“Are you certain?” Vogan asked, frowning at his butler. “The assailant was as powerful as Ragnar? ”
“Absolutely,” Argon gave a curt nod.
The village chief put a hand over his chest, trying to ease the weight pressing down on his heart. After putting so much effort into this plan, it still failed.
“But how is that possible!” His voice rasped. “Even an army would—”
“Vogan!” Fazi’s call broke into their conversation. The two players hurriedly walked towards him and Argon. They looked like they had something to say.
Vogan took a deep breath, calming himself down before he looked at them. “Is there something you wish to add?”
“Yeah, it’s…” Fazi stopped and turned his head around, looking towards the direction where he and Raina came from. He perked his ears. Was there a sound? But the two of them should’ve been the only ones in that direction.
He studied the slope heading towards the forest. Spotting anything within that blend of moonlight and deep grey shadows was pretty much impossible.
“What is it?” Raina asked.
“There’s... something. I think I heard...” Fazi frowned, activating his [Night Vision]. “There!” he shouted, pointing towards the darkness. Although it was slightly further than the most effective range of his skill, he could still spot a silhouette of something.
Raina also activated her [Night Vision], but failed to spot anything. And looking at the rest of the people, they seemed confused too. “I don’t see anything,” she said to Fazi. “Are you sure there’s something?”
“of course, I’m sure. Your skill proficiency sucks,” Fazi said with a hint of disdain. “Someone’s running towards the forest there.”
Vogan also couldn’t see anything, but he knew better than to take a chance. “Argon!” he quietly ordered.
The young butler nodded. A sceptre made of some odd pitch-black wood appeared in his hands. A glowing jewel the colour of fresh blood sat on top of it. It gave onlookers a sense of deep unease. Argon raised the staff and a red ball of light shot up towards the sky.
“The [Flare] spell!” Fazi’s eyes widened. The butler was a mage? That was unexpected.
The ball of light burst out, exposing the whole ruin to a sanguine radiance and exposing the shadow of something darting down the slope, heading towards the forest at a breakneck speed. But it was too far to discern the identity of the runner.
“Catch that person!” Vogan roared at his men. “Bring him to me.”
Fazi shook his head. “It’s too late. He’s already close to the forest. Your men wouldn’t catch him even with horses.”
“You are right,” Argon said calmly. He held his sceptre up above his head. A blue wheel of flame formed at its tip, spinning, gathering more fire at its centre, until it became blindingly bright.
The gathering fire condensed, buzzing with explosive energy, and Argon thrust the sceptre forward. The wheel blazed for an instant and a beam of thick blue light shot towards the fleeing figure.
the earth shivered as a new, blinding blue sun shone at the edge of the forest. The air around it ionized, burning everything nearby to nothingness in a second. A shock wave rippled through the earth, uprooting trees and scattering debris everywhere. The violent heat from the explosion set the forest aflame.
“Holy...!” Raina exchanged a glance with Fazi. That was an advanced fire spell, [Plasma]! Only the strongest mage of their guild, Rublix, could use it, and he was level 87! But Argon...
He must be a boss level character!
She measured the butler carefully, but his character info was hidden. He should be using one of those info hiding equipment.
“You shouldn’t have killed him,” she said to him with a hint of caution in her voice. “Catching him alive could’ve been more useful.”
Argon shrugged. “We couldn’t catch up, so why let him escape?”
“Are you certain he is dead?” Vogan asked, looking at the burning trees far away.
“He should be. He wouldn’t have run if he was powerful enough to survive my attack.” Argon walked toward’s his horse. “Still, it doesn’t hurt to check.”
[Bloom] slumped against the chair, blankly staring at the dancing yellow flames burning inside the fireplace. Her heart smashed against her like a full-speed hydraulic hammer. Even her hands refused to stop shaking.
Watching the blue beam rush towards her, an overwhelming sense of terror had gripped her heart. Even her feet had frozen in fear. For sure, if it’d reached her...
She looked over at the two goblins sprawled on the stone floor. Their tongues hung out as they took big gulps of air.
At that time, just when the spell was about to reach her, the two of them had suddenly popped out of thin air right in front of her. The moment they held her hand, everything around her vanished. Only nothingness surrounded her.
The [Short Distance Teleportation] these two green midgets had saved her from turning into literal toast.
She shook her head, trying to drive the experience out of her mind. It didn’t help. If- if that thing had hit her, she’d have died for sure. And if she died, could she come back to life like Her? Or would she...
She fought back another shiver.
A sudden touch of icy coldness almost made her heart leap out of her throat. She looked up at Thoringar, standing beside her with a tankard in her hand.
“Have this. It’ll calm your nerves,” she said, passing it to [Bloom].
[Bloom] raised an eyebrow, staring at the frothing, golden liquid inside the container. “Alcohol?” she asked.
“It does have that, yeah,” Thoringar grunted, taking the chair beside her. “Amberberry brew. I use it to cool my head.”
[Bloom] brought the mug to her lips, taking a big gulp. The drink burned her throat a little, but immediately after her head split apart from a sudden pain.
It was so darn cold! Her brain almost froze.
“Damn, girl, are you ok?” Thoringar rushed towards her.
[Bloom] shook her head, holding onto the table to steady herself. She took a few deep breaths, driving away the icy feeling bit by bit until it only left a light coolness in her mind.
“Was it the alcohol?” Thoringar frowned, bringing her own cup to her nose. “But it’s not that strong. Haven’t you had alcohol before?”
“No,” [Bloom] gave a curt answer, taking another sip from the mug. This time, thanks to her expectations, she kind of enjoyed the frozen feeling.
“I wasn’t expecting you to return so soon,” Thoringar said, pulling out her pipe. “But by Hagrath’s beard, what were you thinking? Chasing after those people on your own? You immortals might not fear death, but don’t you lose something when you die?”
[Bloom] maintained her silence. She wasn’t the one chasing them; they stumbled into her resting place. But at least she got some good info thanks to that. Now, how to use it...
She looked at Thoringar, a new plan forming in her mind.
At least, doesn’t hurt to try.
“Anyway, this matter is much graver than you know, so stop being so reckless. Consult me before you do anything,” Thoringar advised as she glanced at the two goblins snoring on the floor. “Although I can find out what happened from those two midgets, it’d be a headache to make sense of their babbling.”
“Hey, master! That’s not fair!” Glibwort squeaked as both goblins jumped up from their presumed nap.
“Yes! Not fair! Not fair!” Menron echoed, shaking his head vehemently.
“Shut it!” Thoringar snapped.
The goblins lowered their heads, mumbling.
“Master’s shorter than us. Not fair!”
“Yes! Not fair! Calling us midgets?” Menron whined. “She’s the midget!”
Glibwort looked at his brother in mock, wide-eyed horror, while the speaker himself put both hands to his mouth, his expression mirroring the other goblin.
Thoringar’s face became stiff. She picked up her hammer lying on the table, hurling it at the two with all her strength. The goblins vanished from their eyes instantly just as the hammer smashed into the stone floor, teleporting away who knew where.
“No breakfast, no lunch, no dinner for you two!” Thoringar roared at the empty room. “Now quickly fix the floor and go back to observe those people.”
“They are...” [Bloom] looked at her repertoire for an appropriate word. “Trouble.”
“Yeah...” Thoringar closed her eyes, kneading her forehead with a slow, gentle motion. “Tell me what you’ve seen at the ruins,” She said. “Without skipping on the details.”
Bloom nodded and began her side of the story, stopping occasionally to answer a question or two. But soon, confusion started growing inside Thoringar. Something seemed different about the girl. She wasn’t this sharp when she met her before.
“The butler, huh!” Thoringar said thoughtfully as [Bloom] stopped. Despite spending twenty years at Caramis, she liked keeping to herself instead of mingling with the villagers. Even Vogan was a mere acquaintance, not to mention his butler. But thinking back, the first time she’d seen the guy would be during the mid-autumn gathering festival half a year ago. Who exactly was he?
“The Immortals are also involved in this mess, huh!” The force of her fingers on her temples increased.
This turned out to be a real headache.
Sighing, she let go of her head and peered into [Bloom]’s expressionless face. “You’ve changed a lot in a day. Your mannerism seems entirely different.”
“It’s because I’m not Her,” [Bloom] said, calmly staring at Thoringar’s eyes.
“Not her?” Thoringar frowned. “What do you mean?”
[Bloom] leaned back, gazing at the cone-shaped ceiling of Thoringar’s home. Since the blacksmith would see Her later anyway, there was no point in hiding. But she couldn’t tell the whole truth either.
Should I twist my words a bit?
“I am not the girl you know of. I am…” [Bloom] tapped her chin. The appropriate description would be...
“I’m sort of her guide, I guess.”
“Yeah.” [Bloom] said, noticing the look of curiosity and suspicion in the blacksmith’s eyes. “Whoever I am, please do not probe any further into my identity. It would only cause you, and Her, harm. Because my existence...” her voice turned serious and full of unknown mystery, “is a taboo.”
Thoringar’s heart quivered. “What do you...”
[Bloom] shook her head. “All you need to know for now is that I mean you no harm. In fact, I’m Her well-wisher.” She stopped, frowning at her hands. They were beginning to turn translucent. She glanced at the window, watching the strand of sunlight seeping through.
She’s back, I guess.
[Bloom] looked at the bewildered Thoringar. “I wish I could stay longer, but it’s time for me to leave.” Her body became more and more transparent until only her outline remained in the world. “Tell that girl to be careful of those two immortals. They are beginning to suspect her. And most important of all...
“DO NOT tell her about me!”