A tall youth with dark hair and a somewhat handsome face was standing at a travel agency. He was looking at a map on which he scribbled some notes. This was Roland that had just gotten the information that he required to reach his next destination. This would be the next place that he would be staying at.
“Third time's the charm, eh?”
He muttered to himself while walking towards the train station. He would be traveling even longer than he was before and he would even have to take a boat. His destination was the large island in the south of the Caldris Kingdom.
The large mass of land was called the Dragnis Island. It had a large volcano right in the middle of it and a couple of smaller ones sprinkled here and there. The name of the island wasn’t just for show, there apparently was a dragon living there.
It wasn’t roaming the lands and burning the villages though. It was the last boss of the dungeon that resided there. This was the main dungeon of this island and its rating was an S.
There were various other smaller dungeons sprinkled around the entire landmass. Due to the peculiar way that the main dungeon was placed it was said that the smaller ones connected to it. The one he was going towards had formed a couple of months ago and was still getting its rating.
Contrary to popular belief Dragnis Island wasn’t a wasteland. It was true that the center part was mostly uninhabitable and overrun by monsters. The coastline in comparison was covered by lush greenery and the climate was quite warm.
There were also various safety measures that were put in place. One of them was the magus towers. They were five large ones surrounding the main volcano, they formed a magical barrier that kept the monsters at bay. It also protected the rest of the land from volcanic ash and from surprise volcanic discharges.
At least that was what the lady that worked at this world's version of a traveling agency said. The people in charge there were probably trying to attract more people. It was a land of opportunities for sure but at the same time, it was dangerous.
This whole kingdom was a dangerous place. Even in this large city people that were part of strong factions like the council weren’t safe. There was no guarantee that you wouldn’t be stabbed in the back.
Here we had a feud between two noble sons. The younger one wanted to take over the city's money-making facilities before his brother returned. If that didn’t work, the deaths of six of the council members would cause this city to turn chaotic. He would be blamed for it as the acting regent but the older brother would also be blamed as he was the true heir.
‘I wonder if those three idiots are going to do similar things when they are older…’
Roland was also from a noble house. One not as established as the Dreux house that had a count as the leader. There would be only one heir to the estate. Would the other two sons just let the oldest get everything while they went away to be knights for other nobles? Or would the heir bribe them with promises of cushy positions at his estate?
Roland just shrugged, he was glad that he wasn’t involved in those power struggles anymore. Even if he told them that he had no interest in the title or land his brothers could still go after him. He really didn’t want to get into a war of succession, a Baron title wasn’t even worth that much. He could probably even earn more money as a Runesmith.
In this kingdom, there was a strict hierarchy. A knight was the lowest noble ranking, they were more or less just commanders for the army. Following that was the baron title that his father had, just a step up.
This was the true beginning of the noble ladder. A Baron was granted land and subjects to rule but the land they got was mostly smaller villages. After that came the Viscount title, then the Count followed by the Marquess. The higher the title the more land and more subjects the noble was granted.
The highest title a noble not related to the royal family could possess was the Dukal title. Nobles with the title of a Duke were the leaders of the aristocratic faction and there weren’t many of them around.
There was also the Archduke title but it was reserved for the royal family. Mostly the brothers or sisters of the current king were allowed to call themselves that. Even with a grand title like that, it didn’t mean that they were above the Dukes. It all depended on how they managed their resources or how much the current king was willing to give them.
The structure of the nobles was very archaic and convoluted. There was no trust between houses unless there was some kind of bonding contract like a marriage. Backstabbing each other was seen as a fun pastime in some of their circles.
Roland would rather spend his life as a craftsman than be involved in that masquerade. For this, he needed more power, the power that he could only gain by risking his life. Gaining levels wasn’t enough, gaining stats with no practical combat experience made no sense.
This would be similar to doing basic strength and stamina training at a martial arts school. Yet never doing any sparring with other students. A person would get stronger and learn techniques but unless they tested it on a resisting opponent they would get nowhere.
Roland was now back at a familiar place with a ticket in hand. It was time to take the train once more. He had done this before so there was a lack of hesitation in his actions. He was even slightly tingling with anticipation.
‘So long Edelgard, next stop, the town of Albrook’
This was his next destination. A rather small town with a rather common uninteresting name. A few months ago a dungeon entrance had opened up and now people were flocking there.
First, a new adventurer’s guild was getting built. With the dungeon now appearing there a large revenue stream would be opened. Mana stones were just one of the things that could be harvested. There were apparently mineral deposits there which Roland as a blacksmith was very much interested in.
He wanted to build a new workshop there, one that he could actually open up and sell things in. He wasn’t sure when and how he would do that. He would probably require someone else to sell his wares if he was busy with the dungeon and adventuring. He would also need to trust a person he knew nothing about to just stay in his workshop for days and not steal anything.
It was finally time to leave. The conductor blew his whistle to signal for the people to get on. Roland hesitated slightly but he took the first step forward.
The youth had grown quite a bit in these past years and it looked like he wasn’t finished. He was wearing the usual black robe with which he could hide his face.
He decided to now wear any metal armor over his cloth armor just yet. He didn’t think the need for it inside the safety of this train and it was too bulky for the ride. He would also stick out like a sore thumb if he went in fully armed.
The armor of choice was the brigandine armor that was now resting in one of his storage bags. He did have some other items to cover some spots.
Both his arms were covered by wrist guards and his legs were protected by graves that were placed over his leather shoes.
He didn’t make these items himself, he just bought them from one of the shops. He did put some runic enchantments on them but he didn’t have time to add any slots for mana stones.
Roland deliberated if he should go back to his workshop to enhance his armor but he decided against it. Those people from the abyssal cult had seen his face and could still be in this city.
They were probably enraged that someone like him was the reason for their whole plan failing. This was some bad advertisement for the assassins. He needed to flee as he couldn’t trust the people from Exeor to protect him. What if those cultist nuts returned with a stronger treasure and he just dies in the illusion?
He was still probably a low priority target, the person who should really watch his back would be the gnome. This was also the reason why he was feeling slightly more relaxed with his journey.
While thinking Roland heard the conductor using his whistle again. The large train shook slightly before moving forward. He found a seat for himself by the window. It was quite crowded today as probably after yesterday’s attack other people had decided to also ditch this city.
He wasn’t feeling that nostalgic about it as he spent most of his time hidden away in a workshop. The only noticeable people that he met here were Marlo, Helci, and the gnomes elven assistant. There were also three other guys he met but he hasn’t seen them ever since that one expedition.
His old fling was planning on going in the opposite direction to another well-established dungeon city. The gnome was heading for the capital city that housed his company’s main building.
Roland had become quite the loner after spending over nine years in this world. He still couldn’t really see himself as one of the people of these lands. He subconsciously evaded human interaction which was leading him down this introverted path of solitude.
He leaned back in his wooden seat and gave out a sigh. This train would take him through most of the kingdom but then he would need to switch to a caravan. He needed to reach the closest port in the south to get to the volcanic island.
This journey would be a lot longer than the last one. There were no magic trains that could go through water and the ships were just regular sail ships.
At least the one that he would be taking due to not wanting to spend too much money. He didn’t see one yet but from the books, he read there were supposed to be ships that looked similar to old steam ships. Instead of steam, they ran on mana, he actually wanted to visit one and see the engine room.
‘I have enough money to start over but I should probably do it better this time around…’
Roland took out his adventurer card and to the name that was on it. He was thinking about ditching his old name and starting over.
There were certain ways to alter the status of this card. The one that he wanted to be gone was his name.
There were no computers keeping the exact stats of every adventurer in this world. There were only these adventurer cards that were updated with certain magical tools to show your status.
From what he knew, if someone was searching for him at most they could get information about him if they knew his card id. The guild stored information about which adventurer’s passed through the city.
This meant that if someone figured out the city this card was made they could look for him. Someone with enough resources would need to go through the guilds one by one. Sooner or later they would find which cities he visited and could then narrow the search area.
He wasn’t worried about his family in this instance. He was worried about the abyssal cult that even had two tier 3 monsters out killing yesterday. They could probably sneak into the guild and steal the records if they really wanted.
He grimaced after making a decision and ripped his adventurer card in half. The rest was tossed out the train window never to be seen again.
He would start over from the beginning. With the level he was at he would be granted the steel adventurer title right from the start. He could also pay slightly extra to get his name on the card changed to a nickname.
There shouldn’t be a problem with his plan. Other adventurers did sometimes lose their identification and needed to start over. Most of the time they just returned to the place they received their old card and had it remade.
But other times when the journey would just be too far they would have them remade. People mostly gained their rank by status and not by their track record. A person with a tier 2 class wouldn’t need to start over as a bronze adventurer. They just needed to get through a few tests and that was it.
While Roland was on his way towards his new promised land the castle in which the current city lord was living was abuzz.
Louis Dreux and the knight captain were both in his study while the noble in question was looking at some papers.
“Yes my lord, but they managed to remove six of the council members.”
“What of the other two?”
“The people from Exeor are on their guard, our reports say they are leaving the city together with most of their assets. The other merchant has already fled.”
Louis Dreux rubbed his chin while looking at the papers. A more in-depth report of what happened last night was here. How the people that he hired had murdered most of the council members and even left a calling card.
Louis wasn’t worried that others would associate him with the cult. There was no evidence and the messenger that he sent was long dead. The knight captain was the only other person that knew the truth and he knew that the man wouldn’t dare to go against him.
Even though not all of the people he wanted gone were dead, he could go through with the next phase of his plan. He didn’t fear the survivors as he was a noble with a lot of backing. He didn’t think a bunch of commoners would dare to go against a count's son.
There was no proof of his involvement with any of this besides the thief guild incident. Even if that came out to the light, they wouldn’t be able to connect it back to the abyssal cult murders.
“Captain, have our people move along with the plan, be persuasive if you have to... Give them the price we agreed upon previously.”
The man in the suit of armor did a salute and then promptly left the room. The count's son was now alone.
He stood up, with short steps he walked over to the window and looked outside. It was already dark and the two bright moons were gently illuminating the darkness.
While looking out into the distance he started murmuring to himself.
“I won’t let you have this city, it belongs to me and no one else. If I can’t have it then I’d rather burn it to the ground.”
The man smirked while thinking about a certain older brother that would be returning soon. He only had a couple of months left but it should be enough to replace the merchants with his own people.
Controlling the money flow of the city was his way of taking it over. He needed to prepare so that everything was ready for his brother’s return. He had suffered unforeseen setbacks through these years but he didn’t just spend them doing nothing.
While he couldn’t touch the council members for a year there were others that he could affect. The abyssal cult was a small gamble that he was willing to take. With the help of their peculiar brand of magic, he had been slowly taking over this city. Replacing public officials by any means necessary.
“That meathead won’t suspect anything, he was always like that, never using his head and thinking that everything will always go his way.”
The man took out a framed picture and looked at it. In it, there were two kids standing next to a man. The children were alike and had similar facial features to the adult.
Louis Dreux looked at this picture in disdain before setting it ablaze with his magical flames. The red embers that he was holding in his hand slowly turned pitch black as they turned the picture to cinders. The sound of cackles filling the emptiness of the room as the night continued.