My voice was carried with the wind as I swung the Herald’s Brush with all my strength. It created a gust, a powerful whirlwind which amplified my words, creating an echo that resounded in my ears over and over again.
“Take— this— take— this—”
The fan-head of the artifact was overcome with an ethereal light. The air current spiraling wildly began to sharpen its path. What was nothing more than a blur before became more defined— I could see the strong gust cutting apart the distorted strands of mana that was the blight. And slowly, they wove back together in place, being restored back to what they once were.
“Ha! Take that!”
I pumped a fist in the air, repeating my cheer. The pressure on my shoulder slowly dissipated. My actions were no longer hindered by the foul spell that had corrupted the land. Glancing back at my companions, I grinned.
“Did you see that? I beat it up!”
The pair exchanged a look.
“We did, yes.”
“Good job, Salvos, you defeated nothing!”
“It’s not nothing!”
I sputtered and crossed two of my arms. I waved my remaining two hands through the air, tugging at the mana strands as if it was something he could see. He couldn’t.
“I cleared the blight.”
“And the blight isn’t a living thing. Also, you didn’t do it, the Herald’s Brush did.”
Daniel wore a straight face as he made his retort. I glared at him, but Edithe started past the both of us.
“You two can bicker as we walk. Come on, we have a long way to go.”
I followed after her with a scowl, sticking a tongue out at Daniel. He pointedly ignored me as we settled back into the Plaguelands, traversing through the dangerous, blight-filled zone of the dead. Except, now we had a way to combat its invasive blight.
I grinned as I clutched the Herald’s Brush tightly in one hand.
Our journey back to Unarith was not as long or arduous as our trip to retrieve the treasures of the Scale Guard was. Not only were all of us higher leveled now, we also had two distinct advantages we didn't have before: the first was the obvious use of the Herald’s Brush to clear the blight whenever we fought, and the second was Daniel the [Hero].
The Human man sliced the bounding [Ghoul] in half. Its tough skin was sheared through ,just like that. Previously, I had thought that maybe my [Radiant Slash] was comparable to his [Hero]’s Skill, but I realized now just how much more powerful his was to mine.
I ripped apart a [Skeleton Warrior], and with a [Flame Burst], landed next to a group of [Skeleton Archers]. I spun around, [Barrage of Cinders] active as I sent the undead flying. An arrow whizzed past me. I barely ducked under it, only to see it flying straight back at me at thrice the speed.
I brought a hand out as an orb hovered into my palms. It shifted, morphing forms into my own bow and arrow. I danced around the oncoming projectile as it continued trailing after me, before firing a Refined Blazing Bolt back at it.
The two arrows clashed mid air. There was a spark— a flash of light from the collision. While my Refined Blazing Bolt was a powerful spell, these were Level 105 Skeletons. They were no pushovers.
I still managed to finish off the last of the [Skeleton Archers]. With Edithe’s help, I managed to get out of the battle taking little damage from them.
Defeated [Skeleton Warrior - Lvl. 105]!
More experience is awarded for defeating an enemy at least 10 levels above you!
Defeated [Skeleton Archer - Lvl. 104]!
Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!
Subspecies [Asura Changeling] Level Up!
[Asura Changeling – Lvl. 95] -> [Asura Changeling – Lvl. 96]
Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!
“Here you go.”
I handed the Herald’s Brush back to Daniel. The Human man placed a hand on it, frowning.
“Are you sure you want me to store it? It’d be a hassle, summoning it every single time we get into battle.”
“I already expended all of its uses today, so it’s fine.”
Waving a hand off, I gave him a reassuring nod. He shrugged, and the artifact vanished a mere second later.
While the Herald’s Brush was an Epic Grade Item, it had its limits too. I found that out a few days ago, when I tried to use it to clear a blight flower field, but its magic ran out. It wasn’t a per-use thing— rather, it depended entirely on how much blight it would have to clear.
Perhaps that was why it was considered inferior to the Totem of Incense. Its effects were temporary. Even if I purified a certain area now, the blight would slowly encroach back on it. It wasn’t the same with that fallen city we came from— that was likely the result of the Totem of Incense.
We pressed on, making our way back towards Unarith. It had been a week, and I only leveled once— mostly due to Daniel hogging all of the experience. The Human man no longer wore his Necklace of Obfuscation, and I finally got to see his level.
He was… lower leveled than me, as I expected. But much to my surprise, he was not that much higher leveled than Edithe.
[Hero - Lvl. 93]
In fact, considering Edithe’s currently level, he was right in the middle of Edithe and I.
[Mage - Lvl. 89]
Her progress since we arrived in the Plaguelands had been tremendous. However, especially recently, she was leveling at a rate that even I found impressive. That was unlike Daniel, who despite all his advantages, could barely keep up with me.
Since Edithe now knew that Daniel was a [Hero], I didn’t have to hold anything back when admonishing him.
She just laughed as she watched us exchange quips. Shaking her head, she muttered under her breath.
“A Demon and a [Hero]. Honestly…”
We finally reached Unarith a few days later. I transformed back into my Mortal Form, taking the shape of a Kobold once more. I wrapped my tail around my waist, putting on the robes I had been given over my ripped Cloak of Shadows.
Well, at this point, it was no longer even a Cloak of Shadows; it was just some rags with a bit of residual magic left inside of it.
“This is… heavy.”
I held up the Totem of Incense, feeling my sharp teeth bite into my scales.
“Do I just carry this in?”
Edithe handed me a Bag of Holding. I blinked.
“Can this even fit inside of it?”
“It can. I’ve emptied out most of everything I kept inside of it. Trust me.”
Dubiously, I tried fitting the Kobold-like totem into the mouth of the sack. Much to my surprise, it sank right in. It stretched unusually large before shrinking back to its regular size. I picked up the Bag of Holding, feeling its weight.
“Huh, it’s light.”
“If you study dimension magic, this is something you’ll be able to do too.”
I beamed as I hefted it over my shoulder.
“It’s a good thing that’s exactly what I’m planning to do then. I’ll be back soon!”
I left my companions, walking back to the small city. I saw its peaking towers, even from this distance. It was daytime. The vast, sprawling fields were lush, greener than when I had last been here. Was it because of the season? Daniel and Edithe told me crops grew better at different times of the year.
I roamed through the streets, searching for the Shrine of the Risen Dragons. I knew it was close to the center of the city, but I got distracted as I thought of Adan. I wanted to show him the Totem of Incense— maybe get his opinion, as a [Trader], of its worth.
It was a Mythical Grade artifact. I wanted to at least know what that meant. Alas, he left the city since I last saw him. So, I found Xidra no wiser than before.
Nav the [Warrior] led me to her. When I saw him, I greeted him respectfully, as a Kobold woman would. However, he needed a moment to gather himself first.
“I-Impossible. You’ve surpassed my level?”
He stared at me, almost cross-eyed. I bowed respectfully, keeping my voice neutral.
“I have risked my life and been through numerous life-and-death situations to carry out this task for the First Dragonling. I implore you, Nav the [Warrior], please let me speak with her.”
Sighing, he let me into the shrine. He brought me to Xidra’s room, although no one was there.
He spun around, leaving me alone. I had been here a few times before, however I never had the chance to properly pke about, investigating whatever I found interesting. When Xidra arrived, she caught me holding up a pendant, mid-[Identification].
I quickly placed it down and scurried back into my seat.
I tried to act normal, although Xidra just let out a soft laugh.
“It is good to see you again so soon, Salvos the [Mage]. Although, it is slightly worrying too. How are your companions?”
“They’re fine— well, mostly fine. I think they were getting hungry when I left them. But once they have a stew cooking, they’ll be happy.”
“That is certainly reassuring.”
Xidra gave me a Kobold smile— tongue out, thin and long with a forked end. I returned the gesture, before holding up the Bag of Holding.
Her eyes grew wide as I gestured at it.
“The Totem of—”
She quickly cut me off.
“Yes, your… haul.”
Xidra glanced warily around the room. There was no one else in here. I could tell— I think.
She walked up to me, placing a hand on the sack, lowering it back down. She spoke in a softer voice than before.
“May I take a peek, Salvos the [Mage]?”
I nodded, a bit uncertainly. She opened the Bag of Holding, although she took nothing from it. She stared with round eyes at the object held within and gasped.
“You really have it.”
“That’s what I said…?”
Xidra closed the Bag of Holding shut, pushing it back into my arms. She held onto my clawed hand tightly.
“You have done well, Salvos the [Mage]. However, if I may make one more request from you, I would like you to keep it.”
“Yes, for now.”
She turned back, walking to the pendant I had been looking at. She picked it up, before handing it to me.
I accepted it— I was bewildered, but that didn’t stop me from just taking the item.
[Pendant of Greater Protection: High Grade Armor - A pendant enchanted with a Greater Protection spell.]
“Take this. It is your reward.”
“Wait, wasn’t our reward the Herald’s… the other thingy?”
I finally asked her, perplexed. Xidra nodded.
“That was your reward for completing your original task. However, now, I have a second one to ask from you.”
“To keep the Totem of Incense with me? But that’s easy!”
“It is not.”
Xidra took a deep breath.
“While you have been gone, Zix has spread word of your mission to the other shrines. He is trying to cause unrest, accusing the Risen Dragon’s for desecrating the legacy of the Scale Guardians by destroying their treasures.”
“Why don’t you just destroy it now then?”
“It is not possible— the Totem of Incense is a powerful artifact. It was crafted by some of the most gifted men and women of the past. Only Dragon flame can destroy it.”
“I know! You told me that before. And the Totem of Incense is Mythical Grade!”
I crossed my arms.
“Mythical Grade? Hm, perhaps it is even greater than I thought.”
The Kobold woman pricked a claw on her scales.
“Nevertheless, we cannot simply call upon Dragon flame at any time. A ritual needs to be carried out. We have to make the preparations necessary to do so.”
She spoke slowly, her gaze turned towards the ceiling.
“As such, I am asking for your help to keep the Totem of Incense safe. If Zix finds out it has been recovered, he will use any means necessary to acquire it. Even if it means calling upon all of the Cult of the Old Gods.”
I narrowed my eyes.
“So, what do I do?”
“Did anyone take note of your return to Unarith?”
I tried to recall if I felt anyone keeping an eye on me when I arrived. No such memories came to mind.
“I don’t think so?”
“Then that is good.”
Xidra placed a hand on my shoulder, speaking in a low voice.
“Return to your companions, Salvos the [Mage]. Leave the city discreetly. Do not be seen or followed. Lest Zix will realize that something is amiss.”
She ushered me to follow her, and I did. We left the room and headed down the spiral staircase, going further down until we were beneath the ground.
“May the Nexeus be saved— Salvos the [Mage], it is of utmost importance that you are not caught. Once we have the ritual prepared, Hoxle will find you. He shall lead you back to Unarith, and at that point, there will be nothing left Zix can do.”
We stopped as we reached a decorated double door— it was large. Almost too large for a Kobold to walk through. Maybe if it was used by Cyclopes, I would understand its size. But as a Kobold, I couldn’t see what the point of such a massive set of doors were for.
Xidra nodded at the guards standing adjacent to it, and they pulled it open.
“This is a secret exit, used by the Risen Dragon’s in the case of an emergency. Follow the tunnel, and it will bring you to a house closer to the edge of the city. We have [Cultists] stationed there at all times. They shall aid your escape.”
I stepped through into the tunnel, glancing back at the Kobold woman one last time.
“Just leave the city and wait. That’s it?”
“And I get to keep this Pendant of Greater Protection?”
She repeated herself. I tapped a finger on my chin, then grinned.
“Well, that’s simple enough.”
“I wish you the blessing of the Dragons, Salvos the [Mage].”
“Thanks, but I won’t need it.”
I waved at Xidra as she headed back up the stairs. When she was gone, all that was left for me to do was take my leave. I quickly equipped the pendant while I could, spreading a rippling aura through my body. The guards began to pull the doors shut, and I entered the tunnel. I took a step forward confidently— and felt a prick on my neck scales.
But the double doors were slammed behind me. There were no handles for me to push— no way for me back into the shrine. I narrowed my eyes. Was that my imagination?
I shook the feeling off. The prickling sensation was gone. It was only for a brief moment, but I felt like….
Like I was being watched.
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