Chapter 32:

Vol. 2, Chapter 32: Iotas Tria

Dungeons of the Abyss and the Unchosen Heroes

The Arithmi Theocracy was a nation founded by the followers of Arithmi, God of Quantification and Calculation. Here within the Theocracy, one's education, occupation, relations, and general lot in life, all these things were calculated. Of course, the calculations were but recommendations, one need not follow it to the letter or even at all, or so it was supposed to be. However, life, more often than not, tends to take shapes that were rarely intended for it to take, growing and spreading in ways often difficult to predict. As such, life in the Theocracy had become such that those who followed the guidance of Arithmi were often more favored than those that do not, creating an unintentional hierarchy within its society. There was, however, just one place within the Theocracy where one might find refuge from this inadvertently spawned system.Bookmark here

It was the Iotas region. With rolling plains as far as the eyes can see, it was the eastmost lands of the Theocracy, barely tamed and filled with new opportunities, where even those who follow their own path might find rich opportunities and prove their worth. It was, in a way, a frontier of the Theocracy.Bookmark here

Traveling across the straightforward road, windmills could be seen dotted here and there in the distance. Surrounding the road on both sides were fields of wheat, spreading as far as the eye can see. Then, at long last, the Henrietta Company rode in easily into Iotas Tria, the third town of the Iotas region, where the Scholars of the Abyss had set up their facilities, where the hi-catalyst was said to have been delivered to.Bookmark here

The Henrietta Company, upon entering town, headed straight towards the Lightbringers' office. They were eager to complete the job and following the directions given to them, they arrived finally at the office.Bookmark here

"Welcome, how may I help you?"Bookmark here

Greeting the Henrietta Company the moment they enter was a freckled woman wearing a pair of round-rimmed glasses seated at the front desk. Her tone was flat and her voice had little enthusiasm in it.Bookmark here

Being the one who entered the building first, Auguste felt the pressure to be the one to answer her.Bookmark here

"We have a message from the Fortuna branch," said Auguste, handing the receptionist the letter he was entrusted with.Bookmark here

The receptionist adjusted her glasses before receiving the letter. Soon after examining the seal, she excused herself briefly, presumably to speak to whoever was in charge of the branch.Bookmark here

"It's kind of barren isn't it?" Henrietta commented as she looked around the front hall with all the vacant chairs and desks, devoid of any human presence.Bookmark here

"I know, right?" Elaine responded. "I know they're shorthanded, but other than the girl at the front desk, there's not a single soul in sight. It's kind of concerning."Bookmark here

In a short while, the receptionist returned and upon her desk, she placed down two gold coins.Bookmark here

"The Lightbringers thank you for your services. Here is your payment," she said plainly, without any signs of emotion in her voice.Bookmark here

"Oh, we're getting paid right now?" Auguste let slip his slight confusion.Bookmark here

"Is there a problem?"Bookmark here

"Not in particular, I just thought we'd be paid by Albert once we meet up again."Bookmark here

"And when would that be, do you think?"Bookmark here

"Honestly, I don't know. It might take a while, especially if he runs into the rainy season in Vestal."Bookmark here

"Then this worked out just fine, no?"Bookmark here

"I guess. Yeah, this is definitely more convenient."Bookmark here

"Then our business is over. If there is nothing else, please be on your way."Bookmark here

For an instant, Elaine's brow twitched. She had found the dismissive demeanor of the receptionist irksome.Bookmark here

"You really ought not to let others walk all over you like that, Auguste," said Elaine.Bookmark here

"Well, I'm sure she had a long day. It's fine."Bookmark here

"That's what I'm talking about. You need to stand up for yourself more, otherwise, less than scrupulous people might find you an easy picking."Bookmark here

"Yeah, sure, I'll be more careful next time," Auguste shrugged, having no desire to argue.Bookmark here

Elaine frowned at his flippant response and was quite sure that he hadn't taken her words to heart. However, just as she was about to say something more, she was interrupted.Bookmark here

"Alright!" Henrietta exclaimed while practically bouncing in joy. "Now that we've finally gotten paid, let's treat ourselves, what do we say? It's fine right, Eliane?"Bookmark here

Elaine sighed, she realized that she'll have to let it go for now.Bookmark here

"I don't see why not. Just don't go overboard, you got it?"Bookmark here

"Of course, of course! Since when have I lost control?"Bookmark here

"Almost always?" Morganna cut in.Bookmark here

"S-shut up! Who asked yer damn opinions anyways?"Bookmark here

"It's no opinion, it's a fact."Bookmark here

"Bah, whatever, let's just go! I'm thirsty for a drink already!"Bookmark here

The receptionist watched impatiently as she waited for the Henrietta Company to finally leave, only then did she move from her position and headed into the back of the office. There, the bodies of the workers and clerks could be seen stuffed into corners and in whatever compartments that could be found, seemingly all done in a hurry. As the receptionist headed further into the back, towards the archives where the documents were kept, her body suddenly collapsed onto the ground while a shadow crept out of the husk that was the receptionist.Bookmark here

"I have returned, mistress," said the shadow with a distorted voice, as if it was forming sounds that mimicked human speech rather than having the natural ability to do so.Bookmark here

"So?" asked a knife-eared woman with long golden hair that has tinges of green. "Who were they?"Bookmark here

"I do not know," the shadow answered. "I've never seen or heard of them before, though one of them mentioned Albert."Bookmark here

"I see..." the knife-eared woman gave a quiet reply before turning her eyes onto the documents in hand.Bookmark here

"Correction:" the shadow suddenly spoke up, "I've never seen or heard of them before, all except one. The Alva was amongst them, the one who called himself Gladiolus."Bookmark here

The woman froze the moment she heard the name, her previously unchanging expression cracked ever so slightly to reveal a frown.Bookmark here

"Gladiolus..." she whispered.Bookmark here

"Should we alter our plans?"Bookmark here

"No," the woman gave a quick answer while regaining her previous composure. "In the grand scheme of things, it mattered not whether he is here or elsewhere."Bookmark here

"Very well, mistress." The shadow twisted and bent, seemingly trying to perform a bow. "One last thing: Should I keep an eye on them, just in case?"Bookmark here

The woman took a moment to ponder the suggestion.Bookmark here

"No, they are inconsequential," the woman answered, deciding that it was not worth the time or resources. "Albert, on the other hand, we should prepare for. If he had sent these messengers here, then sooner or later, he'll come as well."Bookmark here

"Understood, my mistress."Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

"Have you heard? About the stone circle to the southeast, I mean."Bookmark here

"That they found a tomb underneath? You'd think it would have been found a long time ago if they'd just turn around a few stones here and there."Bookmark here

"Don't be silly. They say the witches built it. Nobody is going to want to mess with that."Bookmark here

"Then how'd they find the tomb anyway if they weren't messing with it?"Bookmark here

"That's the thing. When they discovered it the stone sealing the entranced had already been moved. The strangest thing, however, was that the entrance was in the ground and the stone sealing it was not only heavy, but fitted perfectly into the entryway. They say it would have been impossible to lift it from the outside."Bookmark here

"You're not saying that someone pushed it open from the inside, are you?" Bookmark here

"It was the only way to open it. How else could it have been done?"Bookmark here

"You think it's 'that'?"Bookmark here

"Maybe. No, definitely. The witches were the ones who built that place didn't they?Bookmark here

"Well, it's a good thing that the circle is some ways from town. I didn't settle all the way out here just to move back again."Bookmark here

"I just hope the Lightbringers do something about it quick. As far away as it is, it's not far away from here enough."Bookmark here

The conversation caught the ears of Auguste while drinking in the tavern with the rest of his party.Bookmark here

"You hear that, Gladiolus?"Bookmark here

"I did. It does pay to open one's ears in places such as this. It's a good source of free information."Bookmark here

"I'll be sure to keep that in mind. So, what do you think?"Bookmark here

"There's no rush. We can talk about it tomorrow. We've just finished a job. Now is the time to relax."Bookmark here

"If you say so."Bookmark here

It was no sooner than the next morning, that an announcement was made by the local Dungeoneers' Guild. It would appear that a new Dungeon had been discovered beneath the stone circle to the southeast.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

End of Chapter 32Bookmark here

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