7 Golden Crow's Return

The shiny bird spread his wings and looked himself all over, "Gold feathers... a general feeling of power... a minor desire to spit fire for no reason... is this what I think it is?"

Seran pulled up Storm's new status window before sending it to the bird's vision, "This is your new information."

--

Name: Storm

Species: Golden Crow

Level: 20 (^9)

Grade: Divine (New!)

Bloodline(s): Golden Crow (100%)

--

The little crow looked through the floating information box and screeched in surprise upon reading his species, "I'm a Golden Crow now!?"

The boy nodded, "The first Golden Crow in more than a million years. After purifying your bloodline, your grade went up from Rare to Divine, which is a good 4 or 5 grades difference. You also went up 9 levels, and you will gain levels much faster than before. You should also be capable of changing your size."

Etienne was dumbstruck once again as he watched the newly reborn Golden Crow wiggle before swiftly growing to become the size of an adult elephant. "Holy shit, this is incredible... More than incredible, this is insane! A new Golden Crow!"

Seran smiled and turned around to head towards the wagons and carriage, "Come on, chief, let's check and see if there's anything important here. Storm, you can go fly around the area, get used to your new power." The big bird cawed with joy as he immediately took off, buffeting the area with his wings.

Etienne took a minute to watch the gleeful bird with a wondrous grin before shaking his head to clear it. He quickly caught up with Seran, who had just reached the carriage which had led the two wagons. The boy opened the carriage doors and looked inside. "I don't see anyone, chief... Looks completely empty. They likely killed everyone earlier."

The chief nodded solemnly, "I'd have to say the same. The battle marks on the outside attest it as well... Look for any secret compartments. Merchant caravans often have such things, just in case."

While Etienne searched the outside of the carriage for any oddities, Seran did likewise on the inside. Two or three compartments were uncovered, within which were small coin purses, the contents of which totaled just over 300 gold coins. After storing them in his Inventory, the boy continued looking around. Out of a spontaneous hunch, he knocked on the floorboards a few times. He heard a hollow sound when he rapped against the front side of the carriage seat's frame, "Hmm..."

Etienne came back as Seran was fiddling around with the frame, his clothes very dusty, "Under the carriage, I found a key and a seal that I don't recognize. Might be important, so we'll have to find out at the fortress... what are you doing?"

"This seat sounds hollow, and I'm certain that something is in here. Help me find a way to open it. I can't find a latch or anything, but there has to be something to open it... A hidden switch, a button, something around here..." Seran continued twiddling around the carriage in an attempt to locate anything that could open it. As he was doing so, his right knee nudged a spot on the door-jam, which made a clicking sound that alerted the two, especially when half of the seat's frame popped out, like a modern sliding door design.

Upon pulling the wooden plank out, Seran and Etienne found, hidden under the seat, a child much younger than Seran. A little boy, maybe 4 or 5 years old, with blonde brown-highlighted hair, lay on his side, either asleep or unconscious from a lack of air. Seran immediately said, "Chief, come up here. I don't know anything about medical things, but you should be able to tell how he is." He moved out of the way quickly for the adult male to check on the smaller child.

After a good minute or two of silence, while the chief examined the boy, Etienne said, "He's not injured or harmed in any way. From what I can tell, someone put him to sleep and hid him away, most likely the people he was with."

"Poor boy, he's likely lost his family to these bandits... Can you take care of him, please? I'll go quickly check the wagons. Storm should be much less energetic soon, so we'll be able to continue soon." After getting an affirmative, the 10-year-old boy walked off, leaving the younger child to Etienne.

--

The wind was rushing loudly past the chief's ears as he, the rescued boy, and Seran rode atop the giant Storm in the direction of Lightwood Fortress. After about ten minutes had passed, Storm had come back, a look of joy still on his face. With the crow's personality, upon finding out the fate that the little boy had been subjected to, he angrily burned the bandit corpses into ash, along with the carriage and, unintentionally, the wagons. Thankfully, Seran had already gone through the wagons and stored the cargo in his inventory.

"Keep an eye out for signs of a recent battle. We might be able to find where those bandits raided the caravan. The little one deserves closure, no matter how little," said Etienne as he scanned the ground along with his traveling companions.

Seran nodded, thinking to himself, and to William, "William, can you scan the World Map for a location like what we are looking for?"

[I can try, but don't get your hopes up.] Silence pervaded the air, save for rushing wind, as the trio continued to scan the ground. [Took me a while, but there's one location nearby that fits the time frame. It's another twenty minutes further along the road. You'll be nearby when you see a shattered wagon. Don't get your hopes up, there are no signs of life.]

With a mental thanks to William, Seran said aloud, "I found the location of the caravan attack, but it's about twenty minutes ahead. If you see a wagon that's been destroyed, we're close to the site... However, there are no survivors."

Etienne had slowly gotten accustomed to Seran's crazy abilities, so while he was slightly amazed, he brushed it off just as quickly as it started. Storm didn't really care much about that; he was busy scanning the ground. Other than his contractor, he had the best tracking abilities, and he was determined to find the poor boy's group, dead or alive.

Sure enough, twenty minutes later, Storm began to coast downwards, "Found it. Going in for a landing." After taking a circle around the site to slow down his descent, Storm flapped his wings and cautiously landed. Around them, several bodies were strewn about, most of them being guardsmen from their outfits.

Seran sighed solemnly, "Let's gather the bodies together and wait until the little one wakes up. After that, we'll give them a funeral pyre."

Etienne, the boy, and the giant crow went around the battle site, bringing together a total of 15 bodies. 13 of them were guards and the remaining two were merchants, a male and a female. Based on appearances, they were most likely the boy's parents, as the female had blonde hair and the male had brown. Neither of the two had a good ending, with the lady seeming to have been raped repeatedly before being killed. Seran, based on knowledge from his previous world, inferred that the bandits likely made her husband watch while being tortured. This briefly made the boy leak out a deadly air before it dissipated with a sigh. Out of his inventory, he took out two thin blankets and laid it over them to hide their bodies unfortunate states.

The Golden Crow looked visibly enraged as he saw the scene, his tail feathers bursting into flames, before Seran gave him a look and told him to calm down. After recalling that the bandits were already dead, Storm did so despite looking very unhappy. After Seran lay a blanket on the ground for the boy to rest on, Storm moved over and lay next to the poor kid, keeping him between his wing and his side to keep him warm.

"The boy's definitely going to need a new home if he has no other family. If he doesn't, and if he wants to, he can come with us to the village. I don't want to face nan's wrath if she finds out we left this poor boy in some orphanage without letting her see him." Etienne shivered as he thought of Eleanor with her cane at the ready, as did Seran. After two weeks, he'd managed to take a couple knocks to the head as well, so he knew why most of the villagers were scared of her cane. Nobody was safe from her cane, except for the littlest ones. Even Storm shifted in place uncomfortably. As Eleanor had the blessing of the guardian spirit, she'd managed to capture the crow with branches numerous times just to knock him senseless.

The sky was beginning to redden as the sun began descending towards the horizon. According to William, the time was roughly 5:00pm, and, if they left know, they'd arrive at Lightwood Fortress by 9:00pm with Storm's flight speed, which is much faster than before. Still, the gates would be closed for the night, so it would be best to camp out for the night.

Seran went around gathering up the wood from the destroyed wagon into a pile, using rocks from around the road to encircle the pile. Etienne began setting up an over-the-fire pot to cook with after Seran took the items from his inventory.

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As they did so, and Etienne was in the midst of cooking a soup using some of the food in Seran's inventory, along with water formed from magic, when Storm, who had been asleep, shifted in place as he looked towards his wing. Upon lifting it, the trio saw the little boy beginning to sit up while rubbing his eyes. Sparkling blue-and-green heterochromic eyes looked around as he took in the foreign scene.

In a small voice, one mistakable for a girl's, the boy squeaked, "W-who are you?"

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