The Primal Hunter



Chapter 312 - Treasure Hunt: Test of Character


With the wand in his inventory, he moved on to some of the other stuff. The next item of interest was a white crown sitting on top of a pillow. The crown had a relatively simple design and was made out of some kind of white metal, reminding him a bit of white gold. In the center of the crown was a small red gem that looked to almost be glowing. It also gave off an impressive aura, reminding him a bit of the Nalkar vampires, and it became clear why upon identifying it.

[Nalkar Crown of the Dominant Mind (Ancient)] – A crown created by a powerful crafter from the Nalkar vampire line. The crown is made of an unknown metal and is extremely durable. A processed heart of a powerful Nalkar Vampire is embedded in it, soaking it with magical powers. The Nalkar Heart enhances all mind, illusion, and phantasmal-based magic. Passively grants resistance to all mind-affecting magic while worn. Enchantments: +200 Willpower, +150 Wisdom, +100 Intelligence. Dominant Mind of the Nalkar.
Requirements: lvl 130+ in any humanoid race.

Well, damn, Jake thought as he looked at the stats. That was some impressive stuff. The pure stats it gave were quite insane, and with the added benefits of making mind magic better? A pure win. Especially considering the wand he obtained earlier. Jake reckoned a mage using mind magic could go far with those two together. Even if you weren’t a mind mage, he reckoned most mages could make good use of those two items together. The pure stats and mental resistance granted by the crown were likely considered enough by most people.

He also wasn’t going to ask about the ethicality of using the heart of a brethren to make a crown. Because honestly, that was less weird than people getting their loved ones cremated before the system and turning their ashes into jewelry. He wasn’t judging, he just found it weird, and it was probably a cultural thing.

As for the question if Jake would use it… he would find that out later. He had a feeling he couldn’t due to the mask on his face getting in the way, and he really didn’t want to try and put it on his head there and then, potentially looking like an idiot with the projection watching.

Thus he just put it in his inventory, not showing any visible signs he was impressed.

Jake finally went over to the token with the Order of the Malefic Viper symbol on it and picked it up, the projection looking on nervously behind him. Once he did so, he used Identify on it… and was honestly taken aback.

[High-tier Alchemy Token of the Malefic Order (Legendary)] – A token created by the Order of the Malefic Viper. This token represents a deal made with the Nalkar vampire line to grant a set number of the Nalkar Clan vampires membership to the Order and includes a set number of benefits. This token has never been turned in, and doing so may lead to certain rewards. Gives off an aura that encourages growth in toxic alchemical products.

First of all, legendary-rarity for a token that would grant access to the Order of the Malefic Viper? Was this just Villy and his Order flexing by having such a high rarity item do that? Or was there actually something special about it? Was that aura really enough to warrant the rarity?

He was also surprised such an item was present in this Treasure Hunt. Was it a bit like the Altmar things in the dungeon? A method to recruit people? But from what Jake had gathered from Villy, the Order wasn’t really that big on recruiting and had quite high standards usually.

Maybe the Nalkar vampires were just that great? Considering the starved heart of one was epic-rarity, he assumed the regular version was ancient-rarity. With their natural magic abilities and the stats granted by the crown likely corresponding to what their race gave… he could see how they were well-dispositioned to doing alchemy.

It would be pretty funny if they had a big presence in the Order, he joked a bit to himself. He kept walking around the room, trying to look as disinterested as possible as he emptied it out.

“Sir… I may be speaking out of turn… but for what purpose do you acquire the furniture?” the projection asked with a very nervous tone.

“Are you saying this furniture is of poor quality? I just don’t believe anything, even with low value, should be wasted. That is the true path to strength, always strive for more and take anything you can. I am a man of avarice; this is simply my path,” Jake said, giving his sage advice as he stole a sofa.

The projection slowly nodded as Jake left the Vault’s interior an empty husk, taking everything and anything he came across.

The rest of the loot after the token wasn’t much to write home about. Jake was more sure than ever the system had kind of curated things and chosen what should remain. This Vault was supposed to be left behind by beings several grades above Jake, so for it to only house D-grade equipment and items a D-grade could feasibly use wouldn’t make much sense.

During his looting spree, the projection just looked on as she deeply reflected on his words. A bit useless considering she was a projection who could never leave the Vault. Jake found this entire practice of leaving projections behind a bit odd if useful. He just couldn’t imagine how a projection with sentience must feel… knowing it would cease to be in not that long, existing only with a single purpose. Or maybe they were programmed somehow? In either way, Jake felt a bit sorry for them.

Once he was all done in the room, he turned to the projection as he nodded. “While there was nothing of use to me, I still found some items of value I can give to my subordinates. I shall remember the courtesy of the Nalkar line and be sure to pass it on.”

“If… if I may ask a single more question,” the projection said, as she asked inquisitively. “Is… is the True Ancestor truly dead?”

Jake looked at her a bit, suppressing himself from giving any reaction. He should have known this one was coming, shouldn’t he? The True Ancestor, Sanguine, was without a doubt a powerful god. As a Chosen of a Primordial, it probably made sense he would know.

If he said: “yeah, he dead,” it could possibly have some bad effects, but so could lying and saying the guy was still alive. Heck, if it was even a guy. Was Jake even sure of it being a man? Sanguine wasn’t really a name Jake could place gender on. Wait, maybe the Ancestor was some genderless monstrosity?

Jake tried to look calm as he considering his answer and just settled on a non-committal one.

“What do you believe?” he asked her. Considering he didn’t know, he preferred to try and stay mysterious. Any answer could backfire, though, at this point, he had a feeling he could answer anything he wanted without any negative consequences.

“If the True Ancestor remains alive… why would he have abandoned us like this? Why would he allow us to suffer and see his children be hunted and slaughtered for no reason? Why would he permit so many lines to be extinguished?” she said, having a bit more bite to her this time as Jake saw her frustration.

Oh, a great way to bait some more info out, Jake thought.

For this one, Jake actually had an answer. Perhaps not the right one, but the one he was sure Villy would give… and in many ways, the same on Jake would.

“Why not? Why would the True Ancestor care if the weak are culled? Would it not only give space for the truly powerful to rise? For the lines that remained to become more powerful than ever. Perhaps it was a cleansing. A test. All you need to know is that the Nalkar line remains… and if the True Ancestor died or not, does it really matter? If the Nalkar line was so weak as to require the help of Sanguine to remain viable, it was never worthy of existing to begin with,” Jake answered, allowing his aura to bellow out of his body to reinforce his words.

It was harsh, but in Jake’s opinion, the truth. If a race existed only by relying on some powerful god, was that truly a race that should exist? Clearly, the vampires hadn’t all ceased to be after the True Ancestor disappeared or died or whatever. Being caught up in some old geezers vanishing was just a waste of time. Jake knew the gods had probably created some races throughout the ages… but those races remained even after the god died. If a race would disappear with the death of a god, that race would just suck, in his opinion.

The vampire woman just stood looking at him for a while, her face looking a bit offended and angry, but she didn’t say anything. Jake saw this and decided just to double down.

“Don’t misunderstand; I am complimenting the Nalkar line. You have reached a stage where you don’t need the True Ancestor to be powerful. You don’t need the Order of the Malefic Viper. You can stand on your own feet and show the multiverse the Nalkars are not to be trifled with. That is true power and worthy of respect,” he said, pilling on.

Jake had no idea if this would work… but the look on the projection’s face quickly changed as she was deep in thought. Jake himself was considering if now wasn’t the time he should get out of the damn Vault, considering he was done looting it, and for every sentence he spoke, he got closer and closer to saying something he really shouldn’t have.

Yet before he could say anything… the room shook as everything around him seemed to shift and move.

He looked over at the projection, and she smiled and bowed to him. “Thank you… truly. It gladdens me to know the Nalkar line remains powerful and under the umbrella of the Order of the Malefic Viper.. with your words, I believe I can rest. None will come here, and none will need to know of our fate… please take care of the Nalkars in the future.”

When she was done saying this, the entire projection turned to wisps of energy and flew into a formerly hidden compartment Jake hadn’t even noticed before with his sphere. He had simply thought it was part of the magical construction of the metal sphere and some power source… and in some ways, it was. It had been the source of the projection.

The compartment opened, and within, he saw a familiar red gem that still gave off an aura similar to the projection. It was a vampire heart - the projection’s heart. Jake hadn’t expected it to turn out like this… but when he used Identify on the heart, he was totally fine with how things ended up.

[Nalkar Vampire Heart (Legendary)] – The heart of a powerful C-grade Nalkar Vampire. This type of vampire is a rare variant with extremely high innate abilities in illusion and mind magic and often possesses a larger reserve of blood energy than most other vampires. The rarity is higher due to the high innate talent of the Nalkar Vampire that left behind this heart. Has many alchemical uses.

From this, Jake also learned the vampire he had been talking with had been C-grade. A part of him felt proud he had just managed to fool a C-grade, but another part of him felt a bit shitty about his deceptive tactics, especially considering how the projection had made itself cease to exist by giving him the heart. Not that he believed being stuck in this sphere was much of a life… but still.

Jake didn’t even have time to consider how he should get out as he felt the pull of space on him. He quickly stored the heart in his Insigna before he was pulled away from the space. He was tossed outside of the metal sphere and landed on the ground where he had killed the fake treants.

The metal tree in front of him began rusting before he had even landed, and within less than five seconds, turned into silver dust and fell to the ground.

He walked up to the dust and found it gave off no mana. He tried burning a bit of it with Alchemical Flame, discovering it wasn’t even resilient either. It was just useless dust. Shaking his head, he stood up as he turned to walk towards another red pillar of light in the distance.

Jake promised himself that if the Nalkar vampires truly did exist out there and within the Order, he would do them a solid in the future. They had just given him some awesome loot, and he was likely the first to clear a Vault… so that was the least he could do.

“Patriarch… was it truly wise to antagonize the Lord of Haven like that?” Reika asked her great-grandfather a bit nervously.

This was just after they had opened the spire and caused the curse to be absorbed by the large crystalline structure. Reika was worried that this could hurt the relations between the two factions and potentially even make them enemies.

Her great-grandfather just looked at her as he smiled and shook his head. “My dear… if he chose to make us into mortal enemies over this, is he truly someone we want to ally with? If his ego is so fragile and his emotions so immature he would lash out from losing such a minor competition, then he was never worthy of admiration nor respect.”

Reika looked a bit at the Patriarch, taking the words in. She admonished herself for thinking about the situation so simply… her great-grandfather hadn’t only made the competition to get some potential benefits, it was also a way to scout out Jake’s character. And she had to agree. If he chose to make either them or the Holy Church outright enemies over a competition with loosely defined rules, where it could be argued neither side truly honored the spirit of the aforementioned competition… then he truly wasn’t someone worth working with. If even such a minor slight turned into conflict, then working with him would be hell.

She already knew he wouldn’t act out just based on her brief encounter with him. Sure, he was competitive to the extreme, but he wouldn’t begin killing people for minor things. At least she didn’t think so. Their time had been brief, but during that, he had never gotten angry even when she one-upped him, or he was wrong.

“Besides,” the Patriarch said, continuing. “Wasn’t I the loser here? I now owe the Holy Church, and my price for victory was to be the first to enter a crystal spire that cannot be entered.”

Her great-grandfather laughed as he shook his head, clearly not caring that much. She looked up at him and couldn’t help but wonder who would truly win in a duel between him and Jake. From a purely analytical standpoint, Jake was stronger. But, for some reason, she just couldn’t see the Sword Saint lose either.

“Now, let us not miss out on more rewards than necessary,” he said, looking out into the horizon before turning to her with his usual relaxed smile. “I shall head south; you take the northeastern area. Remember to report in… oh, but before you go, remember to evacuate all of those under your command from the Mistless Plains.”

Reika nodded, not even questioning why. She had already seen the Holy Church packing up and retreating out of the plains. It looked like they were relocating to one of the cleared-out towers, and Reika decided to do the same.

The Sword Saint nodded to her, and with a final wave, spoke: “Happy hunting.”

A note from Zogarth

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