Light Novel – Zectas – Volume 05 – Chapter 09

Author: John Nest
Proofreader: Overus

Note:  For easy character reference please refer to: 
Characters
Races and Religions

 

The Vitzytl King’s Harebrained Quest

While being teleported, goose bumps went up and down Smoke’s spine. His entire body tingled with energy, which left a lingering feeling. He had teleported numerous times, but he knew that he would never get used to this.

As usual, it took a few seconds for his eyesight to adjust after materializing into the physical realm.

Before he could get a good footing of the surrounding, Smoke heard a scratchy high-pitched voice.

“Prime Wizard Ouragan, once again you are the champion of the Tournament!”

Squinting his eyes, Smoke finally saw who was talking. It was King Kajou himself, ruler of Vitzytl Kingdom. He sat on a chair made of pure amethyst, which glowed a low purple light.

At once, Ouragan went down on his knees before the King. “It is my pleasure and honor to be summoned by, your Highness.”

Smoke quickly followed the old HIghElf’s example and knelt down next to him.

“Elementalist Faux? Is that you?” asked the King. “I didn’t know you were going to be here. I almost didn’t recognize you without your ruby mask.”

Just then, Smoke realized that he forgot to put the Paradox Mask back on.

“I Didn’t expect that you would be a DarkElf,” added the King. “Almost all the Mages I know are HighElves.”

“But I guess this saves me the time of explaining it to you as well,” went on King Kajou.

Slightly moving his head upward, Smoke replied. “I am but your humble servant, King Kajou. Would you prefer it, if I put on the mask? Just say the word and I shall do it.” He reached for his mask and presented it to the King.

Yet, Smoke involuntarily gulped down after greeting the ruler of Vitzytl. He tried his best to conceal the surprise from seeing the King up close. The beard of the small hairy Monarch was not just that, rather it was also partially made up of his long nose hair.

King Kajou combed his beard with his right hand and stroked its full length close to his chest. “Is something the matter, Faux?” he asked.

“Nothing, your Highness. I am simply in awe, of being in the presence of your greatness,” replied Smoke.

“Hahaha,” chuckled King Kajou. “Yes, I do tend to have that effect on people. Oh, and I don’t mind that you show your face. You’re not as dashing as me, anyway.”

“But let me get right to it,” began the King. “As you know, my Queen Ella is beyond compare, but what you might not know is that she is originally from Thanotl Kingdom.”

King Kajou paused and went back to stroking his beard.

“Thanotl Kingdom? Is that the one in the east? The only other Kingdom in the Sawtorn Continent?” asked Smoke out loud.

Suddenly, the King stood up on his feet, revealing that he was only slightly taller than the kneeling Smoke and Ouragan. “How dare you interrupt me while I was still stroking my imperial beard!” he yelled with authority.

The old HighElf hurriedly lowered his head to the floor. “Please forgive Faux’s rudeness, your Highness,” quickly interjected Ouragan. “He is originally from Chayotl Kingdom, and does not know of our customs.”

Posthaste, Smoke did the same and pressed his head on the floor. “Apologies, your Highness. Please feel free to punish me if I have wronged you.”

“Hmmp. People from Wysteria are really impolite,” said King Kajou. “You have your King to blame for that, I guess. It’s fine, Faux. Get up. You too, Ouragan.”

Both Smoke and Ouragan stood on their feet, and towered over King Kajou.

“On second thought, I prefer that you kneel down again,” quickly added the King.

Without uttering a word, Smoke and Ouragan knelt back down.

“Anyway, my wife… is actually the younger sister of Guwapo,” said the King. He then paused and went back stroking his beard.

It took a while before the Monarch finished. When he did, Ouragan quickly spoke up. “By Guwapo, do you mean King Guwapo of Thanotl Kingdom?”

“Yes, that’s the guy,” said the Ruler with clear sarcastic enthusiasm. “Protector of Thanotl, Upholder of Justice, self-proclaimed most handsome King.”

“I didn’t know that,” said Ouragan.

“Oh, yes. Guwapo has the galls to claim that title,” angrily replied King Kajou. “Even though there are other Kings who could easily qualify for it.”

The news of Queen Ella being the princess of Thanotl was new to Smoke, but he doubted that the old HighElf was in the same boat as him. After all, he was a Beggar Evocati.

“Anyway, Ella was betrothed to me even before she was born,” said King Kajou. “When my Grandfather Gagnant XIII defeated most of the Orks of Sawtorn, the only other kingdom left was Thanotl.”

“If my grandfather didn’t wipe out almost all of the Orks, I bet that kingdom would have disappeared as well,” added the Vitzytl King. “Anyway, as a show of gratitude, King Matalas promised him that our bloodlines will be mixed. The younger Thanotl King offered him the first princess of their Kingdom.”

Amidst his explanation, King Kajou suddenly laughed. “King Matalas was a very sneaky man. You see, during his time, their direct descendants were all male.”

“Now, I don’t know what my grandfather was thinking, but the old man accepted Matalas’ offer,” explained the Monarch. “Since he was already married to my grandmother, and it is against Tlaltezin’s will to have more than one wife, he agreed that the first princess of Thanotl will be married to his son Linus, my late father.”

King Kajou, amused at his own story, sat back down in his amethyst throne. “Grandfather Gagnant XIII lived until he was ninety-seven, but even then Thanotl still did not have a princess.”

“So, on his deathbed, my Grandfather told King Matalas that their first princess will marry whoever is next in line to the throne of Vitzytl,” said King Kajou. “Then, my father, who was now sixty at that time, was made to marry the richest Merchant of Sawtorn, my beautiful Mother Gnomemonia.”

Smoke then turned to the side of the wall where the King was pointing to. There, hanged a lifesize portrait of a stout female Gnome with saggy wrinkly skin and frizzled brown hair.

‘I see,’ discerned Smoke, as he realized where the King got his looks.

“My Father, being the obedient son that he was, married my Mother without question. If only my Father was half the man my Grandfather was,” said the stout King with disgust. “Of course, this marriage meant that all of my Mother’s riches went to the further development of Vitzytl Kingdom.”

King Kajou then stared with adoring eyes at his mother. “Unfortunately, my father and mother died on a sailing trip. They were heading for Vizzu Kingdom to attend a wedding. Apparently, my Aunt was to be married off to the King there.”

The Ruler of Vitzytl then let out a deep sigh. “I became a King at the young age of twenty-five. I practically didn’t know anything then. You see, I was still living with my Mother, who took care of everything for me.”

King Kajou then ran his fingers through his brown fizzled hair, as he attempted to brush them into place. “Mother said that I needed to stay with her inside the castle, as my handsomeness is too far ahead of its time, and would most likely overwhelm the common masses.”

Smoke slightly lowered his head and avoided eye contact with the King. He bit his lower lip hard, as he tried to suppress himself from laughing.

“Some of the counselors under my Father’s rule were kind enough to take care of me, and guided me on how to run a kingdom,” continued King Kajou, giving no attention to Smoke and Ouragan.

“Of course there were some, who I did not like the way I ran things,” said King Kajou. “But it was good that they immediately decided to leave their posts, and were assigned to a better place.”

“I digress. I’ve been blabbing long enough,” said the King. “Anyway, two years after I became the King, Thanotl Kingdom gave birth to its first princess,” he then pointed to another lifesize portrait on the opposite wall of his Mother. “She’s so unique, isnt she? Unlike my Mother, she has a different kind of beauty. Some would call it inner beauty, I guess?”

“We got married when she turned sixteen,” said King Kajou. “And on that day, the Kingdom of Vitzytl and Thanotl officially became allies.”

“After we were married, a Scribe from my Kingdom and one from Thanotl walked up to us. They carried two halves of the same scroll,” said the Monarch. “On it was the location of a secret temple that my Grandfather Gagnant XIII had built just for this day.”

The King then pointed to the map of the Sawtorn Continent. On it was a long demarcation line in between the kingdoms of Vitzytl and Thanotl. He then pointed to a small dot at the center of the line.

“That’s where this secret temple is,” said King Kajou.

He then turned to Smoke and Ouragan. “So? What do you two think? Can you two do it?”

‘Do what?’ thought Smoke. ‘All you’ve blabbed about is why you have a beautiful wife.’

Smoke did not dare speak out, worried that he might anger the King again.

“I’m sorry, your Highness, but I don’t follow,” said Ouragan. “What would you like us to do, again?”

“After everything I said, you still didn’t understand me?” asked the King incredulously, and let out an exasperated sigh. “Fine! I’ll shorten it up for you. I want you two to secure the secret temple, I fear that robbers might be near its vicinity.”

‘What? You never mentioned any of that before,’ thought Smoke.

Suddenly, a notification window popped up.

 

+ Quest: On Call Security Guard
Protection Quest
Level: C

King Kajou of Vitzytl Kingdom has asked you and Ouragan
to secure the secret temple supposedly built by his Grandfather Gagnant XIII.
Once secured, you may return to the capital and report to the King.

Note:
> Any major damage to the temple will result in a high decline of Intimacy with the King

Accept the Quest? [YES/NO]


‘Is this really it? It’s even ranked as Level C!’ angrily thought Smoke. He had envisioned several challenging Quests from the King, but being hired as a security guard was not one of them.

“Of course,” replied Ouragan and bowed down before the King. “Also,  please accept my apology for not understanding you earlier.”

The old HighElf lowered his head once more. “I will gladly accept this honor,” added Ouragan, and then lightly punched Smoke on the shoulders.

“Same here, It is my pleasure to serve you, King Kajou,” said Smoke and bowed down before the King.

“Good, good, I knew you two would not disappoint me,” said the Monarch.

Then, another window popped up.

MAP LOCATION: Temple of Xantico

Coordinates: Latitude: 21°16′ N, Longitude: 68°81′ E
Note: Five-hundred kilometers away from current location.


“I shall have a hundred Warrior Guards accompany you on this vital mission,” said the Ruler of Vitzytl. “They’ll be stationed in front of the eastern gates of the city, waiting for your arrival.”

Smoke and Ouragan bowed to the King once more.

With a wave of his hand, he dismissed the two of them towards the flaming teleportation circle on the ground.

“Now, return to where ever it is you came from,” ordered the King. He then stared at the portrait of his Gnome Mother and said. “Mother, why didn’t I marry someone who was beautiful on the outside?”


* * * * * *

Both Smoke and Ouragan were teleported back into the chamber where Eleve was, but the 16th Magietrois Florissant was nowhere in sight.

Then, a small flickering light caught Smoke’s eye. He went close and found a letter pinned on the wall.

+ Acquired note: Eleve’s Instructions


Without hesitation, Smoke read its contents as the progress bar completed instantaneously.

Eleve’s Instructions

Faux,

I need you to do the King’s Quest, that man-child gets really irritable when he doesn’t get his way. But don’t worry, I shall begin the search for your Thaumaturge in the libraries. When you return I assure you that I’ll have more information about you then.

‘Great! Now, I really have to go on this side quest,’ Smoke groaned from within. Normally, he would have welcomed sidequests, but his priority was to resurrect Sharur and Laernea.

While he was reading Eleve’s letter for the second time, he suddenly got startled by Ouragan.

“Waaah!” shouted the old HighElf and let out a strong gust of wind in the chamber. Smoke thought that Ouragan had gone ballistic.

“That useless bastard is going to be the downfall of this kingdom!” screamed the Prime Wizard of Vona City.

“He keeps hanging on to the vicious victories of his Grandfather, and the depleted wealth of his Mother. He completely ignores the pleas of his people,” ranted Ouragan. “The Ork Hordes have greatly increased in number, and now he sends a hundred of our strongest melee fighters out to guard some forgotten temple!”

Before Smoke could react, Ouragan turned to him. “Smoke, can I leave this harebrained quest to you? I have more important things to do than guard some dusted building.”

“Funny, I was going to say the same,” chided Smoke.

“I’m not in the mood for jokes,” said Ouragan with a straight face. “I was hoping that the King would put us on a mission to wipe out the growing Ork Horde.”

“Tsk!” sounded the old HighElf shook his head and clicked his tongue. “I sure hope Cynar’s Ork Hunting efforts have been fruitful.”

“Alright, I’ll lead the Warrior Guards, but can I find Eleve first?” asked Smoke. “And maybe visit a library or two?”

“No!” screamed Ouragan. “King Kajou is an impatient prick, and if he ordered us to do this, then those Warrior Guards should have already been waiting since an hour ago.”

“Is King Kajou really that bad?” asked Smoke.

Ouragan grunted loudly. “You don’t even know the half of it.”

“The truth is, there used to be seven kingdoms in the Sawtorn Continent,” began Ouragan. “And there are only two main reasons why there’s just two kingdoms left now.”

“The first one was because of the ruthless Ork Hordes,” explained the old HighElf. “They killed citizens and pillaged cities like there was no tomorrow. Those Orks moved from Kingdom to Kingdom after they’ve fully consumed everything it had to offer.”

The Prime Wizard paused and strongly shook his head in disapproval. “And the second reason was because of King Gagnant XIII and King Matalas.”

“King Gagnant XIII took advantage of the suffering kingdoms that were recently attacked by the Orks,” added Ouragan. “With barely enough defenses left, he rode into the dying kingdoms and conquered them.”

Ouragan temporarily stopped talking and led Smoke outside the underground chamber.

“You better head for those Warrior Guards,” said the old HighElf. “I’ll tell you more about Sawtorn’s history along the way.”

Smoke looked at him confused, but followed the Beggar Evocati’s lead anyway.

“After subjugating the fallen kingdoms into Vitzytl, Gagnant XIII used Gnomemonia’s wealth to rebuild their defenses and conscript the worn out residents into his own soldiers,” explained the Prime Wizard. “The conquered citizens were brainwashed into thinking that the Orks were the real enemy and signed up with revenge on their mind.”

“How rich was this Gnomemonia?” asked Smoke. “How was she able to do all that? Especially if they did this for each of the conquered kingdoms?”

“Ha!” snorted Ouragan. “She could afford all of it, because the conquered lands were all turned over to her. She then sold them off to the other rich nobles for a higher profit.”

“The conscripted soldiers didn’t even know that their homes were already taken away from them,” said the Prime Wizard. “How would they? When they were assigned to the frontlines of the battlefield.”

“And what about the Thanotl King? Matalas was it?” asked Smoke. “What did he do?”

“King Matalas knew of the Ork Hordes rising power. So, he convinced King Tanga of the neighboring kingdom to serve under him, and become an Arch-Duke of Thanotl instead,”  expounded the Beggar Evocati. “After King Tanga agreed, King Matalas invested wealth of the two kingdoms into strengthening their defenses. In the end, not one of their cities were destroyed by the Ork Hordes. In fact, the Orks suffered almost half their numbers when they fought against Thanotl Kingdom.”

Ouragan then paused and looked at Smoke strangely. “Now, that you mention it, it appears like it was the perfect trap for the Orks.”

“What do you mean?” asked Smoke.

“Well, King Gagnant XIII was steadily chasing after the worn out Ork Hordes,” said Ouragan, forming a fist with his right hand. “And King Matalas was waiting for them with his impenetrable defensive army,” he added, fully opening his left palm.

Ouragan then smashed both his hands together and created a loud impact.

PITI

“The injured Orks had nowhere else to run,” said Ouragan. “And in comes, King Gagnant XIII riding on his high horse annihilating almost all of them.”

“The story always made it seem like King Gagnant XIII was the real hero, but I’m sure he couldn’t have done it without King Matalas’ own actions,” concluded Ouragan.

“Wait, if King Gagnant XIII was such a bad guy? Why did you and the Beggar Brotherhood leave him alone?” asked Smoke. “Why did you allow him to continue his rule?”

“I never said he was a bad guy,” reasoned out the old HighElf. “I just said he was a ruthless manipulative bastard.”

“Huh? What do you mean?” asked Smoke.

“For King Gagnant XIII, it didn’t matter to him how he did it,” explained Ouragan. “As long as he was able to protect his kingdom.”

After the brief history lesson on how the Sawtorn Continent came to be, Ouragan and Smoke reached the end of the tunnel. The old HighElf then pointed him to the direction of the eastern gate. “Those Warrior Guards should be waiting for you there.”

“Alright, I’m going, but I need more information about all of this,” said Smoke. “Do you have any books I could read?”

“I’ll have someone send over a couple,” replied the old HighElf. “‘But, it may take a while. So, don’t count on it anytime soon.”

“Thanks! I’d really appreciate it, if it arrives sooner,” said Smoke.

“But, let me just tell you this,” said Ouragan. “Since I’m only a Beggar Evocati, I can only speculate.”

Ouragan paused. “The reason the Brotherhood allowed King Gagnant XIII to rule was because he ruled all of his people fairly, including those he conquered. None of them were attacked by Orks ever again. Well, until he died that is.”


* * * * * *

After he stepped out of his game pod, Nash tilted his head as far back as it could reach and let out a yawn.

CREAK CREAK CREAK

The sound of his spine cracking told him that he needed to do his Eskrima exercises.

‘Sure hope those guys ride fast,’ thought Nash, as he pictured out the Warrior Guard caravan he logged out from.

He had met the one-hundred Warrior Guards personally assigned by the King, and he gave them strict instructions on what to do before he left.

‘Well, at least that one Guard looks reliable,’ recalled Nash, as he pictured the Warrior in black who stopped him from entering through the western gates of Votl City. Surprisingly, he was one of the assigned men.

Placing his right foot firmly on the floor and the other over his head, Nash started doing his stretching exercises. It took him a good thirty-minutes, but it did not bother him as he scheduled a two-hour break from the virtual reality world.

Heading downstairs, Nash walked past his Grandmother’s room and saw her used dishes outside it. He tried turning the knob, but again, her door was locked.

Although he had the keys to all the rooms of this house, he did not use it. He figured that his Mima would open it, whenever she feels like doing so.

‘Besides, she always makes sure to put out her plates or leave a note that says she’s doing fine,’ he thought and reasoned with himself.

Once inside the kitchen, he quickly made himself a T-L-C sandwich and headed for the sofa to watch some television.

When the screen turned on, he saw a short-haired brunette in her early fifties. She was being interviewed in a talk show, hosted by Timmy Talon. Nash recognized her as the CEO of the Zectas conglomerate.
======= “Does it bother you that there are numerous Virtual Reality Multiplayer games popping out after your success?” asked Timmy.

“To be blunt, no,” replied Lisa Zuckerman. “Sure, our number of daily online players have dropped down by 30%, but it has never gone beyond that.”

“I’m sure those players are just curious to see what the other games are like,” she added. “But as you know, none of these new games have maintained their OPS for more than a month.”

“Sorry, but I’m not quite familiar with that term,” said Timmy. “What does OPS stand for?”

“Online Player Stats,” replied Lisa with a smile. “There are more than ten games similar to Zectas right now, but we’re still here and we’re still strong.”

Timmy nodded, as he listened to her. “And what do you think is the reason for your success?”

“Well, there are a number of things, but let me cite a couple of them,” answered Lisa. “Cutting-edge realism, extremely comfortable game pods, and most of all, our human-like Artificial Intelligence Interactions. ”

“Yeah, how exactly do you do that?” asked Timmy. “I’ve been inside the game. I mean, who hasn’t? But during my time there, I could have sworn that the Zectians I’ve talked to were real live human beings.”

Lisa giggled. “Sorry, Tim, I’m afraid I can’t tell you that,” replied Lisa. “Trade-secrets,” she added with a shrug.

“Oh, alright. Just whisper it in my ear when we get off the air,” said Timmy. “But for now let’s move on to the reason you are here in the first place.”

“Like I said, we’ve broadened our scope of business,” said the Zectas CEO. “We’ve merged with famous companies like Androidyne, Admiral Autos, and Dream Life.”

The host of the talk show then encouraged his live audience to clap.

“You know what I really like about all of this?” Timmy asked the CEO.

“No,” she replied and shook her head while smiling. “What?”

“It’s the numerous outreach programs you have done with each of your newly acquired companies,” replied Timmy. “Especially the ‘Touch your Dream and Run to your Future’ project.”

“Yeah, I like that one too,” said Lisa. “Our government has graciously funded most of the autonomous-robotic-prosthetics for our soldiers and veterans. You know, the ones who were injured during their heroic service for our country.”

She paused and turned to the audience. “However, there are also ordinary day to day citizens who greatly need these artificial limbs,” she smiled before she went on. “And that’s where that project comes in. Zectas, together with Adroidyne, shoulder the full expense for these everyday people.”

“Can we show the pictures, please?” Timmy asked his director.

At once, the lights dimmed down and a large screen was lowered. It displayed pictures of happy children with robotic hands and feet. They gave out wide sincere smiles while they were walking, writing, and even running.

Shortly after, the screen moved up and the lights became brighter.

CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP

“Now, that’s what I’m talking about!” said Timmy, while strongly clapping his hands. “That’s how you’re supposed to use millions of dollars.”

“Don’t go spending it on a large mansion or some fancy car just for yourself,” he added. “Buy these kids a pair of arms and legs instead.”

Timmy’s live audience clapped even louder.

“But what I really want to talk about is our latest project with the newest member of our family, Dream Life,” began Lisa. “Basically, it’s just an upgrade to their existing cryosleep technology.”

“Cryosleep? What’s that?” asked Timmy. “Is that something like crying yourself to sleep?”

Lisa chuckled. “No, no. It’s putting a terminally ill patient into suspended animation. You know, in hopes of waiting for a future technology to cure their illness. Especially the ones that are still beyond our current medical discoveries.”

“And what’s the upgrade? Do they get to exercise while they’re frozen popsicles, now?” asked Timmy.

“Well, in a way they could,” replied Lisa. “You see, we’ve added our two technologies together. The Zectas Virtual Reality system, was inserted into the patients who are in cryosleep.”

She then turned to the studio audience. “This way, when they swim, they get the sense of being in the ocean. Thus, stimulating their muscles to flex, mimicing the activity. Biking, hiking, you name their dream state exercise and that’s what they’ll get.”

“Wow! That sounds really interesting. And is that also free? Does your company sponsor that as well?” asked Timmy.

“Unfortunately, not anymore. We’ve already filled up all the free spots,” explained Lisa. “But my good news is that this technology is now open to the public.”

“And how do they do that?” asked the talk show host.

“Just visit any of our sites or call 1-800-dreamlife,” answered Lisa.

“There you have it, Folks,” said Timmy. “Please don’t hesitate to call them if you want one of your irritable loved ones to be suspended in animation, while still being entertained.”

Lisa giggled at Timmy, and nodded her head in agreement.

“I’m really sorry, Lisa, but we’ve run out of time,” apologized Timmy. “I really wish we had more, but please do come back. You’re welcome anytime.”

“I’ll take your word on that, Timmy,” she replied. “Expect me to see here again next week.”

“Certainly! I look forward to it,” replied Timmy with a wide smile. “But before the Zectas CEO leaves, she thought that she should give you all something to take home with.”

A large Zectas game pod was then brought out from behind the stage curtain. “Everyone here goes home with a brand new Zectas gamepod!” screamed Timmy, but the audience drowned his voice as they erupted in cheer.

“Well, I think they liked it, Lisa,” said Timmy.

“I’m really glad they did,” she replied. “Otherwise, I’d have a hard time carrying all of these home.”

The two of them laughed and hugged.

“Lisa Zuckerman, Everybody!” he said to the audience.

=======
Engrossed with what he was watching, Nash failed to notice the time. He barely had thirty-minutes left on his scheduled break. He hurriedly ran upstairs to get in a quick power nap before logging back into Zectas.


* * * * * *

Opening his eyes to see the orange skies of early dawn, Smoke sat up on the back of the carriage. As he had just logged back in, he stretched out all of his drowsiness. He scratched his cheek before placing the Paradox Mask over his face. He took a quick look around to see how the Warrior Guards have set up their camp.

‘It looks secure enough,’ he thought, pleased.

Checking his map, Smoke estimated that they were only one-hundred kilometers away from the temple.

“Good morning, Bon. Anything happened while I was out?” Smoke asked the man in black armor. The same Warrior Guard who stopped him from entering Votl City before.

“There were no attacks, Commander Faux,” replied the Warrior Guard. He gave no trouble to Smoke and accepted his full authority over him and the rest of the Warrior Guards.

Smoke remembered how they questioned his entry into the city. Yet, now, all of them followed his orders without question. Thus, Smoke held no grudges against them.

“But there are two new arrivals who caught up with us,” added Bon, and pointed to a LightElf and Lioumerean riding on top of dirus wolves.

‘What are Xantana and Chouchou doing here?’ wondered Smoke.

“Signal the men to prepare for breakfast,” said Smoke.

“As you command, Commander Faux,” replied Bon with a bow. “What should I tell them to cook?”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be the one cooking,” said Smoke.

Cooking was a sure method of raising Intimacy with Zectians, and Smoke needed to increase his Intimacy Levels with these Guards posthaste.

However, Smoke did not begin preparing their meal just yet. Instead, he walked over to Xantana and Chouchou.

“Good morning, you two,” greeted Smoke. “What are you doing here? And how did you find us?”

“We’ve been following you ever since you left Votl City,” replied Chouchou.

“I just wanted to know if you were serious about what you said,” interjected Xantana. “Are you really going to help us out?”

“I am, but I’m currently on an important mission,” said Smoke.

“Yeah, we know,” said Chouchou. “With these much Warrior Guards, it could only come from one of the higher ups. Was it Duke Fiable?”

“No, it wasn’t him,” replied Smoke. “Anyway, I was about to make breakfast. The two of you are welcome to stay, but after that I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Alright, we’ll stay for breakfast,” said Xantana.

Smoke turned around and went to his makeshift kitchen. He created a large clay-pan with his Earth Manipulation and lit the flames below with his Fire Manipulation.

“You were very sneaky hiding that Fire ability of yours,” said Xantana, as both her and Chouchou watched him cook.

“But that old man was way sneakier than any of us,” added Chouchou, refering to Ouragan. “Who could have known he could control Water?”

“Yeah, he really got me good,” said Smoke, while putting on thick slices of bacon on his clay-pan. He cooked twenty-kilos of it in order to feed his men. He did not skimp on the ingredients as King Kajou had prepared a hefty cart of food supplies for him. All of which were from high end market places of the capital.

Moving with blitzing speed, Smoke removed the crispy bacon from his pan and placed them on several plates. With the clay-pan now greased with bacon-oil, he cracked dozens of eggs to go with their bacon.

‘Guess this is one of the perks serving under the King,’ thought Smoke, as he was used to eating only what he hunted. He licked his lips at the tasty breakfast before him.

“Alright, Everyone, grab a plate!” yelled Smoke to his Warrior Guards. “You too,” he said to Xantana and Chouchou.

“Mmm, this is really tasty,” said Chouchou. “I didn’t know Duke Fiable was this rich.”

Smoke did not respond to the Lioumerean’s clear fishing attempt to find out his benefactor, and resumed enjoying his bacon and eggs.

“Faux, why do you do this?” asked Xantana. “Why feed your men the food that was just meant for you?”

“Food tastes better when shared,” said Smoke in between mouthful of bacon.

Both the LightElf and tiger Lioumerean remained silent for the rest of their meal, and enjoyed the simple pleasure of savoring the tasty dish.

When they were done, the two of them prepared to leave.

“How about this? We help you out in this mission, and in return you help us out with Prime Wizard Trottel?” Xantana asked Smoke.

“Thanks for the offer, but I don’t think I’ll be needing your help on this one,” said Smoke. “Maybe, some other time?”

Thinking about the menial task of guarding the temple, he planned to set up these Warrior Guards there, increase the defenses around it, and then return to the city.

“Really? Are you sure? Aren’t you about to go rescue a village or something?” asked Chouchou. “What with all these Warriors here?”

“You would think that, but no,” replied Smoke. He paused and thought about their problem. He truly wanted to help them out, and he thought he might have found a solution. “Tell you what,” began Smoke. “After I’m done here. I’ll ask the man I’m working for, to look into your situation.”

“Hmm. A Duke of a city should have some sway,” said Xantana. “But I’m not sure if he could influence the Prime Wizard of a different city.”

“Don’t worry about that,” replied Smoke. “He definitely has authority over Trottel.”

Both Xantana and Chouchou looked at him with a bewildered expression.

“Alright, I’ll trust you to do that,” said Xantana. She then turned to her Lioumerean lover. “Honey, can you please bring out our other offering for Faux.”

Chouchou nodded and got out a simple wooden box.

Smoke wondered what offering the two of them brought. His eyes widened when he saw the treasure hidden inside the humble container.

The tiger Lioumerean then took out three books bounded by thick leather. Smoke slanted his head to the side and read ‘Flame Arrows,’ ‘Flame Shield,’ and ‘Comet.’

“As you now have control over Fire, I thought that something like this would be useful to you,” said Xantana.

By manipulating his fireballs, Smoke had made his own variation of the Flame Arrows. Yet, he was curious if there was any difference to this ability tome.

“You’re giving all of this to me?” confirmed Smoke.

“Yes, think of it as an early thank you gift,” replied Xantana. “I trust that you will do good by what you said.”

“Wait, I can’t guarantee how effective talking to my current boss would be,” said Smoke, and stepped backwards from his beloved ability tomes.

“We know that, Faux, but we’re hopeful that it will be,” added Chouchou and gave all three books to him.

“Well, if you guys are sure about this,” said Smoke and thanked them.

With that, Xantana and Chouchou left Smoke’s encampment. They had left as quickly as they arrived.

After seeing them disappear over the horizon, Smoke quickly got out one of the ability tomes.

A notification window popped up as soon as he touched the tome entitled ‘Flame Arrows.’

! Conflicting Abilities !

You already have an existing ability similar to this tome.
Do you want to override current ability? [YES/NO]


‘Should I?’ he wondered. He would have preferred to compare both abilities, but there was no way for him to know the information inside the ability tome, unless he acquired its knowledge.

‘Well, the current one is still only Beginner Level 8. Besides, it won’t take me that long to reach that level again,’ debated Smoke with himself.

He then clicked the ‘YES’ button and a new notification window popped up.

+ Learned Ability: Flame Arrows
Active
Level: Beginner Level 1
Experience: (0/1,000)

Effects:
> Upgrades ordinary basic fireballs to flaming arrows.
> Damage: 3,000

Notes:
> Speed and Damage increases as level increases
> MP Consumption increases as level increases
> MP Consumption: 300 MP


“Yes!” shouted Smoke. He clenched his fist in victory.

‘It has twice the MP consumption of my own version, but it also has twice the damage,’ he observed, pleased with his decision.

Next, he quickly grabbed the next ability tome. A leather book entitled ‘Flame Shield.’

‘This must be the barrier that Xantana used,’ he surmised.

+ Learned Ability: Flame Shield
Active
Level: Beginner Level 1
Experience: (0/1,000)

Effects:
> Creates a barrier made out of flames.
> Deflects both basic magical/physical attacks below intermediate level

Notes:
> Size and Durability increases as level increases
> Deflection performance increases as level increases
> MP Consumption: 2,000 MP/second


Eager to see the ability in action, Smoke whispered to his metal orb. “We’re going to have to Synergize.”

Igniz then let out a faint purple light of acknowledgement.

Purple smoke emitted out from his DarkElf skin, and Smoke extended his right palm as he activated the Flame Shield. A disappointing flat-circular flame with a diameter of less than half a meter appeared.

Smoke’s shoulder shrank and he guffed after he tried out the Flame Shield ability.

‘This defensive ability can’t even hold a candle against my Manatl,’ he discerned, as he compared the two abilities.

‘But who knows, maybe it will come in handy someday,’ he hoped, trying to be an optimist.

He then grabbed the last of the three ability tomes.

+ Learned Ability: Comet
Active
Level: Beginner Level 1
Experience: (0/1,000)

Effects:
> Calls down a large comet from the heavens,
and creates a deep crater with residual flames.
> Damage Calculation:
* 50,000 on direct impact
* 300 per second of burning damage from residual flames

Notes:
> Size and Damage increases as level increases
> MP Consumption decreases as level increases
> Casting time may be reduced by high Dexterity stat
> MP Consumption: 300,000 MP


“Now, this is what I’m talking about!” he said out loud after learning the Comet ability.

‘This should be perfect against mobs,’ he thought, as he remembered Crucibelle’s own dastardly attack.

He would have wanted to try it out, but that would require him to move farther away from the Warrior Guards.

‘There will be other times to test this out,’ he thought.

With all three ability tomes consumed, Smoke then called out to Bon. “Alright, let’s pack up, and move out.”


* * * * * *

After two more days of riding through barren deserts, Smoke and the Guard Warriors spotted greenery.

He expected to see pomegranate trees, but was surprised to see that he was wrong. Colorful yellow flowers that grew out from the thick bushes greeted them into the forest.

+ Entered the Forest of Malentendu

A serene and peaceful forest in the heart of the Sawtorn Continent.


Seeing the lack of information about resident monsters or level requirements, Smoke assumed that this was a safe place.

“We’re almost there,” said Smoke to his party of Warrior Guards.

Enlarging the window of his map, he double checked the direction of where they were headed. “This way,” said Smoke, as he lead his party forward.

Without a large sword at his disposal, he asked two Warriors to walk in front of him. He needed them to hack off the thick vines and wide palmera leaves blocking their path.

He estimated that it would take them half an hour to reach the temple, but the abundant plant-life in the forest impeded their advance.

It was a solid hour before they finally caught a glimpse of the temple.

Mesmerized by the three-story monument, Smoke stopped to take in all of its beauty. It was mostly made of pure white marble, but the two golden torch stands, which stood over three-meters, accented the gold linings and decorative etchings on the temple.

‘It looks more older than five-hundred years,’ observed Smoke. ‘Didn’t Kajou’s Grandfather lived less than a hundred years ago?’

He led his men forward, towards the white building.

As soon as Smoke stepped on its marble floor, another notification window popped up.

 + Entered Temple of Xantico

A symbol of peace and cooperation between the Kingdoms of Vitzytl and Thanotl.


There, at the center of the temple, were wide marble steps which led to a blocked doorway all the way to the top of the third floor.

From far away, Smoke used his Telefax Vision to see the golden phoenix embossed at the center of the blocked passage. This structure reminded him of the ancient Mayan pyramids, only smaller and paler.

“Alright, I want a five-hundred meter perimeter check around the temple,” said Smoke. “Bon, you oversee everything from the ground floor.”

“As you Command,” replied Bon and started to leave. “But what about you, Commander? What will you be doing?”

“I’m going to look around the temple,” replied Smoke. “You know, so I could check if there are any boobytraps.”

“Of course,” said Bon, and saluted him before disseminating his orders to the other Warrior Guards.

Free to move around the temple, Smoke ran up its steps and went closer to check on the blocked passage.

The golden phoenix embossed on the marble door looked similar to the brooch he had on.

‘Looks like the goddess Xantico, alright,’ thought Smoke.

Then, he noticed a writing etched on the lower right corner of the door.

“Your outlook will change when you change your perspective,” read Smoke out loud.

‘Does this mean change my point of view?’ wondered Smoke to himself.

Then, Bon arrived to give the Warrior Guards’ update.

“We’ve done our preliminary search of the area, and found nothing suspicious,” reported Bon.

“Very good,” replied a slightly startled Smoke. “Why don’t you tell everyone to make camp at the foot of the temple.”

“Yes, Sir!” replied Bon. “By the way, Commander Faux, what exactly are we doing here, anyway?”

“You are going to defend this place,” replied Smoke. “The fate of the entire kingdom depends on your guarding prowess.”

“Defend it against what, Sir?” asked Bon.

“Robbers!” replied Smoke, and turned around to study the blocked door again.

“What? But there’s no one here?” questioned Bon. “I’d safely claim that we’re the only souls here in the forest.”

“Then, you and your men are up for an easy job,” replied Smoke, and dismissed the Warrior Guard.

Left alone, Smoke returned to his musings on the temple writing.

“Change my perspective, huh?” he mumbled to himself.

Since the Warrior Guards were busy setting up their camp, Smoke thought he could risk taking an aerial view of the temple.

‘Besides, I already have over 80 Intimacy with most of them,’ he thought with assurance.

Using his Hyper Jump ability, Smoke propelled himself upward and stuck his Claws of Chiroptera to one of the tall trees near the temple.

He thought about gliding, but the forest canopy obstructed his view. So, he settled for hanging on top from a tree instead.

From above, Smoke saw that the temple resembled a phoenix with its wings tucked tight. The obstructed entrance was actually the tail of the magnificent edifice.

‘This can’t be it,’ thought Smoke, examining the the marble structure. ‘There has to be something more than this.’

He removed his Paradox Mask and tried to wipe the frustration from his face. Yet, it proved to be ineffective.

Scratching his head for ideas, Smoke decided to study the phoenix temple some more, searching for a connection on what was written on the blocked doorway.

‘I have to change my perspective…’ he repeatedly thought in his head.

‘A change in perspective means to change one’s view,’ he surmised. ‘But what if…’

Using the evolved ability of his Cunning of the Dire Fox – Extra Sensory, Smoke focused all of his mana into his eyes.

It was a costly ability at 100,000 MP per use and additional 10,000 MP per second after activation.

At once, his eyes turned golden and became that of a dire fox’s. As he could see the energy flowing out of the temple, it appeared as if the white phoenix came to life. Its eyes twinkled
and he knew that he needed to get a closer look.

Excited, Smoke leapt down from the tall tree and rushed towards the phoenix’s eyes. Upon inspection, he realized that the eyes were actually receptacles. He touched it and triggered a notification window.

– Requires: [1] Florissant Brooch & [1] Nanti Pin


“What?” asked Smoke out loud. ‘Why would Florissant’s Brooch be involved in this? Didn’t King Gagnant XIII create this temple himself?’

Removing his Journeyman Emblem, Xantico’s Inheritance instantly faded out of his equipment. The red flaming luster disappeared from his brown cloak and pants, and now they looked even more tattered. He then placed the brooch into the right eye of the phoenix.

CLINK

Smoke grinned widely after he heard the distinct sound of a perfect fit.

‘Now, what in the world is a Nanti Pin?’ he wondered.

Putting back the Journeyman Emblem on him, the flames of Xantico’s Inheritance reappeared on his worn items.

‘I need to learn more about this temple,’ thought an excited Smoke. He welcomed the distraction of a new development after his bust with finding the real Magietrois Florissant.

With his inspection of Xantico’s Temple completed, Smoke began planning on how to improve the defenses around it.

On the next day, after he fed the Warrior Guards, Smoke created a square earth-wall around the temple. It was four-meters tall and two-meters thick. He made good use of the thick trees and blended his wall well.

Afterwards, he created pit traps with long sharp spikes on the bottom. He scattered it outside the perimeter of his earth-wall.

Completing a day of heavy Earth Manipulation, Smoke scaled the same tall tree and appreciated the fruits of his labor.

Seeing the defenses around the Temple of Xantico, he marveled at his own work and gave out a smirk.

As he planned to leave that night, Smoke rushed back down to start making his final supper for the Warrior Guards.

It took him less than thirty-minutes to whip up a delicious meal fit for royalty. His hundred man party huddled around him as they ate together.

Suddenly, Bon got everybody’s attention.

“Commander Faux, in behalf of everyone, I would like to thank you for everything that you’ve done,” began Bon. “I know that we’ve only been together for a couple of days, but we’ve never had a more trustworthy Commander such as you.”

Then, a notification window popped up.

+ Intimacy with Bon and the rest of the Warrior Guards has risen to ‘Revered Leader’


“No, I’m the one that should be thanking you,” said Smoke. “And I hope that your stay here will be peaceful.”

As most of the Warrior Guards resumed eating, Bon spoke to Smoke with a lowered volume. “By the way, I’m sorry for the way I acted earlier.”

“Huh? What did you do?” asked Smoke.

“I mean from when I met you the first time,” explained Bon. “I should have known better than to judge you by your looks.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” replied Smoke. “I get that a lot. What’s important is that you’ll lead your fellow Warriors well.”

After settling in the one-hundred Warrior Guards in the Temple of Xantico, Smoke bade them all farewell and good luck. He left Malentendu Forest on foot, and when he sensed that no one was following him, Smoke leapt up and glided back towards Votl City.


* * * * * *

Excited with his discovery of the Florissant Journeyman receptacle, Smoke glided fast with the winds. He rode them at top speed, wanting to know more about the Temple of Xantico.

‘Nanti Pin,’ he chanted in his mind, curious as to what it could be.

Two hours passed, and Smoke was already halfway to Votl City. Still filled with his musings on the connection of the temple to Florissant.

Suddenly, he got distracted when he spotted several large dust clouds gathering on the far north.

Enlarging the window of his map, Smoke found out that there was no city, no village, not even an OrkElf colony up in that direction. There was supposed to be nothing there but the barren Mountain ranges of Tagung.

‘I’m so far high up, it shouldn’t hurt to investigate,’ he reasoned.

With one large twisting motion of his Wings of Cologus, he changed his direction and headed for the desolate ridges.

As he got nearer, he melded his mana with Igniz and used his Telefax Vision to zoom in on what was causing the dust clouds.

Focusing in closer and closer, Smoke trembled at their sight. He estimated more than two hundred-thousand Orks riding on dirus wolves, which were three times larger than normal. Yet, the ones who were running after them on foot, number about five times as much. A tidal wave of green savage monsters equipped with mauls, mallets, axes, and other double-handed great weapons. The other terrifying thing about the Orks was that a single one of the UrukHais was as tall as one story house.

As he scrutinized the massive horde further, Smoke realized that the ones who were running, were actually much smaller.

Opening his acquired knowledge window on Orks, Smoke discerned that these two-meter tall versions were from the Ork Tribe called MoriHai. They were said to be the scavengers of the Orks. These smaller green monsters would often ransack the villages that were previously attacked by the stronger Orks.

‘This is what Ouragan was anxious about,’ Smoke thought. ‘The Ork Tribes working with one another.’

As he followed them towards the mountain ranges of Tagung, Smoke spotted a large circular formation made up of Orks.

‘They were gathering on the foot of one of its mountain. I need to get closer. I need to know why these two Ork Tribes are here,’ decided Smoke with conviction.

Synergizing with Igniz, he increased his gliding speed by creating a lift of hot air below him. He had experimented on this before, but found it wasteful in term of mana consumption, as it barely dented the experienced bar on his Fire Manipulation. Its sudden burst of speed, however, proved useful for times like this.

Landing far away from the gathered Orks, Smoke got out his Digger’s Wand and dug a tunnel towards the green monster council.

With his Earth Manipulation now at Master Level, excavating a passageway one kilometer in length was a trivial task for him.

Using his Cunning of the Dire Fox to guide him, Smoke stopped when he was directly above the council of UrukHai and MoriHai. In order to hear them better, he drilled a miniscule hole right under their feet with his Earth Manipulation.

“Nagkar tapukir tarar drei parar migbago tag Generalir,” said one of the Orks.

‘Oh, that’s right! They talk in Orkish!’ remembered Smoke, and slapped the forehead area of his mask.

“Nyar kinsari nimani angir efuli? Sa tanir Colonier?” said another Ork.

With no idea what they were talking about, Smoke pressed the timeframe button. He wanted to record this and translate it with an Orkish to Human language translation app. Of course, he does not have the app yet, as it was expensive and never needed it before.

“Akir asur Colonier, Wertlosmorder, Akir vutar si Wertolosvati! Syar angir efuli! Syar langi angi andunayir katungdiri.” added another Ork.

“Akir, Wertlosrauber, uyunir kanir Wertlosmorder’s pagvuto. Ikuwa Vergewaltiger?”

“Valhallir moir drei. Vastur makir iyotar akir. Walviri kun kinsari angir efuli Generalir.”

His ears piqued as soon as he heard the familiar name. Wertlosvati was the name of Cynar’s father, the Ork Colonel who got away.

The Orks went on mentioning Wertlosvati’s name. Smoke listened in on to thirty-minutes more of this conversation, until he recognized another word.

“Sulingir natur angir Votl! Kuran na akir na angir onying amo!” screamed an Ork.

A few pieces of loose rubble fell on Smoke’s face, as a thunderous cheer erupted on the surface.

‘What on the world are they talking about Votl?’ wondered Smoke, but whatever it was, he knew that it was not anything good.

With more than thirty-minutes of conversation to translate, Smoke logged out from inside his newly created tunnel.


* * * * * *

An invigorated Nash stepped out of the game pod. It had been a while that he was this excited to leave the realm of virtual reality.

He sat on his chair and hurriedly turned on his computer. Searching through the Zectas website, Nash clicked on the Orkish translation app.

“$3,500!” exclaimed Nash.

‘Who in the world would buy this thing?’ he wondered in disbelief. He then found the number of times the app was bought and saw its counter displayed one.

He debated within himself whether the conversation he heard from the Orks was worth that much. Even if he did learn the Orkish language from a book inside Zectas, there was no way for him to convert a language that he heard before. This was the only way for him to understand the green giants of Sawtorn.

‘Looks like I’m going to be schmuck number two then,’ he thought and added the Ork translation app to his cart.

After installing it and integrating it with his recorded video from the tunnel, another button appeared, . A myriad of language options popped up, and Nash clicked on the English button.

“We’ve gathered here today, to elect a new General.”

“And who do you think is worthy to be one? Which one from the four Colonels?”

“As one of the Colonels, I, Wertlosmorder, support Wertlosvati! He is the only one in my opinion who could lead the Orks to be great again.”

“I, Wertlosrauber, second Wertlosmorder’s opinion. What about you Vergewaltiger?”

“Do whatever you want. As long as I get to raid places with pretty Elves, I don’t care who takes up the post of General.”

Nash listened on to their conversation on finalizing Wertlosvati’s promotion to be General of the UrukHai.

Then, he heard the next highlight of the Ork Summit.

“Now, that I am elected as your General, we will stop our petty attacks on villages! Let us invade their capital Votl!”

Nash assumed that it was Wertlosvati talking.

“Together with our MoriHai brothers, we shall storm their city and lay waste to their entire Kingdom!”

After hearing his translated video, Nash hurriedly shut down his computer. He ran downstairs and drank a glass of water.

“What’s wrong, Nash?” suddenly asked Donny from behind him.

Distracted by the Ork’s plan to invade Votl, Nash failed to notice his youngest brother eating a bowl of cereal in the kitchen.

“I think there’s going to be a big war in Sawtorn really soon,” replied Nash.

“Isn’t that a good thing?” asked Donny. “Don’t you get an insane amount of gold and experience during those kinds of events?”

“You do, if you’re on the winning side,” replied Nash. “Otherwise, it could mean total annihilation.”

“Great! Then, just be on the winning side,” said Donny.

Nash stared at his brother, dumbfounded. “You’re right. Thanks, Donny, I better go back in and make sure that happens.”


* * * * * *

Traveling at his fastest, Smoke exhausted most of his mana as he boosted his flight speed in his synergized state.

He found himself back in Votl City and immediately headed for the King’s Castle.

At the heart of the amethyst city, stood the capital of the capital, King Kajou’s castle. From above, Smoke saw the massive maze garden, four swimming pools, a horse track, and a ten-meter tall statue of the current King himself.

‘Palatial,’ was the only word that came to mind.

Learning from experience, Smoke did not intrude inside the castle walls. Instead, he landed in front of its gates.

“Halt! State your name and your business here!” said a Warrior Guard in black.

‘Not this again,’ groaned Smoke.

“I’m here to see the King. My name is Faux. Finalist of the…” began Smoke, but was interjected.

“That’s Sir Faux!” said another Warrior Guard and pushed the other to the side.

“A pleasure to meet you in person, Sir Faux,” said the Guard and shook Smoke’s hand. “Sorry about this guy. He doesn’t follow the Magi Gagnant Tournament.”

‘Wow! I didn’t know I had fans,’ thought a surprised Smoke, remembering how the audience in Pulper arena heckled and booed him.

“And apparently, doesn’t even bother to read the daily instructions,” added the Warrior Guard. “Didn’t you read the memorandum that Sir Faux was to be allowed entry into the Castle anytime?”

The ignorant Guard shrank back. “I read it,” he said shamefully. “But I had no idea who he was.”

“Fine, fine, just let me in already,” said Smoke. “I need to see the King, now!”

Escorted by the Warrior Guard who adored him, Smoke was rushed inside. The walk across the expansive castle grounds took a few minutes, but despite his rush he failed to notice the time, distracted by the expensive decorations.

‘Just how many Avendre Mercenaries’ debts could I pay off, if I sold that statue?’ wondered Smoke, looking at a pure golden sculpture.

After ten minutes, Smoke found himself waiting behind the throne room door.

“Wait here, Sir Faux. I’ll inform the court adjutant of your arrival,” said the Warrior Guard.

“Alright, thanks,” replied Smoke and waited to be announced.

It took longer than he expected for his name to be called. Then, he heard the sound of what he discerned to be a heavy staff against the floor.

TUG TUG TUG

The throne room door was then opened.

Smoke expected to see a crowd of nobles inside the King’s court, but found it empty. Only King Kajou, who sat on his throne, awaited him.

“Faux! That was quicker than I expected,” said the King. “Where’s Ouragan? Did he stay behind the temple?”

“Um, no,” replied Smoke. He paused as he thought about what to tell the Monarch. “He went back earlier ahead of me. After we secured the temple, of course.”

“Of course,” said the King. “So, were there any robbers there? Is the temple still in its pristine condition?”

Before Smoke could answer, the King went on and stroked his beard. He quickly bit his lips and stopped himself from talking. He stared down at the floor, as he tried to push away the cringe-worthy image of King Kajou stroking his long nose hairs along with his beard.

“Well, Faux? I’m waiting for your answer,” said King Kajou.

Smoke looked up and found that the King had stopped touching himself. “I’m afraid that it is covered by a thick forest and needs a bit of dusting up,” replied Smoke.

“And what of the inside?” further inquired the King.

“I don’t know,” answered Smoke. “The temple is completely sealed.”

“Is it, really?” said the King. “Hm. Guess I’ll have to find another vacation spot for this year’s anniversary.”

“I beg your pardon?” asked Smoke, confused whether he heard the King correctly.

“I was actually looking for an exotic place for me and the missus,” explained King Kajou.

‘All of this was for securing his vacation spot?’ thought Smoke. ‘How selfish could he be?’

“But your, Majesty, I had the Warrior Guards remain there,” reasoned Smoke, recalling the subordinates he left behind. “Should we call them back?”

“No, let them stay there for a while,” said the King. “Who knows? Maybe there will be thieves there.”

Then, a notification window popped up.

+ Completed Quest: On Call Security Guard

You have successfully secured the secret Temple of Xantico.

Rewards:
* Intimacy with King Kajou has increased to 60
* 50,000 experience points


‘What? This is all I get for almost a week of doing that Quest?’ thought Smoke in disbelief. ‘The Intimacy with the King barely even moved.’

“Now, if you’re done with your report, you can leave,” ordered King Kajou, and dismissed Smoke with a wave of his hand.

“Wait, your Highness!” exclaimed Smoke, overwhelmed by his emotions.

“You dare raise your voice to me?” threatened the King, standing up to his full height of 142 centimeters. “Do you know who I am?”

Smoke quickly lowered his head to the throne room floor and begged. “Please forgive me, your Majesty. But I have urgent news, and you need to hear it.”

King Kajou sat back down on his throne and guffed. “You’re lucky that I’ve taken a liking to you,” he said. “Otherwise, you would have been exiled from my entire kingdom.”

“Thank you for your benevolence, your Highness,” said Smoke.

“Well, go on then,” said King Kajou. “What is this urgent news that I have to desperately hear?”

“It’s about the Ork Horde,” began Smoke. “The UrukHai and MoriHai Tribes have joined forces and they’re planning on invading Votl City soon.”

Smoke then explained what he heard on the Ork Summit further. King Kajou shriveled into his throne, profusely sweating. He kept on stroking his beard, but Smoke failed to notice and kept on talking. Yet, despite this, the King did not stop Smoke. He allowed him to continue with his imperative update.

“Are you really sure of this?” King Kajou asked Smoke. “How do you even know how to speak Orkish?”

“Well, I know a little bit,” Smoke lied, but he planned on acquiring a book on the Orkish language soon after.

“Then, we better call all the kingdom Generals here at once,” said the King.

The short Ruler of Vitzytl stood up and walked over to a piece of red rope dangling high from the ceiling. He had to stand on his toes to reach its tip.

Looking at it, Smoke noticed that the rope stood out of place in the entire throne room.

KLANG-KLONG KLONG-KLANG KLANG-KLONG KLONG-KLANG

“Forgive me, your Highness, but what is that sound?” asked Smoke.

“Those are the sounds of misery and death,” replied King Kajou, “Those are the war bells which have not been rung for almost a hundred years.”

SHUP PLOP SHUP SHUP

Suddenly, Smoke’s Cunning of the Dire Fox picked up four new individuals. He turned around and saw two elderly HighElves, one long-haired tiger Lioumerean, and a DarkElf.

To his surprise, Smoke knew all of them by name. They were Eleve, Ouragan, Trottel, and surprisingly enough, Chrysopelea.

“What are you doing here, Chrys?” Smoke asked the only other Sonstwelter in the room.

“It’s a long story,” answered Chrys. “Basically, after the tournament was over, I went over to Vectas City and challenged its Prime Wizard for the title.”

“I read that I could get summoned by the King,” added Chrys. “I just never thought that it would be so soon.”

‘So, all of them are the Prime Wizards of Vitzytl and the current Magietrois Florissant,’ surmised Smoke.

“That was not a long story,” interjected Trottel, flipping his long orange hair covering his tiger Lioumerean face. “And you don’t have to be proud in defeating Credule. He was clearly the weakest of all the Prime Wizards. He was so weak, that he didn’t even bother to enter the competition.”

“What’s going on here, Faux?” Eleve asked Smoke, ignoring the ramblings of Trottel.

However, King Kajou screamed, interrupting Smoke’s chance of answering Eleve. “We’re under attack by the Ork Horde!” exclaimed the King.

“Under my orders, I’ve asked Faux here to investigate on the Ork Horde,” blurted out the King. “As you all know from Ouragan’s adamant reminders, the Orks have largely grown in size. Thankfully, my foresight and quick thinking allowed us to prepare for their incoming attack.”

King Kajou then turned to Smoke. “Faux, why don’t you take it from here, and explain what you found out.”

Despite wearing his Paradox Mask, Smoke’s mouth fell open. He could not believe the audacity of the King to claim all of this, but he let it pass and turned to the gathered Prime Wizards and Magietrois Florissant.

“I stumbled upon the Ork Summit…” began Smoke, and retold his discovery a second time.

After a good hour of explanation, everyone of the room was caught up-to-date.

“So, what do we do now?” Smoke asked both Eleve and Ouragan.

The old HighElf Prime Wizard was the first one to speak.

“I actually knew of an Ork Summit happening, but my men and I never found out where and when it was going to be,” began Ouragan. “Due to this, I have gathered 10,000 Warriors from Vona City and 20,000 Wizards, Mages, Elementalist and Summoners.”

Trottel quickly chimed in. “I also have prepared for such an event like this,” said the tiger Lioumerean. “I have 2,000 Warriors and 4,000 Mages, Wizards and of folks of the same sort.”

“But isn’t that the standing army you have when you become a Prime Wizard?” asked Chrys. “I know because I was so proud when I received the notification.”

“That doesn’t matter,” said Trottel. “All that matters is, that I have a standing army ready and willing to fight for your Highness,” he said to the King.

“Then, I have that same army as well,” Chrys added and faced the King.

“I did not give you permission to talk to me directly,” King Kajou said to Chrys. “I guess Sonstwelters just don’t have any manners.”

“Anyway, what about you, Magietrois Florissant?” asked the King. “What do you have to offer us?”

“Ahem,” Eleve cleared her throat. “As the 16th Magietrois Florissant, I have 40,000 Automaton Iron Knights at my disposal. Unfortunately, I don’t have any mages to offer. Well, Except for Faux, he is the only one other than myself who is a student of Magietrois Florissant.”

“So, that’s where you got your Fire Powers,” said Chrys out loud. “Nice!” he added, and gave Smoke a knowing nod.

“No, I have other plans for Faux,” said the King.

“I’ll issue a royal proclamation summoning both Zectians and Sonstwelters a like to sign up in the service of the kingdom,” began King Kajou. “Next, I’ll assign Magietrois Florissant as the Prime-General of this army and the other Prime Wizards as her Vice-Generals.”

King Kajou then turned to Smoke. “Faux, according to my Grandfather, we only need three Vice-Generals, but he is already dead and the times have changed.”

Smoke’s eyebrow raised, confused at what Kajou was getting at.

The King then turned to Smoke and said. “Faux, you are going to be my fourth Vice-General.”

+ Kingdom Quest: On Call Kingdom Guard
Protection Quest
Level: S

King Kajou of Vitzytl Kingdom has asked you, Ouragan, Eleve, Trottel, and Chrys
to protect Vitzytl Kingdom from the invading Ork Horde.
Once the Orks have been defeated, you may return and report to the King.

Note:
> Any major damage to the Kingdom’s cities will result in a high decline of Intimacy with the King

[Quest Forcibly Accepted]


Smoke instantly lowered his head and said. “Thank you, your Highness, I promise not to disappoint you.”

‘Looks like getting that slight Intimacy boost with the King paid off after all,’ thought a relieved Smoke. He was hoping to actively take part in this war. He feared for the safety of the ordinary Zectian residents, but most especially for the OrkElves scattered in the pomegranate settlements.

“Alright then, all of you go out and make preparations for the Orks arrival!” exclaimed the King, and dismissed all of them.

Both Eleve and Ouragan pulled Smoke towards them, wanting more explanation on what he knew about the Orks’ invasion.

As they were about to leave the throne room, Smoke heard the tiger Lioumerean lamenting. “Pfft. What a lucky guy to be made Vice-General just because he became a finalist,” spouted Trottel.

Smoke stopped, and excused himself from Eleve and Ouragan.

“Sorry, I’ll catch up with you two,” said Smoke. “There’s something important I forgot,” he said and walked back towards the Monarch.

“Oh, Faux, what is it?” asked King Kajou. “Is there anything else?”

“Actually, yes,” replied Smoke. “Your Highness, how do you feel about interracial marriages?”

King Kajou raised both his hands in confusion. “What? What does that have to do with the Ork invasion?”

“It’s not really connected, per se, but I think it could help increase the morale of my men,” replied Smoke.

“Hm. Well, if you must know, of course I approve of it!” declared the King. “I am born from a Human Father and a Gnome Mother, but I do not hold it against my father.”

Behind his Paradox Mask, Smoke let out a wide grin.

“Great! Then, let me tell you something about an ordinance created in Vlahui City,” began Smoke, and told the King of Trottel’s stand against interracial marriages.

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