Level 45 Two Days
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"What? Why?" The mayor burst out. 

Syrna's comment was so far out of the left-field; it threw everyone for a loop until the archer elaborated. 

The archer gestured toward the contact, "I can only get a partial translation, but I had an idea. There's the fully translated section of the contract, where it stipulates the firstborn daughter, yadda yadda, and the fortnight after her first menstruation."

"Yeah?" Urginok asked, wondering where Syrna was going with this.

Rydr jumped to the same conclusion as the archer as he listened for what Syrna wasn't saying.

"The contract never indicates firstborn biologically. It's phrased chronologically. Right?" Rydr peered down at the blonde, who gave him a thumbs-up without looking away from the mayor.

"So? How quickly can you adopt me?" Syrna prompted Ausch again, impatient for an answer. Within the archer's heart, she knew her attitude came from wanting to be right about the translation.

The blonde held strict pride when it came to languages. If she got it wrong, the mistake would eat at her until corrected. 

Amos looked between the two women, waiting for Ausch to answer, "Well? Do you think it would work?" The guard was anxious to confirm the possibility of Audra's safety. He was like an uncle to her and felt as such.

Ausch pursed her lips, thinking, "Maybe...but I wouldn't wish this fate upon my worst enemy." Even with the possibility dangled right in front of her, the mayor couldn't bring herself to sacrifice someone else for herself.

In the same way, she couldn't sacrifice her daughter to protect the family's position.

Syrna waved her hand dismissively, "Don't worry about that. Travelers are immortal anyway. How quickly can you adopt me, and when is the fortnight up?" The archer wouldn't let herself get sidetracked. 

Besides, she felt up to the challenge and wanted to test her new runic abilities.

After a few moments of hesitation, the mayor hesitantly said, "I have the authority to write it up and have it signed right now."

Syrna grinned, before paling, "Okay, don't do that just yet. Is there somewhere we can prepare?"

Hermes finally forced out a question, "Wait. What? Right now? Fight a demon right now?" 

Urginok clapped the teen on his shoulder, "Sure, why not? An elemental in the morning and a demon at night sounds like a full day of adventure to me."

Rydr grunted in agreement, crossing his massive arms over his chest. 

Ausch and Audra both stared at the team with puffy eyes, amazed that anyone had the wherewithal to take on a demon after just hearing about it.

To the mayor's side, Amos grinned as he looked between the party and his old friend.

"Why don't you leave this to them?"

*****

The mayor led the team deeper into the mansion, down one floor to a ballroom Ausch used for receptions and parties. Audra clung to her mother the whole time, bringing the mother's focus back to her daughter.

"Should we hide her?" The mayor asked.

Nearly everyone present shook their heads at the same time.

Rydr spoke up, "She needs to stay close by. If the demon is still able to go after Audra once it's summoned, we need to be close to her to protect her."

Urginok added, "Demons are all about loopholes. The one we are trying to use was probably written in by the demon. I expect a few beloved adopted daughters in the family history have gone missing."

Rydr nodded in distaste. It sounded exactly like what a demon would do, to have a chance at some more meat or souls.

Or whatever it is that this demon is actually getting from the girls. The Titan shook his head to dispel the terrible ideas his brain supplied. 

Hermes threw out his own question, "Do we know what the demon looks like? Will it appear like a little girl or something?" The teen shuddered as he thought about it. Demon little girls were top-tier scary for him.

Ausch nodded to his question, choosing to distract herself with it, "According to my great-great-grandmother's diary, the demon prefers to take form as some kind of mutated hunched-man-porcupine monster."

The mayor gestured at Rydr, "I think it should be about your size?"

"What about its abilities?" Syrna asked, planning out the traps she wanted to set.

The mayor pursed her lips as she recalled the diary, "Faster and stronger than its size would make you think. It can shoot the quills out as a deadly attack, which seems to poison its victims."

Amos grunted when he heard that, "It's a fairly low-level demon then."

"How do you know?" Ausch asked, searching for reassurance that their goal was doable.

"When I was conscripted into the army, years ago, I was close to the frontlines when Fort Mirlak fell to a Demon Baron." Amos hung his head for a moment before he continued, "The demon was the lowest tier able to use magical abilities, and it brutalized a militia of 1000 boys and men."

The mayor paled as she listened, beginning to panic again. 

Amos looked up and rested a hand on her shoulder, "There is a steep drop-off in power below Baron level. Before they achieve their magical abilities, most demons are just intelligent, powerful monsters from another dimension."

"It's their innate soul and contract magic which makes them so dangerous. Weak demons have perfected the art of throwing someone a bone at their lowest and most influenceable."

Amos continued to explain everything he knew about demons, which wasn't much more than he'd said. Most of his information came from an army-appointed mage who came through the camp to explain what happened at Fort Mirlak to the fearful masses.

However, what he knew was enough to give the party confidence. If all they were up against was one big monster, then Rydr and Urginok should be able to corral the demon while Syrna worked.

Something occurred to Rydr, though, "What about the priest in Grotto?" The Titan turned to look at Amos, "Old Gath, you said?"

To the giant, it seemed like common sense to bring in the divine to battle the demonic. Most books, holy and fiction, interpreted the holy as anathema to demons. A bit of holy water might come in handy too.

A light went off in Amos' head as he turned to face Ausch, "What about Old Gath? Have you talked to him about this?" The guard's thoughts aligned with Rydr's, wondering why the priest wasn't already here- sans the ongoing emergency in Grotto.

The mayor paused her steps as she answered, "Because he's a traditionalist. The God, Craton, presides over trials. However, the church has a zero-tolerance policy regarding demonic deals. It doesn't matter that it was done centuries ago by an ancestor. The Otto family contracted a demon."

Amos slammed a palm into his face, ashamed that he'd forgotten something so important in the heat of the moment.

Hermes spoke up, "Sooo...what? If the church found out, your family would be punished?"

"Executed," Ausch corrected.

"Well, shit. No holy water, then." Urginok cursed their luck that the only priest in town was a zealot. 

Rydr was thinking the same. None of their party members could cast divine magic. Although, the behemoth stumbled on an idea as he thought about magic.

I wonder if I could [Empower] Syrna's runic magic? Maybe charge it faster? I've got mana to spare.

*****

It took until the party reached the ballroom for the mayor to answer Syrna's other question finally. The demon would manifest near midnight in two days to take Audra.

According to Syrna's plan, if it worked, the demon would arrive the moment the mayor finished signing the adoption papers. Chronologically speaking, Syrna had her first period a long time ago. 

Amos was certain the plan would work because of his limited knowledge of the demonic. However dangerous the demon was, it was bound by its contract, just like the Otto family. 

Everything the team found out about the demon suggested they should be ready for a fight the instant it appeared.

Rydr and Syrna walked around the ballroom while Urginok and Hermes continued to quiz Amos and the mayor about the demonic. 

The archer was busy designing runic traps in her mind, measuring the space with her eyes. Syrna believed she could get ten traps inside the ballroom, given the space available.

On the other hand, Rydr walked around the ballroom, performing a strange series of motions. Every so often, he would stomp hard on the floor, pause, and move on. Whenever the giant neared a wall, he pressed against it for a while before moving on.

Hermes and the mayor tuned out of the conversation. They had to stare at the Titan's strange actions. The teen nudged Urginok and pointed at Rydr with a questioning look on his face. 

Urginok looked for only a moment before he turned back around, "He's testing the building's foundation."

Amos nodded in agreement. After the guard witnessed Rydr's insane fighting style in the elemental's pit, the Titan's strength was unquestionable to him.

"Why is he doing that?" Audra questioned, speaking for the first time.

Urginok knelt and explained on her level, "Rydr is the strongest amongst us, Travelers. Literally, physically, the strongest. He's doesn't want to crack the foundation or collapse your house. So, he's testing how strong it is."

Instead of looking upset, color returned to the mayor's face as she watched the colossus. Hope blossomed inside Ausch as she connected the dots in her head.

Ausch turned to Amos excitedly, "He's Rydr? The Rydr? The new Legend?" Beside her, Audra's eyes sparkled. The giant's feat ranked him in the company of heroes to the child, and he was here to save her.

Amos knew how to read his old friend. She wouldn't give a damn about the Dungeon around Grotto if Rydr helped save her child.

The guard let a huge grin spread on his face, "Trust me. No shit-list demon has seen anything like Rydr."

Urginok snorted and corrected the guard, "No shit-list demon has seen anything like them. Rydr isn't the only new Legend in the room." In the tank's head, he resolved to catch up with his teammates. If they could achieve something legendary, so could he.

*****

After Audra learned that both Rydr and Syrna were Legends, the child couldn't stay away from them. She followed Syrna around the ballroom, keeping up a constant stream of questions.

The archer tolerated the child for as long as she could before taking Audra to Rydr and ordering him to distract her.

Originally, the twelve-year-old asked Rydr to pick her up. Even though she felt she was a little old for that, she was intensely curious about what it was like to be as tall as him.

Rydr regretted it, but he had to say no to the child, "I'm sorry, sweetheart, I'm a new Legend and don't know how to control my strength yet. I may hurt you." Combat was straightforward, but his avatar passed a realistic strength level a long time ago. Rydr wasn't confident in his fine motor control yet.

After Audra's face crumpled, in a mix of childish shame and disappointment, Rydr decided to make it up to her by showing off a little. Children always focused on his size instead of his deformity, so the giant had a major soft spot for them.

The ballroom was mostly bare at the moment, but there remained a few stone busts in the corner, which Rydr led Audra over to. Then, careful to hold the statues not to break them, Rydr lifted a bust in each hand.

They were lighter than he expected them to be. According to Testicleez, the leader of the Testers Guild, each point of strength improved a diver's muscles by a set amount. At 179 points in strength, each point gave 2.5 pounds of lifting power at arm's length.

Which meant Rydr's muscle power equated to 447.5 pounds or almost 203 kilograms, held effortlessly in the Titan's hands.

Audra giggled and clapped, watching the Titan walk around the room with the statues held outstretched as if he had wings. The giant even "flapped" his wings for her a few times before setting the busts back in position. 

The mayor watched in amazement as the colossus manhandled the visages of her family's matriarchs. Ausch normally needed to call for a team of workers to move the statues, so watching them be waved around like toys was mind-boggling.

Then, careful not to break the hardwood floor, Rydr jumped lightly to the top of the ballroom and pushed off the ceiling. The giant let himself flip around, tucking his legs a little to aid the spin, before landing in front of Audra with his hands in the air.

The little girl cooed and clapped at the Titan's antics, completely forgetting all the scary things her mother told her.

Truthfully, Rydr was having a ton of fun showing off for Audra. Her reactions to the giant's abilities almost exactly mirrored his own feelings. Rydr's avatar was a blast to use, giving him the feeling that he could do anything he imagined. 

Plus, there wasn't a lot Rydr could do to prepare other than keep Audra out of Syrna's way. Even Hermes joined him in showing off. The teen raced back and forth across the ballroom, almost a blur, when he ran hard enough to consume his stamina. 

Urginok used his spare time to question Amos, "Can we get help from Grotto's guards?"

The guard immediately shook his head, "Between the injured, the Dungeon, and the stronger monsters, I'm not even supposed to be here." If Rydr and Urginok hadn't taken care of the elemental, Amos would still be on the frontline.

Only his friendship with Ausch kept the guard there. If it were any other noble house, he couldn't be paid to care. The distance between commoners and nobles was even further than the one between Demon Barons, and the animals ranked lower than them.

"Is there anyone else?" Urginok pressured the guard to think.

Amos screwed up his face, tilting his head to the side, before saying, "Izor...?"

"Okay, just stop there," the tank waved away Amos' suggestion to bring in the mage. The more Urginok thought about him, the less Izor's actions made sense.

Whenever the man was around Rydr, Urginok would watch him. Every once in a while, the mage's mask would slip. Urginok didn't believe for a second that the "wonderful world of magic" was what Izor really wanted to share with Rydr.

The mage wanted something from the Titan, and to Urginok, it looked like he wanted it very badly. Otherwise, why would the NPC go out of his way to "fatten up" the giant and no other divers?

*****

"We can't do it today," Syrna announced first thing once she rejoined the group. By that time, Rydr and Audra were with the party, so no one missed it. 

The mayor was stunned for a moment before she burst out, "Why not?" Her free hand pulled Audra against her side protectively.

Everyone else looked at the archer as if she'd grown a second head, so she elaborated, "I need more supplies. The few odds and ends I took from my Legacy Trial are mostly used up already, so I need more. Plus, I need to get back into the mine to complete some of my Runes." The blonde directed her last sentence at her team.

Rydr nodded in understanding. She wants to learn more about Runes to improve her traps. It made sense to the Titan. He never held back when he began to research early forging techniques, even when it cost him in-game time.

Syrna looked between Amos and Ausch as she asked, "Is there an alchemist or something in Grotto?"

Rydr's head snapped around to pay attention because he badly needed to visit an alchemist. 

The adult NPCs nodded nearly in tandem before Ausch answered, "There is one in Grotto, but..."

"But, what?" Hermes prompted her. Amongst friends, the teen was becoming more confident while interacting with others.

Amos answered for her, "She won't sell to anyone who can't pass her test."

The group paused for a moment before Urginok spoke up, "Bunch of fucking weirdos in this town, aren't you?"

 

AN:

Thanks for reading the latest chapter! Let me know ASAP if you see a typo~

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