94. Declaration and Introduction
“Yes, Hadrian wants you all to gather in the headquarters by tonight. He has an important announcement to make.”
Harper looked at Edithe with narrowed eyes.
“An important announcement? With almost no warning? Don’t tell me—”
“I don’t know.”
The red-haired woman spoke simply. She turned her gaze to the rest of Harper’s team— a Gold Rank team. They all wore nervous looks on their faces. The possibility of what was to come struck fear into the hearts of every single one of them.
“Just be prepared for the worst, alright?”
With the missive sent, Edithe took her leave, not bothering to listen to the speculations and worries Harper and her team might have had. Because the truth was— Edithe lied. She knew exactly what the announcement was about. But she couldn’t say it here. Not in public where there could be an Iron Champions spy around any corner.
Edithe passed the message on to numerous other teams. Some, like Harper, who heard it took it with fear. But others were prepared, or even excited, for it.
“Does this mean we can finally show those Iron Champion bastards what we’re made of? I had been tired of sitting around and letting them do whatever they want! Has Hadrian finally talked some sense into Baris?”
Celine eagerly pressed her face up against Edithe, grasping at her hands. Edithe gently pushed the Platinum Rank adventurer back and shook her head.
“I do not know.”
“Fine! But I know you’re aware of more than you let on.”
Edithe simply smiled and shook her head.
“I am as unaware as you, Celine.”
“Hah, of course, you are! Well, that doesn’t change the fact that we can finally teach those assholes a lesson.”
Pretending to ignore the comment and excuse herself, Edithe couldn’t help but mentally agree with the rowdy Platinum Rank woman and her team. They were a group of all-[Warriors], rough but caring. And what had been happening over the past few days must have infuriated them even more than it did Edithe.
Celine spoke up as the red-haired woman exited the bar. Edithe turned back slightly, raising a brow.
“Did you need something?”
“Take care of yourself, alright? Don’t push yourself too hard.”
Edithe blinked and rubbed at her eyes. Did she look that tired? She definitely did not get enough sleep the night before, the horrors of helplessly seeing Paige’s death ingrained in her mind.
Celine continued, snapping Edithe’s gaze back up.
“And don’t worry, we’ll get you your revenge.”
“R-right. Thank you.”
Nodding respectfully, Edithe hurriedly left the Platinum Ranks alone. There was so much she still had to do, after all. She had to speak with Rachel— tell the girl that she probably wouldn't be able to visit for a while. But also…
We’ll get your revenge.
The sweet words resounded in her head, almost drawing her to it like a bee to honey. The nectar of killing the one you hated— the vindication from it— was something she had already tasted. And she realized, after Lucerna’s death, a simple thing.
I still feel so… empty.
Edithe found the hardest one to speak to that day was not the Platinum, Gold, or even Silver Ranks. But a little girl.
Rachel had not acclimated to the temple well. William said that the only time she would speak was when Edithe visited the Sanctum of Elements. And when Edithe had to break the news that she wouldn’t be visiting anymore because of reasons she could not explain, Rachel did not cry. The girl spoke with a small voice but loud enough that it broke Edithe’s heart.
“Oh… you’re abandoning me too?”
Edithe had tried to reassure Rachel that that wasn’t the case. But she knew Rachel didn’t believe her. Even after an hour of trying to play with the doll, Princess, with her, Edithe knew Rachel was still sad. That the smile Rachel put on was a false one.
But the Gold Rank adventurer had a job to do. She had a company to fight for. So, she eventually had to leave.
Returning to the headquarters of the Valiant Dreamers Company, Edithe found that everyone had gathered as she had instructed. The Golds and Platinums gathered here, while the Silvers were on the training grounds. Edithe wasn’t worried about the Silvers even though they were the weakest, since Gabriel and a few other Platinums like Jeremy were already there with them.
What she was worried about was the reaction to the news that was about to be broken.
Baris arrived in the hall first. He waited at an elevated stage with his arms folded, clearly not pleased, but not unhappy either. Then when Hadrian came a little later, the older man activated his spells.
Wards were put up around the room, a barrier powered by a Platinum Ranked adventurer. When that happened, all the whisperings— all the susurrations— stopped. Heads turned to face Hadrian as he seriously addressed the room. No more speculations.
“We have decided.”
Hadrian spoke simply. Edithe raised a brow at his choice of an opening but waited for what else he had to say.
“For the past few days, our company has been attacked. Our members have been killed unjustly. And we have decided— no more.”
Taking a deep breath, Hadrian swept his gaze across the room. Edithe heard voices begin to break out— questions— but the leader of the Valiant Dreamers Company continued first, speaking over them.
“We had thought that it would be best for us to hold them off. Win a battle of attrition. This was a siege they couldn’t win, especially when we could hit back with our own allies. But they’re not just sieging us— this is already a full-frontal assault!”
His words sounded like they would be said by one in anger. But his voice didn’t reveal any of it. Because he was calm. This was not retaliation out of anger. It made sense… right?
“There is nothing covert about this. They’re doing everything they can to draw us out from our shell, to declare war on them. As if they think we’re afraid of what they could do to us. Well, even if they’ve prepared for this for months, we’re the Valiant Dreamers Company. We shall not stand idly by as the weak are bullied by the strong. Especially if it’s our own dreamers.”
Hadrian’s voice grew quiet. And he sighed deeply, finishing his speech as he spoke through gritted teeth.
“So, we have decided to make it official. No more hiding. Tomorrow, we shall fight.”
It was so sudden. After talking about waiting and biding their time for the past few days, why the sudden shift in plans? Was it bad leadership from a new leader? It should have been jarring. Edithe thought there would have been a backlash to it. But instead, there were voices of agreement. Then there was a cheer.
Edithe straightened as she stared at the crowd of Gold and Platinum Ranks throwing their support behind Hadrian. Baris seemed approving too. Even if his son went against his judgment, his judgment had chosen him to be the leader. And making decisions based on what one thought was best was part of being a leader.
Slowly, Edithe leaned back against the wooden pillar next to her. It was covered in runes, enchanted to now be more durable against fire. Only a single thought crossed her head as she cast her gaze to the ceiling above.
It’s time then. Let’s hope this works out.
And when the morning came, the leader of the Valiant Dreamers Company went to the Adventurers Guild himself. The Diamond Ranked adventurer left with no one, making the declaration for all the companies and even the Sunmere Republic to hear.
“The Valiant Dreamers are at war with the Iron Champions Company!”
The Harrowed Vindicators. They were the assassins, the bounty hunters, the ones hunting after us. They had chased Daniel and me down from just beyond the Motharis, to where we stood now. The tall mountains were barely even a speck in the distance at this point— they were so far away that it would take me a few hours to run there, even at full speed.
We had made a good headway towards Viechester before being interrupted. And now they had caught up.
My companion lay collapsed on the ground, having been struck by a crossbow bolt with enough force to send him flying back. And the others were readying their weapons against me. But… how did they catch up to us so quickly? We had not slowed down for more than a minute to talk. Why were they already here?
It must have been a distraction.
They had been setting this trap to catch us, leading us like we were a horde of monsters and they were a Mindreaper. We couldn’t flee anymore. There was nothing else we could do.
Nothing but to stand and fight.
I raised my kusarigama, waiting for the first assassin to make their move. They moved in the shadows— they were like shadows. Stalking around me, the Harrowed Vindicators prepared to strike.
There was the sound of metal being pulled. A crossbow being reloaded. My head snapped to the side—
And a bolt of lightning came crashing down on me.
[Charge of Embers] carried me straight to the Harrowed Vindicator with the crossbow. His eyes grew wide as I identified him, mere moments before bringing the flaming sickle down.
[Archer - Lvl. 65]
He was only at Gold. Not even a Platinum threat.
My kusarigama broke his crossbow in half and embedded deep into his chest. He backed away from me. I heard spells being loosed my way, knives being thrown and footfalls moving in a rush, but I did not turn my attention to them.
The chains from my kusarigama yanked the man towards me. I leapt up into the air as the assassin collided with the volley of attacks coming from his companions, the notification in my head resounding, confirming his death.
Defeated [Bloodscarred Hunter - Lvl. 65]!
Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!
My gaze swept around the surroundings, at the other enemies who were closing in on me. But I caught a glimpse of a bright light. A flash. It drew mine and the Harrowed Vindicators’ attention for a moment.
Because it had struck down two of them.
Daniel stood up as the glow around his sword faded away. The assassins standing closest to him had dropped dead. He pulled the crossbow bolt out of his chest— no blood spilling out of where it struck. I recognized the Skill— the one that made his skin like iron.
I called out to him and sent a [Scorching Wave] at the closest Harrowed Vindicator. They buzzed back, keeping a small distance from the fire but hovering around it like flies.
Landing next to him, I activated [Ignition], and my body grew ablaze. The fire revealed the shadows stalking around us in the trees, keeping their distance as my companion and I stood back-to-back. He glanced over at me and nodded.
“Sorry for scaring you like that.”
“It’s fine— I’m just glad you’re alive.”
I smiled his way. He paused, then gripped the hilt of his blade with two hands.
“Thanks. They really caught us by surprise, didn’t they?”
“But now they’re nervous and staying back.”
Identifying the assassins closest to me, I found that most of them were Level 60. It had not been like what Daniel feared— none of them were even close to the Diamond level. Only one had been above Level 70, and he was keeping his distance, watching us warily.
I took a step forward, widening my stance as I held the sickle of my weapon in one hand and the chains in the other.
“They don’t seem to be that tough, huh? Well, you guys attacked us, didn’t you? Come on!”
I snarled— then realized I was talking in the voice of a Human woman. And it honestly wasn’t that threatening.
Maybe I should change back. The thought crossed my mind before a ball of darkness enveloped Daniel and me.
Blinking, I whirled around to try and find the [Hero]. But he was nowhere to be seen. This was shadow magic. Just like what Ignavare had. But it had been used to block our vision.
I took a few steps back as I heard no sounds either. Only my [Deadly Instinct] was yelling at me, telling me to flee this sphere. And I did.
[Self Haste] took over me as I sped forward, breaking free from the dome of magic. Spells and projectiles were being slung into the dark dome, the assassins blasting as blindly into it as we had been inside of it. My eyes snapped over at the caster.
It had been the Level 70 assassin. He was a [Mage], and the reason he had been staying back was clear— He’s weak, take him out!
I flung the chains of my kusarigama his way, but more Harrowed Vindicators barred my path. One of them tried rushing me, a knife in hand. But…
I grinned, stepping over the decapitated body.
The rest stayed back, and a volley of arrows came my way. But they moved slowly. So slowly. I was already halfway towards them when the first blast resounded behind me. I moved amongst the assassins, faster than they ever could be. I danced with my kusarigama, twirling and spinning with the grace of a princess, cutting down those that dared approach me.
At some point, Daniel had burst out of the darkness, bleeding slightly but not having taken too much damage. We had just come from a Platinum Rank Dungeon. We had fought Mindreapers and powerful [Cultists]. A powerful Archdemon had set its sight on us too, and we had escaped.
These assassins were like nothing to us. They were trained to kill, not to fight. Each of them— whether they were [Warriors], [Mages], [Archers], [Rogues], or something else— had focused on their speed and attack power above all else. But unfortunately for them…
I’m the fastest and strongest one here!
Swinging my fiery weapon wildly, I held onto its chains and let the sickled edge tear apart those that came close. They moved, ebbing and flowing, trying to close the distance but failing each time. And if I was like a wild cyclone, Daniel was an immovable rock. Each assassin that rushed at him was squished onto the surface of the hard stone, their blood coating his long sword.
[Charge of Embers] brought me next to the [Mage] with the shadow magic. He looked up at me in fear as I brought my kusarigama up, limned by the sliver of moonlight above. He tried to fight back.
A magical barrier surrounded him as dark tendrils gripped at my feet. But I burned my [Ignition] at my legs, concentrating the hot flames to keep away the shadow. I landed [Fire Strike] after [Fire Strike] against him.
He tried to back away, casting his magic against me. Offensive spells and defensive spells alike. But it wasn’t enough, and he fell too.
Defeated [Hiddenblade Rogue - Lvl. 64]!
Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!
Defeated [Master of Penumbra - Lvl. 78]!
More experience is awarded for defeating an enemy at least 10 levels above you!
Subspecies [Midday Changeling] Level Up!
[Midday Changeling – Lvl. 66] -> [Midday Changeling – Lvl. 67]
Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!
Subspecies [Midday Changeling] Level Up!
[Midday Changeling – Lvl. 67] -> [Midday Changeling – Lvl. 68]
Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!
Daniel had been afraid of what would happen once the Harrowed Vindicators caught up to them. He had thought they would have sent Platinums, Diamonds, maybe even Elites!
But all that came were another group of Golds, led only by a single Platinum. And they were dispatched with ease. The [Hero] and the Demon fought side by side, aiding each other, complementing each other.
He would open up the ranks of the assassins by pressing forward, while she would pick them off from the side. Just 10 Levels prior, Daniel was certain the two would have died to this group of assassins. But now, even though dozens of the Harrowed Vindicators came after them this time, they were picked apart with ease.
His sword swung in an arc as he activated his Skill. The assassin tried hopping back, but somehow the blade connected. Such a thing never would have happened in Daniel’s world— but this was another world. One where superhuman feats he could have only imagined in fantasy were easily performed by him.
It sheared the assassin in half and went on to block a strike from another assassin. The second assassin backed up straight into a [Scorching Wave] by Salvos. He reeled, his entire back half caught aflame, and that gave Daniel the opening needed to strike him down.
He cast his gaze around for the remainder of the Harrowed Vindicators, only to see them fleeing into the distance. Three of them ran as the fourth was locked in battle with Daniel’s Demon companion.
Daniel yelled, pointing at the ones that fled. She nodded.
The Demon quickly disengaged from the assassin madly trying to rush her. She twisted around him and kicked him, sending him flying back. Daniel quickly blocked the assassin from stopping her once more.
They traded blows— and the [Hero] won.
Panting, Daniel turned around expecting to see the Demon tearing apart the remaining Harrowed Vindicators as they were drawn to her by her Title Skill. Instead, he saw her in the middle of removing her jacket.
“What are you doing?”
“I need to turn back to use [Zealous Call]! I can’t use it in my Mortal Form, so I need to take off my clothes first!”
“Who cares about your clothes?!”
She scowled and Daniel almost wanted to avert his gaze. But he saw the assassins getting further away in the distance. The three began to split, moving in completely different directions, so Salvos could not catch all of them.
“They’re going to escape!”
“I know! Stop distracting me!”
He cursed and took off running, knowing full well that he couldn’t catch up to any of them in time.
But just as he passed Salvos, he watched as one of the assassins dropped mid-air. A gray object flickered between the trees, clanking with the ground as it dragged the body across the dirt and into the darkness.
Then a flash of light caught Daniel’s eye. The second assassin was pincushioned by a hail of flaming arrows. It brought the man down and dimly lit up the surrounding area with the red magical fire’s aura.
And finally, a shining bolt pierced through the last of the shadows. It shone brightly and brilliantly. The golden glow went straight for the final assassin. It darted around the trees, chasing after the Harrowed Vindicator as they tried to make a sharp turn right at a tree.
They led it into a dead end, to be stuck and caught on the wood, leaving him free to run. But the bolt just broke the tree in half. It was snapped like a twig. And the arrow came for the Harrowed Vindicator. It tore through their body, leaving a large hole in their chest.
Daniel watched as the three assassins were struck down in an instant. Quickly taken care of by three different means. Slowly, he lowered his sword, and Salvos put her jacket on once more.
Staring in a moment of shock, the two did nothing when torches appeared around them. Figures moved in the darkness and made their approach. But Daniel broke out of it. He tensed, tightly gripping his weapon by his side, waiting for the figures to reveal themselves.
And they did.
Three of them showed themselves first. One of them was a looming figure— far taller than Daniel was. He had dark green skin and only a single eye. A Cyclops.
The second was a brown-haired [Mage], one who carried a book on him and looked like he would be adjusting his glasses if he did have one.
And the last was a blonde woman. She had a bow in her hand and her hair tied back into a bun. She looked worriedly around the pile of bodies under her gaze rested on Salvos. She opened her mouth—
And another voice cut her off.
“Jaakko! Zack! Helen!”
Salvos exclaimed and hurriedly ran forward. She excitedly stopped before the three Gold Ranks. She paused, probably thinking of which of a thousand questions she should ask first. And Daniel was certain she settled on all of them.
“Where did you come from? How did you find us? How have you been?”
The three of them stared at her, none of them sure of what to say. Until finally, Jaakko laughed.
“Salvos, you haven’t changed a bit since we last saw you. Even if you’ve leveled quite a bit since then.”
Zack scoffed and snapped the book he was carrying shut.
“She was already the Savior of Silvergrove then. What makes you think she’d have matured even a little bit now?”
“Can’t you be nice for one second, Zack?”
Helen snorted, then walked forward to the eagerly awaiting Salvos. She cocked her head as the [Archer] placed a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s good to see you too, Salvos. Looks like you’ve been well.”
Salvos beamed, adjusting her bloodied jacket from the gruesome battle. Helen nodded, looking down at the assassins.
“We were in such a rush to get to you two— but we didn’t expect you to have taken them all out by yourselves.”
“Oh, really? Well… I am pretty amazing. But you did save us too! You helped stop those three Harrowed Vindicators from escaping!”
“I guess we arrived just in time, didn’t we?”
Helen laughed, and Salvos giggled as well. Daniel frowned, listening in on the conversation. He slowly approached them— not as familiar with them as Salvos was.
“Wait, uh, Ms Helen, right?”
“Yes. And you’re…”
The [Archer] trailed off, glancing over at the other two Gold Ranks, and Daniel nodded.
“I’m Salvos’ friend. We met for a bit— I don’t know if you remember me.”
“We do remember you.”
Her voice was soft. Daniel didn’t know why, but she almost seemed… wary of him? He scratched the side of his head and continued.
“Right. Well, how exactly did you guys find us? And how did you know we were in trouble?”
Helen hesitated, then the other figures appeared. The ones carrying the orange torches— the ones who had been following them for the past day. They came on horses, riding through the thick forest, accompanying a gilded carriage as it rolled through and in between the trees.
“That’s because of her.”
Zack finished what Helen had been saying. He averted his gaze when Daniel turned to him. He narrowed his eyes. What’s wrong with them?
The way they were acting weirded him out. It was almost like they were afraid of him. However, Salvos did not pick up on that social cue, and instead, she excitedly piped up as the carriage came to a stop.
“Is that Saffron?”
“No, it’s not. It’s… someone a little more important.”
“More important than a noble?”
Salvos blinked, and Daniel’s eyes widened. A quiet word escaped his breath as he took a step back.
The carriage door was pulled open as a body of guards surrounded it. Then they spread apart as a woman made her way through. She walked forward with the poise of only one who had a noble upbringing since birth. But she surpassed mere nobility. She was grace and beauty incarnate. She was what Salvos wanted to be.
A charming smile spread across the young woman’s face as she stopped and curtsied in front of the two staring companions.
“I am princess Faith of the Elutra Kingdom, the third in line to the throne of Elutra, it is a pleasure to meet you, Ms Salvos.”
Then she turned to the young man from Earth.
“And [Hero] Daniel, it has been a while, hasn’t it?”