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A note from Zogarth

This is still a thing btw: http://topwebfiction.com/listings/the-primal-hunter/ - Did you know you can Boost! once a week and that it helps the author? Pretty cool.

Have a great weekend!

Jake had, in usual Jake-fashion, returned late to the center of the Mistless Plains. As there was no mist in the Mistless Plains – hence the name – it was easy to see everything, far and wide. He saw several basecamps scattered about, some of them even having tall walls and magical barriers.

Finding Miranda and company would have been difficult if he didn’t have a living GPS locator in the form of Sylphie. Jake made his way over, feeling many gazes upon him as he did so. Scouts from the myriad factions keeping an eye on his casual stroll, none of them approaching him or making him aware they had even seen him.

Oh, but someone did come to meet him.

A fluffy green ball of feathers soared through the plains right towards him with incredible speed, kicking up a cloud of dust in her wake. Jake opened his eyes as the small hawk barrelled into his chest, and he hugged the cute little bugger.

“You got faster!” Jake commented as he cuddled the bird as she nuzzled up to him. He kept walking towards the place where Sylphie had come from; his pace picked up a bit.

“Ree!” she heartfully agreed, proud of herself as she kept making screeching sounds and green apparations of wind narrating her adventures manifest around them as they got back to Miranda and the others. Jake didn’t even know she knew how to make those wind constructs and honestly thought they were kinda cool and very artistic-looking. Primarily due to their fluid forms, making them look very abstract. What he did piece together was that she had hunted down vampires and cursed armors like everyone else.

He did get a bit confused about the part with a giant bear-looking creature that Sylphie, for some reason, depicted as looking a bit like a cartoon bear that kept getting whacked around by a vampire.

She was still putting on her little show when Jake spotted Miranda in the distance, surrounded by quite a few people. He recognized them as ones associated with Valhal right away, including that Sven fellow and the woman Carmen whom Sylphie had been hanging with. He was a bit surprised not to see Sultan or Neil and his party, though. If they had left the Treasure Hunt or were still out there was hard to know. But, then again… did they need to return to the middle? They had their own stuff to do, and the event about to take place wasn’t anything they could affect.

“Lord Thayne,” Miranda greeted him with a respectful bow when he made his way to them, putting on her courteous persona in front of the onlookers. The aforementioned onlookers kept a watchful gaze, with Carmen staring at him with an odd look.

Jake nodded to Miranda in response. “Good job as always,” he said, not quite knowing what she did that was a good job. She had been part of getting a key, so she had done something good. Also… he was just happy she was still around, so he had someone to handle the talking.

Although… Nah, it was still too early to begin beating disagreeable people up and taking their stuff.

Dispelling his thoughts, Jake turned to Carmen. “Thanks for taking care of Sylphie.”

He had noticed that Carmen didn’t look weirdly at Jake alone, but also Sylphie. The bird had now climbed from his chest and shoulder to stand atop his head, establishing her dominance.

“So, the hawk is your pet?” Sven asked him as he saw the bird standing on top of Jake’s head. It was more a statement of fact than a question, as the man had made assumptions Jake quite frankly found insulting.

His response was to look at the people behind Sven as he asked. “So, are those humans your pets?”

Instantly the entire mood became weird, but Jake didn’t care. The guy had insinuated something Jake wasn’t cool with, so he pettily shot back in kind.

That the guy didn’t understand newer cultural nuances of post-system sapience and autonomy wasn’t Jake’s problem. In fact, from what Villy had told him… then a human having humans as pets was more normal than a human having beasts in the multiverse.

Everything was still for a moment until suddenly the silence was broken as Carmen began laughing loudly. “That was a damn good one! Sometimes it bloody feels like it, them doing everything he says like loyal little puppies!”

She kept laughing for a few more seconds, with Miranda smiling a bit uncomfortably as she stood beside the laughing woman. Carmen followed up with a question after she stopped laughing as she looked at Jake. “Anyway, what is your relationship with Sylphie?”

Jake returned her gaze as he answered. “Eh… she is the kid of some friends? So, kind of my niece? Not sure exactly how you would classify it, but does it really matter?”

He kept rubbing the bird’s soft feathers that sat on top of him, her happily just sitting there like his hair was her nest.

Carmen looked at him and shrugged. “I guess it doesn’t.”

The entire atmosphere got a bit better, and Miranda took the chance to redirect the conversation. “How did it go? Did you get the items you wanted?”

Jake shook his head. “Nah, the Holy Church got two and the Noboru clan three as far as I can tell. So yeah, it sucks; I only got three myself with Sylphie getting one.”

“Ree!” Sylphie agreed, proudly puffing herself up.

“What happened?” Miranda asked. “I was told by Arnold he estimated you would make it in time.”

“Eron got in my way as well as some defensive measure to seal off the Count’s chamber. On a side note, Eron is pretty much unkillable, so yeah, that’s a thing,” Jake explained, fine with the people from Valhal also hearing him. Heck, he half-expected them to know already, considering they were a major faction. And if they didn’t know, the only thing he did was spare them wasting their time.

“He’s a healer, right? Can’t you just wear him down,” Carmen butted in.

“You would think so, but I’m pretty sure I could blow him up a few hundred times without him minding,” Jake shrugged in response. “Either way, if you meet him, I would just recommend walking away. The dude is slow and can’t really do any worthwhile damage, so just ignore him.”

“He sounds lopsided as fuck… did you try separating his heart and head from the rest of the body?” Carmen asked in a wondering tone.

“He totally is lopsided, and when I tried to wrap him up, he just blew up his entire body and reformed, so I reckon he could do that if you try to separate his body parts,” Jake theorized.

“Anyway!” Miranda came back in, clearly trying to stop the conversation from derailing more than necessary. “As you have the keys, should we head for the center? It has already been scouted out, and the nine alters for the keys found. The other factions are there too.”

Jake agreed, and Miranda began explaining about the placement of the altars designed for the keys. She made a construct of mana, showing the Mistless Plains and how they were spread in a circle around the center of the Plains. It all matched what the projection had told him so far, and it did look like they would open up some kind of hidden tower.

The Noboru Clan, Holy Church, more people from Valhal, the Court of Shadows, and many other factions were present to see what would happen when the nine keys were brought together. Notably absent was the undead faction, but Jake didn’t consider it further. He seriously doubted they could have been wiped out, so they were probably just up to their own shit with their own weird undead agenda.

Jake and the others soon met up with a group of people that had clearly been waiting for them, making Jake feel pretty good about himself for wasting their time just a little bit. It was the pettiest of revenge, but short of going on a murder spree, it was all he was gonna get.

At the front of the group stood the Sword Saint and Reika together. At their side were Jacob and Bertram, as well as a few parties of decently powerful people. He saw his brother and his folk gathered a good distance away, Jake throwing him a nod before he went up to the group with Miranda, Carmen, and the others. A big crew from Valhal had also joined them at some point.

“I must admit… this competition did not transpire as I had hoped,” the Sword Saint said, opening the conversation. “In the end, perhaps it was foolish for only two individuals to make a bet with so many uncertain factors.”

The old man said this but still smiled at Jake. “Nevertheless, despite the flaws, It appears I won. I possess five keys, and to my knowledge, you have four.”

Jake looked at the old man and his way too cheeky smile. Patience, Jake, we got like three-quarters of the Treasure Hunt left… you’ll have your duel.

“Seems so. I guess you were better at splurging and hiring help,” Jake answered.

“Indeed, yet it proved barely enough to win out over the power of nepotism,” the Sword Saint counterattacked.

The two of them stared at each other for a bit until Reika broke it up. “Patriarch, should we not focus on the matter at hand?”

“Mm, we should,” the Sword Saint acknowledged. “We both agreed on the terms that I shall be the first to explore whatever opens up, correct?”

Jake just looked at him as he reluctantly nodded his head, throwing Jacob and Bertram a look, with perhaps a bit of Gaze of the Apex Hunter mixed in.

“Well then, should we begin? Each altar requires a key, and from what some of the good folk at the Holy Church discovered, we need to input all keys at roughly the same time,” the old man said as he motioned to Jacob. Jacob tossed over four small stone medallions of some kind that the Saint then handed to Jake.

“We have nine of those medallions, and when one of them breaks, all nine do,” he explained as Jake inspected the medallions, finding just a small magic circle on each. Simple stuff, really.

“Sure,” Jake agreed as he tossed a medallion to Miranda and another to Carmen beside her. The last two he kept for himself for now.

“Half an hour should be enough for all to be in position to insert the keys, I hope?” Jacob suddenly butted in.

“I don’t know Jacob, are you sure I won’t get delayed?” Jake asked as he looked his way.

Jacob winced a bit as he made an apologetic smile while Bertram just shook his head and palmed his face. The other people behind him looked downright hostile at Jake, clearly not happy that he had dared take a jab at their glorious Augur.

“Half an hour it is. Simply insert your key when the medallion breaks,” the Sword Saint un-derailed the conversation as he made a circle with his finger, showing nine dots and a general outline of the Mistless Plains. “We shall take these five while you handle the other four. Are we in agreement?”

Jake once more just nodded as he turned back to the other people. He nonchalantly handed Miranda and Carmen a key each and let the two of them pick out two altars. For the last two keys, he went over and gave his brother one along with a medallion, and he and Sylphie would handle the last one.

No, he didn’t trust Sylphie with doing it. Sure, she probably could, but then again, she was not even half a year old. It was a lot of responsibility to put in someone so young.

The entire process was easily handled as everyone wanted to get the next phase started. They all got in position, and Jake saw that each altar looked to be made of the same black metal the doors were. He spent his entire half an hour trying to figure out if he could steal it but found the task impossible.

Once the half an hour was up, he felt the medallion crumble, and without further ado, he inserted the key in the very obvious slot on the altar. For a brief second, nothing happened until suddenly he felt it.

Red light exploded out from both sides of the altar as it created a wall of pure energy towards the two adjacent altars. All of the altars around the Mistless Plains fired off these walls of energy all at once as a circle was formed, with the interior of the circle slowly being filled with red runes.

It was a giant magic circle… one far more powerful than any he had ever seen before. Well, besides the one in the vision from the Path of the Heretic Chosen skill.

The entire magic circle kept powering up as Jake spotted quite a few panicked faces around the circle as they were unsure of what was happening. Jake was relaxed as his danger sense was silent… also, he didn’t believe the system would be so dickish as to make this into some suicide ritual. The charge-up of power continued for a few more seconds until finally, it culminated.

It felt like the entire Treasure Hunt world shook as the ground opened up and a mighty structure began ascending. What came was a spire that looked to be made entirely of some pure-white crystalline material that sent shockwaves through the land as it finally made its way into the world after countless years of being hidden away.

Energy washed across the plains as the spire pulsed with power and grew taller and taller. It didn’t simply get elevated from the ground either… it truly grew. So much power had been packed into it that Jake quite frankly found it insane.

Finally, the tower made it all the way up to where the dark mist began, and the moment it touched, the true purpose of this creation became clear.

Like soap touching dirty water, the cursed mist parted as it exploded out to both sides, the sky seeming to be torn open. The sound of thousands upon thousands of screams echoed through the entire world as the spire attacked not only the black mist but the curse itself.

From the beginning, this spire had not been built as a treasure tower or residence… it was created with the purpose of one day when the curse had weakened enough, and the spire accumulated enough power, to strike back at the curse and try to reclaim their world.

Looking at the sky far above, he saw the darkness of the mist throughout the sky begin to turn white as the darkness and the power of the curse slowly faded away. At the same time, the entire crystalline spire began growing darker as Jake realized it wasn’t dispelling the curse… it was absorbing it. Containing it.

What also became clear… was that this tower could not be entered. Thus the Sword Saint’s price for winning their bet meant nothing.

“Lucky one!” Jake cheered as he high-fived Sylphie sitting atop his head, just as the system notification signaling the second phase of the Treasure Hunt appeared.

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A note from Zogarth

Thanks for reading!

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Zogarth

  • Denmark

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