Chapter 279: Preparing for a skeleton.
“So people are already sneaking out?”
“Yeah, business is booming, some of those merchants are willing to pay top coin just to get out of here.”
Roland nodded at Lobelia, who was drinking some hot chocolate right next to him. Most of the orphans were tucked away in their beds which gave them the opportunity to talk in peace. After his visit with Arthur was over he decided to stop by Elodia's home to see how she was doing. There he ran into Lobelia who was his thieves guild informant.
It seemed that the underground guild wasn’t that worried about the angry skeletal army forming. To them, it was meaningless as the problem concerned the adventurer guild and the n.o.bles. The only thing that affected them was the limited pa.s.sage through the city which stifled their business.
The black market was in actuality occupied by a lot of regular merchants. They needed a way to smuggle in the commodities and this was usually done through regular means. This was a requirement as they still needed to hire adventurers to protect their wares from being stolen by bandits or destroyed by monsters.
After arriving in the city and usually bribing the gate guards they sold the forbidden loot on the underground market. Thus they were losing money by being unable to bring the product through the usual means. What remained were some of their secret tunnels but those weren’t really built in a way to support transporting of goods.
‘I guess some items are sought enough to pay a premium smuggling fee through a secret entrance.’
“Do they just prepare a carriage for the merchants outside?”
“Yeah, one of the fledglings will go to the nearest city to get one and it will wait close to the exit where the merchant can use it. It will be quite costly but these merchants are loaded!”
Lobelia continued to explain while he listened. Whoever had enough money could even be escorted out of the city under Arthur’s nose. Roland wasn’t sure how he should feel about this as someone that had signed a contract with the man. A clause, in particular, implied that he had to report unfavorable things to the lord that he knew of. This would probably be one of them, luckily it was really vague and he didn’t prod Lobelia for specific names to get anyone in trouble.
‘I don’t think Arthur can really do anything about it for now, not until he expands his forces and gains some actual power here. If he tried then someone might die, probably not him though.’
The Valerian name carried a lot of weight behind it. Even if Arthur started cracking down on the thieves guild and affected their bottom line they couldn’t just kill him. At most they could sneak in and rough him up a bit as a warning. What was more likely to happen is for his people to be targeted. Those two knights and Mary were the closest people to him, it wouldn’t be strange if the guild went after them instead to send him a warning if he ever crossed the line.
‘Well, it’s not strange for the city lord to have some kind of agreement with the thieves guild, sooner or later he will have to make some kind of decision.’
Arthur did seem a bit like the righteous type but considering that he was fine with keeping Roland around and lying to his people about the involvement with the Lich, he would bend the rules in his favor. The young man was like a politician, telling one thing to the commoners around him but working on multiple fronts behind the scenes.
‘Not like anyone can gain anything from tying a n.o.ble to thieves guild dealings, perhaps one of his brothers could use it as a way to get him punished but gathering evidence for something like that wouldn’t be easy…’
Perhaps in the war of succession pining a crime on the compet.i.tion could work. Roland had heard some n.o.ble sons being banished for working with cultists, opposing nations, or bandits. It was one way of getting rid of a pesky sibling during that compet.i.tion. n.o.bles needed to seem righteous in the eyes of the commoners, their name couldn’t be synonymous with evil.
“What’s the guild’s thought on the skeletons?”
“Not much, the guild master sent out an order to wait.”
Lobelia shrugged while then quickly finishing up her hot beverage. Just as she did, Elodia made her way into the room. Everyone in this room knew about the thieves guild dealings but Lobelia was sure to not mention what she was doing around Elodia that to this day didn’t like it. The fact that her younger sibling was still a.s.sociated with the underground when she could just easily live as an adventurer didn’t go well with her.
“Are you going to be staying?”
“No, I should get back to the workshop and prepare some things after signing that contract. I do need to follow it but don’t worry, those undead monsters aren’t very strong, I’ll be fine.”
Elodia frowned as Roland replied and got up to his feet. He had only come here to see how they were doing but then needed to leave. Arthur wanted to use that monitoring system of his and for that, he needed to get back to his workshop. If the monsters started moving he was obligated to use the crystal ball.
“I knew you would say that, here I packed you some food.”
He was handed a small basket filled with treats that he quickly accepted. After getting used to Elodia’s cooking he was at a point of finding most take-out food disgusting. This would last him only a couple of days but with Arthur’s help he would be able to get through the main gate without an issue. However, if the skeletons attacked again he would be stranded on the other side. “Not going to try to stop me?”
He asked while smiling, this notion produced a pouty expression on Elodia’s face and made her turn around.
“Would I be able to? You’re the most stubborn person that I know, even Armand isn’t as bad as you.”
“Is that so, well I’ll be sure to give you a call through the crystal ball, I’ve infused it with new mana and recharged the battery.”
After a little hug at which Lobelia whistled from behind the two parted ways. Roland made his way through the empty streets and headed for the exit gate that he arrived through. For the time being he was able to leave but if another attack occurred then his only way back would either be by climbing over the walls or using the thief guild tunnels. The entrances to them were hidden out of sight and either behind an opening mechanism or a magical device.
‘It would be unfortunate if that undead could get into the city through those. Monsters don’t usually go for the hidden entrances, more likely if they continue to focus on the city walls and people defending them.’
The Lich was smart but he probably didn’t know much about sieging a whole city. It wouldn’t be that easy to break through reinforced gates and thick city walls. Without any strategy behind a charge, overwhelming numbers would be needed to scale that wall.
‘They could have the numbers though…’
While returning to his workshop Roland went through his options. Now was the time if he wanted to abandon his workshop. Without any living beings around the monsters might even ignore the whole place if he turned off the runic defenses. That undead proved himself to be sensitive to magic, thus without any magic around it would head straight for the city.
‘That thing was behaving strangely though…’
There was an issue that was bothering him. At first, he didn’t think anything of it as he was trying to protect himself in the dungeon. Now on the other hand, when looking back the Lich’s behavior had been strange. When it rose out of the lava pit, the monster went straight toward him, and the cannon blast.
‘It was as if, it was only focusing on me… there were many miners and other adventurers around but it went straight for me instead…’
If he took into account that the Lich could potentially have it in for him. Then even if he left his workshop and stopped the mana generators the Lich would still give him a visit. The monster interacted with his golems before, perhaps it was already attuned to his runic wares as well.
‘If that’s the case…’
He stopped right before reaching his home. While the forest was engulfed in darkness the building he fashioned continued to be illuminated even now. The light would scare the weak monsters away but beckon the one that could destroy it all. Would he be fine with the Lich coming here and turning the whole place upside down?
If what he was thinking was true then perhaps the monster was somehow affected by his mana. This theory was confirmed by the way it was able to shrug away anything that contained his own mana pattern. Only after he started shifting the frequency was he able to connect with the monster’s body.
‘That thing wasn’t even shielding itself from that attack, it was convinced that it could just shrug it off.’
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This wasn’t an easy feat even for an arch-mage. Even if a person managed to crack another mage's mana pattern it didn’t translate that well into combat. Even though this Lich was a creature of mana and perhaps the lack of a brain let it a.n.a.lyze the pattern better, it shouldn’t have been that easy.
‘That obsidian undead could have been a scout sent by him to find me… but if he throws all of those undead monsters at me then I won’t stand a chance.’
There were two tier 3 undead monsters standing guard in front of the dungeon. If the Lich went out and threw all of his forces at his compound then he would need to contend with multiple tier 3’s. While those black skeletons were at the lower end of tier 3, they were still formidable. Perhaps if one at a time came at him then it would be manageable but with an entire army of bone shields along with them, he would be in a bind.
‘Should I send my golems into the dungeon?’
His golems were getting updated with more intricate runic intelligence but they weren’t quite there. Roland didn’t believe that his creation would be able to conceal itself fully from the monsters inside. If it was discovered it could potentially irritate the Lich who could send another wave of undead monsters after him and the city. It was better to wait for the platinum team and perhaps work with them on the issue. As Arthur’s aid, he could easily join the party and help them map everything out to make their mission easier.
“Is everything okay Boss?”
“Huh? Yeah, I just need to get some sleep. You should get some rest too, I don’t think we’ll be getting any visitors tonight.”
“If you say so.”
The lights around the compound were dimmed down to allow the moonlight to shine through. When in his bedroom Roland continued to have trouble sleeping and instead used this time to monitor the monsters with the help of his helmet.
‘They didn’t even move a millimeter from their spots…’
They were just standing there as if they were inanimate objects which they weren’t far from. It was really true, after these undead were given an order they would just carry it out without thinking about anything else. For now, they were in a defensive formation as if waiting for something and that something was causing Roland to be restless.
‘Will that thing get here… and if it does can I do something about it?’
There were a few theories he was working with, the main one being that the monster was after his mana pattern. This he was almost positive as whenever that monster came in close proximity he went berserk. The same thing happened when it jumped into his beam while still on the other side of the dungeon as well as when it emerged from the lava lake. If he considered this one pattern of behavior then there were ways of preparing.
‘I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight…’
This was not the time to sleep, he needed to get ready. Just like before he couldn’t just give up his home if it was attacked. Perhaps he was overthinking this all and the adventurers would solve all of his problems. However, he had lived long enough in this world to know that it was not good to rely on others. The fewer blindspots he had the better his chances were. Thus at around two in the morning, he made his way down to the workshop.
“Where did I put them… I know that there were a few samples left… s.h.i.t did Agni get to them?”
When down in the workshop he started going through some of the shelves. They were filled with various colorful crystals and minerals that he sometimes experimented with. This time around his plan hinged on the particular holy mineral that Agni tried to much on whenever he had the chance.
“Finally got it…”
In a lockbox, he found a few small yellowy gems that were radiating a unique mana frequency. This he tried to copy with the help of his runic eyes skill that he was given at the end of his Runesmith Lord Cla.s.s. While he wasn’t yet successful with emulating the energy pattern for this project he didn’t need to.
“Good… now to prepare a nice welcome for that Lich…”
With the materials in one hand and his hammer in the other, he moved toward his workshop. There was much to be done and time was potentially running out, when the next wave came he needed to be ready.
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