Groaning, Akiel makes a makeshift mana gathering rune on the ground. Reaching for the beast’s blood, he realizes that it didn’t bleed during the fight. Other than the damage to the surroundings, nothing could prove the beast was ever here. Visibly startled, Akiel grabs one of the chunks of flesh he bit off earlier and tries to squeeze some blood out. Crushing it in his fist, he watches as it slips out of his hand and splits into two blobs. Smashing his fist down on one of the blobs, he angrily punches the blob again and again.
Checking his mana concentration, he abruptly stops. At only five percent mana, his current balance might not even allow him to walk to the capital. Sighing, he gets up and slowly walks around the dying portion of the forest. Keeping his eyes on the forest canopy, Akiel smirks when he spots a small monkey. Grabbing a stone, he infuses a bit of mana and flings it. Smacking the tree branch, the stone breaks clean through and disappears through the canopy. By chance, the monkey jumps away only to be dragged down by the falling branch.
Jumping on it, he quickly ends it’s suffering. Drawing the mana gathering rune on the ground, he smears the blood over it and quickly infuses a bit of mana into it. Resting his back against a tree, he quietly absorbs the mana gathering next to him. Although the rune is the improved version, with the crude method of creation as well as the inferior binding materials, the time required to fill his mana capacity would still amount to a day. Deciding to fill up for a few hours before moving on, he diligently starts drawing in mana.
Hours pass as the sunlight fades behind a distant mountain range. Akiel, opening his eyes, stretches his body out of habit. Getting up, he remodels his clothes back into acceptable condition. The beam of dark mana the creature blasted him with seems to have also taken parts of his outer cloth layer. Sighing in frustration, he looks at this tattered cloak. Shrugging, he hurriedly looks around the battlefield for his spear. Finding it embedded flat into the ground, he gets on his knees and frantically digs around the spear and pries it out.
Remodeling it back into a compact chunk, he stuffs it inside his backpack. Checking his map, he adjusts his heading before starting to jog again. Turning his feet into the more travel efficient versions, he quickly bounds through the forest. Watching his mana level, he makes sure to watch for any mana dead zones. Carefully steering around them, he eventually makes it to a familiar river. Sighing in relief, Akiel activates his mana-sight and looks for something to hunt. Ignoring the creatures smaller than himself, he continues along the river bank. Finally spotting something twice his size, he bounds towards it. Jumping high and grabbing onto a branch, he swings himself even higher and perches himself on a few crisscrossing branches.
Testing the branches, he smirks when they only creak under his weight. Waiting, he eventually spots a bear meandering around beneath him. Stopping to eat some berries from a bush, Akiel remodels his hands into claws and heaves himself off the branches. Hearing the branches sway back into place, the bear glances upward and finds Akiel falling towards it. Rearing up on its legs, it snarls and tries to slap him out of the air. Taking the swat without blinking, he grapples with the paw. Digging his claws into the thick layer of fur and skin, he swiftly climbs up the meaty arm and onto its back. Heaving himself up to its head, he easily mounts its neck. Infusing his fist with mana, he easily penetrates its neck and tears out a sizable chunk. Aiming for its jugular, Akiel rips its neck to ribbons before heavily landing on the ground. Watching the bear struggle to breathe before falling over dead, he walks over to its head. Smashing the skull in, he digs around and fishes the core out. Swallowing it, he finds his mana back to 60 percent now. Nodding in satisfaction, he turns to the river and starts crossing.
Hesitating, Akiel leaves the dog alone, “Next time you punk. I will come back for you.” Dragging the merchant's body into the forest, he lightly covers it in some foliage before quickly leaving the unattended carriage behind. Remodeling the coin pouch to be attached to his belt, he approaches the first checkpoint outside the capital. Keeping the warm hood over his face, he lightly nods his head and hands over the correct coinage. For the last three hours, Akiel had been observing the checkpoints and their habits. Just when he couldn’t find a way in without identification, he spotted one of the guards looking around before accepting a much larger sum of money.
Mimicking the previous guy, he handed over a gold piece rather than silver. Not really understanding the value of the currency, Akiel just shrugged when he checked the rest of his newly found wealth. If he needed more, he would simply get more. Casually walking past the first checkpoint, he steps into line for the second. Resisting the urge to grab his chin, he checks on the state of the dried mud on his face. Although his hands and feet are covered, his face is still metallic green. Even though he can probably pass off as someone slightly unusual, he doesn’t really need any attention before he’s ready to leave.
Listlessly looking around, he eavesdrops on the conversation in front of him. “Hey, Jerry. Can you see my ears?” One figure says to the other. Replying back, Jerry furiously whispers, ”No! How many times do I have to tell you, don’t mention your ears!” Still unsure, the other figure says, “You know how much is riding on this delivery, without it, Darien won’t give her back to us. That man will eat her alive Jerry!” Struggling to keep his voice low, he anxiously says, “Shut up! Nothing of the sort will happen! Everything will be alright, just stop talking.”
No longer interested in their conversation, Akiel watches the line ahead of him. Finally watching the couple enter the small building, he hangs his head lower and watches his feet. Trying not to gain the attention of the on-duty guards, he turns around and looks at the people waiting behind him. Waiting for the door to open again, he swiftly enters the building before anything could go wrong. Glancing at the leaving couple, he notes that they turn left as the door closes behind them.
Looking up at the bored screening officer, he takes his hood off. Raising his eyebrows at Akiel faint green but caked in mud skin, he casually asks for a name and purpose. Relaxing, Akiel says, “Don, just Don, and my purpose is to get a nice bath as well as some work. Got into some trouble near the woods about a day away.” Nodding, the officer casually says, “Yea, some of the folks earlier also said things like a giant earth dragon or something and petrified corpses. You probably got lucky getting out. Go on, try the Wanderers Inn. It ain’t anything special but tell the owner John sent you and he’ll discount a few pieces off the base rate.” Thanking him briefly, Akiel leaves the small building without looking back and quickly walks to left.
Glancing at his surroundings, he finds the buildings only get more and more shoddy as he continues. Looking around discreetly, he turns into an alley and passes a few beggars before stopping. Checking behind him once more, he remodels his legs. Jumping up, he grabs onto a ledge and heaves himself up. Stably standing on the window ledge, he jumps again, this time to a ledge on the opposite wall. Easily landing on it with his feet. He quickly repeats the maneuver to the top of the building.
Wondering how the structures stand so high up without modern technologies, Akiel walks to the edge overlooking the main bazaar. Scanning the rooftops for any other people, he quickly finds someone on the neighboring roof staring at him in shock. Tilting his head a little, Akiel shows him a singular finger and jumps onto the next roof. Backing away, the figure pulls his hood lower and pulls some small knives out. Holding one knife in a backward grip and a couple of smaller and thinner knives between his other hand's fingers. Putting his hands up, Akiel motions for him to calm down.
Slowly sitting down to show him he meant no harm, Akiel says, “Calm down buddy. I just want to talk.” Still holding his knives defensively, the figure says, “I have nothing to say to you. Begone or I’ll call for help from the thunder thieves clan!” Shrugging, Akiel pulls out another gold coin. Offering it to the lookout, he says, “I just need to know how I can meet certain people. All you have to do is give me some information and the gold coin is yours.” Hesitating, the figure finally gives in and nods. Reaching his hand out, he says, “Pay me first. If you create any trouble, I’ll have to get out of here soon after.”
Throwing the gold coin over, Akiel says, “I need to know the leaders of the capitals underground as well as where I can find them. I prefer leaders who can actually resist the royal army for at least a few hours.” Coughing, the figure says, “That’s easy! All you need to do is go to the mages guild and whisper down with the bloody king. If they feel like you’re interesting enough, they’ll take you into their base. On the other hand, they might also capture you and use you like a lab rat.”
Smirking, Akiel motions for him to continue. Mumbling to himself, the figure lowers his guard temporarily. He thinks for a few moments before saying, “You could also try the librarian in the slums as well as the butcher just across the street. They’re almost as powerful as the mages guild. They just have more illegal activities and wanted criminals in their midst. Your choice really, but just be careful before entering. They all have their distinguishing characteristics. A singular red article of clothing relates you to the butcher. A specific mana rune relates you to the guild and a teardrop tattoo under the left eye connects you to the librarian.”
Throwing another gold coin at him, Akiel asks, “Now, if I want to gather all of them together, how should I go about that?” Startled, the figure shakes his head slightly and says, ”Sorry, what did you say? Gather all of them together? You’re crazy, leave me out of this.” Urging him, Akiel says, “Hypothetically, how would someone get all of them together?” Glancing at the gold coin briefly, he says, “You need something from the butcher. You take what he gives you to the librarian and she will call the underground together. You have to get the butcher to acknowledge you first though.”
Flipping the coin at the figure, he says, “Thanks.” Hurriedly catching the gold coin, the figure suddenly jerks upward. Dangling just a few centimeters off the ground, he struggles while looking at Akiel. Strangling him in the air, Akiel grabs the red bandana tied around his arm. Jerking the figures neck backward, he easily ends the bottom feeder’s life. Stepping off the roof, Akiel looks around before stepping into the main street. Traveling against the traffic, he pushes his way to the butcher's shop. Stopping just outside, he marvels at the simple exterior. The only thing denoting the shop's service is a cleaver shaped brand above the doorless entrance. Murmuring to himself, he says, “Now I just have to get the butcher’s attention.” Tying the bandana around his arm, he casually enters the shop, “Boss! I’m vegetarian so no meat for me today.”