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20 You Know How It Will End

    Amongst knees to the chest and punches to his back, Daniel managed to take the mage out of the forest.

    At that point, a message appeared inside Daniel's mind

    -----

    *Just a Wandering Hero*

    First objective completed.

    Reward: 1250 Karma Points

    -----

    "Am I even a hero at this point?.. I'm getting paid after all.." Daniel thought while an odd smile grew in his face.

    After leaving the forest, Daniel encountered the rest of his hunting party.

    "What is going on? Where are the bandits? And who the hell is that?!" Said Stueh.

    Daniel put the mage down and then gave the escort a grim look while saying. "Do you want some answers or do you want to keep asking questions?" He then looked at the whole group and continued "I've heard screaming, so I rushed towards the forest. About a hund..." He explained everything that happened in detail.

    This time, the first to talk was the sister of the two siblings, Fiora. "You are saying that you've sneaked up on a dual elementalist summoner?!" She asked incredulously.

    Garth, the old man in mimetic attire, responded for Daniel "What is so strange about it.. we are hunters, aren't we?" Of the hunting party, he was the most adept with stealthy behaviour, as he needed to reach a certain distance to make good use of his throwing spears.

    The old man had noticed the few throwing knives strapped on Daniel's thighs, and the exact height in which they were placed, which was perfect for someone experienced to easily take them at any time. This had convinced him that Daniel wasn't a beginner at throwing knives.

    Differently, The two siblings were used to hunt in couple. The girl would trap the prey with her bolas, and her brother would finish it with his greatsword. Their approach was a direct one, while instead, Sella was an archer, so he didn't have a use for sneaking as close to the prey.

    Stueh looked at the bag that Daniel was holding on his right arm, he didn't recall it being part of his belongings. "Is that the summoner's bag?" He then asked, all of a sudden.. his look one of greed.

    A slightly disdainful smile grew on Daniel's face, he answered "No, it's hers." Daniel had expected him to ask about the bag, but he had no intention of handing it over. What made him so sure that he would be asked about it, was the dark red 962 floating above Stueh's head.

    He had noticed the karma of every member of the hunting party the very moment he had met them. He was about to start a journey with these people, and knowing if one of them had bad intentions, wouldn certainly not hurt him.

    The siblings had an overall neutral number above their heads. Daniel had guessed that they had spent their time accepting missions within the Huntsmen Guild, while instead, Garth's and Sella's were slightly positive.

    The only person who had a negative karma, was their escort.

    "Hmph.." Stueh's eyes narrowed as he looked at the covered woman standing next to Daniel. "Who are you?" He then asked.

    The woman removed her cape, and what was uncovered, made them all think that calling her 'a woman' was a stretch.

    The female mage, happened to be a beautiful girl that seemed to be in her mid teens. Her body shape was completely covered by the oversized green cape, but her visage was a spectacle to behold. Her straight hair flowed down her back like a dark silver waterfall. Her steep arched brows stood above natural swiping lashes. Her deep set eyes enclosed a pair of emerald green irises, inside wich, pupils as black as the coldest of nights could be seen.

    She had a serious expression, but it wasn't clear if that was caused by tiredness, or by her cold looking appearance.

    The young mage took a slow bow "My name is Yala.. I am an alchemist of the Golden Cauldron.. the rest of my group and I were attacked early this morning.. I managed to escape, but I was found out when I lit a fire.. Thank you for saving me.." She said between heavy breaths.

    The members of the hunting party bowed in response, embarassed about being thanked regardless of not playing any part in her rescue. The only one that didn't bow, was the escort. His eyes were stuck at Yala's beauty.. lust growing clearer by the moment.

    While nobody noticed them, Garth's hand moved close to the spears strapped to his back, and Daniel's hand approached the hilt of his sword.

    "Let's go back to the camp." Said Stueh.

    Minutes later, the group had arrived at their camp.

    The eyes of Garth and Daniel had never left the escort's body. They both understood from the greed he showed towards the bag, and the lust he didn't bother to hide for the female mage, that he would have tried something soon.

    An additional reason for their alertness was that, in case he did try something, that meant that at some point through their mission, the escort would certainly try to silence them.

    Harming and stealing from the party one had been hired to protect, was a huge taboo. Anyone accused of it, if found guilty, would be blacklisted from both the mercenary's and huntsmen's groups.

    Unfortunately, the escort was usually stronger than the rest of the party members. Adding the fact that they were trained and used to battle against other humans, they were usually capable of wiping out the entire hunting party on their own, and get out of trouble by slightly injuring themselves and claiming that the rest of the party had perished during a sudden attack from a group of beasts.

    In that case, the escort would not be paid even if he delivered the beasts carcasses or beast cores, as it counted as failing his mission, but he wouldn't suffer any consequence either.

    When they reached the camp, as the escort was about to say something to the female mage, Daniel said out loud "It's Garth's turn to keep watch, she can use your tent, right?"

    "Sure thing, kiddo.." Said Garth promptly.

    A clear layer of frustration could be seen on Stueh's face. He couldn't retort to any of their words, so he went back into his tent in silence.

    Daniel nodded at Garth, which smiled in response. Then went back to his own tent.

    Time passed slowly as daniel sat quietly in his tent. In front of him, three books, various herbs, and about a dozen beast cores of various ranks. Two were rank 3 cores, while the remaining 9 were of rank 2. This, was the content of the summoner's bag.

    Daniel didn't know the last thing about herbs as he had never had a chance to study them, so he put them away for the moment. He also put the beast cores away, as he had no intention of cultivating right now. The only remaining thing in front of him, were the three books.

    On these three book covers, clear titles were written in black. These book's titles were -Fire Element: Flaming Whisp-, -Earth Element: Stone Skin- and -Basics and Theories of Summoning Magic, Vol.1-.

    It was the first time for Daniel to see magic books. He had never considered becoming a mage, as for him, magic was a world detached from his. But since these books had fallen onto his lap.. he decided to try them out.

    The first book he decided to read, was the manual for the earth element's magic, Stone Skin. Daniel was an agile person, and he was capable of reacting to a speed faster than others.. but he had never fought one on one against another martial practitioner of his level. His entire preparation was his natural speed and the basic knowledge of movement, sword, halberd and knife throwing.

    The book was filled with illustrations which Daniel didn't understand. Weird symbols covered the upper part of each page. Luckly enough, on the bottom part, a translation was written in the common language.

    /The Spirit connects us to the Spiritual plane;

    /Mana will be traded for spiritual essence;

    /Spiritual essence allows the use of magic;

    /Stronger the connection, The more refined the essence.

    /STONE SKIN

    /Channel spiritual essence into your body;

    /Guide it through the pores of your skin;

    /Form a thin layer, and turn it into earth essence.

    The book's translation was written in short sentences, but Daniel was still able to grasp the method. He closed the book and put it on the ground, before starting to practice.

    Since the moment he had fallen unconscious, that day in the forest, he always felt this thin connection to the spiritual plane. He didn't know how to explain it. He simply felt an entity inside him, which was both him and not.

    That was his spirit.

    If one tried to explain it, they would describe it like "a well built within your house". You knew that the water within was yours, but you also knew that this well was connected to a much larger body of water.

    He could feel his spirit, but he had never interacted with it, until now. He focused on his naturally built ki and tried to channel it within his spirit. The reaction was the same as poring oil into a bowl already full of water. The more ki he pushed through his spirit, the more spiritual essence he could feel run through his body.

    After a few minutes, he felt like he had reached the maximum capacity of spiritual essence he could hold within his body. He had tried to take more, but the extra spiritual essence was pushed out of his body and dispersed in the air.

    He now had two different kinds of essences within his body. Ki, and Spiritual Essence.

    These two essences were like water and oil, meaning that merging them, was impossible. Their nature was simply too different, as if they belonged to different worlds.

    Daniel tried to focus the spiritual essence within his hand, and slowly pushed it through the pores of his skin. Nothing happened. He quickly realized that he didn't know how to turn spiritual essence into earth essence.

    He thought about it for a few minutes, but there were still no results, so he decided to give up for now. When he got up from his sitting position and tried to get some sleep, after touching the ground, he saw that a thin layer of stone slowly covered the skin of his hand.

    "So it is like this.. I am simply not familiar enough with the elements.." Thought Daniel while touching the thin layer of stone that covered his hand.

    His guess was right. Mages needed to spend a lot of time trying to understand the elements they wished to control. What they needed to learn, was how to replicate the essence without being in direct contact with it.

    Daniel had started to feel excited about magic, so he grabbed another manual.. but as he was about to start reading it, he heard talking outside of his tent. He then got up, and left his tent.

    In front of him, Garth was sitting around the campfire, and a few meters away, Stueh was standing.

    Stueh had left his tent in the middle of the night and went towards Garth's tent, in which Yala was resting. Garth had asked him if something was wrong, but the response he had received was an aggressive one.

    "Is everything alright? Have the bandits found us?" Said Daniel.

    Stueh's face grew even more annoyed, and through gritted teeth he said "I have to ask a few questions to the mage. If there is a bandit group, i'll have to write a report."

    "I'll come too, I was there, i've seen and fought them after all" Responded Daniel while pretending to be collaborating.

    The escort had reached his breaking point. With his back exposed to the two, he said in a threatening tone "Mind your own business from now on.. if you want to go back to the city.."

    -----

    *Primary Quest started: Just a Wandering Hero*

    -Description: Save those in need.

    Second objective set: Save Yala from Stueh.

    Optional: Prevent Garth's Death.

    Optional: Kill Stueh.

    Reward: Karma +200(+500)(+100) / Golden Cauldron reputation +50%

    -----

    Daniel's tone turned just as serious "You know how it will end.. That's why your hand is on the hilt of your sword.."
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