismissal. “How about you take me on a tour of the lair, instead?”
Without saying another word, Smoke quickly entered his special-room/dungeon and logged out.
* * * * * *
Deep inside Diebe Den, within its tight, twisting corridors of a dimly lit cave, an unmasked Smoke was busy wiping off dust on his clothes. He had just returned to his special-room/dungeon, which was now covered with planks of wood over its iron bars, and a curtain for a door.
The new decor was less than pleasing to look at, but it did serve the purpose of giving him complete privacy.
Hours had passed since Smoke returned to Zectas, but only minutes in his room in the lair. He had to return for it was time to meet with Cynar, as they agreed to meet at ten in the morning.
Smoke took in one more deep breath before putting back his full earth-mask. He double checked his room, and then went outside the curtain.
“Oi, Faux, you’re very punctual,” greeted Jack. “Listen, about what Cynar said earlier—”
“Shh, forget about it,” said Smoke. “You had to do that, or else you would have been punished, right?”
“Yeah, exactly! Not only me, but Geisel as well,” added Jack.
“By the way, what can you tell me about this Ayert character?” inquired Smoke. He wanted to know more about the person Cynar would not stop talking about.
“Not much, just that he’s been friends with Cynar for as long as I could remember,” replied the captive boy. “Ayert also wore a full-mask, but his was brown, a bit like yours. Now, that I’m looking at it closely.”
Smoke nodded, and prodded some more. “So, Ayert and Cynar were really close friends, huh?”
“Yeah, but there was one more member to their inner circle,” added Jack. “I haven’t personally met him, but everyone I asked, always says the same thing.”
“And what’s that?” asked Smoke, intrigued.
“That they are the male reincarnation of the Magietrois,” answered Jack. “I know, I know. It is a bit of a stretch. In fact, I think that it was Cynar who made up the rumor.”
“Who’s their third member, and what kind of Job does he have?” prodded Smoke.
“Never had the pleasure of meeting him, yet,” promptly answered Jack. “Well, he does travel a lot, and he is the reason Cynar’s OrkElf army has grown to this size.”
Jack scratched his head, uncertain. “In fact, I don’t think he’s even been to Diebe Den, yet.”
“Then why do you know about him?” asked Smoke. “And what’s his name? You forgot to say his name.”
“Well, I asked the OrkElves of course,” retorted Jack. “And his name is—”
Smoke eagerly waited for Jack’s answer. Yet, the captured aristocrat did not have the chance to do so as a masked Assassin had arrived.
“Faux! Finally, you’re back,” said Cynar cheerfully.
The self-proclaimed King of Thieves went in for a hug, but Smoke quickly offered out his hand instead.
“Good to be back,” said Smoke, while shaking Cynar’s hand. “Any news on the whereabouts of Wertlosvati?”
“No,” said a disappointed Cynar. “But I do have some good news.”
“What’s that?” asked Smoke.
“Blaise is back!” yelled out Cynar with joy. “He’s waiting for us outside the lair.”
Cynar eagerly ran ahead of Smoke, as if it was a race for the exit.
“Who’s Blaise?” guffed Smoke as he chased after the agile Assassin in black. He had difficulty running and talking simultaneously, especially with the low level of fresh air inside the cave.
“He’s the General of my OrkElf army,” replied Cynar with ease. “He doesn’t want to admit it, but he is.”
As soon as they stepped outside, fresh air greeted them. Smoke wanted to remove his mask to breathe in the sweet pomegranate filled wind, but decided not to.
After taking a look around, Smoke saw at least a thousand new OrkElves, wearing worn-out clothes and rags. There were adults and children alike. Yet, all of them wore the same expression, tired and hungry.
“Cynar! I’ve brought a little over one-thousand-five-hundred new recruits,” said an OrkElf, donning a silver Knight’s full armor. He had an ornately designed flamberge on his right-side and a simple round shield on his left. The flamberge caught Smoke’s attention. He had seen flamberges before, but never one with bronze-flames for a hilt. It was a thin sword for a Knight to use, but something about it felt powerful, intimidating.
“Although, there are three-hundred children, but the rest are fit to fight,” said the OrkElf Knight.
“That’s great Blaise! Good work as always,” greeted Cynar. “But I also want you to meet our latest member,” he said, pointing to Smoke, “This is Faux. He’s an Earth Elementalist. Thanks to him, we almost got Wertlosvati last time.”
“Really? That sounds impressive,” Blaise said to Smoke, giving him a small nod.
Blaise then pulled Cynar away from Smoke.
“Are you sure about this guy? Just because he’s a DarkElf doesn’t mean he can replace Ayert,” said Blaise.
Smoke wondered if Blaise intended for him to hear it, because he spoke so loudly, it was clear enough for him to hear from far away.
“Hey, it’s not because of just that,” reasoned Cynar. “I also tested him with my casting circle of truth.”
“You know that cheap imitation of yours isn’t reliable,” argued Blaise.
“Regardless, I think that Faux is dependable,” countered Cynar.
The two OrkElves returned to Smoke.
“So, Faux, aside from your abilities, what else do you have to offer to this army?” inquired Blaise, with his eyebrows meeting.
Smoke crossed his arms, and wondered what else he could do. “I also know how to train soldiers. Can I train the new recruits?”
“That sounds like a great idea,” said Cynar. “Well, Blaise, what do you say?”
“Yeah, yeah. I would love to see how you train them,” answered Blaise.
Smoke nodded at the two of them, and stepped in front of the new arrivals.
“Alright, Everyone!” shouted Smoke, as he addressed the crowd of hungry OrkElves, “let’s—”
“Wait, Faux, before you begin. I want all of the new arrivals to take a rest,” stated Cynar with authority. “Go on, unload your stuff and relax for now,” said the masked Assassin.
“And give them a lot of water,” quickly added Blaise. He signaled to the OrkElves inside the lair.
At once, the stationed OrkElves near the entrance of Diebe Den scrambled to serve them water.
The tired recruits welcomed Cynar’s command. They immediately sat down on the ground from where they stood, and gobbled up the water that was offered to them.
Smoke nodded, appreciating the Cynar and Blaise’s instructions.
‘Looks like they had the same idea as me,’ thought Smoke to himself.
In response, he created a fire pit with his Earth Manipulation. He also asked it to be filled with pieces of wood. Smoke then placed a large pot and added in water, stone deer meat, and various vegetables into the pot.
He resorted to using venison instead of beef from the ancient bison, as his stock on that juicy meat was almost depleted.
Yet, as he was about to light the wood with Igniz’s flames, he forcibly stopped himself, and stared blankly at the pit.
‘How am I supposed to light this, without using Igniz?’ Smoke wondered to himself.
He thought about using a pair of the ember stones, and use them as a flint. However, the silver Knight OrkElf suddenly stood next to him.
“Need a light?” Blaise asked Smoke.
“Yeah,” sheepishly answered Smoke.
Blaise casually took out his flamberge from its scabbard, and its blade was covered in orange flames. He swung his fiery flamberge across the firewood, igniting them into flames.
‘So it really was a flame sword!’ concluded Smoke upon seeing the wavy fiery blade.
“You like it?” asked Blaise.
Smoke’s coveting gaze upon the sword was as clear as the Zectas sun.
“It’s called Salamander’s Tongue,” added Blaise.
“So, you’re a Flame Knight?” Smoke asked Blaise, trying to change the subject.
“Yeah,” Blaise proudly answered. “You’ve heard about Elemental Knights? There are only a few of us here in Vitzytl.”
“Oh, I’m originally from Chayotl Kingdom,” replied Smoke, “and there are plenty of Elemental Knights there.”
“And what brings you all the way here? A full continent away?” questioned Blaise.
“I’m looking for the Magietrois, and Cynar offered to help me by getting me into the Gagnant Tournament,” answered Smoke. “After I help him eliminate Wertlosvati, of course.”
“I see. So you’re not here to join our ranks for good?” further inquired Blaise.
Smoke shook his head. “No, just until the Wertlosvati deal is over.”
“I see. That sounds reasonable,” said Blaise. “What is it that you’re cooking, now?”
“It’s called rejuvenison soup,” answered Smoke. “Of course, I just came up with the name myself.”
Blaise nodded, as he continued to observe Smoke’s dish. “Looks like I might have judged you too quickly.”
Without another word, Blaise walked away and pulled Cynar along with him.
After a few minutes, the soup was finally ready. Smoke asked the help of the OrkElves as they served the new arrivals with his soup.
The tired OrkElves hungrily wolfed down the soup, and kept thanking Smoke as he continued serving them more of his dish.
|+ Intimacy with new OrkElf arrivals has increased to 60|
Smoke had hoped that something like this would happen, but he welcomed their wide smiles and happy chatter even more.
Cynar and Blaise had taken out chairs and placed them in front of Diebe Den’s entrance.
‘They must be hear to see my training methods,’ surmised Smoke.
Loud slurping sounds still resonated among the recruits as there were still some soup left over. Smoke decided to let them finish before beginning. He did not care whether Cynar or Blaise were waiting for him to start.
When they were done, Smoke asked the children to be moved to a different location.
“Alright, now that you’re all fed and rested, how about we begin some simple formations,” spoke Smoke in a commanding tone.
“I want twenty men to form a straight line, right here,” ordered Smoke, pointing both his hands in front of him.
Immediately, the exact number of OrkElves lined up as instructed. Smoke then stepped to the side.
“Next, I need fourteen more to fall in line directly behind them,” added Smoke.
He repeated dividing them into such formations until he had four battalions with equal numbered members. He gave each battalion specific names.
“Now, I want you to remember your places and especially your battalions. When I call out your battalion name, I want you to fall into the same formation,” explained Smoke. “Do you understand me?”
Smoke was answered with several versions of affirmation, and the OrkElves rambunctious voices resonated throughout the field.
“Also, from now on. All of you will answer me with, Sir, yes, Sir!” added Smoke. “Got that?”
“Sir, yes, Sir!” shouted half of the made up formation, but it was clear that there was still a delay with the rest of the OrkElves.
“Good. Now, I want you to scatter, and when I call your battalion, you line up in your proper formation,” reminded Smoke.
The OrkElves chattered as they scattered through the fields.
“Alpha, queue up!” yelled out Smoke.
At once a group of unruly OrkElves ran around in circles, trying to reform their assigned locations. It took almost five minutes before everyone stopped and stood in place.
Just as Smoke slapped his face with his palm, Cynar and Blaise walked up next to him.
“I must say, that this all looks new to me,” said Cynar. “Your training looks… intriguing.”
“All I can say is that you better have them prepared soon,” added Blaise. “We’re just waiting for our scouts to return. I give you about three days.”
“Three days, huh?” replied Smoke. “Yeah, alright. I’ll get them in shape by then.”
* * * * * *
Three days had passed, and Smoke’s Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta battalions were still in no shape to fight against Orks. Sure, they had decreased their time to less than twenty-seconds to regroup into their instructed formations, but their time worsened again when they were given their long-spears.
Fortunately for him, Cynar and Blaise’s scouts had returned empty handed as well.
From six in the morning till six in the afternoon, Smoke continued to grill the new recruits with various formations and basic attacks with the long-spears. After their grueling exercises, Smoke fed them with soup.
Everyday, he always told Cynar and Blaise that he would log out of Zectas after he was done training his recruits, but in truth he spent this time preparing for his plan to rescue Jack and the rest of the captive royals in Diebe Den.
In order to keep up with his strict timetable, Smoke sacrificed his scheduled sleep in the real world and reduced it to less than an hour. He also did not have much time to talk with Sierra, but she told him to keep at it and encouraged him to persevere.
It was not until after eleven days of the same tedious tasks and trainings that Smoke felt his recruits were ready. By then his Intimacy with them had grown to 85. He even received notifications of some of them wanting to join his private army. Of course, he declined all of them. He did not want Cynar or Blaise to suspect him.
Once Cynar and Blaise saw the improvement of Smoke’s men, they asked Smoke to join his troops on their hunts for sand cheetahs and other monsters. However, Smoke refused as he wanted them to focus on mastering their basics.
Finally, after two weeks, Cynar and Blaise’s scouts delivered word of Wertlosvati’s whereabouts.
“Faux, ready your men,” stated Cynar. “This time, let’s end this.”
“Alright, but I left something in my room,” hurriedly said Smoke.
As he was leaving, Smoke overheard Blaise argue with Cynar.
“Are you really sure about this guy?” asked Blaise. “I mean, Faux’s men don’t even have combat experience.”
“Don’t worry about it,” assured Cynar. “They might not be great attackers, but I’m sure they’ll serve as great support for our main attack force.”
“Fine!” retorted Blaise. “What’s he doing, heading back inside the den, anyway?”
“Don’t you remember Ayert?” reminded Cynar. “Didn’t he always do those weird rituals before a big battle? I’m sure Faux is doing something similar.”
After Smoke stepped out, Cynar and Blaise’s army began heading for Wertlosvati’s location. It took them almost two days to reach there, as Smoke’s forces were on foot. Yet, they were not worried for the delayed travel time, as Cynar’s scouts assured them that the Orks would stay for at least three more days.
Yet, despite their enthusiastic march, Cynar, Blaise, and Smoke stopped one-kilometer away from their prey. One of Cynar’s scouts informed him of the latest developments. Alarmed by the news, Cynar himself insisted that the three of them formalize a strategy.
The UrukHai Orks numbered two-thousand strong. Whereas, Cynar and Blaise’s OrkElf army numbered four-thousand-two-hundred. The OrkElves might have held the advantage in numbers but the Orks, however, held the superiority in raw power and battle experience. Not only that, the Orks were resting on an open field. The minute they came into view, Cynar was positive that the Orks would blindly charge them.
All three of them were mounted on dirus wolves as they talked about the unforeseen circumstances.
“So, you two understand that the odds are against us?” Cynar asked both Smoke and Blaise.
“I don’t have a problem with facing them by myself,” began Blaise. “But if we fought under this conditions, I’m afraid we’ll lose more than half of our men. Even with most of them injured.”
“I’d have to agree,” concurred Cynar. “Wertlosvati’s life isn’t worth this much.”
Cynar then turned to Smoke. “I’m afraid we have to wait for a better chance, Faux. Like last time when we had them cornered and they had lesser men.”
Smoke strongly shook his head. He knew that it might take them another two weeks if they waited for another chance, and he did not have that kind of luxury.
“Wait, what if I can trap them?” offered Smoke.
“Can it, Faux,” retorted Blaise. “Don’t you think Ayert tried that already?”
“Yeah, Faux, I’m surprised that you came up with the same idea as Ayert, but that wouldn’t work,” explained Cynar. “It quickly turned south when the Orks worked together to climb out of the pit. We couldn’t properly attack them as only the ones closest to the edge were accessible. In the end, we only made them angrier.”
Once again, Smoke shook his head. “I don’t mean trap all of them. Only about a third of their forces, two-thirds if we’re lucky.”
“That way there will still be some leftover, who we can fight, while the others will still be busy trying to get out of the trap,” further expounded Smoke.
Cynar and Blaise looked at each other.
“What do you think, Blaise?” asked Cynar.
Blaise scratched the back of his neck. “I hate to admit it, but it does sound like it could work.”
The Flame Knight then turned to Smoke. “But are you sure your troops can handle the mightiest of Orks stampeding towards them? We are talking about the UrukHai, here.”
“Yes, I’m sure,” answered Smoke. “All of them share the same hatred you have for the Orks.”
With their strategy ascertained, Cynar and Blaise’s OrkElf army calmly marched towards the resting UrukHai.
Their advance picked up dust-clouds, alerting the Orks of their presence. At once, the UrukHai responded as anticipated. All of them blindly charged towards Smoke and the rest of the OrkElves.
Smoke then signaled everybody to stop and hold their ground. All of them were lined up in a wide formation. Smoke’s men were on the left side, while Cynar and Blaise’s were on the other.
With his Digger’s Wand at the ready, Smoke pointed it at the Orks. Patiently, he waited for them to be nearer before unleashing his powers on them.
“Waaarraaaaah!” cried out the mounted Orks, charging at them on top of their dirus wolves.
Yet, before the savage Orks could attack, Smoke dug up a deep trench right under the wolves’ feet. Instantly, hundreds of the leading UrukHai and their mounts fell in.
The Orks right after them, stopped dead on their tracks.
“Dabalutir, kim aldabul!” yelled one of the Orks in Orkish.
“What did he say?” Smoke asked Cynar and Blaise.
“He said to leave you alive,” answered Cynar.
“It also means that they plan to torture you, instead of killing you,” added Blaise.
“That makes sense,” said Smoke, nodding his head.
“But what bothers me is that I don’t see Wertlosvati anywhere,” pointed out Cynar.
“Maybe he’s just out in the back?” suggested Blaise.
Then, the Orks charged from both opposite ends of the trench. Yet, not all of the UrukHai started running. Some of them remained and tried to help out the ones who fell in.
As the charging Orks on the left were still huddled. Smoke dug up another trench on the left side, dropping at least four-hundred Orks into his second pit.
Smoke’s troops of one-thousand-two-hundred OrkElves faced off against three-hundred UrukHai.
Whereas, Cynar and Blaise’s mounted army of almost three-thousand OrkElves clashed with one-thousand-five-hundred Orks. The angered Orks braved the long-spears of the mounted OrkElves. Three to four wooden poles instantly shattered against the green bodies of the mighty UrukHai, as they focused their attacks.
Yet, their broken weapons served their purpose. Thanks to their combined efforts, Cynar and Blaise’s men killed at least four-hundred Orks in the initial encounter alone. They drew out their short-swords and braved the melee battle against the UrukHai.
On the opposite side, Smoke kept yelling out commands. “Alpha, cobra strike formation. Bravo, support Alpha with rattler defense. Charlie, engage the Orks on the left wing with viper venom. Delta, hold your boomslang formation.”
Smoke had named their battle formations after snakes, as he coated all of their long-spears and short-swords with poison pellets.
The numerous OrkElves scattered like a swarm of flies, but always reformed their formation in less than ten seconds. Their strange movements confused the Orks, allowing them those precious seconds to deliver their deadly strikes.
Despite having entire platoons out to attack, Smoke still designated special OrkElves to play the roles of defenders. Due to this, they were equipped with poison coated short-swords and clay-shields made with his Earth Manipulation.
Smoke’s personally trained OrkElves struggled at first, but his constant commands and well-timed supportive earth spikes, helped them get into the groove of fighting with the UrukHai.
The Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta battalions worked independently, but at the same time, also as a whole. Smoke’s commands coupled with the OrkElves snappy response to execute, dealt killing blows on the UrukHai in a most efficient manner.
By the time the trapped UrukHais climbed out of the trenches, Smoke’s army were barely injured and had finished off their first wave of Orks.
Now, with their boosted morale, gained from the experience of surviving against the UrukHai. They readily welcomed the emerging Orks from the trench. From a safe distance, they stabbed the surfacing Orks with their long-spears, forcing the green monsters to fall back into the deep trench.
After ten minutes, Smoke’s OrkElves finished on the Orks on their end and went to support Cynar and Blaise’s troops.
The two OrkElf leaders had lost a fourth of their men, and were struggling against the UrukHai.
Mounted on top of his dirus wolf, Smoke led his troops towards Blaise and Cynar.
“Alpha, queue up next to Bravo and take the Orks on the left. Charlie and Delta, do the same on the right side,” suddenly yelled out Smoke.
All four platoons executed Smoke’s order in less than thirty-seconds.
“Now! Execute Black Mamba!” commanded Smoke.
The shield-bearers of Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta were in the lead, while the long-spear wielders attacked from behind them. This simultaneous strike from all four directions huddled the UrukHai into a tight formation.
Smoke then concentrated all of his mana into creating a large dome. It was almost as large as the one Ledur made when they trapped Horrabelle. He encased more than four-hundred Orks inside the air-tight dome.
“Cynar, order your troops to surround the trench. Blaise, have your men finish off the Orks I wasn’t able to catch,” yelled out Smoke. “Cynar, don’t let the Orks climb out.”
“Who are you to order us a—” began Blaise, but was quickly interrupted by Cynar.
“Blaise, let’s do what he says,” reasoned out Cynar.
Smoke nodded at Cynar, silently thanking him for backing him up.
“My dome should hold the ones trapped inside for a while, but I’ll make sure that they won’t get out,” explained Smoke.
He leapt off his dirus wolf, climbed on top of his earth-dome and opened a small hole. He then crushed poison pellets with his hand and dropped them into the dome, sealing it once more.
“Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta, run to the trench and finish off the Orks,” commanded Smoke from on top of his dome.
Before the Orks could climb out, they were mercilessly met with long-spears. Smoke observed from above, searching for a place to aid.
Yet, it was clear that the Orks were done for. He then spotted the Ork Commander who let out an order to leave him alive.
Smoke leapt down next to him and bound his legs with earth-shackles. Two thin earth-pillars protruded out from the ground and shackled the Ork’s hands as well.
“Where do you think you’re going?” asked a grinning Smoke. “I thought you planned to torture me?”
Suddenly, Cynar rode up next to them on his dirus wolf.
“Don’t kill him, Faux,” ordered Cynar. He then leapt off his mount and choked the Ork with his bare hands.
“Askar Wertlosvati? Dalikar Ishulti Dawon,” vehemently said Cynar.
“Ha! Wertlosvati Nakadaganar,” answered the Ork. “Walti kawnaw makardakup niyar.”
“No!” shouted Cynar and released his hold on the Ork Commander.
With one swift motion, Cynar got out his knife and slit the Ork’s throat.
“What happened?” asked a surprised Smoke.
“Wertlosvati already left two days ago,” explained Cynar. “He said that my worthless father had been called to some kind of Ork summit.”
Smoke and Cynar left the bleeding Ork to die, and rejoined their troops in finishing off the surviving Orks.
After twenty-minutes the field turned red with blood. Smoke canceled out his earth-dome, revealing the items dropped by the trapped UrukHai.
The OrkElves hurriedly began gathering the loot.
While a mounted Smoke was grinning from ear to ear, staring at a pleasant window notification.
|+ Level UP!
You have 10 stat points ready for distribution.
Smoke was now level 110, but he still could not decide what to do with his unused stat points.
“Status Window,” called out Smoke.
|Character: Smoke||Level: 110||Job: Beggar|
|Race: DarkElf||Alignment: Neutral Evil – 100||Money: 50,000,000 zecs|
|Fame: 1,112||Titles: (+ to all stats)
Condortl Savior (+2)
5th Swordsman to Knight Champ (+1)
King of Maneators (+4)
|Life: 228,858 HP||Mana: 305,726 MP|
|DEX: 605(+62)||STR: 145(+55)||AGI: 60 (+617)|
|VIT: 10 (+104)||INT: 140(+213)||Wisdom: 110 (+37)|
|Leadership: 143 (+7)||Charisma: 32 (+7)||Luck: 999|
|Atk Speed:25(+71)||Move Speed:65(+15)||Defense:2,513(1/4)|
|Unused Stats: 20|
|Power Chainsaw Bow: 135-148(1/4)||Attack: 7,888-8,548 (1/4)|
|Twin Lightning Rods: 206-220(1/4)||Attack: 13,135-14,348 (1/4)|
|Elemental Resistance:||Elemental Affinity:|
|Equipment Effects: (1/4)|
|*Hooded Cape of Cologus
+20% Earth Affinity
+20% Wind Affinity
*Claws of Chiropterra
*Heart of ReenTe
*Sable Wizard’s Surcoat
* Lunar Gravity Boots
* Wise Ring of the Dire Fox
* Horse Ring of Domination
* Berserker’s Ring of Flames
*Beggar Belt [1 stone]
|* Agility of the Horned Rabbit (Agility + 510)
* Cooking (Vitality + 67)
* Dual Wield (Attack Speed + 71)
* Knife Mastery (Knife Damage + 66%)
* Bow Mastery (Bow Damage + 84%)
‘Maybe I should raise Int?’ he wondered to himself, since he was mainly using his Earth Manipulation.
“Faux, Faux,” called out Blaise, from on top of his dirus wolf. “There’s your share of the loot,” he said pointing out to a large pile of mauls, axes, hammers, and other various Ork items.
“Give it to my troops,” said Smoke. “This will be my last campaign with you and Cynar, and most of our success is due to their hard-work.”
“But didn’t you hear what Cynar said? Wertlosvati isn’t here,” reasoned out Blaise. “You can’t leave now.”
“Wait, I thought you wanted me gone?” Smoke asked Blaise.
“I never said that,” replied the Flame Knight. “I just said that I didn’t like you pretending to take Ayert’s place.”
“Well, regardless, I’ve already spent too much time here. I must continue on my search for the Magietrois,” Smoke explained to Blaise. “I’ll just find another way to enter the tournament.”
Just then, Cynar rode up next to the two of them.
Smoke carefully dismounted and offered the reins of his mount to Cynar.
“What’s this?” asked a confused Cynar.
“Well, I’m leaving,” began Smoke. “I’m sorry that we didn’t catch Wertlosvati, but I really have to complete my own quest.”
Cynar looked disheartened and intensely stared at Smoke.
“I can’t let you do that,” Cynar said with finality.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t stay any longer,” reasoned out Smoke. He readied himself to fight all of the OrkElves and escape. He had an inclination that something like this would happen.
“Before you go, take this,” said Cynar, searching for a parchment inside his armor. He then gave it to Smoke.
|+ Received: Doctored Magi Gagnant Tournament Document!|
“It’s a document that should allow you to take part in the Magi Gagnant Tournament,” explained Cynar.
“I’ll really be able to join the tournament with these paper?” eagerly asked Smoke.
“Also, take that dirus wolf with you. I think it has grown accustomed to you,” said Cynar, giving the reins back to Smoke.
|+ Received: Dirus Wolf Mount: Freifahrt!|
‘It’s name is Freifahrt? What kind of name is that?’ thought a surprised Smoke.
He then turned to Cynar and shook his head.
“Sorry, but I can’t take him,” refused Smoke, handing the reins back to Cynar. “You need it more than me.”
“No, I insist,” said Cynar. “From the loot we gathered today, we can afford to spare this one mount.”
“Well, if you say so,” said Smoke, and got up on his dirus wolf once more.
“I guess this is it, then,” Smoke said to Cynar and Blaise.
“I may not like you, but you’ve earned my respect, Faux,” suddenly blurted out Blaise.
“Til our paths cross again, Faux,” said Cynar.
With that, Smoke rode his newly acquired dirus wolf and headed for Votl City.
After riding some distance away from Cynar and Blaise, Smoke let out Igniz from his metallic orb.
“Hey there,” greeted Smoke.
Igniz excitedly orbited around him with tremendous speed.
“Sorry about keeping you in there for most of the time, but I think you might be in it for a lot longer,” explained Smoke.
At once, Igniz’s purple flames dimmed.
“Oh, come on. Don’t be like that,” cheered Smoke. “At least we finally rescued the children. We’re headed to them now.”
Grasping a clay mold with an imprint of an iron-key, Smoke remembered his conversation with Jack; before Blaise, Cynar, and himself went out to hunt Wertlosvati.
* * * * * *
“Faux? Is it time?” eagerly asked an imprisoned Jack.
“Yeah, you ready?” urgently asked Smoke. He opened the young aristocrat’s dungeon using the duplicate key he crafted. He secured a copy by imprinting Cynar’s iron-key with a clay when the masked Assassin dropped it before.
“Take this,” said Smoke, handing over the duplicate key to Jack. “You remember the plan, right?”
A conceited and excited Jack energetically nodded. “Of course!”
“Good, but remember not to bother with the OrkElf children. I think they’re contented here,” quickly added Smoke. “Despite making them work, I’ve seen that Cynar treats them well.”
He then handed Jack a bag of dried up mandragora flowers, five specialized gas-masks, and an earth-mold of a large feet.
His supply of the mandragora flowers were extremely limited, but he did not hesitate to use them for the children’s escape.
After observing Jack’s conceited expression, Smoke decided to do a brief review. “Run the plan by me again,” he said to the boy.
“First, I burn the mandragora flowers, and then wait until the entire den is filled with its smoke,” began Jack.
“No, no, first you wear the mask before you burn the leaves,” reminded Smoke, waving the mask in front of the boy. “Otherwise you’d fall victim to the mandragora’s hallucinations.”
“Right, right. Wear the mask, then burn the leaves,” confirmed Jack.
“Alright, what’s next?” queried Smoke.
“After that, I’ll go looking for the other captured children and put the masks on them,” continued Jack. “Next, I take them back to your special-room, and go to the corner where there is an entrance to a tunnel that will lead us to safety.”
“That’s right, but you’re missing one important part,” sternly reprimanded Smoke. “You forgot to use the Ork’s feet that I made. You have to imprint that everywhere, and scream Ork Attack! Ork Attack! Especially near the cave’s entrance. Cynar and Blaise have to think that it was the Orks that abducted you.”
“Right, right,” said an edgy Jack. “I got this, don’t worry about it.”
A nervous Smoke studied Jack, it looked like the boy knew what he was doing. Yet, he could not stop himself and give him some more reminders, as he truly wish to accompany them on their escape.
“It took me almost two full weeks to finish that tunnel. So, it’s going to be a very long walk,” explained Smoke. “But don’t worry. I lined the walls with light stones, and I also made several breathing holes, so all of you will have an unlimited supply of fresh air.”
“I am sure none of us would mine what condition the tunnel is in. As long as it will take us to freedom,” pointed out Jack.
Smoke took a deep breath and smiled at the boy. “And once all of you are out, don’t forget to pull the earth-beam sticking out on the ceiling. It will collapse the entire tunnel, destroying all evidence of your escape.”
Jack made his usual imaginary cross over his heart. “I will not forget, promise.”
“Great! I wish you good luck, Jack, and I’ll see you with Daniel soon,” encouraged Smoke and left to join Cynar and Blaise.
As Smoke was about to walk away, he caught a glimpse of Jack. The boy was slightly shaking. Smoke doubled back and placed the specialized gas-mask on the young boy. He patted Jack’s shoulder before leaving the lair for good.
* * * * * *
After two days of travel, Smoke finally saw the pomegranate forest of Souer Settlement. He patted his dirus wolf’s head.
“Good job, Freifahrt, but we really should think of a new name for you soon,” he said to his mount, as the dirus wolf would not recognize any other name.
“Igniz, time to get back inside,” he said to his symbiote.
Reluctantly, Igniz returned to his metallic orb on Smoke’s chest.
When he entered the settlement proper, Smoke was immediately swarmed by OrkElves. Esper and Colere had lookouts stationed, and they prepared for his arrival.
“Welcome back, Faux,” greeted Colere, giving him a hug.
After her husband, Esper hugged him as well.
“Thanks, it’s good to be back,” replied Smoke. “Did Jack and the rest of children arrive, okay?”
“Yeah. They’re over there,” answered a cheerful Esper, pointing to a group of six young aristocrats, next to a pile of assorted loot.
As Smoke walked towards them, he was stopped by a young girl and boy.
Daniel suddenly hugged him.
“Thank you so much, Faux,” said a grateful Daniel. “You really freed my sister and everyone else.”
Then, an updated Quest window popped up.
|+ Completed Quest: Destroy Cynar’s Orphanage
You have safely liberated Cynar’s captured children.
Before Smoke could close the completed Quest window, Geisel hugged him tightly.
“I really thought you were another scumbag Sonstwelter, just out to get rich,” said Geisel.
“Sorry for not sharing the plan with you,” said Smoke. “I thought it best to just keep it between Jack and myself.”
Geisel let go of Smoke, and she casually shrugged. “That’s alright, the important thing is you got us out.”
Suddenly, Jack called out Smoke. “So, what do you think, Faux?” said the smug aristocrat, pointing to the piled up treasure.
“Jack? Where in the world did this come from?!” yelled out Smoke.
“Relax, Faux, I was just following through with your plan,” grinned Jack, giving him an all-knowing look.
“I never told you to steal from Cynar,” argued Smoke.
“Right, but you told me to make it look like Orks did it,” countered the young aristocrat. “And we all know that Orks love to pillage. It would be unnatural if they didn’t loot the lair.”
An opened mouth Smoke stared at Jack with disbelief.
“I tell you it is more convincing this way,” assured Jack. “Besides, because of what I did, I got you these back.”
Jack took a familiar looking bag from the small mountain of valuables, and he threw it over to Smoke.
When Smoke grabbed the bag and heard its content, he knew he had gotten his bag of gems back.
“I think Cynar might have spent half of it. Sorry about that,” apologized Jack.
“It’s alright,” said Smoke, carefully hiding his bag of gems while looking at Jack.
“So, what do you plan to do now?” Smoke ask Jack.
“Well, Daniel, Geisel, and I have something to ask you.” solemnly said Jack.
“In behalf of the other nobles, we were hoping that you could take us to Votl City,” said the three royal children in unison.
“Ah, I see… Wait, what?” asked a stunned Smoke.
Then, a Quest notification popped up.
|+ Quest: Return of the Aristocrats
Jack, Daniel, and Geisel asked you to return all of the kidnapped nobles back to Votl City.
Accept the Quest? [YES/NO]
“But why Votl City?” asked Smoke. “Isn’t Vona City closer?”
“For starters, Vona City is crawling with Cynar’s spies,” explained Jack. “Also, I have a powerful ally in Votl City.”
“Really? Who?” asked Smoke.
“I doubt that you would know of him, Faux,” conceitedly stated Jack. “No offense, but there is no way a person of your caliber would know of Lord Avilo Dawkins.”
“Oh, Avilo? Isn’t he the one who’s always together with that old High Wizard… what was his name… Mouche, right?” asked Smoke.
“You know Lord Avilo?” asked an astonished Jack. The young nobleman scuffed and laughed. “Well, as expected of Lord Avilo. His fame really does precede him.”
“How did you come to know of his name?” further inquired Jack.
“Oh, he told me himself,” answered Smoke. “Or was it Mouche who introduced him? I’m not sure. I was more focused on watching the eliminations of the Magi Gagnant Tournament in Vona City.”
“You sat next to Lord Avilo?” asked Jack in disbelief.
Then, it hit the young nobleman. “Oh, right. You had that bag of gems. But I thought you were saving it for a more pertinent purpose. Who would have that you would squander it on watching a tournament in an arena.”
Smoke was about to argue with Jack, but he realized that he did indeed have a more important matter to solve, the debts of all the Avendre Mercenaries under them.
“Well, that was for research, but you were right. It was wrong of me to spend those gems for only seeing the games,” agreed Smoke. “That’s why instead of watching from the stands, I’ll be watching on the side of the ring instead.”
“You plan to spend even more money?” asked Jack.
“No, I plan to participate in Votl’s Magi Gagnant Championship,” answered Smoke. “So, I guess that’s a yes for me. I’ll take all of you to Votl City.”
“Great! But first things first,” warned Jack. “Your bag of gems is the only thing your getting from this loot. The rest of this belongs to Myself, Daniel, and the rest of us.”
Smoke raised both his hands in surrender and nodded with a grin.
* * * * * *
“Come on, Freifahrt, we’re only five kilometers away til Votl City,” Smoke said to his dirus wolf, trying to cheer him on.
Attached to the mount was Colere’s rickety cart. Smoke did some modifications to it, allowing him to carry all six royalties on it.
When he was working on the cart, Smoke thought how easy it would have been if he only had his Transmutation ability. Sadly, it was taken away from him.
“Are we there yet?” abruptly asked a young aristocrat for the nth time, on this lengthy journey of twelve days.
In an attempt to shut Quengler up, Smoke shared a part of his story with them. About how he was in search for clues on the Magietrois, and how he needed to enter the Magi Gagnant Tournament to do it.
However, even this did not stop the annoying aristocrat from asking the same question.
“Shut it, Quengler, Faux is taking us there directly,” reprimanded Jack. “You should at least remember how far Votl City is.”
“Quengler, you’re welcome to walk if you think you will get there faster,” suggested Daniel.
Smoke quickly looked behind the cart and interjected, before another squabble between the royal pains broke out. “Don’t worry, Quengler. According to my map, it should just take us twenty-minutes more.”
As Smoke faced front, he was greeted with an upward road. “I’m sure this will be the last hill, Freifahrt,” he said to the dirus wolf.
When they reached the top, Smoke saw a majestic vision. An amethyst city surrounded by three mountains with varying colors. One was brown, the other was red, and the last one was blue.
“Why is Votl City, purple?” Smoke asked Jack.
“Well, legend says that the Magietrois were doing a ritual,” began Daniel, stealing Jack’s opportunity to answer. “They supposedly filled those three mountains with their magic, and accidentally created the Amethyst City of Votl.”
Not to be outdone, Jack hurriedly shed more light on the city’s history. “Votl also means violet in Felinese.”
“Felinese? What’s that?” asked Smoke.
“The original language of the Lioumereans!” quickly answered Jack, before Daniel could.
“Really? Felinese, huh?” wondered Smoke out loud.
As they got closer, Smoke noticed several tall spires. There were nine outside the city’s main walls, while the three tallest towers were inside it.
When they got to city gate, four Warriors asked them to stop.
“Halt, what is your purpose in Votl City?” asked one of the Warriors.
“I’m here to return these captured children,” replied Smoke, pointing to Jack and the rest of the young aristocrats.
The Warrior then turned to Jack. “What’s your name, boy?”
“Lord Jacques Dawkins, Twenty-fifth in line for the throne of Vitzytl,” boldly answered Jack.
“Dawkins? Lord Dawson’s son?” asked the Warrior in disbelief. “But Lord Hautain claimed that all of you were killed.”
“And you people would believe someone like Hautain?” incredulously asked Jack. “Now, let us through before I have you punished.”
“I’m sorry, but I need to have you verified,” insisted the Warrior. “Who can I call of nobility to ascertain your identities?”
Jack looked pissed. “You really won’t take my word for it?!”
Daniel grabbed Jack’s shoulder and forced him to back down.
“Excuse him. You can contact Lord Avilo Dawkins,” replied a calmer Daniel.
“Very well,” replied the Warrior. “Wait here while we call him.”
The Warrior went farther away, and called the Avilo.
“I just hope he gets here fast,” said an exasperated Jack. “He’s only just excited for Gagnant Tournaments.”
Ten minutes passed and still no Avilo in sight.
Then, a HighElf girl of about eleven years old walked past them. She was carrying a basket full of flowers, and was headed into the city as well. She stopped and stared at Smoke and the young aristocrats riding in his rickety cart.
“Oi, beggar, did you kidnap these children?” asked the little girl. “Votl City is really harsh to the likes of you.”
“Hey, Faux, isn’t like that,” defended Geisel. “Sure, his clothes are tattered, his mount is messed up, and this cart is clearly about to break apart, but Faux is a nice guy. In fact, he’s the one who rescued us from our kidnappers.”
The little flower girl clicked her tongue. “Listen, Kid, you don’t know how tricky the world is. Who knows? Maybe, he was in cahoots with your kidnappers from the beginning, and now he’s just out to get the reward your rich parents are going to give him.”
“Who are you calling little girl? You’re not much older than I am,” interjected Geisel. “And like I said, Faux isn’t like that at all.”
“Suit yourself, Kid, but don’t say I didn’t warn you,” said the little HighElf, as she walked past the Warriors and into the city.
Smoke didn’t bother to join in the squabbles between children. He felt his ears had already bled out from hearing all of the mundane arguments children could fight over.
Finally, after thirty-minutes of waiting outside the gate, Avilo and Mouche arrived. Avilo went past the Warriors and ran up to Jack.
“Jack? Is that really you?” asked Avilo.
“Yeah, it’s really me, Av,” replied Jack.
“You really haven’t grown at all,” said Avilo and hugged Jack.
“Mouche, look, it’s little Jackie,” Avilo said to his High Wizard steward.
“Welcome home, Lord Jacques,” said Mouche and gave him a small bow.
“What happened to you? How did you get here?” Avilo began asking a series of questions, all of which Jack could not answer quickly enough.
“It’s a long story, but first I want you to help out Faux,” said Jack, pointing to Smoke. “He says that he’s registered in the Magi Gagnant Tournament.”
“Faux?” asked Avilo. He then turned to Smoke. “Wait a minute, you’re the one who traded seats with us in Vona City’s Arena.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” said Smoke, offering his hand to Avilo.
“Jack said that you’re in the Gagnant?” queried Avilo. “How can that be? I haven’t seen your name in the tournament roster.”
“Oh, I’m a late entrant. Maybe, my name will appear after I register?” reasoned out Smoke.
“Here, have a look at my document,” he said to Avilo, handing him Cynar’s doctored paper.
Avilo scrutinized the parchment. He brought it close to his eye, and examined it from all sides. Next, he took a whiff of its scent, and even tried to measure its thickness with his fingers.
“I’m sorry, Faux, but this is a fake,” said Avilo flatly.
“I don’t know who gave this to you, but none of the arbiters would be fooled by such a cheap imitation,” explained Avilo.
“What? Are you sure?” asked a surprised Smoke.
“I am as sure as this city is purple,” replied Avilo with all sincerity.