Episode 33 – Camping in Style
Elaru scratched her head sheepishly. “Do you have any friends living in Ashar that would let us crash at their place for a night?”
“Me? I don’t have any friends in Beyd let alone Ashar! What about you? Aren’t you supposed to be an adventurer? Surely you know a lot of people who’d be willing to help out.”
Elaru chuckled awkwardly. “I guess we have no choice but to sleep in the forest?”
Kiel’s face turned sour. He looked back towards Hot Pot. “You know…now that I think about it…those guys might not be here for me at all. Why don’t I just go and have a little chat with them…hey! Where are you going? Come back!”
Elaru didn’t even wait for him to finish before she flew back in the same direction they came from. Kiel “tsked” but nonetheless chose to follow. Sleeping on the hard ground wasn’t that bad…maybe Elaru could do some magic and transmute the ground into soft sand? However, the trip back was a pain…
He wouldn’t have complained had he known the disaster he had just avoided.
If Elaru had been less observant that night, Kiel’s path as the student of the Ashar University of Magic would have ended then and there.
No. Actually, there were no ‘ifs’ involved.
Elaru was never “less observant”. For 18 years she had lived on the edge, one step away from the bottom of the cliff. It took only a second of negligence, a single slow reaction, a single misstep, for her to end up at the bottom of the cliff.
It wasn’t that she searched for irregularities and suspicious behavior. It wasn’t that she was paranoid and edgy. No. The closer she was to the edge, the calmer she became. Her constant flawless awareness of her surroundings had stopped being a conscious decision long ago. It had seeped deep into her bones becoming second nature. Something she didn’t think about, something that happened on its own.
It was the edge that pushed her to improve, to absorb all knowledge she came into contact with like a sponge, to constantly improve in every way. To not make mistakes.
Yet, no matter how she walked along the edge, she was unable to reach the summit of the cliff, to reach the top and look down at all creation.
What chained her back was time.
Time. The most valuable commodity that no amount of money could buy. Something effort and talent couldn’t surpass.
Time constantly went forward, never retreating or slowing down.
Time already passed was forever lost.
(Meanwhile in the Rroda Mainhouse, Ashar)
Venric Rroda looked at the large clock hanging on the wall of his office, a slight frown making its way to his face.
“Lawrence. Did you send someone to pick Kiel Rroda up?” The iciness of his voice was enough to cause people to shudder.
His mood was exceedingly sour. His men had combed through the estate two times already, not finding anything out of the ordinary. To anyone else, that would be good news. However, Venric Rroda didn’t view it in the same way.
If his men had found something out of the ordinary, the pechuh would be out of the bag. He would have found out the motive of Elaru Wayvin. No matter how capable or dangerous a person was, once their goal became clear, it would be easy to deal with them.
However, right now, he still knew absolutely nothing. That irked him to no avail. He was very clear on one thing: the most dangerous existences are those who cannot be seen through.
The most dangerous weapons were not giant great swords or axes. No; the most dangerous weapons were hidden weapons.
The most dangerous foes weren’t his most powerful enemies, but the ones that he didn’t even know he had.
Lawrence remained as calm as ever as if he couldn’t feel the icy atmosphere at all. “Yes, your grace.” He had indeed arranged some men to find the young master.
Venric eyes narrowed. “Why isn’t he here then?” Venric’s Mind always remained stretched to cover the whole estate. He could feel everyone coming in and out of the estate. And Kiel Rroda clearly was not among them.
Lawrence was wondering the same thing. How hard of a job could it be? He even sent two battlemages to ensure the job got carried out without a hitch. “Your grace, perhaps Kiel Rroda is no longer staying at the same inn? Or perhaps the men ran into some difficulty? I’ll send someone to inquire about the current situation.”
Lawrence observed his Lord closely, as Venric showed no signs of disagreement, he bowed and left the premises.
Having no place to go, Kiel and Elaru returned to the same clearing as before.
Elaru, once again, proved to be quite prepared. She found a nice spot, hidden from view, and with a slam of her foot, turned the earth in the radius of two meters into soft sand.
After that, she took out two rolls of green silk from her bags. The sheets of cloth seemed extremely thin and fragile.
She spread one of the rolls over the sand. Since the sheet was thin, the small roll managed to cover 4 square meters of ground – more than enough for both of them to lie comfortably on it.
She pulled out 4 small mana crystals from one of her pouches. She flicked them to fall on the corners of the silk blanket. Surprisingly, the crystals made the silk dip down into the sand, as if it was hit by a hammer.
Kiel’s eyes glittered in recognition. Those crystals were enchanted with a weight altering spell so they could become extremely light or heavy when used by a mage.
Elaru had altered their weight to become heavy so no wind would be able to blow away their blanket.
As he noticed that the thin blanket didn’t show any tears when hit by a heavy crystal, Kiel finally realized what the blanket was made out of – scaled spidersilk. Not only was it incredibly durable and flexible, but it was also resistant to heat and cold. It was an expensive material often used to create high-grade cloth armor.
Yet she was using it as a blanket?!
Scaled spidersilk as a blanket, weight altering crystals as anchors. Isn’t all of this a bit too extravagant? They were camping out in the open, yet she made their camp as comfortable as staying at an inn.
To top it all, she brought out her enchanted metal egg and aligned it properly to create a barrier around their campsite so no creatures or people could disturb them.
Then she laid down on the spread blanket and used the other roll of spidersilk to cover herself. Her face was blissful as if she was finally home.
Kiel was already turning numb to her surprises. He had an urge to open every single compartment Elaru had on her and check out what wonders hide within. None of the things she pulled out were shabby in any way. It made Kiel curious about what else she had inside. He even took note of the volume of everything she pulled out up to now and figured that there was still space inside her bags for more things.
After a while, he just sighed and lied on his back next to her.
What greeted him was a clear black sky, filled with countless glowing dots. The two moons circling Halnea were glowing brightly – one silvery white, one bright orange. In the depths, among the stars, one could even see vivid colored glittery clouds of dust.
Resting on the soft, silky blanket, surrounded by the beautiful scenery, Kiel finally understood why Elaru seemed to feel at home out in the open.
Her little gadgets removed all the bad sides from camping in the woods. No bugs, snakes or other critters could come through the barrier to bite them. No lupaxes or lunars could sneak attack them. The hard ground had turned soft and comfortable.
Without the drawbacks, all that were left were the benefits.
The beautifully lit night sky. The soft night breeze making the temperature feel just right. Countless quiet noises of the forest combined with the sounds of the nearby waterfall turned into a soothing lullaby.
Even though he was very excited for the tomorrow’s exams, even though his mind wasn’t quite ready to doze off. The tiredness of his body, coupled with the relaxing atmosphere overcame everything, lulling him to sleep.
His long eyelashes fluttered and soon his breathing became rhythmic and soothing.
Venric Rroda stared into thin air, deep in thought.
The report had just come in. Kiel Rroda and Elaru Wayvin never returned to the inn. Allegedly they left in the morning. When they had questioned the owner of the inn on whether they had checked out, the lady told them that Elaru Wayvin didn’t need to check out, since she had her own, exclusive room in the inn.
For a girl of unknown origin to have an exclusive room in an inn, didn’t leave him with a good feeling.
“Should I have their whereabouts investigated, your grace?” Lawrence, stood by his side, asking in a soothing tone.
“No.” Venric waved his hand in dismissal. “It is a pointless endeavor. Tomorrow is the first day of the exams. They’ll have no choice but to come take them. Send some men to wait for them in front of the University and prevent Kiel Rroda from entering.”
“Yes, your grace.”
Monday, 27th of August 1449 A.W.
Muni Exams: Day 1
When Kiel Rroda woke up that fine Monday morning, he was brimming with energy. Today was the first day of the exams. His rise to prominence started today!
Yet, instead of feeling thrilled, the first emotion that hit him was devastating regret.
Why?! Why didn’t I remember to place a fence between us?!
Although he felt warm and comfortable, his body stiffened and froze in place.
His arms were incredibly full. Full of warm, soft flesh, that, unfortunately, didn’t belong to himself.
Elaru was more lying on him than the blanket. She was using his chest as a pillow. Her body was tightly pressed against his. And to make matters worse, his hand was comfortably wrapped around her keeping her right where she was.
He couldn’t even blame it all on Elaru, because upon further inspection, it wasn’t her that made her way towards him during the night. No. Both of them had, again, congregated to the center of the blanket.
Kiel would have let out an anguished cry of “Why?!” if he wasn’t afraid of waking Elaru up. He needed to move out of this position, right now. This situation could only get more awkward with the passage of time.
But how could he move her away? She was lying on top of him. He couldn’t move at all. He couldn’t even use acceleration magic to make her float away from him gently because the vixen still had a dense layer of mage armor wrapped around her body.
How could she retain her mage armor in her sleep?? It made no sense!
His forehead was already drenched with cold sweat. From where their bodies touched, spread warm tingles that felt wonderful. Yet, Kiel didn’t find the situation wonderful in the least.
While his body was enjoying the sensation, his mind was in turmoil. This felt both absolutely right and undeniably wrong.
While his mind and body were sending mixed signals, even his heart joined in on the chaos – from his chest spread a dull ache.