Home > City of the Dead (The Alchemist Book #1) : LitRPG Series(9)

City of the Dead (The Alchemist Book #1) : LitRPG Series(9)
Author: Vasily Mahanenko

 

The boy walked stiff-legged over to the mages.

 

“Did you grab your pictures?” the mage Tailyn assumed was named Forian asked. The boy nodded. He certainly hadn’t been about to leave his treasure in the cave. Forian pulled a deck of cards out of his inventory, finding one labeled Herbalism—loach. It wasn’t his most useful, as evidenced by the fact that it still had all fifty charges available, but it finally had a chance to shine. He needed to know for sure if there were any of the flowers in the area. Whispering the activation phrase, Forian warmed the card with his breath, watched the image materialize, and blew it away into the air. The area around transformed for him as the ancient city turned out to be surprisingly rich in loaches.

 

“Okay, Tailyn, you have three hours to find ordinary loaches and bring them to me. If you pull it off, you’ll get a reward. If you don’t, I’ll be disappointed. The more flowers you find, the better your reward will be. Got it? All right, get to work.”

 

New mission: Flower Collector. Description: find ordinary loaches for Forian Tarn. The more flowers you find, the better your reward will be. The flowers in your inventory don’t count toward the mission. Time limit: 3 hours. Not a divine mission.

 

Tailyn froze, staring at the message in front of him. Everything inside fluttered and pounded. He wanted to jump and shout for joy, only that might have scared the two mages. It was a mission, and it was for him. The kind he could take care of right there. Of course, he wasn’t going to get promoted to level two, but he would still be getting a reward.

 

“Did I stutter? Why are you still here? Get going!” Forian yelled in a rage when he saw the boy was in no hurry to head off. That did the trick, and Tailyn was gone. Pulling the pictures out of his boot, he found the one of a loach and began picking his way through the rocks.

 

“The academy’s apparently a bad influence on you,” Keran Tisor, a level 24 healer mage, said thoughtfully. “The boy doesn’t have herbalism. What kind of flowers are you expecting him to find? Trash? And where did you even find someone like him who isn’t even completely initiated? Also, how is that possible?”

 

“I wish I could say it was a long story, but lying isn’t a good idea. It’s like this…”

 

Forian went back over everything that had happened in the cave, at least, the way he understood it and the way the boy had told him under the influence of the true word spell. Without interrupting once, Keran just occasionally glanced over thoughtfully at Tailyn, who was crawling around on his stomach off in the distance. Unlike his partner, the healer had herbalism with advanced loach, which meant he could see all the available flowers in the area. The boy had somehow stopped exactly where they were growing, and he was busy comparing each plant to his drawing, after which he plucked the right ones and went on looking. In the short amount of time it took Forian to tell the story of the crystal fence and the mission, Tailyn found at least five flowers. It was incredible. Food for thought. How was the useless kid able to find the divine plants? By smell?

 

“We should take him to see the dean,” Keran said.

 

“That’s what I was thinking, too. We’ll be back in the Gray Lands in a year, a year and a half. If the god really wants to give the boy a different fate, it’ll make sure he lives to see our return.”

 

“Obviously, you’re going to help him along with that,” Keran said, sarcasm creeping into his voice. He knew what kind of person his partner was and why the latter had initiated the mission.

 

“A card or two won’t change whatever the god has planned,” Forian replied with a shrug. “If Tailyn gathers more than ten flowers, he’ll have earned a quick lesson.”

 

“Just don’t tell me you see yourself in that street urchin,” Keran grimaced. “Don’t even try that with me.”

 

Forian said nothing. Coming from a long line of the-god-only-knew-how-many mages, he had nothing to prove or explain. At his activation, his father had made sure he had a +500 bonus, the highest possible, which meant the god had given him both a mana bar and four skills right off the bat. When he turned six, Forian went through initiation and got to level two; at twelve, he joined the academy. He even stayed there after his studies were complete. By the time he turned thirty-two, he was one of the most promising mages in the magic card department, and the dean had gone so far as to send him to the Gray Lands on a secret mission. If it hadn’t been for the guard’s crazed kid running into the city yelling about how the elder’s son had been killed, he wouldn’t have lifted a finger to help Tailyn. He hadn’t even known the kid existed. But the god’s ways were inscrutable. The fact that it had put the boy in Forian’s path meant it wanted the mage to give him a shove in the right direction.

 

Tailyn was doing his absolute best. Mistress Valanil would have been proud—two and a half hours later, he’d clambered over innumerable ridges and secluded corners, the kind loaches liked to hide in, and found fifteen of the flowers. An entire fifteen. The only problem was that his luck had run out. Over the previous twenty minutes, he hadn’t found a single one. The boy climbed higher and higher, balancing on weather-beaten rocks, but it was useless. There weren’t any more loaches.

 

Suddenly, a shimmering, or rather sparks, caught his eye. He’d seen something like that when he’d materialized the scroll for the rare elixir. The boy crawled closer. The little green stars were coming from an unusual plant that kept alternating red and blue. It was like it was alive, pulsing in time to inaudible music, the shifting colors a kind of dance. One of the boy’s hands reached out, but he was able to jerk it away in time. No good. It could have been a poisonous shark flower, in which case it would have been curtains for him. Still, the boy was so bewitched he couldn’t tear his glance away. Crouching down nearby, he forgot everything else, focused entirely on the flower and the otherworldly beauty that was the halo of green sparks.

 

Flower Collector failed. You didn’t make it back to Forian in time.

 

The message popped up in front of the boy, and he sniffed in annoyance. But while the words distracted him from the beauty, the habit instilled in him of carefully reading whatever the god had to say made him focus on the text. He’d failed a mission? And who was Forian?

 

Tailyn’s already-wide eyes widened still further. The loaches. He was supposed to collect them for the mage, not sit there like a little idiot. Jumping up, the boy dashed off dangerously quickly in the hopes that Master Forian would have pity and accept the mission.

 

But it was not to be. The guards were already loading Dort’s body onto a stretcher, the cart having arrive to carry the wounded boy back to the city. A panting Tailyn ran over to the mages, though they ignored him. Only Forian responded coldly without looking away from the ongoing process.

 

“You’re late. I wasted my time on you.”

 

“Master, I gathered fifteen flowers,” Tailyn replied, holding out the plants. Nobody paid any attention. “I completed the mission, Master! I found fifteen—”

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