Simon frowned. “You want us… to head south and east, looking for the Wild Hunter? Isn’t he… more to the North...?”
Thea shook her head, her lips pressed into a thin line as she loaded bags onto Chrysanthemum’s back. The bear laid still, seeming to be as tense with the whole situation as her soulbound companion was. “No, we believe that the movements of the East End Village and the Skeleton Knight will have driven them away from their usual spot. Our scouts reported rapid movement, and we are trying to keep track of them as best we can. The three of us will head Southwest, circling around the Dungeon, before curving back North before The Refuge. If we haven’t found anything, we will stop in there. Hopefully the East End Village moving with make that asshole commit to a side in the Champion’s battle...”
Simon’s frown deepend. “Dauntless does as best he can. That group-”
“Yes, yes, I understand their population is a bit… unique. His struggles are his own.” Thea interrupted, clearly annoyed. “But that doesn’t justify turning it into a whole tribal barbarian thing.”
Glancing to the side, Simon took in David, who was still slowly savoring more of the Mending Fluid had had provided for him. He seemed rather unconcerned with conversation, but focused instead on the bear, watching its side rise and fall.
“Well my real problem is what we are doing is dumb, and-” Simon began, but Thea whirled to face him.
“We were given orders. Although its preliminary, you received a class from Star Crossing. That comes with certain responsibilities.” Thea said with a glare. “Even when you dislike your orders, even when you think they are foolish and misguided… you obey them. Or you leave. Make your choice.”
As she stomped away, Chrysanthemum standing beside her, a low voice interjected.
She spun around, her eyes bright and dangerous. “What? Are you going to be a little bitch too?”
David’s face remained impassive, although his mouth twitched. He pointed to Chrysanthemum. “You tied the straps wrong. It’s gonna wear through the leather like that.”
Simon covered his face with his hands, trying his best not to laugh. Thea’s face went white, and then red, and then she hurried over to Chrysanthemum to correct the issue. David just turned away, looking at the horizon, a small frown on his face.
“...thanks.” Thea said awkwardly, and without a word, the three of them departed.
Simon froze, his eyes glued to the large komodo dragon type creature that was making its way across the meadow. They had been traveling slowly through the countryside, “searching” for four days, although from how bored Thea seemed, it wasn’t like they were searching at all.
At any rate, these past few days, the variety and the strength of monsters in the surrounding area abruptly increased. The most impressive of which was this Komodo dragon the size of a compact car, Level 28, an absolutely fearsome foe.
Noticing where his gaze went, Thea gestured Simon over towards her. Chrysanthemum crouched down, remaining silent. David seemed completely unphased, stepping so quietly that Simon didn’t even notice him when his gaze was away from the man. Compared to that, Simon felt like a drunk bison, just stumbling over every tree branch.
“This…” Thea seemed worried. “That monster likely won’t attack. It’s one of the species that I’ve seen around the Wild Rider. I had no idea that they extended this far South…”
“Isn’t that a good thing? That means we might actually find the Wild Rider.” Simon said excitedly, even as he looked at the beast and couldn’t ever imagine defeating it. But if he used his imagination, he could imagine him up there on his back, riding him… Having a lizard mount wouldn’t be bad. He wondered if there was some sort breath attack that it could use.
“Well… yea…” Thea said lamely, motioning for them to turn away and head in a different direction. Almost as if it sensed the movement, the lizard perked up, turning its head to look directly at them. Even Chrysanthemum seemed to crouch lower to the ground, afraid of attracting its attention.
It flicked its tongue out lazily, staring at them. As it did so, around 5 smaller lizards skittered around it, coming out from behind its large body to look. These were only the size of a large dog, and Lvl 12, but they were clearly of the same species. Children.
David slowly unfolded his arms and lowered his hands to his sides. His hands were twisted into sharp claws.
Seemingly bored, the komodo dragon turned and walked away, leading its young ins. The group visibly relaxed.
“It’s… strange though. I haven’t seen mounts that powerful yet,” Thea muttered after the komodo dragon had walked away. “The highest I have seen is Lvl 20… maybe...”
But then she fell silent, shaking her head, before saying, “We should stop for the night, get some rest. I don’t think we will find anything else-”
A system message appeared, interrupting her speech.
Warning! As you have entered within a certain range, you have detected that a Tier III Raid Boss has spawned nearby in the last 24 hours. Upon visual confirmation of its body, a notification will be displayed to the entire Zone as to its approximate location. As you are the first to discover this Raid Boss, damage to the boss and its spawn increased by 5% for the next week! Experience and skill proficiency gains against the boss and its spawn increased by 10% for the next week.
“Fuck shit cunt and of course this would happen NOW.” Thea swore, fuming.
Simon looked around at both of the people around him, whose faces had turned serious, and said timidly. “So what exactly.... How powerful are the Tier III Raid Bosses…?”
Thea grimly stared at the ground for several seconds before answering, and even when she did, she seemed extremely distracted. “They… well we don’t really know. But we know that it took 3 weeks of Donnyton and Franksburg working together in order to locate it… and another week and a half to bring it down.”
As Simon opened his mouth again, she cut him off, as if she already knew what he was going to ask. “Franksburg has a population that rivals all three of the Northern Villages. Donnyton… appears to have much less, but still more than any one of us, because it was the first village to form. And in terms of firepower…”
She gave him a level look. “...they are currently fighting toe to toe with the Skeleton Knight. According to our information, the skeleton army has dozens of those Reanimator skeletons… and we’ve just seen the one. Which might have destroyed us if not for your friend here.”
Even David seemed concerned, frowning slightly. The group lapsed back into tense silence as Thea seemed to be wrestling with something internally. And whatever it was, it was huge. It probably related to what they should do now.
They had huge bonuses, Simon supposed, relating to chasing down the boss, but there would be costs too. Mostly danger. And they would be giving up their mission of chasing the Wild Rider, right after they obtained evidence that he was nearby. Thea was probably torn by her sense of duty, to figure out which was more important for the village.
“Explains why the creatures are stronger,” David rumbled suddenly. “The Tier III Raid Boss…”
“...Is after the Wild Rider?” Thea whispered, and she turned to look at David, her eyes narrowed. David didn’t see it, because he was peering forward, away from her, but Simon saw how wide and haunted Thea’s eyes were in that moment. She was scared, and fearful, and… there was a weird glimmer of betrayal, hidden in the depths of her eyes.
“People will die.” David continued, making his stance on what they should do clear. Simon, in spite of his fear, found his spine straightening. He heard how quickly the Raid Bosses propagate, and produce minions, who grew stronger along with it. And Tier 3 Raid Bosses started at Lvl 30….
Abruptly, Simon wondered what he was doing. How could he hope to rival a Lvl 30 existence…?
But Thea had made her decision. Eyes bright, she nodded. “Let’s hunt ourselves a Raid Boss.”