“What happened to this place?” Alysia asked.
“That’s what I would like to know,” I said, standing in the town square, a fountain feature in the center not only out of service but looking like it hadn’t been used in years.
I looked around the familiar setting, getting a sense of nostalgia. This was incidentally the same location where I had appeared in this world all those months ago. It had also been the location of my Return skill, the first one I had obtained from my Hero job. It had been months, yet the small village of old Chalm was virtually unrecognizable.
I had decided to return here first after finding a secure place to put Xin. She was basically catatonic since I killed Aberis, and dragging her around would definitely raise some alarms. However, upon arriving, the place was barely recognizable.
With the settlement and growth of Chalm proper, this village had been mostly converted as a service area for the main city. It functioned as a farmer’s market, a trading post, and a location for those who didn’t want to be restrained by the big city. Thus, it had ironically grown quite a bit as well over these last few months.
There were hundreds of new homes, taking advantage of the lack of a wall and the spacious natural plains that existed to the east of Chalm on the Aberis side. A couple of mansions were being built to cater to wealthy merchants and nobles who wanted larger places out in the country. There would likely be a time in a few decades when this would all become a suburb of Chalm, and these homes would be prime real-estate.
This town was only about a half-day journey from the main city of Chalm now that a road had been established between the two, so it was a good place for craftsmen to sell their wares rather than travel to the city where they would have to face trade taxes. I didn’t enforce the taxes, by the way. This was done by a trader’s guild. There was a guild for just about everything in this world, although I was only personally familiar with the adventurer, traveling, and slaver’s guilds.
What caught me off guard about this place was the current state of disrepair. It looked a bit like Chalm had looked when it was under the oppression of the dungeon, except that place had been haunted and it had been twenty years. This was only two months.
There was a distinct lack of people. That’s what caught me the most. With a frown, I walked down the street, looking around for anyone present. The town wasn’t to the level of being abandoned. I could see flickering candles inside various huts. They weren’t adapting glow stones for lighting like Chalm proper was. That meant that there were people here, but it was more like everyone was afraid to go outside. Work that had been taking place had just been abandoned on the spot.
“Hey, wait!” I saw a man sneaking from an alley.
As soon as I called him, he jumped and then began running, trying to enter one of the houses. Of course, how could I let him get away? He only made it two meters by the time I cleared fifty, appearing right in front of him. He ran into me, falling back onto his butt. He immediately cried out, backing away desperately.
“What is going on here?” I demanded.
“P-please! Let me go!” The man muttered desperately. “If I don’t get home to my family, they’ll find me!”
“Who? Who will find you? Who is doing this?”
“Come out… come out… wherever you are?” A voice sang out over the city.
“Oh… gods, they’re here!”
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