Chapter 27 It’s a road trip!
The sight before her was certainly a lot more badass than she expected to ever be. ‘I look like a cosplayer with this on though… and the mini skirt isn’t even there yet…,’
After calling for Earl, the man entered the workshop and whistled. “Aw I love it when the customers wear my crafts. And it fits really well it seems. Wait I’ll help you with the rest.”
He quickly approached her and fastened all the hidden buckles and strips while showing them to her and explaining what they each do. The legs and boots she would easily be able to do on her own. Fastening the chest piece to the leg piece was rather simple as well, albeit time consuming.
Some parts of the torso she couldn’t do herself but Earl told her she’d only have to fasten them every couple weeks to make sure they would stay tight.
The skirt as well was simpler than expected. It laid around her waist almost like a bigger belt, held by several straps and even some metal hooks. After his suggestion, Ilea bought a used belt and some pouches from him.
He showed her how to fasten the belt around the skirt and how to add the pouches to it. Both laid half on top and half inside the scaly skirt. “The design is incredible…,” she praised but the smith only waved her off. She didn’t miss the proud look on his face though before he went behind her back to finish his work.
“And we’re done. Move around a bit, how’s the weight? Comfort? Ease of movement?” he asked as he stepped a couple meters away from her.
The full armor certainly weighed more than her previous clothes but Ilea only noticed because she was focused on it. ‘I won’t even feel like I’m wearing armor in ten minutes…,’ she thought as she started moving around. First carefully and gingerly, then faster and faster with punches and kicks in between.
Earl looked on as the cute armored healer in front of him turned into a demon of death, her blows into the air luckily not going towards his direction. Suddenly the hairs on his back stood up, a faint glow of blue coming from the healer’s half exposed neck.
He moved further and further back as the speed and strength of her testing increased. When the wisps of fire started to dance around the armor he had already hit the wall behind him, still feeling the sheer ferocity of the warrior before him.
Earl the blacksmith at that moment felt quite reassured of his decision to become a smith and stay behind sturdy city walls. He would go talk to the guard and see if he could improve on their gear sometime in the future. If what stood before him was required to stand against the monsters out there, he would do everything to keep them there.
‘This is incredible….’ Ilea thought as she stopped moving. Quite embarrassed at Earls apprehensive look, she stretched. ‘I overdid it a little… I guess I’m getting to the point of having to cover my strength up a bit…,’ She looked at him and smiled ‘It’s Earl though.’
“The armor is amazing Earl. Worth every Penny. I don’t feel restricted at all, even at full power.” Earl came closer again, thinking about what the hell a Penny was “Speaking of which… I hope what you saw here stays between the two of us.”
The man quickly nodded “I don’t want to imagine you thrashing my shop… my lips are sealed.” he said, seemingly relaxing after her display.
“That is good to hear. You mentioned something about a weapon… what do you think would fit me the most?” She asked, a grin spreading on her face.
After checking some of the inventory, Ilea and Earl together decided on a rather small but heavy steel mace. Considering her lack of training in weaponry yet high stats, it wouldn’t be too difficult to smash some things while not seeming completely incapable.
Ilea got her backpack and fastened the mace to her belt with the handle faced towards the ground. Looking down at herself, she felt very good. ‘I’m like a real adventurer now…,’ Although she felt the armor looked a bit too pristine at the moment. That would change with time though, she was sure.
“Earl this is really really good work.” She said as she put two Gold coins on the counter “Consider it a tip.” she said and bid him farewell.
“May it protect you on your journey.” He said at the leaving form of the healer. Ilea had told him to throw away or sell her old clothes and armor but the smith decided to keep them in a small box in his workshop for now.
It was soon time to meet the caravan at the southern gate so Ilea made her way there, not forgetting to buy food and drink for the journey. And of course food and drink for right that moment, as buying food and drink made her quite hungry.
She definitely got more looks because of her newly acquired armor, some people even commenting on how it looked unused. Most of them seemed to get out of her way though, no reason in angering an adventurer with an unidentifiable level even if they could tell she was a healer.
Ilea arrived at the southern gate a bit early and seeing as there was no caravan there at the moment, she decided to get at least a better view while waiting. She jumped up a nearby building, giving her a rather good view of the square and its busy occupants.
Several stalls were built up selling different goods, adventurers would sporadically leave the gate or come back from the wilderness. Some carrying back monsters, and smiles on their faces, others with thousand yard stares and gear that told more of a story than a thousand words.
The guards didn’t seem to mind her too much being up there. One of them tried to ask her to get down but left upon being ignored, ranting about not being paid enough for this shit.
Nearly half an hour passed until some wagons and carts arrived. More and more pulled into the square as Ilea watched on while eating something akin to chips.
There were nearly twenty carts with horses, drivers and passengers when a man in black spiky armor made his way to the front. “Alright everyone!” He shouted and the square immediately quieted down.
“I’m Arven, assigned guard captain for the caravan to Salia. Cart owners please join me so we can start organizing. Adventurers and guards will come after, I’ll call you later. I expect everyone to be ready to leave in two hours time!”
Some of the people left the carts and joined him as he started taking notes in a big notebook he was carrying. Ilea lied down on the roof and enjoyed the light warmth brought by the midday autumn sun. ‘A little nap won’t hurt…,’
Ilea was rudely awakened by Arven shouting again, calling the adventurers and guards to himself. At least fifty people moved from their conversations on the square, in shops or restaurants or from the carts to join the guard captain. Ilea noticed that at least one other person jumped down from a roof at the other side of the square.
Arven waited for all of them to join him in a semi circle before addressing them. “Alright, as I said I’m Arven. I’ll be in charge of you all for the duration of the journey.” Ilea noticed that she couldn’t identify his level. The people around her were between lvl 50 to as high as lvl 93, which was her current maximum level to identify with the level of her skill.
‘So gold level and higher adventurers only…,’ There were all kinds of people with all kinds of different armor and robes. ‘This feels like a cosplay convention… and I fit riiight in.’ She smiled to herself. There was one face she felt was familiar but she couldn’t place it at the moment.
“Alright, now please everyone 75 above with some leading experience to me. The rest please form groups of defenders, supporters, fighters, long range and healers.” people started forming groups as around seven higher leveled people joined Arven and started talking.
Ilea stood there for twenty seconds before finally finding two other people that had the [Healer] tag when identified. She joined them and introduced herself “Hey guys, I’m Ilea. Nice to meet you.”
The two others were a teenage girl with her highest class being lvl 23 and a robed man in his thirties with lvl 47. He nodded to her and the girl said hello in a quiet voice. ‘Not a talkative bunch… I like it.’
They waited for a while as the apparent group leaders were discussing strategies, watch plans, division of forces, compensation, timetables and other boring things with Arven. Ilea stopped listening after a while.
“You guys aren’t Gold level yet, how’d you get in?” She asked after a while. The man looked at her with a confused expression below his hood. “You’re a healer as well, aren’t you?” He asked which didn’t really answer her question.
Ilea recalled how she was treated in the adventurers guild and how the clerk had talked about healers. ‘Seems there’s really not a lot of us…,’ She grunted in understanding and started eating a piece of jerky she got from one of her pouches. Naturally she had filled all of them with different kinds of foods.
“Miss Healer, That’s a pretty nice armor...what’s it made of?” the girl next to her seemed to be in awe of her ‘Oh boi, already a fangirl…,’
“It’s made from Drake materials.” Ilea simply answered. ‘So other people can’t identify my armor as I can?… Considering I don’t see any info on their gear I guess it makes sense…,’ she thought, looking at the leather armor the girl wore and the brown robe the male healer had.
“I’m Ilea by the way, who are you guys?” The girl was starting to answer when a clap from Arven shut her up.
Three of the seven people went to the biggest group, the warriors. Nearly twenty of the guards were in that group. The fifteen long ranged guards, mages and rangers by the looks of their clothes, were joined by a woman that immediately got Ilea’s attention. Her black hair and blue eyes that matched Ilea were one thing. What really got Ilea’s attention was the black robe she wore.
‘I’ll have to ask where she got that robe from…,’ The robe was even more comfortable than Ilea could imagine but she didn’t know that.
They locked eyes for a second and the woman nodded towards her. The five supporters were joined by a man dressed in furs while Arven quickly joined the defenders, their numbers being around fourteen.
After quickly talking to the defenders, he made his way towards Ilea and the other two healers. “You three are the healers hmm? The guild had promised experienced people, guess I’ll have to take what I can get…,”
He looked up and down Ilea’s armor while completely ignoring the other two. “Is that one new or is this your first time out of the walls?” His question was directed at Ilea but there was no hint of sarcasm nor a mocking tone in his voice.
‘Professional hmm… although a bit of an asshole…,’ She thought.
“I just got it today, been outside a couple times before.” She locked eyes with him which seemed to convince the man.
“Alright, you’ll be the healer in charge based on your level. You three stay behind us defenders, divided along the caravan to cover its length. I’ll coordinate you should the need arise. Your job is to stay back and deal with injured people. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“Understood sir!” Ilea saluted in an exaggerated manner to which Arven just nodded.
“I’ll talk to the defender group then, you’re at the front, you’re in the middle and you’re in the back. Just choose a cart and enter. They’ll be happy to have a healer that close. Come to me if you have questions or concerns. And thank you for joining the guard.”
Ilea would be in the front, the girl in the middle and the man in the back. Arven had nodded at them before leaving, seemingly showing more respect than to others she’d seen him interact with. ‘Guess being a healer has its good and bad sides… not that the bad ones apply to me… and that guy apparently lacks a humor organ, or he’s a good actor. Nice armor though…,’
“I’m Chloe!” The girl next to Ilea interrupted her thoughts.
“Nice to meet you Chloe.” turning to the male healer “Anything I should know? Or is it as simple as he said?”
The man just shrugged “Name’s Sebastian. It’s pretty much that, we’re here for our healing mostly and of course any skill or class levels we pick up by being with the group and using our magic. I saw Arven work before, he’s as capable as he looks.”
Ilea nodded to him when the girl next to her made an exciting noise “I gained a point in Wisdom!” she exclaimed.
Ilea smiled at her “Congratulations Chloe.” it’s been a while since Ilea had gained even a single stat point while simply reading, running or fighting.
‘I guess it’s because my stats are relatively high, which makes it harder for them to naturally grow. Maybe I should’ve gained more stats before starting to level up…,’
“I’ll check for a cart then before the others start to disperse. And I suggest you two do the same.” Sebastian suggested to which all of them started walking towards the carts.
“Ataniel will wait for you, trust me!” turning her head, Ilea saw the woman that seemed familiar to her before.
Hearing her talk let the gears in Ilea’s mind click. ‘She’s that crusader chick from the arena! Good on her for surviving… I’ll get as far away as I can from her though…,’
The guards and travelers soon filled in on the carts, some of them mounting horses to ride alongside the caravan. Ilea had chosen a merchant's cart that was filled with boxes of goods. It had a roof which Ilea jumped on to continue her nap from before.
The hours passed as she napped and then listened to adventurers talk about monsters, women and men. She read a part of one of her new books when an armored guy joined her on the roof, having jumped from the cart behind hers. He motioned to the other and currently free half of the roof to which she just nodded.
He nodded back and sat down, taking a notebook from his pack and a pen to write or draw. She smiled at his action and they continued to sketch and read quietly.
Evening came and went as the caravan built a circle on a clearing in the forest. Cooking fires were made and maintained by mages inside the wagon. Two people of the support group were bards that entertained everyone with their tunes.
Rangers were scouting the woods around them as fighters and defenders rotated the guard. Ilea enjoyed the view of the stars and didn’t sleep that night, savoring the quiet after a morning filled with talking. The armored guy on her roof left a couple hours ago to build and sleep in his tent. He bid her a good night and offered his name.
‘Roland hmm?’ she looked at the stars and smiled.
The night passed uneventfully. Some wolves and a shining elk monster were scared away by some of the mages but the commotion was so small, barely anybody even woke up.
The days passed as the caravan traveled westwards. The only healing Ilea got to do were burns from cooking or small injuries of overexcited warriors that hurt each other in mock battles. Luckily the girl from the arena didn’t seem to be in the mood of killing. ‘Not that she’d leave more than a severed head behind…,’
As time went on Ilea noticed that the road became progressively less maintained, the land more rough and the people less jolly. She had started to sometimes talk to Roland who still joined her on her roof every day.
He told her that the further from the city, the more dangerous it became. Just a couple days out and it would become rather unpredictable what kind of monsters or other sources of danger could arise.
The travelers would still have their cooking fires and songs but more and more subdued. Only some of it enforced by Arven.
All of that made perfect sense to Ilea, especially six days into their travels when Ilea was abruptly woken up by the sound of a scream.
Her buffs flared into life as she got up from her sleeping position. Hitting the naked Roland next to her lightly on his head.
She got her armor on in under a minute. She had become much better at fiddling with the different straps and buckles, especially after starting to spend the nights with her newly found companion.
Exiting the tent, she finished up with her scaled skirt just as Roland exited, putting on his steel helmet. “You’re not wearing a shirt.” She said to the man. He just smiled and lifted his rather large steel axes as a dim red glow filled his eyes.
Ilea unstrapped her mace and motioned towards the noise of fighting. “Not me this time, hush… go get them!” the man shook his head while walking past her, his fist hitting her in the shoulder with a strength that would down a normal city resident. She showed no reaction other than to just smile at his bare back as he was running towards the noise with powerful steps.
Shouts started to fill the caravan as the sleeping came to life. Roars of yet unknown beasts joined the symphony of the night as Ilea twirled her fifteen kilogram mace with the ease of a child moving a plastic knife, the moon illuminating her smile.