Alright here's the next chapter and in response to some reviews I feel the need to remind people that Audrey's already unlocked the curse series back during the forced duel between Naofumi and Motoyasu when she saw the state Naofumi was reduced to and almost decided the world wasn't worth saving back then the last chapter was the first time she actually used it but again she already had it for a while
Disclaimer: I don't own Rotsh
To say Audrey found herself dumbstruck by the rather unanticipated reception was an understatement, honestly all things considered she didn't even expect to even be the center of attention let alone have it be anything even remotely positive.
You're really the bow hero?!" A member of the crowd asked.
"Ye-yeah." Audrey answered whilst scratching the side of her head still having a hard time wrapping her head around this development. Both Baxley and Bluebell were just as dumbfounded. While the latter companion realized a bit back that Audrey's identity as the bow hero was out thanks to the invasion the group had just finished fighting off she wasn't completely sure what reception Audrey would even get.
While her reputation overall was better than Naofumi there was still some damage to it and that was barring the initial warriness she had received from the refugees of Cadia once they discovered she was one of the four cardinal heroes. Still this wasn't unwelcome, if anything Bluebell found herself hoping this would lift Audrey's spirits especially after the dilemma she was just faced earlier today.
"To think we'd be able to meet one of the legendary heroes!" One of the townspeople said.
"I thought the heroes were just a myth!" Exclaimed another.
"One of them actually came to this settlement, I would never have imagined this in all of my lifetime."
"And think they'd be a pretty lady!" Someone else noted.
"So what's the bow hero doing in here?" Another villager asked.
Upon hearing that everyone began looking at Audrey awaiting an answer from her which caused her to sweat drop and let out an awkward chuckle. "Well if you're all that curious I actually came here to take care of whatever was causing the disappearances."
One of the villagers wore a worried look on their face. "Are you certain that's what you wish to do?"
"Yeah it's something that needs to be taken care of right? And it'll also help me and my companions grow that much stronger so it'll be like taking out birds with one stone."
"I'm sure she can do it, she's already shown she's really strong when she was putting that bandit leader in his place." One of the villager's said, referring to Audrey's fight with Berg just prior.
"Yeah it'll be a relief when we don't have to worry anymore about the increasing number of disappearances or deaths."
Little by little everyone in the room began voicing some form of agreement until it had become essentially unanimous. While the vote of confidence was somewhat appealing Audrey knew better than to let it make her complacent, if what information she was able to gather it was at least clear that the target wasn't going to be a pushover and if the sight of the corpse her party found was enough of an indicator the target by subtle about its desire to kill her or the others. "We intend to succeed." Was all the bow hero could come with but it earned cheers from everyone present.
"While I appreciate the praise I would really like to know how the rest of the village is doing."
The owner of the inn just smiled "If that's all that's all then why don't you go see for yourself."
Audrey couldn't help but chuckle at the fact that what the inn owner had just said hadn't occurred to her due to hoping that she'd get her answer from one of the villagers and being initially distracted by the praise she was receiving. The girl still attached to Audrey's midriff looked to one of the adults who the bow hero could only guess to be their parent. "Can I go with the bow hero?"
"Only if she's okay with it, Maybelline."
The girl who was now identified as "Maybelline" Looked at Audrey with pleading eyes that made it more or less impossible to turn down her request even if she wanted to.
"Alright but don't stray from my sight until we get back."
With that the entire party plus Maybelline left the inn heading outside. Audrey was a bit relieved to see that any potential bodies left laying around were already cleared out of the village so she didn't have to worry about exposing Maybelline to any gruesome sights that were inappropriate for a child or any person for that matter to ever witness.
"How long was I out?" Audrey inquired to Bluebell.
"Almost two entire hours."
That explained why the villagers had already taken care of the bodies of the mercenaries.
Baxley shrugged whilst glancing around the place seeing various villagers looming in the party's direction and more so to the point Audrey's "I decided to help clean things up after all the fighting was done."
Bluebell looked at the demi human member with "So that's why you didn't tell me that the ordeal was over with until after Audrey had just gotten up?"
"Blame that Nera woman, she insisted on me helping since according to her "I needed to make up for being an unnecessary burden that almost brought a new disaster on Herba." And helping clear out the mess made was the ideal way to do it."
Bluebell couldn't help but sweat drop at that. From what she had seen from her brief interaction with Nera she had learned that the enigmatic mage specialized in dark magic, that she was powerful in fact it was safe to assume she was the strongest person currently in Herba considering she overpowered and subdued Audrey, and she was…. more than a bit blunt with whatever she said to an even greater degree than Bluebell had originally thought.
"Well that aside, what's the state of the village?"
"As you can see not a single building is burnt down and the villagers in spite of being shaken up look to be preoccupied with the realization of who Audrey actually is."
"We both have." Audrey followed up all while patting Maybelline's head. Indeed everyone outside was either glancing if not downright starring in her direction, it was a bit easier to deal with since everyone wasn't crowding around her likely because they were getting ready to dispose of the bodies they removed village and the overall reception while not on the level of the Inn was still positive.
Unlike the capital where most of the people would stare at Audrey like she had lost her mind or question why she sided with Naofumi in hushed whispers thinking she was unable to hear them the people here were mainly commenting about whether or not Audrey was truly the legendary bow hero or not with the better part of them believing it and the others remaining unsure.
All in all it helped take Audrey's mind of past and present negative things such as Cadia, or Naofumi's situation. Ironically another distraction came up in the form of a familiar chirp as Mason popped out of the folds of Audrey's cloak.
Immediately Maybelline took notice and it became clear she was taken in by how adorable Mason was as stars practically appeared in her eyes.
Mason noticed the infatuated girl staring up at him. "Gwaii?"
The sight caused Audrey to chuckle a bit. "Would you like to hold him?"
"Yes!/yes!" Two voices said simultaneously, one of them of course coming from the individual the question was intended for that being Maybelline and the other "yes" coming from a giddy Bluebell who like the former was staring at Mason with stars in her eyes.
Sighing Audrey simply handed the Filolial chick over to Maybelline informing her to be very gentle with Mason which the girl complied before turning to Bluebell who may as well have turned ghostly white like an anime character that just because so dumbfounded they died on the inside. "You do understand that the question was meant for Maybelline right?"
Bluebell simply began repeatedly muttering "it's not fair" under her breath whilst following the party.
"Well I think she'll be alright with enough time." Baxley mused.
"Hopefully, we need her for the mission tomorrow night and besides that she already got to pet Mason earlier before our exploration into the grove started."
"True but something tells me she might not completely come out of this phase until Mason grows into a fully grown Filolial."
"Point taken, luckily it should only be a few days tops."
"Let's hope so."
Whilst assessing the state of Herba Audrey spotted two peculiar items on one of the carts left behind by the defeated mercs and walked over to them with her party following close behind.
The first of the items was a gemstone big enough to fill the palm of her hand if she held it. The second was a bow made of plain wood although it had a longer frame than the. wood bow variant she had within her Arsenal
Looking it over Audrey wondered if it simply counted as another basic wood bow or has what it would be called in her world. Coincidently her hud gave the bow hero a notification which answered her question.
That confirmed what it was now that left the question of if there was any way for her to obtain its corresponding form for the legendary bow she had locked to her person. She couldn't absorb the thing in its entirety into her own weapon but she also couldn't just break off a piece of it either since it would just be a piece of wood at that point and would unlock the wood bow if it wasn't already unlocked.
Instinctively Audrey grabbed the long bow looking at it more closely wishing she had a clear cut way to obtain her own version, it would be pretty convenient if she could just copy the thing…..
New notification: weapon copied "long bow"
Long bow unlocked:
stat bonus: spd + 5 atk+ 3
Equip bonus: maximum range up (medium)
Audrey found herself completely dumbfounded by what had happened for a few seconds before she finished processing what had just happened.
"Um Audrey are you okay?" Baxley asked.
"Yeah, I think I just got hit with a revelation that'll help me going forward. I just need a moment to confirm it!" Audrey exclaimed, tossing the original long bow back on the cart before taking her own from her back and changing its form into an exact copy of it.
To Bluebell's shock. "Audrey I didn't see you absorb anything from the other bow."
"That's because I actually didn't. I just grabbed a hold of it wishing I could somehow copy it and a second later I got a notification in my hub saying that I had done just that."
"Really? I don't recall you being able to do that before."
"That's because I didn't know I could until now. It's just like with the instant item creation." Audrey mused and now that she thought about it there had been a few times where her hud never showed her certain information unless she somehow stumbled upon it or at least something indirectly related to the information in question. It was almost as if…
"That's amazing now that you can copy other bows you don't have you can get a good deal of new ones when we see Erhart again." Bluebell said snapping the bow hero from her thoughts.
"Yeah those should hopefully provide enough bonuses to ensure we're ready for whatever comes forward." Although this discovery would have been convenient sooner before she left the capital, she really wished she had set it has a destination point since she already had the transport bow within her arsonal but she had never got around to picking any destinations since her mind was always preoccupied with everything going on around her or didn't bother because of the place in question (the latter mainly pertained to the capital since its people were the most adamant about hating Naofumi, questioning her mindset, and sucking up to the other heroes who weren't even taking the situation seriously) so using the transport bow to go there was out of the question.
Nothing could be done about that predicament as of now, not unless she wanted to extend the mission by another three days. Shifting her attention in question she picked it up and analyzed it.
Magic thread gemstone
Interesting, maybe she might be able to use this to upgrade her gear along with her party's it'll would likely have to make a reward in place of the original one since if her suspicions about how the mercenaries were even aware she was in Herba at all meant that the guildmaster at the capitol didn't intend to give her the reward posted for the mission if he was trying to set her up to die.
"We might be able to use this thing to upgrade our gear when we get back to the capitol."
"Sounds good to me." Baxley mused.
"Glad to hear it, what about you Bluebell…?"
Audrey sweatdropped all over again as she saw Bluebell still in a depressed state muttering "it's not fair" repeatedly.
'Mason you need to grow up fast'
Walking closer to Baxley Audrey spoke in a low enough tone so Maybelline who was distracted by Mason wouldn't hear. 'how far are the villagers with disposing of the bodies
"They took the bodies over to a nearby empty cave to burn them there."
"Alright, let's head over to the tavern."
"Okay. Is there something over there you want to see?"
"Mainly how the proprietor is holding up after what happened he was the one who gave us the extra information on our target.
Baxley shrugged, "Fair enough." The demi human then turned to the depressed Bluebell and sighed. "Come on, we're going to the tavern."
The sky blue haired sword user followed whilst still muttering "it's not fair." Making Baxley feel the need to inwardly question if she was going to keep this up for the rest of the day.
Once the party reached the tavern everyone present turned to see them for the obvious reason before the proprietor of the tavern spoke up. "Well if it isn't Herba's savior!"
Everyone let out consecutive cheers causing Audrey to blush ever so slightly, even though she had been experiencing this kind of appreciation back at the inn and to a lesser extent outside but even now it felt a bit forgien. "Man, to think the person that's taking the mission to deal with whatever's offing anyone who ventures into the grove on every third night."
"Sorry I wasn't trying to hide it per say I just didn't feel the need to bring it up."
"That's fine, if anything it gives me a lot more faith that you'll be the one to succeed."
"I'm glad to hear it, I was wanting to see how you were holding up after what happened."
"I'm fine thanks to you as is everyone else here, I was confused when people started flooding in here and locked the doors and was a bit anxious when I heard a huge number of mercenaries had shown up wanting to raid our home but because of you the worst has been averted."
"Good, in any chance we can get something to eat? I'm kind of low on energy."
The tavern owner ruffled Audrey's hair, surprising her a bit. "Of course its the least i can do since you saved everyone living here, so consider it on the house."
"Al-alright." Audrey replied l before everyone present began asking questions about her being one of the heroes and what she's done so far. To the surprise of two of her three teammates the otherworldly hero answered many of the questions.
However she also avoided bringing up any of the lower points of what happened since she was summoned or any mention of Naofumi or the sword and spear heroes for understandable reasons since the one of them she cared for who likely be bad mouth if his name came up and the other two one she didn't particularly care for and the other she loathed with a passion at this point because of all the heartache they've caused.
The questions and answers along with praise towards Audrey continued for the next few minutes or so until the food she and her teammates along with Maybelline were all waiting for arrived being delivered by the proprietor who turned to address everyone else present. "Alright everyone give the lady and her party their space so they can eat in peace, I'm sure you'll all have other chances to see her."
Albeit somewhat reluctantly the other customers clear away from the table Audrey and her party were currently using to leave them to their own devices.
Meanwhile the tavern owner served them their individual meals as everyone indulged themselves including Mason who was fed a few beans here and there by Maybelline after Audrey told her that was Mason's current diet which led to Bluebell jumping at the chance to join in on feeding Mason causing both Audrey and Baxley to sigh but neither said anything since Mason was enjoying the attention and extra amount of beans he was receiving.
Audrey herself had allowed her thoughts to drift back to the earlier battle more so to when so used her cursed series for the first time, the vaguely remembered obtaining out of the blue after the duel between Naofumi and Motoyasu when she had briefly considered that on one living in this world was worth saving.
A part of her was a bit frightened at the series since it had drove her into a berserk state from what she was told, but another part of her couldn't help but wonder where the series came from since she never obtained any type of material that corresponded with it or copied any bow like it. Maybe her hud might be able to provide more information.
Curse series is extremely dangerous, don't use it.
Not as much information as she would have wanted and what she was told she didn't need to be informed twice or even the first time for that matter considering its initial use almost led to the death of one of her own teammates.
Still the bow hero couldn't honestly say she was honestly happy with the idea of only being givne the most obvious informario. She could have worked out for herself. Perhaps she could look at the stats of the thing.
Bow of wrath II
Stat bonus atk + 95 spd + 125 dex + 85 def + 40
Equip bonus cursed flames, hp regeneration up (medium), bull of phalaris, temporary self inflicted curse of 30% stat reduction after use
Okay so the thing had the most op stats she's ever seen from any bow variant to date which might have counted as good news if it weren't for the risk of losing her friends due to the lack of control she has over herself when it's equipped and to make matters worse she was now finding out that she might but weaker in the long run after using her curse series.
Pulling up her hud her worst fear was confirmed and her stats were indeed all reduced by around 30% save for the one she specialized in the most which was her speed.
Well at least she could still have some faith in ability to dodge if nothing else still this potentially put the mission overall in jeopardy since it meant there was a weakness the target might be able to take advantage of inadvertently.
She'd have to tell her teammates about it later when they could speak in private or sometime tomorrow. At the very least the stats of the bow of wrath showed that the curse effect was temporary but that left the lingering question of when it would wear off. Would it just be a few hours or a few days or maybe even longer?
If the debuff looked like it was going to be indefinite then Audrey might have to start looking into a way to cure it, actually if anything she would have to look into that ASAP regardless. Having the knowledge in the future as well as the means on hand would be more than a bit beneficial going forward.
The group continued eating in relative peace (with the only disturbance being Bluebell still wanting to dote on Mason.) before they finally finished their meal and headed outside and saw the sun was going down all the way now and it was getting dark.
The group headed back to the inn and were greeted by the innkeeper as well as Maybelline's father who smiled at the sight of her.
"Maybelline didn. You have a good time with the bow hero?"
"Yeah she even let me hold Mason."
"Mason?" Maybelline's father asked.
As if on cue Mason who had went back to Audrey after the group was done at the tavern emerged from the folds on her cloak letting out a chirp.
Audrey giggled at Mason's makeshift introduction to Maybelline's father. "He's my new Filoial I'm planning on having him pull a cart."
"I see, I take it you saw everything you needed to?"
"Yeah, I needed to know for sure that Herba was safe and now I do, also I hope you don't mind but when we went to tavern we all we something to eat including your daughter."
"I suppose that explains why you were gone longer than I thought you would be."
"Sorry about that."
"It's fine my wife was wondering where Maybelline had gone but calmed down as soon as I told her you were with her."
"I'm happy I didn't cause either of you any legitimate worry."
"You brought my daughter back before it became too dark out so there no need for concern over that."
"Alright me and my party will be retiring for the night."
Maybelline waved at Audrey "See you tomorrow miss Audrey."
"See you then." The bow hero replied as everyone went their separate ways and once Audrey and her party were in the room they had purchased for that night and tomorrow she turned to both of her teammates.
"There's something I need to tell both of you concerning the mission tomorrow night as well as the circumstances of those bandits that attacked the village earlier."
Upon hearing this both party members looked towards Audrey attentively. "What is it, did you find something else out about that other bow?" Blueball asked.
"Yeah, apparently it came with one more drawback aside from me losing control of myself."
"What is it?"
Audrey sighed. "Apparently using the bow of wrath put a temporary debuffing curse on me, lowering all of my base stats aside from my speed by thirty percent."
"So you're weakened by around close to a third of your overall strength." Bluebell mused more so than asked.
"Pretty much, it might make the mission that much more dangerous so I wanted to ask if either of you guys felt we should quit."
"Wait, didn't you say the curse was temporary?" Baxley asked.
"Yeah but I don't know how long it'll last for."
Bluebell sighed. "Depending on the strength of the curse it get be anywhere between a few hours at best to even a few weeks at worst."
Audrey felt a sense of dread wash over her. She had anticipated the debuff to last a few days but weeks, that was downright unacceptable. "If either of you feel we need to hold off on this mission we can."
Both Bluebell and Badley glanced at each other before smiling and turning back to Audrey.
"I hardly think there's a need to give up on confronting a target tomorrow night." The former said
"Yeah however strong our target might be we'll be fighting together as a party so we'll have each other to rely on." Baxley followed up.
"Even if you're in a weakened state it doesn't mean that you're hopeless."
Audrey found herself taken aback by her teammates' reassurance. "Bluebell, Baxley...thank you."
"Your welcome but what's the other peice of news you need to tell us of?" Bluebell asked.
"It has to do with those bandits and how the were after us."
"You think it was the guildmaster from the capitol that sent them after us am I right?"
"You certainly catch on quick."
"Aside from the guildmaster there's no other person the mercenaries could have gotten the information pertaining to our current whereabouts not unless some third party was listening when we were given the mission and decided to take matters into their own hands."
"I doubt that it was the latter scenario very much somehow, the people in the capital might think I'm out of my mind for not jumping on the shield hate train but they've never shown me anywhere near the level of hostility that they show to Naofumi."
"That's true." Bluebell conceited. Where people may be giving Audrey weird looks or whispering about her actions it never came close to level of prejudice direction towards the shield hero whom many either refused to allow him entry into their establishments or who tried to rip him off (though the latter didn't last long since anyone who tried that was on the wrong end of a live balloon monster)
Baxley meanwhile shrugged. "So that means the guildmaster wants you dead." Baxley sighed in frustration. "Simply because of me."
Audrey shot a glare in Baxley's direction. "This isn't your fault, whatever the man does and what stance he decides to take is on him and no one else."
Audrey allowed herself to fall back on her bed. "This does mean one more piece of bad news however."
"That being?" Bluebell inquired.
"We won't be getting an official reward for this, if the guildmaster is trying to have us killed there's no way he intends to actually give us the reward posted for this mission."
"If that's the case the situation might be even worse." Bluebell mused.
"Let mw guess, we won't be able to take any missions from the guild?"
"As much as I wish I could deny that its impossible to do so."
"I guess that mean we'll have to look to another settlment aside from the capitol. Though im not really sure where to find one."
"You don't have to worry on that regard I've been to a few others before a came to the capitol and subsequently met you."
"That's one problem solved but I digress, let's get some sleep we have a long day and night ahead of us."
Both Bluebell and Baxley nodded and laid on their respective beds whislt Mason took a palce on Audrey pillow nuzzling himself against her head.
Audrey found herself jolted awake by a loud screech that caused her to fall off the side of her bed on onto the floor before getting up as fast as she could only to see an equally startled Baxley and also a horrified Bluebell pointing a shaky finger at Mason who had somehow grew at least double in size overnight.
however what she didn't see was anything that counted as a threat let alone warranted the near ear shatter shriek that Bluebell had just let out waking her and Baxley up so abruptly. "Okay I really have to asked what on earth has you so up in arms the you felt the need to screech like a banshee?" Audrey groaned out at Bluebell.
"Don't you see for yourself?!"
Bluebell turned to Baxley who just gave her a confused look causing Bluebell to facepalm and let out a long groan before pointing at the party's newest member. "It's Mason!"
Both Audrey and Baxley glanced at the Filolial chick who didn't appear to have anything wrong with it, no injuries, no deformation, no malformations, nothing, in fact Mason himself seemed to just as confused as they were simply staring at Bluebell with his head cocked to the side. "Gweiii?"
"Ummm Bluebell, Mason's fine."
"He's bigger than before!"
"...what?" Was all that Audrey could say.
"His cuteness is going away, don't you understand? If he keeps getting bigger like this he won't be an adorable and cuddly bundle of joy anymore!" Bluebell exclaimed with tears forming at the corner of her eye.
Now realizing what her teammate's problem was Audrey could only stare at Bluebell in silence for what felt like the longest time span possible. All this simply because Mason was getting bigger, this was beyond ridiculous while it was no secrete that Audrey had fallen head over heels with Mason's adorable stature with how she's been acting since he hatched surely she had to still retain some sense on the matter.
"Bluebell you do know we need Mason to grow into an fully grown Filolail so we can pull a cart for us and possibly fight alongside us right?"
"We can just get a horse for the cart and hire a Mercenary for fighting."
Audrey felt her eye twitch with annoyance at her teammate's' persistence."
"First off buying a horse will consume more of our expenses which are going to be tighter for the time being and the pruchase itself would be a waste when we already have Mason for that exact reason, second having any mercanary in our group is out of the question since they usually only value money above all else and wouldn't truly commit to the fight against the waves and that's assuming they ditch abandon us to save their own skin the moment we run into hardship."
Bluebell felt dread as her only arguments were being shot down.
"And after what the mercenaries we just fought off the previous day here tried to do to the people living here in hopes of further lining their own pockets there is no fucking way I will ever have any kind of accosiation with anyone in that profession as long as I live."
"Fair enough." Bluebell conceded.
"Also sooner or later Mason would grow, the fact he's growing this fast is likely from all the levels he gained when we did recon in the grove and took out all those killer moths, but even if it weren't for that he still eventually grow bigger naturally."
Bluebell's whole body slumped in defeat causing Audrey to sigh, while she was glad that Bluebell's little episode was over she didn't want her to be depressed the rest of the day. "Like I told you before, you can still pet and cuddle him even after he gets bigger.
Mason meanwhile had hopped on Audrey's shoulder which he was still small enough to perch on although his increased size meant that he took up more space and the bow hero could even fell a tiny bit of weight from him now.
"Anyway now that we're all up lets get the day started."
"If you say so." Baxley mused before letting out a long sigh. Like Audrey he was glad that the entire scene Bluebell was unnecessarily causing was over and done with a part of him really wanted to just go back to sleep since the group didn't really have any particular plans for that day so much as they did the night.
The party had simply made their way to the tavern again which was much more peaceful than before since the people had more or less gotten over their initial excitement at the discovery that Audrey was one of the four legendary cardinal heroes.
Once the group arrived at the tavern and received the food they ordered Baxley decided to ask Audrey a question that had been on his mind since he initially woke up. "Audrey if you don't mind me asking has the status of your curse changed."
Audrey shook her head. "I wish I could assure you otherwise but my stats still have a thirty percent reduction."
"Maybe we should look for someone who can tell us more about it."
"That's going to be a bit tricky, we can't just ask anyone in the village since there's a chance we might have to explain how I got it inflicted on myself to begin with which in turn might mean telling them about my curse series which I'm not eager to do."
"That's understandable." Baxley said. It wasn't hard to see where Audrey was coming from, even of she didn't show it openly a large part of her was still shaken by the fact that she had almost killed him in her berserk state plus if any of the villagers of Herba found out about that part of yesterday's battle they might become more wary of Audrey not unlike the survivors of Cadia which wouldn't help with any of the bow heroes current inner unease.
"If that's the case let's talk to Nera." Bluebell said, gaining the others' attention. "Out of everyone in this village she's the only one aside from ourselves who's witnessed your cursed bow and was even the one who stopped you when we all realized that you weren't yourself."
"Are you sure she'll even know anything pertaining to my curse?" Audrey asked.
"No but since you don't want word about what almost happened spreading she's our only bet when it comes to anyone living or at least currently staying in Herba."
"No denying that. Still do you have any idea where she is?"
"I think I might have seen her at the library."
"Alright I guess thats where will be heading." It didn't take the party long to reach their next destination since it was only a couple buildings down. Once there Audrey had a hard time accepting the idea that the place in question was even a library not because of a lack of books or anything of that sort but rather its size. Whereas any library she had ever been to was at least big enough to hold one hundred maybe two hundred plus people and on occasion have multiple floors this one was only this size of the usual shops which felt off to the Bow hero, maybe it was because she was thinking about the libraries in her own world and comparing this one to them too much.
Regardless, the small size saved the group the trouble of having to look around for Nera since the woman in question was conveniently sitting on a bench just outside reading a book that was likely from the miniature library. Almost immediately the dark magic user addressed the group without even glancing at them. "What is it?"
Baxley and Audrey just stared in the woman's direction whilst Bluebell actually answered. "There's something I wanted to ask you about pertaining to what happened with Audrey yesterday."
"You were present for everything that happened."
"Yeah but it turns out there's something more."
Nera simply turned the page of her book "Go on."
"You see that power Audrey used left her with a curse of some kind."
"What effect is it having on her?"
Audrey spoke up. "It's reduced all my stats aside from my speed."
"By how much?"
"Judging by the amount I'd say it's not a curse to be made light of nor removed by just anything.
"Well that brings us to the big question."
"You want to know how to remove it?"
"You're quick on the uptake."
"There is no other question for you or anyone with a shred of common sense to ask in this situation especially since there's a very good chance losing almost an entire third of your strength is going to be detrimental to your goal of taking care of whatever's failed so many adventurer's within the confines of the nearby grove as of late." Nera replied matter of factly.
"Right. Anyway I wanted to know if there was a way to undo the curse aside from time."
"Considering that's it's a high level curse I doubt anything short of a high quality elixir made specifically using the best holy water would suffice."
"I know the recipe for making the elixer but that just leaves the question of where i'm going to get holy water."
"From the three heroes church, though I'm guessing you might have a hard tiime percuring it if the rumors I've read actually have any truth to them."
"You mean the rumors pertaining to me and the shield hero?"
"Yes I've heard many people say the shield hero is a rapist and that you've taken loss of your senses by standing by him but I from one was never one to blindly buy into any hearsay since widespread rumors often paint over exaggerations or add things that didn't happen at all."
"So you're not leaping on the hate train like everyone in the capital." Audrey mused upon hearing the magic user's thoughts on what the crown was claiming.
"At the very least I'd like to meet the shield hero and see for myself what he's like or at least hear a bit of what he's like from someone who knows him personally."
"I see, as I'm sure you might suspect I'm one such person if not your best bet."
"I can vouch for that." Bluebell said, backing up the hero she had chosen to follow.
"Interesting, I'll confess I'm a bit interested since this is one of the individuals who's supposed to save our world."
Audrey felt a tinge of hope whel up within her, if this woman didn't blindly buy into the crown's anti shield propaganda then maybe….. "I'll start by telling you the most critical detail. That rumor about the shield hero being a rapist is a complete lie that the crown made up to undermine his character and his chances of being able to carry out his duty without falling to the waves."
Nera raised an eyebrow. "That's not very wise, no actually it would be more accurate to say that might be that worst decision the crown's ever made, the shield hero is needed to combat the waves."
"You're telling me."
"I'm somewhat confused as to why the crown who do such a thing though."
"I wish I could tell you but the king seemed to harber a vendetta against Naofumi who's the shield hero from the moment all of us were summoned."
"Care to elaborate?"
"Happy to, however I might need to start from the beginning for you to have a complete picture."
Audrey went on to explain how Naofumi was mistreated via the king, intentionally ignoring him before he found himself unable to get teammates due to rumors that he didn't know anything about the world along with the events surrounding the staged trial.
"I see so it's king himself being the complete and utter fool while the queen is away, that makes more sense."
"Yeah I found out a little while ago from some noble that the king has been doing whatever he wants in the queen's absence."
"You didn't know that from the beginning?"
"No when me and the other heroes were summoned he was the only royal we met and never made any mention of the king."
Nera surprised Audrey by letting out a chuckle. "So he's not only making the most incongruous decision possible but trying to pass himself off as this country's true ruler too, I can only imagine how furious the queen's going to be when she returns."
"The noble I talked to made it sound like the queen would reprimand him for what he's done but I still wonder if that's true."
"Chances of that are actually pretty high."
"Are you sure."
"I have never met the queen myself but she's always taken actions that were within Melromarcs best interest as a whole. Considering how far what the king has done so far has went against that I doubt she could let this go but please continue the rest of your tale, I'd like to hear everything you can tell me."
Audrey grinned. "you got it." The other worldly hero told Nera of her encounter with the first wave and how Naofumi went to save the villagers of Lute whilst the other heroes including some smaller event such as when the went to dragon hourglass for the first time, and how the boss of them wave came to the village.
"It sounds like you and the shield hero had quite the ordeal."
"You have no idea, there were more than a few times we survived by the skin of our teeth during that fight."
"I could only imagine."
From from there Audrey told Nera of the forced duel and the events surrounding the near extortion of the survivors within Lute by the end of it Nera merely shrugged.
"That's quite the story, from what you've told me it seems Melromarc's king and princess don't have any sense whatsoever and the spear hero's not much better."
'If only you knew.' Audrey thought, remembering what Motoyasu had condemned the people of Cadia to.
"Yeah, aside from everything I told you about, me and Naofumi are simply going around the land trying to level up and raise funds in preparation for the next wave."
"I've been traveling around myself studying about the waves."
"Yes, since they've began appearing I've began to wonder where they come from and why."
"Aren't they just a natural catastrophe?" Bluebell asked.
"I highly doubt it. From what information I've gleaned about the first wave and what the bow hero has told me of the second wave it sounds like they always have a key monster that's stronger than the rest in which its' very defeat is key to stopping the individual waves."
"Plus they're linked to the dragon hourglass which shows how much time that's left before they appear and then there's the cardinal heroes who are essential to combat them."
"I'm not sure I know what you're saying." Bluebell said.
"She's saying with all those specific factors in place there's no way they can just be some natural phenomenon." Audrey informed her teammate taking both her and Baxley by surprise.
Nera clicked her tongue. "Correct, with all these characteristics there has to be something more behind the waves."
"Wait a moment. Are you saying that something is intentionally creating the waves?" Baxley inquired
"I don't have any information to make that assumption but it is a very distinct possibility, at the very least there has to be a reason or cause for them to appear."
Bluebell pondered what the group was just told. "I suppose the waves have to have originated from somewhere."
Audrey had the distinct feeling that the idea that something was intentionally causing the waves to appear was probably far truer than even Nera herself suspected, it would make sense considering how the concept itself seemed like something out of an anime or online rpg game but as of now there was nothing to actually prove it.
"And that's why I wish to learn more about the very nature of the waves, I wish to discover those answers for myself, it might even be beneficial for the battle against them."
"Well there's a saying from my world, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles." If that makes sense." Audrey mused.
"I must admit it sounds like whoever claimed that must have known just how valuable knowledge can truly be on the battlefield, afterall ignorance can very easily lead to one's death."
Audrey couldn't help but grimace at that last part. Even though things were looking up thanks to her accomplishment saving the village of Herba she still had one more battle ahead of her and her party before this was over and she lacked any real information about the opponent she was going to be facing which could prove to be unfavorable for her and her companions. "Well anyway thank you for the info you provided."
"Your welcome, if your business with me is concluded I'll be off to the tavern for a proper meal, and I also thank you for providing me with what actually happened pertaining to you and the other heroes." With that Nera got up and walked off in the dkrection of the tavern.
"With that out of the way." Audrey petted Mason a bit, earning a happy chirp from him. "Let's see if we can't find someone to keep an eye on you while we're away on this mission."
"The only person I can think of for that might be that girl from yesterday, Maybelline if I remember correctly." Baxley said.
"I guess that's where we're headed then, they should be back at the inn."
As the entrance to the tavern opened up the proprietor looked to see Nera along with the orange sky created setting sun behind her before the magic user walked in closing the door behind and taking a seat at the bar table.
"Its good to see you again Nera, are you just stopping by on your travels again?"
"That should more or less go without saying." She answered offhandedly.
"I suppose that's true, but it's actually pretty convenient that your here."
"You mean because of the mercary trash that showed up on your doorstep?"
"Yes and one more thing."
Nera merely raised a curious eyebrow. "Really now?"
"Yes, I see there's a favor I'd like to ask of you and I'm even willing to pay a good price of ten gold pieces for it."
"If you're offering that much then I assume this is something that's going to come with risk.
"Yes but this might be the only real chance we have."
"I'll hear you out."
How did everything fall apart like this? What the hell, why was he currently running away from a swarm of monsters chasing him.
This was supposed to be a simple job, off the bow traitor and make some easy many and even get an extra bonus from looting the village along with capturing the bow traitors demi human companion. He had brought over fifty sale swords with him to ensure that he'd succeed no matter what and even had his new flame brand sword.
But in the end none of that even came close to being able to do anything against the bow traitor's power which was utterly ridiculous, how was Berg supposed to know she could fire lightning or move so fast? And that wasn't even considering what she did to the sales swords that were trying to capture the demi human.
The images of just how viciously the bow traitor had ended every one of their lives. The flames she conjured felt unnatural and that iron bull contraption, Berg didn't stick around to see the aftermath of that.
While the thing was letting out those bellows Berg took the time to flee to the only place he could hide with at least relative certainty that he'd be effectively hidden from anyone who might be looking for him and luckily on that account know one ever came searching for him.
However a new problem almost immediately arose once he got deep enough into this damn place in the form of a repetitive monster, a moth of all thing a damnable moth!
Individually they weren't that much of a threat but they tended to come in large clusters, what made things worse was that when Berg tried to utilize the power of his flame brand any flames shot from it began to dissipate abnormally.
Yesterday it wasn't all that noticeable at first since the only result was that it kept the place from being set on fire via the flames going out within a few seconds of hitting a tree, bush, or some other material that might catch fire otherwise. But as the previous day went on the abnormality became more profound as the flames produced from his sword started dissipating the very instant they hit anything other than the moths.
Eventually Berg found an area that within the grove that was vacant of any monsters and managed to hide him with a hollow space beneath the routes of a tree and retired for the previous night with hopes of being able to leave the grove and head back to the capitol.
As if fate itself was dead set on going against him the grove in spite of its relatively small size felt as if it had expanded to an indefinite size the following day because no matter how much Berg walked in any given direction the edge of the place never showed itself.
As the hours of walking through the place accumulated more and more Berg felt his frustration build up within him and turn into anger. Eventually the mercenary leader took notice of something that made his entire body turn cold.
The same hollowed out tree he had spend the previous night, he was passing by it. As irrational it was there wasn't any denying it. Upon realizing he was somehow always ending back up at the same spot Berg felt his anger spike as he drew his flame brand.
If this place was so dead set on keeping trapped with it then he'd strike back by setting this accursed place ablaze.
If he was going to die here then's he'd take this stupid place down with him. Swing his blade in a wide horizontal arc Berg let a crescent shaped flame loose towards one of the trees only for the said flame to completely dissipate in midair.
Berg stood dumbfounded for a few long drawn out moments before swinging his weapon again only for the same result to repeat itself.
From there things only got worse when more moth monsters, too many for him to single handedly fight off appeared from between the trees and out of the bushes forcing the mercenary to run for which lead to his current predicament.
After he felt like he had to take a breather Berg glanced behind him and saw every last moth monster was gone? To say that was odd was really putting it lightly but then again nothing about this place has been rational from the motion he entered the place.
If the moths wanted to give him a reprieve then Berg wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Continuing forward the mercenary was finally meant with scenery that he knew was completely new.
An open space free of trees or bushes within the place which was mostly vacant save for the upper half of a human corpse. What caught Berg completely off guard however wasn't the state of the body but rather that it was covered in numerous vines with various flowers sprouting from them whilst the vines themselves appeared to be quite literally growing by the very second with their ends extending allowing the to further entangle and encase the corpse.
Berg had no idea what the deal with whatever the hell he was currently bearing witness to was and he really didn't want to know in the least the only thing he planned to do now that this place wasn't making him go in circles was high tail it out of here.
"Huh?" Berg was confused when he tried to walk forward only to find his leg caught on something. "What could I have possibly stepped on to…..!"
Berg felt his mind overtaken by panic not unlike how it was when the bow traitor flew into that rage over a simple demi human. Vines much like the ones entangling the corpse were now wrapping themselves around both of his legs and growing upwards by the literal second all the while various flower heads of all kinds and colors almost instantly sprouted from their sides.
In an act of desperation Berg used his sword to hack away at the vines growing around his legs and by some miracle he managed to break free and ran further into the clearing only thinking about getting away from the vines that just tried to ensnare and encase him but in doing some he ran close to where the corpse was and beheld an unwanted sight.
The corpse was now completely covered and encased within the vines that had ensnared it before they began to tighten around the body as if trying to crush it.
Berg might have written the attempt off as futile and maybe even laughable on a normal day but the previous one nor this one have been anything of the sort after he came to this insufferable place and on top of that the vines attempt started proving to be a success when a number of wet crunching sounds were heard making Berk feel sick and it didn't help matters when trails of blood started seeping out from in between the vines themselves staining the ground beneath them.
All the while the encasement grew smaller and smaller even after it reach the point where it would be impossible to contain the corpse and more blood and now numerous bone shards slipped out from in between the vines as the makeshift cage shrunk even further.
Berg couldn't help but vomit, there were many acts of depravity he wasn't above by any means but seeing the vines grind the body the held with to whatever mess was still left inside as they continued to tighten around it still was something even the merc couldn't have imagined even with his mind set.
What really made the experience frightening was the realization that this was what the vines that tried to entangle and encase him would have very likely done. No, god no he did not what to die like that, seeing what happened to the corpse was bad enough on its own he didn't want to suffer that fate himself, least of all while he was still alive breaking into a mad dash for the other end of the clearing Berg was more determined to leave this place.
He didn't care if he had to spend ten minutes or ten entire hours straight running at top speed; he just had to get away one way or the other. Compared to this, what happened with the bow traitor was now the absolute least of his worries.
His effort was cut short before he could make it ten entire steps before he felt a severe pain in his midsection and found himself dangled in the air by a...branch growing out of the ground. The pain in his midsection only intensified prompting him to glance downwards only to discover that the branch had impaled him through his stomach with his own blood running to the branch itself
Thou must die so that your flesh may saturate and nourish thy strength
What? Berg didn't hear anyone speak, rather the sentence just manifested within his mind, yet he felt as if something or something said it to him. As his consciousness began to fade and oblivion began to take him he managed to see a glimpse of something in the clearing that wasn't there before.
With his vision now leaving him he could no longer make out what it was but he managed to deduced two things, it was far too large to be another moth and the second was the it appeared to have…..antlers?
"Really?!" Exclaimed an excited Maybelline.
The reason for the girl's excitement was that Audrey had come to see her and had an exciting proposition. "Yeah I'll like you to watch Mason tonight while me and my other teammates go out and take off something in the grove.
"Okay I'll watch Mason for tonight."
Mason let out a happy chirp before hopping over into Maybelline's hands all the while both of the girl's parents smiled at the sight before Maybelline's mother spoke. "You needn't worry we'll have you Filolial waiting for you when you return.
"Thank you." With that Audrey and her party headed back towards the main lobby of the Inn.
"I suppose we should consider yourselves lucky Maybelline's parents agreed to this otherwise it might have been a bit complicated finding a place to have Mason stay while we take on this mission." Baxley said.
"Maybe but keep in mind that was the easy part of tonight our target might put us through our paces from what little information."
"It's the people who have class upped." Baxley mused.
"With that being the case we'd best be prepared for anything, I think the safest option would be to assume it's at least on par with a wave boss." Bluebell declared.
"That goes without saying, however if it looks like our target might prove to be beyond our abilities we're going to retreat. While I'd like for us to succeed, I don't have any intention of letting either of you die."
Both of the bow hero's companions, while surprised at what their leader said, nodded silently both hiding one key thought on the matter they silently kept from Audrey.
Within the next fifteen minutes or so the group was standing on the edge of the grove when the noticed something weird about the place, many of the numerous bushes and trees were giving a visible light blue tinted glow that basically created a source of light within the grove under the night sky.
"It looks like we won't have to worry about seeing where we're going." Baxley said.
"Thank god, I really wasn't looking forward to fighting our target while dealing with reduced visibility, doing that in Cadia was tedious enough." Audrey replied.
Looking ahead, the bow hero steeled her resolve. "Anyway let's head in."
And that's it for this chapter sorry not too Much happened originally I was going to have the climactic fight happen in this chapter but all the stuff happening prior to it from the praise Audrey found herself getting to Bluebell's more googfy antic which I hope you enjoyed, discovering how to use weapon copy and talking with Nera and realising that since the guild master is more than likely (from Audrey's perspective remember she can't truly confirm it) trying to have her killed then he'd doesn't plan to give her the reward posted for the mission. It basically started accumulating into enough words to make its own chapter and I want a bit of time to plan the fight against the target out.
All the foreshadowing should have made it pretty obvious that the target isn't going to be beaten nearly as easily as the invading mercs were needless to say that this chapter could be considered the calm before the storm
(To those wondering, yes I know bull of Phalaris is technically a skill but I written it to be listed under equipped bonus since it specifically requires Audrey to bring out the cursed bow to use it)