The reason we had come to Warrington was not something I had known until we finally arrived; Daniel didn’t have the time to talk to me privately during the entirety of our journey. Not only were we escorting Saffron alongside Helen, Zack, and Jaakko— Saffron had also whisked me into her coach for most of the journey.
Now, however, he explained why we were here.
“I hadn’t just been idle while you were in the Dungeon. The first thing I did was find out more information about any possible [Cultists] in the area— while Demon summonings are illegal, they’re not really in the priority list for most countries, so information on them would usually be hard to find. However, after being hit hard by a rampaging Demon, pretty much every city in Nixa has been on a lookout for [Cultist] activity.”
“I suppose that is one such outcome, yes.”
I nodded along as he continued.
“Apparently, there have been rumors of a cult in the towns outlying Warrington. The city guards have investigated these rumors, and while nothing has turned up for them, they’ve had an open call for adventurers to take up the job too. But since most adventurers currently in Nixa are Silvers…”
“They haven’t been answering the call.”
I made the ingenious deduction. He pretended that it was nothing special and resumed his inane chatter.
“That’s why I thought it was best for us to investigate it. Not only would we be making some money— which, considering our limited funds, is something we should be focusing on right now. But we’d also be helping you possibly find a way back. I thought it was fortunate that you were taking so long to return at first, since it gave me time to level and advance my Class. However, now I’m not sure if there’s anything left to investigate. If some reckless Silver Ranked team decided to take the job—”
“Oh, worry not Daniel. It is very much expected of the common folk to revel in their mediocrity. If they actually—”
“Alright, you can stop now, Salvos.”
He spoke over me and put a hand up. I stared at him, appalled.
“It’s Princess Salvos to you, peasant!”
“Where did you even learn to talk like that— nevermind. Salvos, I’m trying to help you out here. Can you be serious for just one minute?”
I scowled and sat down with my arms folded. Daniel opened his mouth to continue, then paused. He looked at me, just sitting there.
My Human companion pinched the bridge of his nose.
“And I was not being literal when I said ‘one minute’. You can stop counting down the seconds in your head now.”
I groaned and threw my hands up in the air.
“Then what do you mean by that?!”
“I’m asking you to focus, Salvos. We’re here in Warrington to investigate [Cultists]. You know, the people who can get you back to the Netherworld?”
Sighing, I picked myself up. The two of us were sharing a room once again— we were no longer in the inn Saffron had provided us. That was apparently too expensive for Daniel to afford; he said it was because I had spent a quarter of his gold in a single transaction. Then he murmured to himself about how ‘he should have expected it’, and how ‘he only had himself to blame’.
“So, we’re going to go find these [Cultists] or something?”
I waited expectantly for Daniel by the door. The Human man started after me, blinking.
“Man, you walk fast.”
“I’m not a man. I’m Salvos.”
“I know, I know. You’ve got to stop taking me so literally, Salvos.”
I grinned and waved a hand dismissively.
“It’s more fun that way!”
Daniel paused mid step and stared at me. He rubbed at his ears, slowly registering what I said. His eyes widened.
“...are you being serious right now? Have you been messing with me this whole time?!”
I smiled and turned, leaving him behind in the room speechless.
“Didn’t you say we’re going to be searching for [Cultists]?”
“Mm, I did.”
“So why are we just sitting here and doing nothing?!”
A few heads turned and stared at our table, some with less-than-kind faces. I ignored them, instead glaring at Daniel with crossed arms. The Human man glanced up from his food, still chewing as I waited impatiently for him to respond.
He took his time before finally swallowing down what was in his mouth— apparently talking with your mouth full was considered bad manners according to him, but I hadn’t seen very many people adhering to that supposed rule.
“I have to eat, Salvos. We’ve been over this a thousand times.”
“No we haven’t.”
He snorted, wiping his mouth with a napkin. Ignoring me, he raised a hand and waved down one of the barmaids. A brown haired woman came over and took his plate.
“Done with your food already? Is your girlfriend not getting anything?”
Daniel blinked and glanced at me. His face turned a slight shade of red as he brought a hand up.
“Ah, she’s not my…”
“I’m not his girlfriend!”
I helpfully put out with a smile. The Human woman perked up and Daniel deflated.
“I know it’s true, but you don’t have to say it so cheerfully.”
“But that’s what you said the last time someone asked you that.”
I cocked my head, confused. He sighed and jerked back as the barmaid leaned forward further.
“So, you’re single then. My name’s Lucy, what’s yours?”
“Uh, no, I-I’m actually ta—”
“His name’s Daniel!”
Daniel glared at me and I just cocked my head even further.
“Nothing. Yes, my name is Daniel. But sorry, I’m not available.”
“Aw. That’s unfortunate. But I guess girls are always fawning over Gold Ranks like you, huh?”
“...you can say that again.”
“But I had a Gold Rank as a boyfriend once. He dumped me, of course. When he found another ‘prettier’ girl. At least you’re loyal.”
The Human woman— Lucy— smiled at him. I frowned. Wait… Daniel just shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“Oh, uh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Yeah, well, I always knew Nolan would do that. But it didn’t hurt any less when it actually happened, you know?”
“Right… you know, we have to get—”
I snapped my fingers and pointed at the barmaid.
She blinked as I stood up.
“I know you!”
“You do? I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve ever met before.”
“No— we’ve never met. I’ve heard about you though. That Human… Chris talked about you!”
“Chris? Wait… you mean from back in Dawnwind? That Chris?”
“I think so?”
Lucy rested her elbow on the table and rested her chin on her arm. Daniel scooched back as she sighed wistfully.
“Oh, Chris was such a sweetheart. How did you meet him? Was he still in Dawnwind? And he talked about me?”
I snapped my mouth shut, realizing what I was just about to say. Chris was one of the [Cultists] who summoned me to the Mortal Realm. He went on a tirade about some Gold Rank named Nolan coming to his town and taking a Lucy from him. He wanted Lucerna and I to kill Nolan for that!
Even though I wasn’t particularly familiar with the complexities of Human social relationships, I was fairly certain that wasn’t something I was supposed to be saying. I opened my mouth slowly.
“We… didn’t meet in Dawnwind. But he talked about you— about how… brown your hair is!”
Daniel gave me a weird look but Lucy just sighed even harder.
“Honestly, I liked Chris. I knew I shouldn’t have left him. But I didn’t want to do what my dad told me to, you know? So, I made a dumb decision to leave. Now I probably can’t go back. How’s he doing now?”
“He’s doing great!”
Better than he was just before Lucerna killed him.
“I’d love to get back together with him. I wonder if he feels the same…”
Lucy’s eyes just glazed over as she melted onto the table. Daniel cleared his throat and stood up.
“It was a pleasure meeting you, Ms Lucy. But Salvos and I have got to go now.”
He started out of the inn and glanced back at me as I hesitated back at the table.
“You coming, Salvos?”
I looked back at Lucy, feeling uncertain whether I should say anything. I took a deep breath and just spoke up.
“Chris said… that he felt the same. Ok, I have to go. Bye!”
I hurried after Daniel as the barmaid sat up, blinking. Then the two of us exited the building out into the busy afternoon streets of Warrington. I slowly walked behind my Human companion as we made our way to the Adventurers Guild, finally ready to investigate the rumors of [Cultists].
Daniel paused and I nearly bumped into him.
“...you were lying, weren’t you?”
I stared at his back, then I shrugged.
“I hope you didn’t hide anything bad.”
“Nope… at least, I don’t think so? Chris was… a [Cultist].”
I whispered the last part. He nodded understandingly.
“I thought it’d be something like that.”
The two of us continued walking on quietly, rounding a corner just before the Guild.
“You know, Salvos, lately you’ve been a lot more… Human.”
I blinked, slowly processing his words. Then I frowned.
“I am not a Human. I’m Salvos!”
“I know— and I didn’t mean it in a bad way. It’s a good thing, honestly. You’re a lot more… empathetic.”
“Why do Humans have to be empathetic? Why can’t I just be an empathetic Salvos.”
I gave him a questioning stare. He shrugged.
“I’m telling you, I didn’t mean to put down your identity. It’s a compliment.”
He walked ahead, entering the Adventurers Guild. I watched after him for a moment, then I murmured under my breath.
“Well… I don’t think I like that compliment.”
And I wasn’t sure why I felt that way.
The receptionist at the Adventurers Guild wasn’t very helpful. We were redirected to find more information about [Cultists] from the city guards. So we left that building and entered another building— this time, we got what we needed.
“Yes. Just northeast from here, there have been talks about travellers going missing. And a few scared folks are saying it’s because of [Cultists]. They’re kidnapping people to sacrifice for another summoning. A big one.”
The guard captain sighed, rubbing at his forehead. Daniel placed a hand on his chin.
“Do you really think these rumors hold any credence?”
“I don’t know. As far as I know, these are regular monster attacks. People go missing all the time. Can’t differentiate if it’s done by monsters or some crazy Humans.”
“Well, I guess that’s for us to have to figure out, huh Salvos?”
My Human companion turned to me and I nodded. The guard captain just sat back onto his chair, scratching the back of his head.
“I didn’t expect the saviors of Silvergrove themselves to come here and investigate these rumors. Man am I lucky. Do you two have like a [Demon Slayer] Class or something?”
I furrowed my brows.
“Why would we have [Demon Slayer] Classes?”
“I dunno. Just thought you were like dedicated Demon hunters or something.”
Daniel and I exchanged a glance and he shrugged. I shook my head, turning to leave the room without a word. My Human companion quickly muttered a ‘thank you’ then followed after me.
“Is something wrong, Salvos?”
He asked me after we left the city. I sighed.
“Nothing. I… if I didn’t look like a Human right now, you Humans would hate me, huh?”
“Uh… yeah, I think that was established on day one.”
“Well, I don’t think I like that!”
The Human man stared at me, perplexed. I shrugged.
“It’s nothing. Let’s just go find these [Cultists].”
I couldn’t wait to meet another Haec again.