166. Knock Knock
Vamont was a city located right at the edge of the Sunmere Republic. It was at the border which ran close to Nixa and the Elutra Kingdom. We could see the Motharis Mountain Range from here, the undulating crests very close to the city, with a road that ran up one of the shorter mountains.
We were still a while away from Viechester— perhaps another three or four days if we traveled non-stop via carriage— but we were in no rush. And our driver didn’t want to take us all the way to Viechester. He dropped us at Vamont and suddenly had a change of heart after a day.
“I apologize, Miss Salvos, but you’ll have to find another wagon or carriage to bring you to your city. This is as far as I’ll go.”
I stared at him, nearly dropping my bag. Edithe and Daniel stood behind me, just as surprised at this turn of events as I was. I pointed an accusing finger at the carriage driver.
“You said you’d take us to Viechester!”
“That was before we arrived in Vamont. I’m sorry, but I’ve heard rumors. Monsters coming down from Motharis and attacking travelers. Even entire caravans have been completely destroyed. I can’t bring you there.”
“But we’re Salvos, Daniel, and Edithe! We’re the Liberators of the Plaguelands! We were given the medallion of heroes by the Vaun Qieur Empire! We saved Silvergrove!”
He shook his head, taking off his cap. The driver was a weary older man, a former [Warrior] who now rode carriages for a living. Apparently, he used to be a soldier for one of the Eastern Kingdoms a long time ago.
“I’ve seen too many people die in my time. Even if they were the greatest commanders on the field, or the bravest adventurers. I will not take any risks.”
With that, he grabbed the reins and took off. I could only watch as our ride left us. I had nothing to say. I was speechless. But Daniel wasn’t.
“...he didn’t even give us back our gold.”
“We got scammed, that’s what happened.”
Daniel was still not over the fact that the carriage driver stole our money. I didn’t care about Humans and their materialistic obsession over those shiny coins. I was just annoyed that we had to take even longer than necessary to get to Viechester!
I was eagerly awaiting to see Rachel once more. She would’ve been absolutely blown away by the fact that I was over Level 100 now! Maybe I could even impress her with tricks from my [Adept of the Fae] Class!
There was so much we had to catch up on. I was so excited— but our trip was delayed because we couldn’t find any carriages that were willing to bring us to Viechester.
“Wait, why not? We have the gold!”
I sputtered, and the wagon driver turned away from me. She wasn’t that high leveled. Not like our previous carriage driver. Her wagon wasn’t even fancy, it could barely even fit all three of us into it, but she was the last one we approached after an entire day of asking around.
“It’s not about the gold, Miss. I’m not getting killed for no damn reason like Kenny did!”
She shut the door on us, leaving the three of us stranded. I cocked my head.
It seemed like no one wanted to travel the roads beyond Vamont. In fact, the city was unusually crowded. Vamont was not the biggest city I’ve been in, not even close. But its streets were so packed, I almost thought we were in a city twice the size of what it actually was.
I glowered, and my companions followed after me. They had on them various potions and artifacts. They hadn’t been idle. They spent a lot of their time in these cities shopping and buying brand new items.
They had their Primordial weapons with them too— the ones I created and gave them just yesterday. I was quite proud of what I made, seeing the white and gray metal held by my companions.
But that was not all the new equipment they had. Their armor was bought from a famed smith in the Vaun Qieur Empire. It was made of simple steel, tempered with Skills that made it comparable to mithril. Low Grade Armor, without any enchantments. After they saw an [Enchanter] in Nixa, it was now easily Medium Grade. I wondered what it’d take for it to be High Grade, but they said it would require far more specialization from a Level 70 [Enchanter]. Which were rare.
Other than just armor and weapons, they had rings and necklaces and other such jewellery too. These mostly had small effects— extra resistance to fire magic, ice magic, poison magic, etcetera.
In addition to all those Low Grade Equipment, Edithe got a bracelet too. It matched with mine; it served no purpose besides being purely decorative. I called it a friendship bracelet, and Daniel cringed for whatever reason.
“It’s not like we’re in any rush, Salvos. Just enjoy the moment.”
Edithe spoke as her attention was drawn by a street performer. A [Mage] was juggling rocks the size of his head, much to the awe of children.
“Look. You don’t see [Mages] doing such things in other cities, do you? These are sights you can only see in the Sunmere Republic.”
I narrowed my eyes, before pointing an accusing finger.
“He’s not even touching the rocks! He’s using magic to toss them around!”
“It’s still entertaining.”
The red-haired woman rolled her eyes. I glowered, crossing my arms.
“Can’t we just walk to Viechester? It really isn’t any trouble at all.”
Daniel nodded as he appeared by my side with a stick of meat. It looked like either lamb or beef. Gross.
“But we may as well just stay another night. Buy some gifts for our friends in Viechester.”
He flipped his hand, revealing a doll.
“See? This is for Rachel—”
I snatched it out of his hand.
“For Rachel, from me, right?”
The Human man let out a heavy sigh.
“Sure, sure. I don’t get why you don’t just buy your own present for her though.”
“I… um, don’t know what she likes?”
“Get her something any girl her age would love, Salvos.”
Edithe smiled as she started ahead, twirling to face me.
“Let’s see. While I hated to admit it, I was always jealous of other girls with their frilly dresses, while I was stuck with rags and cheap clothing. I’m sure Rachel would like something nice like that.”
I paused right before a shop— a [Tailor], supposedly Level 43. I snapped my fingers.
“I should make her feel like a Princess.”
Then I had an even better idea.
“I should make myself feel like a Princess!”
Daniel started, but I ignored him and rushed into the shop. My companions exchanged a glance. Edithe shrugged.
“That should keep her occupied for the next hour or so. Come on, I saw a nice restaurant right around the corner.”
I left the shop with a pile of clothes in my hands. The [Tailor] waved at me, a big, beaming grin on his face, and a lot of gold in his pockets. I found Daniel and Edithe sitting in a tavern, a few empty mugs on the table, laughing.
“—and then Hana just lunged straight at the [Rock Golem], ignoring our plans completely. Suffice to say, Paul gave her a long lecture.”
“Oh man, Hana sounds like she was a massive pain to deal with.”
“She was definitely a pain in the ass, but Paul was a hardass too. That’s what I liked about both of them.”
Edithe sighed wistfully. She was drunk. Daniel was too. Their cheeks were burning with the alcohol— a light blush which almost glowed in the dimly lit tavern.
The Human man fidgeted.
I plopped down on a chair, setting my clothes down on the table. It knocked over their drinks, spilling them on the nice fabric, much to my horror.
“Hey! Why’d you ruin my clothes!”
My companions blinked. Daniel sputtered.
“Wait, why are you blaming me for that?”
“You didn’t make my clothes disappear!”
He stared at me, slack-jacked. The red-haired just giggled.
“Enjoyed your shopping spree, Salvos?”
I snatched a bug zipping around the table and stuffed it into my mouth. I spoke as I crunched down on it.
“The [Tailor] was annoyed by me at first because I kept asking questions, but when I set a bag of gold on the table, he stopped being rude and kindly gave me everything I wanted.”
“Money is very, uh, persuasive.”
Daniel placed a hand on the pile of clothes, and it vanished. The other customers in the tavern jolted, caught off-guard by it. But they didn’t question it. In fact, everyone had already been giving us a wide berth.
No one here was above Level 40. Most of them probably couldn’t see our levels. They probably assumed we were high Gold or even Platinum. Maybe some even suspected that we were Diamond Ranks. Whatever we might’ve been, they thought it best to avoid us entirely… for whatever reason.
The Human man faced me.
“Now you understand why I value having a disposable income, right?”
I nodded eagerly.
“Yep! I can’t wait to spend more gold!”
“...I don’t think you get it.”
“I’m glad you’re thinking of others, Salvos. I’m sure Sophia and the others would be grateful for your gift.”
I paused as Edithe took a sip from her mug. A bead of sweat trickled down the back of my neck.
“Um, yes! I totally meant to buy it for them too!”
“Honestly, you’ve matured a lot since we first met.”
The red-haired woman lightly placed the mug down on the table.
“I’m glad to see that. I can’t lie and say I wasn’t a little bit worried for you.”
I felt compelled to flex an arm and give her a reassuring grin. But I saw the serious look on Edithe’s face. Daniel, too, leaned forward, wearing a solemn expression.
“Nothing. Just feeling sentimental. Especially since we probably won’t see each other for a while.”
I tried to wave a hand off.
“Come on, that’s not true. I’m just going to go and see Lily, and maybe visit Saffron’s magic academy. Enroll for a bit— until I reach Level 70 in my Class!”
Edithe pursed her lips.
“Don’t you know, Salvos?”
I cocked my head.
“Most magic academies only let you graduate after a few years. They focus on learning and studying, leveling General Skills and, refining your own spellcasting without Skills. It’s not the kind of place which throws you into a Platinum Rank Dungeon for you to level up as much as possible. It’s for theory and application of said theory, through a very rigorous curriculum.”
“Even if you’ve been leveling very quickly for your [Adept of the Fae] Class, that won’t be the case for a while. Especially if you want to learn the space magic needed to easily travel between the planes in the Nexeus.”
I was confused. My brows were creased, and I was rubbing my temples, trying to comprehend this. The red-haired woman shrugged.
“You’re halfway to Level 40, and you still only have two secondary Skills, right? If you level too fast, your growth won’t keep up. Academies would ensure you’re actually learning new Skills, even if they’re Skills you’ll never use. This is to produce the best Class advancement you can get, while outfitting you with the best Skills for your style of combat.”
I hesitated. There was a long pause as I absorbed this. Finally, when I could speak, I only said a single word.
Edithe leaned back on her chair. She was less drunk now. She tilted her head back.
“I spoke about this to Daniel earlier. I’m happy to see how much you’ve grown, Salvos. You can be playful and immature at times— but you also know how to act when it really matters. So, I’m not worried. I know you’ll be able to hold your own without us.”
I stared at her, trying to find the words to say, only for my lips to quiver. Daniel placed a hand on my shoulder.
“You’ll be fine. You took care of yourself long before either of us ever met you.”
Why was he being so sappy? I glanced between both my companions. They were both making it such a big deal! I could always fly to them, right? Sure, I was bad with directions. And yes, they probably wouldn’t be easy to track down, what with Edithe having to deal with a company war, and Daniel having to investigate the Inoria Empire.
But it was always a possibility I could find them! So, why… why was I crying?
My companions hugged me as tears covered my cheeks. I tightly held onto their hands. I opened my mouth.
And there was a gong. A bell rang from across the walls. There were shouts outside. The streets were filled with chaos and panic.
We poured out into a sea of panic. Humans were fleeing into their homes, pointing at the walls as adventurers and patrols of guards headed for the battlements. I quickly wiped my face and grabbed a man.
“What’s going on?”
He faced me, wide-eyed.
“I don’t know! But those are siege bells! We can’t be out in the streets!”
I let go of him as he ran into a nearby building. I turned to my companions.
They were just as bewildered as me. The city’s gates were barricaded shut as a susurration ran through the walls. My companions and I hurried up onto the battlements, flashing our Diamond Rank badge to gain quick access up the steps.
The guard captain on duty was shouting orders as [Archers] drew their bows. I ran up to her.
“Hey, why are you guys closing the city? What’s happening?”
She shrugged me off, pointing.
“Why don’t you see for yourself?”
I blinked and followed her hand. My gaze settled at the base of the Motharis Mountain Range. I took a step back as I spotted the flood of creatures making their way down, headed straight for the city.
Daniel’s hands dropped to his sides.
We recognized these monsters. They were the ones that inhabited Motharis. Drakes, Wispcreepers, Saeves, Gatho Mammoths, Ground Cravers, Razorwings, Scavenger Yetis. There were more. Others I have never seen before. But they were a part of this impending horde. And the ones which I was most familiar with hovered over them all, leading them to Vamont.