Chapter 121 - Crossing the Wilderness (1)
Meanwhile, the city of Mana-vil bustled with life as news of the exchange between Meltor and Elvenheim spread throughout the city.
Among them, the busiest people were the merchants from large trading companies. They were better than anyone else at sniffing out the money and didn't miss this opportunity. Some would say it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance at a jackpot.
One of Meltor's largest trading companies, Polonell thought the same. 'If we pick things up properly, then we can live well.'
However, the boss of Polonell wasn't greedy. The magic towers and even the high ranking nobles knew that the merchants would be drooling and lingering for rights.
Therefore, he picked the next best thing. This time, it was to obtain a large amount of raw materials, since the export of artifacts and goods was going to become three times larger. He would then supply the artifacts and goods to the Magic Society. The bonus was that he could gain extra money as well as a good relationship with the magic towers.
As a result, the top company, Polonell, was able to start a procession heading toward the Central Continent faster than anyone else.
Dagadak, dagadak. The carriages made an upbeat sound as they moved quickly down a road.
Normally, they would be moving slower due to carrying a lot of baggage, but the purpose of this procession was to import raw materials quickly. For that reason, there wasn't as much baggage, and the carriages moved faster than usual.
Furthermore, the carriages they were riding weren't ordinary. It was the carriage Theodore had borrowed when he went home, the express carriage which hadn't been commercialized yet.
In the second carriage from the front, a middle-aged man laughed excitedly as he said, "Hahaha! Magician, you are lucky that you joined!"
He was a man with bushy hair, giving him the impression of a bear. That's why he was actually called 'Bear.' Bear was an experienced merchant who rejected the general preconceived notion that merchants resembled snakes or foxes.
The brown-haired young man sitting in front of Bear raised his eyes. "Lucky?"
"Yes!" Bear nodded without hesitation. "Didn't you just join on the departure date, yet you get to ride an express wagon like this? We weren't able to hire a magician to accompany us because it was such a sudden trip, so it is really lucky that our paths crossed like this!"
"Ah, that might be so."
"Additionally, you're the junior of the hero, Theodore Miller. Isn't this a good relationship?"
Theodore Miller also felt lucky as he laughed inwardly at Bear's words. Using his own name as a recommendation was working well.
That's right. The brown-haired young man with hair which was brown, instead of black, and eyes which were blue, instead of green, was actually Theodore Miller. It would be difficult to find people who recognized him now because his face was different.
While feeling a sense of incongruity from looking at a face of a stranger, Theo recalled the information of the necklace hidden behind his clothes.
[+6 Who am I? (Accessory)]
[-An artifact created from an unknown failure. This artifact in the form of a necklace can circumvent the perceptions of others by subtly changing the wearer's appearance. It shows its abilities regardless of the user's will, and once the magic is released, the medium will be destroyed immediately. It can defend against magical insight, but it can't conceal the fact that the user is 'hiding.'
* The rating of this magic tool is 'Precious.'
* When consumed, a considerable amount of magic power will be absorbed.
* When consumed, the digestion time will be 18 hours.
* When consumed, understanding of transformation magic will increase.]
Just before Theo's departure, Vince had brought him an artifact from the magic tower. It was an equipment usually used to infiltrate enemy territory or carry out secret missions.
Thanks to it, Theo was able to disguise himself without needing to reveal his identity or status. Now, he wasn't the 'hero,' Theodore Miller, but the 4th Circle Theo who was going to visit distant relatives in Kargas.
'I honestly thought the pseudonym was too obvious, but...'
Vince had laughed and shaken his head.
"Sometimes it is better to do this than to conceal your name thoroughly. You will be going around unknown countries, so I don't think you should use an alias. Do the east call it 'hard to tell if it is a sham or real'?" His mentor had explained that a carelessly made lie could attract the human eye more than a moderate one.
In any case, his name would be meaningless if they were a person who could see through the artifact.
In the end, this was the best way to watch out for himself.
Theodore looked out the window as the carriages kept moving. The carriages had traveled far enough that the capital and the top of the magic towers couldn't be seen. He didn't know if he would come back in the next four months or even years. It was then that Theo suddenly realized he was all alone.
His master, who always pointed out the parts where Theo was lacking, the good-hearted and pretty Sylvia, whom he had a meal with once in awhile, and Veronica, who was very caring towards him, even though she was sometimes too much... Theo wouldn't be able to see the people who were like his second family for a while.
'No, I shouldn't have a weak heart already.' He tried to put aside the terrifying thought and pulled out a book from his bag.
It was [Ancient Magic Overview - Balcard] which Vince Haidel had completed after decades of hard work. This was a magic book that Theo didn't understand despite reading it for half a day already.
The carriage suddenly became quiet, with only the sound of paper turning. Even the loud Bear knew what it meant when a magician opened a book, so he kept his mouth shut.
This was why books were good. As Theo studied the indescribable and difficult-to-understand wisdom, any misgivings would fade. The hesitation in Theo's eyes had long since disappeared, and his brain was already drifting away into the knowledge contained in the book.
Theo, who showed intense focus, was truly the image of a magician, regardless of his age.
* * *
As Theo started the journey, and it was different in many ways from what he thought. It was impossible to find the romance of adventure when he was literally in a carriage for hours. Sometimes he couldn't rest at night or could only take a short nap.
Despite this, Theodore, as the only magician and precious guest, wasn't tired at all. However, it was a murderous schedule for the merchants and mercenaries.
Of course, that didn't mean Theodore was just sitting there.
'...To the northeast, the distance is roughly 2 kilometers?'
After Mitra's abilities were awakened in the Great Forest, they could now be used in other regions. Right now, her power was telling him of an incoming enemy.
Theo could feel that there were 23 of them. Judging by the weight on the floor, they were hobgoblins. They were enemies which the procession could cope with on its own, but it would be annoying.
So, Theo's magic power spread into the distance.
It might not be perfect, but the presence of a 6th Circle magician, enhanced with Ring of Muspelheim, was incomparable to that of an ogre. The hobgoblins knew this intuitively and retreated. In this way, he drove back the creatures which had been approaching the carriage. The procession just thought they were lucky, and there was no need to break that illusion.
Theodore's purpose was to get to Kargas quietly, and it would only become noisy if he drew attention to it.
Thanks to Theo, the carriages moved smoothly without a hitch. By the time the horses had started panting heavily, the procession had reached the intended destination for a rest stop at nearly record speed.
It was the Sipoto Plains, which acted as the border for the Austen Kingdom and Kargas Kingdom. Unlike the grasslands which had been green until now, there was a vast stretch of plains where only sparse tufts of grass were growing.
As soon as they reached the beginning of the plains, Bear shouted loudly, "Stop! It is up to here for today! Mercenaries should be alert until the camp is ready, and the rest of the staff should get out of the carriages to install the tents and make the campfire. Then we'll start eating after that!"
During to his hulking figure, Bear's voice was rather loud. The sound of horseshoes was really loud, but Bear's yell went even beyond that.
Simultaneously, the restless horses stopped moving, and sweat poured down like a shower. The carriage drivers hastily poured water on them and comforted them. Then steam rose from the skin of the wet horses. This was the result of running harshly for a week. At least they could eat as much as they wanted today, as well as recover from the fatigue by sleeping.
After Bear gave the instructions, he looked back at Theodore and asked, "Theo. It will take some time for the meal to be prepared. What do you want to do until then?"
Theo thought for a moment. So far, he had hardly left the carriage except to eat. It was because he had turned to studying the ancient magic in order to calm his confused mind.
However, the result of the week long fierce concentration was as followed:
[* Your level of understanding is high. (84.5%)]
He couldn't say that he had mastered it perfectly, but he could use easy vocabulary to trigger the ancient language magic. From this point on, it wasn't just learning but using it directly. So, this wasn't something he could achieve from being stuck in the carriage.
Theodore thought this and jumped out of the carriage. "Then I will go and get some fresh air."
"There are few creatures in the Sipoto wilderness. I won't go too far away, so don't worry." Theo relieved Bear's anxious expression, then he stepped forward without thinking.
He walked until the carriages looked small and stared at the moon and stars shining in the wilderness.
'After the Sipoto Plains is the continent.'
The Sipoto Plains were different from the creepy Red Plateau. It had a similar bleak landscape, but signs of life could be felt here, unlike at the Red Plateau. Compared to ordinary land, the land here was weak, but it was still an area where people could live. However, there was a lack of food and water, so they couldn't live here long.
The real problem was in the land located beyond it. It was the Austen Kingdom, where the drought had started. The drought had spread and was killing this plain.
Theo had heard about the Austen Kingdom later from Vince, but he couldn't justify their reasons for kidnapping Ellenoa. However, they weren't evil people, and a sigh emerged as he thought about the warriors bending their pride.
So, Theo had to ask once.
"Gluttony. What was the cause of the drought that no magicians or scholars in the world could discover?"