I held Edithe in my arms for a moment longer. In the past, before I had evolved, I probably would have only reached up to her neck on my tip toes. However now, I rested my chin lightly over her shoulder— since we were close to the same height, it was not difficult at all.
“I’ve been good!
I beamed and finally let her go. Edithe stepped back, returning my smile.
“Seems like you’ve been busy. You’re already at Level 51. Just a few more levels and you’ll be past me too.”
I placed my hands on my hips and raised my chin.
“Of course! I’m Salvos, and I haven’t been idle since we last saw each other.”
“And Daniel is with you too. He’s leveled quite a bit as well… wait, who’s that girl?”
I glanced back at past the gates— past the two adventurers that had been standing guard trying to open it in a panic— and at Rachel.
“Oh her? She’s Rachel! A girl we saved from some [Cultists] that had been trying to summon a Greater Demon near Warrington.”
“Sounds like you have quite the adventurer, huh?”
I nodded my head eagerly.
A sound interrupted me. The gates swung wide and the two adventurers rushed in with their weapons drawn. Then the door to the building burst open and more adventurers poured out, all prepared to fight. I blinked as they surrounded me.
But before anything could happen, the Human man that had been with Edithe tapped a wooden stick— a cane— on the ground, drawing our attention.
“Excuse me, Miss… Salvos, but you’re trespassing on the property of the Valiant Dreamers Company. I do recognize that you’re Edithe’s friend, but I must ask that you do not climb over our gates, triggering our barrier runes by tearing through them, and sending everyone inside into a panic, just to meet her.”
I stared at him for a moment, then at Edithe.
“Uh… did I do something bad for Humans?”
“Other than what Baris just said? Not really.”
“I was being sarcastic, but I’m sure you know that.”
I grinned and hugged her again. The man, Baris, sighed.
Daniel, Rachel, and I found ourselves led to a room somewhere in the building with Edithe at first, just chatting, catching up. After quickly reprimanding Ian and the other girl, Paige, for not stopping me, Baris had to get an [Enchanter] to repair the runes built along the walls, so he was not with us. However, he said he would come to speak with us when that was finished.
“So you felt something blocking your way as you climbed over the gates, but you just went through anyway?”
“It was a little bit uncomfortable, but I was so excited to finally meet you again that I ignored it!”
“You should be a bit more conscious about these kinds of things in the future. The barrier set up was never meant to be a deadly one since we’re in the city— however, if you had been trying to break into our training base a few miles out… it could’ve been dangerous for you.”
I shrugged, leaning back next to Rachel who was snacking on some nuts.
“I’m sure I’d have been fine. I noticed the one here wasn’t bad! And I have a Ring of Lesser Protection, see?”
I lifted up my finger and showed it to Edithe. The red haired woman shook her head.
“I know you have one— but still. You worry me with how reckless you are sometimes.”
I laughed and scratched the back of my head; Daniel muttered under his breath as he sipped from a cup of a yellow drink— tea.
“Imagine what it’s like looking after her nonstop by myself since you left.”
“Indeed— which reminds me, has Daniel done or said anything weird to you, Salvos?”
He nearly spit out his drink while Edithe gave me a questioning glance. The Human man opened his mouth, but I spoke over him, tapping at my chin.
“I don’t think so? If you’re talking about the things you told me to watch out for from men, Daniel hasn’t tried any of it at all!”
“Good, good. It seems like you really were trustworthy after all.”
Edithe shot him a teasing grin and he just sighed.
“Can’t believe you thought that lowly of me.”
“Better safe than sorry— anyway, so you found this girl while trying to find Salvos a way back to the Netherworld, correct?”
I nodded as Rachel stopped munching on the food and glanced up. She saw Edithe looking at her and sidled over to my side, grabbing my arms and giving the red haired woman a wary look.
I patted the girl on the head and smiled.
“Edithe’s fine, she’s my companion. Don’t be scared. And yes, we were hunting some [Cultists] and we found her. She was going to be used as a sacrifice to summon that Demon!”
“Yep! And he was strong. But not as strong as me. I killed him myself and leveled up!”
“Of course you did.”
Edithe shook her head with a smile. She then turned her gaze to the girl by my side and leaned over the table.
“And Salvos saved you, didn’t she?”
Rachel gave her a curt nod, but otherwise said nothing. Daniel spoke apologetically to Edithe.
“Sorry, I think she’s a bit shy with strangers. She had a rough life, even before she was taken by the [Cultists].”
“That’s understandable. It must’ve been hard on you, huh? I’m sorry you went through that.”
Edithe turned to Rachel with a sad look. It was almost empathetic. As if she understood how the girl felt.
Daniel nodded and took a deep breath.
“Yeah, actually, she’s the reason why we’re here too.”
“What do you mean?”
The Human man hesitated, but opened his mouth to explain himself— when the door shot open. Baris finally arrived, dragging in another man— a younger man with the same blonde hair and blue eyes as him— into the room.
“Hadrian, I’m warning you— if you don’t speak with our guests, I’ll make you fill out all of the company’s accounts for the next year by yourself.”
“But dad, you know I can’t do that! I can barely even count to ten, let alone deal with all that stuff!”
“Then shut up and do your job!”
The younger man, Hadrian, was thrown by Baris onto the couch. He landed right next to Edithe, with his arms and legs sprawled wide. He paused, blinking as Rachel, Daniel, and I stared at him.
His gaze paused right on me while Baris folded his arms and sat down next to the man. The older man opened his mouth to speak, but Hadrian interrupted him.
“This is my—”
“Oh, I do apologize for the mess I’ve presented myself in. It seems father failed to inform me that one of the adventurers visiting my company was of the upper class. My name is Hadrian, and I am the leader of the Valiant Dreamers Company. We are truly honored by your presence, Miss, ah, I mean lady…?”
He stood up and slicked his hair back. Bowing before me, he dropped to one knee and held a hand out. Daniel blinked then sat up in protest. Edithe smacked her forehead and Baris frowned.
“Hehe, so you recognize that I am a noble then? Well, I’m not just any noble. I’m Princess Salvos—”
“No she’s not. And don’t try that with her. All you’ll do is encourage her even more.”
Daniel spoke over me and eyed him. However, the blonde man cast a dismissive glance to my Human companion and huffed.
“Ah, a jealous rival. But I do apologize, Sir, I wasn’t talking to you but the lovely lady here.”
“That’s enough, Hadrian. Sit down and show some respect to our guests. And you.”
Baris glanced over at me.
“Do not lie to people you’ve come to request help for. It will only hurt your cause, even if it is a good one.”
I scowled and crossed my arms, sinking back to the couch as the older man proceeded to glare at his son. Hadrian shrugged helplessly.
“I apologize if I mistook her beauty as a sign of a noble heritage. It was my mistake, father—”
“Alright, that’s enough from you. Sit down before you embarrass yourself further.”
Baris spoke with finality in his voice. The younger man took a seat with a scowl. Edithe sighed and rubbed her temples.
“Alright, now that Hadrian has humiliated both himself and the company, may I begin, Baris?”
“Yes. You said that these three were here seeking help from the Valiant Dreamers Company?”
“They are. And in fact, both Daniel and Salvos are the ones I’ve told you about.”
“You’ve told them about us?”
Daniel raised an eyebrow dubiously. She nodded and glanced over at him, then me.
“They’re both adventurers who were only Silvers when I first met them, and yet they’re both Gold now in such a short amount of time. They have potential. And Salvos is the one who wants to find a way to the Netherworld, because her friend is stuck there.”
“I know your friend was kidnapped by a Greater Demon, right Salvos? He was dragged into the Netherworld and you couldn’t stop it from taking him. So that’s why you’re interested in finding a way there to save him.”
The red haired woman gave me a look and I slowly nodded, picking up on her cue.
“That’s right. My friend is stuck in the Netherworld, and I want to get back to him.”
I didn’t necessarily lie, however, I certainly wasn’t telling the whole truth. Edithe smiled, turning to Baris and Hadrian.
“And that’s why I’ve been asking around about it— doing research.”
“Hm, I see. But I don’t believe that’s why they're here now, correct? Otherwise, you’d have been informed of their coming.”
“No. I am not aware of why they are here. Or why that child, Rachel, is with them.”
Daniel nodded, taking it as his turn to speak up.
“We came here because… we’ve run into a little bit of trouble. We rescued Rachel while we were hunting [Cultists], as Salvos mentioned earlier, and unfortunately, we’ve also run into some other issues that puts her in a lot of danger from being associated with us.”
“What kind of issues?”
Hadrian asked, first time talking since he sat back down. His face was more serious now, however, he still made sure to shoot me a wink after he asked his question.
I cocked my head. Is he trying to get me to lie about something too, like Edithe was?
“It’s a rather problematic one, but we’ve heard good things about the Valiant Dreamers Company. That you guys are good people. That you care about helping the weak, and that you have the strength to stand up to those hurting them. Is that correct?”
“Yes, we do.”
Hadrian smiled, this time focusing only on Daniel.
“It seems like you have a dire problem. How can we help?”
“We’re being hunted by the Harrowed Vindicators.”
My Human companion admitted. Rachel glanced up at him, her face contorting at the name, while Edithe, Hadrian, and Baris blinked. The older man started, working his jaw.
“You mean the underworld group notorious for assassinations and kidnappings?”
Daniel nodded grimly.
“That’s the one.”
None of them had anything to say— they took a moment to process this information. Hadrian crossed his arms and furrowed his brows while Baris scratched at a stubble on his chin. Daniel continued.
“We’re not asking you to help us. But please look after Rachel. We think they might target her to get to us. She wasn’t involved in this at all— and only got involved because we saved her.”
“What happened while I was gone?”
Edithe sighed, shaking her head. The older man tilted his head up and spoke to his son.
“Hadrian, as the head of the Valiant Dreamers Company and an adventurer yourself, I’m sure you’re aware of the terrible reputation the Harrowed Vindicators have, yes?”
“Indeed, father. I am very much aware of their reputation and how they stoop to dirty tricks to achieve their goals.”
Daniel bit his lower lip as he glanced over at me. I gave him a shrug back.
“I can take care of Rachel myself, you know? I’ll just beat up those assassins like I did last time.”
The girl nodded eagerly and clung to my arm, but before he could retort, Baris resumed his monologue.
“Hadrian, you remember the reason why I started this company three decades ago, do you? I made sure to drill it into your head when I had you take over. Or don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten.”
“Of course not, father.”
The younger man— the leader of the Valiant Dreamers Company— stood tall and proud. He fluttered his eyelashes, a smirk spreading across his face as he bellowed in a deep voice.
“We are the Valiant Dreamers Company: when the world is bleak and unjust, we shall fight for those who are oppressed. We will keep on dreaming, with a valor that will triumph over any evil that stands in our path!”
He turned to me reassuringly.
“Do not worry, Princess Salvos, we shall keep Rachel safe with us, even if assassins, Demons, or even Kobolds siege us, we will not waver!”
I jumped up and turned to Rachel excitedly. She gave me a blank look. Then I turned to Daniel— and he was cringing. Edithe had her face buried in her hands, and Baris was pinching the bridge of his nose. I blinked.
“Uh, am I not supposed to be excited about this?”
“He’s just embarrassing, but yes, we’ll protect Rachel.”
The red haired woman— my other Human companion— smiled at the little girl.
“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.”
Rachel peered over my side, apprehension still written all over her face. However, she was more relaxed than before now. I nodded at her.
“Edithe is a good person. She’s very kind.”
The girl slowly sat back, but not begrudgingly. She spoke softly.
“It’s settled then. Rachel will stay here, right?”
Baris spoke as he stood up.
“My son may have been too… excited, with the way he said it. But we are certainly not like those companies which put only their own interests over all else. I am aware you've encountered the Iron Champions Company before, and I assure you, we are nothing like them.”
“Those guys sucked! And Stephen is scary!”
“Well, I have heard of this Stephen from Edithe. And while my son here may not seem all that reliable, he certainly can take on a measly Platinum.”
I blinked and identified the two blonde Humans. First the father, then the son.
[Mage - Lvl. 81]
[??? - ???]
“Huh. Both of you are high leveled.”
Hadrian flashed me a grin, but it disappeared as he was smacked over the head by Baris. The older man began reprimanding him for the way he was acting as Daniel watched on, a scowl plastered on his face.
He almost looked… jealous. I shrugged and turned to Rachel. But she was patting the Human man on the shoulder.
“It’s ok… he’s a weirdo.”
She whispered softly. I was about to ask what was so odd about Hadrian that kept garnering this reaction from everyone else when Edithe tapped me on the shoulder.
“It is you. And I’m sure Mistshard and Druma would want to see you again too.”
She laughed as I brightened.
“Of course they do. But I’m a little busy today, got to run errands and stuff. So, tomorrow, you and Daniel should meet me at the Sanctum of Elements— it’s the flashy temple close to the city square. I’ll be there with Druma and Mistshard at around noon.”
I opened my mouth, but Edithe leaned over my shoulder, whispering quietly to me.
“I’ve got some information to tell you about the Netherworld.”