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A note from puddles4263

4/5

They did obtain SOME useful information while they waited.

First were the names: the man was Dalton, while the armored woman who gave Randidly the dangerous feelings was Cyndra. Behind them, the blind woman, because she did not cover her eyes for vanity, was named Aratta. The boy was Pendlive and served as the assistant to Aratta, who seemed to be the highest ranking of the strange sort of Clergy in the area, who followed Zith. Ace avoided bringing up the Great Lady Zith any more than necessary because his face twitched every time it was brought up, as he suppressed his urge to settle into his perpetual smirk.

Around 10 minutes after Randidly sent a message through the party chat, the rest of the group arrived, walking calmly towards the village. It seemed that they had been extremely productive in the meantime because Randidly had almost reached level 6 from their efforts.

Randidly was curious to see that when the group walked up, the sentry that Randidly was observing with his Lantern immediately went wide-eyed. Randidly couldn't be sure whether it was Chrysanthemum's intimidating swagger, or Lucifer, holding two huge blades over his shoulder, the jagged saw, and the deadly sharp scythe. Either of these would add an air o oppression to the scenario, but the both of them combined served to make the whole group seem larger than life, and more intimidating.

It almost made Randidly smile that this group was referred to as the guards, as well. Honestly, it was just because they were a little erratic, so having them deal with strangers wasn't the best idea.

When they had all gathered, they were lead into the village. It was a relatively small place, and probably housed only 300 or so people

There were a lot of worn and tired looking men and women who followed the newcomers with a suspicious gaze, eyeing them with a long practiced ease. This made the corners' of Randidly's mouth turn down. It was one thing to encounter a group of 300 people fighting to survive in the middle of the forest, it was quite another to slowly realize that this group was mostly wary-eyed veterans. Although no one else possessed the oppressive aura that Cyndra did, they all seemed more than capable of surviving in the forest. Almost more concerning, however, was that aside from those two children they had spotted walking towards the village, not a single child was let outdoors to watch the newcomers.

"For now, you can stay here," Cindra said, jerking her finger towards a worn down and churchy looking building. "We will talk tomorrow, try and figure out... whether the help of Zih is truly what you see."

Then she left, followed by the man, twirling his mustache and looking at them with suspicion.

With a beaming grin, Aratta patted Pendlove's back and said. "You'll be staying with us then; the more the merrier. Come in, and let's get you all situated. Oh, you too, Mr. Bear."

"It's missus," Thea muttered, rubbing Chrysanthemum's side, but everyone still followed her into the interior.

****

All in all, their rooms were pretty good, Thea decided. There was a bed, a water basin, and a rocking chair, and more than enough space for even Chrysanthemum to have her own private room. The bed, of course, wasn't big enough to fit her, but it was still something.

They were even served a simple meal of roast meat and a carrot-y vegetable, before being asked whether they would enjoy listening to the teachings of Zith. Everyone aside from Clarissa declined and retired to their rooms.

But now, as Thea was finally finishing taking off all of her armor, she frowned, looking out the small window, the air illuminated by a huge comet ripping across the night sky. Then there was a dull explosion that shook the ground. Immediately, there were panicked shouts from the village. Sighing, Thea slowly began to encase herself once more and armor.

After she finished, she went out front of the church, finding Drake, the Ghosthound, and Annie already there. The next to arrive was Ptolemy, straightening his clothes, who was stopped by the Ghosthound.

"Wait here, gather everyone else. Then follow. Us four will go ahead and figure out the situation for now"

Then Thea found herself sitting in front of the Ghosthound and Annie as they rode Chrysanthemum the short distance to where most of the commotion was.

Thinking about it, Thea realized as they arrived at the muttering crowd that the reason that the Ghosthound had wanted to ride Chrysanthemum was not to increase the speed of their travel. Honestly, the Ghosthound could probably move at double the speed of Chrysanthemum, and Annie for sure shared that ability. No, the reasoning that they would want to ride is...

An entrance.

Everyone turned when the giant bear arrived. Calmly, The Ghosthound stepped off of Chrysanthemum's back and the crowd parted for him as he walked forward to meet Cyndra. No one casually stopped someone who was fresh off a 3-meter tall bear. Although these people were more tall and willowy than people, which meant the height difference wasn't so pronounced, they were just as skinny as people, and the weight that Chrysanthemum shook the ground with her passing. Albeit less so than the crashed comet.

"We heard the commotion. Is something wrong?" The Ghosthound said calmly, looking directly at Cindra, ignoring the few other figures gathered around, reporting to her.

Her mouth thinned into a line, but after several seconds, she grudgingly admitted. "...it has arrived early, but this is a relatively known occurrence. That stone that descended to the ground will incite the nearby monsters. They won't all attack us, but... they will be thrown into a rampage."

"It's only a distraction," A rather pudgy, for this strange race of people, man said, "I wonder if-"

"Yes," Cyndra said, cutting him off and giving him a glare. "...we believe that the Death Cultists instigated the stone to fall as a distraction. Since you are here... we want to stop the Death Cultists from accomplishing their goals, so there will only be a barebones crew staying here at the village. If you could handle the monsters... I would owe you a favor, Mr. Ghosthound."

Before the Ghosthound could answer, a notification popped up in front of Thea.

Defend the Village! You have received a quest from the Village War Leader, Cindra. She has tasked you with defeating the monster horde forming to the East. Prevent the monsters from breaching the village wall to succeed. Reward: A favor from Cindra to the Ghosthound, as well as an addition quest. Plus 30% of the experience towards your next level. Failure: You will be disdained and chased out of the Village.

Thea blinked. She hadn't much experience with quests, but she knew that more and more quests were being offered to people in Donnyton from the Adventurer's Guild Building. One reason that more and more people in Donnyton were being tempted to trying it was that quite a few of the Quests provided experience as rewards, giving people incentive to look for harder quests. It had never been a high enough amount for anyone over Level 35 to bother with it, but they were very useful for getting to that point.

On the other hand... this 30% boost... if this was offered back in Donnyton, the upper tiered people would go mad. Although some of them might wait until right after a level up to get the most efficiency, 30% was a big deal for someone who struggled for every percent. It meant less for low-level people, who might prefer receiving a flat amount of experience, but for people like Alana...

Sweetening the deal further was the fact that the reward section seemed to imply that succeeding here would lead to further quests. Now that the antagonists in the dungeon seemed to have revealed themselves, the Death Cultists, the Ghosthound might prefer forgoing the village, and simply crushing them directly, but if he chose to instead stay and pursue a questline...

Thea tried to put a damper on her excitement. Who knew whether this was like a video game in that regard, but if so, the rewards on each progressive quest should get higher, along with the difficulty...

But to Thea's surprise, she found the Ghosthound frowning, just looking at Cyndra. As this drew out longer, Cyndra's smile grew superficial and thin. Right before the moment where Thea expected Cindra to explode with fury, the Ghosthound nodded, accepting the quest. Cyndra very quickly selected 10 of the villagers to assist their group, before the bulk of the villages forces shifted off for... somewhere. Thea frowned. Cindra hadn't been very clear what they were doing when they went to deal with the Death Cultist's main forces...

In the group chat, a notification flicked up as the Ghosthound posted something.

Annie?

On it, Annie's swift reply came, and she slipped into the shadows while none of their helpers were looking.

Careful, there are at least 2 of them that are as strong as us, the Ghosthound added. No answer came.

At that time, the rest of the group arrived. While the Ghosthound, Clarissa, and Rose would stay on the wall to make sure nothing got through, the rest of them were to go out, find the monsters, and kill them.

Thea tightened her grip on her hammers, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. She certainly appreciated simpler goals now that her Skill had evolved and the fury took her.

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