Daniel stood up abruptly as I approached him with the pair of Kobolds following after me. It was night now— the sun had fully set by the time I returned to my companions. I raised a hand placatingly, glancing back at Xidra and Nav.
The Human man was rightfully apprehensive. He sheathed his sword, although he didn’t let go of its hilt. He stepped away from Edithe who was still lying on the ground, unconscious.
Xidra stepped forward, appraising the red-haired woman’s condition.
“Is this the one afflicted by mana poisoning?”
“She is— I’m Daniel, by the way.”
Daniel nodded warily at her. She bowed back slightly.
“Greetings, Daniel the [Warrior], I am Xidra the [Herbalist].”
“...I can see that?”
She ignored his comment, instead kneeling over Edithe. I pulled Daniel over to the side, whispering to him.
“What are you being rude for? She’s helping us!”
“Wait, I was being rude?”
I rolled my eyes.
“Are you stupid? Can’t you tell that Kobolds are very formal— geez, and you say I’m bad at reading social cues.”
His face turned red as he glanced over at Xidra. He opened his mouth, as if to apologize, but I stopped him.
“Let her heal Edithe first. You can apologize after.”
Xidra the [Herbalist] inspected the red-haired woman for a moment. Her eyes narrowed before she shook her head.
“Salvos the [Mage], you never told me the extent of the blight’s effects on her.”
“Is it that bad? We were forced to escape through a blight flower field. I thought since I was fine, it shouldn’t be that much worse for her too.”
“Perhaps. However, levels do make a difference when it comes to ailments. Your Stats will help alleviate the workings of even poison, if you are at a high enough level. Well, certain kinds of poisons at least.”
I started forward, a worried look on my face.
“Is that why Edithe is in so much pain?”
“No. The blight will only exacerbate to this extent if it eats away at too much of your health, mana, and stamina. It grows worse if you do not treat it— or at least delay it with potions.”
“But she drank a lot of potions while we were in the blight flower field.”
“Yes. She consumed too much, which is why she suffers from mana poisoning. Just be glad that it is neither poisoning from drinking too much healing or stamina potions.”
“What is healing potion poisoning? Or stamina potion poisoning?”
“Your muscles begin to rapidly atrophy due to stamina potion poisoning. And as for healing potion poisoning? You will slowly lose your ability to regenerate— heal naturally— over time. The consequences of both can be permanent if not treated soon enough.”
Daniel piped up from the side with a frown.
“So, you can’t just be some kind of [Healer] who keeps regenerating your limbs in battle?”
“The circumstances for [Healing Mages] are different. But the result is the same: unfortunately, you will eventually die.”
Xidra produced a cleansing flower from her satchel. She held it out, peeling open its petals almost gently. She did not simply pluck out a single petal, but instead she pinched its center. A small droplet of pure, white sap seeped out, and she poured it into a vial of clear liquid.
It was not water— I peered over, identifying it.
[Elixir Base - A mixture of various ingredients used to form the base of a potent potion.]
The drip of sap discolored the clear liquid. It grew misty, like it was clouding over, until Xidra shook it. The liquid settled into the same white of the sap, and she nodded.
“This will do.”
Squeezing her hand, she crushed the cleansing flower and placed it in Edithe’s mouth. The red-haired woman was no longer coughing, but she still wore a grimaced face in her sleep. Xidra moved her jaw a little, to chew the powder, before tilting her head back and tipping the vial of white liquid into her mouth.
“What’s that for?”
I asked curiously. The Kobold woman explained.
“To cure her from the blight.”
“I thought you just had to eat the flower.”
“For more minor cases, yes. But severe situations such as this require more care. She will recover from the blight when she wakes up.”
Xidra stood back, dusting off her robes. I raised a brow.
“What about her mana poisoning?”
“That is a process that will take more than a day to fix, Salvos the [Mage].”
She backed up, nodding at Nav.
“We shall make our return to Unarith for now. When she is better tomorrow, we shall tend to her mana poisoning.”
The two Kobolds left us alone for a day. Edithe woke up as the sun began to rise, groaning as she rubbed her head. I poked my head from her side with a face full of worry.
“Edithe, are you—”
“Gah, Kobold attack—”
The red-haired woman threw a punch which I instinctively caught and countered with a quick punch. She reeled back from the hit, groaning even louder. Daniel snapped.
“What are you doing, Salvos?”
“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean iot! She just struck out at me!”
Edithe winced, pinching her nose to stop blood from dripping out. Then she blinked.
I scratched the back of my head hesitantly.
“Hi. This is my Kobold Mortal Form.”
She rubbed at her temples, as if she had a headache from the situation. Or maybe I gave her a headache when I punched her in the face. Who knows, really? It could have been from anything!
“You shoulda given me a warning or something. I feel like shit.”
Sighing, she tried to get back to her feet. She winced as she pressed her weight on one knee.
“Nope. Nevermind. That’s not happening.”
She collapsed back to the ground. I hovered over her, arms held out as if to catch her. But…. she had already fallen back down.
“Don’t push yourself, Edithe. You’re free from the blight, but the mana poisoning is still there.”
The red-haired woman nodded slowly.
“How... long have I been out?”
“Not long at all. We had someone cure you from the blight. They said they’ll check back on you again today.”
I sat down in front of her. She glanced down at her hands— they were shaking, trembling ever so slightly.
“For the mana potion poisoning. I see.”
I watched her as she raised a hand. I sensed the movement of mana around her fingers. It was like she was trying to grab for the invisible strings, but they were too sharp for her touch. Like it pricked her every time she tried to get a proper grip on it.
Daniel plopped himself down next to me too. He held a small bowl in his hand. Passing it to Edithe, he spoke softly.
She accepted it gratefully, hungrily scarfing down her meal. When she was finished, she leaned back with a sigh.
“That was delicious. What was it?”
“Just some porridge. Nothing special.”
“Almost tasted like something I had at a Cyclops town before— how did you learn to cook such a meal?”
“Uh… my mom taught me?”
I crossed my arms, realizing that that was a dish from his world. I still had to scold him for how he endangered our lives back in the blight flower field. His stubbornness would have to be addressed at one point.
Just not right now.
We exchanged small, lighthearted talk while waiting for Xidra and Nav to arrive. I heard the rustling of a bush behind me and stood up.
“Don’t panic, alright Edithe? They’re Kobolds.”
“You’ve told me this a dozen times.”
I stepped forward to greet Xidra who came alone this time. I waved at her.
“Xidra! Wait, where’s Nav?”
I looked around for the red-scaled Kobold, but didn’t see him anywhere.
“He did not escort me today.”
The Kobold woman stuck her tongue out in her usual smile. Except, it seemed almost playful today.
“So, you came alone? Isn’t that dangerous—”
I was cut off as a shadow zipped past me from above. My eyes grew wide at the realization of what was going on. I slapped my palm against my forehead as I made an exasperated noise.
“Oh no. It’s that weirdo!”
Daniel and Edithe exchanged a glance.
I conjured a fire bow and drew back an arrow. I aimed it slightly up, trailing at the figure that was rapidly approaching us.
“No you watch out!”
I shouted, losing the Blazing Bolt at Hoxle. The [Diviner] stared at the oncoming attack for a moment. He was dumbfounded. Then he sputtered and swerved out of the way.
“Oh, flaking scales—”
He crashed into a tree instead. And since the foliage here were pretty sparse— it meant the trees were thin, and there was not much to shield his fall. He tumbled through a bush, shouting curses until he came to a stop.
Xidra didn’t bat an eyelid his way. She spoke with the same regal voice she usually carried as she walked up to Edithe.
“Hoxle the [Diviner], when you told me you wanted to meet these Humans, I did not believe you intended to make a fool out of yourself in front of them.”
He hopped up to his feet, snarling.
“That was not my fault. I didn’t think that crazy Demon would try and shoot me down!”
I raised a fist.
“I have a name!”
“Fine. That crazy Salvos just tried to kill me, aunt. Isn’t that, like, bad or something?”
He corrected himself, and I gave an approving nod. Xidra ignored him, much to his chagrin.
He whined, and she instead reprimanded him.
“You are disgracing our family and the Risen Dragons with the way you are acting, Hoxle the [Diviner]. Behave.”
Edithe watched on with round eyes. She drew her lips to a thin line, facing me.
“These are… Kobolds? The ones you talked about?”
“Yep. What’s wrong?”
She shook her head, turning back to the scene of Xidra lecturing her nephew. Her gaze was fixed on it as she continued.
“I just didn’t think they would be so… Human.”
“We are not Human, [Mage].”
Xidra drew herself from Hoxle, who was scowling with his arms folded. I stuck a tongue out at him, forgetting that was how Kobolds smiled. He harrumphed.
“How many times must I tell you? I am not interested— oh, hey, a Human man.”
He stalked up to Daniel. My companion was taken aback by the Kobold with large wings almost shadowing over him.
“Wait, what are you—”
“You’re a [Warrior], huh? Nice sword. Looks kind of brittle though. Do all Humans use such weak equipment? Wait, is that a…”
I giggled at the sight of Hoxle pestering Daniel. But my attention was pulled towards Xidra, who had kneeled before Edithe.
“Greetings, companion of Salvos. I am Xidra the [Herbalist], First Dragonling of the Risen Dragons.”
The red-haired woman blinked, taking a second to gather herself.
“I’m Edithe… the [Mage]. Member of the Valiant Dreamers Company.”
Xidra accepted her introduction with an almost-pleased look. She was certainly not as apathetic as she was when meeting Daniel.
“I can understand why you hold these sentiments, Edithe the [Mage]. Especially for a Human who has never met a Kobold before. But I can assure you, the resemblance you see lies not in any shared culture between us. It is simply because we are people too, although your kind prefers to see us as monsters.”
The [Herbalist] spreads a few ingredients out on a piece of cloth. She seemed to be concocting something. First she grabbed some bright rocks— gemstones— and crushed them into dust. She set them aside as she churned a few dull-colored mushrooms into a sludge.
Edithe hesitated, chewing her lower lip.
“S-sorry. I didn’t mean any offense. I just meant that you guys aren’t all that different from us. I mean— I should know that now because of Salvos. She’s…”
The red-haired woman trailed off. Xidra spoke affirmingly as she mixed more ingredients together.
“Yes. You are friends with a Demon. How peculiar, as I was under the impression that Humans and Demons did not get along. Of course, we both hold our prejudices against each others’ kinds. But I do not take offense.”
Sprinkling the gemstone dust into the now-glowing liquid, whatever concoction Xidra made puffed up with smoke. The color from it suddenly disappeared, and all that was left was a transparent drink. She held it up for Edithe.
My companion made a disgusted face. But Xidra was insistent.
“It will help with your mana poisoning.”
Steeling herself with a deep breath, Edithe held up the drink against her face. She looked at it for no longer than a mere moment before quickly downing it. When she was finished, her entire face was scrunched up, lips puckered together like she was on the verge of throwing up.
She barely managed to choke out.
“You will begin to feel better in two days. When you do, you will have to consume these berries. They are rich in mana, but they are not designed to restore your reserves. Rather, it does the opposite. It will flush out the excess corrupted mana in your system. After all, mana poisoning happens when your body tries to produce mana from a potion even when it can no longer be sustained. So, the mana in your body becomes corrupted.”
I piped up from the side.
“Isn’t that like the blight?”
“In a way, yes. However, it does not continuously corrode your mana supplies, Salvos the [Mage]. Not in the way the blight does. It works as a… reset. To your flow of mana.”
Edithe stared at the rainbow-colored berries on her hand.
“These are sageberries, aren’t they? They’re incredibly rare, aren’t they?”
Xidra spoke simply. Edithe snapped her gaze up at the Kobold woman, the disbelief on her face evident.
“W-w-what? But… why would you give this to me? If you just leave me be, I can probably recover in a month or two.”
“Hm, perhaps. However, Salvos asked me to cure you, and I owe her my life.”
I beamed as Xidra glanced my way. When she continued, expanding on her reasoning, I lost some of that pride. You could’ve just stopped right there, you know? There’s no need for you to give another explanation! You could just say ‘it was because of Salvos’ and that’s it!
But, no. There was always more.
“Also, many of our kinds hold contempt against each other. Is it not better for us to sit together as friends?”
Edithe worked her jaw.
“But didn’t we just meet?”
“Indeed. So, accept that as a token of my friendship with you. Hoxle the [Diviner] and I came out here to learn more about Humans. We do not wish to wage war with your Species, but to make peace.”
“I-I think you misunderstand.”
The red-haired woman raised her hands, almost defensively.
“We’re not diplomats from the Vaun Qiuer Empire. We’re just ordinary adventurers, here trying to level in the Plaguelands.”
“And the fact that you are in the Dead Zone working with a Demon shows that you are not ordinary adventurers.”
Xidra produced a cup from her satchel, pouring herself a drink. She held up a second cup and offered it to Edithe.
“And you, Salvos?”
I stopped her from giving me any drink. I was fine with just sitting down and talking. Although, I didn’t really get to do much of that as Edithe and Xidra both seemed engrossed in their conversation.
“I do not misunderstand anything, Edithe the [Mage]. All I wish is to earn your goodwill. Because I know that you will return from the Dead Zone back to your lands, and when you do, you will not fade into obscurity. But instead, you will rise up into something greater, like a Dragon hatching from an egg.”
“That’s… Salvos for sure. And maybe Daniel. But me? I’m not really anyone special.”
The red-haired woman shuffled uncomfortably where she sat. Xidra sipped from her drink, craning her neck slightly towards me.
“On the contrary, from what Salvos told me of you, I believe you are the most special one here, Edithe the [Mage].”
“Hey! What about me?”
I frowned. Xidra smiled, but not in a Kobold way. Her lips curled up, revealing her pointed teeth.
“Certainly, you are special too. However, Edithe the [Mage] is the one risking her life every single day just to keep up with you, is she not? The fact that she is lower leveled than you, and a Human, speaks volumes of her worth.”
“Huh. That makes sense.”
I looked over at Edithe. She was confused. Like she did not understand what was going on. I grinned.
“You’re pretty amazing, aren’t you, Edithe?”
That snapped her out of her stupor. She blushed furiously as she shrunk back.
“I think you guys are giving me too much credit. The only reason why I’m even alive right now is thanks to Salvos.”
“It does not matter whether you accept it. I have lived a long life and I have seen many different characters. Even if you are a Human and not a Kobold, it is all the same. Take my nephew, for example.”
We glanced over at Hoxle, who was not trying to grab for something on Daniel’s neck. The Human man was barely able to fight him off, barely keeping the necklace on. Xidra turned back to Edithe.
“The others in our family rejected him when he was a young adult. They believed he was too immature— too childish— to ever amount to anything. Now, he is the highest leveled member of our family. One of our greatest prides.”
The Kobold woman finished her tea and stood up.
“And even if I am wrong about you, you can simply take this as a blessing. That I made a mistake, and you are rewarded for it. So, accept this gift and my words.”
I nodded eagerly behind Xidra. Edithe opened her mouth. She held the sageberries in her hands. Then she pocketed it.
“I… thank you. Again.”
Xidra bowed her head slightly.
“Of course. It was a pleasure talking to a Human for the first time. Now, Hoxle the [Diviner], it is time to go—”
She turned around and stopped. She stared at her nephew who was now on the ground, wrestling with Daniel. She spoke flatly.
“What are you doing, nephew?”
The weirdo struggled, speaking in grunts as Daniel swatted him back.
“This Human doesn’t want to remove his Necklace of Obfuscation! What is he even trying to hide his Class for? Doesn't he know it's rude?!”
I snickered as the [Hero] kicked him back.