I pursed my lips and stared daggers at the back of his head. Then I glared at the other bastard walking in front of me.
And when we were far enough away from the mountain, I exploded.
“You!” I pointed towards Runir. “Why the hell did you take us to a fucking dragon’s nest? Are you out of your fucking mind?”
He looked back and smirked, making me grit my teeth.
“And you!” I pointed at Kai. “Why the fuck didn’t you do that sooner? I thought I was gonna die! Did you think this would make you look cool or something you little bastard? Well fuck you, all it did was make you look like an asshole!” I panted as I finished my rant.
He didn’t even stop walking.
It’s funny how stupid you can get when you’re angry. I mean, this guy had just told off a dragon and here I was insulting him.
Worse, I rushed forward to punch him.
But before I could reach him, he put a hand on the stone beside him and I flinched, thinking that he was reacting to my sudden charge.
He coughed out blood and fell to his knees.
None of us moved, too stunned by the sudden show of weakness to offer help.
This guy had scared off a dragon effortlessly…or had he?
As he continued to cough out blood and take in great, wheezing gulps of air, Amy finally snapped out of it and walked over to him which prompted Runir and I to follow.
But even as I comforted him and watched the others do the same and even as I saw him drink the water that Runir handed him, I kept feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
I couldn’t put my finger on it for some reason, perhaps because I didn’t know what it was.
I looked at the blood on the ground, which looked real enough. I stared at his face, which was covered in sweat. He was clutching his chest with his hand, tightening and loosening his grip in convulsions.
But something was nagging in the back of my head. I’d seen people in pain before. People who’d lost their limbs, been stabbed by a knife, raped, swindled, robbed, beaten up or people who’d contracted painful illnesses, I’d seen them all. But this felt different and made me feel uneasy.
In front of me was the perfect picture of a man in pain.
But that was the problem, it was perfect. Too perfect.
Or was I just over-thinking things?
“Are you alright Kai? What happened?” asked Amy in a concerned voice.
“…It’s okay. I guess using my Ability on a dragon was a bit much, huh.” he chuckled, before coughing out more blood.
Amy cast an accusatory glance at Runir, who frowned.
“I apologize. I should have realized that an Ability that powerful would have limits and repercussions. Sorry.” Runir said as his gaze fell to the ground.
“It’s okay, no harm done. I’ll be fine in a couple of hours.” said Kai, waving a hand in the air dismissively.
Kai sat down on the rock that he had been leaning on and took a few deep breaths before managing to calm down his breathing.
“I suppose it’d wise to answer some of your questions now. However, I believe it would only be fair for all of us to tell each other about our abilities. Just enough to avoid mishaps like today and to help us understand each other a little better.” Kai said.
I immediately nodded, since this arrangement would be most beneficial for me because I was the only one who couldn’t see anyone else’ status.
Runir agreed readily enough, because he’d already revealed his ability when he found the Lava Sphere.
Amy hesitated for a while but eventually agreed as well.
“Fine, then I guess I’ll begin. My Ability is called ‘Re:Write’ and it allows me to change certain aspects of the things that I target. For example, I rewrote that dragon’s willingness to attack us with the desire to go to sleep in the lava.and although I won’t tell you all of the conditions and restrictions attached to it, you should know that they do exist and that I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t try to test them.” Kai said.
I stared at him. He could rewrite a dragon’s emotions? If rewriting something like that only made him cough out a little blood, then wasn’t this Ability a bit too ridiculously powerful?
“Your turn.” Kai said, calmly ignoring the stares directed at him and gesturing towards Runir.
“Right. Like I said, my Ability is called ‘Perfect Strategy’. It lets me set a ‘goal’ and several ‘sub-goals’ that are supposed to contribute towards the ‘goal.’ Although it doesn’t make the strategy for me, it does assist me while I make my plans. If I set ‘finding a way back to Earth’ as a goal, it tells me to go ask the Goddesses for assistance but it won’t tell me what the Goddesses will say or even if they know a way home. All my ability does is drop hints and suggestions but they’re always useful and haven’t failed me yet.” Runir said.
“Your turn.” He gestured towards Amy.
Amy hesitated and glanced at Kai. She looked at him for a while before pursing her lips.
“Very well. The Ability that was bestowed upon me by Fate is named ‘Wrath of Ignis.’ I would rather not reveal all the details, however, suffice it to say that once used, my enemies will be no more.” she said, as her expression darkened.
I felt a shiver pass down my spine.
What kind of fucked up Ability is that?
They turned their gazes to me.
“My turn huh?” I said, taking a deep breath.
They already knew about my Ability and if their levels were high enough, they probably already knew what my Ability did, but they still wanted me to say it myself.
“Whatever. I’m the Hero so I have two Abilities; the Hero’s Ability-‘Sacri Lumine’-and my personal ability-‘Kleptomania.’ The first one makes me shine with a weird light and makes my attacks stronger and the other one helps me steal things.” I said.
The descriptions were a little short but fuck it, they could just check my Status anyway.
“Steal things? What kind of things?” Runir asked.
I frowned. Was he just being a dick or was his level not high enough to see it for himself? If he really couldn’t see the details, then he couldn’t be more than 300 levels above me.
That was a big difference, but considering the fact that I had grown to level 235 in a month, I was sure that I could catch up to him eventually and the thought made me feel a little relieved. At least I wouldn’t be the weakest one here for long.
“Like this.” I said, pulling out something from inside my robes.
Runir’s eyes widened.
“What the- How the fuck did you-When?” He stammered, pointing at the red orb in my hand.
“Just now.” I chuckled, tossing the Lava Sphere back at him.
He glared at me as he caught it and stashed it in his Inventory.
“Don’t do that again.”
“Sure, sure. Whatever you say.” I said, nonchalantly.
I ignored his glare and snuck a glance at Kai.
I hadn’t wanted to steal something from Runir at first, but when I’d tried to take something from Kai’s storage, I’d come up empty.
Had he used his Ability to block mine? Or was his Storage empty? Both were shocking things to consider.
Just how absurd was his ability if it could even block mine? After all, my ability could steal anything from anyone, even if it was in their Storage or Inventory and the description even said that protective charms and spells couldn’t block it. If he could negate it completely, wasn’t that just plain unfair?
Moreover, it meant that he may have known the details of my Ability, which meant that he could see my Status completely, which in turn meant that he was at least 300 levels above me!
But if I couldn’t steal anything from his Storage because it was empty, then that was even worse! He’d been providing all our food and camping equipment from the start. If none of that was in his Storage, did that mean that he was writing them into existence? How the fuck did that even work?
I couldn’t wrap my head around either possibility so I decided to think about it later. For now, I’d keep it to myself. Despite what he’d said about not testing the limits of his power, I was sure the others would try to do that anyway and knowing more would put me at an advantage just in case…
“Alright, I feel much better now. We better get going, Ashpoole is only a few miles away and if we hurry we might be able to reach it before nightfall.” Kai said, interrupting my thoughts as he stood up from the rock and stretched.
I exchanged a glance with Runir and saw that he was suspicious too. To shrug off something like that in less than an hour? That’s almost as if there were no limits at all!
I dusted off my robe and got up and noticed that even though Kai had coughed up blood and fallen to the ground, his purple robe was completely clean.
Frowning inwardly, I followed the others down the mountain.
“Come on, it’s faster this way!” said Kai, as he slid down the crumbling hillside.
Well, it wasn’t really a hill. It was more like a mound of ash.
“That’s dangerous! Not all of us have a freakish superpower like you!” Runir chastised.
He was right, it was dangerous. The mound of ash was enormous, almost as tall as some of the smaller mountains that we had hiked across along the way.
Or rather, it was dangerous for most people.
“Don’t be such a pussy. This is fucking amazing!” I said as I let myself slide down the gravelly ash.
The black ash crumbled beneath my feet and rapidly fell down the mound, taking me down at an incredible pace. I felt the wind whip past my face and cause my hair and my robes to flutter.
Ha ha ha! This feels great!
My heartbeat quickened, my eyes watered and my cheeks rippled but if I’d been able to open my mouth, I’d definitely be laughing like crazy.
This was the first time I’d felt an enjoyable thrill since I came to this world. The kind of thrill you get when you do something dangerous with the confidence that you’ll be alright.
No giant dragons or ugly ogres. No terrifyingly powerful people hiding their real objectives.
Just me, the wind and a whole lot of crumbling ash.
As I rapidly went down the mound, a beautiful scene began to emerge below me.
A crystal clear lake shimmering in the sunlight.
A large bridge made of pale, cream colored wood.
And a picturesque city standing in the center of the lake.
I could see the ash that had accumulated at the bottom of the lake but it looked different from the ash on the lake shore. Was it a little lighter maybe?
No, they were round and smooth like pearls which was weird because ash is supposed to be sharp and piercing.
Just like the ash I was effortlessly sliding down.
Truthfully, my shoes should have been shredded long ago and my feet should have been cut up into pieces by now but after leaving the mountain Kai had given us all a few presents.
A pair of shoes, a ring and a communications prism.
I’d accepted them a little hesitantly since I didn’t trust him completely yet but when I’d thought back to how ridiculous his Ability was, I begrudgingly took them.
I was glad I did. After all, the shoes made it easier to run in and even let me slide down the ash mound like this.
The prism was a common item on Erath but I didn’t buy one because I didn’t think I’d need to communicate with anyone after I left the castle. But when I received the tiny green prism, I cursed myself for not bothering to research its functions. Not only could you use it to send and receive messages or to communicate with people whose magic signatures you had saved but it also had a map that showed your current position!
As for the ring, he said that they’ll help hide our identities.
I thought that meant that it’d conjure up some disguises or something but when I put it on, nothing happened. But then Runir and Amy looked at me with wide eyes and then Amy looked at Runir and her eyes widened even further.
They told me later that they couldn’t see my Status at all anymore! Even my name was hidden from them and so we quickly realized that these rings were just like the one that Kai said he used to hide his own Status.
I dug in my new shoes into the ash to slow my descent as I neared the bottom of the mound. I was careful to avoid sending a spray of ash into the air because it could get into my lungs and cause some serious damage.
I jumped off the mound right before reaching the ground and landed smoothly on the ash covered lake shore, staring straight at the beautiful lake city of Ashpoole.
Kai had already reached the ground and was standing near the lake, admiring the scenery just like I was.
I heard crumbling sounds from up above, probably Amy and Runir coming down the mound.
Sure enough I heard a grunt and an annoying complaint and they soon joined us on the lake shore, staring at the city in the lake surrounded by ash.
Kai sighed and murmured.
“…it looks even better in person.”
“What is it Kai?” Amy inquired.
“Nothing.” He said, shaking his head. “Right, we better get moving. I can see the line outside the city from here.”
The rest of us nodded. We could see a bunch of people crowding outside the city’s gates all the way to the start of the bridge.
The bridge ran all the way across the lake, connecting the city to the opposite shore as well.
But even though the lake and the bridge looked so beautiful, there was something wrong.
There was a crowd of people outside the city but there was almost nobody on the bridge.
“Halt! Please pay the bridge toll before passing!” said the guard sitting in a booth front of the bridge. Above him was a sign stating the bridge toll: 1 Tel per person.
Kai walked over to the guard with a smile and reached for something inside his robes but I cut in front of him.
“I’ve got this, guys.” I said, putting a silvery 5 Tel coin in front of the stern faced guard. The guard took the coin and gave me a small copper colored 1 Tel coin which I quickly palmed.
I walked away humming a pleasant tune and the others looked at me dubiously before following.
“You took all of his money didn’t you.” Runir said, sighing.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I replied, grinning.
Runir shook his head, Kai gave me a smile and Amy frowned but they didn’t say anything else as we crossed the bridge. The sound of water rippling in the wind mixed with my low hum as I looked at the ‘Money’ section of my Status screen, which had gone up quite a bit.
Just as I was feeling happy about my newly found riches, we reached the crowd of people wanting to enter Ashpoole.
Curious, I asked a middle aged lady why there were so many people outside the city but she didn’t know either. However, she did say that the line hadn’t moved for an hour and that it was unlikely that any of us could enter the city before nightfall.
Frowning, I looked over at Runir but it didn’t seem like he had a solution either and Amy was already planning to make camp outside the city.
But Kai smiled and walked straight through the crowd.
And I mean, straight through the crowd.
Whenever he approached someone, they seemed to shift just enough to get out of his way without even realizing the path they were clearing.
I hurriedly exchanged glances with the others and we followed Kai through the mass of irritated people who didn’t even notice us as we cut ahead.
Eventually, we reached the front of the crowd but by now, people had finally begun to notice how Kai had leisurely strolled to the front of the line. In fact, the tall, blonde haired guard that was carefully searching everyone by the gate was the first to notice him.
Her eyebrows furrowed and she stepped in front of Kai just as he reached the front of the line.
“Please present your identification documents and patiently wait to be searched. It is for the safety of the citizens, so please understand and obey.” said the guard.
Kai smiled and pulled out something from his robes which made the blonde haired guard’s eyes go wide.
“S-sir! It is an honor to be graced by your presence. Please forgive my earlier rudeness, please enter the city whenever you wish. I will immediately assign a guide to show you around.” she said, quickly kneeling.
The murmuring crowd suddenly fell quiet.
“That won’t be necessary, I’m just passing through.” Kai said, gesturing for the guard to stand up. “Oh right, these are my friends. I hope you can allow them passage as well.”
“Of course sir.”
“Thank you. Good day.” he said, walking into the city.
I smiled wryly while we followed him.
“Ah wait a moment sir!” said the guard.
I turned around to face her since I was closest to her.
She pulled something out of her Storage and raised it to my face.
“If you see this person, please inform us immediately!”
Cold sweat trickled down my spine as I saw the portrait in her hand.
Black hair, blue eyes and a familiar, young face.
Below the portrait, in bold black letters were written the words:
“Wanted Alive; Lily Grayscale. Reward: 100000 Tel.”