188.1. Interlude - Edithe's Emancipation
A young redhead sat in a tavern, drinking her sorrows away. She leant back on her chair and sighed. A man approached her, the third one tonight. A short conversation ensued, slowly turning into an argument as she rejected him, and Edithe finally decided it was time to act.
Edithe, the red-haired adventurer, had been watching the young redhead for the past three hours. Edithe was certain she had found the right person. And now that the man was getting rough with the young redhead, Edithe moved.
Getting to her feet, Edithe marched up to the man, tapping a finger on his shoulder.
“Hey, you should leave her alone.”
He blinked and glanced at her.
“Huh? Are you offering yourself up to me, sweetie? Sorry, but you’re too old—”
He tried to grab the young redhead, but Edithe punched him. Edithe wasn’t the strongest adventurer for her level; she was a [Mage], first and foremost. But there was one advantage she held over the man.
He was Level 24, while she was Level 96, having leveled since leaving the Plaguelands. Her [Strength] far exceeded his.
The man went flying as the young redhead stumbled back, eyes wide. Heads turned. A few of his friends drew to their feet, pointing at Edithe. She simply glared at them, her eyes glowing with magic.
“Does anyone else want to bother us?”
They hesitated. Then they returned to their seats, murmuring to themselves.
Edithe smiled, turning back to the young redhead. The other girl stared at her in shock.
“W-who are you? What do you want?”
“You’re Josilyn, aren’t you?”
The young redhead was nervous, on edge. She didn’t look like she was well-off. Her clothes were torn and tattered, clearly suffering wear from overuse. Edithe nodded.
“I was hoping to talk to you about your grandmother, Miranda the Infernal Mage.”
“She was a Diamond Rank adventurer. The only one in my family to have ever reached prominence beyond this stupid, small town. Thanks to her, our family lived a luxurious life. At least, until she disappeared, and my idiotic mother threw all our wealth away.”
“What happened to her?”
Edithe brought Josilyn out of the tavern and to a booth in the Adventurers Guild to speak somewhere more private. A waitress briefly popped in, bringing her a glass of water— no alcohol.
“I… don’t really know. I remember when she left for the Plaguelands— the entire town gathered to watch her go. I was there too, of course. She told me she’d be back in a few months. And we never heard from her again. So… she probably died to the blight, if I’m being honest.”
Josilyn shrugged, uncaring. But not really. Edithe could see through the facade.
“It happened so long ago, so why does it matter? Did she owe your family money or something? Because we don’t have any.”
Edithe nodded. She understood how the other redhead felt. Things were shit right now, judging from her appearance, so why would she care about something that happened a decade ago? Even if it was the root cause for what was happening now, there was no reason to dwell on it.
But still, Jocilyn cared. Edithe knew she cared about it, just not in the material sense.
Edithe placed an object on the table. Truth be told, she knew just as much about both Miranda and Josilyn, even before speaking to the young redhead. Edithe had done her research— she was just making sure the facts lined up.
Josilyn blinked as she eyed the glittering pendant, placed on the table.
“Take it. It’s yours.”
“It belonged to your grandmother. She had it on her when she died. It’s a Durability Charm. Wearing it will enhance your [Vitality] by 10 Stat Points. It’s quite the rare and expensive artifact. I believe it’d sell for a hundred platinum, minimum.”
The young redhead blinked.
“Uh, um, erm, what? Why are you giving this to me? Are you serious?”
“I am. Take it.”
Edithe pushed the amulet across the table, insistent. Josilyn hesitated for a second, her hand hovering over the Durability Charm. Her eyes narrowed.
“Wait, who are you, anyways?”
The red-haired adventurer smiled.
“I am Edithe Dawnrise, the Liberator of the Plaguelands, and Diamond Rank Adventurer.”
And Josilyn’s jaw dropped.
Edithe felt satisfied saying that. Not for the reaction— that made her feel awkward. But her name. Edithe Dawnrise. It was bestowed upon her by the Vaun Qieur Empire. From a girl living in the slums of Viechester, to now an honorary noble of the largest empire in the world.
She proceeded to answer all of Josilyn’s questions. And there were a lot of questions. Edithe didn’t mind it, even as the night dragged on and the conversation continued.
Josilyn needed closure, and Edithe came here to give it.
Edithe learned about Josilyn too. How the young redhead had wanted to be an adventurer as a child, but after Miranda’s disappearance, that dream vanished. Now, Josilyn was stuck working as a librarian— a job she hated.
However, despite the time Edithe spared and the answers Edithe gave, there was one thing omitted throughout the conversation. She never once mentioned the state she found Miranda the Infernal Mage in.
An icy statue, standing in the bedroom of a dilapidated castle. Fear in her eyes, staring out the window, and longing to go home.
The memory of it alone sent a chill down Edithe’s spine, although she didn’t let it show on her face. Finally, when Josilyn had run out of things to ask, Edithe bade her farewell and took her leave. Before she did, however, she gave the young redhead a hug.
“I’m sure this is a lot for you to take in. So, I want you to take it all in slowly.”
“But… what do I do with this? Do I just sell it?”
“It’s up to you. You can sell it, or you can keep it. Use it.”
Josilyn raised a brow.
“Why would I need to use it?”
“To become an adventurer. You said it was your dream, right?”
“It’s dangerous! And the pay isn’t exactly the best— I’m not sure if that’s… a good idea.”
Edithe nodded, starting away from the booth.
“You’re right. It’s entirely up to you. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea, afraid of the risks, you shouldn’t do it.”
Then she glanced back, grinning.
“But you didn’t become a Level 12 [Mage] just sit at a desk all day, did you?”
Josilyn hesitated. Then she lowered her head. Edithe nodded, leaving her and exiting the Adventurers Guild.
“That was tiring.”
Edithe sighed, leaving the small town behind her. Belraut. It was a town on the eastern side of the Sunmere Republic. However, it was still further to the west of Viechester. And now, she had to head east. Past Viechester, to where Hadrian, the leader of her company was.
The reason was simple: the Valiant Dreamers Company— her company— was at war with Iron Champions Company. And they were preparing for a proper assault into Nixa.
“You’d think with that Primeval Demon razing down the north of the country, this fucking company war would at least be postponed.”
She muttered, and someone replied in a chipper voice.
“Well, if anything the Iron Champions Company did made sense, we wouldn’t be at war with them in the first place.”
A gust of wind washed over her. A pair of wings flapped softly, like the swaying of the trees during a warm spring breeze. Edithe looked up at the Pegasus as it descended, a pure stallion with dove-like wings. On its back was a man, slightly older than her. He wore a grin on his face, cheery and warm, just like the rising sun behind his back.
“Need a ride?”
[Beastmaster - Lvl. 117]
She stared at him. A dark skinned man with blue eyes and white hair. Ismail Zuland, one of the few Diamond Rank adventurers of the Valiant Dreamers Company. He had been in the Beastmen plains until he was called back by Hadrian. Unlike Uland Gredrun or Abdiel who didn’t respond to the call, he returned as soon as he could.
Rolling her eyes, Edithe hopped onto the back of the Pegasus.
“I still can’t believe you found yourself a Pegasus while away from the Human lands. I thought they were only native to Mount Soulcreep.”
“And I can’t believe you reached Diamond Rank from Gold since I last saw you. Seriously, how’d you double your levels in just a few years? Also— her name’s Dorothy, and she’s not any ordinary Pegasus. She’s mine.”
“Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Dorothy.”
Edithe ran a hand through the Pegasus’ mane, even as they soared through the air. They could’ve flown faster— arrived at their destination in under half an hour. But they took their time. They weren’t in a rush, and Edithe wasn’t fond of flying at high speeds after being taken for a joy ride by Salvos.
“I’m surprised you even remember me. You were almost Diamond when I first joined. I was barely even Silver.”
“How could I not? You left quite the impression, cursing Hadrian out for trying to flirt with you.”
Ismail chuckled. She glowered.
“I didn’t know he was the son of Baris, alright? I’d have turned him down more nicely if I’d known that.”
“He got what he deserved. And at least he’s a lot more mature now that he's the company leader.”
Edithe pursed her lips, remembering when Hadrian first met Salvos.
“Did he, though?”
The pair of adventurers arrived at their destination a few hours later. There were hundreds of adventurers gathered— most of them were Gold Rank, which meant this force was composed of only the best of the best.
A few faces looked up, staring at Ismail as he made his entrance with his Pegasus. They pointed and cheered, glad to see him there. And for Edithe too.
She didn’t realize it until after they landed. But many of the cheers were for her too. They greeted her, calling her name, waving at her as she walked through the camp. Adventurers chatted and laughed while others moved boxes and crates around— not all of them were of the Valiant Dreamers company. She recognized other companies. Allies.
The Northbury Troops had come to their aid, accompanied by the leader, Noah himself. The Crystal Spells sent a regiment of their [Mages] too, helping with the packing process, alongside with creating fortifications around the encampment. The Miners of Graydenn, the Dusk Horns, and even the Steel Crowns companies were here.
Not all of them sent their best. But they sent their aid. And that was enough to raise morale.
Baris approached her. The former leader of the Valiant Dreamers Company smiled, welcoming her to the encampment.
“I take it your meeting went well?”
“It went as well as it could’ve, I suppose. But now that all that’s settled, I can finally throw my full weight behind this war.”
“Very good. Come, Hadrian would like to have a word with you and Ismail.”
She nodded at him. While she’d wanted to help the Valiant Dreamers Company since she returned, she’d been busy finding the relatives of all the victims killed by the Lich. While she had never met those women, she felt a sense of obligation to at least tell their descendants of their ultimate fate.
That was why she had gone through the bodies. When the Lich died, the ice freezing their bodies melted, and their corpses instantly began to decay and rot. But most of them had artifacts— trinkets that somehow survived, which Edithe used to identify them.
It wasn’t easy. Out of the dozens upon dozens of women killed by the Lich, she had only managed to identify thirteen of them. And she had only been able to trace seven of their family trees to the modern times.
Jocilyn had been the last of them. So, Edithe could now fight for the Valiant Dreamers Company against the Iron Champions without any apprehension.
Baris led both Edithe and Ismail into a tent at the center of the encampment. A company war was treated like a real war, just with far fewer forces, but typically more specialized and with better fighters. Hadrian sat with a few other Platinum Ranks at a meeting table overlooking a map.
“We’ll want to avoid the Demon’s—”
They glanced up as Ismail waved a hand. Edithe shuffled her feet, slightly uncomfortable at the stares she still got from the Platinums. Especially those she knew like Celine. In a short span of time, she had overtaken them in levels.
It was almost disconcerting. But it wasn’t undeserved— she knew it wasn’t. She remembered every single day she spent in the Plaguelands. Oppressive, exhausting, and near-fatal. She could’ve died multiple times a week, only surviving due to pure chance and her friends’ intervention. And she was rewarded with a high level and a Title that exceeded any of their feats.
Still, she didn’t want them to treat her any different.
But they did.
“Leave us. I have to speak with Edithe and Ismail in private.”