Chapter 50: Arrival
“Transport you to Obsense City?”
Eystil’s face was filled with confusion his eyes trying to focus on finding what I could possibly mean. Frium sat beside him looking to the side doing the same.
It was a shame that I was leaving the northern continent so soon. I had been interested in the rituals and the type of hyridean abilities I could obtain with the strength of my soul paired with the awakenings but things… turned out differently so my own plans had to adjust accordingly.
Much like what I learned when fighting Frium its not always good to force an idea without reconsidering other paths forward. I can only hope that in future I will have a chance to do the things I want at the pace I choose, as of right now I don’t have the liberty.
“Is that a small village of poor hyridean people?” Eystil spoke up.
Not a bad guess.
“No.” I shook my head lightly.
“It’s a town near Laurent City.” I pulled out my phone using it to project a map of the area around Laurent.
A ways away from the massive circular fortress was a walled city a quarter of the size but compared to Laurent City’s its walls were more like a fence.
The confusion disappeared from their faces. Frium’s seemed to harden as she looked towards me. Both of them had realized my goals there.
“Lucid I don’t doubt your physical strength, but you are not on a level where you can rob Laurent inside his own home even with the help of the two of us. I have a gauge on your strength now, you are a tower above us but there is an ocean between you and those like Laurent when magic is involved. ” Frium’s voice carried a tinge of worry.
Are you worried I might drag you into your deaths after I promised a mostly danger-free time of servitude? You don’t need to worry!
The two will stay here and guard. I know my limits. I know my magic is at its infancy and my combat skills just arrived at amateur. It’s only the monstrosity of my strength and soul that are my current major trump cards.
“I’m not going to rob the city so brazenly. I was accepted into the Laurent Academy’s Talent Tournament I’m going to join the academy and win the use of the Akashic Orb through their magic and martial games.”
Their faces softened.
“So you’ve been planning something like this…”
“Now I understand.”
“You have the strength to win against even the most gifted apostles. The chance of you winning it is high. Remember, you will only have one chance to ask what you need Lucid, I doubt the orb will be usable again for a long time so roll up all the locations including clues to finding their souls into one question.”
“You know something about the akashic orb?” I looked at Eystil.
“Of course, who doesn’t? I had heard there were talks about a trade with Laurent for it but the costs were too high. Valued high enough that even Laurent hasn’t risked taking it out from his city walls since the city was constructed.”
As expected of a coward who is willing to kill the defenseless! I mused myself but hearing this made the reaction during the orientation make more sense.
“But why would it be unusable?”
“While there are probably many factors the major one is that the orb is damaged in some way after each use. This is known as only extremely rare materials that can repair it. The purchase of those materials and a little divination is how most were able to figure out this major flaw.”
Good, this solidifies my choice in using it to find the locations to retrieve the bodies. It seemed too good of an item to be true and was worried it was extremely limited in terms of what it could answer.
“My match isn’t until the end of the first week, but I have to register tomorrow morning in Scale’s timezone. Frium it should be no problem getting me there? Eystil can stay here and keep watch. If something happens notify me through the amulet.”
The amulet could transfer simple messages no matter where I was barring any interference whereas my phone was more constrained.
I could also get a clearer answer contacting a lucid directly but I’d rather not let many know of the special connection.
“By morning to the Scale Allegiance…” Frium zoomed out of my projected map and began to draw a path with her finger tapping a dot before starting another line.
After a moment she looked at it and nodded her head in satisfaction.
“This path should be the safest and quickest.”
Of the fourteen parts, five sections over the ocean exceeded a thousand miles. The smallest trips appeared once we reached populated areas barely ever passing ten.
“Should we be worried about any hyres or anti-teleportation measures?” I asked but having seen them in battle I wasn’t too worried.
“With Frium’s mobility hyres shouldn’t be a problem as for the anti-teleportation measures only once you’re near Laurent will you have to worry about it but the sister cities shouldn’t have anything like that,” Eystil answered for his sister as she began to prepare.
Another factor I considered asking was the empire’s manhunt for them but then remembered I had yet to see anything in search of them or even a news article about them.
I assumed the empire doesn’t want others to have a chance to find out details about the stabilization project. More importantly, if other countries found out it would instantly become an international event giving them cause to kick the strongest nation down.
My real worry was a trap set up using divination with the target being the two. Which is another reason why I kept myself from telling them anything
“If you’re ready, let’s depart.” I stood up from their living room sofa.
Frium was finishing up putting on a different set of armor then took out a sapphire ring.
“What is that ring for?” I knew it wasn’t her storage treasure it was an enchanted accessory they asked I let them keep.
“It’s just an appearance changer,” Eystil responded as Frium slipped it onto her finger.
It pulsed a small blue light that caused her appearance to change. Her cold pale face turning warm and pink. Her light hair darkening to a humble brown changing with her facial features. Her eyes turning watery and her face softening giving her the appearance of a homely older sister. I would be sold had her facial muscles or her general aura matched her new face, however, for anyone who didn’t see the transformation it was a perfect disguise.
“Are those expensive?”
“Not really.” She said.
“They are for most but not really for us, they hover around one to two million scales. I have an extra one take it.”
I gave a short grin as I equipped Eystil’s spare I had already taken most of their wealth and felt a little guilty taking more. But I wasn’t going to decline an added layer of safety.
Like her, my appearance too became plain making me wonder if it was sold as a set to make all the users look related.
“Are you ready?”
“Yes, let’s go,” I replied.
With that Frium grabbed my shoulder wrapping my body into her affliction field. As she wasn’t an enemy I didn’t fight it and allowed it to cover me.
Goodbye northern continent! I thought to myself as I felt a tearing force around me get stronger.
I didn’t get to explore you much but Civieto was nice!
Things worked out differently.
Once the force reached its peak in an instant we appeared a couple miles away flying above the Leadwood forest. High above in the air Frium let me go I didn’t fall very far as my feet landed on firm snow.
A chill wind passed over us exacerbated by the leveled iceberg we stood atop. Use to this I sat down on a mound made of snow with my spear resting on my shoulder as she began to cast her teleportation spell again.
“Be on the lookout if I get affected by the fog,” Frium asked of me.
It was my duty before so I didn’t say anything and casually watched her. Because it only indirectly tried to affect the soul a few moments with random pulsations of my own affliction field through direct touch could destroy the effect.
Eystil had informed us on how to deal with the fog the first time we encountered it. The quickest way to tell was to look at the eyes. They would slowly get cloudy in the literal sense like an encroaching morning fog.
Her eyes didn’t seem to leave my direction.
Does she want a response?
“Okay, I’ll keep watch.” I nodded to her affirming I had heard her.
Is she that afraid of the fog? Maybe if she got affected while she concentrated on teleporting it would cause some kind of backlash, but it was just a guess.
With that, she turned back around and looked off into the distance preparing another cast.
We are a couple miles away from the lucids and the lack of humans around to cause any great interference should make for a few hundred miles.
Maybe less if there are some strong hyres around.
I guess she didn’t get affected.
With the tearing force passing we reappeared still floating above the Leadwood Forest it would be a few more times until we reach the ocean. I had wanted to fly over Civieto but Frium instead chose the shortest route to the Blood Ocean
While short distances in combat for her where instant it would be another fifteen or twenty before another long-range one. I kept my eyes on hers as we soared along at an incredible speed.
I was happy this hunk of ice somehow was shielding me from the wind.
The feeling of space ripping passed through me as we blinked away. The fog was now gone and a sweet but salty scent now mixed in the air.
“We are over the Blood Ocean now Lucid you don’t have to keep watch anymore it should be half an hour before the next cast.”
Reminding me a bit of a pilot’s radio message to the passengers I took the chance to walk around the iceberg heading for the small cabin to make some clacka root tea.
Contrary to the name the waters themselves weren’t dangerous it was just given due to its ownership by the Blood Axis. It didn’t look like blood either it was a rather soft pastel pink that radiated a blood-red light at night.
Just like it is now!
Coasting along on top of the giant piece of ice we flew above the red-bellied clouds as I waited for the next cast. Enjoying the ocean air I looked down below where a group of flying hyres flew in a tight v-formation. They paid us no mind as we flew at around the same speed towards the south.
Like a luxury safari trip, I sat down and sipped on my warm blue drink at the edge watching the flock of hyres migrating. The red light from the ocean and the white reflective glow from their feathers made it a treat to see. I moved my eyes up along the flock to the head of the pack.
That must be the leader.
At the apex of their V formation, the leading hyre’s wings were much larger and instead of the blueish-white feathers they were a deep grey leaving two trails of blue light, one from each wingtip.
Before I had the chance to toss some torn bread the tearing force appeared once more as Frium teleported us again. I looked below to see the waters where no longer pink the crack of dawn letting me see I could see a murkier green ocean below.
“Do you mind making a short stop?”
“I can sense something worth high value nearby, it might be gone when we get there, however.”
“Sure.” I didn’t mind a half-hour of flying was nothing compared to the thousands of miles covered through teleportation.
So stopping while she is readying another cast made no difference besides I wanted to know what had caught her interest.
I walked towards her at the ‘helm’ of the iceberg where she had been standing. Frium wasn’t staring far-far ahead but instead looking at something far away and down below us.
Controlling her flying iceberg we gently descended stopping to hove over a tiny patch of completely clear water no bigger than a small pond.
“Is that what you wanted to stop for?”
“Yes, it seems we’re quite lucky to find it before anyone else came.”
Among the high waves of dark teal was this little pool composed of completely still crystal clear water.
Unaffected by the waves it looked like a giant floating glass bean.
“Are we going to take it?” Even my untrained eye could discern this was some kind of magical ingredient.
“Yes, but not everything don’t take any more than you can hold.”
Confused by what she meant I watched her. I can hold more than this and I was certain she could too.
With the iceberg turning completely thin like a sheet of ice as to not disturb the waters below us she bent over the edge cupping her hands together. Dipping them into the bean and slowing lifting up what was in her hands. Quickly she froze what was in them and placed it into her storage.
“So that’s what you meant.” Understanding now I leaned over and did the same but because my water froze much more slowly with the use of First Snow a little dripped away.
In my hands, I could feel the roughness disappear the skin slowly rejuvenating.
This stuff must be worth a fortune! I screamed inside my head.
“A little fell out it’s only fair that I get a little more…” After putting away my piece I reached over with one hand.
“Don’t.” Frium appeared beside me grabbing my hand and pulling it back over to the iceberg like an amusement park ride attendant.
“But some of mine fell back in?”
“Doesn’t matter, you’ll get cursed regardless if you try to dip your hands more than once.”
“Cursed? By what?” I sensed no hyre.
“Only this much? Can’t we take the whole thing into a storage treasure? It’s not like there is a hyre guarding this thing.”
It really was no bigger than a small pond or pool it would easily fit.
“All who have done so never found another Oasis again.”
I took her words and I left it at that.
“Is it like a daily thing could you come here tomorrow and get more?”
“Only if we were to find another one.” As she said this the green waters below began mixing with the clear ones then disappeared completely looking like any other patch of ocean water as far as I could see.
“Where can we fin—” Before I finished my question I saw Frium’s eyes hardened the look she had when she would fight.
The iceberg shot back making some distance from where we just were.
A tearing force didn’t come from us! I finally realized as a stranger appeared in front of us!
I jumped up and clutched my spear. Frium went on guard doing the same both our eyes locked onto the stranger.
“DAMN! IT!” He gave a short glance down where the pond had been not having noticed us yet.
He looked disheartened as he then turned around.
“I was just a bit late! If you had just waited a bit for meeee!” He stomped his feet as he floated in the air before us.
“Ugh, I’m not going to fight you for it! Not that I can anyways you rude jerks! Don’t you know its customary to wait an hour after you find so others can get it too! Freaking newbies thinking just cause they can teleport they don’t have to follow traditions. I hope you enjoy it assholes!” After his vent, the strange man fixed his hair and put the silver comb back into his breast pocket then let out a sigh before he disappeared.
“What was that?” I had my guesses and it told me the water was rare.
“He was probably a speculant,” Frium said still not relaxing her guard.
“Why not an adventurer? And what was the rant?” I was interested in how she made the distinction.
“The guild would have sent a special team of at least two for things like this, we should go we can’t be sure they won’t come and question us. As for the rant, I’m not sure I’m not a native over this ocean those kinds of rules don’t exist in the waters claimed by the empire its winner takes all, more or less. I had expected him to dual one of us, not to the death of course.”
The unwritten rules of the empire seemed worse were you come from… But I kept the thought to myself.
The iceberg returned to its old shape as we lifted up into the air becoming the monolith it was before.
Frium teleported us three more times each time Frium’s eyes always were fully focused staring off into a horizon. We never stopped again due to nothing of worth appearing.
Sitting with my legs dangling off of the iceberg next to the standing Frium I sat watching the curve of the planet. Each long-range teleportation cast ranged from twenty to thirty minutes.
“When the Sun touches the edge of the horizon know that it is my smile shining a brighter future for you. My time ends here but yours will continue forward.”
“Where’s that from?” I asked Frium who had suddenly spoken.
“Niefule’s last words.”
“I like it.”
Frium said nothing and bit after she spoke again.
I lifted my head from watching the sun shimmer on the waters of the ocean below me as I thought about Niefule’s last words. Niefule was the most recent being that became close to becoming another God. In the end, even with her power to predict the future she ultimately failed. I wondered if she already knew all her struggles would mean nothing.
“Oh, we’re finally here?”
I had to squint to see the grey peaks even with my incredible eyesight it was only slowly coming into view. Frium sped up her hunk of ice allowing the mountain range to lift up into the horizon as we flew closer. Soon after in front of the mountains appeared a small coastal town.
“The distances are going to be much shorter now.”
Before I had a chance to reply or discern details of the tiny town we teleported once more but there was no longer a steep change in the time of day from our height I could still see the coast but not the tiny town all I knew it was behind the small ridge of mountains.
The appearance of humans significantly dampened the teleport distance. We had only covered seventy miles or so. Luckily the town was small or it could have been less. Frium had avoided the large coastal towns this must have been the compromise.
Continuing forward, now a bit southeast, the greenery turned more verdant looking like a scaled-down version of the Tole Forest. The appearance of hyres no longer hidden underwater of various kinds were roaming below choosing to ignore us and the ones that were flying quickly made way.
A massive flying iceberg helmed by only two people would do that to me too!
Just dropping it from this height would be enough to kill most of them with no problem. The real dangerous hyres that had the guts and more importantly the strength to challenge us lived deeper inland in places richer in mana and magical resources like the Tole Forest or the Fevered Mountain Range.
“A hyre is attacking.” Just as Frium gave the warning a thin beam of red pierced through the sky.
I flinched as it was heading right for us but a frosted plane of ice suddenly had appeared shielding me, instantly nullifying the burning beam. Not so much as a drop of water had melted off.
It was nothing compared to the thick beam from the three-eyed gorilla… Having seen much worse I relaxed, but still got up and stepped back from the edge.
So there was some kind of active shield.
There wasn’t much wind when flying I had figured it was something like this but now my thoughts were confirmed.
Curious, I traced the source of the attack to the open mouth of a large bat with wings made of many bones. Stunned for a moment its mouth didn’t close again until it sheepishly scurried into a nest on top of a tree where I could see a few small similar hyres sleeping.
They really are like regular animals. Animals that shoot piercing red lasers instead of stinky sprays like a skunk.
Frium said nothing as we disappeared from the spot just above the tree where the hyre that had attacked scurried into.
Like being stuck in traffic I could still see the general area of where we had just been after as each teleport progressively became smaller and smaller.
Seeing as the rest would be much slower I ended up dozing off.
The snow didn’t melt nor was it too cold it was as softer than cashmere and fluffier than cotton and after making a nice mound for a pillow this iceberg stayed perfectly cool for a nice scenic nap. My eyes became heavy and just as they were about to close…
“We’re here Lucid, Obsense City.”
I sighed as I got up lamenting having to get up from the perfect bed. Obsense City was far off in the distance but Frium still guided her the iceberg down onto a clearing shrinking it as we descended.
Once we hovered over the ground a grand set of stairs appeared but neither of us bothered, both of us just jumped off before the final steps could complete.
As to not bring any suspicious eyes it was best that we walked the rest of the distance.
Most of the people participating probably couldn’t afford a train ticket here or the more expensive choice of flying with magic or a hyre capable of flight, and they definitely could not afford a spatial mage agency to bring them.
I had both of the latter…
To look authentic I would make due like the others and walk the rest of the way the distance wasn’t much for the me now.
“You don’t have to get down too you can return now Frium.”
“No, my task is to escort you to Obsense City and I will see to it that I witness you enter the gates.”
Frium’s voice was firm so I didn’t say anything more.
We walked forward at a quick pace rushing through the sparsely treed forest. While I was faster in a straight line my lack of finesse forced me to stay behind Frium and follow her.
“No familiar to ride on?” I asked.
She shook her head as if I asked an odd question.
“You can only get so much essence even with perfect filtering I have always been focused on increasing my strength. I also didn’t need to travel much either. Maybe in the future, I’ll look for a supportive familiar that lowers the load of using ice magic. If I chose to raise one I would have to focus on it completely.”
Didn’t travel much in her early life? This planet is huge just the travel on my first time into the Tole Forest made me want one and I doubt she could teleport vast distances when she first began essence training.
I continued to follow behind I could make some guesses as to why she didn’t need to travel much but decided not to pry. I did understand whatever she experienced Eystil did too and it was why he seemed rather protective over her.
“Slow down.” The sudden command came from Frium.
“Why?” I slowed down to a stop beside her at the base of exposed tree roots.
The massive work of wooden tendrils was exposed into the open air I could clearly see them slowly growing and feeling for soft dirt like the arms of thousands of blind men reaching for a cup.
“A hyre is near here that enjoys freshly grown roots.”
Looking at it now the dirt was a bit fresher than the surroundings and the roots where growing unevenly as if bites were taken out. The ball of roots was so huge and the pit to dig them out was even bigger it was hard to believe something had dug this much dirt out.
Only now was I noticed how it was truly peculiar. Where is the dirt that was dug? I would have noticed the strangeness had I seen the mounds to the sides but there was nothing.
“Come follow me I think I know the hyre and it’s quite valuable too.”
Frium shot up landing on a high branch of the tree with the exposed roots. Both of us quieted our landing as perched ourselves.
“Do you want to spend the time to wait or leave?”
I’m broke of course I wanted to! Towards the end of the construction, I had to use all my guild points to fund extra defensive touches. The growing cost expanding far from the initial estimate reminded me of contractors from Earth.
I had promised the two to kept 10% of their wealth but in the end, they voluntarily shrunk down to less than half of a percent.
I want to emphasize it really was voluntary I made no attempt to softly pressure them into it. Was it their own penance? Maybe.
One thing for certain is we really went all out. I even felt guilty about spending all those points on myself, but there were no returns. Selling everything would take time and selling it to a reseller would be too costly.
“It’s probably coming to feed again soon and the roots are reacting to the caster.” Frium’s low voice broke my thoughts.
I focused my ears and was able to catch the low sound of a slow walk. Dry branches on the ground cracked and low bushes were crushed as something large approached.
With heavy steps what came by was a massive hunk of a boar its tusks ticker than my torso and its frame exceeding that of a truck. Most notably were the seven green eyes at the top of its face right above its snorting nose as it sniffed the area where we had just been standing in.
Looking around it failed to look up due to its fat meaty neck and continued its meal sending seven lights of green into the moving tree roots. Without needing to use its mouth the chunks of the tree began to fly into its mouth the wooden tendrils squirming in the air as the flew towards their end.
“Go,” Frium whispered as she let herself slip a little off the tree branch before using the new footing to launch herself down.
Don’t just say go! Give a count down!
I followed after.
The boar yelled its fat neck swinging around as its position fixed eyes couldn’t see above.
“She didn’t attack it?” I stared I had thought it would be a quick beheading but instead, she didn’t aim for the boar but the wooden ball of root tendrils in the air!
She was only able to grab a handful before putting them away.
I finally understood what she didn’t need a countdown it was because she wanted me to see. I returned my spear into a ring mid descent and instead copied her by grabbing some for myself.
“Gross.” I couldn’t help but say as I compressed them together in my palms like dough after seeing Frium doing the same.
They were hard, cold, and grainy like real wood but the way they balled up in my hands made them feel like juicy centipedes it was disturbing for my senses, to say the least making me shiver.
The boar charged towards Frium putting its head down aiming its white tusk looking to impale. Just watching the giant hyre pick up speed was enough to scare me.
With a simple whip of the back of her hand, the hyre flew to the left like it was made of air smashing its ribs into the tree.
The hyre looked surprised but then angered as it ran towards me next. With a thought, my spear appeared in my hand.
“Don’t kill it just knock it away Lucid.”
Hmm? I chose to heed her request and as it came towards me to did the same. With my hand.
A high pitched cry screamed out as it rolled away tumbling. No longer did it look angry but instead wobbly like it had too much to drink. Realizing it could fight neither it shook its head, turned around, and ran away.
“Did you put it away?”
“Yes, but what is it for? And more importantly, are all trees in this world like this?” This could be another commonly known thing people glaze over leaving people like me in the dark.
“No, of course not. Viridian Boars cast special magic onto plants to turn into food. Usually, it’s simple grasses with no worth, but Seven Eyed Viridian Boars are different. The roots that have been freshly enchanted can be refined into high-grade earth essence as long as you obtain them in time.”
High-grade earth essence? Each of these three balls is at least twenty pounds!
How many would I need to absorb to awaken that ability? I could be rich
I thought but I really didn’t have the time to spare. It took hyridean progenitors an unknown amount of time even with my ability to not filter I can’t know.
I sighed in my heart, maybe in the future.
“Why don’t people raise these things like farm animals to farm earth essence?” The thought struck me as an obvious way to commercialize their talents.
Frium raised her eyebrow.
“Lucid we can only do this because of our strength otherwise the boar would have killed and eaten us. Keeping and rearing thousands of these things would be a disaster waiting to happen. Let alone raising their children from regular Viridian boars to seven eyed ones would be a feat in itself. Doing something like this is reserved for those at our level.”
So it’s like that.
Although I have control over my new strength I didn’t have a grasp of the scale until now.
Was what we did like walking up to a group of lions eating their prey and taking it away right in front of them?
Was this a way to show me?
Considering how they’ve handled everything I’ve yet to feel any action be disingenuous, I can say that, but my heart and brain won’t allow me to put my trust in them while the oath is still active.
But this is the same heart and brain that stopped me from continuing with a bow.
On more even ground, if we ever meet again after I’ve done what I can with this task I’ve given myself I’ll reconsider my thoughts on the two. Plus it could be her gentle appearance clouding my thoughts.
“We should move,” Frium said.
Looking at the time through my contacts I had little more than an hour to get to the city. We weren’t pressed for time but she was right as we didn’t want to become pressed.
“Your right lets go.”
I stopped rumbling through my view on my relationship with these two siblings and decided to look at it when I get a distance away from where we are.
After my response, Frium took off and I quickly followed suit.