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A note from AwakenedKingdoms

I've pushed forward tomorrow's chapter early, so that those of you still awake can finish the mystery section. Since many people were unhappy with the way the last two chapters panned out, I've made some changes to them. I agree with you that it feels as if Chris was holding the idiot ball. You may either re-read from chapter 38, or read the summation of changes below:

Alterations: Chapter 38

 

Alterations: Chapter 39

(If possible, I'll try and write you another chapter for tomorrow (I'm using the old tomorrow's chapter today), but if I can't, this is it)

Gregor was a changed man. He seemed like a god of war as he cut through Gnolls left and right.

Chris’ eyebrows rose. Even he would be hard-pressed to defeat Gregor in his current state. The man hadn’t just grown in stature, he’d grown in strength as well. He tore through the monsters and knocked their twitching bodies into the pitfalls on either side.

A faint tangle of unease had been tying his stomach into knots. But something was off about Gregor. Was it the armor? It wasn’t just the ‘I am the unbroken Lord of Darkness’ vibe that the black metal radiated. How much would something like that even cost?

Chris checked his System Coin balance. He’d killed, at his best estimate, over five hundred of the Gnolls. From it he’d received over twenty-six thousand System Coins. He’d also seen the weapons and armor for sale by the System Weapons Vendor. Metals and leathers varied in price—usually quite cheap—but the cost shot up the moment enchantments, Dao infusions, and usable weapon skills came into play.

He’d been out for a while, but he didn’t think Gregor could have killed more Gnolls than he had in that time. He’d also been hunting demons for a while, but that gear was on a whole other level. Yes. Something was off. Something had been off for a while.

With the Gnolls harassing them cleared, the people who had been fighting along Gregor’s lane finally broke out in a full on sprint toward the gate. Chris’ own were already there, and he was pleased to see more than a few of them standing guard around the area as people passed through.

He looked to other lanes, noticing a conspicuous rock in the middle, surrounded by Gnolls. The monsters seemed unduly focused on the stone, and their attention allowed the humans beyond to retreat with less pressure being put on them.

One issue. That rock was almost certainly Bruce, and Chris was almost certain that he didn’t have the mana to sustain the Shell indefinitely.

Chris muttered something unflattering under his breath. Bruce was going to need a rescue.

He dashed down his empty lane, circling around behind Bruce’s retreating humans and then leaping over their heads into the Gnolls that they held at bay. A few sweeps of his spear sent the monsters crashing to the ground, dead. He moved on to the ones approaching, striking out again and again, preventing the Gnolls from passing him.

He needed to be careful. The roads were wider than the breaches in the now disappeared walls. If he made a mistake, he might end up getting buried beneath a mountain of Gnolls like before. If that happened, then he would be in major trouble.

Then suddenly the pressure eased, as a monstrous axe carved through a whole group of Gnolls. Chris turned, seeing Gregor giving him a thumbs up before the axe returned to his hand. He tossed the axe again and more Gnolls fell.

Chris barely had time to wonder how Gregor could lift that thing, up close it was massive. He dashed to Bruce in his Shell, killing the nearby monsters with several javelins. Then he kicked the stone. “Get out of there.”

The stone around Bruce melted away. “Hi Chris. Yeah, I didn’t really think that one through. Not my best moment.” He stood and began jogging toward the walls.

Chris snorted and kept pace with Bruce, holding the Gnolls at bay as he moved back.

Gregor moved around the wall at the center of town, clearing enemies away from some of the more hard-pressed groups. He threw the axe almost impossibly far, but it returned to his hand each time—even lacking a chain to pull it back with.

Once Bruce was safe, Chris trotted over to Gregor. “How are you alive?”

Gregor hurled his axe at more Gnolls. “I could ask you the same thing.”

“I’m resistant to poison because—” There was something oddly compelling about Gregor, Chris had felt it before. He almost told him everything right there. But too many things didn’t make sense. Everything was too suspicious. “Because the courts of Kingscastle are a dangerous place, if a retainer could fall to something as simple as poison they would not be worthy of being called a warrior—much less defeat five hundred men in single combat, as is required to become a knight.”

Chris added the last part as a side note; something had screamed at him to say it. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but there was something wrong.

He’d seen Gregor drink from the poisoned flask. But his back had been toward them at that point. What if he’d never drunk from it at all? It would have been easy to jam a thumb inside the neck and pretend to chug away, while never imbibing a drop. And the bitter taste, what Gregor had claimed was hops. Could that have been poison? More than likely.

“And you, Sir Gregor?” The man seemed surprised that Chris had actually had an answer, or maybe intimidated by the spurious feat of strength claimed.

“Ah,” Gregor paused, “Dylan was not there. I have not seen him near, but I am keeping an eye out for him. He fled the settlement control building as soon as I arrived.”

“What?” Gregor hadn’t answered the question.

Gregor tossed his axe again. “Dylan was not there. He ran away because I was too strong for him. I—I—I bought a Curative from the System, just in time. He poisoned my drink. I survived, just. But I had to purchase this armor to help me fight. I am too weak to fight without it, even now. I had to sell the remaining walls and last of the buildings to afford it.”

“And many of the Gnoll corpses,” he added hastily.

Chris smiled at him, a side glance revealing that, indeed, there were fewer monster corpses than he expected. “I am glad you are alive, Sir Gregor. I must admit. I feared something nefarious. But, to see a man of such honor and integrity. My King and Queen would be honored to find themselves in an alliance with one such as you. It would be my honor to extend such an alliance with you, The Hero of Kingscastle.”

Chris typed up a quest screen and sent it to Gregor. He doubted Gregor had taken an in depth look at his purchase options. He’d probably been too busy trying to figure out how many people he could let die until he stopped looking like a hero.

Sir Christopher has offered you a Quest!

(Optional – Kingscastle) Travel to Kingscastle (0/1)

(Optional – Kingscastle) Accept Alliance from King or Queen of Kingscastle (0/1)

Reward: 2,500,000 System Coins, The Garrison of Kingscastle at your disposal, Dukedom, Dao Solidification

Gregor’s eyes lit up with greed as he saw the screen. Chris couldn’t even fulfil one of the rewards offered, but he didn’t need to. The quest was impossible. Kingscastle had neither King nor Queen. It took all his acquired skills in maintaining a neutral façade to not try and tear out Gregor’s throat. But it wouldn’t do to reveal his hand. Not when there were still people who needed to get to safety. He’d kill Gregor, but he’d do it on his terms.

Gregor paused, then a crafty glint entered his eye. “I will accept, on one condition. The traitor, Dylan. If you find him alive. You must kill him at once. He is crafty and possesses the Traitor title. He aims to bring about the downfall of humanity—Kingscastle with it.”

Chris’ heart skipped a beat. There was a chance Dylan was alive. He struggled to maintain neutrality. “I will find him and bring you his corpse.” He began walking away. There were people who needed help, and he needed to find Dylan before Gregor did.

If there weren’t enough nails in Gregor’s coffin, that was the final one. The man was tying up loose ends. At least a quest with ludicrous rewards would guarantee his survival for a time. Hopefully.

“One final thing, Sir Christopher.”

Chris gritted his teeth, smoothed over his features, and turned. “Yes, Sir Gregor.” He smiled.

“The Dao Solidification.” Gregor halted. “Will it grant me a second Dao?”

“I beg your pardon?” Chris paused. Gregor had a Dao! How the hell did he have a Dao? Unless, becoming a Settlement Leader granted it. That or the Traitor title—why else would Gregor throw out a title so brazenly to a native of the world. Such a thing had to be real, and Gregor had to have it.

“I already have my first Dao. Will it grant me a second.”

Chris’ mind whirled. “That depends on what your Dao is, and how you came about it.”

“I was… familiar with the rehabilitation of criminals—such as Dylan—back on my world.” Gregor shook his head. “To see what such people were capable of, it sickens me to this day. I was a guard… no… the warden. And my job was, like my Dao, Punishment.”

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AwakenedKingdoms

Bio: [participant in the Royal Road Writathon challenge]

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