“Wait for us here, little brother.” the escorting mercenary smiled as he and his friends entered one of the tents in the center of the camp. Soon after, a dozen of mercenaries came out, three of them in front.
“Are you the one saying that the others ditched us?” one of the officers asked.
Icicle looked around with astonishment, answering “All I said is that the horsemen and the silver clad guys on foot have left. Nothing less, nothing more.” he shrugged “Anyways, that’s not what I came here for.”
As the confused mercenaries were exchanging glances, Icicle shuffled through his clothes, taking out a couple of health potions.
“I wanted to reciprocate your kindness, dear sirs. Last time you’ve taken me in, I was chased by the lizardmen who left me alone only because of your presence. I may not be the best Alchemist around, but I’ve put all of my heart into concocting these. I hope you can receive them.” Icicle outstretched his hands.
The mercenary officers looked at each other. They wore badges with a golden lion standing on two legs that ordinary mercenaries didn’t have. After the tacit agreement, one of them strolled towards Icicle and picked the vials up.
“Let’s see how effective those concoctions of yours are.” the mercenary officer took out a knife from his belt and grabbed Icicle’s hand.
Blood gushed out like a fountain from Icicle’s forearm. “Arghh!” Icicle screamed, trying to stop the bleeding.
The mercenary in charge swatted Icicle’s hand away, pouring the potion over the wound. Icicle gritted his teeth, enduring the searing sensation.
Not long after, the wound stopped bleeding and then started closing. “Hmm, pretty effective.” the mercenary officer went back to his friends to discuss the effect of the concoction.
As they whispered in a circle, Icicle’s facial expression fluctuated, but quickly returned to normal. “Do you have some more?” one of the mercenaries turned and asked, greed flashing in his eyes.
“Sure brother, here you go.” Icicle rummaged through his clothes, pulling out 5 vials of intelligence boosting potions he received from Adian during the [Ingrained enmity] event.
“Catch.” Icicle smiled and threw the vials up.
The greedy mercenaries who saw the earlier efficacy of the concoction ran up to collect the thrown vials. They outstretched their hands into the air, like children wanting to catch the balloon that’s already gone.
One of the mercenaries in the back glanced at the vials suspiciously. The color of the liquid inside wasn’t red, but bluish-violet. Then he took a closer look and noticed that the liquid inside the vials was turbulent, like a sea during the storm.
“No!” that mercenary screamed. His eyesight was better than most as he was one of the best Archers in his city. However, by the time he realized what was happening, it was already too late.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Five consecutive explosions resounded throughout the camp, one after the other. Glass and the viscous bluish-violet liquid sprayed on top of the mercenaries.
The screams were unending amongst the chaos. Panic ensued as the aftermath of an explosion made many mercenaries run aimlessly. All of the eyes focused on the situation inside the camp. Mercenaries on top of the wooden palisade drew their bowstrings, ready to combat the assailant at any time.
“If you want to be greedy, you also need to be smart.” Icicle said with disdain. The blade in front of him ignited in blazing flame, shooting straight at the liquid covered mercenaries.
One by one, the silver clad mercenaries stood on flames. The bluish-violet concoction was highly flammable, quickly burning the skin of the mercenaries.
An arrow flew past Icicle as he moved his head to the right. “Not bad, you’ve got good eyes.” Icicle shrugged at the somewhat competent Archer. He wore the badge with the golden lion, the symbol of an officer.
“It’s a shame you’re the only lion amongst the sheep.” Icicle shrugged.
“I thought you threw some poison, but it was actually an explosive. That’s way too conspicuous, man. Now you won’t even have a chance to escape.” the Archer officer said gravely, nocking an arrow.
“Escape? Do you really think I came here to make some ruckus and run?” Icicle clutched his stomach as he laughed. “You people have tried to kill me when I came here, so I’m just returning you the favor.”
Twang! Twang! Twang!
A dozen or so arrows lodged themselves into the ground as Icicle jumped backwards. The Archers on top of the palisade shot volleys of arrows after him , waiting for the other mercenaries to close in on the sole intruder.
“You won’t leave this place alive.” the Archer officer nocked his bow with three arrows and shot them at the same time.
Icicle’s feet shined with blue glow, allowing him to dodge nimbly. “Weird, even though I use mana to move around, I still can’t activate the [Elusive body].” Icicle thought as he avoided the constant stream of arrows.
One of the mercenaries on the palisade fell to the ground, dead. Soon, a few other mercenaries left their still warm corpses on the floor.
“We’re under attack!” the sound of horns resounded throughout the camp, increasing the panic.
“Catch that one, I’ll cover you!” the Archer officer shouted, pointing at Icicle. As he did, five people unsheathed their weapons and rushed at Icicle.
Icicle turned, letting the arrow fly past him. He focused on getting to the exit as the mercenaries latched the gate shut. He had to let the Hunters enter if he wanted to leave the place alive.
“Thanks for helping me out.” Icicle flashed a cheeky grin. The more mercenaries gathered in one place, the more useful would his explosive potions be.
“Ahhhh!” the mercenaries in front of the gate tried to negate the explosion with their shields, yet the shockwave made them smash against the gate, rattling their muscular bodies.
Icicle grunted as a bolt from the crossbow lodged itself into his left arm. “Damn, there’s too many of them, I can’t dodge all of it.” Icicle grumbled. Sheathing his sword, he broke the bolt in half, dodging an arrow from behind.
Silverfang’s howl resounded throughout the camp, startling the chasing mercenaries. Icicle cast [Water prison] on the fallen mercenaries near the gate, removing the latch.
“Come in!” Icicle shouted, dodging to the side. As he did, three arrows lodged themselves into the wooden gate, right where he stood.
The wooden gate opened under the force of a violent kick from the outside.
Twang! Twang! Twang!
Arrows and bolts flew through the air, decimating the numbers of the mercenaries inside the camp.
“Don’t kill the Archer with the badge!” Icicle shouted, hiding behind one of the tents near the front gate.
Taking the rest of the bolt out, Icicle made the wound even more severe.
A gush of blood spurted from the wound, staining the elevated ground red. Taking a health potion out of his inventory, Icicle poured it over the wound, frowning from the pain.
The tent behind Icicle was opened by a cold blade. “Tch, lucky bastard.” the mercenary spoke, exiting with a dissatisfied expression. He waited for the moment Icicle would stop for a rest so he could ambush him, yet the bastard had escaped.
“You’re just too lousy to ambush me. Face the reality.” Icicle shrugged, his arm itching. Then he bolted to the western side of the camp, letting the Hunters take care of the enemy mercenaries.
An arrow brushed past Icicle’s right cheek, making the chasing mercenary barely dodge.
“You fuckers, who are you trying to kill, me or him?!” the guy screamed at the other mercenaries from the western side.
“Move out of the way, you idiot!” the western side mercenaries yelled.
Icicle ran into the tent on his right side to avoid the arrows. As he was about to enter the tent, he felt the presence of a mercenary inside, standing right at his left.
Unsheathing his sword, Icicle entered the tent, immediately jumping to the right.
The two sword clashed. Icicle blocked the blow in midair, borrowing the force to fly towards the right side of the tent.
“Shit.” the mercenary inside cursed.
“Did you get him?!” the ones outside hollered.
“No, he made a hole in the tent and is on the run! He’s heading east!”
Icicle bolted through the empty alleys, throwing an explosive health potion behind him to lose his tail.
The potion exploded prematurely, making a lot of noise. None of the mercenaries were hit.
Gaining confidence from Icicle’s failure, the other mercenaries chased with more vigor, dropping their vigilance by a tiny bit.
“Catch!” Icicle shouted, throwing an empty vial.
“Back!” the mercenaries retreated, letting the vial drop to the ground.
The glass broke, leaving behind shattered fragments which reflected the starry sky and the bright moon.
“Shit, we’ve been played!” they silver clad people cursed.
“He entered that second tent on the right, after him!”
More and more foosteps could be heard in the western area. Icicle’s escape routes were blocked one by one. However, the young man was skillful. He left burning tents and explosive potions behind him, disrupting the rhythm of the chasing mercenaries. Whenever he fell into trouble, he would throw a couple of explosive potions, clearing the way for himself.
“Damn, those guys are taking it slow!” Icicle cursed his helpers. He knew he had to stall for some time, but those Hunters were seriously slacking off.
Icicle kept running through the western area of the camp, attracting more and more attention. Arrowheads whistled through the air as they pierced the tents, following right after his hot trail.
“I should be really tired, but I’m still feeling fine. I guess that lizardman essence had boosted my stamina considerably. The scratches I received from the whistling arrows heal much quicker than before too… I have to get some training done so I can absorb Rekk’s blood later. Who knows how strong my body will get once I manage to absorb all of it.” Icicle thought joyfully while running at top speed.
Looking at the map, Icicle could only see the nearby tents and armories. There were no dots symbolizing enemies, so he had to go with his gut. Although [Sense presence] was useful, it worked only on the stealthed enemies in the 5m range, allowing Icicle to emerge from some ambushes unscathed.
“Huh? What’s that?” Icicle gasped as he entered the north west part of the camp.
Rows of cages stacked next to each other covered the place. Some of the metal bars had cloth over them, while the others were directly illuminated by the moonlight, displaying the insides.
“What’s going on?”
“An enemy attack?”
“Is this the rescue team?”
“Are we safe?”
The locked up slaves discussed. They could barely see anything in the dark, what’s more, most of their cages were isolated by a cloth or fur. All they could do was try to understand what was going on by listening to the sounds of scuffle.
“So they still haven’t sold all of those slaves…” Icicle remembered the orders he had read. “Maybe this quest was associated with the slaves themselves, yet I stumbled upon those mercenaries as the second branch of the quest, the “meteoric rune” part.”
Icicle shook his head as he knew he couldn’t help the enslaved people. If he tried to attract more attention to himself it would be glaringly obvious that he wishes to free the slaves. This way, he might bring more harm than good. Thus, he bolted to the right, running straight to the center of the camp.
Icicle was under fire again. Arrows whistled left and right as he nimbly dodged. His whole clothing was ragged, as if he entered a tornado only to come out of it, barely alive. Thanks to the boosted health regeneration, Icicle was able to ignore the minor scratches and bruises, saving the precious health potions.
“Catch it kid.” Icicle heard the voice of Bayley, the Hunter responsible for the earlier interrogations, as he approached one of the armories. A steaming hot white ball entered his hand. Puffs of smoke rose from the ball, forming into white wisps that diffused into the air.
Icicle saw this tactic earlier, when the Hunters put half of the mercenaries entering the lizardmen caves to sleep. Grabbing the hot ball tightly, Icicle threw it into the armory, remaining in the area.
“You surely took your time.” Icicle grumbled to the Hunter. There were two groups of mercenaries approaching, so he had to run yet again. He might be strong enough to take on 2 or 3 of them, but any more than that is plain as day suicide.
“The lizardman essence must have enhanced my resistance to poison as well. I doubt I would be able to endure this long under the effect of the sleeping powder before.” Icicle thought as he looked for the antidote vial in his inventory.
“Luckily, that dumb dog didn’t spend all of them on those snakes.” Icicle shook his head. It was only a couple of hours, yet he was already missing the dumb dog. This whole venture would have been so much easier with an invisible shadow by his side.
Mercenaries fell asleep one by one. Icicle activated [Liquid membrane] to stay clear of the effects of the poisonous powder.
“How are the others doing?” Icicle asked Bayley who looked relaxed.
“They should be done soon.” Bayley answered, suddenly nocking an arrow with lightning fast reflexes.
The arrow pierced the tent on the right side, lodging itself between the eyebrows of one of the hiding mercenaries. The mercenary fell, a piece of black cloth tied around his mouth.
“They are pretty organized for a bunch of mercenaries.” Bayley exclaimed.
“Are you saying they’re the regulars?”
“Look at that.” Bayley took off the mercenary’s helmet. “His skin is a shade darker compared to the citizens of Minaeyrth Kingdom. The only place I can think of is the sunny area of the Qured Kingdom. Those lands have a lot of desert, so a darker shade of skin is pretty normal. If you check the others, you’ll notice the same pattern.” Bayley explained.
“But there are the exceptions. If I were to call it right now, I would say that most of those mercenaries are the Qured Kingdom’s regulars, the army. As for the rest of the mercs, they’re conscripts. Those conscripts aren’t from the guilds though. It would be too easy to link this incident back to the Qured Kingdom if they were. They are either outlaws, members of the underground or slaves who were released under contract. Of course there’s a possibility of some crazy psychos and dumb enough treasure seekers joining the band, but that’s highly unlikely.” Bayley voiced his opinion.
“I’ll let you guys handle that. You report it to whoever you need to.” Icicle nodded. This explanation was pretty reasonable. “There are some slaves in the north west corner. What do we do about them?”
“Slaves? How many?” Bayley asked.
“No idea, I had to run from the mercenaries, didn’t have time to count them.” Icicle shrugged.
“Sigh, this is getting more troublesome than I thought.” Bayley tapped his chin. “Well, you don’t worry about a thing kiddo, we’ll get this all sorted out.”
“I wanted to rummage through the armories and get some extra loot, but I guess it’s evidence now, eh?” Icicle smiled wryly.
“Yeah, sadly.” Bayley shook his head. “We can’t go against the lord, the truth always comes out.” Bayley shrugged. “I’m about to retire, I don’t need any unnecessary problems.”
“I’ll get going then.” Icicle nodded, about to go. “Did you get the Archer officer?” he turned and asked.
“We did, he was pretty tough to subdue. It’s easier to kill yourself than to prevent someone from dying after all.” Bayled flashed a grin. “Why, did you find anything about him?”
“I have a feeling that guy knows more than anyone else left in this camp.” Icicle said, turning to leave. “Do you want me to report this incident to the lord? I am about to head to town.”
“Let’s wait for Jasik and let him decide.” Bayley said.
“Deliver this safely.” Jasik cautioned. He handed Icicle an envelope with a red seal.
“Yes, yes.” Icicle nodded helplessly. The letter was addressed to Marcus Vilen, describing the situation in the unknown mercenary camp.
“You guys should hurry up, there will be a lot of adventurers like me here soon. There’s probably some outside already.” Icicle urged. Although all of the currently asleep mercenaries were tied up, there were way too many to control with the small group they had. Add adventurers into that and the ensuing chaos can be imagined.
Icicle returned to Vilen Town under furtive gazes of a couple of players. He didn’t know why they looked at him that way. Maybe his ranking in the event had something to do with this whole situation.
His first stop was obviously the Tailor’s house.
“Who is it?” Marisse opened the door with furrowed brows. Who could have visit her this late in the night?
“Hey there.” Icicle smiled wryly. This situation was a bit awkward. He didn’t want to be seen like a burglar or a secret lover.
“Icicle, it’s you!” Marisse exclaimed, giving him a hug. “Did you succeed?”
“Y-Yes.” Icicle muttered as he was almost squeezed to death.
“Here you go, one bottle of high grade remedy. I’ll leave a medium grade one just in case.”
“T-Thank you! Thank you!” Marisse teared up, hugging Icicle yet again.
“It’s fine! You’ll choke me to death!”
“Hehehe, sorry.” Marisse wiped her tears. She turned to her daughter’s room, barging in there.
“Huh, mom? It’s the middle of the night, what are you doing?” the little girl’s voice rang out.
“Here honey, mommy had finally found a cure for you! You’ll be able to play with others again.” Marisse smiled gently, tears welling up in her eyes for the second time.
“Really?” the little girl’s twin tails swayed as she happily gulped the liquid. “Uuu, it’s bitter.”
“You little.” Marisse ruffled her daughter’s hair.
“Thank you once again, Icicle. I don’t really have anything to give you but this.” Marisse handed Icicle a book.
“I don’t need anything as a reward, Marisse. Seeing you so happy was enough of a reward for me. Besides, I have had my gains during the adventure.” Icicle flatly refused.
“No! I can’t allow my benefactor to not take my gift.” Marisse shoved the book into Icicle’s hands.
“Sigh, since you insist. But you should know I’m most likely going to hand this over to someone else. I don’t see myself making clothes anytime soon.” Icicle shrugged.
“Well, it’s yours now, you’ll do what you want.” Marisse grinned.
“I know it’s not a good time to ask, but… could you make me anything from this?” Icicle awkwardly took out the white rhinoceros hide.
“Ah!” Marisse screamed, blocking her mouth with her hand. “You do have a set made already, so I guess you would need a bag?”
“That would be great.” Icicle nodded.
“Hehe, the rest of the hide is mine then.” Marisse eyed the hide as if it was something very precious.
“Not a problem, do what you want with the rest.” Icicle shrugged.
“My little girl will be delighted. Such comfortable boots and gloves she’ll have.” Marisse hugged the rhino hide.
“Well then, I’ll get going. Have a nice night.” Icicle turned to the door.
“Wait! What about your Direwolf set?” Marisse asked.
“Oh that. If I took it today, I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I’ll come get it within two days.” Icicle bowed and left.
Even though it was night in game, the streets of Vilen Town were still crowded with players. The trade flourished after the event, people exchanged items left and right.
Icicle entered the Mage Guild, noticing only a few secretaries on the sides.
“Is Cindy here?” he asked bluntly.
“You’ve come back, kiddo.” Cindy appeared out of nowhere, as if springing from the ground.
“Indeed. Here you go, your heart.” Icicle threw the quest item straight over to Cindy.
As Cindy was still looking over the item, Icicle handed her a letter. “Could you deliver this to Marcus Vilen? I’m way too tired to deal with all of the ceremonies, and the matter is quite urgent.” Icicle yawned.
“What happened?” Cindy asked.
“Some mercenary group kidnapping citizens of the Minaeryth Kingdom. I coordinated with Jasik and his Hunter friends to rout them.” Icicle said. “They have a camp north of the Red Blooming Valley.”
“Thank you, Icicle. I’ll deliver it to that brat Marcus.” Cindy nodded seriously. “As for your rewards, we’ll talk later.”
“If you insist.” Icicle shrugged. He received an Advanced realm skillbook for a Water Mage, what could be better than that? “Tell the little brat I’ll have my promised fight with her once I get back.”
Jeremy took off the VR helmet, preparing to get to the bathroom when he saw the “unread message” screen on his phone.
“The meeting is going to take place in 7 days.”