“You can’t do this to me— I’ve served Lulica for almost 20 years!”
I watched Johnathan protest as he was dragged away by a pair of armed guards. These guards were well dressed— they had a sigil showing they were from Viechester on their armor. They were pretty high leveled too, at about Level 50.
The rest of the retinue of guards from Viechester were lower leveled. They were still around Level 30, which was still high Silver— definitely higher leveled than the guards in Lulica— but we had to escort them just in case something happened. Like if the bandits had backup and decided to launch a surprise attack.
That would have been disastrous for the city of Viechester since a large chunk of their adventurers— perhaps a quarter— were busy with a company war. It was up to the city itself to defend from possible monster attacks, as unlikely as they were, which meant that such high leveled guards were not expendable.
The scene of the guard captain of Lulica being arrested drew very little attention from the people in the town; most of them were preoccupied with something else. They were reuniting with their loved ones. Families were embracing each other, crying tears of joy. Others were searching with worried looks. And a few were wailing, after their search had proven fruitless.
Piero was one of the lucky ones. I could see him and his daughter hugging a woman. They were so tightly huddled together, I wondered if they could even separate after they were finished. The large man who I had seen at the fire the other night was another of the fortunate ones. A small boy sat on his shoulder, clinging on as if his life depended on it.
Daniel and Edithe were fixed on this scene. I did not see the appeal. But I could tell how it made them feel. The Human man seemed almost relieved— it wasn’t the fact that he was a [Hero] that made him feel this way, it was just how he was. I remembered how he felt on the day he returned to Viechester. It was not anger, but sadness.
Edithe on the other hand, had always been the type to get more upset. Just like when I first met her, a mix of rage and melancholy drove her forward. To kill Lucerna. And while it was not envy on her face, I could tell she was not only happy. There was pity— empathy— towards those who had lost and were grieving.
We made our way back to Viechester, arriving at the city girdled by banclite walls while the sun was still high in the sky. Johnathan would be trialed by the court here, but that was none of our business. Our job was finished. And we were free to do whatever we wanted.
Just as Hadrian said, he was not in the headquarters of the Valiant Dreamers Company. Rachel was there, being taught by Sophia in her room. The two were still not exactly comfortable with each other— but I could tell the little girl was beginning to warm up to her tutor.
Perhaps she was finally starting to acclimate to her new environment. This place was like a home to her. The only worry I had was about the Harrowed Vindicators. But they were unlikely to strike. They hadn’t so far, and Daniel would be going far away from Rachel.
We bade our farewells to the members of the Valiant Dreamers Company. Rachel was unhappy that we were leaving, but she did not protest and cry like before. Instead, she simply met my eyes and asked a question.
“When will you be back?”
I bent over and smiled.
“As soon as I hit Level 100. We’ll be back in Viechester.”
She nodded slowly, then she steeled herself.
“Well, I’ll be Level 40 by then!”
“No. No you won’t.”
Sophia grabbed Rachel’s shoulders and spoke simply.
“I will absolutely not allow you to try doing something that crazy.”
It was an understandable sentiment; I did not want Rachel to get hurt. However, if she could become strong enough to protect herself, I would have preferred that!
“I’ll leave her in your care!”
I beamed at Sophia and she hesitated.
“I’ll take care of her. Make sure she doesn’t do anything stupid. And it’s not like I’m going to be doing anything too dangerous. I’ll have to look after Cless too— he’s still hurt. So, I guess I’ll just be a babysitter then.”
A small laugh left her lips, indicating that she was not particularly upset. I trusted her enough to try and keep her words. Ian was there too. He said nothing and only gave me a curt grunt.
I grunted back at him with a smile. Edithe broke away from talking with a burly Platinum Rank adventurer. And Daniel was not particularly friendly with most of the people in the Valiant Dreamers Company. Then my companions and I were off.
But we still had one last place to drop by before we headed to our destination.
“Where are we going, Salvos?”
“I’ll tell you later. But first—”
My shoes clacked on the cobbled street as I spun around and clasped my hands behind my back. I looked at Edithe and grinned.
“We’ll be dropping by the Sanctum of Elements!”
The red haired woman paused. Then her eyes grew wide.
“Wait, you aren’t saying…”
The three of us met William at the entrance of the temple; he had been waiting for us since I told him we were coming. I whispered quietly to him as I approached him.
“Do you have everything prepared?”
“We have, yes.”
“Good! Let’s hurry then!”
Edithe followed behind us, almost looking uncomfortable. But she tried to make small conversations with William.
“How’s everything going with the temple?”
“If you’re talking about the week before, the Sanctum of Elements has not made any official statements on the incident.”
“Language, young lady.”
The [Priest] shook his head, sighing. We rounded a corner as he continued.
“It is because the upper echelons of the Sanctum of Elements have vested interests in working with adventurers and companies alike. However, the Den of Souls are not as kind. They take any action against one of the two other denominations as an attack against them. They have declared an inquisition.”
“An inquisition?! What?”
Daniel sputtered, staring at William in disbelief. The older man nodded.
“Yes, the [Inquisitors] of the Den of Souls will be moving out and taking direct actions against certain members of the Iron Champions Company. They shall be disrupting their supply lines too, to aid the Valiant Dreamers in their war. And other such actions that could hurt and possibly bring the Iron Champions to ruin.”
“Oh, uh, that’s not what I thought it was at all.”
The [Priest] wrinkled a brow questioningly at Daniel.
“What did you think was going to happen?”
“Uh, I thought there was going to be something more… effective? Like countries rallying around the Den of Souls’ call.”
“Unfortunately, us temples are far less influential than you think.”
Laughing, William led us down a familiar gilded corridor. I had been here once before, however I was sure Edithe had been here many times. But instead of putting her at ease, it seemed to rattle her nerves even more. The [Priest] finished.
“Our temples are merely supplicants to nations. We do not aid them. We connect people across borders, but we do not destroy or determine those borders. Perhaps during the time of Alexander, we could have had more influence, but now, this is what we are.”
He stepped aside and gestured for us to enter the large room ahead.
“I’ll leave you alone, so you can have your conversation in private.”
Edithe muttered a thanks and trudged forward. It was almost like she was walking through mud, her feet sinking with every step and slowing her from making it into the room. I waited for her inside, standing next to the two Spirits already in the room.
It was the summoning room.
And Mistshard and Druma were standing by the summoning pool. Or rather, Mistshard was hovering over it, while Druma was seated on the ground like a collapsed tree. Edithe stared at her two former summons, fidgeting with her fingers.
She opened and closed her mouth several times, looking like she was unsure of what to say. Finally, Daniel gently pushed her forward and whispered something into her ear. Taking a deep breath, Edithe approached the two Spirits and spoke deliberately.
“Hello, Mistshard, Druma.”
Druma said nothing as he could not speak. However, he stood up and fixed his gaze on her. Mistshard perched herself on his shoulder and replied coolly.
Edithe visibly flinched at the words. I glared up at Mistshard.
“Hey! That’s rude! You said you would be nice.”
“I am being courteous as I have promised. However, I am required to address the oathbreaker by only one title— oathbreaker.”
“Well… you can just not address her, can’t you?”
Mistshard cocked her bird-like head. She considered it for a moment, before nodding.
“That would be agreeable.”
The [Elemental] turned back to face Edithe, waiting for the red haired woman to speak.
“I… know I broke my contract. I know I violated my agreement with the Spirit Lord. My decision was irrational, and I wasn’t thinking straight.”
After gathering herself from the verbal assault, Edithe managed to squeak out a voice. She did not meet the eyes of her Spirits, but she still continued.
“However, I did what I thought was best at the moment. Not to offend you or your Lord. Or the bond we formed for the past half a year. It was because I did not want you to get hurt. Because I was tired of seeing my friends die for me.”
She stared at the ground as her hands balled to fists. Sighing, Edithe glanced up and opened her mouth—
Only for Mistshard to flutter down in front of her and stop her. The [Elemental] stopped right in front of Edithe as luminescent smoke left her ethereal body. The body of a Spirit. Not a Mortal. But a creature like me— made from the world itself.
Her eyes almost seemed to glow as they peered into Edithe. They held her attention, stopping her from talking. Until finally, Mistshard spoke.
“There is no animosity here.”
The words were simple, clear. It did not address anyone; she could not address Edithe without hurting the woman’s feelings. So, Mistshard just mouthed off to the void.
“The contract was broken, and as per our obligations to our Lord we were returned to the Spirit Plane. Our duty falls to him and only him. Our personal sentiments— our desires to work with certain Humans— cannot interfere with his will.”
Edithe blinked slowly, uncomprehending her words. The Greater Spirit lowered her head and closed her eyes, leaning close to the [Summoner]’s face.
“I am sorry.”
Druma stood beside her. The two of them bowed to Edithe, as if they were the ones apologizing. Edithe was left speechless. Then she stepped forward and hugged them.
The three said nothing more. There was nothing left to be said. Some time passed, and eventually the Spirits had to return to the Spirit Plane. We had to leave too— we could not hog the use of the summoning room freely.
I waved goodbye at Druma and Mistshard. I gestured at my arms and grinned at the [Yaksha].
“I have four arms too now! Just like you!”
He looked over me and offered me a gentle pat on the head. Then he entered the summoning pool and disappeared into Spirit Plane. Mistshard hovered over the water for a moment, eyeing Edithe. Icicles dropped from her eyes, like she was crying but the tears froze upon forming.
Edithe spoke softly and Mistshard was gone. With the last of our farewells made, my companions and I left the Sanctum of Elements. William simply nodded at Edithe as she left, and she returned the gesture. The two were probably used to this by now.
Finally, we were ready to leave. Edithe stretched her back and let out a small chuckle.
“That was exhausting.”
“I didn’t do anything but watch, but even I’m tired from that.”
Daniel agreed, shaking his head. I stood off to the side, eagerly bouncing from my toes. My companions both turned to face me with an inquiring glance.
“So, uh, where exactly are we going, Salvos? You haven't said.”
The Human man asked. Edithe made a noise of agreement, the curiosity on her face evident. I giggled and spun around, finally revealing the trip I had planned.
“We’ll be going east! Past Nixa and even the Vaun Qieur Empire!”
I clapped my hands as they exchanged a glance.
“There, we’ll be going to the Plaguelands, where we’ll fight a bunch of those mindless undead I keep hearing about to get stronger, then we’ll be paying a visit to the land of the Kobolds!”
The pair exclaimed at the same time, probably unable to suppress their excitement.