Chapter 117: Plains Village

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: Scribble Hub

Moltrost sat on the edge of a plains, right next to a river that cut through the flatlands. Bordering the plains was a forest from whence the river flows, fed into by many tiny streams that formed the large, roaring current.

Large animal herds roamed the plains while most of the human population settled near the river banks, using the fertile, hydrated soil to raise crops that fed Moltrost and other less fortunate locations. Of course, a lot of trade occurred too.

A bit further from the river banks, things were a lot quieter.

With night falling, there weren’t a lot of people still on the road, and the people that were gave each other a wide berth. However, even the travelers who were still out after dark couldn’t help but look twice at a particular carriage tumbling along the path.

It wasn’t a man who sat at the coachman’s seat guiding the horses. Instead, it was a girl with brown hair that reached the wooden bench she sat upon. Her attire of dulled colors with middling threadwork and pale skin that could only come from an indoor life marked her as the servant of a wealthy family. But even her plain clothes couldn’t hide her beauty. Her wide, brown eyes seemed to almost glow.

Her presence was inexplicable. It was a strange family and a strange master to have a girl drive a carriage. As there was an unspoken rule that a servant should not be more beautiful than her mistress, the travelers couldn’t help but be curious about what the person inside the carriage looked like.

Even if the person wasn’t a mistress but a master, the travelers still wished to know the appearance of the man who owned this pretty girl. Surely no one could resist leaving her untouched.

Camilla was completely unaware of the thoughts of the people that passed by her all day. She was completely absorbed in trying to master the horse-driving skills.

She hadn’t splurged on the carriage so it wasn’t very luxurious and now she had to deal with her choice. The springs installed on it weren’t very good, so it rocked and jumped on the gravelly road, tossing poor Kagriss around in the back.

On the other hand, to make up for how uncomfortable it was, the carriage was one of the simplest and sturdiest that Camilla could find, so even if it took a beating on the road, it could easily be repaired. That was the only thing keeping her from just abandoning it at the side of the road for someone to pick up or rot.

“How are you feeling? Sorry…” Camilla said, looking at the woman behind her in the carriage.

Kagriss opened her eyes, returned her gaze, and then learned back against the cushioned seat. She nodded weakly.

Feeling conflicted, Camilla let down the drapes and focused on the road, doing her best to avoid the dips and bumps to not make matters worse for Kagriss. However, she was too used to the well-trained templar horses that had almost human intelligence, so when she tried to guide these rough draft horses the same way, she was sorely disappointed by how unresponsive they were.

They were by no means dumb, but whereas templar horses understood the intentions of their rider or driver with a gentle nudge of the knee, a slight tug of the reins, or the light touch of a riding crop, draft horses needed a much bigger signal and were slower to react to boot. Thus, soon, Camilla felt her body rise, tossed up by the carriage as it rolled over yet another large stone that she couldn’t avoid in time. Her being jostled was bad enough, but her condition was nowhere as bad as Kagriss sitting in the back of the wagon.

It was surprising. Camilla had no idea that undeads could get sick from shaky carriages.

They usually wouldn’t, because even if they did get sick, they could just shut off that particular function or numb themselves to the nausea, but Kagriss seemed to be an exception.

“Are you sure you don’t want to just make yourself feel better? It’s been long enough, right?”

The drapes were still closed but Camilla knew Kagriss could hear her. Something rustled in the back and then came Kagriss’s reply. “No! Just this once, I want to know how it feels!”

“…as long as you’re happy, I guess. We’re almost there anyways, and you have to promise me that you won’t do this again, okay? Or else I’ll throw out the carriage and I’ll have to waste a lot of mana storing our stuff.”

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“Okay, fine.”

Satisfied with Kagriss’s concession, Camilla looked back at the road and beyond. Far in the distance, mere dark shapes against the backdrop of stars, there was a village. It was one of the villages at the very edge of local civilization, and beyond that village was the seemingly infinite expanse of rolling plains.

Most of the other villages were on the other side of the city, closer to the forest where there was plentiful wood. Hardly anyone settled in the plains, and so far from Moltrost at that.

Perhaps the only good point about a plains village was how close they were to the animal herds. It didn’t take long to reach one and bring back meat. Well, there was another. This close to the edges of civilization, the peasants were unbound to masters. They owned their own land and property and answered to no one but people of their choosing, and the laws that govern all of human territory.

Strictly speaking, even the nearby Moltrost had no official say over how these plains villages were governed, although reality was different.

As Camilla’s sharp eyes picked out another rather deep hole in the ground right in the path of the carriage wheels, she nudged the reins and signaled for the horses to avoid it. However, the horses didn’t move fast enough and one side of the carriage dipped again.

There was the sound of something being thrown against the fabric wall behind her and Camilla’s expression soured.

Were these horses blind? Didn’t they know to avoid these holes by themselves?

But as she thought about the question more, she realized that perhaps they were. It was dark after all.

Sighing, Camilla took one hand off the reins and summoned a dozen or so specks of light. Slowly, the tiny lights grew in brightness, but they never became particularly blinding, even at night.

Instead, they gave off a soft glow and the light was diffuse rather than concentrated. When Camilla blew them off her hand—a motion that was rather unnecessary but one that came to her mind—they drifted to hover over the ground ahead of the horses, illuminating the road.

Her theory proved right, as the number of large bumps really seemed to decrease even without her input, although the little bumps that the horses couldn’t really care less about continued to jostle Camilla and Kagriss around.

If this continued for much longer, Camilla suspected that her head might separate from her neck and shoulders and Kagriss might faint. What else? It’s not like there was anything for Kagriss to throw up.

Despite the village being visible since the start of dusk, the moon was already shining bright in the sky. It seemed to be around the end of the first sleep and by the time their carriage rattled noisily into the small village, there were people up and about, having slept their fill since coming home from a day of hard work.

As it was, several people looked out the window to see what the ruckus was about. A young man in the village square drawing a bucket of water from a well paused and watched the incoming horse and carriage curiously.

The appearance of the carriage driver caught his eye and he almost dropped his bucket back down.

However, he soon averted his gaze. Not many people knew magic and the golden orbs floating on the ground in front of the horses were quite clearly holy magic. He was smart enough to know when someone was out of his league, although he still worked up his courage to take a second look.

The carriage drew closer and just when he thought that he might be able to see the pretty girl from up close, the carriage stopped next to a house whose owner had come out and stood at the front steps. He strained his ears to hear the conversation.

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Camilla looked down from her vantage point at the rough looking man with clothes of hemp. Despite looking worn, his shirt was clean. The man didn’t dare look up at her directly, preferring to look at the round below Camilla’s carriage.

He wasn’t anything special—he was just the first person that Camilla found convenient to talk to.

As a templar, part of the upper strata of society in a sense, Camilla didn’t interact with peasants much. Perhaps the only times she saw them was when she personally led missions that took her near villages.

Yes, she recognized their importance to society, but she wasn’t particularly interested in getting to know them and their lifestyle. However, they were still people she was willing to give her life to protect if necessary.

Her speech naturally reflected her attitude, polite but devoid of extraneous emotions. Her voice left no room for refusal either.

“Good evening. Do you know of any place where my lady and I might rest?”

The villager stiffened at her question. “There are a few families with rooms open. I also have spare bedding that I can switch out if you don’t mind…”

So this man didn’t have a spare room? He sounded as if he was planning on moving his family out and squishing them into a single bed for the night if necessary. There really wasn’t the need to go to the trouble.

Camilla waved her hand. The movement of her shadow alerted the man and he looked up, cutting his words short. He waited.

“I don’t need a room. My lady wishes to know if you perhaps have a barn nearby?”

“A—a barn, miss?”

“Yes.”

The man looked like his whole world view was shattered and he shifted slightly to the side as if to peek past the tiny gaps in the drape at the “lady” with such strange tastes. Obviously, he couldn’t see anything since it was much darker inside than outside and the gaps were way too small.

It wasn’t as if the man really wanted to see. It was just an instinctive motion and he soon gave up.

“There’s a few. You’re probably looking for the straw storage…” The man quickly gave Camilla instructions to the straw barns just outside the village fences, closer to the farmland for ease of access.

For his information, Camilla tossed him a ten-crest that he caught with a look of awe. However, he didn’t argue and quietly slipped it into his pouch.

As Camilla turned to leave, about to twitch the reins to urge the horses on, the village hurriedly threw out his hand to stop her.

“Wait! Can I ask if you’re leaving tomorrow?”

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Camilla raised an eyebrow. “Why do you ask?”

“Well…” The man seemed cowed by her suspicion, but after a moment of hesitation, he regained his courage. “There’s something dangerous lurking around and I just wanted to warn you about it. Where are you heading?”

Camilla shrugged. Honestly, she planned on just staying here while making daily forays into the plains and returning at night, letting Kagriss experience something new, but this man didn’t need to know that.

“There’s no path past this village, you know? No road, and it’s a long time before you’ll see anything else.” The man grimaced. “And…that something, the dangerous thing, you see…it comes from the plains.”

“What is this…thing?” she asked.

“Oh, I know, I know!”

The voice this time didn’t come from the man Camilla had been speaking with, but rather some other villagers that had begun to gather around. Perhaps having seen that she wasn’t one of those people who had her nose up in the air while interacting with peasants, they let down their guard.

Maybe she’ll even pay them for more information.

Thus, each of their eyes were shining with curiosity and a bit of greed.

The speaker was a young man with a bucket in his hand. His short brown hair looked stiff and naturally clumped, and freckles dotted his face. He was like a puppy as he vied for attention.

Like all the other villagers, his clothes weren’t very high quality but they were all well washed. At least this village paid a lot of attention to hygiene.

“I know! It’s a wildcat!”

Suddenly, someone shoved the young man. “Shut up, Johnny. It’s obviously a pack of wolves!”

Johnny pushed his assailant back. “Well, I’ve seen it! I was checking on the animals the other night and I saw it! It was a cat, twice as big as a horse! It took one of Nic’s pigs!”

At first, Camilla was merely watching their antics with amusement, momentarily brought back to her time at the Cloud Stronghold where she watched the young trainees quarrel, but the boy’s words made her blood freeze.

A cat twice as large as a horse. An originally small animal growing much larger…

Perhaps she should rethink staying here with Kagriss. Yet, she didn’t want to leave. Despite her new mission, Camilla still wished to protect these humans, although she’ll put Kagriss’s safety first no matter what.

Kagriss clearly heard the argument between the two villagers and she was smart enough to know what it meant.

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Camilla felt a bit of excitement through her bond with Kagriss.

It seemed that they were going to stay.

She needed time to digest the new information, so she should get going. As she reached into her coin pouch, a fourth voice reached her ears, an old man.

“Don’t worry, miss. We’ve already messaged the city. We received a reply that they will help us with this problem. I’m sure everything will be just fine.”

Camilla tossed five-crest coins to each of them that she found helpful—the young man and the old man. As she silently drove the carriage toward the barn, she mulled over just what kind of help the city will send.

Assuming the city came to the same conclusion as she did, will they send a troop of soldiers or… a templar?


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