Chapter 486: Lovers Cave
Jess and James followed Lydia and the rest of team three to the main exit of Minas Mar. Their path led them past the great bridge and the gatehouse where they found themselves in the middle of nowhere.
The gate opened to somewhere in the mountains below Delta, tucked away from the streets and highways that originally led to the district.
“Is that her?” Jess asked interested and pointed at a beautiful lady that did not seem too sure about her presence there.
With skin the color of light brown wood and hair glistening in a lush green hair she stood out in this landscape of rock and snow. Although she was looking around a little clueless about what to do, she had a soft face that seemed to smile a lot.
Unlike the players who were decked in armor and robes, she wore a thick winter coat to fight off the cold.
“It has to be her, I guess?” James answered her, also a little curious.
The illusive dryad Karina, they would be escorted from here all the way to NasKorn city. Known for her amicable personality and the rarity to meet her in the tower, many members had an interest in this hard to meet a member of Minas Mar.
Jess and James had only seen her once or twice from afar since they became members of the field team. They never got the chance to interact with her and only heard about her lovable personality.
“Lets go talk to her,” Jess suggested, but someone was quicker than them.
“Karina, over here!” Lydia, their team leader, called out to her.
With surprise and relief on her face, the dryad came over and got into a conversation with Lydia. However, they did not set off yet.
“What do you think we are waiting for?” James mumbled to Jess.
Sometimes James lamented the features of the system. Their “expedition” wasnt really what he would call an expedition. There were no wagons of rations and equipment or a big team of guards. It was all because of the inventory. They could just carry whatever they needed with them.
Although this cost it the flair of a great journey, he was also somehow glad not to have to deal with what all that would entail. This way they could travel with a small team on their mounts. Which brought him back to his initial question, what were they waiting for?
“Sorry, sorry for being late.” a voice answered his question.
They had not waited for something, but for someone. The Tower Master had suddenly exited from the gate behind them and excused himself for being late.
The tower master was going to accompany them on this journey? Jess and James looked at each other in surprise.
“The Tower master?”
“Its really the tower master!” the members of the Oathguard teams that were coming along mumbled. Although the tower master would be seen in the cafeteria once in a while, the ordinary members would not dare to approach him easily.
“I am Lydia, Leader of team three and your expedition leader. Seth, the Tower Master, will be accompanying us. He will take care of clearing the dungeons on our way, so be thankful that he is taking some work off your hands.” Lydia explained.
There were dungeons along the way that the chimeras had discovered. The camping sites were planned close to the dungeons on purpose. Originally they were briefed that they would have to take over the task to clear the dungeons during the time it took for the offshoot would to grow.
Hearing that the Tower Master would take over this task made them all heave a sigh of relief. It meant they could rest from the journey instead of fighting their way through a dungeon.
“Im glad you are coming along.” Karina greeted the tower master with a kind smile.
“Dont you think shes looking a little relieved?” Jess whispered to James. Although she had been talking with Lydia amicably while smiling. Karina seemed a lot more relaxed with Seth close by.
“Do you think there is something going on between the two?” James asked with furrowed brows.
“I wouldnt be surprised if they did.” a third person butted into their gossip.
“How would you know?” Jess asked the newest member of team three. A female with a kind of bandit class the Tower Master brought with him from Chrona.
“I-I erm..” Feanys blushed furiously.
“Oh right, didnt you vanish with Mina and the tower master that one night. Dont tell, did you…?” Jess implied with a raunchy smile.
“I-i dont want to talk about that! Nothing happened.” she tried to get out of the situation.
But Jess didnt let her. She grabbed the bandit by the should and whispered to her, as if they were scheming something.
“Come on! Tell me, among women. How was it?”
“W-Well, the Mina is terrifying and the tower master is-“
“Is what?” someone interrupted them.
Seth had appeared behind them as they were whispering. Feanys jumped.
“Oh? I am nothing, yes? Then how about you visit my tent tonight and we see whether I am nothing.” the tower master teased her.
“N-No! I mean, the tower master is big and strong!” she corrected herself shyly.
“Hmm, that sounds about right. I will keep an eye on you,” he warned her and returned to his conversation with Lydia.
“Sounds like you had a lot of fun,” James commented after the tower master left.
“J-Just shut up, okay?” Feanys said, red like a tomato.
“Get ready! We are setting off!” they heard Lydias call.
They stopped their conversation and summoned their mounts. Jess and James both summoned a kind of furry monster horse called an Alpeka. Some tamers in Delta had started breeding them since they were very suitable for travel in the harsh mountain climate around the districts.
The couple had gotten them for a discount from a local tamer because they were members of Minas Mar. The people had not forgotten their help during the post-tournament crisis.
As proud as they were of their purchase, both looked stumped when Feanys summoned her mount. It was a giant bear, as big as a hill, with a back covered in moss and lichen. It almost looked like a small, walking mountain.
She looked at the two with a satisfied smirk before running off, after Lydia and Seth who had taken the lead on an Alpeka and Puffles, respectively. Even from a distance, they could see a lush green mane on the giant centipedes back. Karina was riding with the Tower Master.
Abashed they realized that they had missed the signal to go and urged their mounts to catch up with the throng of the expedition. There was no talking as they rode through the icy mountain range.
Although they had quite a few people with them and were prepared to fight, there were only a few negligible instances during the first stage of their journey. Their path followed an old highway that was used during the time when Delta was built.
It was later abandoned and left to fall apart. Until recently the whole mountains range was teeming with monsters, but the Chimeras had thoroughly routed everything on their path. They only met small populations of monsters and individual beasts that came from the random portals that appeared in this region had settled in over the past weeks.
Their first stop was a dungeon several hours away. It was off the abandoned highway in what was once a natural cave. “The scenic Lovers Cave” it was called by old and rusty signs that were standing between trees and bushes, where once might have been a trail.
While the Tower Master followed the signs to this supposed “great tourist spot”, Jess, James, and the rest of the team stayed on the crumbled street together with Karina. Their job was to set up camp and protect the dryad while she was doing whatever was necessary to grow a tree or something.
Nobody was really sure how it worked. Jess watched Karina sit down with crossed legs on one of the bigger slates of asphalt. She started silently chanting and meditation there and she was still at it several hours later, when the term had finished setting up camp and cooking a meal.
The sun had already fallen and people started doubting whether what she did even had any effect. They could only hope she would finish by the time the Tower Master was done with the dungeon.
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