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207. Break Time!

A week passed, and it was finally time.

“When will you be back?”

Saffron crossed her arms as I started for the doorway. Spinning around, I held her gaze and waved a hand off.

“I don’t know, but it’ll be fine!”

“You do realize you’ll only have a week before classes resume, right? It’s a one week break. You’ll need to keep track of time and actually plan when you want to return from the Rainforest of Monsters.”

There was only one week of break after midterms for us to take our time off; I was hoping that I’d be able to find an Enigmatic Heart quickly enough that I wouldn’t return back to school after classes resumed. We were about two-thirds of our way into the academic term. It’d be disastrous if I missed any of my classes now!

“I know, I know.”

I grinned, patting Saffron on the shoulder. She gave me a dubious look. But I produced something from my pocket.

“Oh, by the way. Here—”

She blinked as I handed her something. It was a metal flask, one used for drinking alcohol. Except, it didn’t have alcohol, instead holding within it the siphoned blood of a Demon. My blood.

“This is in case you want it.”

I handed her a second flask. A vial of red, Human blood. Also my blood, except when I was transformed to a Human.

“And this is in case you need it.”

Her eyes widened and her mouth watered the moment I handed both to her. Saffron cleared her throat and snatched the two bottles of blood away from me, keeping it in a Bag of Holding. Composing herself, she spoke softly.

“Thank you, Salvos. You are truly a dear friend. I bid you good luck on your journey.

“Bye! See you in a week!”

I waved at her as I ran out the door. I zipped my way through the crowds of students filling the hallway. The College of Aspirations had a week break too, so many of the students were leaving today to go on a short vacation or holiday to visit their friends or family.

Me? While I’d love to find Daniel or Edithe to check up on them, I genuinely couldn’t due to my own obligations to myself. I had to get a Potion of Regeneration. I felt a slight itch on my shoulder, even though I was a Human right now. Even though the loss of an arm didn’t bother me— not with [Faux Limbs]. Even though I looked more terrifying with five arms than six.

It just annoyed me that I wasn’t complete or whole. The scar I bore… it was nothing to be proud of. Quite the opposite, really.

 

—--

 

I drifted above the clouds, seeing Mavos Academy disappear far behind him. It took a while before the tallest tower of the magical school vanished from sight. I flew at a relatively fast pace— slow enough not to tire me out and fast enough to get me to my location as quickly as possible.

I just had to head in the right general direction for a few hours. Maybe even for a day. But when I was closer to Odra, I’d swoop down to a nearby city and navigate to the country from there. I continued flying, even as the clouds darkened on the horizon. I spotted a wall of smoke rising towards the southeast, and I knew that was where Nixa was. Belzu left behind a trail of destruction— one that wrought death and the possibility of death to those displaced from this.

The Humans were very angry and very afraid. I heard that they were mobilizing a great number of forces between many different countries. I wondered for a moment, how many possible friends or companions I could’ve made from those who were lost due to this conflict?

So many people from Xidra to Lily to Vis’anya to Edithe told me that I couldn’t just do whatever I wanted and ignore all the problems of the world. And I considered, for a brief moment, about intervening. Then I remembered what happened when I fought Belzu.

The illusions. His curses. How a single attack from him nearly broke through all my protections. How so easily his army felled an entire city.

Even if I wanted to fight against him, I couldn’t. I would die.

And I didn’t want to fight him either. In fact, the idea of fighting him never even crossed my mind. When I thought of Belzu, I felt not animosity or hatred, but a sense of aspiration. He was someone I wanted to become and surpass.

To do that, first I needed to get stronger.

That was why I continued to Odra, ignoring the razed cities and forests in the distance.

 

—--

 

I dropped from the sky. Night had fallen, and so did I. I landed at the closest town I could find, transforming to a Cyclops, and getting a room at an inn. It was late enough that the streets were mostly empty. And while a few heads were drawn towards my direction, being a Cyclops and all, nothing came from it.

I simply fell asleep and woke up after a few hours, fully rested, spending much less time in bed than as I would if I were a Human. I departed the next day, not before quickly asking for the way to Odra. I was currently in Florith, right at the edge of the Sunmere Republic. Odra would be directly down south from me. I thanked the [Innkeeper], giving him a gold coin for the room and the help. His eyes widened at its glint, before I ran off.

“Thank you, Ms Cyclops!”

“It’s Sal— Sal!”

I needed to get used to coming up with fake names, especially when I didn’t want attention drawn to myself. I left the town, soaring up back to the sky, heading straight to the south. Where Odra was.

I continued my flight, watching the landscape unfurl below me. While the Sunmere Republic had a rich and diverse landscape of various different ecological systems, the countries to the south had a far more dull and monotonous terrain. Everything just became more brown. The sprawling fields of grass shriveled up into unending fields of dirt and sand, rising up to short hills and valleys, specked with dried plants that barely survived the weather.

It almost reminded me of the Plaguelands. But there was no blight, billowing up, coating the landscape like a blanket of brownish-green fog.

It was… a desert. It wasn’t dry and devoid of all plants. However, with the cloudless skies and the barren landscape, it didn’t look like this was a place that people would normally live in. And yet, I saw the cities. Farms filled the outskirts of these settlements, growing an abundance of wheat and other agriculture. There were [Farmhelp] tilling the fields as [Farmers] used their Skills to let their crops flourish under the oppressive sun.

I made sure to transform back to a Human in case anyone spotted me. I made frequent stops, asking whether I was in Odra yet, until finally, someone said yes.

“You’re in Assain, Miss, right at the border between Odra and Zunus.”

“Bring me to your Adventurers Guild.”

I flashed her my badge and some coin. The woman stared. Then she hurriedly acquiesced.

 

—--

 

The thing about a sort of decentralized Adventurers Guild was that information wasn’t nearly as universal as it could be. Each local Adventurers Guild would usually know something the others didn’t, mostly because it wasn’t of enough import to spread it around— because the other Adventurers Guild in other cities didn’t care. Fact was, most of the heavy lifting regarding information and threats was handled by the adventuring companies.

It was only when a threat was so large— like Belzu’s presence in Motharis over a year ago now— that the Adventurers Guild would actively diffuse the news about it. Even then, unless companies cared about these problems, nothing would be done about it. Independent adventurers might have been plentiful, but they were also, on average, the lowest-leveled with the highest mortality rate.

When information was withheld from them, they wouldn’t be able to prepare themselves as thoroughly as someone from a local company when delving into a Dungeon. There was also the factor of how they’d be more reckless compared to those in companies, especially since they didn’t have access to the same resources as adventurers, but that was besides the point.

The point was, I couldn’t learn what I really wanted to about the Rainforest of Monsters without joining the Sandsword Company.

“I apologize, Ms Salvos, but I’ve told you everything the Adventurers Guild knows about the Rainforest of Monsters.”

“But what about an Enigmatic Heart? Don’t you know where I can find these [Lux Golmi] at all?”

The receptionist was a woman with tanned skin and curly hair. She gave me an apologetic look, shaking her head.

“All we know of the [Lux Golmi] is that it can be found in the deeper layers of the Rainforest. Near mountains or large rock formations. Other than that, we can’t say for sure.”

I scowled, pulling my shiny Diamond Rank badge from the counter. Even that wasn’t enough to convince the Adventurers Guild to help me. I heard a few murmurs— adventurers were pointing and whispering. Someone even approached me to join their team since they were Platinum Ranked, but I turned them down.

“I thought this was Odra— aren’t you guys part of the Alterian League? Why can neither the town guards or local Adventurers Guild tell me anything about the Rainforest of Monsters?”

The receptionist pursed her lips.

“The truth is, Ms Salvos, that the Rainforest of Monsters just isn’t as big of a threat as you might think it is. There are the occasional hordes of monsters that may head for the Human lands once every decade, but it’s hardly a constant trickling of undead or Centinels like with the Plaguelands or the Bloodied Gulf. We just send our coalition armies to crush the monster hordes, and that’s it. We rarely venture into the Rainforest itself.”

“That’s not very helpful. Nor does it make me feel any better.”

“W-we can tell you more about the [Lux Golmi] if you’d like... or check with the Swordsand Company or Merchants Guild if there’s an Enigmatic Heart for sale—”

“It’s fine. It’s not your fault.”

I waved a hand off, interrupting the woman. I grabbed a crawling centipede from the underside of the counter, biting into it with a crunch.

“Gross. No— just give me whatever notes you have on the [Lux Golmi]. I’ll read up on it later. I’m hungry now. Do you serve anything good like cockroaches or mosquitos?”

“Uh…”

She paled as I munched on the centipede. It really didn’t taste that nice. But I was starving, having been flying as a mortal for a while.

“W-we don’t serve any of those, but we can try to find—”

“How about seafood? Do you have any seafood here?”

The receptionist blinked. For whatever reason, she looked at me stupidly. I cocked my head, waiting for her to respond. Finally, she sighed.

“Would fried scorpion suffice, Ms Salvos?”

“Huh. Maybe?”

 

—--

 

Fried scorpion was actually not bad. It wasn’t anything amazing. But it didn’t taste dull like steak did. And it wasn’t disgusting either. So, I happily indulged myself in it before taking off for the Rainforest of Monsters.

I flew at a slower pace, sifting through the documents I’d been given by the Adventurers Guild, no longer within the borders of Odra. They gave me a very rough map of the Rainforest, and some information regarding the [Lux Golmi] and other lesser Golem variants. The average level of a [Lux Golmi] was honestly quite high— around Level 120. Just like undead, however, they didn’t have a second Subspecies or Class once they hit Level 100. So, despite their significantly higher levels, I could probably take one on without as much difficulty as some other monsters.

Like the Goblins or Orcs that populated the Rainforest of Monsters. While I requested no information on them, the Adventurers Guild issued me a free warning about how dangerous those monsters could be.

I’d try to avoid fighting them if I ran into them in the Rainforest. For now, I read up about the [Lux Golmi]. Apparently, they specialized in mind magic, just like a Mindreaper. Except, they didn’t just try to twist your sense to inflict excruciating mental damage to you. These [Lux Golmi] would unravel your mind as a way to distract you before beating you to death with their, well, deadly stone hands.

They were rarely ever alone, either. So, if I saw a group of high-leveled Golems, they’d likely be somewhere amongst them. I set out to search for any Golems I could first and foremost. I just had to fly quickly and—

A screech came from above. The sound itself sent a ripple through my aura of Greater Protection. I instantly activated [The Primordial Spark], forming an armor of flames around my body. I glanced up as a hulking falcon swooped down from above.

Its clawing talons grabbed for me as it continued its sound magic assault.

[Razorsoul Falcon - Lvl. 105]

I grinned, fire blooming around me.

“I haven’t had a good fight in a while. Care to entertain me for a bit?”

 

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