71. Minor Harassments
“And it’s also a Platinum Rank Dungeon.”
Edithe looked at me with serious eyes. Her brows arched darkly over her forehead. There was a moment of silence— no sounds filled the room except for the beating of Mistshard’s wings as she flitted in the air above the Human woman.
I glanced at Daniel and he slowly nodded. I smiled, turning back to Edithe.
“Tell me where.”
“I knew you would say that. It’s going to be dangerous, Salvos. I know you’re Level 51, and you’re a Demon, but fighting monsters 20 levels above you— and not just swarm monsters like Giant Spiders or Shade Swarmers at that— is dangerous. This won’t be like our excursion into Silkfall’s Crevice. You could actually almost lose your life.”
I scoffed, shaking my head as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. I pointed a thumb at myself.
“I grew up in the Netherworld, Edithe. And every passing moment in that place was a threat to my life. Every wild Demon I saw? They almost killed me. I would have to lie in the same spot with Haec for what’s the equivalent of the Mortal Realm’s days before [Rest] could even let me move again.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yep. I didn’t realize how much time passed at first. Everything was so new to me— moments passed like it was nothing. But now. Now that I’ve spent time in the Mortal Realm…”
I paused, staring between my companions all gathered in the room as my remained curled up.
“I realize that time is precious. That’s why I will go to the Brilsum Ruins. I will find these Fairies. And I will make them tell me how I can travel between planes. Teach me their secret Skill or spell or whatever.”
“So you’re doing this for your Demon friend. Haec?”
“And for you and Rachel too.”
The Human woman gave me an odd look; I simply explained my reasoning.
“Ever since we killed Lucerna, my leveling has slowed. And Daniel? I don’t know about him. But I’m pretty sure he’s not anywhere closer to being stronger than me—”
“That’s true. But I’m not insane like you.”
“However, if I go to this Platinum Rank Dungeon— if I level just like I did before we fought Lucerna— I’ll be stronger. More powerful. Maybe I might even get my next evolution… I’m not sure what I’ll become then. But I will be able to fight and defeat any of those Harrowed Vindicators that will come after you.”
Her eyes slowly widened. I spoke definitively, doing my best to reassure her. She glanced down at the marble floor and opened her mouth.
“You don’t have to worry so much about me, Salvos. I’m a Gold Rank adventurer too, you know?”
“I know, I know. But I care about you. As do I care about Mistshard, Druma, and Rachel.”
“What about me?”
Daniel piped up from the side. I gave him a stinky eye.
“Huh? Who are you again?”
“Ok, I was just asking for that.”
“Shouldn’t have called me stupid!”
I grinned his way. He sighed and Edithe laughed. I laughed with her as Daniel crossed his arms with a scowl.
“Are you on her side now? Aren’t we both Humans here?”
“Well, yes, but Salvos and I are both women.”
“So gender is more important than Species then? Alright, fine! Druma, back me up!”
The [Yaksha] cocked his head, confused by what was going on. I giggled and walked up to Daniel, hugging him from behind. He backed up, sputtering.
“What are you—”
“I was joking.”
I spoke simply, patting him on the back. Then I let go of him before he would get mad and push me off.
“I care about you a lot too.”
He averted his gaze and covered his face.
I turned back to Edithe, smiling happily at her.
“So, don’t worry about us. Just give us a map. We’ll go to this Platinum Dungeon and be back as soon as we can.”
The Human woman shook her head, huffing.
“It’s not like you’ll listen to me if I tell you not to go, will you?”
I cheerfully rebuked her.
“And here I thought I was going to be losing my Class and breaking my contract with Druma and Mistshard today. Alright you two, you can return to the Spirit Plane. I’ll call upon you later.”
Druma stood up, nodding and stepped into the summoning pool. Edithe raised a hand and mana coalesced around her fingertips. I watched as a large strand of mana was pulled— and the pool began to glow.
“Don’t you need a [Priest] to do that?”
“Only to start a summoning ritual. Sending them back is far easier.”
Mistshard flapped her wings, slowly descending down next to the [Yaksha]. I waved at them.
“Bye Druma! Bye Mistshard! See you next time!”
“Goodbye, Salvos. I will miss your presence until then.”
The summoning pool shone brighter— and an image appeared on the other side. The two sunk through the water and suddenly they were no longer here. A moment later, the image vanished.
Edithe took a step back and clapped her hands together.
“Well then, let’s go back to the Valiant Dreamers Company, shall we?”
“Yay! I’m going to be leveling again!”
I turned excitedly to Daniel. For whatever reason, he was not happy about it as I was.
“Yay… more near death experiences.”
“At least it’s better than a death experience!”
“Well, yes. Because I’d be dead.”
Edithe, Daniel, and I left the Sanctum of Elements after briefly speaking with William. The [Priest] smiled kindly at the Human woman and spoke with her as Daniel and I descended down the steps of the temple.
“I’m glad you’ve found more people who care about you.”
“After you came back— when you told me about Paul and Hana…”
She cut him off.
“I’m fine now. Thank you, William.”
The red haired woman nodded at him and he paused. Slowly, he bowed his head.
Then we were off. We passed through the city square, heading back in the direction of the Valiant Dreamers Company. Until we weren’t.
I saw the building— the same warehouse that we left in the morning, which even had Ian and Paige guarding out front— but we didn’t enter it.
“Hey, Paige! Have you seen Baris?”
“He’s at the training grounds. Left just an hour ago. Are you looking for that map you mentioned this morning?”
“We are. Does he have it?”
“Brought it back with him from the Adventurers Guild, but since you weren’t here he brought it with him so he wouldn’t lose it. Those damn assholes came back again today, you know?”
“Tried harassing us, but Ian chased them off. Bunch of Silver Ranks. What even is the Iron Champions Company doing sending such idiots to mess with us?”
I blinked and turned to Edithe.
“What’s happening with the Iron Champions Company?”
“Nothing in particular. Just some harassment. A bit of vandalism and theft. Nothing too bad.”
I stared at her for a moment. She tried to brush it off, but I still picked up on it.
“Is this because of what I did— because I stole that map?”
Edithe hesitated, chewing her lower lip. I gave her a worried look and she sighed.
“It is. But it’s not your fault. The Iron Champions Company and the Valiant Dreamers Company have never gotten along. And don’t forget, the reason why I was in Hazelbury was to do exactly what you ended up doing. Just with a little more subtlety.”
She grinned and I scowled, throwing my hands up.
“You didn’t specify!”
“Well, you know better now, at least.”
“I do! I think…”
“That does not inspire any confidence in me.”
Ediothe laughed as I hesitated. She patted my shoulder.
“It’s fine. The Iron Champions Company won’t try anything else. They’re just trying to intimidate us, that’s all.”
“Yeah! Nothing more than a couple of low levels trying to make some extra silver has come to bother us!”
Paige raised an arm, grinning. Edithe nodded.
“There you have it.”
“If you say so…”
We continued past the warehouse— the Valiant Dreamers Company’s headquarters— and made our way out of the city. I turned to the red haired woman, raising an eyebrow.
“Where are we going?”
“To our training grounds. It’s just outside of the city— that’s where the bulk of our lower leveled members are.”
“The receptionist at the Adventurers Guild did mention something like that.”
Daniel mused out loud.
“We’re a big company. Spread out across multiple countries, although we’re biggest here in the Sunmere Republic. And especially here in Viechester— we get a lot of new recruits every year.”
I nodded slowly as we trudged up a hill. We soon arrived at a large complex— no, it was more than just a single complex. There were multiple different buildings of different shapes and sizes. One was a long rectangular shaped building with quite a few people going in and out of it— probably where they slept since Humans loved sleeping— and another appeared to be the main structure in the training grounds.
“Is everyone here part of the company? Because there are a lot of Humans. This is like a small village!”
“In a sense, yes. Half of the people here are trainees. They aren’t exactly part of the company yet— not until they graduate.”
“So this is like an academy?”
“Kind of. But not really. Anyway, once you graduate, you become a full, true member of the company. And that’s it— we’re not very hierarchical. All members are dreamers.”
I groaned. Edithe chuckled and led us through her company’s training grounds. Quite a few gazes turned to us as we made our way through— some young looking Humans pointed, and others whispered. It wasn’t adoration, however. More simply people pointing out a rare sight.
Like if I picked up a black rock instead of a gray rock.
“The other half are mostly people hired to work here. To cook, clean, and maintain the training grounds. And the rest are volunteers from the company.”
“You guys don’t get paid to do this?”
“We don’t get paid to do a lot of things, Daniel.”
“Ah, right. I forgot that was your whole shtick.”
“It’s more than just a shtick. It’s a principle. If we all just live for the sake of ourselves and our own advancements, we’d be no different from the Iron Champions Company.”
“You really dislike them, don’t you?”
“I used to only dislike them a little bit. Now though— after their constant minor harassments— I dislike them a lot more.”
Edithe shrugged and entered the main building, followed by Daniel. I was a step behind them, taking a moment to observe some people swinging at each other out on the other side in a field.
“Why are they attacking each other? Are they enemies?”
“They’re sparring, Salvos. Training each other to be stronger.”
The Human woman replied.
“Huh. Why would they do that when they can just level?”
“It helps train General Skills. And sometimes you might gain an additional Stat bonus. But also, it’s the whole concept of bad advancements I told you about. People do this to level safely or meet better Class advancement requirements without putting themselves in danger.”
“Oh! Then they can become some kind of [Super Warrior]!”
“In a way, yes. We also have books— records— on what kind General Skills or Class build would lead to certain better Classes. But they’re hard. So it takes time.”
My gaze glazed around the large hall— it was some kind of dining room mixed with a hall— and stopped at a Human who was staring at me rather intensely. I cocked my head at him, and he quickly turned away. What’s with him?
“I wasn’t really a part of the Valiant Dreamers Company— or at least in any meaningful way— until I became Gold. So because of that, I didn’t have a good Class advancement. Honestly, a part of me had been hoping you accepted my third offer earlier.”
“For you to revert back to a Classless Level 10?”
“It would have let me get better advancements. Right now, I’m not really anything special… not compared to you and Daniel.”
The Human man blinked and raised his hand defensively.
“I’m not special either, Edithe. Salvos is, but certainly not me.”
“Learn some humility and just accept the compliment, will you? Anyway, we’re here. Baris is over there talking with some of the trainees.”
I saw the old, blonde man standing on some elevated platform— a stage— as he spoke loudly to a group of Level 10 to 20 adventurers. They listened to his words as he lectured them on the values of the company and how they should always strive to uphold them.
“...and I know many of you are young, and unfortunately, life will trample over you one day. It may be now, or it may be decades from now. But—”
“Let’s spar while waiting!”
I suggested to Daniel who was grabbing a piece of bread from a nearby table that had food strewn all over it for anyone to take. He gave me a blank look.
“Baris is giving a speech, but he’ll be done soon. Plus, you’ll draw too much of a commotion. Just wait a moment and we can grab that map for you.”
Edithe chewed on a mouthful of food as I grimaced.
“Fine! But I won’t eat!”
“You sure? It’s delicious.”
She held up a grilled piece of meat stuck onto a wooden stick. I turned away and stepped back.
I bumped into a man passing by. He had been carrying a tray with drinks on it and almost spilled it. Somehow, he caught it midair and glanced back up at me.
“No, that was my fault… wait aren’t you—”
He quickly looked up and murmured another apology before hurrying off. I blinked.
“What’s wrong, Salvos?”
“That man just now, does he work here?”
“Not sure. Seems like a helper. Why?”
“He was giving me a weird look earlier.”
Edithe frowned and Daniel’s gaze snapped at me from the apple he was eyeing.
“What? Are you saying he’s a creep? Did he try to touch you?”
She walked up to me and gave me a worried look. I narrowed my eyes as there was a light applause in the background.
“...and don’t forget to dream on!”
“No, it was a strange look. It seemed like he was… trying to identify me. But why would he do that?”
He had only been Level 13. In a non combat Class at that. However, he seemed wary of me. Or was he aware of me?
Daniel’s eyes widened.
“You don’t think he’s part of the Harrowed Vindicators, do you?”
“Not a chance. Not only is an Obfuscation artifact like that expensive, we only get new hires around the same time we get new trainees. But we haven’t gotten any new trainees since the Iron Champions Company began ramping up their petty thefts and—”
There was a thud, followed by a scream. Voices of panic quickly spread throughout the hall. Edithe gasped as she turned to see the source of the noise.
Baris lay collapsed on the ground. Someone shouted for a [Healing Mage]. The man from earlier ran across the room, heading for the exit.
All was chaos. Everything was moving so quickly. There was not enough time to register what happened.
And I activated [Self Haste].