“Welcome traveler, to Ifrenne,” The large man said with a grin. He was not large like Drake, but like a walrus, spilling out over the ivory frame of his throne. But that was perhaps one of the perks of being the King of an entire Zone. “It is my delight to share the wonders of our city with you. If you have business to attend to, my advisors are at your service. But may I ask why you have come here?”
Two hours after scampering out of Mieu’s apartment and being scolded by a pale Kairon, Drake had wandered his way to another spire to meet with the King of Ifrenne. Apparently, Drake’s actions in breaking the spire made Kairon more motivated than he was previously because very quickly they arrived at the correct location.
But perhaps it was Kairon’s way of withdrawing his invitation for Drake to join him at his table with his family. That made Drake sigh, but nothing could be done.
Well, except him being strong enough to face his fears.
“Perhaps what I am here for is business… but I was sent here to be an emissary that can establish political relations between this and the nearby Zone.” Drake said with a small bow. “...our only interaction with your people was an interaction with what appeared to be a pirate crew that invaded our Zone as soon as it opened.”
“Bah, the rats below,” The King waved his hand as though he was swatting at flies. And he only introduced himself as the King of Ifrenne, so Drake had no other way of thinking about the man. “You took care of them, yes? It is a good thing. They constantly covet what is not theirs. A few bad seeds have whispered lies into the ears of the young. If you worry that is my people, rest assured. They are scattered and weak.”
“...that is good to hear,” Drake said simply. But he wasn’t really sure if it was. Overall, he felt somewhat at a loss what to do now. Sydney’s instructions were frustratingly vague. Drake suspected this was an instance where she was pushing him with vague ideas to test him, and frankly, Drake was fed up with it.
“...your warriors must be valiant and quick, to so easily take care of those rebels, however.” The King said. His gaze turned sly as he considered Drake before him. “You… you are so large and clumsy. It is something of a discourtesy to me that one of such a low status was sent here to greet me, but with the right gifts, I can forget. And I will gladly give you the details of the World Crater…”
Drake bit back a sharp retort about the King’s relative size. Instead, his ears caught the end of the King’s phrase and refocused on that. With a slight smile, Drake said. “Ah, am I so transparent?”
“Of course!” The King laughed heartily. “Bah, not three hours ago, another from your Zone approached me and asked the details of the World Crater. Well, perhaps it isn’t wise of me to say this, but I am a generous King; you who have not seen the World Crater might covet the treasure, but it is a Danger Zone beyond all others. What waits within is only death.”
A treasure? Someone else had come ahead of him? Well, it was interesting in a way, but also, Drake wasn’t sure what sort of treasure could tempt someone’s heart into wandering into a Danger Zone alone. Perhaps it was one of Donnyton’s squads? But even then, it seemed unlikely that a single Squad could clear a Danger Zone alone.
The one they had clear was mostly on the back of Randidly and Neveah, both of whom were so far beyond the norm that there was no one close to comparing with those two. Perhaps the person was Neveah?
“Hehehe,” The King’s high pitched laughter interrupted Drake’s thoughts. “I can see it in your eyes. Your curiosity is consuming you. I will make you a deal. Present a gift before us, and if it is sufficient, I will inform you of the identity of the previous person.”
Drake’s initial thought was to tell the King fuck you, and just leave. First, because he likely could find out who it was rather simple, and second because he was a little shit who probably hadn’t held a sword a day in his life. In this Zone, where the people were so practical, it was extremely strange to Drake that such a man was crowned King.
But he stifled that urge. Although it wasn’t useful to Drake, it was possible to earn some goodwill from the King and establish a relationship with this gift. So Drake thought for a while and then produced a worn silver bracelet from his interspatial ring.
Silver Bracelet of Thunder’s Call ® Lvl 42: A roughly made bracelet that was forged in an environment thrumming with the power of thunder. Some of that energy has condensed in the Bracelet, energizing the wearer. Some of the energy may be used to call thunder from the heavens. Agility +20, Stamina +100. Andul’s Hammering Method II. Thunder Charged I.
Andul’s Hammering Method II: Made with the refined hammering method of Andul. While wearing, Health +80, Endurance +5.
Thunder Charged: Once a day, may use Thunder Strike to call down thunder from the Sky.
It was an item made by a smith who had left Donnyton to gain a Lightning elemental. Right now, Andul was East End’s head blacksmith and was doing his best to push the research on imbuing different elements into equipment in a systematic way. Unfortunately, Donnyton possessed its own methods. But it was still a useful bracelet, although Drake preferred not to wear it.
Although the bonus stats were fine, the extra power he could exert with his full Skeleton Armor was much more important to Drake’s fighting style. Which was why the only really valuable equipment he utilized was his sword.
The King eyes locked onto the bracelet. From his heavy breathing, it seemed that such a bracelet was extremely valuable in this Zone. Although he was perhaps overpaying for the information, Drake calmly handed over the bracelet into the other man’s greasy hands.
Without waiting for even a second, the King slid on the bracelet and his face settled into a satisfying grin. “Hohoho… although such an object isn’t too special… it is certainly novel compared to this King’s many other treasures… Well, let it never be said the King doesn’t keep his word. The man who came before… he was as tall and wide as you, and claimed to be a great Hero from your Zone.”
Drake kept his face studiously blank. Really? Just some bullshit like that after the King was drooling to get his hands on the bracelet?
But then the King held up a finger. “But. That man… he smelled of death. I did not like him much. I believe his name was… Roy.”
That gave Drake pause. Very quickly he sent Sydney a message.
What am I to you?
To Drake’s surprise, her reply came almost instantly.
You are my sword.
Drake’s eyes narrowed into slits. So this… this was why he was sent here.
Phirun, King of Ifrenne watched the tall man boarding the Sky skipper and sail off into the star-filled night.
Good riddance. But then Phirun rubbed his new bracelet for good luck. He smiled widely at the sky as he waddled out of his viewing chamber and to his personal dock. His attendants were waiting for him there and took him over to a different one of Ifrenne’s spires.
The best outcome would be if the two foreigners killed each other. Which seemed likely, considering the monsters around the World Crater were approaching Level 65. But they also seemed tenacious, and based on the quality of their equipment, they were not pushovers.
Plus, their deaths would only delay the arrival of the foreigners. Phirun was perhaps a rare person that was overjoyed when the System arrived. There were monsters sure, but they could now grow strong to fight against the world. And the outside influences were barred from entry. Only the natives from the islands remained. It was a paradise.
But history repeats itself, Phirun thought as his expression soured. The westerners had returned.
After briefly knocking on a door, Phirun allowed himself into a room. “Ah! Where is my lovely niece? Mieu? We have arrived to see your perfect face.”
As Phirun walked into Mieu’s apartment, he paused briefly. Then he frowned. His disposition turned stormy. “Mieu, what is this?”
“This?” Mieu looked up from her stove towards the center of the room. She had gathered up many of her paintings and draped them from a central point on the ceiling, forming something like a canvas pillar. But of course, the paintings were all made from the same vantage point of this apartment, so they blended rather well together. “I believed I would try my hand at making a collage. Is it no good?”
“Humm. Perhaps a lesser man would enjoy… but a King’s eyes are more discerning. Such a thing does not suit our tastes.” Phirun said as he seated himself at the head of her sparse wooden dinner. Although it was only one day a week, he quite liked coming here to have Mieu cook for him. It gave him the nerve to imagine… other domestic activities they could participate in.
Mieu’s humming snapped Phirun out of his small indulgences. Mieu was humming a soft tune to herself as she walked around, carrying the bowls of food over to the table. “Did something good happen niece? You seem… very pleased about something.”
“Am I?” Mieu said. She slowly raised her hand and touched her face, as if she was unsure what she would find. Dragging her fingers across her curved lips, she seemed to consider it. “Maybe. There was a good wind today.”
“Humm.” Phirun said stiffly. He began to eat without waiting for Mieu to sit down and join him. This was the King’s privilege.