35 Glorious Return
After dealing with the Alpha Wolf, Rey and his unit rushed towards the wolf's den after hearing a huge tremor. Witnessing the wolf den collapse on the wolves, and then Drake finishing the injured wolves without mercy, the whole unit felt a chill.
To be honest, once they saw Drake being charged at by about a dozen wolves and him falling down the hill, they all thought he was a goner. However, not only did he survive, he also managed to kill over eleven iron wolves by himself, including two giant iron wolves!
Arriving at the scene, they were…flabbergasted.
On the walls of the wolf den, or at least what remained of it, there were drawings and what appeared to be a wolf language, using claw marks. It meant that the Alpha Wolf was intelligent enough to create its own language and teach it to its fellow wolves. It certainly looked primitive, yet it was frightening to think that some beasts had such intellectual powers.
The iron wolves had also prepared food reserves for the incoming winter, hundreds of wild beasts killed and stocked in a hole filled with salt as to avoid putrefaction. It was yet another shocking discovery.
"It doesn't make sense…Do you think beastmen used to live here and taught these wolves?", a sentinel asked
However, no one could answer it. Amidst the corpses, Drake managed to find a particularly big bear…with residual flame magic particles on him. It was the flaming bear they were chasing! There was no doubt! Following the places where the fire weeds were eaten was indeed the right answer, as it indeed led their party towards the flaming bear!
The sentinels had mixed feelings. Two sentinels died in the battle, four suffered from heavy injuries and the rest had light injuries all over their body. Be it bites or claw marks, it would take a while before they would be able to go on patrols again.
As four horses died in the battle, the group couldn't go back to Helios riding. They would have to march to a nearby stable, two days away from the Blue Forest, and then ride to Helios. However, it wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
After putting tight ropes around the bodies of the flaming bear and the Alpha Iron wolf, the group cleared their way out of the Blue Forest, with a huge harvest. Most of the merit could be attributed to Drake, hence Rey asked: "I think everyone is okay with giving up half of the rewards we will earn to Drake? After all, if it weren't for him, we would be either dead or agonizing."
Everybody nodded. Although they felt slightly angry to lose two of their companions, they were also incredibly thankful to Drake's act of bravery. If it weren't for him, they would have been wiped out by the second charge of Iron Wolves. It was a fact. Giving up on half the rewards was really a big gesture, but this time, their rewards would be a dozen times more valuable than usual, with two magical beasts as harvest.
"Actually, guys, can I take the Alpha Wolf's body as a reward? I have a friend who can cook magical beast, and I am sure you have heard that it can benefit one's body and spirit", Drake said as he saw a huge opportunity to further increase his attributes.
"Of course. Even in Helios, few acolytes can afford the meat, though. Are you sure you want to do that? With its intelligence and strength, I am sure Roxanne would give you over 20 magic crystals for the body though."
Everyone gasped and felt excitement upon hearing the value of a magical beast. They all knew that the prices varied greatly, and they also acknowledged the fact that they would have to split the rewards. However, twenty magic crystals were still a huge amount, no matter how they looked at it.
Hunting a magical beast was not frequent among sentinels. After all, they didn't have spells to hunt them down and only took the risk when there are no options available, like being ambushed by iron wolves. In his time serving the sentinels, Rey had only managed to come back to Helios after patrolling missions with a magical beast body in such pristine condition a handful of times.
Most of the missions available in the tower were dangerous, like harvesting materials or hunting. Even if there were several acolytes coordinating their attacks, it was useless when facing a magical beast with attributes on par with Half-grand knights or even on par with Grand knights.
Hence, the death rate was pretty high in Helios, despite the measures taken by the Magi.
Because there were thousands of ways to use a magical beast's body, namely necromancy, cooking, rituals, dark blood magic, bloodline studies etc…, their value was extremely high. 20 magic crystals were indeed a sum that Drake found extremely attractive, but eating the alpha wolf would grant him additional benefits, such as slight increase in spirit and bodily attributes. In a way, eating the nutritious meat of this wolf would provide him with the same effects as an elixir, except that he would take days to eat it and consume it.
The return trip took 8 days, mostly because they had to march and drag the magical beast's body, as they lacked a caravan. Arriving at Helios and passing the gate, the onlooking acolytes were shocked.
A group of sentinels had managed to hunt down not one but two magical beasts. It was something that hadn't happened over the past years. As the news spread in Helios, sentinels gained yet even more fame.
Drake didn't head back to the sentinel casern. Instead, he dragged the Alpha Wolf's corpse to the Bear Tavern. Upon returning, he saw Felicia behind the bar, as always, despite the lack of clients.
"Hey, Felicia! I am back!"
Turning her head, she smiled and was shocked to see a 1.5-meters-long iron wolf with lingering magic particles floating around it, carried by the muscular and injured Drake.
As her confusion was at its peak, Drake merely smiled and said: "If you could cook it, I would really appreciate it. I can't bear the hard bread and butter given out by the Sentinels…Even if it is free food, I just can't eat another grain of it without feeling nauseated!"
Meanwhile, in a dark Alley of Helios, Franklin listened to a frail rank 1 acolyte who trembled while spouting the following words: "Franklin…I saw Drake, your target, head back from the patrolling mission…"
Franklin was quite shocked to hear that Drake had gone a patrol mission! They were quite hard and although they provided good rewards, they often resulted in injuries. To body refinement acolytes, injuries were annoying since it would directly hurt their growth rate.
"And? Was there something interested?", Franklin asked in an annoyed voice
Feeling Franklin's blood thirst, the rank 1 acolyte felt tears on her cheek and said: "I…I am sorry, Lord Franklin. But, Drake and his group managed to hunt down two magical beasts!"
Franklin's anger reached its peak upon hearing these words. With his 8 points of strength, he punched the ground and produced a huge crater with it. Looking at the female acolyte, he began to smile sadistically, and started to vent his frustration on her.
"Please, lord Franklin…It hurts! What are you doing?", she exclaimed as Franklin began to tear off her clothes.
"THAT'S ENOUGH!" A dark-clothed man shouted, unable to stay silent upon seeing Franklin's unsightly behaviour.
Judging by the man's influence and aura, he was a rank 1 acolyte who was on the verge of breaking through. Feeling the anger and blood thirst of this 'guest', Franklin stopped and pushed his subordinate on the wall.
"What?", Franklin said, even more annoyed than before.
"The boy probably had luck. However, knights alone aren't capable of taking down two magical beasts. He must have contributed a lot…even if it is impossible for a newcomer who joined Helios three months ago to grow this much. I investigated, and it turns out he has grade 5 talent. I never expected him to be so talented…", the man said while considering the options.
"Why? Do you really think he will become strong enough to catch up to me in merely half a year? There are plenty of talented acolytes who challenged me, and I beat them all despite being a mere grade 1 talent. Of course, talent means a lot, but the only things that matter in a confrontation isn't your growth speed. It's your current strength", Franklin exclaimed, seemingly even more angered at Drake, who had everything he hadn't: talent, enchanted armour…
"Did you forget who gave you this Jatu Meteorite piece?", the man said, annoyed: "We will force him to duel with you in the following days. My family has been supporting me, and my father is a count with plenty of influence and allies. I can ask him to attack the Moonlight territory. If Drake refuses to duel you, we will crush his family."
"His father is a strong peak knight. Even if your family has a county, your Household's power has been declining a lot since they poured all of their benefits into grooming you instead of grooming an army. On the other hand, the Moonlight has never been stronger, and Drake himself has conquered the Alm Castle a few months ago. Even a Count wouldn��t be able to take such a famous castle, don't you think?", Franklin said.
"Don't underestimate the strength of a Count Household. My father has a personal army of over a thousand men. Furthermore, they don't need to actually attack the Moonlight Territory. They just have to pressure the Viscount."
"Then, yeah…He will have no choice. Haha, I knew I could let you do the thinking. You're smarter than I could ever be."
"Even if he is a knight and possess a few tricks, I don't think that he is at your level. With your [Stone Skin] spell, not many acolytes can take you on and come out of the fight alive."
Although the female acolyte faked being unconscious, her eyes radiated a rarely seen rage. She had been mistreated by her boss for years, and now that someone angered the latter, he was about to take everything from her, even her honour? She didn't have a strong background. Her father was a mere baron and thus could not pay for her studies in Helios. The only reason she managed to join Helios was a fortuitous encounter in a banquet, in which she met another acolyte who found out about her talent.
Everything cost magic crystals in Helios: tomes, access to the library, access to meditation rooms, access to laboratories…Until she could pay for a spell, which usually cost twenty magic crystals, she had no choice but to play the servant girl, running errand for measly pay and mistreatment. She was so close to her goal…yet Franklin was just too much.
A woman's revenge ought not to be underestimated.