"There! I can see it!" Aisha cried as she pointed at the white and yellow brick pathway leading into a cluster of similarly built houses.

"It's really big," Elsword commented as he gazed down at the town.

"It is a big trade center, from what Lowe told us," Aisha replied.

"I wonder how we're going to find one person among all those people…" he thought out loud, ignoring Aisha's remarks.

"Listen when I'm talking to you-!"

"We'll just have to enter and see for ourselves," Rena cut in, striding down the hill confidently. Aisha and Elsword trailed behind. As they entered Elder they noticed a man talking to another person, presumably a merchant from the large wooden cart behind him.

"I'm sorry, but I cannot help you. I've had six other merchants report this to me today, and I've told all of them the same thing. Until the guards get their act together and actually do something for once, there's nothing I can do."

"Tch! You may be the head of us merchants in Elder but you're sure as hell useless," the merchant hissed as he marched away, dragging his empty cart along with him. Aisha shared a glance with Rena.

The head of merchants…?

Elsword walked up to the man as soon as the other merchant left. "So are you Hoffman? Do you know of a bandit named Banthus?"

"...Ahem," Rena coughed as Aisha shot daggers at Elsword. "Excuse me sir, are you Mr. Hoffman? Head of the merchants in Elder? We've come to see you as Hagus instructed."

"That would be me. I've heard a lot about you from Hagus," Hoffman smiled. "Why don't you come to my house? We can talk there."

"Yes please, my legs are killing me," Aisha agreed as the three of them followed Hoffman.

"Are you sure this was the right decision?" Lowe and Hagus were both sitting in the chief's office, debating with each other. "Elsword may have been strong, but he's still a child. As for the other two, they're only travellers, and they don't have any reason to help us."

"The elf, Rena, is quite diligent. I'm sure she'll be able to help Elsword retrieve the El. As for your other point… those two travellers wouldn't have helped us if they didn't want to. I'm sure it'll be fine entrusting them to carry on the search. Besides, you had them join the El Scouts for a reason."

"Well, I didn't think it would come to this," Lowe sighed. "And I thought that I'd be accompanying them if we did have to go out of the area. I suppose you're right, though." He frowned. "I can't help but worry. We may have a few months left before the absence of the El really starts affecting us, but the sooner we get back the El Shard, the less decay the forest will undergo."

"I know." They both sat there in silence for a while. "However, it's not as though we have much of a choice. You need to stay here for your training duties, and by the time we can inform any of the Red Knights it might already be too late."

"I know that," Lowe sighed once again. "Well, I suppose it was about time Elsword left this town. He's gotten pretty strong. With the help of those two travellers, I'm sure he'll be able to find his sister one day."

"Hopefully the other two travellers will be able to accomplish their goals as well," Hagus added. "I can't shake off the feeling that they've come to Ruben with a purpose."

"We'll just have to wait and see, huh…" Lowe stretched out his arms as he rose. "Speaking of travellers, have you heard that a blonde haired boy in white armor hailing from Hamel came to visit this place?"

"Hamel? That's quite far away. Hamel is located in the southern continent Fluone, after all."

"Apparently, he wanted to see the famous El Shard of Ruben, but when I told him about the situation he immediately promised he would do everything he could to get it back."

"That's quite an energetic young lad," Hagus smiled.

"Quit dodging around with statements. I bet you didn't even know that he was in the village," Lowe accused.

"I suppose I've been slacking off a little in my duties as chief lately," Hagus chuckled. "Did you tell him about Elsword and the other two looking for the El Shard as well?"

"I told him everything I knew, seeing as how he was so eager to help. He already left for Elder a while ago."

"Say, how old is this boy?"

"Hm? I never asked, but he seemed to be around the same size as Elsword."

"So he's possibly the same age as Elsword? I must say, if those two ever meet it'll likely turn out quite interesting. For a boy to travel so far… It probably puts him on par with Elsword in terms of natural talent."

"Yeah," Lowe agreed. "Anyway, I'm off. I've got rookies to train." He raised a hand in farewell as he left the office.

"A boy in white armor hailing from Hamel…" Hagus muttered to himself after Lowe left. "Well, there's no point in dwelling on it." He turned to his paperwork before stopping abruptly. "I wonder if Elsword has arrived in Elder by now…?"

"More tea?" Hoffman asked.

"No thanks. We've had enough tea," Aisha declined. "Could you tell us about Banthus?"

"Hmm… Well, you see, Banthus is quite known in Elder as well. Recently, other villages have had their El Shard go missing, just like in Ruben. Not only that, but the Lord of Elder, Wally, isn't doing a single thing to help. All of his guards are locked up in the castle."

"How do you know the situation in the other villages are the same as Ruben's?" Rena questioned. "It's always possible that it simply went missing, instead of being stolen." Rena frowned, before amending her statement. "Even though it is highly unlikely."

"There's been a huge increase of bandits roaming around the area," Hoffman answered. "That's all the proof we need. El Shards simply do not go missing overnight. One El Shard, maybe. Like you said, while it is unlikely, there's always the possibility of the El Shard simply being missing. However, it's impossible for so many El Shards to just disappear. It has to be the bandits. Besides, they haven't stuck to stealing just El Shards either."

"You're kidding me," Aisha groaned.

Hagus nodded. "Many traveling merchants have been robbed as they go in and out of Elder."

"So that's why there were so many bandits on our way here…" Elsword muttered under his breath.

"Needless to say, a lot of the merchants are very unhappy as a result. Because of that, many of them will probably be unwilling to help you."

"What?!" Elsword burst out. "We're trying to locate Ruben's El Shard, which is probably with Banthus, who is the leader of a gang of bandits! Why wouldn't they want to help?"

"They do not believe that you are capable enough," Hagus answered simply. "To merchants, trust is one of the most important things, and they would not be willing to trust a couple of adventurers."

"Capable? I'll show them capable-!" Aisha hissed to herself.

"What do we need to do?" Rena interrupted.

"Hmm… let's see… If you were to take back some of the stolen goods that have been taken from the merchants I'm sure they'll be happy to lend you a hand in your search," he deduced. "Just outside the village there's a memorial bridge dedicated to Wally." He frowned as he said the name. "A lot of bandits are hanging around the bridge, attacking anyone who pass. I'm sure some of those bandits will have a few stolen goods from the merchants."

"Fine by me. I don't like those bandits just hanging around so close," Elsword said as he stood up. "Where to?"

"It should be to your left after you leave. You can always ask some of the other townsfolk for directions if you have to, although it'll likely cost you."

"Uh, no thanks, mister," Aisha muttered.

"Right then!" Elsword exclaimed, cracking his knuckles. "Time to beat up some bandits!"

YEAAAAAAAAH! Let's hope that things actually heat up! (although it's still probably going to crawl along in an insanely boring fashion...)

I probably won't be updating as frequently; school's starting in a few days e.e (but then again I never updated frequently in the first place... rippu)

That said, welcome to Elder! Hopefully I'll actually be motivated to write somewhat! (yeah, nope, procrastination rules... and the interesting bits don't really happen until later on...)

Maybe I'll be more motivated when I get to Bethma? ...I probably jinxed it just now, didn't I.

I do have something special for Bethma though (at first I thought of the arc as completely useless but then I realized that it could be used to cram in a whole bunch of character shticks (because it was so useless to the story imo) and now I'm super excited at being able to mentally abuse some of the chars and jsakldfjnlkjdjsklaafsaa). LIFE LESSONS, PEOPLE!

atm the most "useless" arc is probably Feita, even though the demons are introduced and etc. Maybe the arc could be used to fully flesh out Raven and/or Eve's char...?

I'm planning too far ahead again.

I'm rambling again.

I'll just shut up now.