The horizon was dominated by the mountains, and the path was surrounded by a mix of hilly forests and meadows.
Before the world went haywire these stretches of land were abandoned and left for nature to recapture. When the districts were founded most old cities and landscaped were abandoned and left behind. It was all in an attempt to have nature recover and stop the climate change.
Most of these forests had all grown after the districts had been founded and they could see the one or other ruin of buildings here and there. The road here was old but still usable even with the carriages.
An unpleasant memory of his time in Alpha resurfaced at these sights. But it was just a minor problem. Leaving the city also meant entering the danger zone. There were no guards or patrols that could help them here. And the dungeons were only irregularly checked.
The only thing currently keeping away the monsters in this forest were the wards Evee had casted onto their vehicles. These woods seethed with monsters and other things. They were not necessarily strong, but nobody knew what came through the pathworks or escaped from the dungeons.
Vigilance was a necessity even if the world looked calm on the surface. Even with the wards, they were no guarantee. Just like how humans were not too affected by their power. There could also be monsters with a high intellect or willpower. Bandits or races that came through the pathworks were also a possible threat.
~ And you are saying the people simply followed your governments regulations and abandoned their homes to move into a giant city? ~
”Well, of course not everyone wanted to. There might still be a lot of people out there living in the ruins. Nobody was forced. The government back then used incentives to have people move to the city. Oh yeah, and many people changed their minds really fast when the infrastructure was not maintained anymore. ”
~ I see. Do you think those people are still alive? ~
When Seth wanted to answer their small talk was interrupted by an unexpected visitor. At the roadside in front was a camping site with tents and camping fires. Some of the campers were standing on the crumbling road.
Cat people? Tijaahk! Unlike beastmen like Mina that were closer to humans, these were more on the animal side. Their stature was less humanoid and more like a big cat walking on its hind legs. They wore wide robes and fabrics like desert nomads. Only a few of them wore custom armor, probably the guardians of their group.
Seth was sitting on the coachman ’s seat of the armored carriage. He saw Monique pull out her weapons while Alison got ready to cast a spell.
”Put down your weapons! ” Seth hurriedly called and walked to the front. He passed the first carriage and the armor beasts that were pulling it.
The reason he came forward to meet them was that he had heard about these people during journey to Ora. He had even met some of them there.
They were traveling merchants. A long time ago they were banished from their homeworld and became dimensional nomads. They traveled the pathworks and would trade wherever they came ended up.
Often their inventory was loaded with all kinds of rarities from the different dimensions they had visited. As one would expect from those that often travel to random places, their warriors were no joke.
Unless provoked they would be very amicable. Although very cunning, one could make great deals with them if they were smart and didn ’t offend them. Seth stepped forward and used the formal greeting of the Chrona Empire.
”May your travels span dimensions. ”
And elderly Tijaahk stepped forward. His silver and black fur ’s color was fading from age, but his eyes were sharp with a bright light. He also did the formal greeting just like Seth and answered.
”And may you always find a warm hearth to rest. It is good to meet someone civilized in such a chaotic world. ”
”Have you people just arrived here? ”
”We have arrived a few days ago. But our scout only met with hostile people when we tried to enter the settlement. It looks quite imposing, but the people are not very… welcoming. ” the Elder said downheartedly.
”Don ’t take it to heart. The people in this place have a hard time coping with the changes in our world. My name is Seth Smith. What may I call you? ”
”You can call me Drosi, I am the caravan leader of this pack. Did you eat already? We are currently cooking. How about a tea and we talk until dinner is ready? ”
The old cat spoke Seth ’s language. He signaled for the carriage to pull up and join the area of the camping site. While the rest of the party was taking care of the carriages and the beast, Seth followed Drosi to his tent.
Calling it a tent didn ’t really do it justice. It was a big yurt with carpets and pillows on the ground and its own little campfire in the middle. Drosi and Seth sat down at the campfire and a pair of females started brewing them tea.
”I ’m glad to have met someone ready to speak with us. The previous travelers were… ” the old cat said with a rough sigh. Seth could hear that they had gone through some hardships since arriving on Urth.
”I ’m sorry to hear that. I ’m sorry for my world ’s people acting like this, but I hope you can understand them. This is still new to them, and they don ’t know much about the other world. ”
”New to them? ” the old man asked in surprise. But Seth only smiled slyly. He roughly knew why the Tijaahk stayed here for several days. Cat people had a lot of experience in gaining a foothold in a foreign world. They would stay in a place they judged relatively save and get as much information as possible from traveler before deciding where to go.
”Yes, new. This world has only recently been connected to the pathworks. About a year ago. ” he said with a smile.
The elder ’s eyes jumped wide open. He knew very well what it meant for a world to have just connected to the pathworks. Chaos on an apocalyptic scale. From natural disasters to war and civil wars. Anything could change the face of the world during this time period.
Seth took the cup of tea from the female server and calmly swirled it before taking a sip. A bitter but intriguing taste of a citrus fruit filled his mouth. He could feel his mana being roused a little. The tea had slightly raised his mana regeneration.
”I see. I ’m glad they are not outright antagonistic to our people. So it ’s still their phase of acclimation. ” the elder answered calmly. Seth just nodded. They drank the tea in relative silence.
”May I ask where you are heading? ” the other finally asked. Seth sighed. This old cat was very patient. Seth had waited for a chance to talk about business, but Drosi tried to slowly gain information through conversation. The cat was patient, Seth wasn ’t.
”You are a very experienced trader. Let ’s skip the small talk, okay? I know you want information about this world. I can tell you anything you want, but not for free. ”
Seth had tried to be smart about it and thrown out some bait that increased the prize. The fact that Urth was freshly added to the pathworks was very valuable information and showed that Seth was a good source of information. But the Tijaahk had kept his calm and patiently tried to get more free info.
After Seth spoke up the cat lowered his cup while slowly nodding. Seth was right, he was a trader for over 120 years. He was not offended by Seth ’s directness. Although free information was great, time was also money.
His gaze sharpened as the old cat went into business mode.
”You are more knowledgeable than I thought. Let ’s talk business then. What is your price? ”
”Now we are talking. How about showing me your inventory? I think we will be able to negotiate a lot better once we both know what the other wants.
Drosi nodded in agreement and used a skill unique to traders and merchants. It was the shop interface. Here the trader could choose to display a part of their inventory space. A big bonus of this skill was that the customer would be able to see a label with the name of the items, if the trader himself knew them.
’s surprise, he found a lot of fabrics in the trader
’s inventory. The last place they had stocked up in must have been known for their tailors. There were many weird fabrics like
Feathersilk was a rare fabric and known for its immense strength in comparison to its extremely lightweight.
Ghost Fleece was an epic fabric weaved from the essence of specters and had immaterial properties that could turn it invisible or make it float.
Oracleweave was a unique fabric weaved by an augur to see or influence the future and fate. It could strengthen a diviner ’s skill or bring luck.
These were definitely of interest to Seth who had a craftsman tailor up his sleeve. But they were much too valuable compared to the information he had. So he kept browsing the trader ’s inventory.
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