I bounded through the dark forest, leaping across the canopy of trees. I tried to stay at the treetop, out of view of anyone that was possibly on the forest floor.
I was no longer in my Mortal Form. I couldn’t waste any time. If what I heard from Faith was true— then Edithe and Rachel were in danger. My companions were in danger.
Daniel tried getting me to wait for him. However, he was too slow. And carrying him would have only slowed me down. So I left, on my own, for Viechester. Unfortunately, I seemed to have run into a minor problem. The same one I always faced whenever I traveled on my own.
...Am I lost?
I wasn’t entirely sure if I was heading in the right direction. Daniel had pointed it out on the map for me— he had instructed me to head in a straight line without making a single detour. But it was hard to follow a path when there was nothing obvious to lead me.
I had been given his map too. Just in case I got lost. But… I barely understood how to read it.
Pushing myself off a thick branch, I grabbed onto the trunk of a tree right at the edge of the forest. I saw a road just before me. Does this road lead to Viechester? I was about to jump down to check when I caught a glimpse of something moving in the shadows.
Chains spread through and in between the trees, hurling heavy spiked balls at me. I threw myself from the tree as the clanging of the metal echoed above me before I landed on the dirt ground.
I glanced up just in time to see a cloaked figure falling after me. It was a Human man. He wore the same shadow cloak of the Harrowed Vindicators, but he bore no mask. His hood was not up, exposing an unbridled fury on his face. He stared down at me with a single eye that nearly burst out of its sockets.
“Demon! I have found you, now I will get my revenge—”
Defeated [Flailberserker of Chains - Lvl. 65]
Experience is awarded for defeating an enemy!
...who was that? Why did he attack me?
I didn’t know. But I killed him easily and continued on my way. Maybe he’s just another Human mad that I’m a Demon. That was probably the case. I saw a sign slightly further down the road indicating that I was indeed heading to Viechester. Maybe I should change to my Mortal Form. Don’t want Hadrian or the other Valiant Dreamers attacking me for being a Demon!
The group that stalked through the halls of the temple was gripped by a deathly silence. Edithe’s eyes glazed over the gilded walls, paying attention only to the heavy beating in her chest. The thumping of her heart echoed in her head, almost like a drum. It grew louder and louder— almost deafeningly so— becoming the only thing she could hear.
Calm down, she told herself. So far we’ve seen nothing, and that’s a good thing. If there really were assassins here, they would have left some signs. The [Priests] promised to keep Rachel safe, and even if they weren’t combatants, they still would be able to put up a fight.
But the question was, would the Iron Champions Company really risk angering the Sanctum of Elements? Certainly, the Den of Souls would not stand for an attack against [Priests], even if they were from a different denomination. The Iron Champions might have been treading a thin line, but they weren’t idiots.
Despite what Edithe had been telling herself all night, she knew they weren’t immune to consequences. It had only been a month since they poisoned Baris, then three days since they tried to burn down the headquarters. Whether they would have actually faced backlash for their actions over what happened in the past night— or rather, the past six hours— remained to be seen.
Edithe quietly led the group through the familiar corridors leading to William’s quarters. She knew that he slept on the third floor of the [Priests] dormitories. That was because he was one of the higher ranked members of the Sanctum of Elements in Viechester.
The moment the group reached the dorms, Edithe knew what happened. She understood why there were no signs of a scuffle— no evidence of fighting. Because the assassins did not attack the [Priests]. Instead, they used some sort of artifact to erect a barrier and cordon off the entire area.
Frowning, Edithe approached the translucent yellow wall of energy and placed a hand on it.
“It’s a powerful sealing spell. At least, too powerful for me to break. It’ll probably dissipate by the time the sun’s up. But I don’t think anyone inside even realizes they’re locked in since it cancels noise too.”
“Think we can destroy it if we combine our magic?”
Cless suggested, trying to inspect the barrier too. Edithe shook her head.
“No. I say we don’t waste time trying to break in. The fact that the Iron Champions Company— or their assassins— are blocking out this entire area means Rachel and William aren’t inside.”
“Where are they then?”
Sophia asked, her eyes scanning the surroundings.
“I’m a [Hunter]. I can probably track them down if you give me some general directions.”
“I’m not sure. But if I know William, he might have been anywhere from studying away in the temple library or wandering the streets to feed the homeless.”
“And this Rachel…”
Ian piped up, narrowing his eyes.
“She’s with him?”
“Yes. Or she should be.”
Edithe spoke almost as if she were remembering a fond memory.
“When I was little and visited the temple for some of the spare scraps they handed out, William would always bring me around to show me his work. It didn’t matter if I wasn’t interested or was just trying to bother him— he would always be so patient and kind to me, showing me every part of his daily life and teaching me new things.”
“You grew up in the streets?”
Sophia blinked. The red-haired woman nodded.
“Yes, and William took care of me. Just like how I trust he’ll take care of Rachel. So she has to be with him, and if he isn’t in the dorms, then we’ll have to sweep through the temple. Find where he’s at.”
“If you’re certain Rachel is with him, then I can just use a Skill.”
The other [Mage], Cless, offered. Edithe turned to him, raising a brow.
“[Scry Direction]. It has a long cooldown. But I can use it on people whom I’ve interacted with. And I used to visit this temple quite a lot too. I probably spoke to William once or twice— enough for it to work.”
“Let’s give it a shot then.”
Cless nodded and began activating his Skill. Edithe waited, casting wary glances around the area. Once or twice, she thought she saw someone sneaking around. She sent Mistshard over to check, and it turned out it was just her paranoia getting to her.
The assassins won’t know that we’re coming, we’re fine. Edithe found herself breathing again. Cless finished his casting, and his eyes shone slightly blue as he scanned the surroundings.
Edithe couldn’t help but ask after a moment passed. He raised a finger and pointed down a large corridor.
The group proceeded to follow Cless. They made their way down the winding halls until finally reaching a large, familiar room. It was the summoning room of this temple. The place where Edithe first summoned Hana.
There, Edithe’s eyes grew wide as she saw…
William and Rachel were standing over the summoning pool. The [Priest] had a book open, reading aloud an excerpt from the Immortal King’s Legacy as the girl rested her head on his lap, her feet lightly kicking against the water.
“And it was only when Alexander regaled the wonderful tales from his world to the Council of Cremont did the [Archbishops] at the time allow him to cross through to the Spirit Plane—”
He paused and glanced up at the group that approached him. Edithe ran up to him, the relief on her face evident.
The [Priest] stood up, and Rachel jumped, running to meet the red-haired woman. She hugged Edithe’s legs as William spoke in a confused voice.
“What are you doing here?”
“She came back for me!”
Rachel exclaimed but quickly shied back the moment she noticed there were others in the room. Edithe caressed Rachel and spoke softly.
“Yes, I did.”
Then the red-haired woman turned back to William.
“Is everything alright? We came to check on you two.”
“Everything has been fine, although we’ve been worried about you, Edithe. We heard about the declaration of war. And there have been some talks of how the siege against the Valiant Dreamers headquarters. But it’s barely been a day since then. How did you get here?”
“We fought our way out.”
Edithe replied simply.
“We weren’t going to fight on the terms the Iron Champions set anymore. Especially when they started to bring innocents into it. We’re the Valiant Dreamers. We fight for the weak against the strong.”
“Right… I get that. Did something happen during the siege?”
Of course, William didn’t know. But Edithe was glad she arrived before he had to find out the hard way.
“The Iron Champions have been sending assassins after the friends and family of Platinum Ranks. But we were worried they would go after you two as well.”
He had a horrified look on his face. Edithe concurred with that, but she didn’t want to spend any more time explaining.
“Right, so we have to get out of here as soon as possible.”
“They can’t come after us. If they attack us [Priests]—”
“They don’t have to harm you.”
Edithe shook her head. The assassins had already separated most of the [Priests] from possibly getting involved. Abducting a child from a single old man was not so hard after that.
“They’ll just have to grab Rachel and leave. That’s why Rachel needs to come with us.”
The girl looked up at Edithe, a confused look on her face.
“Are more people coming after me?”
Edithe couldn’t help but hesitate for a moment. But instead of striking fear into the girl’s heart, she seemed to have elicited a different kind of worry.
“Am I causing more trouble for you?”
Biting her lip, Edithe took a deep breath and spoke slowly.
“No, you aren’t. Come, let’s get out of here.”
She held onto Rachel’s hand and started down the hallway they came. However, Ian held out a hand and sharply cut her off.
“Wait, someone’s coming.”
The [Rogue] drew his daggers. Edithe’s eyes snapped ahead of her. She couldn’t see anything, but she didn’t think he meant they were arriving right now.
“Possibly. Not the most discreet— maybe high Silver or low Gold in level. But I don’t think they’re alone.”
“What do we do?”
Sophia spoke, panic clearly heard from her tone of voice. Edithe tightly gripped her staff.
William’s voice drew the group’s attention. He was gesturing towards a wall. Wait, that wasn’t just a wall. It was shifting— moving. A hidden room?
“Go inside. Let’s go!”
They hurriedly rushed inside before the secret passageway closed. Edithe glanced back, relief washing over her.
She paused when she realized the [Priest] hadn’t followed after them. Standing there in shock, Edithe her voices escape through the walls.
“Where’s the girl?”
A vague voice that sounded like Stephen’s reached her. And an older one, coming from William, came back.
“I do not know what girl you’re referring to.”
“Don’t force my hand, [Priest].”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
Edithe felt her heart drop. No— not William too. She wanted to break through the walls and attack Stephen, even though she knew the Platinum Rank would easily kill her. But a chuckle sent her back to her senses.
“No, I wouldn’t. But that still doesn’t change anything.”
Footfalls. The echoes of someone leaving the summoning chamber. And a final command.
“Find the girl. Bring her to me— no matter what.”
A hand tugged at Edithe. Sophia nodded at her, breaking her from her trance. Breathing deeply, Edithe reassured herself that William was fine, even if she couldn’t see him. He wasn’t attacked by Stephen, and the assassins with the Iron Champions were now searching for Rachel.
Now all that mattered to the group was getting out of the temple with Rachel. Alive.