Chapter 218: Time to go back.
“Thank you, so you are really going to stay behind?”
“Yes, this runic tower will help us against the evil heretics! I must thank you for lending me your runic expertise.”
“Is that so…”
Roland bowed before the golden-haired woman that was now looking a lot better. She was not a tier 3 class holder for nothing as within half a day she had recovered all of her lost health and stamina.
They had remained in the village until the next day. There were many injured people which required them to use up all of their healing potions that still remained. Luckily the next city wasn’t far away and the lands were now protected by the Valerian noble house. Running into bandits would be even less likely than having another cultist encounter.
During this time he had explained about the strange runic device as much as he could. He implied that it was due to his rune related class that he was able to awaken from the strange illusory world. To his surprise, this was enough to get Loreena’s approval. It seemed that she was somewhat able to discover the fake village.
Yet without any way of finding the core rune she was unable to free herself. Instead, she activated the defense mechanism and found herself being attacked by strange monstrosities. Only after Roland managed to disable the tower’s signals was she able to awaken.
“Will this letter be enough?”
Roland looked at a sealed letter that Loreena had written up for him. Due to her secret mission, she needed to remain here. This brought a problem to the table as he still wanted to pass his gold rank quest. If the person that he was required to escort didn’t arrive at the city then he would certainly fail. However, Loreena was thankful enough to write him up a letter that he was supposed to pass to the guild master of Reeka, the city that was his last stop.
“Yes, if you mention my name and give him this then everything will be taken care of.”
“Thank you and as we discussed before…”
“You’re a strange one Wayland, anyone else would be honored to be rewarded by the church your role in this incident was not minor are you sure you don’t wish to reconsider?”
“Yes, that would be best. It would be better if the cult didn’t know that I was involved in this affair.”
This was the only thing that he asked her for. She would be taking credit for everything while he would be left anonymous. He believed that the cult could get their hands on the official report which would point them straight to his workshop.
“As you wish then, I will keep this between you and I, but know this. I will be forever grateful for your help.”
He nodded while slipping the letter into his spatial bag. While he and all the others would be leaving this one woman would remain here. A few hours ago he saw her use a similar letter transportation spell as the cat professor from the magic academy. There were several blue swallows flying in all directions.
In their previous conversation, he implied that runic mages along with runesmiths would be indispensable in examining this relic. He himself wanted to go at it but his skill with tier 3 runes wasn’t quite there yet. In spite of that Roland was not going away empty-handed.
With the help of his debugging skill, he had copied over the schematic of the control medallion that was now in Loreena’s possession. With so many attempts at copying schematics from stores, he had gotten the hang of it now. Both this and the relic's main schematic was noted down but the more important part was the inside runic structure.
This he did not really have the time to research and copy from the larger relic. The only item he would be comfortable in decoding was the medallion that worked like a remote control. This was already a big step in the right direction as it could help him design countermeasures against that ‘signal’ the main runic item sent.
From what he could deduct the initial spell was activated by sound. Yet the possibility of a combination of sight and sound could not be excluded yet. The pulsating signal was there and it might be enough to block it to be protected from being caught in the illusion.
“I must also thank you for pointing me towards a worthwhile expert, that someone with connections to the magic academy like you was here, is truly a blessing from the goddess.”
“Ah yes, that person should be able to decipher the runic structure if you manage to get them here…”
Roland decided to go with a little gamble. He was not able to get through the complex marriage spell that was implanted into this double helix. There were high-tier runic mages that were more experienced than him and one of them was his mentor. Thus if Loreena managed to yank the cat over here to do some research, he might be able to get the information from him later.
‘Phew, for a moment I thought that she would force me to stay behind and help her decipher everything here.’
As he walked away his pace started to increase. The woman he interacted with could probably slice off his head in one move if she deemed him to be some cult member. Luckily after helping her with the strange tentacle monster he had gained her trust.
While he was able to survive this second encounter with the Abyssal Cult it was yet again thanks to another person. Without Loreena appearing out of the blue he would either be dead by now or running for his life through the forest like the other escapees.
His armor was able to pierce through a high level tier 3 monster but it would only work on an immobile enemy. It was not something he could repeatedly use against a fast-moving enemy or one that could regenerate themselves like this one.
Then there was also the problem of his armor’s runes degrading from overloading and being empowered. After two shots some of them had already degraded from the highest rating into the intermediate one. Without the ability to quickly mend them, they would have probably not been able to function past the second blast.
‘Should I focus on immobilizing my enemies or a more sustainable form of combat…’
Roland was not a battle expert and was limited to mostly encountering monsters in the dungeon. He had the basics down thanks to being trained at the noble household during his childhood. Yet even with a quick wit and battle awareness, there was no possibility of combating people with monstrous skills.
During the battle, thanks to his parallel thinking skill, he could keep up with some of the monster’s movements. Yet even if his mind could keep up it was not the same for his body. It took some time to inject mana into the armor to boost his stats and then react. Only by boosting himself with various spells was he even able to see part of Loreena’s sword movements.
He did not feel like he would last more than a few seconds during an exchange with that woman. The gap between him and a tier 3 class holder might have gotten a bit smaller but he was nowhere near strong enough to win a proper one-on-one duel. The only way he could see himself winning was by luring his opponent into a drawn-out battle where he utilized golems, ranged spells, and explosives.
His weapons were able to pierce through the monster’s body but this monster was specialized in regenerating itself. Its body was not heavily armored yet still proved troublesome for the high level tier 2 adventurers. The monsters varied in shape and specialization and depending on it he would need to alter his tactics.
“Are you finished with telling your girlfriend your goodbyes?”
“Yeah, we are finished, we can leave now.”
“... well you’re no fun.”
Senna’s attempt at teasing Roland had failed as he just ignored her comments. He had spent quite some time explaining the runic device while trying to squeeze some information about the cult from Loreena. To his dismay, she was unwilling to give out much besides some of their structure that he had witnessed here. While going up onto the new wagon which he now occupied with Dalrak, Orson and Senna he started thinking back to it.
The Abyssal Cult worshiped a prominent evil god that supposedly lived in some kind of void dimension. The thing they worshiped had no gender nor did it have a set physical form like other gods similar to Solaria. There was one thing that everyone agreed on, the creature had some kind of double helix protrusion coming out from its body that the cultists turned into their calling card.
Loreena told him that the creature that they thought was corrupted by the void god’s divinity. The corruption would rob the corrupted of their will and turn them into a creature with a desire that originated before the transformation. The monster’s form was something that was supposed to resemble its master. It was the same for the Abyssal Warlocks, he had seen one of them before and the tentacles along with growing more eyes was a similar trait they shared.
His new acquaintance didn’t go into much detail but it seemed that those tier 3 warlocks would be around the level of the Golden Order Knights she was a part of. She did not mention the goal of this cult nor what the brain parasites were for. The evil gods and monsters from other dimensions had various strange motives but mostly it was a battle for believers.
‘Perhaps the larva were there to alter the brain and turn anyone into another abyssal worshiper? Or perhaps they would turn them into mindless monsters to bolster their forces…’
Roland did not prod further as the reason was not that important. Even without knowing it, he knew that the cult had to be stopped. People with these larvae in their heads would not be aware of their existence. This was truly a terrifying thing to realize, anyone he knew could be infected.
The only way of curing those little pests was through divine energy that was in possession of high level priests. Yet without realizing that the process of contamination took place, no one would seek out a priest to have this cursed creature removed. It would fester in their head for god knows how long perhaps waiting for the right time to take the host over.
Fortunately, he had witnessed the removal of these little monsters by the hand of the divine swordmaster. The procedure was a lot easier than he expected as even without a proper healing spell it could be done. Loreena just needed to use her divine aura blade that radiated holy energies. After holding it close to the afflicted area the larva would deteriorate.
It was truly not for the faint of heart. During the procedure, the larva would panic and crawl outside through one of the host's orifices. This would either be the nose, the ears, or back through the eye socket. By this time it would have shrunk from the five-centimeter size down by a half and then directly turn into a puff of smoke.
‘It should be enough to go to the priest and tell them to focus their energies on the head…’
After witnessing this spectacle he had made up his mind to get a checkup. While he didn’t think that this was such a prevalent affliction he could never know. This expedition showed him that no one was safe, some of his acquaintances like Armand and Lobelia left the city regularly. They could have gone through this area on their travels and been infested by Abyssal parasites.
“What do you think will happen to those people?”
“I don’t know, just leave it to the church.”
As they were slowly moving away from the village, Senna posed a question to Orson that just shrugged. Even though they had removed the abyssal larvae from the inflicted they had stayed behind in the village. Loreena told them that the people that were directly affected by the abyssal corruption needed to be further inspected.
It was actually surprising that she just allowed all of the rest to leave. It didn’t seem that she was trying to hide that the incident took place like some other people in power would. He could not imagine the Valerian household allowing this info to leave the village if they could stop it. It would make them look bad that they allowed the evil cultists to occupy one of the villages in their main territory.
‘I guess the church doesn’t care? or is this woman just a peculiar case?’
After spending many years in this new world he had gained some insight into how the people in power operated. Mostly they would withhold any kind of disturbing information like this and try sweeping everything under the rug. Even when corrupt nobles were discovered everything was done to keep the information from spreading. They wanted to keep the commoners feeling content with their power structure, if it seemed that the rulers were incompetent then a revolt was more likely.
Loreena was a peculiar case then, even when being part of something called the Golden Order she didn’t feel like a proper knight. Her class distribution made her look like an adventurer as usual someone at her position would have a paladin class instead. People with those classes were usually a lot more fanatic about their belief in god.
How she handled the infected was also quite mild. From his research concerning the wars between the cultists and the church zealots, the results were mostly more bloody. The Paladins usually went to more extreme lengths of erasing anyone with potential ties to evil gods. It didn’t seem that he was the only one thinking this as his travel companions started to speak up.
“Aye, that girly scared me for a moment, though she would have taken that lass’ head.”
Darlak spoke up after their smaller caravan had finally left the village and they were on their way.
“Yeah, when she pulled out that glowing sword I thought she would slaughter them all.”
“Yeah, that was strange? Was she really from the Golden Order? Heard those guys aren’t much different from the cultists.”
The denizens of this world confirmed his thoughts as it was more likely for a high tier church member to burn the village down along with the afflicted than to help them out directly. Yet she still had them stay behind, if those people survived when the rest of the inquisitors arrived at the palace was up to debate.
“You don’t think that she just sent us away so that her church allies can ambush us in the woods? You all saw that woman use that communication spell.”
After speaking about religious cleansings Senna started looking nervous. It seemed to have gotten the attention of the others that quickly grabbed their weapons to protect themselves.
“Why would she do that? Not like she wouldn’t be able to kill us in the village by herself.”
Roland commented while not believing the conspiracy theory yet but the others weren’t convinced.
“She wouldn’t be able to get us all but if there is a larger force surrounding us then perhaps…”
Senna replied while somewhat making some sense. There were a lot of survivors in the village and Loreena might not have been able to kill everyone if they spread out into the forest.
“There were others that escaped before we even left, at this point what can they do? Stop making stuff up you idiots”
Grisalde called out from the top of the cart all of them were now on. A part of the adventurers along with the merchant owner had already escaped before the monster was slain. Even if the church killed them all now the information would already leave this place.
Luckily the kill would be attributed to the Golden Order member and not to the wandering rune mage that was along for the ride. He had gained a good shield to shift blame onto but if his new acquaintance would be able to keep his involvement hidden was unknown to him.
One thing he was convinced of though, the woman sounded genuine in her words so he was not expecting any paladins to cleanse this smaller caravan. Thus while his adventure companions continued to stress out about it he just leaned back and already thought about what he could do when he returned home.