Chapter 36:

Chapter 35. Cloaked Intentions

Zero to Hero

Awakening to the gentle whining and nudging from Yami, I greeted my loyal pet wolf before rising from bed to let her out for her morning routine, then made my way to the dining room.

"Morning, Ken! Look at all this food!" Candace greeted me cheerfully as I entered the dining room.

With a table overflowing with food and Tina already devouring her meal like the uncultured slob she was, I exchanged greetings with the girls before taking my seat to savor the tantalizing aroma of the breakfast spread.

"Hey Carla, any chance your connections could secure me access to the castle?" I inquired of the elf girl.

"You'll have to ask the individuals we're meeting later. I don't have much insight into the city's affairs. I simply guide people here, perhaps stay a night, then make my way home," Carla replied matter-of-factly.

"Are you content with your grandfather's decision to guide me for the next few years? I won't be returning before the deadline even if I complete all my tasks," I probed, attempting to engage in conversation.

"I merely follow my grandfather's orders. If he tasks me with being your bodyguard for the next two years, that's precisely what I'll do, and I'll ensure you fulfill your obligations," Carla responded stoically, shutting down further discussion.

"You'd better start training diligently if you believe you could still defeat me in two years. While I may not be a match for someone like Zishell or Julius, in a few months, I should be capable of handling someone of your caliber," I boasted confidently, hoping to elicit a reaction from the elf girl.

As expected, like every other conversation I attempted that didn't revolve around her grandfather, Carla reverted to her silent demeanor after one sentence, leaving our interaction hanging in the air.

Thankfully, before the silence grew awkward, Yami returned from her outing and joined us in the dining hall, eager to partake in the delicious spread as well.

Following Carla's lead once more, we made our way to the designated meetup point, hoping to gain enough information about the city's inner workings to formulate a plan for our next steps.

Strolling through the picturesque streets with their well-paved roads and elegant buildings, Tina and Candace marveled at everything remotely intriguing, while Yami attracted many curious glances, with some even offering substantial sums of gold to purchase her from me.

Entering a magnificent marble building nestled in the heart of the elite district, we were greeted with warm smiles from the staff. After Carla conversed with someone at the front desk, we were ushered down a grand hallway, away from prying eyes.

Passing through a heavily secured door, our guard labored through multiple rounds of keys and spells to unlock it, revealing yet another simple teleportation circle inside. No matter how affluent or influential this Cyran individual might be, originality clearly wasn't his forte.

Once inside, we were swiftly teleported to our destination, a vast room devoid of the opulent decor typical of the central district, populated by rough-looking individuals who stood in stark contrast to the posh crowd of the capital.

"This is my brother, Carter. He's one of my grandfather's most trusted subordinates stationed here in Yelwraek," Carla introduced us, gesturing towards a charismatic elf who exuded confidence unlike the others gathered in the hideout.

"Ken from Dragonspire! I was wondering why my grandfather would bother to aid a human. I still recall the days when we watched the tournaments and how much my grandfather despised you," the elf man greeted me cheerfully, as if there was anything humorous about a racist who harbored disdain for me simply because of my elf lovers.

Seeking to avoid any confrontation, our discussion with Carter centered solely on the functionality of the teleportation circle and the steps required to grant our group access to Sraderham City.

"Not sure if you're aware, but the teleportation circle is situated within the main castle. Thus, the first and most challenging step is to infiltrate the castle grounds and make our way to the main hall without arousing suspicion," Carter explained.

“If you can get me into one of the side wings, I might have an insider that could make that first step happen.”

"Mmm… Very well, getting you alone into the castle grounds shouldn't be too big of an issue. If your insider could truly grant access to the main castle for your entire group, the rest should be relatively straightforward," Carter responded, delving into the specifics.

According to the elf, only Sylvester the hero had ever used the circle to come and go, once a year to cast his spell. For the remainder of the time, the room remained unguarded, as few individuals possessed the ability to activate such a high-tier teleportation circle.

"With the circle's location and difficulty to activate, there's only magic in place to alert if intruders appear from the circle. Activating it from this side will go completely unnoticed," Carter elaborated.

"Of course, the moment you arrive in Sraderham, you'll probably be faced with an army of guards for showing up unannounced, if everything goes to plan here," he added.

"I'm aware of that. The fact that the circle in Sraderham is located at the academy instead of the royal palace should work in my favor," I replied, silently formulating a plan on how to proceed.

"How long do we have in this city, and how often are tournaments held here?" Tina interjected, seizing the opportunity during a lull in conversation.

"If everything goes according to plan, we can get you out of here in a month. You do need to train your slaves to refrain from speaking without permission. Mine would never dare to utter a word without my orders," Carter continued.

Before the wolf girl could erupt, I quickly covered her mouth and thanked the confused elf, promising to gather more details later. Hastily, I ushered the agitated Tina back out onto the street.

"WHY DID YOU STOP ME! DID YOU NOT HEAR WHAT HE SAID!" the wolf girl bellowed once I finally released her.

"What did you expect? Are you blind? Did you not see how he looked at Carla and didn't even acknowledge her, despite them being siblings? Obviously, the guy is a racist piece of shit," I retorted, seeking confirmation from Carla.

Once again, the elf girl deemed me unworthy of conversation and remained silent, while the wolf girl vented loudly about the recent encounter.

"Well, at least my life is only in danger when I speak the truth about the grandfather," I remarked cheerfully, trying to elicit a response from the elf girl.

To placate Tina's complaints, we ventured into the bustling megacity, allowing the girls to browse and purchase to their hearts' content while I assumed the role of bag carrier and financier.

"Aren't you going to buy anything? Perhaps some clothing that covers more of your body?" I suggested to the elf, noting her taste for attire that left little to the imagination.

Predictably, the elf girl responded with silence. Meanwhile, Candace eagerly engaged in conversation, discussing her desire for various clothing items and flirting unabashedly.

"Can you two stop buying things? Do you realize we'll likely have to leave everything behind here?" I interjected, feeling increasingly burdened by the growing pile of bags and boxes.

"What do you mean?" Tina questioned.

"Do you think we can simply stroll into the castle grounds of the most powerful kingdom with our horses in tow and all this baggage? Then somehow be admitted inside the main castle with said horses?" I explained, exasperated by their lack of foresight.

"Who cares! Let us buy what we want! It's training for you too, right?" Candace retorted, reminding me of my earlier encouragement for them to spend freely so I can keep generating gold for improving my stamina.

After shopping until sundown, we returned to the mansion, where the servants promptly greeted us and began preparing dinner upon hearing my hungry remark.

As we enjoyed our meal, Tina's mood noticeably improved, her earlier anger dissipated thanks to her short memory span.

During dinner, a subordinate of Carter's arrived with a suit of armor, informing me that they had arranged for me to enter the castle grounds disguised as a guard the following night.

Despite my disdain for the racist and enslaving elf, I couldn't help but be impressed by his efficiency. I could understand why the delusional grandfather placed trust in someone with similar traits.

After the satisfying meal, I retreated to the grand bath, lost in contemplation about the events of the following day and what actions I should take once inside the castle grounds.

"Ken! What are you doing in there? Did you sneak a girl in with you?" Candace's voice echoed outside the bath, snapping me back to reality.

"Just trying to enjoy some quiet time without your constant chatter," I responded, knowing she wouldn't leave without a fuss.

Realizing I wouldn't be left alone, I hurriedly finished up and joined Candace outside. The moment I opened the door, she rushed in, ensuring I was truly alone.

"Candace, if I wanted a girl, I would have just asked Carla... I have no need to sneak anyone in," I joked, attempting to lighten the mood.

"What do you mean, Carla? If you ask for Carla instead of me, I'll turn you to ashes in your sleep!" Candace threatened playfully.

Throughout our journey, Candace always seemed to know when I needed a distraction from doubt and worries, often resorting to playful antics to lift my spirits.

Accepting that I couldn't change the past, no matter how much I wished otherwise, I bid the girls goodnight, determined to face whatever challenges awaited me the following day with resolve.