Chapter 12: Safe Within The Walls
As we stuffed our holdings with various usable parts from the seven dead mud snakes I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty accepting ‘my share’.
I was about to abandon these guys. For dead. Leave them to be speed bumps for the snakes so I could escape.
Does my guilt mean I would have acted differently looking back? Probably not.
Is it messed up? Yeah, I think so, but that’s how this world is right?
“Live for yourself and only yourself.”
“Your death is a result of your weakness.” Words like that are constantly repeated everywhere television, books, and especially the academy.
I wouldn’t be blamed for abandoning them, in fact, I was sure I would be praised for having the strength of will to escape.
“Lucid are you sure you won’t take any of the fangs? It’s the most expensive part after the skin…” Ronald looked at me with a confused expression.
“Its fine, its fine. I’ve gotten more than enough lustrating materials. Besides I have no room left in the spatial ring.”
“Okay… But don’t no take backs!” Ronald grinned as the pair of fangs disappeared in his hands.
We finished dismantling the materials.
“Is that everything?”
All of us nodded.
“Then lets head back to the city, we should make it before nightfall.” Jordan looked at us and gave the command.
Finally, soon I’ll be back under the protective wing that is Laurent City. I’ve realized a couple of things on this outing. My aim is pretty garbage, probably, compared to a real bowman of my age in this world, my skill set is trash compared to what any decent adventurer should have to survive in the outside world, and that its only because I have these four with me that I’ve been able to make it this far.
[Lucid, there was nothing in your thought process to feel any guilt over. Stop putting yourself down your judgment was correct at that moment, I have to praise you for the decisiveness.]
Eurval said that yet the deep feeling of guilt was only getting stronger. I wanted to come clean, the wrongness of not telling them was eating at me, filling my thoughts.
Jordan led us on a direct path back towards the road that leads into Laurent. Of course being untraversed there was plenty of roses to collect.
I was doing the right thing, I was following what anyone else would have done in this world. I have no reason to feel like this.
Yet the thoughts weighed on me. What if they did really die? How would I feel?
This is not pleasant where are these feelings even coming from? Wasn’t I ready to ditch them yesterday?
I shut my eyes for a moment and collected my thoughts involving these feelings pushing, ripping, and compressing them and just like that the feelings plaguing me were gone.
I took in a long breath through my nose feeling the cold astringent air sting my nose and throat. My mind was all clear now I wonder why I was so worried.
The trip back was peaceful not a single danger encountered so far halfway through. I was sure it was because Runter and his party swept this entire area on their own. Or maybe just Runter himself.
Speaking of sweeping, with everything I’ve collected I have enough roses for at least a year, there had been an almost ten-fold increase in the number of rose bushes growing in the swampy areas.
I was curious to see the rarer materials that must be littered deeper in but left it to my thoughts. Maybe in the future, I’ll venture deeper in on my own. If I tried it right now I would surely die.
I walked with a bit of leisure in my step finally having the time take in the greenery around me. It was also due to Jordan leading the trek and removing most of the plants in the way that I could enjoy myself.
For a baby essence trainer like me, I was a step behind Ronald or Berts with their body strengthening spells they have on. The hike probably doesn’t bother me much since I’ve always enjoyed backpacking.
“Jordan what the hell stop walking so fast I can’t keep up.” Ronald suddenly spoke out as he put effort to pass through the bush Jordan had walked through. Making sure to aggressively jerk his hand to push away the branches.
“Is everything okay?” I asked Ronald. His glare looked serious for something so small.
“No, this damn oaf isn’t being considerate to us we’re not essence trainers he knows this too. I’ve told him so many times before he doesn’t listen!”
Hmm? Isn’t it kinda late to be complaining about that now of all times? Is what I wanted to say.
I stayed silent. I did not want to get into whatever this was and got out of his way.
“Maybe this is good practice for you, so we don’t have to slow down and wait for you guys to catch up all the time.”
Woah. What’s going on here? Did Jordan announce he’s getting engaged with Elizabeth or something? I thought he was the cool-headed one.
“Jordan’s right why should we have to slow down for you guys. You guys are always so slow it’s frustrating.” Elizabeth chimed in too.
“Both of you huh! You essence trainers always think yo-” Ronald suddenly dashed forward towards the two.
“Clarity!” Berts yelled from the back. Instantly a set of tiny green birds appeared over all of our heads showering us in emerald glitter chirping a piercing melody.
“I was almost too late. Sorry, I didn’t notice it earlier, but the sheer amount of mana in the air right now is affecting our inhibitions.”
“What?” I sent a puzzled face back to Berts. I felt no different, but I saw Ronald’s, Jordan’s, and Elizabeth’s faces instantly soften opposite to the anger that appeared on them just moments ago.
The birds disappeared off the top of their heads. Except for mine. It still continued to fly around above me singing its little song.
“Umm.” I looked over to Berts then up at the bird.
“Oh, I thought all of us where affected, must have been wrong.” Berts swished his hand and the bird disappeared above me.
“This area is absolutely mana flooded. Make sure to watch for your emotions and tell me if you feel something is odd, it may seem like your acting rationally but the reality could be much different.”
That’s scary as hell. What the fuck. Thank goodness Berts told me before it got to me.
Eurval can’t you keep tabs on my mental state, or why didn’t their magi’s tell them?
[This is different Lucid, we can’t notice changes caused from within the user anything you do in that state would seem ‘correct’ for us too.]
Magic is ferocious these guys were ready to kill each other over a bush…
I have to say Berts mana sensitivity must be pretty high I couldn’t feel any difference earlier, but now that he pointed it out I could sense it, faintly though.
Like a dam ready to burst it was swirling and swelling collecting over this area. Is what my gut told me. This has to be the sign that the Tole Forest Dungeon will appear soon that Elizabeth spoke about yesterday.
“Ugh, my head is killing me now. Thanks, Berts for catching it I didn’t even notice.” Jordan waved his hand at Berts as he rubbed his temple.
“Yeah Berts good catch.” Ronald and Elizabeth gave him a thumbs up.
“It’s my duty in the party, I was a little late though I thought symptoms would appear on Lucid first, I guess not.”
Berts’ eyes stayed on me for a bit. I sent him a smile and a shrug in return.
The three drank a tiny vial they told me it was a simple painkiller potion before we set off again.
Runter must have been thorough. There was not a hyre in sight and every kilometer or so we had Ronald search the surroundings only to find nothing. Making the last portion of the trip easy.
“We’re here.” I could see adventurers walking on the familiar road heading back for the week towards the city through the trees a little up ahead.
We crossed the treeline and merged with the flow walking back. Some looked elated joking and laughing along with their group and others looked absolutely devastated their faces ashen and cold.
One particular girl stood out she walked alone in tattered robes with her dark hair disheveled caked with dried mud adorned with dead leaves as if she had rolled on ground. We got closer to her as we moved to pass her from behind. I had thought she was crossing her arms clutching herself, but when I looked back I saw she was holding a severed head or at least a chunk of one. Hugging it tightly as if afraid to let go. I could hear her muttering something too, but chose not to get involved.
I know necromancy is widely practiced so I silently wished her the best.
Luckily our party was on the other side of this coin only smiles all around. All of us had made a killing. I was sure the many happy parties around us felt the same. The resurgence of the Tole Forest Dungeon really is a blessing.
I do wonder what party will come to conquer it once it’s entrance appears. I hoped it would be Six for Six’s comeback story so I could watch it on tv. Like seeing your home team win the homecoming game.
[The last party to conquer it was the founder of Laurent himself Lucid. It is also an open secret that its where he gained the power and materials to become the figure he is today. So I’m sure many top parties will come or announce it on their company pages.]
“Hey, excuse me, are you alright?”
Oh no, Ronald don’t talk to her.
“Hey, ma’am? Are you okay?” He didn’t get an answer so he slowed down and walked closer towards her.
“GET AWAY FROM ME!”
What the hell, I looked back to see a stunned Ronald. I could feel my ears ringing from her roar.
“Oops, sorry.” Ronald tucked his head down and joined us again.
Poor guy. Berts and Elizabeth pat him on the back for trying, but Ronald still looked sad he couldn’t help.
We reached Laurent in no time our happy gait meant our walking speed was a little faster than usual traversing almost 80 miles in under 3 hours. A little urgency to enter the protected walls had a part too.
We all let out a collective sigh once we began our walk through the tunnel of the thick wall. It’s the relief knowing we’re as safe as can be in this ridiculously dangerous world.
I noticed while leaving there was no hassle there is a small scan to enter. “Small” in the sense of the device, it was quite scary passing by the fifty or so helmeted guardsman bearing the Laurent seal on their cape-clasps all donning identical armor and weapons on both sides of the scanner radiating mountainous deterrent pressure.
God, I hope don’t get kicked out of the academy.
[ I hope so too Lucid…To be a resident you either have to own or rent a legal residence. Cheapest to buy is about 100 million sc, cheapest to rent is around 6,000 sc per month.]
Twelve thousand scales a month! … doesn’t seem so bad compared to purchasing. What were my gains for this outing if I sold everything?
[Including the armor your wearing, spatial ring, and lustrating materials around 30,000 sc. Without the lustrating materials 3,000 sc.]
Oh, that’s good only two near-death experiences. That’s 15,000 scales each! I just need to do this 100,000 more times and I can buy a place.
[Though in the future you might not have a party and have to get augmentors and pay split half your materials. Moreso was the resurgence of the Tole Forest Dungeon allowing you to forage a ridiculous amount of lustrating materials for the areas you entered.]
Eurval’s words where true. If this dungeon wasn’t flooding the area with abundant amounts of mana I would need 2-3 of these trips a month to make rent. More if I wanted to have better lustrating materials, weapons, armor, or more importantly money to fund my grimoire.
I shook my head. I really hope I don’t get kicked out before I have the strength to explore this awful world with some semblance of personal safety.
We finished crossing the thick tunnel in the wall into the city. It was only a short distance until we arrived back in Edge Town.
“Alright, we’re headed back to our academy it’s in Bright Garden east of here. You’re at the center, right Lucid?” Jordan stopped to talk. All of us formed a circle at the train station.
These trains move so fast I forget just how large Laurent City is. It’s more of a region than a city.
“Yup, I’m at the twin towers.”
“You have to invite us over sometime. I’ve gone shopping there, but never seen the actual academy portions.” Ronald looked at me.
“Definitely, then lets exchange contact information? Invite me if you guys ever go out again too.”
Seriously invite me I don’t want to have to spend money on an augmentor. The moment after I received notifications of their contact infomoration.
Just as I accepted a silent train appeared opening its doors.
“Now boarding for the Eastern Ward Loop.”
“Done. This is our train. Goodbye Lucid.”
“Be well Lucid.”
The four boarded the train Ronald and Elizabeth waved at me from the window until they were stopped reprimanded by Jordan for drawing attention.
Soon after their train departed mine came. It didn’t take long to arrive back inside my student apartment.
It felt weird calling this place ‘home’ yet it did feel like it. I took off my shoes and turned on the television.
“You’re here with me live from the Tole Forest I’m Alicia Gordy reporting the breaking news of rumors that the Tole Forest dungeon will be appearing soon. We’ve had reports earlier that thousands of guilds and clans all simultaneously leaving the city to come here and that thousands more arrived from across the nation to be the first to enter.”
The camera on television showed the reporter floating in the air behind her, similarly flying or using flying familiars, was a sea of important looking faces staring down onto the Tole Forest in waiting.
They must have waited until the last moment as to not alert those who didn’t already know.
“Someone is walking up, its Sage Laurent!”
The camera zoomed in on a white caped figure donning matte white armor in the air. He took off his helmet he didn’t appear nearly as old as I had thought maybe in his early 30’s? He was handsome and clean cut with a face you would see in a commercial for cologne. The only feature really standing out was head of thick silvery hair that reached down to his neck and his glowing golden eyes.
“Friends, I welcome you all to my city! I hope you enjoy the many amenities we, the people of Laurent, have to offer. It’s with my honor to have so many prominent figures come out to visit.”
He paused, he looked grand floating in the air there with his helmet under his arm and his cape fluttering gently in the wind as he spoke with and an authority that only comes with experience.
“I just have one request.”
“And what is that Laurent?” A man equipped in thickly plated heavy red armor emitting a bloody mist from the iron wings on its back took a step forward.
[Based on the armor I believe that is the president of the Blood Covenant, Crimson Claw.]
Crimson Claw? He must be strong to use a title like that. Are there any estimates for his strength?
[There is no way that level of information is available anywhere to make a numerical guess. My guess would be people like Mrs. Eddy would are like flies to him anyone in his main party too and they’re all there.]
“Alfred, its good to see you too. My request is simple. All those who wish to enter must perform a blood oath swearing they will not take grudges from inside the Tole Forest to those who are not participating in this dungeon conquest. I hope you all understand I have a duty to my people and the many that rely on the materials from the forest. ”
Laurent looked towards the many there. The camera had zoomed in on Crimson Claw who’s face soured when he heard his real name.
“Hoh, and why should we abide by your words?”
A woman in black robes that clung tightly to her chest and hips walked forward I could see nothing other than her soft jaw and pink lips from her hooded self. The end of the robes turning into a black smoke making it look as if she was standing on a dark cloud.
“Then you will face the wrath of Arc Argent. Anyone who enters must swear the oath!” Laurent pointed past the black-robed woman to the center of the city.
A deep rumble began shaking my apartment, no the whole building. What’s with this mana! Without even trying to focus my hair stood on end at the violent storm of mana appearing around me. I could see millions of tiny silvery particles fly past me coming up from the ground up through my ceiling.
The camera filming on the televsion turned to the city where both towers sparked with gigantic arcs of silvery mana.
[Ronald: Yo! Are you watching television right now!]
[Elizabeth: I just turned it on that’s crazy we’re just there imagine getting caught up in the middle of that!]
[Jordan: Lucid how are things over there?]
I received our first group messages.
[Lucid: Scary! So much mana is being compressed to the top of the towers my room is filled with it.]
[Berts: Be careful.]
[Ronald: who would have thought the two towers were some crazy death weapon haha]
The rumble stopped as if expelling a breath and the arcs slowly ceased.
“I don’t want to have to use it, even I will join the oath to show good faith.”
With that showing, no one else voiced anything more. Even the reporter on the scene was a bit stunned. I think the whole city is probably included it the surprise too.
The camera continued rolling as everyone there performed the oath in unison.
“You have my thanks, friends. I also want to say those who have not performed the oath will automatically be attacked by Arc Argent if they try to enter the dungeon without doing so.”
How scary the politics of those at high power. The feeling of death filled me just from having the damn machine on for a second.
[Ronald: might go home for until this blows over do not want to be in the crossfire. I did do well in my history of magic courses, but at least I know everyone there has world splitting strength]
[Elizabeth: Me too. Its almost winter break anyways.]
[Jordan: I will join you Ronald.]
[Berts: I’m feeling the same.]
World splitting? These people are that strong… I have nowhere else to go. I’ve only been here two months. Fuck this means my party is gone too.
[Lucid wars between those at that level have been known to split mountains with ease. Though I wouldn’t worry too much Laurent City is one of the most heavily guarded places in the world. It is basically a fortress for The United Nations of the Scale Apostles.]
[Ronald: lucid you wanna come? my families farm is huge! could always use another hand to help tend the land.]
I was tempted. But I had a reason to be here Laurent City had all the resources I needed to focus on strengthening myself before I go and search for my classmates.
[Lucid: Thanks, but I can’t go maybe I’ll join you after I finish something.]
[Ronald: sure <img src="https://www.royalroadcdn.com/smilies/smile.png" alt="“>]
Nothing was happening on the tv so I turned my focus back to my magic lessons. I was foolish to not buy magic spells because I wanted to prove something to myself. Next time I go out I’ll make sure to have bought magics to fill any gaps I feel I have whether its defensive, detective, or attacking.
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