Baris lay collapsed on the ground with a spilled drink next to him as he clasped at his neck. He was turning and writhing while someone shouted for a [Healing Mage]. Another hurried over with a potion, calling and pointing at a quick moving figure running through the room.
The man from earlier— the ‘Level 13 non combatant’— was speeding through the room. He hopped over tables and chairs with ease, moving past the low leveled adventurers as if they were moving in some kind of slowed state.
Daniel reached for his sword and Edithe raised a hand. But they, too, were very slow. In fact, the man, whoever he was, was not moving very fast either.
After all, I had activated [Self Haste].
So, he’s not that much higher leveled than me, huh? He had to have been hiding his true Class and levels. And while he was ‘quick’, he either did not specialize in speed, or his level was close to mine. That means not much experience, but…
I glanced over at my Human companions. They were speaking! Not as fast as they usually did. But I already knew what they were going to say.
[Deadly Instincts] did not inform me of what they were going to tell me; it did not make me prescient, and it mostly helped me out in combat situations such as alerting me of threats or vital spots to target. However, I had gotten used to being around Humans. So I knew they were going to ask me to stop the man.
And I did!
[Charge of Embers] sent me flying forward— even faster than I could with [Self Haste] alone. I brought my right hand out, trying to strike him with my arm to catch him. However, just mere moments before I reached the man, his eyes widened and he turned fractionally back to face me.
I swung— and missed. He went under the attack and I narrowed my eyes. A Skill? It had activated at the last second, allowing him to move out of the way at insane speeds even I couldn’t match. However… can you do it again?
The blue flames covering my body vanished and I spun around, sweeping at the man’s legs. He hopped over it, trying to stumble forward and away from me. A kind of diamond shaped dagger appeared on his right hand as he glanced my way.
But he did not expect to see burning chains swinging for his head.
The man managed to move out of the way in time to not get tangled in the magically created bindings, however I twisted it and pulled down at his hand. The chains caught his dagger and pulled it from him, disarming him before he could strike me.
Then, just as he pulled away to flee, a bolt of lightning zapped him in the back. The man staggered right into a long sword’s slash. The weapon was caught in his clothes— it was enchanted— but still it tore open and left a gash across his chest.
He jumped back from Daniel’s followup attack and dodged another spell from Edithe. And I kicked him.
I was on him in moments, [Self Haste] still active, letting me wrestle him onto the ground and knock another dagger off his hand. Then as I created my own fire dagger, he produced another dagger, and it was then my [Passive - Deadly Instincts] blared in my head.
He was so close— the tip of the blade so near to me— it could nick me even if I was stronger than him. And if it touched me…
Baris groaned in the background as I exploded into flames. [Ignition] burned the man as he tried to stab me. But whatever it was that had been on his dagger no longer worked. The flames burned it off.
I brought my own weapon down. Once, twice—
And he stopped moving. I frowned.
Defeated [Poisonviper Assassin - Lvl. 55]!
Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!
That was not enough to kill him. Did he… I stood up, stepping away from the body. Daniel walked up to my side as Edithe tried to calm the crowd of onlookers— the adventurers here were all low leveled. And the sight of a corpse sent a few reeling back.
“An assassin… think he was part of the Harrowed Vindicators?”
“I don’t know.”
I shook my head.
“But he killed himself.”
I nodded as Daniel stared at me.
“He didn’t want to be caught. He did not even want to fight. And the moment I got him… he stopped struggling.”
The Human man looked down at the dead assassin and frowned. The [Poisonviper Rogue] had been struck by lightning, burned, and cut multiple times. Yet, his eyes were rolled back— his head hanging crooked as his mouth foamed open.
“He poisoned himself.”
Daniel observed and I agreed.
“The Harrowed Vindicators did not do that. And they would have no reason to attack Baris.”
“Then who do you think did this?”
Edithe spoke up from behind me. The red haired woman was breathing relatively heavily— she hadn’t done much, but she had a panicked look on her face, constantly casting glances at Baris who was now receiving treatment from someone.
“The Iron Champions Company.”
I replied simply. She bit her lower lip, clenching her fists.
“And why do you think it is them?”
I tilted my head up, remembering Stephen. The threat the Platinum Rank had given. He reminded me so much of the horned Demon— way back when I was still trying to get rid of Haec. So… ruthless.
The only concern there was for his own interests. Even if it meant acting like a wild Demon. That was it.
“Because that’s how they are.”
That was all I said. Edithe and Daniel somehow understood what I meant; I thought they would be weird and be confused, but they accepted it.
Hadrian burst into the room, speaking hurriedly as he glanced at the bed Baris was lying in. Daniel, Edithe, and I were standing in a corner as a [Healing Mage] tended to the older blonde man.
The leader of the Valiant Dreamers Company rushed to the side of his father, not even glancing so much at the three of us. The [Healing Mage] held him back.
“He’s alive, but sleeping. Don’t touch him, or you’ll wake him up. He needs the rest now.”
“What happened? Who did this?”
He whirled around and turned to Edithe. The red haired woman hesitated.
“An assassin. We don’t know who did it, but we think it might be the Iron Champions Company.”
“The Iron Champions Company? Are they insane— are they trying to start a war with our company?”
“A war? You can’t be serious, Hadrian.”
Edithe sputtered, stepping forward.
“You know what happens when adventuring companies go to war, right?”
“It’s nothing compared to a war between nations. We do not attack civilians, and only target their members. Take their jobs. Run them to the ground.”
“But innocent people will still get hurt. Or do you think a fight between two companies of our size won’t affect anyone uninvolved? Baris wouldn’t want this.”
Hadrian clicked his tongue and turned away. Neither adventurers said anything. I cocked my head, facing Daniel to ask a question. But before I could say anything, there was a cough.
A voice croaked as a rustle accompanied it.
“D-don’t talk about me as if I’ve already died, brat.”
Hadrian blinked and all faces turned to Baris. He sat up, coughing into a hand. The [Healing Mage] spoke hurriedly.
“Sir, you shouldn’t be overexerting yourself—”
“I’m fine. I know what I can and cannot do.”
The older blonde man shook his head, coughing once more. He took in a pained breath and sighed.
“What’s this about a war, huh?”
He looked at Edithe and she blinked.
“I, uh, didn’t suggest that. It was Hadrian.”
“Yeah, dad, I think you mixed us up.”
“Well, my age must be getting to me. But if that’s the case, then Edithe is right. Do not go to war with the Iron Champions Company. You know what happened when the Forsaken Company and the Remembered Order Company fought each other.”
“My word is final, boy. You may be in charge right now, but I take care of everything else. If you go to war, I will die right here.”
The younger blonde man sputtered, but Baris just laughed.
“And it’s not like you have proof either, do you?”
“We don’t… but the assassin—”
“What happened to him?”
He shook his head, and turned to me.
“You apprehended the assassin, didn’t you? I saw— you moved fast.”
I exclaimed, happy that my actions were recognized. Even though I had preemptively acted knowing that Daniel and Edithe would ask me to do something, neither praised me.
“How did you see me? I thought you were hurt!”
“Bah, I was caught off guard. I realized a moment too late that the drink was poisoned. I spat some out, but it took effect quickly. I’m guessing the assassin didn’t plan to give as much of a dosage as he did.”
I tapped a finger on my chin, remembering how I accidentally bumped into him.
“He probably did. He messed up, didn’t he?”
“Pretty bad. This is a slow working poison. The kind used to get around [Passive - Poison Resistance]. So it’s a good thing he botched his attempt. Where is he now?”
“He killed himself. We didn’t catch him, however I got this though!”
I held up a necklace. It was similar to the necklace I had around my neck. Except, it was even better.
[Necklace of Greater Obfuscation: High Grade - Used to disguise Classes, Levels, and even Subspecies or Species from most appraisals.]
I was pretty sure this was what Daniel had.
“It’s probably very expensive.”
“Hrmph. May I see it?”
Baris grunted, rubbing his chin as I handed it to him.
“You can’t keep it though. It’s mine.”
He nodded without much of a reaction. He flipped it around and eyed an inscription at the back of it. His lips curled up.
“Ah, there it is.”
“What is that?”
I peered over his shoulder, moving past the [Healing Mage] who tried to pull me back. Hadrian stepped behind me too.
“Dad, what’s wrong?”
“This is certainly the work of the Iron Champions Company. They’re a gaudy bunch. Very arrogant. And they like to mark their creations— after all, that was how they rose to fame.”
“Their mark. See? Three stripes, like bars of iron. For all the goods and artifacts they produce, they inscribe it somewhere onto it.”
“Then this is enough proof, isn’t it?”
Hadrian glanced down at his father.
“This isn’t just any ordinary item. It’s expensive. And it’s not something they’d normally produce. This proves it was them.”
“And what are you going to do?”
The older man raised a brow.
“Edithe is right. We can’t go to war with them.”
“But we can’t just sit idly by after they did this.”
“And we aren’t. We just have to hit back where it hurts—”
Baris coughed and spat out some blood. Hadrian called out in a panic, but the [Healing Mage] was on the older man in an instant.
“This is why I said not to overexert yourself…”
The [Healing Mage] sighed. Baris coughed again,
“Urk, this poison is still in my system. Only Gabriel will know how to get it out.”
I inquired with a curious look. Edithe nodded at me.
“Our company’s highest leveled [Alchemist]. But he’s not here right now. He went to the Motharis Mountain Range, didn’t he? To gather ingredients.”
“Yes. He always had terrible timing, urk—”
Baris collapsed onto the bed and the [Healing Mage] quickly began casting a spell.
“I can’t remove poison. That’s not my specialty.”
“Then we just need to send someone to get Gabriel back.”
Hadrian spoke through gritted teeth.
“If we get Ian or Paige… but then who’d be protecting our headquarters. If the Iron Champions Company decides to try something else—”
“We can do it.”
Daniel cut him off. The blonde man blinked, taken aback. And I was too.
“Think about it, Salvos. We were planning to go to the Motharis Mountain Range, weren’t we? And they’re helping us already, aren’t they? We need to pay them back somehow. This is how.”
“But we don’t even know who this Gabriel is, or where he’s at!”
I protested. Edithe stepped up.
“Neither do we. But we have [Rogues] and [Mages] specialized in tracking. We just have to find him and protect the trackers. We don’t even have to bring him back ourselves. He can protect them and head back with them once we’ve found him.”
“Wait, don’t tell me you want to do this too? I know Daniel is weird, but not you too!”
“This my company, Salvos. I—”
“You’re not going anywhere.”
Baris interrupted her, craning his neck up. She turned to him with a surprised face.
“Didn’t you make a promise to your friends?”
Blinking, Edithe turned to ask. She pointed at herself.
“Yes. You told them you were going to protect the girl, weren’t you? Rachel.”
She trailed off. I nodded eagerly.
“Exactly! And I need to go find some Fairies! So we definitely can’t do this!”
“But it’s the right thing to do, Salvos.”
Daniel spoke up from the side. I stared at him, sputtering.
“Because that’s just how I am. I don’t just act out of my own selfish self interest. And you don’t too, do you?”
I hesitated. I glanced down at the lying old man, then at Edithe who wore a worried look on her face. Hadrian was nothing like the man I met just yesterday now, instead clenching his jaw as he held his head in his hands.
I’m not a wild Demon, am I? I was not ruthless. And neither was I going to only serve my self interest if it meant being mindlessly tied to what I wanted. I sighed.
“Fine, we’ll do it.”