- "Dammit, my body is still weak. Even though my core is still cyan, the effects of the change are similar to the evolution process. Invigoration has no effect. I need real rest to recuperate."
"Your mind is not faring better either. You are still wearing your hunter suit, if you don't change it, not only it would rise lots of questions, but I doubt they will let you in the academy." Solus pointed out. –
The leather sleeves were reduced to shreds, the chest presented a giant hole, like someone had tried to rip his heart out, the metal protectors had whole chunks missing and between the bloodstains and the impurities it seemed that Lith had stolen the clothes from a battlefield.
Inwardly cursing his own stupidity, Lith returned below the tree line, swapping the clothes in mid air via the dimensional pocket.
After walking through the castle gates, he was halted by the front desk clerk, demanding to have back the distress device. It was the same middle-aged man that had lectured Lith that morning.
Seeing him with his hands and face dirtied by having slept on the ground, his short breath and worried expression, the clerk assumed that going solo didn't do well for the arrogant fourth-year student.
His chestnut eyes shone with gloat, while a condescending smile cracked his otherwise thick beard.
"Seems you had to experience for yourself how harsh the world out there. Not everyone can be a hero, now you know it."
Lith looked at him like a madman, he had already forgotten about him, so those words made no sense to him.
"There, there." The clerk continued, mistaking his confusion for embarrassment. "At least you came out alive without needing to ask for help. Also, you remembered my advice and returned before sundown. Realizing your mistakes and learning from your seniors is fundamental at your age."
Normally Lith would have recognized him already, pondering if attempting to poison the clerk's mana core from a distance with spirit magic.
But worried as he were, he just pretended to be listening, nodding from time to time. Lith was so tired that even thinking was a struggle. Ever since he had seen the end of the vision, he was trying to put the pieces together.
All he wanted was to take a short bath to get rid of all the dirt, sweat and blood dirtying his body and then sleep for a whole week, but the scene of his parents murdered and his sisters screaming for help haunted his mind.
- "According to the vision the steps of the events are: 1) the mercenaries killing Nok. And that is out of the picture. Then 2) after that they were supposed to do a delivery, somehow connected to the fall of the academy.
Guess that part was metaphorical, to bring down the castle it would take an earthquake measuring at least an eight on the Richter scale. Which would lead to 3) a civil war and to 4) the destruction of Lutia.
It's unclear if it would happen by coincidence or because I pissed off someone in particular, but it doesn't matter. If my soul is a d*ck as much as I am, the reason it showed me all this is because more than anything I want to save them. Right, Solus?"
"Yeah, it makes sense, especially the d*ckery part. Guess that savings fluffy cubs and thousands of innocents is really not your style…" She had a dejected tone. After all that hoping for him to find true love or friendship, once again was just an egoistical reason. To her Lith and his soul were indeed a match made by the heavens.
"F*ck the innocents! I'm nobody's hero. A world that despite having billions of people can only be saved by someone brave and dumb enough to sacrifice himself for strangers, it's a world not deserving to be saved." –
In the privacy of his room, Lith took out the communication amulet, thinking what exactly to tell Marchioness Distar.
He couldn't sleep before making sure that the events he had spectated had yet to happen, but if he did call her, then he would need to spill the beans without having the opportunity to make up a believable backstory.
The truth was too dangerous for him, and calling her the day after would destroy his credibility. Who in his right mind would take seriously someone that needed a power nap before reporting a threat to the Kingdom?
But without sleep, he had a hard time concentrating, let alone being convincing while spouting bullsh*t. It was another catch-22 paradox
Too tired to find a solution, he simply made the call.
The Marchioness answered almost immediately, seated behind a luxurious desk riddled with books and sheets of papers. She had her hair down with no particular hairstyle, wearing something between a pajama and sweatpants.
She looked almost as tired as him, her annoyance was visible as much as audible.
"You again. What has happened this time?"
"I'm really sorry to bother you at this hour, your Ladyship, but I need to know if everything is alright with my family. I bring grave news."
The last phrase, coupled with the desperation in his voice changed her attitude in a blink.
"I already received today's report, but let me double check right now."
The communication remained open, but her image disappeared for a few seconds.
- "This thing can put on hold?" –
"All present and accounted for, the sky has yet to fall." She said with a slight smile.
"Now, what were you saying about grave news?" She leaned with her elbows on the desk, her eyes steeling.
"Before starting my story, your Ladyship, do you believe in supernatural? Things like souls, destiny and so on?" Lith was desperately trying to find a way to not look like a raving maniac.
"Child, you are starting to sound like my husband when he proposed. If you have just disturbed me because of a girl, that's inappropriate at best. No matter what you believe right now, whoever you have met is not the right one."
Inwardly cursing his poor choice of words, Lith rushed to explain.
- "The best lie is a half-truth. Here goes everything." –
He told her how he managed to save a dryad by sheer luck, and that she rewarded him with a vision about his heart's desire. That following her directions he had found a group of hunters fighting to the death with a powerful Byk necromancer defending its cub.
In this version of the story he was just a spectator, and Kalla did all the hard work.
Lastly, that on the verge of death, one of the hunters still alive, after Lith had tried to save her, had a change of heart, regretting her life choices and gave him a wooden box and a coded letter, revealing to him that she was meant to give it to someone inside of the academy, but had died before telling him who.
"A dryad needing your help?" She had a good laugh at his expenses.
"Didn't she give you something more practical than a silly vision? I don't know, her heart or some earthly treasure?"
"I refused her heart." Lith explained making the Marchioness almost choke on her next laugh. "I'm too young for a relationship and she was way too flashy for an academy. But I still got loot, I mean rewards."
He took out the ransom the blond dryad had paid to save her sister's live.
"I can't see them well like this. Put them over the amulet's gem, please." She didn't know what to think. So far, the story was too odd to be made up.
When Lith did as instructed, the various natural treasures floated in the air. The light from the stone enveloped them like a 3D scanner, giving the Marchioness a life-size image that replaced Lith's.
- "Is there something this thing can't do?" Lith was flabbergasted by the second unknown function of the day. "Why can't it make a decent coffee? I miss coffee so much I could kill for a cup." -
"By the gods and their children, I believe you! Now put those treasures away and show them to no one. They are very precious. Many would say too much for someone like you to have them." Lith saw the greed in her eyes, but it was a calculated risk.
To further his story, he described in detail the plant Abomination, nerfing it enough to make plausible for Lith's normal skillset to defeat it.
"If you still have any doubts, there is a whole patch of the forest that's gone completely bald. It will take months for it to recover a shred of green."
The Marchioness looked at him with renewed admiration.
"I had heard great things about your little team, but honestly I didn't expect so much from them. It's amazing for fourth-year students, no matter how talented, to suppress a monster"
"All thanks to teamwork." Even half-asleep, Lith realized that a gun he was completely unaware of, had just shot his own foot.