Chapter 32:

Chapter 29: A Celestial's Whim

God-Ish


After the struggle of a walk back to Druhwood, I skipped heading to the inn itself and directly went for the rejuvenating hot spring. Afterwards, I spent a little R&R by myself on the outside bench, looking over some things in thought as late evening crept in.

It really is amazing how much damage this body can withstand. But when I remember how hard Kortbos hit me... I feel as if I really should have died back then after that initial hit...

I could still feel varying levels of pain, but surprisingly my body had begun slowly healing by itself—to a seemingly inhuman norm. The aches and pains became less noticeable with no significant issues as time went on, but it felt as if it would only take a few days more to return back to normal. Overall, if that was the case, it wasn’t something I particularly minded all too much. Especially compared to how much worse it could have been.

“Well, it’s not like I’m in any rush either. I’ll try and take it easy for the next few days—ah.”

A sudden rumble from my stomach reminded me that I hadn’t eaten much of anything since yesterday. Lifting myself from the bench, I headed for the first floor of the Mirth Oak Inn. As I entered, I was greeted by a variety of scenes. Undesired visuals involving an array of drunken men, nonsensical dancing and dozens of burly, hairy chests.

Hm...? No. Whatever is going on here, I seriously want no part of—

“Look who finally decided to show up! It’s the young lad that helped protect the town!”
“Oh?! So, that’s him?! C’mon in, bud! Grab a drink, take your shirt off and get to having a good time with us!”

A bear of a man attempted to pull me toward him as I naturally dodged out of the way.

“No, no, no. I think I’m just going to go take a walk or something—hm?!”
“Hahaha! Nonsense, lad. No need to be so distant! We’re only able to do any of this in thanks to your efforts, so it wouldn’t be right to party without ya!”

Somehow, Torrel had successfully blindsided me with a now massive arm over my shoulders.

You know...that doesn’t exactly hold much meaning AFTER you’ve already started without me. Ugh! He even reeks of alcohol! Aren’t you considered the Chief of Druhwood?! Shouldn’t you, maybe, I don’t know—act a bit more reserved?! You’re making Wesil’s comment from the other day seem spot on...

Pulling me toward his jungle of a chest, he returned back to ruffling my hair as the stench of his drink oozed off of him like copious amounts of perfume. In an effort to look around, I could just make out several of empty barrels—all scattered throughout the inn. He continued laughing loudly, drinking his mug with his other hand as I was able to finally free myself after a bit of struggle.

Geez. Have they really been at this since noon? They must have immediately started the moment they arrived back in town... Ah, this is too much for me... Eru? Where is Eru at...?

I couldn’t find neither Eru nor Cruubi amidst the festival of bears and spirits. It didn’t sit right with me to just go over the counter and prepare something for myself, and asking Torrel seemed akin to an impossibility in his current state. Thus, I began searching for Eru as I headed upstairs. Reaching her door, it was completely shut.

I wonder if she’s already sleeping?

With a light knock on her door, I could hear a soft voice in response from the other side.

“Oh? Is someone there...?”
“It’s me, Albel. Mind if I head inside for a second?”
“...Sure, the door isn’t locked.”

Upon opening, my eyes were met with Eru sitting on the floor, overlooking an abundance of what seemed like pendants, bracelets, rings and a variety of different, colorful gems. Cruubi, on the other hand, was hopping amid the red-colored stones, seemingly mesmerized by their appearance.

“Sorry, I don’t have any chairs in here, but you’re more than welcome to sit on the floor, right there—next to me. Just give me a second to finish this trinket here though.”

I quietly nodded, taking a seat near her as I watched her work on a bracelet that held half of a purple-colored gemstone. Aside from what Torrel had hinted at, I wasn’t exactly fully aware of her strong interest in gemstones and accessories until now. Regardless, she seemed rather talented as the result of her work was rather commendable. And as she finished, her head slightly turned toward me.

“So, did you need something from me? Or...were you perhaps just trying to escape from the disaster unfolding downstairs...?”
“Honestly, both... You see, I’m actually pretty hungry, haha...”

She adjusted her line of sight now in the direction of her window, seemingly realizing that evening had already arrived.

Aaaaa! That’s right... We haven’t really had the chance to eat at all today, right? But...it might be a bit too rowdy if we eat downstairs—oh! I think I know just the place. Just one moment.”

She quickly organized her surroundings, putting away all of her accessories into a few satchels. I was a bit curious as to whether it was a longstanding hobby or something, but my stomach nudged at me to refrain from asking currently. We then finally made our way back downstairs, dodging all of the drunken woodworkers and empty barrels along the way. Finding ourselves behind the counter, she opened the door to the back room.

“In here, Albel.”

Entering, I took a seat as Eru lit a small lantern and sat it on the table. She then returned back to the doorway.

“No one but Grandpa and I are allowed in here, so this place should work. Just wait right there, okay? I’ll whip something up for us in a jiffy! Cruubi, go spend some time with your owner so he doesn’t get too lonely by himself back here.”
“Chirp!!”

Listening to her command, Cruubi hovered over to the table and sat directly in front of me. I was too tired and hungry to even retort as an audible sigh escaped my mouth. Besides, I didn’t even want to risk invoking her anger again after she left me earlier. For all I know, I could have been still walking on fragile ice in regards to her mood. Leaving Cruubi and I alone in the back, my eyes met the map that laid on the table.

“Oh, that’s right. This is the map that I saw through your eyes, wasn’t it?”
“Chirp! Chirp!”

Looking over it, I could see the Enheim Forest that was split into two general layers that I could recall from the vision before; the shallow area and deep area. An unlabeled red circle still sat at the center of that deep area.

I wonder if that’s where the Spirit of Enheim is located. Torrel should know where it is given that he upholds a contract with it, right?

I couldn’t even recall how the Spirit of Enheim looked in MO. It had always remained hidden whenever you visited the forest, behind a tree, amid its treant and spriggan companions. There was barely any dialogue too, as its guardians would speak in place of the Spirit.

Hmm. Could that spriggan-like creature from earlier also be one of its guardians or...

“Chirp!!”
“Cruubi? Is something—?!”

The sound of crackling became the only noise in the room now as Cruubi pulled me from my thoughts. It hadn’t come from near the entryway, but instead from the back of the room. A faint, rustling noise continued as I began to search for where exactly it was coming from. Even with the lantern, my eyes could only see so much due to the darkness that enveloped the corners. Moving the lantern from the table, the sound had seemingly stopped as Cruubi hopped onto my shoulder. I projected the light toward the back of the room, slowly surveying the area, and my gaze froze as it was met with a thick vine. One that extended upward from the bottom of the left corner of the room.

“What the...?”

Two things had caught my interest even more than the random appearance of the vine itself. The first being that it was holding a small, folded note at the end of the vine’s tip. Whereas, the second, was that the vine’s lower end was adorned with small, dark purplish or even black flowers.

“Wait, could this be—?”
“Aye, it’s exactly what you may be thinking there, young lad.”

A voice came from behind me as Torrel entered the back room. Walking past me, he stepped near the vine and grabbed the letter as he continued.

“The way I see it, you’ve already earned the right to know what this is. You probably might’ve guessed it, but it’s a message from the Spirit of Enheim from their preferred envoy. Tch. I didn’t expect them to immediately go and begin requesting again after what happened today.”

A bit peeved, he still opened the folded note and began reading it over.

“Now, let’s see what this is... Hm?”

His expression was painted in disbelief now. He then gestured his hand in my direction, seemingly asking for the lantern as his eyes didn’t leave the small parchment. Handing it over to him, he then took a second, third, and forth eyeful of what was written.

Is it really that difficult to read or something?

“It seems like this request isn’t for the people of Druhwood, nor myself.”

With a strange and sober look, his gaze was directed toward me now.

“It’s addressed to you, lad.”
“Huh? A request for me? Why...?”

Puzzled, I took the note from his extended hand and decided to read over it for myself. The text wasn’t exactly written with much length in mind, nor was it even more than a single, vague sentence at that.

“We request of you, the black-robed mage, to investigate the mountain ruins at the southeast of Druhwood.”

I tried to recall the area that was southeast of Druhwood, and I couldn’t remember any ruins ever being there back in MO. If anything, it was nothing more than just pathless mountain ranges that we weren’t able to climb to in-game.

“Ruins? There are ruins nearby?”
“Aye, but no one has been allowed there ever since I ordered everyone to stay away from the area. Including that rock-loving youngin’.”
“I didn’t know about that at all. Is there a reason why the Spirit of Enheim would request something like this—and to me of all people?”

He began stroking his beard in response to my question, taking a moment to respond.

“I’ve got some ideas on that. First of all, I’ve been receiving reports of a suspicious group coming in and out of those ruins these past few months. We’re still in the dark about it all, but that boy, Palvo, initially caught an eyeful of em and said they apparently wear cloaks.”

It had slipped my mind, but Palvo had definitely compared to me something similar when we first met.

“Second, there’s a good chance that the Spirit of Enheim was watching you during your fight with the Higrant Chieftain. That thing has eyes everywhere—somehow."

I see. That might explain whatever that spriggan-like creature was. Maybe an observer, something akin to the envoy it sent here? That aside, this message has no details whatsoever! What kind of request is this? At least be a bit more specific about what you want!

I flipped over the note and of course, there hadn’t been any other writings, marks, or anything. It only left me further puzzled on the reason why the message was so vague in the first place.

“I can see it in your eyes, lad. Sadly, that’s how the Spirit of Enheim is. It’ll put you on the trail, but nothing more besides that.”
“My face was that obvious, huh? Was the request regarding Wesil written in a similar way?”

In a questioning glance, Torrel seemed a bit confused.

“Hm? How’d you know about that?”
“Ah... Um, Eru told me, since she wanted my opinion about it...”
“That youngin’ and her loose tongue.”

Torrel walked past me as he began moving around some documents on the table, pulling out a similar note to the one in my hands. Handing it to me, I could feel my eye twitch as I looked over it.

“We request of you, Chief of Druhwood, to be cautiously mindful of the actions and intent of the merchant, Wesil Nelpard.”

“Huh?! That doesn’t explain a damn thing!”

My true thoughts slipped through in response to the absurd need for vagueness by the Spirit of Enheim. I could only feel sorry for whomever had to deal with these poorly detailed notes constantly. And as I eyed that exact person, Torrel gave an exhausted shrug that easily said, “You’re tell me!” as Eru then finally entered the room with two plates in her hands.

Aaaaa! Grandpa?! What are you doing back here?! I was wondering where you stumbled off to. I didn’t bring a plate for you, so go back to entertaining your drunk entourage!”
“That mouth of yours, I swear—just like your mother’s. Your food doesn’t sit right with my drinks anyways!”

Eru pouted in Torrel’s direction as he simply ignored her and passed the lantern my way. Heading back toward his festivities outside, he directed one last statement at me before leaving.

“Lad, if you end up accepting it—just let me know. You’re not obligated to do what it asks to begin with, so don’t worry too much about it.”

Shutting the door behind him, it was back to only the three of us once again. Placing the lantern and both notes on the table, Eru in turn set down our servings across from one another. We then sat down and quietly began eating. Her eyes and attention though, had been more focused on the two notes. I decided to appease her curiosity.

“It’s another request from the Spirit of Enheim, apparently.”
“Already?! One after another... What more could it want from Druhwood...”
“Well, it’s not for Druhwood this time. It’s actually addressed to me.”

With a fingertip on the note, I slid it over to her so she could see for herself. Her eyes widened as she read the slip, remaining quiet in thought shortly after. I had already decided on whether I would take the request or not a bit earlier. My body had still been damaged, thoroughly so, but I was in doubt that I’d encounter anything akin to Kortbos again. Special Beasts weren’t that common after all.

“Anyways, I plan on—”
“I’m going as well, Albel.”
“Hm...?”

I felt as if I had misheard her saying that she was planning on coming with me before I even stated I was going to begin with. Yet, as I met her gaze, I definitely couldn’t misconstrue the firm eye contact that came with her declaration.

“You do understand that it’s not just some casual trip to the mountains, right...?”
“I understand that, but I’m definitely coming with you.”

She seemed rather adamant on accompanying me, so I tried a different approach.

“Listen, Eru. I’m not exactly at my best condition right now due to that fight with Kortbos. Meaning, I don’t think I’d be able to guarantee your protection, so I think you—”
“Exactly! You’re still hurt! I won’t let you head over there alone—someone needs to watch your back. Don’t worry, I can protect myself...to an extent!”

She now had both of her hands curled and resting against her chest as she remained waiting on my answer—my approval. I couldn’t give her an immediate response, since these were ruins that I hadn’t even known about until shortly earlier. Just because any potential enemies weren’t likely to be of Kortbos’ level, didn’t mean we wouldn’t encounter nothing at all. At the very least, it was safer to assume so.

I did gain experience protecting others already in this world thanks to my time in Dormou, but I wasn’t in the process of recovering during those outings... Then again, it wouldn’t hurt to have someone watch my back though. She’s also a Spellbinder...

I could still see her bursting in determination to come along—her eyes glimmered in hope and anticipation. It felt almost criminal to say "no" to her as I muttered a defeated sigh and gave her my answer.

“Fine, but only if Torrel agrees to it.”
“...Eh? Do we really have to involve—”
“Yes. Sorry, but that’s one thing I’m not backing down on.”
“O-okay...”

I could hear Eru whispering to herself, different excuses and reasons that she was seemingly planning on using to get her grandfather’s approval. I went back to eating as I nudged a thought of support her way.

Well, good luck with that.

Joguruen
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