Alas, the 4th one appears. The reason for it was that this is the first ‘arc’ of sorts, so I took some time to think things through before just bashing out the next chapter. Anyway guys, hope you like it and feedback is appreciated :’)
CHAPTER IV – THE RADIANCE (PART 1)
“Among the treasures, the silken scarf radiated as if it held the beam of the nightly stars, dazzling the golden chests as if they were made of copper. Just as a single man can bear thousands upon his shoulders, fearing neither and longing for none.” Aldair, ‘Book of Prominence’, Year 39 of Moon-Lyn Calender
The plans of moving the Thans in proceeded well, and within two months of Eon’s arrival in this strange world, he had already combined the two villages. The addition of the Apprentice Knight, Elain, to his forces seemed like a wise choice, as her strength was only second to his, which in turn inspired Hawk and Lye to train even harder. Eon felt proud as his plans bore fruit, and his small Dusk Village prospered. With the knowledge he brought over from his world, he had managed to build dozens of contraptions that had sped up the accumulation of resources. Before his arrival, no man or woman within two villages was able to have more than a meal a day, if even that, yet now, almost four hundred people were fed three times daily, and they still had stocks of food as back-up! As most merely worshiped and awed at the figure of Lord Clay, Elain instead studied him even closely. Of all the things he had helped build, she hadn’t seen or heard of a single one. And she’s even been to the Capital, the very center of technology! Yet, this small village at the very border of the Kingdom, numbering in low hundreds, had already far surpassed the geniuses of the Capital!
The figure of Lord Clay in her mind slowly cultivated into a persona she began admiring. All her doubts about him had vanished. Not only was he far stronger than anyone else she encountered, as she was never able to even land a single hit on him while they would spar, but he was also the smartest! By her estimations, if he were to venture into Capital, he was certain to be anointed a Knight by arrival! Yet, Eon didn’t have such low ambitions. After all, Knights were mere servants, meant to be thrown away during disputes. How could his grandeur be lowered to such feat? He’s a conqueror, not a servant!
Thanks to the sparring between him, Hawk, Lye and Elain, Hawk and Lye had already reached level thirteen, while Elain found herself at the bottleneck of level fifteen, unable to move forward. She suddenly found herself stuck, unable to break through the ‘Four Bronze Stars’ stage. Eon himself had reached the same bottleneck, but he had already begun theorizing as to how to break through. However, even at such stage, according to his estimates, due to his innate stats, he’d probably rank among five hundred strongest people in the entire Kingdom. One could only dream as to how far he could reach.
Just as the twilight shrouded the vast skies, and Eon was preparing to meditate, something he found helped him understand the depths of his soul and, in extension, his abilities, he felt strange presence approaching them. Hawk signaled it with drums as well, and Eon looked at the path that led between the two forests. A single man rode a horse, and even from distance Eon saw that he was barely holding on. After gesturing Hawk, Elain and Lye, he headed over by his lonesome. The strange presence bugged him and he wasn’t certain just how strong this fella was. He couldn’t risk having one of the three strongest people die simply because he was careless.
As the man noticed Eon, his depressed expression suddenly turned around and was filled with joy, as if he had received a burst of life from nowhere. He hurried his horse forward, stopping as he reached Eon, quickly jumping off the horse and, without wasting a single movement, bent down on his knees, hand buried in earth, surprising Eon. The man had well crafted clothes, white in colored but adorned by golden and red threads. He also had jeweled, blond hair and even in twilight noticeable azure-blue eyes.
“Good Sir, I beg of you for some food and water!” even while begging, he had a strange aura of elegance around him. “I have traveled for so long, that I had lost the count of days since I have eaten anything but sour grass!” seeing this image, Hawk suddenly joined Eon.
“Food doesn’t just grow on trees!” Hawk exclaimed proudly.
“Actually it does, moron,” Eon replied in kind. He didn’t wish to agitate this new person. Lye and Elain had probably noticed something as well, hence why they held back. “I couldn’t call myself kind if I refused a man who went as far as to kneel for food. Stand up.”
“Ah, good Sir, thank you!” the man raised his head, showing his radiant smile. His face was muddied by earth, yet he still looked more beautiful than even all women from Dusk Village. Somehow, that face slightly irritated Hawk. “Although I haven’t much, if good Sir commands it, I shall even lay in bed with him as to pay for his kindness!”
“Lucky you Hawk,” Eon said, gleefully. “Someone is finally willing to lay in bed with you.”
“You jest my Lord,” Hawk barely held back his irritation. “Someone as graceful as this man is only worthy of my Lord.”
“But since I am such a good Lord,” Eon repaid in kind, holding nothing back. “I shall allow you to lay with him.”
“I possibly couldn’t, my Lord.”
“Elain,” he suddenly turned to the girl who quickly stood up and approached. “Take the man to Lera’s, book him room and feed him.”
“Yes.” Elain was the only one within the entire village that hadn’t addressed him ‘my Lord’. At first, Eon was slightly annoyed, but gave in as he realized that was simply her character. The young man was still on his knees, bemused by the banter between Eon and Hawk, but didn’t show it on his face. Instead, when signaled, he got up and followed the woman, Eon shortly behind them, while Hawk and Lye remained outside to bind the horse and hold guard.
Lots of people would glance over to the newcomer, but he was just ordinary human in nice clothes. Most of them had seen Nobility before, and were neither impressed nor interested in them. Yet, as soon as they saw Eon walking behind them, all lowered their heads in admiration as the staggering figure walked passed them. Eon enjoyed the attention, and would often look sideways and smile at the onlookers. However, this time his eyes were glued to this youth that was before him. Whether he was Nobility or not, Eon didn’t care much. From what others told him, Nobility usually minded their own business, rarely coming to these far parts of the Kingdom. His presence was confusing Eon; it felt as if, at the same time, he radiated such weakness you’d think he was a child, yet as soon as you’d start thinking that, an overwhelming strength would burst forth. Whoever he was, Eon was resigned to not letting him go until he got some answers.
They reached the small inn quickly. Illuminated under the hanging lanterns, even its old wooden structure had its own charms. The hanging lanterns, another thing Eon had laid blueprints for, also seemed to have surprised the youth. He’d often steal glances, but didn’t dare to look at them for too long.
Entering, Eon and the young man sat at the same table, while Elain stood behind Eon, emoting killing intent so thick even Eon felt it. She certainly didn’t trust this man. Even he had noticed it, doing his best to ignore her, looking somewhat confused.
“Ah, my Lord!” suddenly, a plump middle-aged woman burst for from upstairs, wearing simple cloth and apron, smiling widely. Her name was Lera and she was the owner of the inn. “I’m graced by your presence! What would you wish to eat tonight?”
“Bring us two portions of deer’s thigh,” Eon said, returning the polite smile. “As well as some ale.” ale was brought over from the Than Village, and was rather good. Since they could grow it indefinitely, Eon had spent many nights getting drunk with it.
“Clay?!” Elain suddenly joined in, realizing that she was being left out.
“You really think we can have a conversation with your eyes appearing like blizzard behind us?” Eon chuckled awkwardly. “Wait outside.”
“Hmph.” after a brief pause, Elain flashed Eon resentful look and left. The look hurt him, but he held it back. Lera had already left and begun preparing their meal.
“Forgive me her attitude.” Eon apologized humbly.
“Forgive me, good Sir,” the man replied with same humbleness. “No matter where, if a stranger suddenly emerged from nowhere, everyone would be wary.”
“However,” Eon’s tone suddenly grew serious, and the man across the table realized that politeness was now behind them. “For you to have gotten lost this far off, something terrible must have happened.” the words were simple, yet they implied quite a lot, and the young man seemed to have understand.
“Believe me when I say it that I’m just as surprised as everyone would be that I have found Fallen here,” the man replied honestly. “So fret not about that matter.” Eon had already estimated the man’s strength and was staggered. He had already broken the first bottleneck, and was at ‘Two Jade Stars’! Whatever is required, Eon must learn how he did it.
“Although we don’t lack food,” Eon carefully proceeded. Even though he managed to understand this person’s rank, his stats were still quite a blur. He barely managed to discern that his intelligence was in low fifties, which was still incredibly high. “We do lack strength to fight. So, above all, I’d like this accidental visit to end on good terms.”
“From the Legends, I heard that Fallen are rather proud race,” actual members of Fallen race might be, Eon thought, but he had no tie ins with the race itself, so he showcased far more characteristics of humans. “You, on the other hand, seem far more cautious than proud.” politeness and humbleness had already gone cold between the two, and honest talks emerged.
“I don’t believe in pride when faced with looming threat,” Eon said, smiling lightly. “Maybe that’s why the numbers of my race are at the lowest of all others: because we can’t let go.” his swords shocked the youth before him, so much that he wasn’t able to hold it from expressing it on his face; he openly criticized his own race, and above all, the race of Fallen, legendary race that is said to posses innate ability of flight among hundreds of other benefits! “You seem rather shocked by that statement.” Eon pierced further; he had finally caught the youth, and wasn’t intending to let go.
“If not for your incredible aura, I’d have never guessed you a Fallen,” the youth finally recovered and smiled, realizing that was slightly played. “My apologies.”
“Why would a ‘Two Star Jade’ apologies to a mere ‘Five Star Bronze’ who’s yet to break through?” Eon pushed forward, and another trace of shock crossed youth’s features.
“You are able to detect my stage?” aside from shock, Eon also noticed traces of fear in youth’s eyes. Eon barely laid a few cards open, and already had the youth dumbfounded. Was it really that difficult to detect stages? Eon didn’t know, but he noted he needed to find out.
“It wasn’t easy,” Eon quickly retracted, not wishing to insult the other party. “You guarded it rather well. Even now, I can barely discern your intelligence, let alone anything beyond it.” Eon slightly lied, as he already had a grasp of most of the man’s stats. They were pretty decent, but nothing shocking. According to Eon, Elain had better growth.
“And here I thought you were at least Gold stage,” the man let out a bitter laugh. “Fallen truly are terrifying.” this information benefited Eon quite a bit, as he was finally able to roughly place his strength within the world. “Even as ‘Five Bronze Star’, you’re able to exert enough pressure to even intimidate me, not even mentioning your detection. Are you sure you’re just a ‘Five Bronze Star’? You’re not bluffing?”
“Of course not,” Eon smiled; now that he had learned his strength, he wished to find a way to conceal it. After all, physique of a Human and a Fallen were rather similar and it was easy to mistake one for another, save for insurmountable individual strength of the Fallen. In game, however, Humans, as a race, while weak individually when compared to most other races, had the most benefits from uniting among themselves. As a party of ten, all their stats would get a boost of 60%, far surpassing a single Fallen. Eon decided to take a risk. “After all, I’ve been stuck here for quite a while. No matter what I do, my strength doesn’t seem to expand.” this information was half-truth; it was true that Eon was yet to grasp how to exactly break through, but he also knew that it was only a matter of time, as it was probably linked to a monster or even a quest, similar to the functions in the game. However, the young man didn’t know that, and a brief smirk flashed his features. Eon noticed it but feigned ignorance; such was the way of cunning men, after all. You had to know when to take and when to give.
“It isn’t unreasonable,” the young man said in a calm voice, yet his eyes radiated fire. “Very few people are able to break through the bottleneck, and even fewer capable of rising after it. If you’re interested, I could teach you.” although Eon was interested, he had already known man would suggest this; yet, he also knew that it would be far from free. The man would probably ask to have the ownership of the village, something Eon wasn’t willing to give. His idea was simply to make the man think he holds the cards, is all. So, he decided to give it a bite.
“Oh?” Eon faked interest.
“Of course, it won’t be free.” the man quickly added. “After all, as I said, only a small amount of people know how to break through the bottleneck, so it’s a rather rare knowledge, not easily acquirable, even for Fallen.”
“Such rare treasure must cost quite a lot,” Eon faked a sigh. “I’m afraid that, even if I sold all the properties I own, I still couldn’t accumulate enough wealth to pay you.”
“Coins come and go,” the man casually said. “They’re everywhere. However, friendships are far more valuable.” Friendship? Eon was slightly stunned, but didn’t reveal it in his expression.
“Meaning?” he carefully proceeded.
“Even if I’m ‘Two Star Jade’ stage, I’m far inferior to you to the point of wanting to weep for eons,” the young man truly seemed dejected. “Even when you told me your stage, I’m still utterly lost with detecting it. For your stats, well, I can’t even imagine. It would be an insult for me to ask of you to become my underling,” the man projected honesty, and even Eon realized that he spoke from his heart. “However painful that is to admit, it’s pointless to fight against it. From the birth, I wasn’t that talented anyway, so with years I’ve grown to learn that there will always be people that will loom over me like a shadow I’ll never catch.”
“How can you say that you lack talent when you are one of the few that had made a break through?” Eon acted humble, but he already knew the answer.
“Ah, the only difficult thing about break through is learning it,” the young man sighed. “After all, if methods were publicized, within a year thousands upon thousands of people would make them. I was only able to reach ‘Two Star Jade’ stage because of my family, and even that after begging for years. Alone, I can’t amount to much. But, because of who I am, not many people are willing to ally with me, feeling as if they can fare better with my brothers or even other families.”
“Aren’t you afraid that I’ll do the same?” Eon asked out of curiosity.
“Even if I hide it from you now,” the man smiled bitterly. “You’d eventually have learned it. I’d rather you reject me before I begin considering you a friend.”
“Unfortunately,” Eon said. “I haven’t a clue as to who you are or which family you belong to. Or even which city. Or, if we’re being honest, little to nothing about this world,” Eon added. “I had awaken from my slumber just shy of two months ago, and had since worked on improving the life of the villagers that had taken me in as their Lord. So I doubt you would gain a lot by allying with me.” the young man briefly smiled.
“Outside,” he said. “I had noticed the way your people look at you. Although fear is present, it is far buried, beneath respect, admiration and love. You don’t achieve that with being a moron. Besides, a few things have caught my eyes, since even I haven’t seen them in my lifetime. I assume they are your inventions.” the youth took a deep breath before continuing. “Contrary to popular belief, stages of your strength barely determine your position in the world. As sad as it is, the world is moved by money and money alone. Among my brothers and sister, I’m dead last when it comes to wealth. If I ordered the same meal in Capital, I’d cost me almost my entire pocket. However …”
“You want to say you don’t care about my looks?” Eon winked. “How noble of you.”
“Of course, there are some things that need to be settled before that.”
“For starters no one can know that I’m Fallen.” Eon finished the youth’s thoughts, to which the youth nodded.
“You are the first Fallen to have appear in public in over two hundred years,” he said. “That news will spread like wildfire and surely invite many eyes. Especially if the legend of your innate ability is correct.” Eon recalled to one of the major strengths of the Fallen race; although he had innate ability of flight thanks to his Winged ability, if he was killed, he’d drop an item that would grant its wearer the same ability, hence why he thought he’d be hunted a lot in the game. It wouldn’t be any different in this world either, Eon realized, so he nodded. “Luckily, you basically look like a human, even a handsome one at that, so we don’t need to do anything about that. Your aura, on the other hand, is too much. You wouldn’t be able to walk two steps within Capital without hundreds of soldiers and knights suddenly surrounding you. Even halfway through the woods on my way here, I could sense it, hence why I headed in this direction. I had honestly thought I was going mad because of hunger.”
“I don’t know a method to conceal my aura, though,” Eon honestly said. Siding with this person, at least for the time being, didn’t seem like a bad idea; he seemed rather straightforward, but at the same time quite intelligent, two things Eon appreciated in people. “So unless you can teach me, we’ll hit a dead end.”
“Aura concealment isn’t a hard thing to grasp,” the youth replied honestly, seemingly fully dedicated to befriending Eon. “Its only requirement is that you’re at least ‘Four Star Copper’, which is pathetically low. Its strength of concealment, though, is heavily tied to your stats. Mainly intelligence and strength.” the stat requirements rather surprised Eon; he had thought that agility would play the biggest role, but it seems some things are truly different than in the game world.
“What is the average strength of the Knighthood in the Capital?” Eon asked cautiously; if he learns average, he’ll also learn his own status.
“Don’t fret over them,” the youth waved his hand nonchalantly. “They’re bare bones, even when compared to me, and that says a lot. Their average strength is even below my intelligence. If you want someone to compare yourself with, my best guess is that Honored Guardians would pique your interest. They usually level around two to ‘Four Star Gold’ ranks, some even breaking through. Their average strength is around eighty, quite fearful.” upon hearing such words, even Eon couldn’t hold back his downright laughable face. His eyes dropped, lips spread out like chasms, and lingering trace of true astonishment passed through.
“You’re kidding?” he barely managed to stutter.
“Quite not,” for some reason, the youth seemed proud of those numbers. Yet, in Eon’s eyes, they were utter shit. What’s the status of ‘Five Gold Stars’ if they peak at one hundred strength when Eon has over one hundred and fifty by being a mere ‘Five Bronze Stars’ without any boosts or enchantments? “They truly are amazing.”
“It is as you say,” Eon recovered. He now truly grasped that he probably shouldn’t flaunt about his numbers, as they’ll truly attract too much attention. “Well then, let us feast tonight, and depart tomorrow.”
As the night went on, they chatted some more but nothing of importance occurred. By the morning, Eon had already laid careful plans on what’s to occur within the next half year – the time he had planned to be away from the Dusk Village. Although he’d be gone, he was certain that no true calamity would have befallen them, but still decided to leave Hawk and Elder of the Thans in charge, to look over things. He decided to bring Lye and Elain with him, and the three of them had all learned the Aura Concealing skill. Eon’s ease by which he learned it truly staggered the youth who presented himself as Lyon Stork, but when Lye and Elain grasped it as well, he was so dispirited he didn’t even care anymore. It had taken him over four months just to be able to take down his aura to ‘Four Bronze Stars’ level.
After carefully transferring his plans of expansion to the Elder and Hawk, and saying his farewells, Lyon, Lye, Elain and Eon had slowly charged towards the Capital, Eon’s first large-scaled conquest to his dream to obtain the world.