Hazelbury had been attacked.
The gates had been destroyed— the iron bars were torn open by some great force. And following it into the city was destruction.
The city did not lay in ruins as Maplewell did, however the once bustling settlement was now empty. People hid in their homes, staying away from the streets. Houses and buildings were burning or burnt down, having suffered tremendous damage in various parts of the city. Parts of the tall city walls were collapsed, and Human guards mixed with adventurers manned the battlements with extreme wariness.
“Halt! Who goes there!”
One of them yelled out. Edithe raised her hand, flashing a gleaming yellow badge.
“Adventurers! Gold Ranked! I— what happened here?”
She looked around, her eyes wide and filled with shock. Her gaze paused on the layer of ash spread across the rubble and a dark look came over her face.
“Our city was attacked. The Demon— the one has been rampaging across Falisfield. It came here. It did all this.”
Daniel breathed, glancing at the havoc that had been wrought. My eyes flashed as I whispered a name.
The Human man turned to me, sputtering as he did.
“But— but— wasn’t it— he— only Level 50?”
“He must have grown stronger. Just like we did.”
I spoke simply. I called out to the guards as they let us through the gates.
“What level was he?”
“Level 60. He came through this wing of the walls. Took out all the guards in the area. Then proceeded to ravage the city for an hour before fleeing.”
“And where did he go?”
The guard shook his head.
“Somewhere south. But you shouldn’t pursue the Demon. I don’t think even a Gold Ranked team can take it out now. We need Platinums. Or a small army.”
I nodded at him before I turned to enter the city. I walked alongside my two companions, only a deathly silence held between us.
I looked around, staring at the ash covered rooftops. The burnt houses. And buildings crushed and trampled under the [Djinn]’s wrath. Edithe murmured softly.
Her gaze darkened. Daniel just stared, face unmoving. I looked at the two, not understanding them at all.
I had expected this; since I heard about Lucerna from Edithe in Maplewell, I realized the [Djinn] was leveling at a faster pace than me. Despite being higher leveled than me in the first place, he was able to grow at a rate I couldn’t even match.
Now, however, it was different. Since Maplewell, he had grown by 10 levels, while I had grown by 13. I was outleveling him now, and that was a good thing. I still couldn’t possibly beat him alone, however with Edithe, Daniel, Mistshard, and Druma’s help, I believed it was now something we could do.
We just had to find him first.
My companions and I continued making our way to the Adventurers Guild. They had to make their report— share the location of Silkfall’s Crevice and of the Centinels lying beneath the earth. However the dour mood held by the two Humans only worsened when they entered the guild hall.
“Look who returned.”
Blake stood up from his table, rising a head taller than all the others in the guild. He pointed a finger in our direction as faces spun our way.
“It’s the thieves that robbed from us and ran away.”
“What do you want, Blake? We don’t have time to deal with your crap today.”
“Oh, but you do. It’s because of you three that our city is in this state.”
“Cut the bullshit. How exactly are we responsible for what happened here? It’s like you said, we were busy ‘running’. We weren’t even in Hazelbury when this happened.”
The tall man smiled— it was not a kind smile. Something about it was different; I saw his lips quivering while he spoke, as if something within him was waiting to burst out.
“Well, you weren’t. But because you stole from us and made the Iron Champions Company chase after you, only half of our adventurers were in Hazelbury when that destroyer attacked the city. We tried to come back— however it was too late.”
His eyes flashed as he continued, gesturing at the adventurers surrounding us.
“It’s because of you their friends and teammates are dead!”
Edithe paled as the words sunk in. Daniel’s mouth hung open, his jaw looking like it wanted to fall from his face.
I glanced around and finally noticed the tension in the air; the adventurers here were upset. They reminded me of Edithe when I had first met her— burning with anger and needing something to spread it to. And as of this moment, it seemed like they wanted to burn us.
I took a wary step back, slowly raising my claws. Then I paused. I shouldn’t fight them, I thought, my eyes trailing off to my two companions. But how do I…
My eyes widened as I had an idea. I grinned and walked up to Blake. The tall looked down at me with a dark gaze as the glares of the other adventurers bore into me. I kept my hood up, adjusting it slightly as I nodded at him. Then I turned to the nearby receptionist.
The Human woman sat up in a panic. She quickly sputtered a reply.
“Y— yes? Did you need something?”
I smiled cheerfully beneath my Cloak of Shadows. They couldn’t see my face but I didn’t care. I simply spoke as loudly as I could.
“We’d like to report the location of a Dungeon the Iron Champions Company has been hiding. It’s a Gold Rank Dungeon called the Silkfall’s Crevice— it holds many dangerous monsters like Giant Spiders and Shade Swarmers. It even has a Centinel Lair with many many many Level 60 [Junior Centinels]. Very dangerous stuff. If they get out and attack a city, it’ll be real bad, right?”
Heads snapped in the direction of Blake as he blinked. The receptionist slowly worked her mouth.
“I… it’ll be very bad. A Gold Rank Dungeon? Are you sure about this? Where’s it at?”
I pointed vaguely in a direction.
“I think… there. And there are many towns near it!”
I exclaimed as I spread my arms out wide. A few murmurs broke out as adventurers spoke to each other.
“The Iron Champions Company kept the Dungeon a secret. If Edithe, Daniel, and I hadn’t killed them, they would have destroyed it all! So many people would have died because they wanted to keep the experience and levels for themselves.”
I wasn’t lying— although I wasn’t averse to lying in this situation.
“Uh, of course. That is rather… alarming. To think there’d be such a dangerous Dungeon close by. But it’s not something the guild can just accept without proof. If you can tell us its exact location and not just a direction—”
I turned to Edithe and gestured at the receptionist. The Human woman blinked, glancing around at the far less hostile guild— many were now glaring at Blake whose face was bulging with veins.
She quickly reached into her bag and produced the map we had stolen from the Iron Champions Company. The receptionist accepted, studying it for a moment before nodding.
“We’ll send a member of the guild to confirm this. But if this is true… well, it’s not exactly illegal to keep the location of Dungeons secret. But it’s irresponsible, especially if they weren’t guarding it themselves.”
“They weren’t. It’s a newly discovered one— they’ve been using it to get new recruits and nothing more.”
Edithe explained. The receptionist sighed.
“Then once we get this checked out, the guild will have to send an official letter to the Iron Champions Company, urging them to take better precautions and at least share such information with us.... not like it’ll do anything.”
I watched as the map was rolled up and handed to another receptionist. I looked over at Daniel and Edithe, then at the others in the room. They no longer had their attention on us, which was exactly what I wanted.
I was just about to turn triumphantly to Daniel as he walked over to us when a voice cut through the crowd at us.