“Well… that wasn’t how I had hoped this would go.” Jessex said with a groan as we walked through the forest, back towards town. “All that, and he was actually already dead? And… that blood debt…” A dark shadow was cast over her face as she recalled Jinx’s parting words. “I can’t believe they even included something like that in here.”

“Is it a really sensitive subject, or something?” Naturally, I knew the significance behind a blood debt, especially when it concerned a halfling. However, I wasn’t familiar with how their culture had evolved to recognize that aspect since their first true war.

“Huh?” She looked over towards me in surprise, before shaking her head. “Guess that they didn’t teach halfling history for you. A blood debt is an ancient custom among halflings. Something that hasn’t been used on a grand scale for a long, long time. If blood is wrongly shed, the debt is set. And it won’t be cleared until blood flows from the debtor. Usually, it’s only used if a loved one is murdered, and the one who calls the debt witnessed it.”

“If the evidence is provided to justify the debt… the law obliges. Nobody will stop a true blood debt, Tebor. That’s how big it is for us. And if this is the same thing… anyone who was friends with Jinx will take up arms. They’ll get their friends to join in, and so on.” She shuddered as she imagined what might happen after the news was passed on.

“So, it’s not a taboo or anything, at least?” That was a relief. Given that we had a halfling in our group, that was the last thing we needed.

“Well… it is and it isn’t. It’s hard to explain. Some people might take offense that our culture is being appropriated like this. However, I have to admit that it’s fitting. He was taken from his home by the hobs and murdered. He was killed in such a way that even now his spirit fights and kills every hob spirit it meets. For a halfling… that level of suffering calls for blood.”

I gave a small nod as I listened to that, glancing down towards her. “You’re not going to be wanting to stay behind to help them or anything, right?”

“Huh? Are you kidding me?” Her eyes went surprisingly wide when I suggested that. “This is his debt. Sorry, but I’m not involved. It’d be an insult to his name if I tried to join without having been connected to him. No, we’ve got other stuff to take care of. If you can’t get your skill after turning the mission in… well, we’ll help you find someone for it in Lyrea. Maybe Nuado has a lead or two we can chase down.”

“At least we didn’t have to fight the entire tribe?” I smiled towards the group when I said that. I had faith in our abilities, but… I had no doubt that we’d be swarmed if we actually attacked their settlement.

Bryant let out a groan when he heard that. “It might have saved us the walk back to town, though.”

“Now, now, none of that.” Jessex shook her head. “We don’t want to lose any experience from the death penalty. Besides, we still got quite a bit out of this, right guys? We didn’t end up having to use any of our talismans!”

The mood of the group seemed to brighten considerably at that. Was being a crafter of consumables really such a bonus here? That thought made me turn my head towards Hela, sending her a private whisper through the fairy. I don’t suppose that your potions have such a beneficial effect?

Well, they would if I trained them as hard as you trained your inscription. She responded after a moment of consideration. I’ve been busy with other things, whereas you’ve been basically locked up in your workshop for a month, working on that one pattern. If I did the same thing… I’d probably have my healing potions practiced enough that they could recover our entire health pool.

Did you not do any training for your alchemy this month? I couldn’t help but ask that, since it was pretty clear that she had been focusing on training her other skills.

Oh, I did. But not on healing potions. I… might have gotten lucky on the alchemist lottery, and gotten a bomb recipe. There was a downright evil smile on Hela’s face as she revealed that bit of information. It takes a few rare materials, but I’ve managed to make a couple of them so far.

I thought you were going healer!?

Her evil smile vanished, her eyes taking an innocent, even wronged look. I can’t be blamed for the results of the lottery. Surely, it is as if the heavens themselves want me to pursue this path. Who am I to deny the will of fate?

There were so many things wrong with what she said, I didn’t even know where to begin… Like this, we continued our private conversation as our group made it back to Xanjafar. Once we were there, Jessex led us through the streets, and we came across an old demon leaning against a wall. From his appearance… he truly was the same demon that had trained me to use ki.

When we approached, he glanced up, taking the initiative to speak. His voice was still dry and weary, showing that his situation hadn’t improved substantially in the time I hadn’t seen him. “Were you able to find him?”

I was waiting for Jessex to speak, as the one who had originally accepted the quest, but when I glanced over, I saw that she was looking at me in expectation. With a sigh, I stepped forward. “We did… he is already dead, sir. We found his spirit fighting in the hob camp. He wanted us to tell you… ‘the blood debt has been set’.”

There was a visible change in the demon’s expression when he heard that, switching from grief to outrage. “The debt has been set, has it?” He asked, pushing off from the wall and walking towards us, still leaning heavily on his staff. “You have my thanks, travelers, and the thanks of everyone in the city. If memory serves, you were interested in learning how to wield chakra?”

Even though I wasn’t the one who had accepted the quest, his eyes were locked on me the entire time that he spoke, as if the others hadn’t even entered his vision. As such, I could only give a faint nod in response. “That’s right…”

“I am a busy man, I don’t have the time to teach you right now.” He waved his hand dismissively, before reaching into his bag and pulling out a scroll. Passing it to me, he made sure not to let it go until he was done speaking. “Study this carefully, because it has everything you will need to know to practice this ability.”

You have received a training scroll for Chakra Control!

Jessex’s eyes were practically glued to the scroll the moment that the demon’s hands let go of it. He turned around, finished with the conversation, and began to walk on down the street. “That’s a training scroll, right?!” She asked in excitement, to which I nodded. “Can I borrow it when you’re done with it? I’ve wanted to learn how to properly use chakra for ages, but I can just never get the techniques down properly in the real world.”

I didn’t particularly see any reason to refuse. If the scroll was reusable, I might as well let those people near me benefit from it as well. It was the equivalent to saving a gold coin after all--... “He didn’t ask for payment.”

“Eh?” It took a moment for Jessex to realize what I meant, before her eyes widened. “Tebor… we need to leave, now. And put that thing away before someone sees it.”

As I was putting the scroll away, she urged Hela and I to walk back towards the city gates quickly, speaking in the private party chat. That scroll’s value… from what I’ve heard, training scrolls are being valued at twenty times the skill cost. That means that guy handed over a twenty gold treasure for this quest… Do you know what that means?

Surprisingly, it was Hela that answered. It means that we triggered a big story event, right…?

That’s putting it lightly! Bryant chimed in, his steps becoming more hurried by the moment. The sooner we get out of here, the better! Events this big, this early in the game… I wouldn’t be surprised if Xanjafar isn’t here a week from now.

Jessex gave a nod towards her companion’s words. This kind of event… it’s going to turn into a full-scale war. Either the city falls, or they destroy their target. And something like this is way bigger than just one hob tribe.

“Sir, are you sure that this is the right way?” Eye of War asked as he followed behind the blindfolded dwarf. They had been moving ever since they split up from the Life’s Dream group, and they hadn’t seen even the smallest sign of a hob.

“Aye, ‘course it is! Ye think I don’t know how to read my own mini-map?!” Beholder called back to him angrily, earning a small sigh from the demon.

Eye of War knew that his boss had one of the worst senses of direction ever, even when he wasn’t blindfolded. “Did you read the coordinates wrong again?”

“Huh? ‘Course not, they’re right here. Let’s see… eh, what’s this?” Beholder’s mouth dropped open in surprise before he laughed out, seeing a new window appearing in front of him. “Well, boy, looks like we don’t have to worry about it anymore. Those kids took care of the problem for us.”

Rescue the Recluse has been completed by another party, and has automatically been canceled.

“Does that mean we can go back to town, sir?” The demon asked, genuinely hoping to get out of this maze of a forest. If he let Beholder lead the way the entire time, who knew how long it would take them to get anywhere. They might even end up in another city entirely.

“Aye, sure, we’ll be off now…” Just as he was nodding, turning around as if preparing to leave, something caught his attention. With his eyes covered as they were, his other senses had been trained to their fullest. Including his supernatural senses. “War. Ten paces behind ye, three to the right. I sense somethin’ there.”

Eye of War’s face grew serious, and he pulled his longsword from his inventory as he turned in that direction. At first, all that he saw was a group of gnarled roots where Beholder had indicated, yet he still approached carefully. His boss wasn’t the type to joke around when it came to things like this. If he said that he felt something, then something was there.

When the demon was standing immediately over the location, Beholder gave him a firm nod. “Right at yer feet, just below. It’s small, but I can sense magic in it.”

That was all that he needed to know, and he brought his sword down towards the roots at his feet. If something was truly buried under there, then it would have to be a relic from the old war that the NPCs sometimes referenced. And a relic used in a war would typically be a good item.

Sure enough, once he had cut away a few of the roots, he saw the first hint of rusted metal. A few more cuts, and he was able to pull out a small amulet. “Sir… I can’t appraise this.” He said as his eyes widened. The pattern in the metal clearly represented a single eye bathed in flame, yet he could get nothing out of it. Every time he tried, his fairy informed him that his skill level was insufficient.

“Ye didn’t get a quest for finding it or anything?” Beholder asked suspiciously, his head pointed towards the amulet, as if he could see it from beneath the blindfold.

“No, sir. Maybe we can only get the quest after it has been identified…?” That was the only answer that the demon could come up with.

“Aye… let’s head back quickly. Stick it in yer inventory, make sure it doesn’t get lost.” The dwarven leader was no longer in the mood to play around. This trinket represented both a potentially powerful treasure, as well as the possibility of a hidden quest. And, of course, he still wanted to learn how to wield chakra after getting back to town.


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