After Daniel rejected Faith’s request, he retired straight to bed. I wanted to follow after him, but I didn’t need to sleep. Especially not after the night before— I did not want to try sleeping again!
However, I almost regretted the decision when dinner continued, and no one said a word. Apparently, his answer was not what they were expecting. But I did not get why they were surprised.
Daniel was my companion, but he was also a [Hero]. He was obsessed with helping other Humans— in fact, he even helped me because I was a Demon. It was in his nature to try and do what he considered was ‘right’ in that weird Human way.
But what Faith was asking him to do was stupid. It would be like telling him to charge straight at Belzu and slay him, just because he had an army of monsters that was threatening the nearby countries.
As evinced by how he and I were not dead in the Brilsum Ruins, he would never do that.
Still, it had left everyone sitting around the fire in silence. I wanted to talk to someone, but they all seemed too deeply engrossed in their disgusting meals to talk. Zack especially. His head almost seemed buried in the bowl.
There was only one person who wasn’t busying themselves with their food. Only one person was available to talk. And that was…
I perked up and sidled over to Faith’s side.
“So, you’re a princess, right?”
The Human woman jerked as I curiously peered at her. She worked her jaw slowly, unsure of what to say until she finally found her words.
“...Yes. I am a princess. At least, that’s what I had been when I was in the Elutra Kingdom.”
“You’re not a princess anymore?”
“I’m… not sure. But even if I was, I wouldn’t be one for much longer. It seems my only hope for our country to survive has been crushed, and now I’ll have to return empty-handed and face my fate.”
I nodded along and followed Faith as she looked at the night sky. The wheeling stars above were scintillating, an undulating glow that almost seemed to fade before coming back into existence. Glancing back down at her, I saw a similar effect with the light from the flickering flames on her face.
Something was there. It had almost been snuffed out. But it still existed.
I cocked my head.
“Why do you need a [Hero] to save your country? Can’t you get a Level 100 adventurer or something to do the same thing?”
“Just call me Salvos.”
“...Salvos. I don’t know how much you know about history. I’ve been told by your Gold Rank friends that you aren't the most… knowledgeable person on these kinds of subjects.”
“I am not!”
I happily concurred. She blinked but slowly continued.
“But Demons are the natural enemy to [Heroes]. Ever since Alexander’s reign ten thousand years ago. He had repelled the Kobold invasions, brokered a treaty with the Spirit Lord, and even conquered part of the Elven lands. But his thousand-year rule over the Human lands came to an end by a Demon.”
“A Demon killed a [Hero]?”
Faith turned to face me.
“The one they call the Demon King slew him.”
Regnorex? I blinked, taking in this information.
“That’s right. And since then, [Heroes] have been summoned countless times to deal with Demon threats. While there are sometimes different circumstances that lead to summonings, like with Daniel or the Quisling, most have been brought to this world for that very reason. The Oracle of Light, Melissa, had been said to have killed over a hundred Archdemons on her own in single combat.”
“We can hire adventurers— those willing to fight for us. And we have. But they’ve always died. We never know how they do. Just that they’re slain on the battlefield by some force the Inoria Empire has that we aren’t aware of.”
“And you think those are Demons?”
“They have to be. Otherwise, they would have approached Daniel sooner when he had fought with us.”
I frowned and raised a hand.
“Why wouldn’t they just face him?”
“Because he’s a [Hero]. He has powerful Skills— I’m sure you had to have seen them before. Even a Greater Demon would’ve fallen to him if they faced him when he was Level 10.”
I remembered the battle against Lucerna in Silvergrove. Then I remembered our fight meeting. Nope, I don’t think so.
“Plus, we always had him wear that necklace he has. It would show his level to be far higher than it actually was, and there’s no way the Inoria Empire would risk one of their key assets against an unknown threat.”
Faith finished her explanation. The moment she did, her face twisted. She bit her lower lip and spoke in a shaking voice.
“That’s why we needed him… and he said no.”
I looked at her. The princess was clearly upset. I barely knew her, but it was normal Human social convention to cheer others up when they were upset, right? So, I shrugged.
“I don’t think Daniel would make much of a difference. He probably would just die.”
She stared up at me in surprise.
“You think a [Hero] who was able to take out dozens of assassins at his level— or higher than his level— wouldn’t be able to even do a little thing to change the course of the war? If a high leveled general were to face him, he would surely win the fight.”
“Not surely. He can win. But he can also die. And if you put him in that situation a hundred times over, what do you think his chances are of surviving?”
Faith trailed off as I gave her a firm look.
“Daniel would die. He wouldn’t change anything. So don’t worry about it!”
Sighing, she hugged her knees.
“I don’t think that makes me feel any better, but thanks for trying.”
I sat next to her as she grew quiet. I just looked at her the entire time. Until finally, she eyed me.
“Is there something else you need? You’ve already made me feel even worse than before.”
“Yep! I was wondering…”
I leaned closer, right until my face was next to hers.
“What is it like to be a princess?”
Faith furrowed her brows. She must have thought something about my intentions before changing her mind. Slowly, she smiled.
“There’s a lot of things about it. A lot of things I loved and hated. Would you like to hear about it?”
When Daniel went to bed, he felt guilty. Ashamed of his cowardice. But not only did he not trust Faith, but he also valued his own life. More than that?
He had seen tragedy once. The act of a real hero. However, death had consequences. And those consequences resulted in those who knew the hero being hurt.
Daniel had been hurt. He understood what that pain felt like. So, he was not going to impart that suffering to Salvos or Rachel.
Pushing open the tent’s flap and exiting into the light of day, Daniel couldn’t help but rub at his eyes. He did not get a good night’s sleep, even if he had lain in his bedroll for the last twelve hours. It was noon when he awoke. And he wasted more time by hiding, refusing to go out to meet the judging looks.
The nasty gaze of those who saw his actions as selfish.
That was what Daniel expected to meet when he went outside. What he did not expect to see was a princess excitedly chatting with a Demon.
“—and he actually did that for you?”
“Well, yes. And I would’ve felt bad if not for the fact that viscount Blaz was just trying to cozy up with my brother. Honestly, being the fifth and second-last in line for the throne sucked.”
Faith spoke in a casual cadence. She had dropped almost all pretext of being a princess, her diction sounding almost like that of a regular young woman. Huffing, the young woman crossed her arms.
“So many people try to use you, and not even for the power or influence you can give them, but to climb further up that ladder of politics.”
“That’s rude! You’re not a thing, you’re Faith! A princess.”
Salvos pointed out. Faith chuckled.
“That I am.”
The two women paused as Daniel approached them. He lifted a suspicious eyebrow at the princess.
“I hope you’re not still thinking of trying to use Salvos to convince me to help you. Because I won’t.”
Standing up, Faith dusted off her dress and replied.
“I am unfortunately not as shrewd as you seem to think of me, Daniel. No— Salvos and I were just conversing.”
A small smile appeared on her face as she cast a glance at the Demon.
Daniel frowned, looking down at Salvos. She just opened her palms and shrugged.
“She’s a princess. I’ve always wanted to meet a princess.”
Two months is not ‘always’, Daniel almost retorted. However, he held it back in and shook his head.
“Well, I’m glad that the two of you are getting along, but Salvos and I have places to be.”
“You’re the one who slept for so long!”
Salvos argued, raising an accusing finger at him.
“Faith went to bed and woke up in half the time you took to sleep!”
“And how about you?”
Daniel grinned back at her. She hesitated.
“Uh… I slept too. Just for a bit, though!”
“A General Skill then?”
The princess knowingly touched her chin.
“I’d love to get one of those. My father has one called [Morning Grace], and it lets him work for most of the day without stopping. It almost lets him be like one of those machines from Daniel’s world.”
The [Hero] from Earth was taken aback. How did— Then he remembered all the secrets he told her. All the times he thought that the two of them could…
“Let’s go, Salvos. We should leave as soon as possible.”
The Demon tried to object. However, Daniel had already turned and was walking away.
“Aw, but can’t we stay with them for at least another day! Helen and the others are here too!”
Faith placed a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s fine. I’ll let them go with you if you really want. I had hired them as my escorts as they were the ones who told me about Daniel and his general vicinity. Knowing that let me use a scrying artifact I had to find the two of you. But now…”
Daniel had paused and was waiting for Salvos to follow. Faith eyed him with a sidelong glance.
“It seems like there’s no need for that or their services any longer.”
Salvos brightened, then instantly deflated.
“Does that mean you’re going back to your country?”
“I have to. It’s my duty as a princess.”
The pretty words did little to convince Daniel. Salvos didn’t care as much as he did and just believed it.
“Princesses are amazing! A little bit stupid but amazing!”
“I do agree with that.”
Faith laughed. She got up and walked with Salvos as the two approached Daniel, just talking. Like real friends. And Daniel did not think to say anything until the conversation shifted when they stopped right by him.
“Where are you headed, by the way? I don’t believe I remembered to ask.”
“We’re reporting a very important piece of information to the Adventurers Guild.”
Daniel spoke for Salvos, giving her a look. She pouted but let him continue.
“It’s none of your concern, so please don’t follow after us.”
“I won’t. But if it’s really something important that you have to report, I can help you with that.”
Offering him a friendly smile, Faith called for one of her servants. They returned with what was a rolled-up piece of parchment and an almost translucent quill. She unfurled it on a wooden crate and frowned.
“Hmm, seems like there’s a bit of news for me today.”
Salvos asked, leaning over the shoulder of the princess.
“It’s a Messaging Scroll. A High Grade artifact. My contacts send me any intel or even just news that might be noteworthy with it. That’s how I first found out that the Inoria Empire placed a bounty on Daniel, and that they hired the Harrowed Vindicators to take him out. Look— as you can see, after what you two did to them last night, they’ve raised the price.”
Daniel’s eyes grew wide at the sum displayed. The number of zeroes there could not be right, could it? But it had to be.
Whatever the Inoria Empire had placed on his head before only attracted Level 60 assassins. Not the Platinums or Diamonds he expected. The reward showed here— now that was what a Level 80, 90… or even 100 bounty hunter would accept.
Salvos ‘oo-ed’ at the magical item. Her voice was filled with alacrity, as usual, ignoring the fact that Daniel was probably a walking dead man right now if assassins at Level 100 came after him.
“What else can it do? What else does it say?”
“I mostly use it to receive information, but it’s a two-way street. So, I can inform my contact of this… report you want to make to the Adventurers Guild.”
“Oh, alright then. Tell them—”
“Why should we trust you?”
Daniel snapped at Faith. She rolled her eyes.
“Unless you think this Messaging Scroll doesn’t actually work, I don’t see what’s not to trust.”
This time, Salvos spoke over him.
“It’s fine, Daniel. We can always go to an Adventurers Guild later and check if the message has been sent.”
“Alright, so tell them this—”
Salvos explained the situation in the Motharis to the princess. Faith’s face grew grim as she heard the story, and she picked up the quill as it glowed with magic.
“...and I’ll write that this Archdemon is using some kind of illusion and curse magic to do this.”
Salvos nodded. Faith scribbled on the magical board easily, and the words shone. They vanished moments after, as whatever magic sent it far somewhere else.
“Wait, it just disappears?”
“The recipient will have about a day to read the message before it disappears. And I’ve sent it to quite a few of them, so I’m sure one of them will be around to see it and spread word of what I said. Usually, I have one of my servants watching over the Messaging Scroll. The messages sent are encrypted in code, so they won’t know what it is. I just have them trace it and jot it down to show it to me if I’m busy.”
“Did you receive anything important today?”
Faith shrugged as her eyes scanned through the long scroll.
“Not really. Let’s see…”
She began reading out what sounded like news article titles to Daniel as Salvos attentively listened.
“Fear of possible Kobold invasion grows as the Forsaken Company wanes in strength. Elven diplomats arrive in Dwarf lands, marking a possible end to Dwarven neutrality. These are the two big news stories of today. There are a few smaller things of note like the Valiant Dreamers declaring war with the Iron Champions Company or the typical squabbling with the city-states in the Helbir Plains—”
Salvos had been listening with keen interest while Daniel was off to the side with his arms crossed. But the moment she started listing out the minor news stories, the two of them jerked.
“Wait, what did you say?”
Daniel asked the question hurriedly. Faith glanced up, blinking.
“Oh, uh, the Helbir Plains—”
“No, not that!”
Salvos placed both hands on the scroll and spoke worriedly.
“What’s happening between the Valiant Dreamers and Iron Champions?”
Faith fumbled at the scroll and reread the part from before.
“The two companies, the Valiant Dreamers and the Iron Champions, are now officially at war after what is allegedly an assassination attempt by the latter company against the former. There are also accusations of sabotage and even murder instigated by the Iron Champions Company, which is why the Valiant Dreamers made the declaration of war. It was made this morning, and—”
Daniel felt his heart racing as the words were read out. But he wasn’t prepared for the last part. The part which made Salvos burst into action.
“Since the declaration has been made, the headquarters of the Valiant Dreamers Company in Viechester has been in lockdown. The Iron Champions Company have begun their siege, and the entire city has been thrown into chaos.”
The first hours of war were uneventful. Nothing happened apart from a group of hooded individuals taking away the dead assassins from the morning. Apparently, this group cared about the casualties they suffered enough to remove their bodies. Or perhaps they were looking to retrieve any kind of artifact that might have been kept by the dead.
A few Valiant Dreamers had wanted to loot the corpses, but Baris forbade them from doing so. It could have been a trap. Maybe the bodies were rigged to explode. There was a plethora of possibilities, and it was only by erring on the side of caution during war would victory be best assured.
Edithe had a summoning circle prepared, to summon Druma as soon as it was necessary. Mistshard was already by her side— which was only slightly draining to her mana pool. Having two Spirits with her at the same time was a little more difficult to maintain, but Edithe believed she could manage it for a week— with some mana potions— if necessary.
There was no reason for that, however. So instead, she spoke with Mistshard who was flapping her wings slowly, almost like it had some kind of [Slowness] effect on them.
“Your contract is ending soon, Mistshard. In a month, if memory serves me right.”
“You are almost correct, master. The contract ends in just over two weeks. Do you wish to renew it?”
The [Elemental] replied simply. She was not at all concerned with the same things Edithe was; all that mattered to her was fulfilling her duties and carrying out her job as a servant of the Spirit Lord.
Edithe shook her head.
“That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that you only have less than a month left with me and our company is caught up in a war. What could be potentially a very deadly war. One where either of us dies.”
“If it comes to that, I will fight to ensure you do not die.”
“But that’s my point exactly.”
Sitting down on a chair with her gaze fixed to a nearby window, Edithe felt words coming from her mouth— words that carried all the fear and uncertainty within her.
“You could die, Mistshard. So close to the end of your contract, you could lose your life. All because of stupid Human things. Wouldn’t you prefer to end the contract now?”
Mistshard turned a sidelong glance to Edithe. Her head did not move, although her eyes were wholly focused on her master— almost like a hawk staring at its prey.
“You are starting to sound like Salvos, master.”
Edithe was taken aback, not expecting that reply. She realized her word choice… might have been slightly influenced by the Demon there. But the point stood.
“It’s true though. You have no involvement in this. It would be better if you just returned now. Let me summon another Spirit which doesn’t have as much to lose as you do. You’re almost Level 50, Mistshard. Most Spirits are 10 Levels below their masters. You are not.”
“Ending the contract now would be a violation of my duty as your summon.”
The cool voice of Mistshard left her beaked mouth, no noticeable inflection to indicate if she was lying. Edithe stared up at her summon, still floating there.
“Master, if I may speak.”
“I understand you are concerned about my wellbeing, especially since my contract is drawing to a close. However, it is my duty to fight for you, and if necessary, die for you. This is the deal we forged the moment I agreed to be your summon. There is no greater honor among Spirits to die carrying out their duty. Remember that.”
Trying to work her jaw, Edithe couldn’t find any words to speak. Slowly, she nodded her head in shame.
She had been once again trying to apply her Human morals to a different Species. It was like how she was with Salvos at first. She eventually learned— the hard way— how growing up in another plane affected how one turned out. So, there was no use in her trying to convince Mistshard to break her contract now.
Shaking her head, Edithe glanced over at Mistshard.
“If you die in battle… will you be memorialized by the Spirit Lord or something?”
“Yes. Our names will forever be engraved on the Spirit Throne. Remembered for our obligation to our cause.”
“And what is that cause?”
Edithe raised an eyebrow as an uncharacteristic chuckle came from the [Elemental]’s mouth.
“That’s a secret.”
Throughout the rest of the day, there were some minor skirmishes. Quick battles fought between members of the Iron Champions Company who now surrounded the building and the Valiant Dreamers keeping watch. Spells were exchanged— hails of fire, bolts of lightning, and bullets of earth came from both sides— while arrows were loosed in large volleys. The Gold Rank dreamers managed to down a few of the opposing force, suffering few casualties from their advantageous position.
The barrier surrounding the headquarters was broken and repaired numerous times. But never once did the Iron Champions try to breach the gates. They were trying to fortify their own position first— it was clear from the way those stationed here were not assassins but regular adventurers.
Where could the assassins be? was the fearful thought that crossed Edithe’s head. Are they sieging the training grounds? But no— communication was maintained between both locations. Short-range messages exchanged through artifacts and Skills assured Edithe that there was no major attempt to assault the training grounds just yet.
Those keeping watch were swapped out routinely. Edithe spent an hour standing guard with Mistshard. A few [Warriors] from the Iron Champions Company tried taunting them and were sent fleeing back by a blast of ice by the [Elemental].
A few [Mages] returned, trying to take potshots at her. However, her own magic was more than enough to protect herself. She erected a barrier rather than countering, letting a group of [Archers] fire back instead. It was another brushing battle— and once again, the Iron Champions Company suffered more casualties.
Edithe returned indoors after; things were looking good to her. The siege had begun, but the Valiant Dreamers had only been winning. However, the enemy was an unknown. How many assassins did the Iron Champions have in their pockets? How many adventurers were they willing to waste on this useless war? She wasn’t sure.
She only got her answer later. Only when evening came did the Iron Champions Company commit a significant attack against the headquarters. A brilliant, white ball of fire came blasting at the barrier. It struck the very top of the dome, ripping it down in an instant. Almost like a curtain being ripped off a window.
The explosion resounded as an alarm went off in Edithe’s head. That was how the barrier was designed— to alert everyone within its perimeter that it had been breached. Instantly, Hadrian snapped an order to a nearby [Mage] with his fingers pressed against his temples.
“Inform Gabriel that the Iron Champions Company are attempting an assault at our location.”
The [Mage] activated a Skill, and ethereal words formed in the air. They blurred and vanished, probably appearing in front of Gabriel at that exact moment. Then, Hadrian drew his sword and stepped outside. Edithe followed after him with a handful of other Golds and Platinums he ordered to follow.
The metal gates out front were being bashed open by a group of [Warriors] as they were pelted by spells and arrows from the Valiant Dreamers. Many of them were blasted mid-air by returning fire from the opposing side, although a few went through and brought down some enemies.
“Mistshard, stay back and assist. Do not engage.”
Edithe ordered her summon as she stood amongst the other [Mages], forming a line behind a wide earthen wall. The [Barrier Mage] maintained its form, repairing it as bits of the wall were ripped apart by incoming blades of wind and spikes of ice.
Casting spells from the relative safety of her location, Edithe watched as Hadrian led a charge against the rushing Iron Champions. Their ranks were instantly shredded by the leader of the Valiant Dreamers Company.
Hadrian swung his sword once, and three Gold Ranks fell. Then he spun around and ran through a large man wielding a giant axe. He moved so simply, barely any Skills needed to take out enemies who were close to Edithe’s level.
A group of well-armored [Warriors] and [Rogues] approached Hadrian. A Gold Rank from the Valiant Dreamers rushed them and was cut down in an instant. They were Platinums. And they were challenging Hadrian.
Edithe tried flinging fireballs and lightning bolts at them, but her attacks were intercepted. The [Rogue] blurred and sliced the spells up in mid-air. Then appearing behind Hadrian, they lashed out with two jagged daggers.
Hadrian parried the attack just in time for two [Warriors] to reach his flank. They swung a maul and a longsword. He ducked under it and kicked the maulwielder, sending them crashing back towards a wall.
More dreamers tried to aid their leader— Celine’s team rushed forward but were cut off by the remaining [Rogue] and [Warrior]. Ice rained down on them too— a [Mage] from the Iron Champions was casting powerful spells. Spells that would have destroyed Edithe in a duel.
Edithe felt that sensation again. One of hopelessness. As she could do nothing but look on as Hadrian was surrounded and assaulted by Platinums.
He exchanged blows. He blocked their barrage of strikes. They came at him, unrelenting. Skills that let them whip through the air, away from his swinging blade. The ground shook as Edithe’s hand trembled with fear. The maulwielder had just barely missed a powerful blow against Hadrian, crushing the earth and sending bricks flying through the air.
The leader of the Valiant Dreamers Company took a single step. A single pace to his left. Then the [Rogue] appeared behind him once again. Edithe wanted to scream for someone to help him. But—
A whirlwind of blades exploded around him. The Diamond Rank adventurer used his first Skill, and the [Rogue] fell.
The two [Warriors] staggered away, both cut up and bleeding. The maulwielder wiped at his face. However, he found himself staring straight at the ground. Hadrian sliced off his arm with a single vertical swing, and the stab that came after finished him off.
The last of the Platinums saw this. He tried to flee, but Hadrian was on him in an instant. He frantically brought his weapon up, a blur overcoming his entire figure. He struck out, three translucent figures slashing at Hadrian from all sides.
Plunging his sword to the ground, Hadrian created a shockwave. A blast of red. An aura attack. It wasn’t magic, but rather the physical [Strength] of a [Warrior] turned corporeal. It interrupted the attacking Platinum’s Skill, letting Hadrian finish him off.
It was a crushing victory. A team of Platinums engaged with Hadrian. Dozens of Golds and Silvers. And they were all slaughtered. Edithe had never seen anything like it. She had thought she knew the man and how strong he was. But this was—
Celine roared and flailed in a frenzy against the other Platinums attacking her. One of her teammates had been killed. She charged the [Warrior] and [Rogue] but was cut off by a wall of ice.
The two fled, retreating back out of the gates, the remainder of the strike force from the Iron Champions Company following after them. Some of the dreamers tried to follow. They wanted to press forward. This was a victory!
But Hadrian shouted out an order.
“Don’t go any further!”
His words caught them where they stood. Edithe’s eyes widened as she watched the Iron Champions Company regroup. And surrounding them suddenly appeared hooded individuals. Assassins. It had been a trap.
And the Golds and even some of the Platinums would have been massacred if they left the gates. The moment they stepped out, they would have died.
A familiar voice broke Edithe out of her stupor. She stared as a person walked out from amongst the group of assassins. Someone she recognized. Who she had met once before.
The Platinum Rank who offered Salvos the chance to join the Iron Champions Company. He stood at the head of the adventurers surrounding the headquarters that had been cut off from the rest of the world.
He spread his arms out wide, a sneer on his face.
“Good job you saw through our trap. But that was quite the risk, wasn’t it? You could’ve stayed back, but instead, you charged you at the front lines. What would you have done if an assassin got to you?”
“No assassin would get to me.”
Hadrian replied simply, his sword at his side in a loose grip. Edithe thought Hadrian would have tried something. She assumed he would have had a Skill to cut Stephen down, even from this distance. And yet, he just watched as Stephen paced just beyond the broken gates.
“That kind of arrogance gets Diamonds killed on the battlefield, Mr Hadrian.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Ah, then how may I address you?”
Stephen clasped his hands behind his back, stopping and facing down Hadrian. The two adventurers stood a dozen paces apart. Again, Edithe thought Hadrian would have tried something. Again, he did not.
Why isn’t he— the thought cut itself off as Edithe realized what that meant. Are they really that close in level?
She took a step back involuntarily as Hadrian did not respond. Stephen sighed, rubbing at his temples.
“I expected more from the great Hadrian. I’ve heard a lot about you. How you reached Diamond before the age of 30. And yet, look at you. Just standing there, like a coward. Even as your allies weep for their dead behind you.”
His gaze fixed on Celine. The Platinum Rank was cradling a man in her arms. Tears were streaming out of her face as she snapped back at Stephen.
He turned around.
“Honestly, what a disappoint—”
Edithe caught a glimpse of a fissure in the air. The world itself contorted as the ground underneath Stephen broke apart. The Platinum Rank’s eyes widened. The air twisted, tearing into itself along with the earth and his body.
Then Stephen appeared panting behind his assassins. The space where he stood continued to spin, until suddenly it burst out. The earth and the air broke into collapsed crumbs of space. The powerful spell released, missing its mark just barely.
Baris clicked his tongue, suddenly appearing beside his son.
“He used a Skill to escape.”
“[Flash Step]. Not a typical [Rogue]’s Skill. Some kind of [Rogue]-[Mage] hybrid Class?”
“Perhaps. But let’s not jump to conclusions too quickly. We’ll have to see more of his abilities before we can decide.”
The duo stared down Stephen and the dozens of assassins and hundreds of adventurers just beyond the gates. The younger man turned to Baris.
“Think we can take them?”
“Don’t be foolish. We would die— and there could still be more hiding in the shadows.”
“Perhaps. Or those like Stephen. Regardless, we’ll repair the barrier for now. Don’t let him draw you out, got it?”
Stephen slowly stepped forward, eyeing the [Mage] as he walked up to the nearest wall. Placing a hand onto it, Baris began to chant while the apparent speaker of the Iron Champions Company began to shout.
“You think you defeat us? Don’t underestimate the might of the Iron Champions Company! We’ll kill every single one of you right now unless you surrender—”
The barrier shot up, once again encapsulating the headquarters. And for whatever reason now, it silenced the voice from the other side.
Baris snorted as he returned, the angrily shouting figure of Stephen visible behind him.
“I added a Silence spell too. Just so we don’t have to keep hearing him speak.”
Once she was back inside, Edithe collapsed onto a chair, melting into a puddle of sweat. She had been so nervous throughout. Especially when she realized how outmatched she was when the Platinums first showed up. And when they killed Celine’s teammate…
Edithe shuddered. Why am I so…
“Are you alright?”
A voice broke her out of her thoughts. Edithe glanced up, not recognizing the female voice. She blinked when she saw who it was.
“Hello, Edithe. May I have a seat?”
The young woman gestured at the empty chair next to her. Edithe hurriedly scootched her chair aside and nodded.
“Of course. There’s no one sitting there… I think.”
Edithe had chosen the closest seat to rest in. And [Rest] in. She didn’t even know if someone had been at this table before she came. She just needed to relax and cool down from the first real battle of the night. That’s the first battle, and even though we were winning, already you couldn’t do anything. What happens if we actually start losing? If the barrier is fully destroyed and we have to barricade ourselves inside—
“How was it out there?”
The sound of the wooden chair being dragged across the ground was accompanied by Sophia’s voice. She plopped herself down and met Edithe’s eyes with a worried look on her face.
“I heard about what happened. We won but… there were a few deaths. Celine’s team suffered a major loss too.”
Edithe trailed off, not sure how to respond. The young woman was barely in her twenties, yet she was already a Gold Rank. And now she had to fight in a company war. All because of the Iron Champions Company. Because of what you—
She bit her lower lip, shaking away those negative thoughts by herself this time. Sophia continued, not even noticing the fear written on Edithe’s face.
“I… honestly did not expect this. I had just become Gold, you know? I thought I could celebrate, go on a few Gold missions. Then suddenly, we’re at war.”
Nodding, Edithe sat up and faced Sophia. She glanced down at the palm of her hands, and Edithe finally realized the young woman was shaking.
“I thought I was ready. I am now a Gold Rank. Just like you. Just like Ian. Just like… Paige had been.”
Edithe instinctively clenched her fists. Her friend…
“But now? Despite not having gone out to fight at all? Look at me.”
Sophia whimpered. She finally turned to face Edithe. Her eyes were welling up, her entire body shaking. Edithe’s eyes widened as she saw the state the young woman was in.
“Honestly, I don’t even know what I’m saying. I’m just… I’m just…”
Placing a hand on the young woman’s shoulder, Edithe spoke up with a shaky voice.
“You’re afraid. Just like me. Just like everybody else in here.”
It sounded like her words had been placed on a small, wooden boat thrown into a raging river, rocking its way towards a roaring waterfall.
But still, she spoke. And she tried to reassure the young woman.
“We’re all afraid. Because this isn’t the same as taking a job you chose out from the bulletin board in the Adventurers Guild. This isn’t the same as fighting monsters like we’re used to. We’re fighting people. Because they forced us into this. Because they were so… so… selfish.”
Edithe felt the vitriol in her words. The venom that spat out of her tongue. She was seething with anger now. Directed towards the Iron Champions Company for causing all this.
Then she took a deep breath.
“However, it’s fine to be afraid. Especially right now. In this situation, let yourself be afraid. But when the time comes for you to stand up, don’t back down. Don’t let yourself be controlled by fear then. Please.”
She wasn’t sure if she was telling this to Sophia or to herself. She just had to say it. And she felt her hands tremble. Her grip on the young woman’s shoulder tightened as tears also blurred her vision.
Repeating herself, Edithe found her gaze aimed towards the floor. She looked up and realized she was right up against Sophia’s face. The red-haired woman quickly backed up and murmured an apology.
“No— it’s fine.”
Sophia wasn’t crying anymore. Her eyes were red and swollen. But the tears had dried up. And she seemed calmer now.
Neither woman said anything for a moment until finally, Sophia chuckled.
“This is really such a stressful situation, isn’t it? And I get overwhelmed too easily. Honestly, I hate this.”
“You and me both.”
Edithe wasn’t sure why she laughed. But she did. They joked over something that wasn’t even funny, perhaps the uncomfortableness of the entire situation making it so.
Sophia shook her head and leaned back against her chair. Her gaze swept through the room until it landed on a man caught in a serious conversation. She sighed and rested her chin on her hand.
“Hadrian is amazing, isn’t he?”
Blinking, Edithe glanced over at the man too.
“Yes, he should be the most stressed out of all of us. The most afraid. But look at him. He’s still so… calm.”
Edithe stared at Hadrian as he broke off from talking with Evelyn. The Platinum Rank adventurer left the hall to the outside. She had no team— she was known to be a lone wolf.
“I think he is the most stressed and most afraid out of us all. But he just doesn’t let it show.”
“But how? How can he… do that?”
The red-haired woman hesitated for a moment. A memory appeared in her head. Paul. Paige. Everyone she had lost. She had failed to protect.
Edithe closed her eyes.
“Because he knows that if he freezes up, then someone he cares about will die.”
“Oh, I see.”
Sophia nodded slowly. She sighed again.
“He’s honestly… amazing, isn’t he?”
Opening her eyes, Edithe looked at the young woman, face now slightly flushed. Edithe chuckled again.
“I guess. But I don’t think we mean the same thing.”
“Yeah… wait, what—”
Cless joined Sophia and Edithe in their conversation shortly after. Sophia’s best friend had been helping out some of the [Mages] in trying to estimate the number of adventurers and assassins the Iron Champions Company had. Their magic led them to conclude the Valiant Dreamers Company were outnumbered by nearly two-to-one.
No one was happy to hear such a ratio. But neither of the two Gold Ranks let it get to them— much to the surprise of Cless. He came to them a bit of a mess. But since none of them had guard duty, Edithe managed to cheer him up too before the next assault happened.
This time, Sophia and Cless joined in on the battle. They were kept even further behind the lines than Edithe was, but it allowed them to experience what it was like to at least participate, even if barely.
Halfway through the prolonged fight, Edithe was forced to summon Druma to swap with Mistshard. The [Elemental] had been blasted by an invisible spell. It was some kind of wind magic— not one Edithe recognized. It probably came from a Platinum Rank, and it was a miracle for Mistshard to have even survived the attack.
So, Edithe let her rest. And Druma charged out alongside a group of [Warriors] and [Rogues], clashing with the relentless wave from the Iron Champions Company. Assassins stalked through the battlefield too, but Baris was with his son this time. And his spells locked onto these assassins, taking many of them down until they were all forced to retreat once again.
It was over. There was going to be another period of reprieve. Perhaps two hours— or maybe even three this time. At least, that was what Edithe was anticipating.
She didn’t expect to find herself outside of the building once again so soon when the Iron Champions Company gathered just before the gates.
Stephen had returned despite not showing up in the previous engagement. Hadrian and Baris both came out this time, neither of them hiding themselves from the single Platinum. Although how many of those assassins are above Level 70? How many of those adventurers?
Edithe was suspicious of all those inconspicuous individuals surrounding Stephen. Any of them could be Platinums. All of them could be Platinums. Some of them can even be Diamonds.
This had to be a trap to lure either Hadrian or Baris out, right?
Spreading his arms out wide, Stephen spoke out in a loud voice. His self-satisfaction was evident.
“My, my. You’ve repelled us twice. The second time, you didn’t even have to use a Skill, Hadrian. Very impressive.”
“What do you want, Stephen?”
Hadrian growled, his hand resting on the hilt of his blade.
“If you’re going to charge us with that ‘army’ of yours, why not just do it now?”
“Oh, no. That’s not what I’m doing. You see, after nearly getting killed by your old man earlier, I decided to take a break from the battlefield. Get a little breather.”
You didn’t even fight, bastard, Edithe retorted in her mind. Baris raised an eyebrow, seemingly catching on to something here.
“And while I was out on a stroll, I caught myself a little puppy wandering the streets of Viechester. A worried puppy. Who was actually barricaded in his home.”
A pair of hooded figures appeared behind Stephen. They produced a tied-up and blindfolded man, setting him down beside Stephen. Edithe blinked, not sure of who that was. But someone else knew.
Evelyn stepped forward, yelling out a name.
Edithe glanced over at the Platinum Rank, confused at their relationship. Then she saw the fear in her eyes. And the way the man had been bruised and taken against his will here. Her boyfriend? Or her husband?
“What are you doing? What did you do to him?”
“Nothing just yet.”
Stephen casually walked up to the man named Thomas and crossed his arms. Hadrian narrowed his eyes while Baris snapped.
“You’re not allowed to involve innocent civilians in a company war, Stephen. The Sunmere Republic and the Adventurers Guild will not stand for it.”
“I’m not going to do anything to him. Nor is anyone from the Iron Champions Company. But some assassins unaffiliated with our company might.”
“That reasoning won’t stand!”
“Will it? Maybe not. We’ll see. But I don’t think Ms Evelyn cares about that, does she?”
Evelyn’s eyes grew wide as one of the two assassins produced a large knife. They stepped up to the tied-up man as Stephen shrugged.
“Collateral damage happens all the time in company wars. It’s… unfortunate.”
Licking his lips as he saw Evelyn draw her two daggers, Stephen raised a hand.
“I wouldn’t do anything brash if I were you, Ms Evelyn.”
“What do you want?”
She asked through gritted teeth. He waved a hand nonchalantly.
“I just want you to come here, over to us, without your weapons. Then Thomas can go. I’ll even let your Valiant Dreamer friends take him in. You wouldn’t want anything to happen to the only thing you have in your life, right?”
Edithe frowned as Evelyne stood there, mulling over his words. How does he…? Then the red-haired woman made the realization. Just as Baris and Hadrian did. He’s done research on us.
Each adventurer had at least some of their personal information out in public. That was an unfortunate side effect of having the job. Especially with the higher ranks. It didn’t matter if you tried to be as discreet as possible. There was always going to be something out there about you. And this was Evelyn’s one secret.
And the Platinum Rank’s weakness.
Dropping her weapons, Evelyne started forward. Hadrian opened his mouth and said her name.
“You can’t stop me, Hadrian. Just… just make sure Thomas is safe.”
The lone adventurer marched out to meet Stephen face to face. He nodded at the assassins behind him, and they kicked Thomas forward, rolling into the Valiant Dreamers Company headquarters.
Evelyn watched Hadrian grab her lover. Then she burst into action. A dagger appeared on her hand as she leapt up to the other Platinum Rank.
The two assassins intercepted her. One appeared behind her and the other to her flank. Evelyn spun around and sliced the first in half. She kicked the second back—
And Stephen stood in front of her. He drew his sickle back, pulling it away from the woman’s neck. She fell, her head thumping on the ground and spinning to face Thomas.
Edithe stared in shock as the Platinum Rank was easily disposed of by Stephen. A Skill? That was the only explanation. [Flash Step] to catch her, and another Skill to finish her off.
Baris glared at Stephen wiping the blood off his golden blade, walking away nonchalantly. The former leader of the Valiant Dreamers Company called out warningly.
“You will not get away with this, Stephen.”
“Oh, we will.”
Stephen turned back, a smug look on his face.
“And we will continue to get away with it.”
“What do you—”
The meaning behind his words took a moment to sink in everyone’s mind. The eyes of Baris widened as Hadrian stood up, Thomas on his back.
“These bastards are going to keep taking our loved ones hostage. While we’re trapped in here, unable to go out.”
“Your new leader is smart. Honestly, old man, you’re a bit slow in the head. It might’ve been better off for your company if you had just died from the poison.”
Hadrian brought his blade down, sending an aura blade at Stephen. Another [Flash Step] brought him away from the attack.
“That was close. But good try.”
Then he left. And the figures hiding out in the darkness slowly drew back. They would return. But for now, they let the news settle. The fact that the Iron Champions Company were willing to stoop to even more dirty tricks— tricks that could backfire at any time.
And Edithe stood, unmoving, even as the others returned, a fear and mourning on their faces. Hadrian stopped by the red-haired woman, Thomas still on his back.
“Edithe, let’s go back.”
She turned to him, a worried look on her face.
There was a commotion inside the headquarters of the Valiant Dreamers Company. There were many voicing their concerns. Would their family be targeted? Would their friends?
It was unlikely. Only those at Platinum had any cause for concern. Gold Ranks in Viechester were almost common amongst adventurers. It would be too hard and too risky to target those that could be killed by their Level 70 assassins.
So, the Iron Champions Company dared to make this play. They dared to threaten the lives of those dear to the Platinum Ranks. And Edithe should not have been worried.
Rachel was not only at the Sanctum of Elements, she was also only related to Edithe. There was no reason for them to target her. Except— Salvos.
Edithe remembered the encounter between Stephen and Salvos. How upset the man had been at her rejection. Would he… would he try something?
That was Edithe’s worry. It was all she could think about even as the Iron Champions Company attacked the headquarters a third time. This distraction nearly caused her death, but Druma saved her just in time.
And when they got their reprieve once again, Edithe heard Hadrian speaking with Baris. They were making plans.
“Not all of our Platinum Ranks are like Evelyn. They won’t charge in the face of death. They won’t make that leap across that chasm or fall trying. If their family gets dragged into it, they might not volunteer themselves. But their morale will still break.”
“Hadrian, I have heard your reasoning before, and you’ve already convinced me once. But unless you have a solid plan of action, I will not approve any such brash decisions!”
“I know, Father. But we have to do something.”
She knew she shouldn’t have been listening. But she had to know what they were going to do. Edithe would not just let Rachel die.
Rubbing his temples, Baris let out a tired sigh. The man had just recovered from a poisoning not long ago. The battle had strained him. And now it was clear that his dilemma stumped him too.
“What do you propose?”
“That we break the siege and reunite with Gabriel’s forces. Then drive the Iron Champions out of the city.”
“How are we supposed to do that? We are surrounded.”
“I know. But I’ve spoken to a few of the Platinums. The brazen ones and the ones worried about their family. They’re willing… they’re willing to make a sacrifice.”
Baris took a step back, eyes wide. Hadrian continued.
“They will form a spearhead. The one to break their armor.”
“We’re outnumbered. We might lose everything.”
“We’ll lose everything regardless.”
Edithe heard this, and she couldn’t help but speak up.
“But what… what if we found a chink in their armor?”
The two turned to face the sudden guest in their conversation. She burned up for a moment, realizing she probably shouldn’t have spoken, but Baris gestured to her to continue.
“And what is that?”
Edithe turned to face the closest window. She looked through the glass pane, staring into the darkness beyond, remembering something Stephen had said. Then a small smile— one of hope… or was it madness?— spread across her lips.
“We know they outnumber us two-to-one. But we think they’re always there, keeping guard. But they also think we won’t try to break the siege. That we won’t sally forth and face them. So, they’re complacent. Stephen said it himself, the assassins are the ones gathering our loved ones in between each of their assaults. One of their biggest advantages is gone when they’re not attacking.”
Edithe grinned as Hadrian finally understood what she was saying. He looked her over, slowly nodding.
“That could work. That should be when we strike.”
She agreed. But Baris still seemed undecided. The older man met Edithe’s gaze, almost studying her.
“Edithe, before I say anything, let me ask you: why do you agree with this plan?”
The red-haired woman stopped. The once feisty, fiery, and short-tempered woman tilted her head up. She spoke slowly, thinking over her words carefully.
“Perhaps if you asked me this question a year ago, I would have told you this was for revenge. To make them pay for what they did to Evelyn. But now? The reason is much simpler than that.”
“And that is?”
Edithe looked back down at Baris, speaking softly.
“I’m tired of doing nothing while my friends die.”
Then it was settled.
It was past midnight now. It had been no more than an hour since the Iron Champions Company made their third assault. But now, there was a susurration.
It came not from the side of the invaders, but from that of the defenders. There was movement— the barrier surrounding the headquarters of the Valiant Dreamers Company was fading. But it was not a failure on the runes powering it. It was being done on purpose.
Everyone had been informed of their change of plans. And while not everyone had been too happy about it, most approved this course of action. Especially the Platinums.
Edithe did not stick around to discuss what her role in the battle was going to be. Because she only had one role. She was to act as one of the few in the strike force. Like the cavalry that would open up the ranks of the infantry.
Her job was to charge and tear through the Iron Champions Company alongside Celine and the other Platinums, hopefully surviving.
The Platinums who wanted to check on their loved ones all volunteered for this job. Not all of them did— only about a quarter, which still made up almost a dozen different Platinum Rank adventurers. Together, they would have been able to save a city from a monster horde on their own. They would have been able to clear out Dungeons that were threatening nearby towns.
Their efforts would have been better put somewhere else. And yet, they were risking their lives here, against other adventurers who could have done the same.
They were to charge through the gates, followed by the main bulk of their forces, acting as the spearhead being thrust against an enemy. Hadrian assured them he would be right behind them and even cut down any possible threat to them if it showed.
And once they were through, they would scatter. Each to check on their own friends, family, or other loved ones they were worried about. That meant Edithe would be on her own. And that was what worried her.
She looked between Mistshard and Druma, rubbing at the tip of her staff in a nervous tic.
“Do you think we’d be able to… handle any assassins we meet?”
“As long as they’re not too far above our levels, yes.”
That was the logical answer, but not the one Edithe had been looking for.
“I know, but— never mind.”
Edithe turned around, sighing. Then she blinked as she saw the person standing before her.
“I heard what you were doing, Edithe.”
Edithe stared at the young woman, confusion written on her face. She opened her mouth— then realized what was happening.
“You’re not going to follow me, are you?”
“First of all, only a dozen Platinum Ranks charging out on their own is stupid. Secondly, it’s dangerous for you to go alone. So, I’m coming with.”
“So am I.”
Cless walked up behind Sophia. He grinned as he leaned an elbow on the young woman’s shoulder. She scowled and shook him off. He shrugged.
“I’m not going to let Sophia here go on her own. And don’t worry. Neither of us may be the best fighters, but we’re good at surviving. At remaining sneaky. Something which I’m sure you’re not familiar with.”
He gestured at her outfit, and Edithe looked down at herself. She sputtered.
“These are traditional [Mage] garments—”
“I’m a [Mage], and you won’t even see me wearing those stupid robes. Seriously, you can barely walk with them!”
Edithe glanced between the two of them, hesitating. Then she finally asked.
Sophia shuffled her feet uncomfortably.
“It’s, uh, because… uh…”
“Because she feels bad about the way she treated those two Gold Ranks, Salvos and Daniel, when they were just helping us out. So, she wants to at least help pay them back by making sure this Rachel is safe.”
“Hey! You were rude too!”
The young woman pointed an accusing finger at her best friend. He laughed— a nervous laughter which Edithe saw through. The red-haired woman slowly nodded.
“Well, if you’re going to insist on coming with me, I won’t stop you. But it’s going to be dangerous, you know?”
The two paused. They exchanged glances and then grinned.
“We know. But we’re Gold Rank adventurers.”
“Our very job description is dangerous, so don’t worry about us.”
“If you say so.”
But before she could fully process the sudden induction of two new members in her mission, another voice spoke up.
“I’m following too.”
This time, Edithe was caught by surprise with who she saw. Ian, the aloof, bald [Rogue] who she had barely talked to, stood there. She gave him a confused look.
“Because Paige liked that little girl.”
Edithe dubiously eyed him. He nodded curtly.
“And you were friends with Paige.”
Apparently, Paige had been close with Ian. She had frequently seen them together. But Edithe wasn’t exactly close with him. But because of their common friendship, he was helping her. Edithe felt her grip around her staff tighten, just thinking about Paige.
Then she nodded.
And it was settled.
Ian, Sophia, and Cless joined Edithe as they gathered with the Platinum Ranks leading the charge. Behind them, the rest of the Valiant Dreamers Company were relying on them. Hadrian’s voice boomed out as he drew his sword.
“Tonight, we break this siege! Gabriel will continue holding down the training grounds, waiting for our arrival, then we’ll finally rid the Iron Champions Company from Viechester! They wanted war, but we’ll end this war!”
There were cheers. And then, silence. The front doors swung open and before Edithe could do her job, it was first up to the powerful artifacts owned by the Valiant Dreamers Company.
Baris stepped forward, wielding what looked like a pointed spear. He aimed it at the open gates, eyes closed and muttering under his breath.
A single streak of flames blasted out, striking something out in the shadows. Then it spread out in all four directions from where it had struck, breaking into four smaller streaks of flames. This process repeated again and again until the entire battlefield ahead was gridded by the golden flames.
“Now it’s your turn.”
Tossing aside the now-depleted Latticing Flare, Baris nodded Edithe’s way. Then it was her job. And the job of those with her. They charged out of the gates, following the trail of the powerful artifact that had been loosed on the Iron Champions Company. Mistshard and Druma stayed by her as they rushed straight out of the gates, flinging magic and arrows at their highlighted enemies.
The Iron Champions were caught off guard. They did not expect this assault. The sentries had been slaughtered by the initial magical blast. And the ones that were ready for battle were mostly Silver; only a handful of Gold met this attack. One survived and rallied the rest of the opposing force into action.
[Warriors], [Rogues], [Mages], [Archers]— even [Alchemists] and [Enchanters]— tried to stop Edithe as she made a mad dash through her unprepared enemies. But they couldn’t just reach her. Not only did the fire spreading throughout the battlefield make it difficult to easily navigate to them, but she blasted them with spells, aiding Mistshard who hovered above sending hails of ice.
Druma shielded her, knocking aside any adventurer who got close. At one point, a hooded individual appeared with blades at the ready, but Druma and Mistshard both quickly dealt with him, saving Edithe from what was nearly her death.
They tore through the ranks of the Iron Champions Company, meeting almost no resistance until—
An explosion nearly sent Edithe flying back. The [Mage] from before— the Platinum Rank— appeared, followed by the other Platinums of the Iron Champions Company. Some assassins showed up too. However, their numbers were lackluster. Especially compared to what they had before.
No signs of Stephen either.
“Ignore them! We press on!”
Celine bellowed, leading the charge. Edithe followed after. She realized how out of their depths Cless and Sophia were, yet they still tried their best to help. Neither specialized in combat— at least, not against people.
A bolt of lightning that cracked the earth caught the attention of the Platinums. Baris did not let them get close to Edithe and the others. He was around their level, yes. But he was more experienced. And he had spent decades building up his General Skills. Edithe knew he could take them all on himself.
Then, just as their first obstacle was overcome, another came barring their path. And this one was a mountain.
The ground broke before the charging group as a large broadsword broke the streets of Viechester. It sent a shockwave that knocked them off balance. And just as Celine got up, an aura of concentrated energy shot out at her.
Her eyes grew wide, but she managed to raise her axe just in time to block the attack. The other Platinums gathered themselves, eyeing warily what had halted them all to a stop. Edithe glanced up too, feeling fear strike her heart.
[??? - Lvl. ???]
A Diamond Rank adventurer. One from the Iron Champions Company. But not just anyone. It was one Edithe recognized.
One of the current leaders of the company. One of the original members of the Iron Champions. The ones that were dubbed the champions. They were the ones who exploited the Millcliff Iron Mines to get rich. To get to where they were today.
The purported [Warrior] was dressed in shimmering plate armor. Powerful enchantments were no doubt protecting him. He had a helmet on, covering all but the signature scar on his face. A vicious grin spread across his lips.
“Oh, seems like the valiant dogs finally decided to stop cowering and bite back. How... foolish.”
He raised his weapon that was twice his own size. The patterned runes running through its blade limned under the moonlight. Or was that an enchantment?
Edithe wasn’t sure, but she didn’t hesitate. No more.
She sent an icy spear shooting out at the man. It smashed into his armor, dealing no damage. Like an icicle falling against a metal surface. He laughed.
“Did you think that would—”
Hadrian’s voice cut off Orbur, some Skill propelling him through the air. It was like he had leapt off a building and was falling straight at the other Diamond Rank.
Orbur countered with his own Skill, his sword growing larger as he swung. The two clashed, sending a ripple through the battlefield. The nearby Silvers all fell from the blow, and Edithe nearly stumbled as she was standing up.
The two Diamonds traded blows, fighting at a level Edithe couldn’t possibly hope to ever reach. She wanted to help Hadrian, but as he kicked Orbur back, sending the other Diamond flying, he glanced back at her.
And that was all he had to say. Edithe dragged Celine who was enraged by Orbur. She had nearly died from that initial attack and wanted to help Hadrian face one of the champions from the Iron Champions Company.
But she would have only hindered him. So Edithe had Druma pick up the woman, much to her chagrin, only putting her down once they were out of sight of the two clashing Diamonds. When Celine was back on her feet, she had a scowl on her face. But she didn’t say anything to Edithe.
The group reached the end of the Iron Champions’ line. The last of the adventurers there were mostly Silver and Gold. They didn’t even try fighting, choosing to flee and maybe regroup elsewhere. Edithe would have tried to stop them, but it wasn’t worth the effort.
Instead, it was time for them to do what they came for. Their job here was finished, and it was time to move on.
They stopped at an intersection, each of them casting wary gazes at the shadows creeping through the side streets and alleyways of Viechester. They all held the same fear in their mind. Assassins. But none showed up.
Finally, after they were sure they weren’t being followed, Celine turned to Edithe.
“This is where we part ways. I need to check on my little brothers back on my farm. They live just outside the city, so I probably will take a while and can’t help you.”
The other Platinums were already streaming off, going on their own to check on those they cared about. Edithe smiled and nodded at Celine.
“It’s fine. I have help.”
The red-haired woman glanced back at the Greater Spirits and Gold Ranks accompanying her. Truth be told, Edithe would have preferred if Celine followed them. She was pretty sure Celine could have killed half— if not all— of them by herself. That was just how big the gap between Gold and Platinum was. Yet, Edithe couldn’t wait for Celine’s help.
This was something she had to do on her own.
“Go. Check on your family.”
“You didn’t need to say that twice. Good luck.”
Celine waved and started sprinting down one of the side streets. She disappeared into the darkness, heading out of the city, whereas Edithe would be heading further in.
“The Sanctum of Elements is in the city square. It’s usually crowded during the day, but… at night it’s like a ghost town, huh?”
Edithe casually commented as her group— Sophia, Ian, and Cless— made their way through the streets, arriving at the large courtyard that would be lined with shops during the day. Ian grunted in agreement, although Cless scoffed.
“Of course it is. Everyone’s asleep. No one would be wandering about at night for no good reason.”
Sophia rolled her eyes.
“That, and the fact that the city has issued a lockdown warning too for the citizens’ own safety.”
It seemed like such a nonchalant conversation at first. They almost seemed uncaring of Rachel— unpressed for time. But they were being cautious.
At any moment, an assassin could strikeout. And that was what they feared. The Spirits too— Druma protectively shielded Edithe with his body, while Mistshard flitted around, close to any alleyway and corner where someone might be hiding.
“It’s fine, guys.”
Edithe waved a hand at her summons, pointing at the temple ahead.
“We’ve arrived, look.”
Sure enough, the tall staircase leading up to the Sanctum of Elements lay before them. It was spotless. Cleaned like it was every single day. It certainly looked untouched. As though nothing had actually happened to it, and Edithe had just been paranoid. But as the group made their way up the stairs and into the temple, they found—