The battle was hard-fought. Thousands of monsters were killed. Over two hundred and fifty Hunters died. Four buildings surrounding Gate Square collapsed, and innumerable smaller structures damaged by monsters rampaging through Eden streets. The victory was that the Gate Surge had been contained to Eden for the first time in history. That was considered a success.
Amidst the rubble, the crowd’s deafening cheers died out. Then came the hard part — cleaning up. Medics removed human bodies while Healers walked around and helped the injured Hunters that were still breathing. Guilds staked their claim to the monster carcasses that were in their given area. Solo Hunters hurried to mark which monster they’d killed — whether or not they actually killed it. I found a couple of the monsters I’d brought down, but in the end, I couldn’t locate more than half of them.
I’d gotten so used to how the System cleaned up so perfectly that it was odd to pile my kills together and wait for the government official to come over and record my kills and how much money I’d get from them. Most of the other Hunters dug out the energy crystals and simply sold them without caring about the carasses. Those were also the Hunters that got to bed before 2 a.m. While the government cleaned up and the armourers had a field day collecting dead monsters, the rest of the Hunters threw in the towel.
I didn’t wake up until the next afternoon, no surprise there. No daily task awaited me. Just a simple message. [Due to unforeseen events, there is no punishment for failing yesterday’s Daily Task. Daily Tasks will be suspended until the other dimension stabilizes. Enjoy the vacation.]
That was great and all. After last night, I needed a break. But what I needed more was to know what a Warrior of Mist was.
No matter how many times I asked, the System never answered. I’d gotten so used to it randomly answering me in certain ways, that it’s sudden silence threw me off. It wasn’t until the next morning that I remembered that the System warned me that it would give me information when I was ready for it.
But I didn’t want to follow the System’s timeline. I wanted to know now what I was becoming.
With nothing else to do, I did the old fashion thing and left for the library on my own legs to do some research with my own mind. Since I didn’t have a laptop or cellphone, I had to go to the Eden Library over in A District.
The smell of blood was still thick in the air as I walked to the tram. Since Gate Square was still being cleaned up, the tram took the roundabout way instead of going straight through the middle of Eden. It was still faster than if I walked, since A District couldn’t be more opposite of the E Hostel. The streets were quiet, which made sense. Being lazy in bed sounded great after last night.
Only I couldn’t let go of my desire to know what was going on. I trusted the System. I mean, it had done nothing but help me and it was the very reason why I was still alive. But that didn’t mean that I was going to wait for answers. What if instead of telling me, the System was waiting for me to find out what a Warrior of Mist was on my own?
A District couldn’t be more different than E District. There was nothing ghetto or run down there. The red brick buildings were as bright as the day they’d been laid. Green gardens and full trees bloomed everywhere, perfectly accenting shops and buildings in a soothing, sophisticated way. The sidewalks were clean and clearly defined from the street. There were even several cars parked on the side of the road, just as clean and expensive looking as the rest of the district. I stopped and looked at the cars. Jeez, how much did those cost? I couldn’t imagine having enough disposable income to afford something like that.
Shaking my head, I moved on and came to a stop not a hundred feet later. A pretty little park spread out to the left of the road. It wasn’t big and there was no playground in it because kids weren’t allowed in Eden. But the roses blooming — reds, pinks, yellows, and whites — were gorgeous. I couldn’t resist walking across the green grass to them and reaching out. The petals were so soft, so smooth. So innocent.
Being constantly surrounded by plants in the Gate, it’s common knowledge that the prettier it is, the more likely it will kill you. Nearly every flower in Gate Vale was poisonous and half of them were actually monsters that moved and ate people. Or there were plants like Treants that I’d become so familiar with. Between that and that constant violence of fighting for my life, it was easy to forget that there was something so simple as a harmless rose in a gorgeous garden. It was like balm to my tired soul, something I didn’t even know that I needed until I touched it.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath of the sweet scent. Surrounded by the flowers, the scent of a bloody battle disappeared. A small smile pulled at my lips. I should get to the library as soon as possible. But instead I sat down on the grass in front of the roses and tipped my face towards the warm sun.
There weren’t a lot of people walking around, but there was enough that I could hear them coming and going. As carefree as I felt, I couldn’t keep my eyes closed forever. It was instinct to pay attention to the threats around me. Granted, I didn’t expect the Hunters here to hurt me. I probably wasn’t even on their radar of possible threats. Still, I opened my eyes and watched the few people as they strolled by.
Since last night when my Getting Stronger Quest changed to Warrior of Mist, I’d noticed a change in my scanner. Normally, a Hunter couldn’t see what rank another Hunter was unless they were stronger than them. But now I could see the ranks of everyone around me, even if they ranked higher than me. It was odd and I couldn’t wait to see what else would change about me.
A tingle went down my spine, breaking out of my thoughts. My sixth-sense went off, signalling that there was a very strong threat at my left.
That couldn’t be right. The Gate was a good mile away from me, and even from here I could see that it wasn’t acting up. It wasn’t possible for a monster to be here in the middle of A District. If there was, how many Hunters would have found it by now? It couldn’t be left over from last night.
Alarmed, I stood up and searched to locate where the feeling was coming from. All I could see was a couple walking hand-in-hand and another guy walking with his hands in his pockets. All three of them were A Rank Hunters and perfectly at ease. There was no monster.
My brows wrinkled. Maybe I should have stayed in bed a little longer?
Then another man walked by, his movements just as relaxed as anyone else's. But the title bar above his head was red. Just like a monster’s.
I gasped. What did that mean?
I’d never heard that word before. “Khatharian?” I sounded it out under my breath.
It was as if I’d screamed the word at the top of my lungs. The man froze. Several people walking behind stepped around him as he slowly turned and looked at me. He was maybe in his early twenties. Even from here, I was struck with the icy blue of his piercing eyes. Even though his hair was pale blond, his lashes were black as night. The contrast against his pale skin made him all the more striking.
His eyes narrowed and he turned to walk towards me.
A wave of power washed over me, making the hair on my body stand up. Just … just how powerful was he?
As if I needed more of a hint, a System message started to blink under his title bar. [DO NOT PROVOKE!]
It flashed over and over, like the way his power was a heavy blanket smothering me wasn’t a big enough clue. Thanks for nothing, you useless System.
He stopped with a comfortable distance between us. His head tilted to the side. “You’re …” His low and smooth voice trailed off then he asked, “What did you just say?”
“Ah … haha…” I shuffled back a couple steps. It was hard to focus on his face when a warning flashed so insistently in my vision. “I … ah … I don’t think ... I said anything? Erm …” My hand waved through the air. “I need to … I have something … hahaha.” Wow, I sounded so lame but my nerves were shot.
His eyes narrowed and he took a step closer. “You said—”
“Kesstel!” A female voice let out a sing-song shout. “There you are!”
The man startled and turned just as a beautiful young woman ran into the park towards him. Her blonde curls and ample bust bounced with every step she took.
While he was distracted, I activated Feather Step and jumped to the other side of the rose bushes. Without sparing a glance, I ran as fast as I could. The only thing that mattered right now was getting away. I didn’t know who he was, but it was clear I needed to stay away from him.
What surprised me was that no one chased after me. I stopped in front of a pastry shop and looked around but I couldn’t catch sight of the monster inside a man’s body at all. I patted my chest and slowed my pounding heart. Talk about a sudden heart attack. I took one last deep breath … and was instantly seduced by the smell coming from the pastry shop. I looked at the storefront window, my mouth watering. How long had it been since I’d tasted a gourmet dessert? God, way too long.
I stepped from one foot to the other. A flaky pastry would be divine, but a life of frugality won over and I walked away. There was actually money in my account for once and I was making more money than last month, but with all my debts and then paying back Henry, I was still in the red. And would be for a while longer. At least I was eating full meals everyday. That had to be enough for now.
I pulled out my map, found my location, and started to work my way to the library. Before I’d run from the park, I’d only been a block away. Now it would take me nearly twenty minutes to get there. I wasn’t complaining though. Twenty minutes should be enough time for that scary Kesstel guy to leave the area. At least I hoped so.
I kept my eyes peeled as I crept back and didn’t see hide nor hair of him. Still, I didn’t relax until I was inside the library.
“My list of people I want to avoid grows daily, I swear,” I muttered to myself and looked around.
Whoever designed the library went for an old fashion feel. Like, a hundred years ago, old fashion. The floor was white marble with a wide red rug leading to a huge circular room. The ceiling arched up several stories high, the white marble carved and stacked in an impressive and eye-catching way. Dark wood shelves were placed in the middle of the room, highlighted by the bright lights from the countless windows and soft glow from the chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Padded maroon chairs and couches were placed against round walls beside bright green plants, encouraging someone to sit and stay for hours.
I followed the red carpet around to the other side of the books and saw a cluster of sectioned-off desks in the back. I slid behind a computer, logged on with my Hunter information, and looked up ‘Warriors of Mist’ on the internet.
Waiting for the results seemed to take forever. As soon as they popped up, I let out the breath I’d been holding. Nothing. There were several references to fictional books that were written before the Gates opened. But there was nothing more recent than that. Still, I didn’t want to give up just yet. I didn’t know how long I spent browsing, but I couldn’t find out anything. With nothing to show for my time, all I could do was swallow my disappointment and log out.
But I wasn’t beaten just yet. I walked up to the librarian sitting behind the front desk. “Hi, I’m looking for information on the —” My voice cut out. My eyes widened and I froze.
The librarian smiled at me politely, waiting for me to finish.
Ah, right. I wasn’t allowed to talk about my leveling up system. I swallowed and tried again, going for the roundabout method. “A Guild or title that has something to do with mist or fog? Like a Hunter of … fog or something? Have you ever heard of that? Is it like a Rank or term for something?”
The man’s face pulled into a thoughtful frown. “Hm, I don’t know that I’ve heard that term before?” He turned and tapped on his computer’s keyboard for a minute. He must have seen the same thing I did, because he smiled at me. “It looks like it was a part of a fictional work by Norman Ghere twenty-three years back called Fog Master. I can order the books in for you, if you like. It’ll take a couple weeks, since they’d have to come from the west coast.”
I bit my lips and shook my head. “That’s okay. Thanks.” As unrealistic as my System seemed, I instinctively knew that fictional books wouldn’t hold any clues to what I was looking for.
I turned to leave then looked back at the librarian. “What about a Khatharian?” I slowly spelled it for him.
He tapped on his computer a couple times then shook his head in the negative.
Today was a bust. With nothing left to do, I went back to the tram station and headed for the hostel. At least there was still enough time left in the day to practice my new abilities. I guessed that counted for something?
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I am an author, mother, wife, and jack of all trades. I mean, every mom is, but I’ve found that through my research for different stories, I’ve picked up a lot of random (and sometimes actually useful) knowledge and skills.
I’ve had a vivid imagination since I was a child. And as much as I wish I could actually live in the worlds in my head, the closest I can get is with the words I put on the page. These characters are like real people to me. The funny lines they say, their emotions that make my heart bleed, the amazing things they can do that I physically can’t, the adventures and sights that I can see in my head. I love sharing those things with my readers and hope that they can feel at least a part of what I do.
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