Chapter 85 – Arriving at the Port Town
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Before anything, Asterios wanted to get rid of the dried-off paint over his chest. It wasn’t really bothering him that much, but it felt weird walking around while knowing that these dark lines were still present on his skin.

Out of habit, he headed towards his old home and almost tried opening the door when he realized that they no longer lived there with his mother. She had handed that house down to the person taking her place as the shop’s manager, who was a subordinate of the main family.

Asterios stared at the building for a brief moment, reminiscing about his upbringing, and started walking towards the proper place to wash himself without having a personal bathroom at hand—one of the public bathhouses in Rosewind.

Miria insisted on giving him a hand and couldn’t be discouraged even by mentioning that they would have to use the mixed section with other people around if she really wanted to do so. Even Selene joined in on the idea and Asterios complied with their request.

As he had expected, the two unusual beauties did catch a lot of attention from the very moment they stepped into the bathing chamber, and the big towels covering most of their figures did not help in the slightest. 

Also, as Asterios had predicted, Miria could barely walk straight without her eyes constantly glued to the ground with a heavy blush adorning her adorable cheeks. He had to wrap his arm around her waist and pull Miria into himself, guiding her to a free spot on the side.

Selene didn’t really care about any onlookers and even angled her towel in ways that would show a little bit more of her skin and body just without revealing too much. A mischievous smile painted her lips. It grew even wider each time some woman would smack her partner for staring absentmindedly, and it certainly wasn’t a rare occurrence.

After Asterios led them to the side, the two jumped straight into taking care of him. Allowed to focus completely on her master, Miria quickly forgot about their surroundings and began washing his chest with her usual cheerful smile while Selene went after his back.

With his attention mostly directed at Miria, who was giving him some really cute smiles each time they made eye contact, Asterios almost jumped when the texture of a sponge brushing over his back suddenly switched to two soft mounds with stiff peaks moving up and down.

He glanced over his shoulder and was met with Selene’s playful gaze as she used her breasts on him, holding the towel just right to cover herself from the sides. Asterios sighed at her, causing Selene to chuckle softly, proud of her little mischief.

Before Miria managed to throw her own cover down and mimic Selene’s action from his front, Asterios defused her rising competitive spirit with a tame kiss on her lips shortly after turning his head towards her, catching the panthergirl with her fingers already lodged behind the edges of the towel.

Receiving his mental intention not to cause a scene in a public bath, Miria pouted at him while Selene chuckled impishly. Fortunately, all the markings had been already removed so Asterios could use that as the excuse for them to switch roles and began taking care of his familiars now.

He started with Miria and gently washed her head, paying a lot of affectionate attention to her fluffy ears, making the panthergirl purr loudly in satisfaction. After dealing with her arms, legs, and tail, he moved his focus onto Selene, making sure that her magnificent tail also got as much love as it deserved.

Since they weren’t really alone, the trio moved out of the bath straight after finishing their business on the sidelines, without staying in the public pool meant for some relaxation. Asterios had a feeling that he would end up with both of them all over him if they did so, and they had already caused enough ruckus amongst the customers, especially the male half.

Clean and refreshed, they went to the Adventurer’s Guild to check on Ellie and see if there was anything that aligned with their current objective. Asterios also wanted to ask about any possible dungeons on their path to the Demon continent, which they had been directed towards by Grea.

The lively receptionist noticed them first and started waving at Asterios and his group. They quickly arrived at her usual place.

“Ast! I didn’t think you would come back so soon! Welcome!”

“What can I say? It’s impossible to predict where our journeys take us. I did not expect to head this way shortly after leaving either. How are things?”

“Decent. We have a lot of work on our hands after the guildmaster started screening through the personnel due to that incident. But it’s going well. Can’t complain about making the guild a better place.”

“I really hope there are no more people like that guy!” Miria joined in with an angry gaze.

Ellie nodded. “We have already terminated our contracts with a few individuals that had a tendency to overuse their authority, and even sent some to prison for clear abuse, like that one female instructor who would sexually assault newbie adventurers during her lessons, threatening them with demotion or worse if they spoke up.”

She released a somber sigh and shook her head before continuing.

“It’s really sickening to learn that you’ve been working alongside some of these people for years… I know that there’s no organization without a black sheep once in a while, but still…”

“There’s nothing you can do about that,” Asterios said. “While some people definitely conceal their true nature, some change over time. We should be happy that Guildmaster Suanori acknowledged the problem instead of hiding it away.”

“Yeah. I really respect her for that. We’ve certainly received a hit in our reputation, even if not that big. But, we have to push forward. Regain that trust. Anyway, what brings you three here today?”

“We are going to travel to the Demon Continent!” Miria exclaimed with a beaming smile.

“The Demon Continent now? That’s much farther than Tyrienheim. Is there a reason why you would head there?”

“There’s someone we have to find who might be able to help us with something. We came to check if there’s anything to pick up on our way there.”

Ellie nodded. “I see. If you give me a minute, I’ll take a look at the—or not. It seems that the guildmaster is calling for us.”

Asterios followed her gaze and noticed Guildmaster Suanori on the stairs leading up, staring at them with crossed arms. She gestured with her head at the trio and started walking back to the next floor.

“I feel like she has her eyes on me every time I come here,” Asterios commented with a wry smile.

“You are not that far off.” Ellie chuckled. “She is well aware of who enters and leaves the building. Come on now. Let’s not make the Guildmaster wait.”

With Ellie as a guide, the party arrived in the guildmaster’s office and entered it. Suanori sat on one of the sofas by the coffee table, already waiting for them. After being invited to come closer, they all joined her on the opposite side while Ellie moved to stand behind the guildmaster.

“You were still in Tyrienheim five days ago and yet here you are, already in Rosewind,” she started. “That’s quite the speed, even for someone traveling alone.”

“Why does it seem like I’m being monitored?” Asterios chuckled lightly.

“Wouldn’t you monitor a person of unknown power that already has broken quite a few commonly known norms? Or, you could say that it’s one of the downsides of having my Token of Fealty.”

“Fair enough.”

“So?”

He sighed. “We just ran. Or rather, Miria did. That’s all.”

“I wanted to see how fast I can go with Master’s help now!” Miria added.

Suanori raised her eyebrow at the enthusiastic panthergirl. It was hard to believe that a summoned beast had covered the distance between Tyrienheim and Rosewind in a time usually associated with flying mounts. They were really breaking common sense amongst the Summoners.

“Let’s assume that’s the truth. Then, what’s your relation to the sudden disappearance of the almost two-decade-old curse bothering the village of Teira?”

“The news travels fast, huh. It’s exactly as described in the report,” he replied.

“You don’t think I’ll believe that after heading to Tyrienheim specifically to visit that place, you coincidentally arrived there moments after the curse had been brought down by a mysterious wandering master, and then ran back here without staying there for more than two weeks? That might have fooled the others but not the people who have already experienced your antics.”

Asterios spread out his arms and shrugged his shoulders. “Went sightseeing, met a huge golem, destroyed the huge golem, curse disappeared, went back home, and started heading to the Demon Continent next.”

Suanori began rubbing her temples. “As if getting rid of such a powerful spell is this simple…”

“That’s all we did. It would be nice if you could keep us away from the aftermath.”

Haaaaah… Fine. Then, why is The Summoner’s Harem heading to the Demon Continent so suddenly? Does it have any connection to the curse?” the guildmaster asked, emphasizing the name of their party with a barely noticeable smirk on her face.

Hearing her speak, Ellie glanced at Asterios with her brows raised. He gave her a wry smile at the same time as Miria and Selene caught his arms and pulled themselves closer to him, staring right back at the red-haired receptionist.

“We really need to change that,” he said while shaking his head. “Actually, since there’s Umbra with us now, it can’t really be called a harem anymore, so there’s even more reason to do so.”

“No, it is fine, Master. We’ve already talked about this and why it’s beneficial to you,” Miria commented, snuggling his right arm to her body.

“I agree, my Lord. Besides, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. You should just relish in all those jealous stares you are getting, fufufu~” Selene squeezed his left hand between her thighs.

“Umbra?” Suanori tried to ignore their clearly intentional display by changing the topic.

After pacifying the girls mentally, Asterios nodded at the guildmaster. “Just my new companion.”

Black smoke began rising from Ast’s also black hair and formed the shape of a big raven with glowing purplish eyes. The guildmaster jerked in the seat the moment it had finished changing; the aura that the weird shadowy bird emanated was enormous. She couldn’t believe it had gone unnoticed until it had revealed itself.

“If you ever need a specialist in the mind arts, you know who to look for,” Asterios said while petting the raven with his fingers, released from Selene’s clutches. “So, is there anything else behind this meeting besides your own curiosity, Guildmaster Suanori, or could we get back to our preparations?”

Suanori cleared her throat. “I guess there isn’t. What are your travel plans then?”

“I’m not yet sure. We were going to discuss the path with Ellie after checking for any viable quests.”

She nodded. “Then I guess you would be heading to Nebula, one of the port towns in the North. Then, travel on a ship to Ashen Barrel on the Demon’s side, perhaps stopping by the territory of the Damascu Clan of Mountain Dwarves to restock supplies along the way. If you are fine with that route, I could have something for you to do.”

“I don’t know much about the traveling paths so I don’t mind taking a recommendation. What do you need us to do?”

“Nebula is reporting an increase in monster activity in the forests around the town. The wild beasts have been spotted outside of their usual spots too. It’s not something critical, but certainly odd. The adventurers from the guild’s branch over there didn’t find anything related to it yet, but I can’t stop having a bad feeling about this. Especially since Nebula is located literally in the middle of three dungeons. I can’t really file a request for an emergency quest to move adventurers from other guilds to Nebula’s branch without solid evidence from a reliable source.”

“And I guess someone holding a Token of Fealty is considered one.”

“Exactly.” She nodded. “Now, I’m not asking you to conduct a thorough investigation. Just please, take a look before departing from there and let me know what you think. Time is crucial in cases like these so I’ll even authorize you to use the interguild communication system to pass me a message from the Nebula’s branch. It won’t be taken lightly, but I’ll shoulder that myself.”

“There’s no need.” Asterios waved his hand. “I can contact you at any time.”

Suanori furrowed her brows. “How so?”

With another gesture, Umbra sank back into Ast’s hair. A cold shiver ran through the guildmaster’s spine a moment later, making her instinctively glance down. She immediately noticed two glowing purple spots in the shadow under her legs.

Something prodded her mind, making her jump a little in surprise. Glancing at Asterios, she saw him nod. Albeit a bit reluctantly, Suanori allowed the weird sensation into her consciousness and soon heard Ast’s voice in her head.

~With this, we can talk over any distance. The only downside is that I need to be the one initiating the conversation since I have to send Umbra to you. He can travel through shadows. But, we can agree on specific times of the day when he could be checking on you to see if we need to talk.~

~And you can hear me back properly?~

~Yes. Although, you aren’t really talking to me but to Umbra, who is mimicking my voice while repeating the words I pass on to him. Not like it matters anyway.~

~That’s quite a huge deal, being able to impersonate someone.~

~Trust me. That’s nothing compared to his other abilities.~

Suanori nodded at Asterios and he withdrew Umbra from her mind. The raven materialized itself over his shoulder.

“Let’s do it like this then. Since it’s only a scouting mission, I can easily submit it as a D-ranked quest, fitting your actual position. You really need to work on raising it. People will grow suspicious when they see what you are truly capable of while staying at such a low rank.”

“I’m just quite busy with my personal matters.” Asterios shrugged. “But that’s also on our mind. I guess we don’t have to rush that much and can take it a bit slower on the Demon Continent. I’ve heard that the monsters and dungeons are way stronger there. My familiars would definitely love a good challenge.”

He glanced at Miria and Selene, who gave him approving smiles. Even Umbra was getting slightly excited, unable yet to show his fighting prowess properly. And, he definitely wanted to test himself in this realm too.

“Alright. Give me a moment to file the necessary paperwork and we are done here. Ellie can assist you if you are in need of any supplies, at a discounted price, of course.”

“Are the prices of high-level monster cores high?” he asked.

“Quite. We don’t have a stable supply of them since there are no dungeons in the close vicinity. Dungeon towns reap most of the materials too. I still think it’s stupid and irresponsible to build that close to the dungeon, but what can you do in the face of greed.”

“Looks like our resupply dungeon run is still going to happen. Thanks anyway. Let's check the other wares.”

Asterios and the girls went to the trading part of the guild and restocked some common and staple consumables. It was pointless to buy anything more than completely necessary that was related to the Demon Continent and its monsters or beasts since the prices here were highly inflated as the items were considered very rare.

After the guildmaster finished all the documents, Ellie registered him for the quest and they departed without delay. With Miria’s speed, they easily reached the next village on their path to Nebula, stopping for the night. They had around four days of distance to cover if she ran without Asterios constantly supporting her with Haste and they decided to save it for an emergency.

They started closing on the port town after the estimated time, noticing it from the hill a few kilometers from their destination. Wooden storehouses dominated the view, with the living and commercial parts extending into the land. Its size was comparable to Rosewind, but the ships docked on the water only added to that impression. The harbor could easily accommodate six to eight big mercantile vessels.

But, most of them were clearly leaving in a hurry. A few had already sailed ahead and stopped some distance from the piers, throwing their anchors down. It created a very unique spectacle. Almost as if…

“They are running away from the shoreline…?” Asterios observed, squinting his eyes while enhancing his vision with the low-level Farsight taught him by Roalt.

~I smell blood coming from that direction, Master,~ Miria spoke in his mind.

A crimson gate opened by their side and Selene walked out of it with a visible frown on her face.

“There’s something peculiar about the spiritual energy in this area… It’s very… chaotic?” she commented.

“Umbra, use your shadow movement and check ahead! Selene, jump on! We have to check it out immediately! Miria, get ready for Haste!”

Everyone did as instructed and Asterios sped with Selene on Miria’s back down the hill, towards Nebula, as fast as she could run.

“Gods, please, let it not be a sudden Monster Outbreak…” he pleaded under his breath.

 

Don't jinx it ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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