Year 1, Summer, First Month, Third Week.
Standing at the edge of the village barrier, the four teens reassured the Chief that they were prepared. Since they would only go three to five kilometers outside, the journey shouldn’t take more than three hours.
The plan was to go out, collect the materials, and comeback without engaging any beasts. If they met with one they would try to run back, prioritizing their safety.
Diana wasn’t happy about the plan, she wanted to test her sword but Chief Omero wouldn’t allow them to fight for now. The goal was to get materials and give them some experience.
“Everyone knows what to do, right?...” Karl asked trying to hide his apprehension.
“Ok, we just have to look out for beasts and we’ll come back shortly... Let’s go, we already lost too much time.” Diana didn’t want to dwell on it so she urged them to move.
They walked side by side at a fast and cautious pace. Diana and Toni took the border positions, guarding the left and right of the group respectively. Their positions were arranged to give Diana and Toni mobility, so they could move to block and attack in any direction without much hindrance.
“Omero, this might be too much. Do you think we made a mistake?” Marlen asked without stoping her weaving.
“I don’t think so. Diana was trained for this. I don’t think the boy was sent by the Kingdom, but we need to see what he’ll do when pressured. Since we can’t move directly, we can only borrow someone else’s hands.”
“Bah... You two only know how to scheme! What we need to do is to lay low and learn as much as we can about this Alchemy... I want to put the girls in their group too... Old man, you say it’s dangerous but your granddaughter is there to reap all benefits.”
“What benefits? She’s taking risks. Bill, you need to think about the bigger picture... But if you insist on the twins participating, we’ll need to mask it using other kids.”
“You two stop this nonsense, dragging more kids into it will not do any good.”
“You’re mistaken, Marlen. The Serions already dragged the kids when they increased the tributes, don’t forget who will become slaves by next year if we do nothing.”
‘Master AI, how do we find the materials?’
‘-- For now, you should focus on energy crystals and supply for magic ink. Since you can not track either, I will help you. Go northeast. --’
Karl didn’t question how Master AI knew about the direction. After walking for 20 minutes in the pointed direction, he saw something buried halfway into the ground. The colorless crystal shined slightly and gave an energizing feeling.
“Guys, this is a LQ energy crystal. It’s not powerful but can help me a lot. Help me look for similar crystals...”
Karl reported Master AI’s information to the group and let them hold the crystal. Master AI explained that, unfortunately, he was unlikely to find any better quality crystal near the barrier.
Soon the group started to find other energy crystals.
When they started the journey, Toni was so apprehensive that he didn’t dare to shift his attention from looking for dangers. But as they found the crystals and nothing happened, he was getting more confident.
“Karl, what can you do with this energy crystal?” Toni asked curiously.
“The energy crystal is just a crystal that can naturally store magic energy. We can use the magic energy to make my Runes stronger. You probably didn’t notice, but Diana might have. Once we’re out of the village, the magic energy in the air became stronger. So, the effects on the weapons should also be stronger. This crystal can be used to make it even stronger.”
Although the path they chose was mostly clear from trees, there were some bushes and other plants along the way. Diana often cut branches that blocked their way, so she noticed that the sword was sharper than usual.
To show Toni the effects, and also clear her curiosity, she advanced to cut a stone at the ground. She wasn’t expecting to do much damage to it, only to make a dent on it, but unexpectedly, the sword went into the stone, leaving a shallow cut.
Everyone was shocked and Diana couldn’t help but ask:
“Origin sakes! How much can the sword do if you use a crystal?”
“Humm... We have to test it, but the crystal isn’t very powerful. If it was MQ (medium quality), she could probably cut through it like it was a leaf...”
At a Post village in the First Eastern Section of the Serion Kingdom.
“What... What is that?”
“Looks like a mercenary group. They’re running from a group of ..... hyenas? Why are they running from rank oneLT (low tier) beasts? If they can’t fight weak beasts, why are they here?”
“No, look! There are a lot of hyenas, they can’t fight that many... So strange... I never heard of a group of more than five hyenas, a group of this size wouldn’t be able to find enough food...”
An older Merchant came to check the commotion and barged in the conversation.
“I don’t think it’s a single group. Look at how the beasts are arranged in groups separated from each other. It’s probably eight to ten different groups... What I’m curious about is how they brought this many beast groups together... Forget it! More importantly, why the beasts aren’t stopping? They’re getting strangely close to the barrier...”
By now, merchants, mercenaries, private soldiers, and even villagers have noticed that something was wrong.
Some weaker groups didn’t think things through and were moving out to attack the beasts. For them, having beasts that they could defeat being delivered at their door was a golden opportunity.
The merchants were the first to react, they quickly packed their most valuable belongings and started to run towards the village exited. Some tried to escape with their carts, but it was too slow.
Soon, everyone was screaming and fleeing. Others didn’t take action until the first beast crossed the barrier.
The beasts poured into the village and trampled over huts, carts, and people alike. The screams and destruction noises lasted not longer than ten minutes. Some houses and huts were spared in the destruction, and the people that hid inside were finally breathing again. Earlier, they saw beasts passing through, and realized that after the hyenas, other types of beasts also passed, but none had stopped to attack them.
However, before they could even comprehend the situation, something entered the village. And then, everything burned...
Of the mercenary group that was running from the beats, only two survived. The two men who had escaped from the havoc looked towards the burning village.
“Holly Origin! Did you saw the size of the fire? That beast seemed to be stronger than a Fire Commander... Do you think that Darla escaped with the salamander egg?”
“I don’t know. The beast ran rampant sooner than expected and the egg is heavy. But she should have escaped, at least from the salamander. She ran in the opposite direction, towards the Second Section.”
“If we get the egg, we’re rich!! Even the families in the Fire Capital would kill to have an egg from a MT (medium tier) fire beast.”
“Yeah, but we need to deliver it quickly. The salamander grows fast, if it hatches, we’ll not be able to contain it.”
“Damn... It’s all in the hands of that woman... We lost more than 20 people going deep into the forest. The village was even destroyed, and I doubt that it’s the last one. It can’t be for nothing...”
After collecting six energy crystals, the group decided to go back. Fortunately, they didn’t meet with any beasts, and it was already past noon.
Initially, they planned to go back after a couple of hours, but they underestimated how tiring would be walking outside the village.
Actually, they also overestimated their current health. Even after eating an extra meal for a month and training, they were too weak. After walking for a mile, they would tire and around noon, the situation became worse because of the sun. Another reason was that Karl would stop the group now and then to collect some herb, grass, root, fruit, or vegetable.
The first time, Master AI led Karl to an herb that could be eaten to increase the body’s health, he was very surprised. For the last months, it didn’t matter how much Karl asked, Master AI wouldn’t talk about things unrelated to Alchemy. So when he explained about the plant’s effects and even taught Karl how to collect it and store it, Karl was confused.
To clarify it, Master AI told Karl that this knowledge was also related to Alchemy, since all these plants have magic properties and could be used in the craft. Anyway, Karl was very happy because the plants could improve their health, and even his spiritual energy.
Before their trip outside, Karl learned that most of the living beings, and even minerals, that grew exposed to certain levels of magic energy would develop some sort of magic properties.
At first, he planned to take everything he could back, but Master AI made him calm down by explaining that not everything would have a use. First, many materials would lose their magic properties when taken, or when stored incorrectly.
Finally, not all materials would pass their magic properties when eaten or used for craft, some could even hurt or poison. However, he could make use of many materials and thus he asked grandma Marlen to make him a straw basket. He was prepared to take back as much as he could.
“That’s a dandelion! Diana just wait a minute, this is a true treasure.”
“ Argh....” Diana didn’t hide her annoyed expression.
Karl didn’t mind her and ran to collect the herbs. He used the improved knife to cut several stalks of the dandelion and threw them on the basket. Different from purslane and burdock, he didn’t need to be careful while collecting dandelions.
Karl was truly happy. To find such an amazing herb, he was too lucky. Karl’s actions made the group’s tension loosen up a little. After collecting the herb they walked for ten minutes before arriving at the village. Their first expedition outside was a total success!
Because of the village barrier, the territory around the village only had a few beasts. However, avoiding them was really difficult.
But who would guess that Karl’s directions would lead the group to perfectly avoid the beasts...