"Do I have to come across one madman after another?"
Aldrich watched in horror as the old man continued to argue with himself. Aldrich tried to move but couldn"t, he lowered his eyes and found himself strapped with belts on some bed.
But the more he looked at it the more it looked like a bed that was somehow held in a position between standing and lying normally.
"Ah, you"re awake, friend?"
His movements had alerted the old madman. Aldrich couldn"t help but curse under his breath.
"How do you feel? All better I hope?"
Aldrich was about to scoff when he suddenly realized he didn"t feel the terrible pain that afflicted him previously. In complete astonishment he looked at his left shoulder to see it restored to normal without even a scratch.
Aldrich looked at his thigh to see it back to normal. A mad Crestmaster. Although this man had no sign of transformation to a monster his madness was evident.
Most importantly the stab wound that should have went straight through his heart was nowhere to be seen.
"You came across some nasty thing out there eh? It"s quite bad out there, lucky you, its not easy to encounter me. Hahahahaha."
"T-thank you, lord crestmaster, for saving my life." Naturally Aldrich wasn"t going to mention anything about the old man"s madness.
"Crest-master? Whats that? Could it be a mistake in my weave? O"lost one, can you understand everything I say?"
The old man had a genuinely confused reaction. Could this man be so mad he forgot what he was?
"Yeah, yeah, I understand everything. And I"m not lost, I"m just looking for something?"
"Well aren"t we all looking for something? But you are a Lost one. You are a stranger in this land here, aren"t ya? O"lost one. Been a while since I"ve bumped into one of your kind, I thought you guys died off."
For some reason being called Lost angered Aldrich a bit. But this was currently his only source of information. Even a hint would be enough. Besides he is in a strange and unfamiliar land it was not a stretch to say that he is lost as of now.
"Old man, I appreciate what you did for me. I"m just looking for a door of light made of stones, the stones form an arch and have many mysterious symbols carved into them, the door levitates in the air and could vanish in the span of a blink. It also has a curtain of blue luminous light."
Things that would have sounded ludicrous to him three days ago came naturally out of his mouth.
The old man was in thought for once before he spoke, "well I haven"t heard of it, personally. But I know this, in this land, whatever it is your looking for you"ll have to go to the shattered divine city and acquire the crown."
"The crown? What are you saying?"
"The crown! Why, of course the one and only crown. Then all your questions will be answered, all your wishes will be granted! Salvation, damnation, above and below, one and all!!"
Aldrich was captivated by the description of the old man, that for a moment he forgot the old man was crazy. Literally.
"W-wait divine city? Ashphim is the only divine city in the world! What blasphemy! Who dares to name their city as such when the empire is still standing?!"
Despite Aldrich wanting to keep things civil he couldn"t control himself when he realized such words were actually spoken so impudently. Even if the old man was insane there are things that even madness can"t excuse.
"Ashphim? What is that? The divine city is the divine city because the great one and all the ancient lords made it as such, there"s no question about it. Ugh, Lost ones are always so clueless! So ignorant!"
Aldrich was burning with anger at such a nonsensical answer, but he also realized that he was at fault for arguing with a madman. What could he gain by this? Hell, he might even trigger this crazed bastard.
"Anyhow I"m going now, before I go hold out your hand." The madman commanded.
Aldrich had no choice but to do as he was told even if he lashed out now he couldn"t put up a fight against a Crestmaster. Besides this way he could get the old man to untie one of his arms, both of which were restrained.
The old man inited his hand thoughtlessly and put a smooth purple stone in his hand, the stone had a strange sign painted with dark tint. When he held the stone in his hand he felt it beating like a heart.
"Now, crush it."
Aldrich looked up hesitantly at the old man.
"Come on, this will be a huge help for you. After all if you died too simply I would lose out."
Aldrich already came this far. He crushed the stone and it broke into powder. He barely put any strength in to it.
A strange feeling traveled throughout his body starting with his hand. Aldrich had no idea what just happened— and was still happening.
"Don"t sleep for too long~ as you"ve probably already noticed these parts are unkind to strangers. I pray that you will find your way to the divine city. Good luck."
Aldrich was once again overtaken by drowsiness.
The moonlight illuminated the bed that he was strapped to, Aldrich was alone now. He used his free hand to untie his restrains, he slid down the bed and landed unsteadily.
With the feeling of the solid floor underneath him, he felt good. Now that he could finally look around, he observed his surroundings.
The room was plain with only two beds similar to the one he was just on. There was a huge table filled with many glass beakers and such. A huge cabinet with glass doors took almost the entire south wall, it was stacked with books.
Aldrich checked on his body once again by the mirror just to be sure. Everything was where it"s supposed to be.
Aldrich walked around the room and exited through the door, then he turned right and entered waht he believed to be the common room, though he had no intention of leaving the house just yet.
Aldrich might have to go to the so-called divine city. For now he had no other clues that could lead him there. Most importantly he had to figure out where he was and go from there.
He had no intention to believe everything the madman said. He planned to scour this town first and look for anything useful on his own.
This quiet town had hidden dangers like the skinned dogs, what if there was more? In order to find the information he needed, he had to explore this town, he needed a base. This house will do.
The common room had small round tables made of dark wood, like all the furniture around they had ornate carvings. There was a long couch in the center of the room adorned with what must"ve been, long ago, luxurious fabrics.
The walls of the room had portraits and paintings hung high above, although whatever was painted on them faded away into drab darkness and foul smell. Many chandeliers hung from the roof dully.
Aldrich looked at all of these things in wonder but his breath was stolen by something else. To the right of the prominent fireplace there was a dull seal, a symbol.
Familiar and alien, both at once. Aldrich had conflicting feelings as he looked at this symbol. The symbol read:
Aldrich said it out loud in a tongue stranger to him yet oh, so familiar, he walked to the symbol in a trance and kneeled down to inspect it. He traced his finger over the seal and it glowed iron-red. Like dark iron still in the forge.
"Be careful of how you were able to become lucid in the nightmare"
Yes, it was this seal he drew on his hand on the first night he became aware of his nightmare and was able to remember the details where as previously he couldn"t.
And now he encountered the same seal once again. It somehow reacted to him. The seal was still glowing in red.
When Aldrich came back to, he backed off hurriedly, he bumped into the coach. He decided to stay away from that sign for the time being.
Suddenly his attention was attracted to a thudding noise. Aldrich followed the noise, he came upon a staircase that lead to the second floor. The noise was coming from above.
Aldrich returned back to the common room. He heard the same kind of moaning. A part of Aldrich wanted to ignore it but if he wanted to make this place his base couldn"t leave such a unstable element.
But that doesn"t mean that Aldrich will confront whatever was up there unprepared. He started looking all over the house for a weapon.
To his dismay he found a bunch of rusted knives, spoons and forks. The best he got was a bone cleaver and a meat hammer. Both of which were in sorry conditions.
His look-around made him question who would abandon such a great home along with these nice metal spoons and forks? Even in big cities these things would have sold for good coin.
Anyhow Aldrich had better things to do than ponder such things. He weighed the bone cleaver and the meat hammer in hand each. Then he decided on the bone cleaver seeing as it still had a half-decent edge.
Aldrich left the bone hammer in the common room just in case he need it. He walked slowly up the steps that lead to the source of the insistent noise. The noise was already testing his patience.
A very moldy and dirty carpet was laid on the staircase and it clung to his boots with every step.
Finally after a much longer walk than he expected he reached and found a hallway that lead to four doors. One to his left, two to the right and one at the end of the hallway.
Unexpectedly the staircase continued further above, but his business was here.
The one room to the left was open and empty. The ones on the right on the other hand and the one at the end of the hallway were anything but quite.
Aldrich saw that the doors were sealed by an iron rod inserted in between the handle.
Aldrich removed the iron rod of the first room on the right and opened the door but didn"t enter, instead he backed off.
Something immediately came crashing into the opposite wall. It had a humanoid build but wasn"t human. It had charred skin that broke in some places. And green liquid oozed out of it.
It turned around and Aldrich attacked, he slashed at the monster"s right arm and unexpectedly cleaved right through it much easier than he expected and lost his balance causing him to stumble.
What he failed to notice was the short sword the monster had in its left hand. The monster was unaffected by losing a hand and immediately slashed at Aldrich"s exposed back.
Aldrich wanted to endure the pain and turn around to finish it off but before he could do any of that he felt the sword stab through his back and out of his stomach.
Before he could realize what happened the sword moved upwards, tearing through his guts as it went.
Aldrich saw his guts flopping out of his body before everything went to black.
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