“It’s Lord Siegfried of the Ashen Hawks!”
“With him around, Old Pam’s at ease now!” The dwarf Pam exclaimed excitedly.
‘Powerful’ was Leylin’s first impression of the man. Siegfried was at or above rank 15, and there were even energy traces from magic items on his person. That wasn’t all; the members behind him were the cream of the crop as well, and Leylin even spotted a wizard among them.
While she was clad in black wizard robes, that unique spiritual temperament could not deceive Leylin. However, she did not seem to have a high rank and had only made contact with the third level of the Weave.
Seeing the mercenary group of the Ashen Hawks meet with the medium-scaled merchant groups, as well as the subsequent signal they set off, Leylin asked by Pam’s side, Is that Siegfried very powerful?”
“But of course. Lord Siegfried is the only mithril mercenary in Emon City! Mithril, you know? On top of that, he’s a high-ranked warrior who’s gone through numerous battles. Our city hall even invited him to take charge of the garrison, but he rejected them…” At the very mention of Siegfried, Old Pam talked non-stop, as if he himself was a member of the Ashen Hawks.
The Hawks had a huge reputation, and it resulted in an uproar amongst the large merchant groups. Be it the mercenaries or merchants, all of them had delighted looks on their face, as if just having them around meant their safety was guaranteed.
‘Yet another bunch of tragic people who place their safety in the hands of others…’ Seeing this, Leylin sighed inside, ‘No matter how powerful he is, he’ll definitely be protecting the few medium-sized merchant groups that hired him first and foremost. How could he stay by your side like Pam would? There are over a hundred ogres…’
While some were still immersed in their fantasies, the mixed bag of people set off.
‘How boring…’ Leylin was now dressed like a fighter, armoured in moderately new leather. At his waist was a longsword made of steel, the grip wound with coarse rope that allowed him to unsheath it smoothly at any time.
The large caravan moved very slowly. Apart from the leadership problems, food, water, and camping at night were huge issues for them. Even proper legions couldn’t manage such a thing well, forget this ragtag group. Sometimes they didn’t even make it past a few kilometres a day.
Leylin had already expected this, and he stayed in his group while at ease. With so many people present, he would only be used as cannon fodder to bait the ogres out if they ended up meeting. That would allow him to escape successfully.
He’d already made up his mind. Once he passed the danger of the ogres, he’d immediately leave this large group and proceed on his own. As for the matter of the commission and trust, would he even care?
Leylin thus had nothing going on for now. He’d made a deal with a merchant for one silver, and was allowed on one of the carriages. Besides his requisite patrolling duties, the only things he did were resting, meditation, and secret research.
‘A.I. Chip, show me my current stats!’ Leylin commanded.
[Leylin Faulen. Age: 16. Race: Human, Rank 10 Wizard. Strength: 5.2. Agility: 6.5. Vitality: 6.3. Spirit: 10. Status: Healthy. Feats: Sturdy, Erudite. Spell Slots: Rank 4(3), Rank 3(5), Rank 2(7), Rank 1(???), Rank 0(???)]
[Analysis of the Weave: Level 0 100%, Level 1 100%, Level 2 37.31%, Level 3 16.78%, Level 4 2.01%.] The A.I. Chip loyally carried out his orders.
‘My spiritual force is greatly disproportionate to the time I’ve spent meditating. With the reduced effect of the Devilblood Dagger, I can’t advance so easily anymore. I can only try to raise my other stats to 10 points…’
In Leylin’s view, raising of his other stats was a process of perfecting his own genes. Once they all broke past a certain limit, they could give him a pleasant surprise.
Leylin took a quick look at his stats and shifted his attention to the Weave’s analysis, his most important work.
‘Slow as ever…’ Leylin could do nothing about this. The Weave was under Mystra’s control, and she was a powerful goddess. The A.I. Chip analysing the Weave already went against the will of the gods. He couldn’t do much without alerting her.
‘The speed’s decreased after it started on level 2. It would be unnoticeable if not for my increase in rank… Perhaps I should use another method…’ Just as Leylin was pondering over what he should do, an unwelcome guest opened the door of the truck.
“Sister Hera has already explained everything to me. I’m sorry!” Just from the voice, Leylin could tell that this was Rafiniya and he opened his eyes. Even in the darkness of the truck, he could see her flushed face.
“I accept your apology. Are we done now?” Leylin gestured for her to leave.
“How can you do this?” Rafiniya’s embarrassed face reddened further, but this time in fury, “I’m here to apologise to you, yet you’re acting so rudely? Besides… Pam and the others are…”
“I’ve done my tasks for the day. Pam and the others are just unwilling to put in the effort… Also…” Leylin stood up. Just the natural elegance in his movements caused the knight to shrink backwards in retreat, as if she’d seen her own father in his fury.
“Also… who is it that keeps staying in the employer’s carriage? And who keeps evading patrol duty?” Leylin’s eyes rested on Rafiniya, causing the knight to lower her head. At this moment, she realised that this Ley indeed was doing his duty unlike her.
“That– That’s different! I’m a girl!” Rafiniya stomped her foot, “Who knew travelling was so tedious? There’s grime everywhere, and nowhere to even walk on. It’s even harder to find a washroom…”
Her subconscious thoughts were poured out in front of Leylin. Noticing his half-smile, she couldn’t help but go beet red and lower her head.
“So now you know the hardships of travelling? Don’t be fooled by the glamour of heroes on the surface. In truth, they could be suffering more than you… Go home, little lady!” Leylin rarely showed kindness such as this. He only did it because all it required was for him to speak a bit.
“You sound like you know a lot, but do you really?” Rafiniya turned and left, as if she had gotten used to and annoyed by these lectures. Leylin only sighed, “Rebellious children…”
The days passed, and the ragtag group got closer to the region rumoured to have ogres around. They hadn’t met trouble before this, their numbers enough to scare off vagrants and those with malicious intent. Within the group however, the bandit Professionals had bad luck. No matter where they went, they were watched vigilantly.
When it came time to camp, they did it on a flat field. Numerous mercenaries constructed lofty tents and lit bonfires. Hot water was then poured into pots; with the addition of their rations, some wild vegetables that a few older mercenaries found outside the camp, and jerky, it was cooked into a savoury stew.
Pam hugged his rum bottle while salivating at the pot, occasionally taking a drink.
“Everyone’s worked hard today!” Hera and Rafiniya got off the horse carriage, and the mercenaries of the Night Halls sat around the bonfire.
After spending some time together, Leylin now had another opinion regarding Hera. While she was a slight schemer, it was because of her living conditions. She did not regard herself to be much better than those mercenaries who were working hard.
With his experience, Leylin could naturally tell if she was sincere or putting on a front. Her younger sister seemed to be called Yalani, and was protected well by her sister. She spent most of her time on the carriage, and even Leylin had only seen her a few times before. That meant Hera was aware of the dangers outside.
After Hera brought the dinner that had just been made back to the carriage, Old Pam impatiently drank his rum and began to chatter on.
However, in the long chilly night, there was little to while the time away. Hence, the other members approved of it tacitly. Rafiniya especially seemed to have fun, and probably even took Old Pam’s stories to be true.
“Hello. May I know if this is Lady Hera’s carriage?” At this moment, a person in charge of one of the merchant groups walked over.
“What is it? Please tell me!” Rafiniya blocked the way. Days before, there were a few guys who were lusting over the beauty of the sisters. She’d kicked them out, but she was now on her huard.
The person in charge who had been rejected frowned, but then put on a smile, “Well, we’re reaching the dangerous regions where the ogres appear. Lord Siegfried told me to come inform everyone to remain vigilant at night. Remember to send people to patrol the area…”
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