Year 1, Summer, Third Month, First Week.
‘Yeahh... That’s much better... It saves so much time... I wish I could help the team gather the crystals...’
Nemera sighted and moved to water the next patch. Although her life was as miserable as any other villager, she wasn’t the one to complain about it. But since Karl’s group started to go out hunting, she couldn’t help but envy them.
She wanted to go hunting too. Caring for the fields was too boring and now she was feeling restless about it. Before, she didn’t dare to think about doing anything else, but now...
She finished watering another patch and checked her sister. Anna was still watering the first section. Nemera gave a helpless sigh, her sister was too slow. But in truth, Anna was working at the same pace as most of the other kids, is just that Nemera was stronger and could easily carry the bucket all around.
Of course, Nemera used this opportunity to tease her sister. Anna was, as usual, furious, but soon her face displayed a refreshing smile. Seeing her sister move to the well, Anna knew that she would get more water to help. She was willing to accept the teasing in exchange for help.
“Hey! Why isn’t it working? Has someone broken it? It wasn’t me! Why are you looking at me like this? I didn’t do anything, I just put the crystal here... ”
Nemera ran towards the Chief’s hut direction yelling that it wasn’t her.
“Girl! Stop repeating that it wasn’t you and tell us, what happened?” Old Bill asked impatiently.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry... Ah... the well didn’t work when I placed the crystal... The... The WET, yes! The WET isn’t working. But it wasn’t me, I just happen to be the one using it when it stopped working.”
“I just want to say thank you again, young Karl. Since we start using the WET we managed to free a lot of youngsters to help at the magic fields. Your contribution can’t be put into words. I’m sure it’s just a simple problem, you’ll fix it in no time!” Chief Omero said it trying to find clues about the severity of the problem in Karl’s expression.
After introducing the WET, the number of teens working in the village fields dropped to 400 while 300 youngsters moved to help in the magic fields. Also, they installed WETs in the two other village wells, reducing their available resources to one water crystal.
The energy crystals were all used up because the team now had six fighting members. Plus the three WETs, the nine LQ energy crystals were all used.
First, Karl looked at his drawing, certifying that it didn’t fade like when he first crafted the WET. He wasn’t surprised to see it in a good state, because he would redraw all magic tools’ Arrays every couple of weeks, so it would be strange for it to be damaged. This used a lot of Karl’s time, but due to the magic ink quality, he didn’t have another option.
When Karl finished looking at the water related part of the Array, he realized what was wrong. The water crystal was dim like it had lost too much power.
‘Master, you told me that if the WET was used hundreds of times a day it would still last up to a year because its energy was used only as a reference. Why is it that the crystal is mostly used up?’ Karl knew that something was wrong, but couldn’t quite grasp it.
‘--You are correct. However, if the magic tool is used thousands of times instead of hundreds, how much time do you think it would last? Think carefully of how are you powering the Arrays. --’
Karl didn’t need to answer Master AI’s rhetorical question. After considering it for some minutes, he finally came to a conclusion.
Everyone was silently looking at Karl’s behavior. Once he reacted like he found something out, they breathed in relief.
‘I understand... The problem is that the Arrays are also being powered by environmental energy. It’s not strong enough to push the water through the bamboo tube, but it’s causing the water crystal to work continuously, so it ended up wasted sooner. But Master, how can I stop it from using environmental energy?’
‘-- The easiest way is to block the environmental energy. You can do it by physically covering it with poor conducting material or coating it. For now, you don’t have any isolating material, so just think about covering it. --’
After explaining to the others, Karl exchanged the wasted water crystal for a new one. They tested in each well different covering materials. Straws end up being the best cover, but they would have to find another solution later since the straws would rot or disintegrate from humidity.
If the villagers wanted to keep using the WET, they would soon need to get more crystals.
“If we want to keep their hopes high, we need another feast...”
“Omero! You shouldn’t let your ambitions push them... They’re just kids, give them time to mature from their last experience...” Marlen was a little distressed, she didn’t want to admit that she somewhat agreed with him.
“It has been a month...”
“Marlen, I have to agree with Omero. The kids decided to follow this path. We also decided... Look, Marlen, if you’re uncertain we can give them some help...”
“Absolutely not! Bill, if you’re talking about the map, how’re you planning to explain it?”
“Damn! What’s the use to have it and not... Maybe we shouldn’t use it for now...”
“Actually, there’s a way.”
They look at Marlen surprised.
“Do you remember the stone caves located at the other side of the stream by the mountains that separate the First and Second Sections?” Seeing that she got their attention, Marlen continued:
“Grey wolves live in caves near a water source. They live in packs but aren’t much stronger than hyenas. Actually, their attack power is lower than the hyena’s. They’re considered stronger only because they’re faster.”
“The caves are close enough to the village and they could go through the stones. If they ambush the wolves from above, they would be covered. Also, the wolves’ speed wouldn’t be a problem...”
Bill’s personality was so practical that he would go into the details without considering the merit of the idea:
“Humm... They would need a lot of arrows to attack safely from distance...”
Lew looked calm and confident while he walked through the dark alley. But his security was only for appearances. In truth, he was paying attention to all details around him.
To be sure, he carefully conducted the energy flowing inside of his body to his ears. He got the useful habit of always absorbing the environmental energy from his father, which meant that he could use it at any moment.
The energy amplified his hearing sense and he could distinguish low sounds coming from four hidden places. He guessed that the sounds came from people hidden preparing to ambush him.
The first attack came from a shadow that jumped from behind a barrel at Lew’s right side. Instead of using his long sword, Lew slightly shifted right and used his hand to block the attack.
He held the attacker’s hand and broke it with ease by pushing the flowing energy to his hand. The attacker cried in pain and dropped the rusted dagger. Lew didn’t dwell on him. He kicked the first attacker strongly at the guts and moved to intercept the second attacker that came from behind while the first crashed into a barrel.
The next attacker didn’t do much better. He was disarmed by Lew’s left hand and punched by his right fist before fainting.
The other two attackers learned something and decided to attack him together. One aimed the dagger at Lew’s side while the other went for his neck.
Instead of blocking the attacks, Lew ducked left bending and missing the neck attack by less than a finger distance. The attackers miscalculated the approach and bumped at each other. Lew capitalized on their confusion and neutralized them from behind with an energy-powered strike at the neck.
Lew didn’t kill the attackers. He left the alley after making a clear disdainful sound.
Soon, he stopped at the entrance of a normal looking store, which had a sign of a carriage filled with wheat. He knocked five times, making a pause between the third e fourth knock.
The door was opened by a big muscular and fierce-looking guy. A middle-aged, short, slightly fat man who was sitting behind the counter, spoke:
“How can I help you?”
“I’ll have to reevaluate that. My father told me that you’re the most resourceful Merchant in Wind’s region... But after meeting those four amateurs in the alley, I’m disappointed... Oh, and you should get them cleaned. I roughed them a little, but didn’t let any permanent damage...”
Lew was surprised. He expected the man to be offended but he rather seemed pleased.
“Now... Captain Lew... Or should I say ex-Captain Lew, how can I be of service?”
Lew stepped back in surprise and his lips twitched a little. Seeing that nobody moved and he was free to leave, he relaxed and gave a bitter smile.
“The thing is...”
“So... What do you kids think?”
Chief Omero told them about the grey wolves. He explained that the grey wolves were weak beasts that relied on their numbers to attack. As for how to find the wolves, grandma Marlen said that the wolves would stay close to small streams and caves.
Initially, Karl and Tael were against the plan. To hunt a pack of beasts was too risky and a big jump from fighting two beasts. However, Diana convinced them by insisting that they would ambush the wolves and make a surprise attack from a higher and safe place.
Karl wasn’t very discrete in hiding his suspicions while Marlen talked. But after the whole magic book story, he wasn’t in a position to question others.
After agreeing, they started discussing the specifics of the plan.
Karl took the opportunity to present some ideas and get other perspectives on them. He was currently trying to learn a new Rune that could help a lot in carrying the collected materials.
The discussion was very helpful, even some other problems and ideas came up from it.
“Since it could take seven hours to get to the caves and another seven to get back, it would be difficult to come back before nightfall. Should we stay the night at the caves and come back to the village at dawn?”
The group was shocked by Tael’s idea, they never considered spending the night outside the village.
“Before you say that I’m crazy, remember how tired we were after fighting the hyenas. Also, the cave might be a good place to sleep. The wolves are living there, so it shouldn’t be dangerous inside it.”