Brenas was surprisingly quiet at night for such a large city. Curfew was at 11:30 pm, and it was regularly enforced by the city guards. Ian was currently lying in bed at the Jumping Hare inn, which was two blocks south of the Alchemy Guild Headquarters. Vanessa, Midas' receptionist whose name Ian had finally learnt, had given him a token emblazoned with the Alchemy Guild's symbol. All Ian had to do was hand the token over to the inn's receptionist, and then she had booked Ian into one of the inn's nicest rooms for the night. Clearly the influence of the Alchemy Guild was very strong around this area.
According to the clock in Ian's room, it was ten minutes until midnight. Though Ian was exhausted, he just couldn't fall asleep - his mind was racing, trying to process everything that had happened in the past few days. Less than a week ago, Ian had never been to a real city before. To be honest, Brenas was extremely intimidating; every sound and smell was foreign to him, and he felt that everybody he walked past could tell that he was lost. However, Ian had never been the type to back off due to fear, and had spent his evening exploring the city. Ian had visited the Glass Streets, a series of streets hawking products made from the city's Glassblowing Guild, and had been amazed by all the different shapes and colors the products came in. Ian's family farm rarely had anything made from glass as the material was too fragile, and if they did it was of a murky brown color. Ian had once again been amazed by how much the world had to offer outside of just farming, and was planning on visiting Brenas' cathedral tomorrow morning - one of the glass vendors had told him that the cathedral had some of the most beautiful stained glass windows in the world. Ian couldn't wait to see them.
Ian's thought process was broken when he heard some noises coming from his window. For a few seconds, he thought that maybe it had been caused by the wind, as his windows at home would often rattle on windy days. Ian quickly ruled out this possibility when the rattling sounds intensified; it sounded like somebody was trying to open the window from the outside. Ian started getting out of bed to investigate.
Perhaps if he had gotten out of bed a bit faster, Ian would've been able to prevent what was going to happen. As it was, the window opened before Ian could get to it and two figures dressed in all black climbed in. Ian opened his mouth, about to yell for help, when one of the figures rushed forwards and covered Ian's mouth with his right hand. The man's left hand held a curved knife which was currently pressed against Ian's throat. Ian gulped - the feeling of the cold steel against his neck was not pleasant.
Ian's panic did not last long. The second figure rushed forwards and struck Ian on his temple with the butt of his dagger, causing Ian's vision to descend into blackness. The two figures went through the room and collected Ian's stuff, tied his unconscious body up and carried him out of the window back into the darkness of the night.
When Ian woke up, his head was pounding with pain. Looking around, he could see that he was bound to a chair in the center of what seemed to be an abandoned warehouse. The warehouse was very dimly lit with moonlight streaming in from its windows and a few torches places evenly across the walls. Suddenly, Ian noticed a group of four figures in front of him, but he was unable to see their faces due to the poor lighting. The group seemed to notice that Ian had awoken, and one of the figures began to speak.
"Hello, we do apologize for such an inconvenience so late at night. First of all, let us just make sure that you were not being followed. Do you know if there was anybody following you when we brought you here, or if there is any way for anybody to tell where we are?" The figures voice sounded strange - it was clear that he or she was using some sort of method to disguise their voice.
Ian's mind raced. Clearly, this group didn't have any good intentions in what they were about to do to him. Maybe if they thought that Ian had friends that would come looking for him, then they wouldn't be as willing to hurt him.
"Yes, I do. They should be here soon actually." Ian tried to convey as much confidence as possible, and was surprised at how calm he managed to make his voice sound.
As soon as Ian finished speaking, a dagger flew out of the darkness, just barely grazing Ian's right cheek. Ian could feel blood starting to drip from the cut, running down his face and onto his body. If the dagger had flown just a little bit more to the left, then Ian would have died.
"Did I forget to mention? We have a Mind Mage here who is capable of discerning whether or not you are telling the truth. As you can see, there is no point in lying to us. I really do wish that you would not - I would like to keep this exchange as clean as possible." The same figure, who seemed to be the group's leader, spoke again.
Ian cursed. Mind Mages belonged to a Tier 4 class, and were able to manipulate the human mind at ease. Casting hallucinatory illusions was the Mind Mages' staple ability, and some possessed other abilities related to the mind. It seemed that this Mind Mage had a skill that allowed him to know if Ian was telling the truth.
"Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let us get down to business. Where did you get your hands on a Magical Plant?"
Ian knew that he had no choice but to tell the truth. "I didn't find them. I grew them myself." How had this group known that Ian had Magical Plants? Ian had only mentioned this fact at the Alchemy Guild, and it was a reputable organization.
If any of the figures were surprised at Ian's statement, they didn't show any visible reaction. However, unbeknownst to Ian, his statement had caused the group's leader's thoughts to fly into disarray. The Mind Mage hadn't shown any reaction indicating that Ian was lying, but the idea that Ian had grown the Magical Plants by himself was preposterous. Magical Plants could only grow in areas with high concentrations of mana, and even then, they would have to mature for hundreds of years before reaching the level of Ian's Magical Plant. There was no way that a boy of Ian's age would have had the time or resources to grow a Magical Plant of that calibre. The only feasible explanation was that Ian had some sort of method to fool the Mind Mage's magic, and was trying to conceal the true source of the plant. In that case, they could not be sure if there was actually nobody coming for Ian.
The leader was hoping to find out from Ian a source of Magical Plants that they could continually harvest, but the risk level of their operation had just skyrocketed. They would need to accept their losses and cut the meeting short.
"Now Ian, if you would please hand over all your Magical Plants immediately, then we will let you go. Go untie Ian's hands so that he can use his spacial object. Ian, you have five minutes before we will have to start using other methods of persuasion."
Two of the figures stepped forwards and into the light, walking to Ian's chair and untying his hands. Ian looked at their faces, but they were both unfamiliar to him. Faces filled with scars, it was obvious that these men had lived dangerous lives. After untying Ian's hands, they returned to stand beside their leader.
Once again, Ian knew that he had no choice but to comply. Entering his Magic Garden, Ian grabbed the Magic Pea plant that he had potted before, and then started transferring the other two plants into pots. Luckily for Ian, he already had pots ready and the Magical Pea plants' roots were easy to move. He managed to finish transferring the plants within four minutes and brought them out of his Magical Garden, making his three Magical Pea plants appear before his real body.
"There, these are all the Magical Plants that I own. Could you please let me go now?" Ian's heart ached at the loss of his plants, but he could always use his skill to grow more. Keeping his life was the most important thing right now, and losing a few plants was nothing compared to staying alive.
The leader looked over the three Magical Plants, seemingly satisfied. "Thank you Ian for being so cooperative." Ian sighed in relief - it seemed like he would live to see the next day.
"Now, I am afraid that I will not be able to keep my end of the bargain. Too many loose ends for my liking." The leader looked at his subordinates. "Kill him." Ian’s heart plummeted.
One of the two men who had untied Ian's hands started walking back towards him with a knife in his hand. Ian started to shake with fear - he was still so young, and had so many goals left to fulfill. Was this how it was going to end?
The man had finally reached Ian, and raised his knife in preparation. Ian closed his eyes. I’m sorry Father, he thought, I should have listened to you and stayed on the farm. Mother, Irene, Byren, I’ll miss you all.
A few moments passed, and Ian was still alive. Had the man missed? That would be almost impossible, since Ian was immobile and tied to a chair. Ian opened his eyes.
What Ian saw shocked him. The man was struggling to move his knife as a green vine had wrapped itself around his hand. Ian looked at his plants. It had been Ezra who had saved Ian’s life.
“What is taking so long? You, go check what is going on,” the leader commanded. The poor lighting in the warehouse affected both parties, and the rest of the group was unable to see that it was the Magical Plant that had prevented Ian’s death.
Ian snapped to his senses. That’s right, Ian thought, I’m not completely defenseless. He still had his Magical Plants and their abilities, and they were even all out of his Magical Garden already. He’d definitely give Ezra some extra fertilizer if he survived, Ian promised to himself.
“Vine Whip,” Ian commanded his two Lesser Magical Peas, and a series of green vines whipped out at the man with the knife. He shouted in pain – the force of the whips had left long, red lines all over his face. After his scream, the rest of the group was alerted that something was wrong.
“Go! Kill him!” The leader’s voice carried a lot more urgency than before. The second man started running towards Ian, but Ian was prepared and was about to command his plants to Vine Whip him as well.
Suddenly, Ian’s concentration was broken as the world seemed to spin around him. Strange sounds and colors filled his head, and Ian’s stomach heaved as he threw up his dinner. Ian couldn’t focus at all as the world seemed to crumble around him.
After what seemed like an eternity, Ian’s world returned back to normal. Ian looked around. Both of the men were still struggling with the vines, but it seemed like the third figure in the back was now lying on the ground. The Mind Mage, Ian connected the dots. The Mind Mage had caused Ian to hallucinate, but now he was somehow down. Ian wasn’t too sure how that had happened, but he wasn’t going to question his blessings.
Now, the leader really started to panic. “You buffoons! Kill the boy! Kill the boy or I’ll make sure that your families are all dead by sunrise!”
At this, the two men’s struggle intensified, and the second man managed to break free from the vines. Seeing his rapid approach, Ian panicked and made the first command he could think of. “Ezra, pea shot!”
Ezra’s vines quickly bunched together to form a barrel of seed pods, and the plant fired a barrage of peas at the rapidly approaching thug. The shot hit the thug right on its head, resulting in a red mist as his face was obliterated. Some of the blood splattered onto Ian’s face, and he thought that he was going to throw up for a second time. At least that helped to answer Ian’s questions about just how strong his plant’s abilities were.
Now, there were only two enemies remaining. The last thug was still completely tangled by Ezra’s vines, so the last remaining threat was the leader of the group. Ian looked up and saw the leader running away; it seemed like he didn’t value the life of his remaining subordinate at all.
Ian couldn’t let the leader escape. Vine whip, he commanded his two Lesser Magical Peas, and they extended their vines with an impressing amount of reach, grasping the leader’s ankles and causing him to trip. The vines dragged the figure back kicking and screaming, eventually holding the man upside down in the air as he continued to struggle.
Now that the man was closer, Ian could clearly see his face. “Guild Master Midas? How could it be you?”
“Let me go! Do you know who I am, let me go!” Midas was incoherent, spitting everywhere as he attempted to escape to no avail. The vines were able to entrap two young, strong thugs, so how was old man Midas supposed to escape? “Oh Lenessa, I should have listened to Vanessa and not came. Why couldn’t I have just trusted my subordinates to not betray me? ”
“Why would you do this, Midas?” Ian asked. Ian had heard many stories about the strength and benevolence of Midas, one of the greatest Alchemists Briodelar had ever seen. It simply did not match up with the man who had just attempted to murder Ian and cursing like a sailor.
“You don’t even understand the value of what you own! You don’t deserve your Magical Plants, only I deserve them and can bring out their full potential! You country hick! Let me go!”
Ian tuned out Midas’ screaming, and started to think about what he should do. If he let Midas leave, how would Ian know that Midas wouldn’t come back for him again? Ian had survived this encounter since Midas hadn’t expected his Magical Plants to be able to fight, but Midas definitely wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. There could only one solution.
“Ezra, pea shot.” Next to Midas, the last thug’s head was obliterated as well. Now that only Midas was left, his screaming intensified and he switched from insulting Ian to begging. “Please Ian, if you let me go I swear to Lenessa that I won’t come back after you again! I’ll give you anything you want, gold, information, just let me go and it’s all yours! If you kill me you won’t be able to leave the city alive, Vanessa knows that I’m here and will make sure that you will die along with me!”
For a second, Ian almost considered Midas’ proposal. But then Ian remembered what Midas was willing to do to him to get what he wanted, and knew that there was no way that he would keep his word. Ezra fired another round of pea projectiles, and then Brenas’ greatest Alchemist was no more.
Ian was now the only person left standing in the warehouse. Looking around at the four dead bodies and blood splatters all across the floor, Ian felt too numb to feel any regret. In fact, only one thought filled Ian’s mind as he came down from his near death adrenaline high.
There was absolutely no way that he’d be able to see the church’s stained glass windows tomorrow.