I happily exited Adan’s shop, waving goodbye at the Cyclops man as I carried the Horn of the Caller in between my silver claws. It was worn around my neck like a necklace, with a string connected around its edge, keeping it attached to me so I would not lose it.
I glanced around the street I was in. It was still night; I did stay back to chat with Adan for a few hours, even after multiple other customers came in. However, I did not waste enough time for it to already be daytime.
Nav followed after me with a tired look on his face.
“Alright, Salvos the [Mage]... what do you wish to see next of Unarith?”
I tapped a finger on my chin as I cast my gaze around the city. There were a multitude of things to see. Not much trade went on here— not as much as a Human city. There still were some vendors, as evinced by Adan’s presence. It just was very different from what I was used to.
I could spend a very long time, just wandering around Unarith, taking in the sights with awe, asking questions to my tour guide, and learning more about Kobolds and their culture. But I was bored!
“Let’s go back!”
I spun back around to face Nav. The red-scaled Kobold blinked. He tried to work his jaw— which seemed a lot more difficult than for a Human, since his mouth is elongated.
“B-but… you just… you only visited one place…”
He stared at me as I simply cocked my head. He tried to muster up more words before giving up and sighing a raspy breath.
“Very well, we shall make our return to the shrine.”
Leading the way back to where we came from, I skipped behind Nav until we reached the tilled fields and crossed the bridged path to minaret standing tall with a wide base. It was emptier now, than before. There were no groups of Kobold men and women chanting with their hands clasped together. Perhaps they finally decided to retire to bed.
Kobolds did need sleep, after all. Not as much as Humans. A light nap, compared to them. Maybe some Humans could get a Skill or a Class that helped them forego sleep entirely. But this was part of the Kobolds’ Species. They did not need any outside aid to help them be better than Humans this way.
I approved of it!
We went up the spiral staircase in the center of the chamber, back up to where I left Xidra. I rapped lightly against her door and called out.
“Xidra— the [Herbalist]. Are you there?”
I quickly corrected my mistake before Nav could give me an odd look. Or, an even more odd look that he had given me today. The door swung open, revealing a well-dressed Kobold behind it. She wore slender, fitting robes that complemented her green scales.
She nodded at me, and stepped past us.
“Salvos the [Mage], I trust Nav the [Warrior] has taken good care of you?”
“He sure did!”
I agreed, giving the red-scaled Kobold man a thumbs-up. He ignored it, bowing lightly towards Xidra with a hand against his chest.
“First Dragonling, I have completed the task you have given me. May I take my leave?”
“You may retire from your duties. I wish to speak with Salvos the [Mage] upstairs.”
“Yes, First Dragonling.”
He quickly escaped before I could even wave goodbye at him. I shrugged as I watched him disappear down the stairwell, turning back to Xidra with a smile.
“I bought a horn.”
I showed the Horn of the Caller to her, lightly raising it from my chest. She fixed a curious gaze at it.
“A single Medium Grade item? I would have thought someone such as you would have been better equipped with at least some High Grade equipment.”
I shook my head and followed her as she started up the stairs. She walked with her hands behind her back, so I mimicked her. To blend in.
I was a master of disguise, no one suspected a thing!
“Why do you not have any, if I may ask?”
“Because they’re expensive.”
“Yep. They cost a lot— and we’re almost always low on gold, you know?”
“‘We’ as in…”
“My companions and I!”
We came to the top of the stairwell. We stood on the covered roof of the minaret. There was a domed ceiling above full of brightly colored gems, placed to create an intricate design that did not really mean anything. It was just a nice looking pattern. Xidra stopped and faced me.
“That is quite surprising. I would have assumed one at your level could simply scavenge for items.”
“We don’t really need most of the things we get, so we end up selling them. And I buy things I like like this bracelet!”
I showed off the golden object wrapped around my forearm. She gave it an approving look.
“It is shiny.”
I paused and stared around the mostly empty room. Other than getting a good view of Unarith— as well as a weak breeze that brushed against my face— there was nothing here. No one here.
“When’s your friend arriving, anyway?”
I finally asked. The confusion on my face was evident. Xidra gave me a Kobold smile.
“He arrives. Look.”
She pointed out at the sable sky. I narrowed my eyes and saw something moving amongst the stars. The scintillating light from above limn the figure that was heading straight at us. It looked like a bird? Except, it was far larger.
It was a Kobold. Except, it had wings.
A voice cried out as the figure rapidly approached us. I grabbed Xidra and pulled her out of the way. The winged Kobold crashed into the top of the tower, sending dust up into the air before he rolled to a stop.
I blinked as a blue-scaled Kobold glanced up at me, a surprised look on his face. He was lying upside down, but quickly leapt to his feet.
“Oh, uh, sorry about that.”
I slowly lowered Xidra back to the ground as he dusted himself off. She gave him a reprimanding look.
“Hoxle the [Diviner], why did you do that?”
“I’m still trying to get used to my wings, Xidra.”
He did not address her with the same formalities as other Kobolds had shown so far. He was rather carefree, scratching at his scales as he averted his gaze from the First Dragonling.
“You are late, and you nearly struck our guest.”
“Well— she handled it just fine, didn’t she?”
I agreed, nodding beside him. I beamed as I took a look at the odd Kobold. He was nothing like the others in the city. Which meant I was blending in just fine. Xidra stared at me.
“Why are you making that face, Salvos the [Mage]?”
“Because I’m a master of disguise!”
She shook her head, letting out a soft sigh.
“One would hope so, considering that you can take on the form of a sapient Mortal.”
“Wait, wait, wait. Is she into me?”
Hoxle leaned forward, trying to whisper into Xidra’s ear. I cocked my head, puzzled.
“How do I break it to her that I’m not into—”
“Quiet, Hoxle the [Diviner]. This is not a casual setting. You are making a fool out of yourself in front of our guest.”
He bowed apologetically my way. I shook my head.
“No, it’s fine. But what are you not into?”
Xidra sighed, stepping between us.
“Salvos the [Mage], this is Hoxle the [Diviner], my nephew, and the one who will be aiding you to your companions.”
I glanced between them.
“You two are related?”
“That is right. He may not seem capable, but I assure you he very much is.”
I identified Hoxle, only to be proven right.
[Diviner - Lvl. 103]
I pointed at the wings sprouting from his back, frowning.
“Why does he have wings, anyway? Shouldn’t you have wings since he’s related to you?”
“Kobolds are not born with wings, Salvos the [Mage]. It is a result of his evolution that he can now fly.”
I blinked and took a step back.
“You guys can evolve?”
“I mentioned it, did I not? Gexli’s evolution enabled him to live in the wild, almost like a monster. He could track me even from miles away.”
“But you have Classes!”
Hoxle snorted, crossing his arms as his wings folded behind his back.
“Why are you asking so many weird questions? Of course we have Classes. I just hit Level 100 and unlocked my evolution.”
He beamed as his tongue stuck out of his elongated mouth. I hesitated. Was this like how Humans could get a second Class at Level 100? Scratch that— was this like how Demons like me could get a Class at Level 100? I wanted to ask more questions— this was surprising! But Xidra spoke before I could.
“Mind your manners, Hoxle the [Diviner]. Salvos the [Mage] is not someone who is familiar with the ways of Kobold society or our path with the Sesstern.”
She shook her head before resting her eyes on me.
“That is because she is not a Kobold like us. She is a Demon.”
Hoxle took a step back. He turned to me with wide eyes. I almost thought he was going to lash out at me. And he did.
The Kobold man lunged forward, grasping for me with his claws. I frowned and stepped around it. The [Diviner] fell on the ground.
“Hey! Did you just try and attack me?”
He crawled my way and grabbed me by my legs. He stared up at me with sparkling eyes as I tried kicking him off.
“What is the Netherworld like? Do you have any Demon friends? How did you even get to the Mortal Realm?”
“I have questions for you too! Let me ask mine first!”
Xidra yanked Hoxle away, forcing him to stand up. Scowling, he followed the commands of his aunt.
“Salvos the [Mage] is not here to answer your questions. Nor are you here to pester her. I have called you here to aid her.”
“Gahhh… fine, what does she want?”
He turned towards me, still unhappy. I fumbled for my robe pocket, producing the compass and map Daniel had given me.
“I’d like to find my companions. They’re over at Ghostlight. A Human city near the Plaguelands— Dead Zone?”
“Oh, this is easy.”
He grinned, taking the map from me. Xidra gave him a dubious look.
“Hoxle the [Diviner], when did you learn how to read Human cartography?”
“I’ve been doing studying, Xidra.”
He waved a hand as he unfurled the map. He placed it on the ground as I peered over. Tracing a clawed finger across the map, he came to a stop and tapped at it. I watched with wide eyes as this happened.
Hoxle stood up. My eyes were fixed on the location he had pointed out.
“This is where Ghostlight is.”
Xidra came over, almost looking proud. She placed a hand on her nephew’s shoulder.
“I was hoping to ask you to lend your Skills to help Salvos the [Mage], but it appears that is not necessary, correct?”
I finally spoke up. I picked up the map and placed a finger at the spot he had marked.
“This is where you said Ghostlight is.”
“Yeah. That’s where it is!”
“But… it’s blue.”
He crossed his arms, a triumphant look on his face. I stared at him. Then I shook my head and sputtered.
“That’s the ocean!”
I scowled, throwing the map down to the ground.
“Even I know that much!”
“No, I thought that was… but…”
He trailed off as Xidra sighed. She poked his side.
“Hoxle the [Diviner], let us not waste anymore time. Your fascination with Human culture does not help us here.”
His shoulders sagged, and I gave him a judging look from the side. How can he not read a map? I folded the map back up, keeping it because I had no idea how to read a map. The Kobold man took a step forward, holding out a hand.
“Give me your ass-thing.”
“That ass-thing you have. That metal ass-thing in your hand.”
I passed over the compass as he grumbled, taking it. I shied away from him and almost hid behind Xidra. He’s weird! I watched him take a deep breath as a glow overcomes him.
“What is he doing?”
“He is blessing that item of yours with [Tracking]. Come, it does not take long.”
Hoxle walked back towards me as the light engulfing him vanished. Now, only the compass was glowing. He handed the now-lambent compass back to me, and I reached for it. He shook his head.
I placed a clawed hand over the compass, raising a brow. He clasped his hands over mine and snapped his eyes shut. Speaking slowly, he addressed me.
“Salvos, tell me, who are you searching for. Envision their faces. Imagine where you last saw them. Think of their relationship with you.”
Nodding, I did as I was told. I remembered Daniel. The [Hero] from another world. He tried helping me find a way back to the Netherworld. And while he was not always helpful, I appreciated the sentiment.
And there was Edithe. The red-haired woman full of fury. Except, she was far more reticent now. Apprehension had gripped her, keeping her from burning with the same passion as before. It would have been nice if I had met this version of Edithe when we first met— maybe she would not have hated me then. But now, I wanted to return the fire into her life.
“Do you see them?”
“Good. Now say their names. Say who they are.”
Even though my eyes were closed, I could see flashes of light. An iridescent sheen that held my vision. I opened my mouth, speaking simply.
“Daniel, my companion. Edithe, my companion. I wish to find them.”
I waited for something else to happen. For the light to become overwhelming. But it just vanished. I heard the sounds of claws clacking together, and opened my eyes to see Hoxle with his hands clapped together.
“And that’s it!”
“Yeah! You can just look at your ass-thing.”
I corrected him before looking down at the compass. I blinked as I saw the hands of the compass both pointing in the same direction. It was not a direction I had ever seen them point before. It was directed to my right, and when I tried to reorient it, it moved to face the same direction as before.
“The Skill will take a week to wear-off. It will lead you directly to your companions, Edithe and Daniel, until then.”
I stood at the edge of the tower, having followed where it was pointing. I gently ran my hand across it. Like it was some kind of precious jewel. I wanted to cherish it. It was going to save me from getting lost for the next week. And even better— it was going to lead me back to my companions!
Spinning around, I leapt at Hoxle and wrapped my arms around him.
“Thank you so much!”
“Hey! Hands off! I told you I’m not interested in women!”
I obliged and took a step back. I glanced back down at the compass, softly holding onto it.
“I’ve gotta go, now.”
“You wish to leave immediately, Salvos the [Mage]?”
“Of course! My companions must be worried. I promised them I would be back days ago! Or was it a week?”
I tapped a finger on my chin. I did not exactly keep track of the days. I had no reason to. Not like Humans who felt the need to sleep when it turned night. The two Kobolds led the way as I walked behind them, carefully holding onto the compass like it was some kind of treasure. They chatted casually as I watched the compass hands spin around as we spiraled down the stairway.
“By the way, Xidra—”
“Please address me properly, Hoxle the [Diviner].”
“Right, right. You know, I just want to say sorry that I didn’t hunt you down immediately when you disappeared. But I was busy. Those Scale Sentinels targeted me too! I didn’t even hear about what happened until you sent me that missive just earlier.”
“It is fine. They went after you as well?”
“Yeah. But it seemed like a distraction. I beat up a few of them and… wait.”
He came to a stop, and I almost ran into him. I blinked, glancing up to face as he turned around.
“You said your friends are at Ghostlight, right?”
“Around there. Why?”
The Kobold man paused. He pricked at his scales, an uneasy looking crossing through his face.
“Now mayyyy not be the best time to tell you that the Scale Sentinels are planning another attack on Ghostlight.”
I stared at him, in shock. He shifted his feet uneasily as I fixed my look onto him. I opened my mouth, trying to find words to come out. I always wondered how Daniel and Edithe always lost their words. I realized now what it was like.
“H-h-how did you…?”
“I forgot, alright?”