Author: John Nest
In a room much cluttered than his, Nash stood behind his younger brothers. Seth and Donny were busy resurrecting more old servers they salvaged from the electronic-junkyard. Together they now had a total of eight i9-tenth generation servers.
“You sure you got all of this for free?” asked Nash, skeptical.
Seth sighed. “Trust me, no one’s gonna come barging in, asking for money.”
“Talking about money, we’re cutting the profits evenly into four, right?” confirmed Donny, plugging in another terabyte of ram into one of the motherboards.
“Why four?” asked Nash.
“You get one because you’ve got the connections in Zectas. Seth gets one because he built the system. Mima gets one because we love her. And I get one because I’m Donny.”
Nash raised his eyebrow while grinning.
“I know! It doesn’t make sense but apparently it’s binding,” added Seth, shaking his head. “By the way, since it’s already cramped in here… was wondering if I could sleep in Mima’s room.”
“Are you stupid!” exclaimed Donny. “You’ll ruin Mima’s stuff. You know how she likes her things in their exact places.”
“No she doesn’t. Besides, I’m not gonna touch anything. Just wanted a comfortable bed to sleep in.”
“And what? Get your stink all over the place? No!” exclaimed Donny. “You can’t stay in her room.”
“I’m only gonna be there until we find her.”
“All the more reason you shouldn’t stay there! The Detectives might find her tomorrow! Or have you already given up on her completely?”
“That’s enough, Donny! You know Seth would never think that,” reprimanded Nash.
All three Smoak brothers stared at each other in silence. Only Nash’s nose was not flaring with anger.
“Seth, Donny, you two good? Or you want to have a go at it? Let out some steam?”
Donny shook his head.
“Donny, I didn’t mean it like that. I can sleep in the living room,” said Seth, offering his hand to his younger brother.
“No. You can stay in my room,” said Nash.
“No. Your room is already cramped with your game pod in it,” interrupted Donny. “Seth can stay in my room. I’ve still got plenty of space left. Besides, all four of us used to live in that one bedroom apartment.”
“You sure?” asked Seth.
“It’ll be great.” replied Donny. “Just like old times,” he added, hugging Seth by the neck.
“You know, this reminds me. I just found a long lost friend in Zectas as well,” added Nash, desperate to change the mood. “Remember the one who taught me how to use the Manatl?”
“That’s good, but what about Perdant? Is he already set up in Sawtorn?” asked Seth, focused on improving his app.
“Yup. He’s already got a place in Centzo as well. Hopefully, we’ll get one in Centza too.”
“Great, because the system will be up sometime next week. And the app should be available to both smart phones and desktops by that time as well,” said Seth.
“Alright, alright. I’ll make sure everything’s set up in Zectas by then,” reassured Nash.
* * * * * *
In a war carriage big enough to fit thirty people, three persons decidedly sat close next to each other.
Mamelon shyly fidgeting with her newly acquired weapon, the Ocean Sabre.
|Ocean Sabre (Sword)
A family heirloom from the fencing family of Sabarre. It symbolizes as the head of the family.
> Each attack has a 30% chance to knock back target.
> Unleashes a flurry of lunges dealing 200x damage of the sword.
* Agility + 20
* Strength +20
After examining the steel blue fencing sword, Mamelon enjoyed the passive effect of Ocean Breeze which effectively cooled their carriage.
Whereas, Daga constantly berated Igniz(disguised as Ilad—the Flame Knight) with various topics. Only Daga’s incessant voice made noise their entire ride.
‘Do I really love him?’ Mamelon wondered as she scratched the handle of her sabre. She then recalled the first time she felt something for Ilad. It was when he organized the riders to fight against the Brandal bandits. Such a long time ago during their Mounted Race around Coatl. ‘But what is it about him that makes me feel like this? I don’t even know his real name.’
When Daga finally rested her mouth for a second, Igniz turned to Mamelon and said. “I’ve been meaning to ask… When did you pick that up?” he said, pointing at her fencing sword.
“Oh, this?” she replied, carefully lifting it closer for Igniz to see. “Got it in the Nordlands. When I was meeting with Amahan. Took a quest from an old man to uphold their lineage—”
Daga immediately interrupted. “Sounds interesting… Not!”
“Hmm… Wonder which sword is stronger,” said Igniz, pulling out his massive Salamander’s Tongue. At once, the fiery flamberge normalized the temperature, counter-acting the coldness of Mamelon’s Ocean Sabre.
“Would you look at that. Just goes to show how opposite you two are,” said Daga to Mamelon. “Wouldn’t you rather be with Virer and Courant? Out there with your Elemental Knights?”
“Well, opposites do attract,” replied Mamelon, smiling. “I do prefer riding, but sometimes it’s also good to sit back and enjoy the scenery,” she added. ‘God! Why did I just say that?’ she cringed as she turned to face the carriage’s window.
There, she saw an army of merely a hundred people riding behind them; Ichaival’s Ranged Unit, her Sonstwelter Friends, and a few of their Elemental Knights.
“That’s enough! We’re here to meet with Duke what’s his name, and not to socialize!” exclaimed Daga. “By the way, did you get to contact your friends from your former guild?”
Mamelon shook her head. “No. Most of my friends from Confiance already migrated to Nordland.”
“Don’t tell me. They left the guild after you joined up with Smoke’s.”
“Yeah, something like that. But the Confiance should still be thriving.”
Outside, the terrain was a mixture of molten rocks on one side and a frozen tundra on the other. The weather here was as fickle as the breeze.
Through the window, Mamelon spotted Ichaival on top of a dirus wolf heading towards them. Virer and Courant were riding closely behind him.
“Do we need to stop?” asked Gandiva, ready on the reigns to slow down Bilis and Tulin.
“I think we should. Sympa’s reconnaissance mission wasn’t so good,” Ichaival said to Gandiva and Mamelon.
“Told him to talk to you guys as soon as I heard,” added Courant, his flashy Electro Knight armor glistening.
At once, Gandiva brought the carriage to a halt, stopping their entire army behind them.
“Well, go on then,” said Daga, peering out the window, forcing her way next to Mamelon.
“Right. Seems like there are Emerald Knights posted around Centza,” began Ichaival. “Sympa suggests that we head back. Avoid conflict and not alarm Adrizol of us being here.”
“Adrizol won’t know, if we’ll kill them all,” flatly said Daga. “I say, we ram straight through them.”
Loudly, Mamelon cleared her throat. “We’re not here to fight… At least, not yet. Besides, I have a feeling that Adrizol already knows we’re on our way here.”
“Still, best to be on the safe side,” added Igniz.
“If the King knows, then why even bother coming here?” asked Daga.
“Hopefully, the Duke will join us in open rebellion after we get an audience with him,” answered Mamelon.
Daga almost fell off her seat. “Hope? We came all this way just on hope?”
“It’s fine,” said Igniz. “Heard rebellions were built on hope.”
Upon hearing this, Mamelon beamed her pearly whites. “You know, what? I love that movie too!”
Both Igniz and Daga looked at each other, puzzled.
Daga then whispered to Igniz. “What’s a movie?”
Igniz shrugged. “No clue. I just heard it from Smoke and Sierra. Must be something from their world?”
“But, I still wish we had a better idea as to what to expect in Centza,” added Mamelon.
The incarnated symbiote turned to Daga. “Why don’t you scout ahead. See if there’s another way we can get into the city?”
“What? And leave the two of you here… alone?”
“That’s an excellent idea!” cried out Mamelon. “Please, Daga, our entire mission depends on your success. It’ll make Smoke and Sierra proud. Besides, it’s a personal request from your beloved Ilad.”
“Well, since you put it that way,” replied Daga, pondering. “Alright, I’ll go. But you better not do anything mischievous while I’m away.”
“Great!” exclaimed Mamelon. “Let’s meet up here,” she added, giving Daga the coordinates to a village near the city.
After confirming their rendezvous point, a gray smoke puffed out and Daga transformed into a gray mouse. Running at lightning speed, matching Bilis’ or Tulin’s.
“So, what are we supposed to do while we wait for her?” asked Ichaival.
“We’ve got to scatter our men,” said Mamelon.
“But we’re already so few as it is,” countered Ichaival. “What if one of our groups run into the Emerald Knights?”
Mamelon looked to Igniz.
“Let’s have the main group stick together,” suggested Igniz. “That way, they could serve as a distraction while we infiltrate Centza with just us.”
“What? We should have just left them back in Nanahuatl,” said Gandiva from on top the driver’s seat. “Why did Sympa insist we bring more men, anyway?”
“Hey! We needed at least these many people to get here,” argued Ichaival, defending his girlfriend. “Otherwise, how’d you expect to pass through the goblins along the way?”
“Who said we had to fight them?” pointed out Gandiva. “You know we could have just as easily run away.”
“Alright, settle down,” said Mamelon. She took in a deep breath and turned towards Centza City. “I’d like to do what Ilad recommended. We’re here to have an audience with the Duke, and we don’t need an entire army to do that.”
“Fine, but where would you have them stay?” asked Ichaival.
Mamelon surveyed the ever-changing climatic lands of Centza. “There’s a remote village nearby called Besok Guediet,” she said, pointing towards the desert to their right. “They should be safe from the Emerald Knights there.”
* * * * * *
Virer and Courant offered to lead the Elemental Knights and Banalite Snipers towards Besok Guediet Village.
Meanwhile, Mamelon, Igniz, Ichaival, Sympa, and Gandiva broke off from their army. Only the five of them continued on the journey towards Centza.
After traversing the hot desert sands of Dibakar, Mamelon and her group finally caught a glimpse of the city. A freezing wind enveloped her skin as the desert scenery changed all at once to an icy white.
They entered a forest of snow-covered trees, attempting to hide from plain sight.
“We shouldn’t have broken off from the men,” blurted out Sympa. “What if we run into trouble?”
“Then, we’ll deal with it as we see fit,” replied Gandiva. “You don’t see me complaining that we’re walking. Haven’t been this far away from Tulin for this long. You know how much my legs hurt?”
Without warning, they heard the distinct sound of galloping hooves. Emerald Knights, riding on green horses, traveled near the outskirts of the forest.
“There’s only twelve of them. Let’s get them,” whispered Sympa. “Let’s use Sharanga’s latest explosives,” she added, taking out a thick arrow with cylinders attached to its shaft. “This could easily wipe them out.”
Thankfully, Mamelon managed to grab a hold of Sympa’s slender arms, before she could shoot off one of the deadly explosive arrows. “You want us to get killed?” she hissed into the Zectian’s ears.
Ichaival tried to help Sympa, but Igniz blocked his way.
All five of them stayed hidden inside the forest until the Emerald Knights trotted away, oblivious to the fact that their lives were spared that day.
“What were you thinking?” Mamelon asked Sympa, irritated.
“What? We could’ve handled them,” reasoned out Sympa.
“Of course we could! But we if they sound an alarm? Or call for reinforcements? What then!” glared Mamelon.
Ichaival, in his soothing voice, tried to pacify the situation. “Babe, we’re here to sneak into the city. We’re not here to kill Emerald Knights.”
“Eh! Are you siding with them? Don’t you remember what those bastards did to us in Verbrannt?”
Before Ichaival could console her, Sympa stormed off, deeper into the white powdered trees heading for Centza.
“Sympa, you’re heading the wrong way,” called out Mamelon. “Hiver village’s that way,” she added, pointing in the opposite direction.
After thirty minutes of drudging through the thick snow, Mamelon and her group finally found their rendezvous point with Daga.
The hamlet near Centza City was protected by a stone wall of over three meters in height. With a large tower at the center, Hiver looked well protected and productive for such a small village.
Yet, progress reared its ugly head as a large pipe protruded from one of its walls. Flowing green globs oozed out of its sewers.
“What? How can the people stand this smell?” asked Sympa.
“Let’s go,” commanded Mamelon, shaking her head in dismay.
“Don’t let the stench get to you. It’s a great place for trading,” said Gandiva. “The Village Chief’s a good friend of mine. Smoke used to send me and Laernea up here to trade,” she added somberly.
But before they could walk out of the forest, a squad of seven Emerald Knights rode out of Hiver.
Hurriedly, they retreated behind the veil of the trees.
“Great! So, what are we supposed to do now?” asked Sympa. “How are we going to meet with Daga?”
“Shut up and let me think,” replied Mamelon.
“It’s alright, Daga’s already on her way here,” said Igniz, pointing at a gray mouse jumping through the thick snow.
Out of a puff of gray smoke, Daga transformed back into a young girl. “Bad news. Emerald Knights got the city surrounded.”
“Come on, Daga, thought you’d do a better reconnaissance mission than that,” challenged Mamelon.
“Who said I was done? The only thing we’ve got going for us is the Duke. He’s pissed off with the Knights roaming all over the villagers that he banned them outside the city.”
“That’s good. As long as we get into the city, we should be home free,” said Ichaival.
“What? Have you forgotten about the Knights?” contradicted Sympa. “How are we supposed to get into the city with them roving around it?”
“Well, there is one other way,” sheepishly answered Daga. “We’d have to go through the sewers.”
“Like the ones over there?” asked Sympa with a disgusted look.
“No,” quickly replied Daga, shaking her head smugly. “The ones in the city are a lot bigger and much stinkier.” she paused and turned to Mamelon. “Not sure if our esteemed leader would be willing to—”
“Lead on!” answered Mamelon. “I can stand the smell. Besides, you should be more worried about Sympa.”
“Eh? Thought that girl was ready to do anything?” questioned Daga, looking at Ichaival’s girlfriend.
“Hey! I can handle it,” said Sympa, as everyone was looking at her.
With Daga leading the way, all six of them bypassed Hiver Village and went straight for the sewers of Centza City.
* * * * * *
It took a good three hours before they finally caught a glimpse of the fabled climatic city. Situated on top a mountain, its silver walls reflected the chilling snow, the verdant trees, and tawny sands that surrounded the city all year long.
“Wow! It’s a lot bigger than Coatl!” exclaimed Sympa. “But it looks familiar somehow.”
“It should,” replied Gandiva. “It’s Centzo’s twin city after all. They were made by the same Architect—Cotto. He named the cities after his twins.”
“Really? Didn’t know that,” said Mamelon, nodding in amusement. “It’s my starting city but that’s news to me.”
Just then, a group of fifty heavily armed Emerald Knights galloped through the part of the mountainside where they were looking at.
“There are eight platoons of the same number patrolling around the city,” began Daga. “With the city being how big it is, we should have about five minutes to get past them before the next group arrives.”
“Alright. What now?” asked Ichaival. “What’s the next step?”
“We’re heading there,” replied Daga, pointing to a mouth of a cave with overflowing gunk. “It’s about ten times the one in Hiver Village.”
As they walked towards it, the air quickly took a sour odor. It reeked of foul smells that dulled the senses.
“Smells worse than it looks,” went on Sympa.
Gandiva groaned. “Oh, shut up! You don’t hear me complaining, and I’m a Lioumerean.”
“Hey! It’s not my fault you people have sensitive noses.”
“Babe, what’s gotten into you?” Ichaival asked Sympa. “Something wrong?”
“You should know why!”
“Don’t think I don’t see how you look at Sharanga. I know what you’re doing. You’re just using me to forget her.”
“No!” screamed Ichaival in denial.
Mamelon tried to stop the couple from fighting. “Shh! Quiet, the Knights might—”
But she was too late.
Before they could reach the mouth of Centza’s sewers, a group of fifty Emerald Knights galloped towards them.
“Hurry! Run for it!” ordered Mamelon.
At once, all six of them sprinted for the malodorous cave.
“We won’t make it in time,” said Sympa, while running together with them.
“Stop being so negative!” reprimanded Gandiva, trying hard to catch her breath.
“I’m not,” went on Sympa. “But I think I know how you guys can make it,” she added and stopped running. She took out her flaming arrows and began shooting at the Knights.
“Sympa! What are you doing?” cried Ichaival, stopping as well. He did the same as her, and together the two of them dismounted two Knights from their horses.
“Ilad, please take Ichaival with you,” said Sympa. She then turned to face Ichaival. “No matter what happens, I really did care,” she said and charged straight for the Emerald Knights.
“No! I’m going with you!” screamed Ichaival and ran after her.
However, Ilad scooped Ichaival by the shoulders and ran towards the sewer entrance.
|– Entered Centza’s Sewers
The rat-infested sewer system of the climatic city. It is said that a three-headed monster roams its pungent passageways.
Another window popped in front of Mamelon’s face as soon as she took her next step into the cavernous waste pipes.
> Your sense of balance and direction are off by 75%.
> You will contaminate anyone within half a meter.
> While contaminated, your Intimacy levels with non-contaminated Zectians will be reduced to “Disgusted”
Despite this, Mamelon ignored the notification windows. Instead, she looked back.
Outside the sewers, she caught a glimpse of how Sympa bravely fought off the Emerald Knights.
Unfortunately, Mamelon could do nothing as they already had Sympa surrounded.
BANG BTOOOM BANG
A loud explosion came from inside the group of Emerald Knights. A thick black cloud covered the Knights, preventing them to confirm what had happened to Sympa.
“Let’s go,” said Mamelon, shaking her head in dismay as she realized that Sympa used Sharanga’s special explosive arrows. ‘She must have used it as a last resort to take out the Knights along with herself.’
With heavy hearts, they headed inside the sewers.
“Wait, what if there are survivors? Won’t they just come after us?” asked Daga before venturing in any farther.
“You’re right,” replied Mamelon. The animosity between the two of them subsided. “I’m sorry, Ichaival. Hate me if you like, but we have to do this,” she said, igniting some explosives near the entrance of the sewer, blocking any chance of the Emerald Knights or Sympa to come after them.
Enlarged rats, over a meter in length, rushed towards them. The mob of rats came at them in droves.
Maddened by the loss of Sympa, Ichaival went on a rampage. He stepped in front of the party and unleashed his arrows. Using ordinary arrows, he ran over to pick them up from the dead bodies of the rats, hurriedly killing the next incoming wave.
In a matter of a few minutes, the trash-filled sewers were littered with bodies of dead rats.
“Are you sure it’s alright to let him lead like this?” Daga asked Mamelon. “I mean, he’s been going in the wrong direction for five minutes now.”
Discreetly, Mamelon inspected her relationship window with Ichaival.
|– Intimacy with Ichaival Jackal has fallen to ‘Despised Acquaintance’
After refusing to help Sympa and closing the entrance of the sewers, Ichaival has grown to despise you.
Deep down he understands the reason for your action, but that does not mean it will make him hate you any less.
It’s best you stay away from him for the time being.
“He needs this right now,” replied Mamelon. “Let him vent out his anger on those rats.”
“At this rate, he’ll probably kill the sewer’s Cerberat,” said Mamelon.
“Cerberat?” asked Gandiva.
“Oh, it’s the boss of these sewers. A three-headed rat. Probably the size of a horse?” answered Mamelon. “Heard about the quest when I was still staying in Centza. Never met anyone who dared venture these sewers though.”
Walking behind the enraged Ichaival, an idea popped up in Mamelon’s head.
“Killing Cerberat, huh? Ilad, I’m gonna log out for a while. I’ve got to go model for a car show,” said Mamelon to the disguise Igniz. “I’ll also send a text to Sierra informing her of the event with Sympa. Daga, can you and Gandiva help Ichaival take out this Cerberat?”
“Wait, wait, wait. What has that to do with the Duke?” asked Gandiva.
“Um… Well, it will show him of how capable we are. Also, the quest reward was supposed to increase our Intimacy with the residents of the city. Hopefully, that will also increase our chances of meeting with the Duke.” Mamelon cleared her throat, after thinking up her excuse to let Ichaival roam freely for a while.
“That’s very logical,” said Igniz. “You log out ahead of me. Think I’ll stay here just a bit longer. You know… make sure Ichaival stays safe.”
“I see. Well, I’ll be back in about twelve hours. I hope that’s fine with everyone?”
“Twelve hours? Yeah, I think we’ll have killed that Cerberat by then,” said Gandiva.
* * * * * *
After returning to the sewers, Mamelon was greeted with a decapitated three-headed monster.
“Looks awful. Hope you guys didn’t have a hard time killing it?”
Gandiva shook her head. “It was nothing. Besides, Ichaival did most of the work. The way he ended that beast… overkill is an understatement!”
Mamelon wanted to talk to Ichaival, but thought it better not to. “Alright, we’ve got our offering. Why don’t we make our way up to the city.”
Now, with Daga leading the way, all five of them walked out into the bright sunlight.
The exit led them to the shopping district. Stalls of both Zectians and Sonstwelters alike were lined up on both sides of the street. They were mostly selling item drops focused on Magicians and Warriors, but there were general goods as well like bread and healing potions.
A smiling Mamelon greeted the first Zectian she saw, a stall vendor selling small red vials. “Hey, there. Do you know if there are still members of the Confiance guild here in the city?”
Without warning, the stall vendor began throwing her trash at Mamelon and her companions. “Get away from me, Crazy Nut! You’ll contaminate my wares!”
“No, no. I didn’t mean to—” began Mamelon but was met with more trash to her face.
“Hey, everyone, some idiots just got out from the sewers!”
More and more garbage was thrown at Mamelon and her company. After a piece of watermelon struck Mamelon’s face, Ichaival finally spoke out. “Can’t say you don’t deserve it.”
“Right,” agreed Igniz.
Mamelon gave the incarnated symbiote a surprised look.
“I mean, we are contaminated after all,” hastily explained Igniz.
More piles of rubbish were thrown at them. The vendor merchants drove them to one of the dead-end alleys.
Suddenly, a casting circle appeared before them, and three Sonstwelters teleported out from it—a Ranger, a Dancer, and a Wizard.
The Ranger wore a silver hood with a matching silver Elven Bow on his back. The Dancer wore revealing clothes and had a figure that surpassed the ample Mamelon. The Wizard dressed in a black robe held an ebony staff that was taller than himself.
“What’s going on here?” asked the Ranger. With both his hands up, he stopped the mob from throwing more garbage at Mamelon and her companions.
“Sewer rats came out without even cleaning themselves!” cried the mob of Merchants.
“Is that really necessary? Calling us sewer rats?” asked Daga.
“Alright. Everybody, calm down,” said the Wizard. He then pointed his ebony staff at Mamelon and her friends. “Redige rudere!”
Suddenly, a white cleansing light engulfed them, removing their contaminated status ailment.
“Hey! I know you,” said the Dancer to Mamelon. “You’re one of the Vigilantez’s Commanders? Trayon, right?”
“No. It’s Mamelon.”
“Oh, sorry about that. My name’s Trisha,” said the Dancer. “And Damien’s the one holding off the crowd, and the one who removed your status ailment is called Veiz. How’s Smoke doing by the way?”
“You know Smoke?” asked Mamelon, surprised.
“Um… let’s just say we bumped into him once,” hastily replied Trisha. “We’re the leaders of the Trifecta.”
“Trifecta?” asked Mamelon.
“Oh, sorry. Forgot to tell you this,” began Daga. “Apparently, the Confiance Guild’s been replaced and the top guild in Centza is Trifecta now.”
Gandiva groaned. “What? Then, how are we supposed to meet with the Duke?”
“You want to meet Duke Oublié?” asked Damien. “No problem there. We can easily introduce you to him.”
“Wait, are you sure that’s okay?” asked Veiz. “Remember how he said that no one else besides us could enter his palace?”
“That was for the Emerald Knights!” retorted Trisha, making the tiny bells on her clothes ring as she turned to face him.
“Fine!” replied Veiz, crossing his arms over his long Wizard robes.
Before Mamelon and her friends could make a move, Veiz created another white casting circle beneath their feet.
Together, all of them were teleported inside the Duke’s private garden.
“Whoa! That felt weird,” said Daga.
“Thanks for saving us from the mob. But we didn’t ask for your help,” said Mamelon, cautious.
“Yeah! How do we know we can trust you?” added Gandiva. Her striped Lioumerean tail menacingly pointed at the Trifecta.
“Relax, we don’t mean anything by it,” said Damien, gently pushing Gandiva’s tail down. “Besides, I’m sure your group can put up a fight if we’re not on our best behavior, right?” he added, pointing at the disguised Igniz with thirty-two flying flame swords above the Trifecta’s heads.
“Ilad, I think we can trust them… for now,” said Mamelon, squeezing Igniz’s shoulder.
With that, Igniz canceled all of his flame swords, but did not lower his guard.
“Good. Now, that that’s settled, why don’t we all head out to meet the Duke?” said Damien.
“But is it really okay to go in like this?” asked Daga, playing with her fingers. “I mean, you guys don’t have an appointment with the Duke, do you?”
“It’s fine,” replied Veiz, smiling at Daga. “We have a very high Intimacy with him. Besides, he has a soft spot for our lovely Dancer.”
Trisha giggled. “It’s nothing really. The old man just likes a little attention that’s all.”
“And your belly dancing,” added Damien under his breath.
As they Trifecta led them towards the throne room, Mamelon thought to ask them a few questions.
“Sorry for asking, but haven’t seen you here before. This isn’t your origin city, is it?”
“No. We’re originally from the Thayotl Kingdom,” replied Damien. “We used to belong to a powerful guild there.”
“But we had a falling out with that git of a guild leader,” added Trisha. “That jackass was such an arrogant prick!”
“You know, we got into power because of you,” blurted out Veiz.
“Huh? What do you mean?” asked Mamelon.
“Well, ever since you and your friends left the Confiance Guild and joined Smoke, that guild was never the same. Heck, we’ve absorbed most of the members into the Trifecta.”
“Hey! Maybe, you’d like to join us as well?” asked Trisha. “You know, seeing as how you guys lost Verbrannt and all… Oops, we’re here,” she added and nodded to the Page standing guard in front of the throne room.
“Sir Damien, I’m sorry, but I don’t have you scheduled for today,” said the Page, looking somewhat troubled.
“Relax, Effrayé,” replied Damien, showing the notice of an open invitation from the Duke himself.
After the Page read it, he looked up and noticed Mamelon and her companions.
“Ah! Lady Mamelon, it has been a long time since you’ve come to Centza.”
“Oh! You know me?” asked Mamelon, surprised and delighted. “It has. Wish I was here for a more relaxed visit though.” She was happy to see that her Intimacy with the city’s residents was still high enough for some of the people to recognize her.
“Well, Effrayé? Are you gonna inform the Duke or not?” asked Damien. The imposing Ranger leaned over the Page.
“Let me check,” said the Page, and knocked on the throne room door. “Excuse me, your Grace. The Trifecta and Mamelon from the Confiance Guild from before are here to see you.”
“Let them in!” boomed a voice from behind the ornate door. “I’m just about to win this one! I’d like an audience to see my victory!”
When the Page opened the door, Mamelon and her companions saw Duke Facilement Oublié playing chess with a tawny house cat.
Sniggering, the old Duke was taunting the cat even more. “Go ahead, make your move!”
“Why’s he playing with a cat?” whispered Daga to Igniz. “Is this guy right in the head?”
“Meowk!” said the cat, moving one of its pieces with its tiny paws.
At once, Duke Facilement’s face turned red and fuming.
Angrily the Duke dropped his king piece. “Fine! I resign!” he said and tried shooing the cat away.
“That cat won?” went on Daga, still whispering.
After several attempts, the house cat hissed at the Duke. It leaped from its chair and sprang out the balcony.
“Hey! Don’t be so impressed,” said Duke Facilement. “I beat that bastard three out of five games… He just got lucky this time.”
“Of course, your Grace,” said Damien, lowering his head.
Then, the Duke ran towards his throne. He jumped up and squat on it, without any regard.
“Now, who did you bring in again, Effrayé?” asked the Duke of Centza.
Before the Page could present Mamelon and her friends, the Duke spoke out. “No. Don’t tell me. It’s the infamous Aqua Knight who left the city for greener pastures. So? What can I do for you today?”
Daga and Igniz shared a worried look.
Whereas, Mamelon gulped as she read her Intimacy Window with the Duke.
|– Intimacy with Duke Facilement Oublié has fallen to ‘Apathetic Acquaintance’
After leaving Centza and eventually causing the Confiance Guild to be dissolved, the Duke has decided that it was solely your fault.
“Greetings, your Grace. It is such an honor to be back here in your amazing city,” said Mamelon.
“Yes, yes. You can stop sucking up and get straight to the point.”
“Well… I don’t know if you’ve heard. But King Adrizol has announced new policies in the Chayotl Kingdom.”
“Of course, I have! Who do you think I am? I am known as the wisest and most knowledgeable Duke in all of Wysteria. Isn’t that right, Effrayé?”
“Most certainly, your Grace!”
“See? What did I tell you? Besides, I’ve already found a good way to deal with King Adrizol’s advances.”
“Really, your Grace?” asked Mamelon, surprised. “Can you please tell me what your plan is?”
“Haven’t you already seen it? I banned his Emerald Knights from coming into the city!” said Duke Facilement proudly.
“What? That’s all!” yelled Daga, unable to contain her emotion. “Haven’t you heard what they did to Verbrannt? Adrizol plans to take over everything!”
“Verbrannt? What’s a Verbrannt?” asked Duke Facilement.
Daga covered her face with her palm and groaned. “Our hope is on this idiot?”
“Your Grace, Verbrannt is a village whose population could already qualify itself as a city,” said Mamelon, drowning Daga’s lamentations.
“If that’s true then King Adrizol should have made a decree to turn it as such,” said Duke Facilement. “I must say, Mamelon, that creating a village from a city is an amazing feat.”
|+ Intimacy with Duke Facilement Oublié has risen by 50.|
Ignoring the windows, Mamelon corrected the Duke. “Unfortunately, your Grace, that’s not what Adrizol did.”
“Did he make you into a Duchess without making Verbrannt into a city? You know that’s not possible.”
“No!” exclaimed Ichaival. “He pretended to inspect our village, claiming it to be deemed as a city. But then had his Emerald Knights barge in and attacked us from within our walls.” He clenched his fist, stopping himself from reaching out for an arrow.
“See? That’s why I told you not to let those Knights inside our City,” said Duke Facilement, nodding the whole time.
“But Adrizol isn’t stopping there,” added Mamelon. “I think you’ve heard about his attack on Centzo, right?”
“What? Oh, yeah! Of course, I did,” replied Duke Facilement. “But I thought Duke Burmistrz was the one who did that?”
Mamelon shook her head. “No. He was working under the orders of Adrizol.”
“Oh, thought he was after young Duke Jeune. Well, that doesn’t really matter. After all, we’re here in the most northern part of Wysteria, and our city and villages are fortified.”
“No they aren’t!” interjected Daga. “Your villages are already overrun by Emerald Knights.”
“What? What are you talking about? All of the Emerald Knights are right here, stationed outside the city. There should be more than twenty-thousand of them, right?” Duke Facilement asked Effrayé.
To which his Page nodded with confirmation.
“Adrizol’s got more than that,” went on Daga. “In fact, in Centeo City, I heard he’s launching another fifty-thousand detachment, and who knows where that group’s headed.”
It was during these times that Mamelon appreciated Daga’s incessant ramblings.
“But why would he want to attack us? Isn’t King Adrizol already the King? What else is there for him to gain.”
“We’re not sure. But Duke Jeune has already made a declaration of open rebellion,” said Mamelon. She paused and took a deep breath, stared Duke Facilement in the eye and said. “And we were hoping that you’d join him. Before Adrizol makes a move for Centza as well.”
“But all of this is just hearsay. Besides, Maybe King Adrizol only wants Centzo,” replied Duke Facilement, unwilling to believe them.
This time, it was Damien from the Trifecta who spoke. “Your Grace, I think they’re telling the truth. We’ve noticed how the Emerald Knights are taking on more Quests, blocking our citizens from gaining experience and zecs.”
“They’ve also started putting up outposts outside the city walls,” added Veiz.
“As of now, our Elemental Knights outnumber them three to one,” said Trisha, putting on her charms for the Duke. “But what if they send more Emerald Knights? What will we do then?”
“I see. I see. As always, you make a good point, Lady Trisha. But what do you propose we do? Don’t tell me you want me to declare an Open Rebellion as well?”
Upon hearing this, Mamelon stared directly at Damien, Veiz, and Trisha, realizing that their mission now relied on the whim of strangers.
The members of the Trifecta shared a look. It lasted only for a couple of seconds, but to Mamelon and her friends, it felt like an eternity.
Damien and Veiz both nodded at Trisha and pushed her towards Duke Facilement.
“Well, I think joining Duke Jeune in an open rebellion sounds like a great idea,” said Trisha, sensually caressing the Duke’s arms. “And I think it’s a great show of power.”
“Also, we have to prepare for the worst case scenario, your Grace,” chimed in Damien. “Better we do it now before King Adrizol attacks us first.”
“True, true, true,” mumbled Duke Facilement. “But I still can’t figure out why King Adrizol would invade his own Dukes? What does he have to gain from it?”
“Maybe, the man’s just a mad king?” squeaked Daga.
“No. There must be something else,” said Duke. He then paced back and forth in front of his throne.
“Um… your Grace—” began Mamelon but was cut off by the Page.
“Shh. He’s still thinking,” warned Effrayé. “Let him be.”
After a few more seconds, Duke Facilement faced Mamelon and her friends. “Sorry, but I won’t declare an open rebellion. Not until you can tell me why King Adrizol is attacking his own people.”
At once, a quest notification popped up in front of Mamelon.
|+ Quest: Ascertain King Adrizol’s Plot
Level: A+Duke Facilement is open to the idea of open rebellion, but requires the reason why King Adrizol is supposedly attacking the cities of his own kingdom. Accept the Quest? [YES/NO]
* * * * * *
Smoke, Adder, Ledur, Jinggu, Neffe, and fifteen Condortlian Warriors were settled in front of a small rustic shed. The Condortlian’s golden griffons were securely fastened on a nearby field.
Ledur and Neffe sat some distance away from their comrades. The massive winged Tikbalang and winged Centaur had a difficult time sitting on the wooden stools prepared by their Simiavulg host.
Apparently, Smoke’s Manatl Master was only allowed to live in the outskirts of the Dwarven Village—Vilborimm.
“Now it’s not much, but at least I’m safe from the Drude here,” said Saru, putting down a plateful of super-sized biscuits for Smoke and his friends.
“Um… what’s a Drude?” asked Neffe, picking up one of the biscuits. The young Volataur devoured it in one bite.
“Don’t really know. It’s said to be one of the legendary monsters here in the Primalands,” replied Saru, pondering. “Saw it once. Looked like a mixed breed between a Human and a Dragon, but the dwarf folk says that there’s only ever one of them at any given time. And if one dies another will take its place.”
“So, how big is it?” prodded Neffe further.
Saru scratched his white furry head. “Not sure. Saw it from far away. But it looked pretty big.”
While Neffe and Saru were talking, Smoke was only half listening to his friend. He was more concerned with Saru’s well being. “Wait, don’t you think you staying here is just like being in Saruras all over again?” he asked, bothered by the situation Saru’s in. “You should talk to their chief or something.”
“Yeah, exactly! This sure feels like discrimination to me,” chimed in Neffe, taking two biscuits at once. “Never saw any of that back in Verbrannt. Just look at our group right here. You got a Volataur, a Tikbalang, a DarkElf, and a couple of Griffon Riders—”
To which Neffe broke off as he received a hard noggin from his Uncle. Ledur’s Tikbalang hoof left a small bump on the young Volataur’s head.
“Forgive him, Master Saru, he still has a lot to learn,” apologized Adder on behalf of Neffe.
“No, it’s fine. Thought liked that once. Felt like I was waiting for the world to change. But then as years went by nothing did. It was only after I left Saruras that I realized… This world isn’t ever going to change. But I can still do something about it. I can change myself. Make it so that this kind of thing won’t affect me anymore.” replied Saru, smiling and content. “You’ve probably heard it. Being in a state of mind. But for me. It’s liberating, not concerning myself with other people’s pettiness.”
“Whoa! That sounds deep,” whispered Neffe.
“Besides, I’m only here for one thing, and that’s to hunt a Vultyr,” went on Saru.
“Vultyr?” asked Adder, surprised. “Thought all of them were wiped out by the Reptilians?”
This time, Neffe had his arms covering his head. “Now, before anyone hits me. What’s a Vultyr?”
Saru chuckled, which made Smoke smile as well. It was a rare sight to see the albino Simiavulg genuinely happy.
“Have you heard of a Satyr?” Saru asked Neffe.
“Yeah. Looks a bit like a Centaur, right? Has an upper body of a Human but the lower half of a goat?” answered Neffe, unsure.
“But unlike Centaurs, they have horns on their heads,” added Saru. “And like how Centaurs have Volataurs like yourself, there’s also a winged Satyr called a Vultyr.”
“Right! My Uncle might have encountered one of them,” replied Neffe. “He used to explore a lot, outside Veneficatl Valley. But he said that he had a falling out with—”
Once more, a hard hoof struck down Neffe’s cranium.
“Ouch! What was that for? Didn’t that happen? I distinctly remember you—”
With such stern eyes, Ledur stared down his nephew.
“Alright, fine. I’ll shut up!”
Saru laughed. “Well, there’s this Vultyr that’s been harassing the Dwarven folk here in Vilborimm,” he explained. “And what’s worse is that she’s got an ancient relic.”
“Ancient relic? Like the mythical weapons from the gods?” asked Neffe, quickly covering his mouth with his one hand and his head with the other.
Thankfully for Neffe, Ledur didn’t strike him down.
“But why are you out here hunting that Vultyr?” asked Smoke.
“Um… Do you folks mind if Smoke and I go somewhere private?” Saru said to the crowd, not answering Smoke.
“Sure, sure,” replied Neffe, speaking for everyone.
“Oh, let met just get Vape settled in really quick,” said Smoke, creating a kiln for his pet snugly sleeping around his neck.
Using his Earth Manipulation, he created a small oven with some fire enchantments inside. Smoke placed the sleeping wyvern in it and left with Saru to a more secluded area.
Saru led Smoke farther away from the Vilborimm Village, and stop when the two of them got to a clearing.
“This should be far enough,” said Saru. The afternoon sun glistened against Saru’s white fur. “I’m hunting that Vultyr cause of this,” he added and handed Smoke a journal.
|+ Received Journal of Indigatus: My Last Days in Primalands|
Hurriedly, Smoke began acquiring its knowledge. He remembered how Indigatus was Indignus’ predecessor, and how he acquired the red staff of enlightenment at a young age. He also recalled how Saru’s father experimented with Saru, infusing him with all the specialties of the Manatl, turning him into an albino Simiavulg.
Thanks to Smoke’s high Wisdom status, the progress bar of the journal zipped by within moments.
|MOONWEI 14, 2432
I’ve successfully infiltrated the Primalands. Left Saru in the care of my best student Indignus. Hopefully, I’ll be back before Saru even learns how to use the Manatl.
MOONWEI 15, 2432
Built a shack inside the forest of Bostium. Saw some Satyrs, Dwarves, one flying Centaur, and a bunch of other races living well in the Primalands. Guess I’ll be able to survive here until I get the relic of Adjumar.
MOONWEI 16, 2432
The Dwarves kept mostly to themselves, mining. Haven’t seen much of anything else. No new clues to the relic of Adjumar, except that it might have a curse if not gotten correctly.
MOONWEI 17, 2432
Saw the flying Centaur again today. He was flying around with a winged-Satyr. The two of them looked great together. Makes me miss my Samara. Wonder how’s Saru doing now.
Clicking on the next few pages Smoke read some intriguing parts.
|KINTON 24, 2434
It’s been more than two years since I entered the Primalands. Unfortunately, I still haven’t found the staff of Adjumar. Have half the mind to abandon this expedition, but my study shows that I might be able to complete the Manatl Bow technique if I have that staff. I’m sure Saru will understand why I haven’t returned to him yet. As soon as I master the [SONIC MANATL]
KINTON 25, 2434
The solitude is getting to me. I think I might mingle with the Dwarves or the Satyrs. I prefer the Dwarves, but I just want someone to talk to.
KINTON 26, 2434
Talked with a winged-Satyr today. Found out she’s a variant called a Vultyr and her name is Satine. Hope I can meet her again tomorrow.
Digging in even further ahead into the journal.
|FACTUL 13, 2442
Satine has been a great help. I haven’t even realized that it’s already been ten years since I came here. Together, the two of us have discovered a lot, and honestly, I think I’ve fallen. Mastered the [SONIC MANATL] but wonder what would happen if I used it together with the staff of Adjumar?
Finally, Smoke found himself on the last page of the journal.
|SUPPLE 30, 2444
Our hard work has finally paid off. If the clues are right, then we should be able to find an opening inside the lake next month. Hope Satine’s calculations are right. If anything, we should be able to get a hand on that ancient relic soon.
“See? Get what I mean?” Saru asked Smoke. “That Vultyr tricked my father! And now she’s got the relic!”
“Is that so? Have you talked to her? To this Satine person?”
“Not really, but that’s beside the point. The fact is she has the staff of Adjumar and my father’s missing. You do the math.”
Pensive, Smoke nodded. “By the way, what about that Sonic Manatl? Ever figured that one out?”
“Oh, that! Yeah, I did,” proudly replied Saru. “Want to see it?”
“Alright. Can you put up some targets for me?”
“Sure,” replied Smoke, creating eight earth-pillars next to them.
“No, no. I need them to be farther away. About twenty meters away.”
At once, the earth-pillars disintegrated back into the ground and eight new ones were erected some distance from Smoke and Saru.
Seeing the pillars, Saru shook his head. “No. Make them bigger.”
Hurriedly, Smoke reinforced his earth-pillars, increasing each of their thickness by four times. Adding in his Fire magic, turning them into magma-pillars.
“Good. That’s fine,” said Saru. “Now, hit me with your strongest attack.”
Taking out his twin hook swords, Smoke looked around the immediate area. He used his Cunning of the Dire Fox to scan for threats. Receiving no alarms, he decided that it was safe to use his Sun Blade’s ultimate ability—Solar Slash.
Activating that ability consumed all of Smoke’s mana. His right hook sword glowed bright.
“You ready, Saru?”
“Of course!” replied the albino Simiavulg as he had already put up a white manatl sphere around himself.
Without worry, Smoke used his Hyper Jump ability and leaped over Saru’s head. Once directly above his Manatl Master, he unleashed his Solar Slash upon Saru.
A bright blinding light flowed out from Smoke’s Sun Blade. With a deafening noise, it struck against Saru’s Manatl.
Yet, Smoke’s Solar Slash did nothing against Saru’s white barrier.
Unfazed, the Simiavulg grinned. “Not bad! You’ve improved, but I’ve grown stronger as well.”
“Definitely! There’s no way I could have blocked that attack with my Manatl,” replied Smoke, impressed. His tattered cloak flapping in the wind.
“Now, watch this,” said Saru, as he canceled his white Manatl. With his barrier gone, the albino’s white staff was now glowing radiantly. “Smoke, this is the technique my father developed to completion—Sonic Manatl.”
A loud ringing sound came from Saru’s staff. Then, he held his energized weapon at one of its ends. Smoke thought that Saru looked like a baseballer ready at bat. With a large swinging motion, his staff unleashed a sonic wave.
An even louder ear-splitting noise made Smoke cover his ears. He watched as the dust settled down, revealing the disintegrated magma-pillars.
Smoke recalled how he was able to hold powerful monsters with those, but Saru easily took them out in one blow.
Landing next to Saru, Smoke whistled loudly. “Wow! That had to be five times more powerful than the Solar Slash.”
“I think that’s about right.”
“And what’s even more amazing is how it can attack from long distances,” went on Smoke, still in awe.
But with his mana completely drained, Smoke sat down on the ground, spent. His MP recovery was much faster when in a rested position.
Suddenly, Saru collapsed next to Smoke. But the Simiavulg’s face looked like he was in pain.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
“It’s nothing,” replied Saru, finding it difficult to breathe. “It’s just the recoil after using that technique.”
“Ah. Guess a powerful attack like that does come at a price. But it doesn’t drain your MP though, right?”
Saru shook his head. “But it drains my Satiety Bar,” he replied, rubbing his grumbling stomach.
Smoke laughed which made Saru laugh with him.
“You wanna head back and get something to eat?” Smoke asked Saru.
“No, let’s stay here for a while. I brought a biscuit with me,” replied Saru, offering Smoke one of them from his bag. “Why don’t you tell me how you managed to form that magma-pillar?”
“Alright,” said Smoke, grinning. He began telling Saru of his adventures ever since their time apart from Saruras Village.
It had been some time since the two of them were catching-up. Smoke’s Mana had only recovered to a fourth of its maximum capacity. It was during this time when his Cunning of the Dire Fox sensed something large coming at them fast.
“Saru, something’s coming.”
Reflexively, Smoke put up his purple Manatl, covering both him and Saru inside it.
However, the monstrous-winged behemoth shattered it into a thousand pieces with a single swipe of its claws.
Standing before them was a five-meter tall dragon hybrid. It stood on two legs like a man, but its elongated mouth and two massive horns gave no semblance of it being human.
Fortunately, Saru was able to put his own white Manatl, protecting them both. “Careful. That’s the Drude!”
The Drude’s sharp claws left a deep scratch upon Saru’s barrier. Yet, the white Manatl still held up.
“This is bad. Think we only got four more hits before it breaks the Manatl,” said Saru, worried. “Any ideas?”
“Yeah! I’ll distract it, while you make a run for the village.”
“No!” said Saru, vigorously shaking his head. “Even if you’re a Sonstwelter, you shouldn’t sacrifice yourself for me.”
“Trust me! I’m not planning on dying here.”
“Alright. So, what do you plan to do?”
“This,” replied Smoke, creating a hole directly beneath Saru.
“What the—” screamed Saru as he fell inside Smoke’s pit.
With Saru fallen in, the white Manatl dispersed. Smoke then sealed his friend inside, covering the opening with an earthen slate.
Leaping backward, Smoke made some space between him and the monstrous Drude.
‘Hope it keeps its focus on me,‘ he thought, stealing a glance at the pit he had just covered up.
Sharp claws grazed Smoke’s cloak. His Agility of the Horned Rabbit saved him from instant death. He was not even imagining ways on how to defeat this monster, but simply on how to survive. Worse case scenario, he could offer his life and hope that it does not go after his hidden friend.
However, the Drude was not as obliging. It plunged its right arm deep into the pit and pulled Saru out. That single attack greatly damaged the Simiavulg, revealing his life bar (303,401/601,123 HP).
Saru then released a spherical Manatl, protecting himself from further harm.
“RAWR!” screamed the Drude. It began squeezing Saru’s white barrier. Instantly, cracks started forming all over Saru’s Manatl.
“Smoke, get out of here!”
“You crazy? I got him right where I want him.”
Just as soon as Smoke said this, the Drude crushed Saru’s barrier.
Four magma-pillars sprang out from the ground. Smoke heard hissings sounds as the scales of the Drude came in contact with his attack. He hoped to topple the behemoth down, outbalancing it.
Saru fell hard on the ground, unconscious.
Sadly, Smoke’s attack proved to be futile. In fact, it barely left any damage as the Drude’s life bar displayed (99,997,268/99,999,999 HP).
Despite his poor damage, Smoke’s offensive did, however, bring the Drude’s focus solely on him. Pulling itself upright, the behemoth took a swipe at Smoke.
Fortunately, Smoke evaded it just in time. Although his HP was still untouched, he knew it would spell the end for him with one hit. After all, he had lower defense and his life bar was only a bit over half of Saru’s.
Utilizing his Hyper Jump Ability, a desperate Smoke leaped backward, making some breathing room between him and the Drude.
Yet, after a few strides of its scaly elongated legs, the Drude easily caught up with Smoke.
As the Drude raised its claws over its shoulders, Smoke heard a piercing shriek coming from the skies.
“Ayiyiyiyiyiyi!” screamed the Vultyr. She held a seven-bladed glaive and pushed the Drude backward with a single swing.
Smoke heard a stinging sound as the Vultyr’s glaive held the Drude’s claws at bay.
Standing in between him and the monster, Smoke could easily see how the Vultyr’s stature was dwarfed by the Drude. Yet, she still towered over him. ‘She‘s gotta to be taller than Stark.‘
“Rajeatamar! ‘Minarah qawiunir jidanan. Akhadoha aibonih watarak,” said the Vultyr to Smoke, which is immediately followed up by a notification window.
Unable to understand the language. Maybe you should try learning Satrew!
“Sawif yasrafar. Iidahan aodohahb!” went on the Vultyr. She was having a hard time talking with Smoke as she was blocking the furious swipes of the Drude.
Yet, all Smoke could do was stare at her in confusion.
“Awwh taealan! Akhari albukm alumuna allayena!” screamed the Vultyr in frustration.
Without warning, she kicked Smoke backward. She sent him tumbling to where Saru was knocked out.
Then, the Vultyr pointed her seven-bladed glaive at the Drude. “Daeuna naakhudoh hadha fin makan akhirin, Habi.”
A blinding light came out of the Vultyr’s mystical weapon, forcing the Drude to take flight. Yet, she did not stop there. She also took to the skies and continued firing at the Drude until they disappeared from Smoke’s sight.
From the corner of his eye, Smoke saw Saru sit up.
“Smoke, what happened? Where’s the Drude?”
“Wow! How did you do it?”
“It wasn’t me. The Vultyr came and saved us both.”
“No! No, no, no, no! There’s no way that could have happened! She’s evil incarnate! Didn’t you listen to what I said? There’s no way she would’ve saved us!”
“But she did.”