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It had been three days since Noele the Noble Spellsword arrived back in Wolfwater. She had bade farewell to Saros at Whiteridge itself— the city was relatively large, and the Gnome Inventor wanted to explore its shops. He had a nice haul from that [Necromancer]’s lair in the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep; he could either sell the artifacts or harvest them for spare parts. After all, he was a [Magitech Tinkerer].

So it was just Noele, her parents, Deon the Virtuous Guard, and Skye the Silver Shade who made their way to that small village a few miles out of Whiteridge. It was Noele’s hometown. It was where she grew up. And it was an incredibly nostalgic sight to her when she arrived, even if it was very different to how she remembered it.

When Noele had left Wolfwater, she remembered the village being in ruins. Half of its houses had been ravaged and raided, while the vast swathes of farmland surrounding it had been razed to ash. The intricate network of river deltas around the region that gave the village its name had dried up from the raging firestorms that burned the crop fields.

It had been shortly after the Miststorm Riders attacked. The bandit group hadn’t even targeted Wolfwater— they were simply passing through after having raided the eastern cities of what had been the Semper Kingdom back then. The Semper Kingdom no longer existed now, having been subjugated by the expansionist Archon Kingdom not long after that.

So it had been a passing assault by the Miststorm Riders. Yet, they had dealt more damage than Noele could ever comprehend back then. She had been a child, and this was all she ever knew. To see it all burn to the ground— to see her sister die. It shattered her world. She never thought Wolfwater would recover.

But now, the blonde girl swept her gaze over the village. And she saw that everything had been restored. It must have taken a great deal of effort to rebuild all the burned houses. The fields were flourishing, full of crops— wheat, barley, and a handful of more specialized magical plants painted the landscape an eclectic mix of bright colors.

Wolfwater hadn’t just recovered; it had recovered and some more. It had expanded beyond its previous borders, with more houses and farms settled around the region, and an abundance of [Farmers] and [Traders] milling about. Noele could hear the rushing rivers in the distance. She took in a deep breath, and smelled the fresh scent of grass and nature.

“This is… nice,” she whispered. It was her home. And she liked it here.

She stood at the front porch of her parents’ farm. It had been one of the few structures to survive the attack of the Miststorm Riders, so it was not much different than she remembered it. The wood was old, the floorboards creaking under her feet. The window panes were dusty, although that was more due to the fact that the house had been deserted for the last month or two.

But even as she luxuriated in the moment, the Noble Spellsword was still lost in her memories. She recalled the reason why she left this village in the first place. She remembered her older sister. Her eyes closed as she tilted her head to the sky.

“Why did I become an adventurer?” she asked herself. She still had no answer.

And a voice came in response— not actually answering her question.

“Noele!” Deon called out as he trudged through the wheat field surrounding the house. “Hey, Noele!” he repeated himself.

The blonde girl raised her head. She saw both the Virtuous Guard and the Silver Shade making their way towards her through the farm. They carried a trowel and a shovel each, dressed in light clothing for farmwork.

The pair of A-ranked partners had opted to help out with Nolan and Nicole around the farm for the rest of the week to further make up for their failure at the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep. Honestly, Noele could admire their dedication to upkeep their reputation as honorable adventurers. Or perhaps it wasn’t related to reputation at all— maybe they were truly just a pair of kind souls.

Either way, despite what happened at the Fallen Wyvern’s Keep, Noele respected them.

Skye came to a halt before the blonde girl, giving a nod.

“Your dad is looking for you,” the Silver Shade said. “He says he wants to show you some of the new crops he got shipped in from Shorheim. He also wants to show you a Skill.”

Deon crossed his arms, grinning at Noele, even as he spoke more formally than his partner. “It’s impressive. I’m surprised that Mr Nolan has a Skill of that caliber at Level 38. Most [Farmers] I know would agree that that’s a Level 40 Skill.”

“Well, my Papa has been a [Farmer] for fifty years,” Noele said as she started forward. She smiled proudly as she spoke about Nolan. “This is actually my Grandpa’s farm, and my Papa has been helping out since he was only seven. He’s the highest-leveled [Farmer] in Wolfwater, you know?”

Skye whistled. Deon gave an approving look. Noele continued as she glanced towards the brown field in the distance.

“I know it doesn’t sound that impressive, but trust me, it is. The highest-leveled [Farmer] in the world is only Level 61. So my Papa is over halfway there.”

“No one said it’s not impressive,” Skye chuckled, patting Noele on her shoulders. “And I’d love to hear you brag about your dad more, but you shouldn’t keep him waiting either.”

“Right.”

Noele nodded and took a step forward. Both Deon and Skye started into the house with their farming tools as she glanced back at them.

“Where is my P—” the blonde girl started.

But she paused. Both Skye and Deon halted too. The three A-rank adventurers exchanged a wary glance. They all noticed the same thing.

“You hear that, right?” Skye asked, glancing up with a frown.

Noele nodded. The blonde girl heard it too— it was a sound so distant. Soft at first, but it was growing louder. It made her hair stand on end. She shivered violently for a second and looked up.

Deon backed up in fear. His eyes grew wide as he stared at the dark speck zipping through the afternoon sky. “That is… I—”

And the three adventurers saw it all at once. A brown-haired woman soared above the clouds, carrying a burly man in tow. Noele blinked a few times as Deon cowered behind her.

“Is that Amelia?” the blonde girl asked, before narrowing her eyes. “And…?”

It was Amelia. She wore an annoyed look on her face as she flew towards Wolfwater. But she wasn’t alone. Garron the Steel Tank clung onto her back as he screamed in terror, his ear piercing voice sending the nearby birds and animals scattering, thinking it was some kind of hunter’s cry.

But it wasn’t. It was a regular cry. Maybe a cry for help. And Noele lowered her head, pressing her lips into a thin line.

“Oh…”

Meanwhile, Deon cowered in fear behind her as he spoke in a hushed whisper to himself. “That monster… she’s doing it again…”

Skye just blinked, staring at the both of the other two A-rank adventurers. “What’s wrong with you two?”

Noele sighed. “You wouldn’t understand.”

Shortly after that, Amelia and Garron arrived in Wolfwater.

 

—--

 

I didn’t understand why Garron was screaming so much. I wasn’t even moving half as fast as I did while carrying Noele or Deon. But apparently that was still too much for the Steel Tank. When I reached Wolfwater and let him down, Garron just collapsed into a puddle of sweat, curling up into a ball.

“I… never again,” he whispered to himself. “I’m never leaving Windrip ever again…”

“You’re already out of Windrip,” I scoffed, gesturing at the village around us. I paused and took in the view. “So this is Wolfwater.”

I swept my gaze around the farming town. The streets were empty— at least, compared to Windrip, Sudbury, and Northon— and most of the villagers were out working in the vast fields. But some passersby, mostly women and children and only a few men, had paused to stare at Garron and I. Obviously, I didn’t jump straight into the village; I had landed a bit away and dragged the burly man here behind me, but his sobbing still drew quite a lot of attention.

Also, we were adventurers. Strangers to Wolfwaters. It was expected that they would be curious about our presence.

I wasn’t sure whether to just stand there awkwardly or ask around for Noele. Fortunately, I didn’t have to make the decision. I heard a voice calling out to me and glanced to the side.

“Amelia!” Noele ran up towards me, waving a hand. She came to a stop just before me and smiled. “You’re finally here, master. You were taking a while, I thought something happened.”

“Don’t call me master.” I rolled my eyes. “And something did happen. I’ll tell you about it later. Where’s your farm?”

“It’s right this way,” the blonde girl said as she gestured behind her.

I took a step forward, but she didn’t budge. Instead, she looked down at the burly man curled up at my feet.

“What’s Garron doing here, by the way?” she asked with a raised brow.

“Oh, him? He wanted to tag along.” I waved a hand dismissively.

But the Steel Tank looked up to see the Noble Spellsword. He opened his mouth, jaw trembling as he spoke slowly.

“Noele… your master is…”

“She’s terrifying, I know,” Noele said with a nod. “But you’ll get used to it.”

I gave them both a flat stare. “If I were so terrifying, you wouldn’t be saying that shit in front of me.”

The blonde girl chuckled and helped Garron to his feet. “Come on, it’s this way.”

She led the burly man and I back to her farm right at the edge of the village. I paused when I saw her house— it was much bigger than I expected. It only had two floors, which wasn’t large by any means. But I had expected her to live in a ramshackle shack, not this.

“You didn’t tell me you grew up rich,” I said with a raised brow.

Noele shook her head. “Relatively rich. But compared to cityfolk— those at Whiteridge? Nora was earning as much as my Papa when she was a C-rank adventurer.”

I frowned. If living here in some rural village was really that cheap, I could very much just retire with the amount of money I had on me. In fact, I could live excessively and like a king without worrying about having to pick up another adventuring job ever again.

It sounded… well, if I were being completely honest, it sounded extremely dull. I just sighed as I followed Noele up to the front porch of her house.

She was helping Garron hobble forward to a nearby bench. Deon and Skye were waiting there. Deon saw the state Garron was in and gave a sympathetic look.

“First time, huh?” the Virtuous Guard said, patting the burly man on the shoulder. “Trust me, it doesn’t get better.”

Garron groaned as he collapsed onto the bench. And Skye glanced between the two men.

“Seriously, what the fuck are you guys on about?” she asked.

But Deon just shook his head. “You don’t want to find out.”

“Come on,” Noele said, ushering me into the house. “I’ve prepared a spare bedroom for you.”

I followed after her as I nodded. "Yeah, lead the way. There's also something I must tell you about too."

She gave me a curious look, but I said nothing more. I just wondered how she’d react when she found out I killed the Frenzied Five. After all, they were a part of the Miststorm Riders— the ones who killed her sister.

 

—--

 

As Amelia finally arrived in Whiteridge— in Wolfwater— far away, over a thousand miles from the village, a large city burned. Westwend, the southwesternmost city of the Astrad Kingdom, had been razed to ashes.

Odell cast his gaze over the destruction, pleased with himself. He sat atop his horse and saw the raging flames. He heard the galloping of hooves as the Miststorm Riders hunted down the remaining survivors of the city. Shaking his head, he turned to Ray who was waiting behind him.

“Keep moving,” Odell ordered. “New day, new city. We’ll continue until Whiteridge, and escape into the Kingdom of Kal before any of the Astrad Kingdom’s elite soldiers can catch us. From there, we’ll conduct the occasional raid across the border. Is that understood? ”

“Yes, boss!” Ray nodded before hopping onto his own horse and riding off.

Odell just snickered as he turned from the burning city. “For the Sect of the Abyssal Thorns, the Astrad Kingdom will fall.”

And as they moved to their next target, word began to spread of the return of the Miststorm Riders in the western regions of the Astrad Kingdom— this time, with a vengeance.

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