"That crisp sound!" Nero exclaimed as he laughed like a maniac
"It's time for a brand new adventure!"
After 2 days of walking in the barren desert, Nero with only a rock in his hand and an animal hide wrapping his waist has finally arrived at a forested land and after a few hours of trek, he arrived at a frontier city with walls and moats surrounding the perimeter.
The walls are made out of cobble stones and the 3 meter city wall definitely says this is an old frontier city for humans.
As the place looks promising, he proceeded to line up in the long queue in front to the city gate. His initial conclusion was that the humans were the majority and the demi-humans were the minority but upon seeing the queue, he hasn't seen any demi-humans not even in the patrol guards. Maybe this is one of the the rare human-only cities. Though frowned upon, some groups tend to isolate themselves by their race and centuries after, these groups turn into cities. In my previous world, discrimination was not uncommon. Before the unification of the west, different species have their own kingdoms and waged war commonly because of the scarcity of food, some for rivalries or pride, and for others, just for the joy of it.
"Those with Civil Registration, and Guild badge, go to the right, for those without, stay in line" A patrol officer yelled as he checked the line.
"H-Help me, My registration has been stolen" A man got out of the line and approached the patrol officer but the officer shunned the approaching man.
Nero knew the inspection to the city was strict. most probably to weed out criminals from polluting the city. He then got off to the nearby puddle and brushed off all the dirt in his face and cleaned up his bare torso.
Some other complaints were heard but none of them were accommodated. This scenario is commonly occurring and though for some, their plea was genuine, most of the time, this is just schemes used by black traders to cut in line or use it as distraction for their companions to steal.
The current image of Nero was beyond hopeless so as he approached the city gate, he knew it'd be troublesome but suddenly the opportunity he was waiting for happened and a group of blue robed scholars cut in the line.
"Good morning" The officers guarding the gate stood in salute as the scholars entered the gates and it was then that Nero acted. He was waiting for some important figure to pass by and use whatever reason for them to let him in their wagon.
"Apprentices, wait!" Nero proclaimed as he approached the scholars. "I've been robbed of my things and took a detour from my initial plans. I am supposed to meet with the lady fire a week back"
Nero kept an air of dignity pretending that he was familiar with the scholar's appearance and approached near them. He plans to get these scholars to trust him and let him enter along with them.
The guards were alarmed when Nero approached so they held their spears and blocked his path. His current attire screams of suspicion but his well-kept face and trimmed hair was enough for the guards to even reconsider his proclamations.
The scholars then looked back and was intrigued why a man with nothing but a hide wrapping his waist know about the Flame Empress. Due to their cautious nature, one of the scholar asked the guard to escort the man to the Magic Hall. Some soldiers were reluctant to do so as the man was obviously not a scholar due to his well defined body and an air of a swordsman.
Jackpot! I knew those ruby necklaces were low grade fire stones. I may not know who this lady fire is but it's the title of those inclined in fire magic and professors in the magic academy most of the time. I got to escape this escort before my bluff gets found out. A seemingly grateful smile was shown in Nero's face as he bowed to the scholars that departed ahead.
Nero was given a coat to cover himself as he entered the city. The outer city was a very common one. Different stacks of houses were lined to the road's sides and branching alleys were commonly seen after a hundred or so steps. When he was about to run sideways to escape the officer, a scholar was running back to their direction.
"Excuse me sir" The scholar then said as he was gasping for air. It was evident that he was now showing respect in his words unlike the judging eye they all had when they first saw him. After gasping for air, the scholar then asked politely, "Umm, Are you Sir Reeden?"
Nero gently smiled to the scholar and said "Dear child, rest for awhile. I didn't know anyone in the town know about my name. I am honored"
The scholar's eyes widened and was gasping for air. "Our deepest apologies for not recognizing you revered master, Please let me correct our mishap. I will escort you to the empress myself. I am Ulier, a humble apprentice"
The scholar bowed to Nero and gave the officer a few copper coins. He then bowed again to Nero and led the way to the Magic Hall. Though the events were turning for the worse, the veteran adventurer was showing a facade of noble air as he pretend to be this Master Reeden. The boy named Ulier was gleaming with joy as he show 'Master Reeden' the specialties of the city along the way. Taking it as an opportunity, Nero probed the scholar into blurting out stuffs about a lot of thing. When they arrived at the hall's entrance, Ulier quickly went to the back office and grabbed a fresh white robe with exquisite design.
"Master, this is a guest's robe. I apologize for it's simplicity and I'll be sure to request for a more fitting robe for you" Ulier presented the robe and was obviously sucking up to Nero.
"Thank you. Ulier is your name right? I'll be sure to remember it"
Ulier was flying in joy as he heard the man's words. The hall was spacious and almost a hundred people were inside so the apprentice's commotion was buried with the sound of other people but a few people were looking in their way so Nero had to quickly end their play and had the apprentice led him to the changing room.
I've really dug my grave now. I've got to find a way to escape here before things get out of hand any longer. Nero was looking for an exit as he changes his attire to the robe he was given. Before, sneaking was not one of his strong points. He was a berserk warrior, though he was accustomed to strategies and led victories one after another using complex planning and preparation, his job was used to charging head on even to the most bizarre of places.
After changing, he saw Ulier standing just outside the changing room waiting for him to finish. He knew that the boy was naive and was without malice with his intentions so it was hard for Nero to find fault to the boy. As an old veteran, he also knew that this period in time was precious for their growth and any impediments would cause great setbacks for them. It was funny that the renowned veteran that conquered the whole western continent is now concerned with a young boy's well being.
As they were walking to the place where the empress was staying at, Nero can't help but sigh. He realized how lax the security this facility has, how this boy got easily swindled by him, and what he's going to say when he met the Fire Lady.
Ulier knocked to a wooden door and after a few moments, the door slightly opened and a guard stepped out. "The empress is currently in training, She is not to be disturbed for trivial matters"
"T-this here beside me is the revered master Reeden, tell the lady that he has finally arrived" Ulier replied with pride in his tone.
The guard then looked at Nero and assessed him from head to toe. He then got back and closed the door. After a while, various sound were heard inside the room and the door opened fully. The guard that showed earlier and 3 others bowed respectfully as they made a path for him to enter. When Nero stepped inside, they blocked Ulier from stepping further and said "Only the master is allowed to meet with the Lady"
Ulier was lost due to the missed opportunity and looked at Nero with a pleading eye but Nero knew this could get more complex if the apprentice was with him so he said, "Ulier, you will grow into a fine Mage. Now do not stray away from your studies and diligently practice your art"
Ulier was a hopeless case of an honest to goodness kid and didn't ask further question as he happily walked away. This scene caused Nero to sigh again. He knew that the future of that boy would be riddled with thorns and his attitude would soon morph to a tough and scheming one or be eaten alive by those who takes advantage of his honesty.
After brooding over the boy's future, he turned around and looked at the Lady continuously wielding a fire spear. Her graceful use of the spear and the blazing ball rotating as her slender arm performing some martial arts were awe inspiring. he knew with one look that this Lady is a prodigy in martial arts.
"Brilliant display, my Lady" Nero haughtily exclaimed. "You are most definitely without rival among your peers"
"Thank you for the flattery, esteemed Master" The Fire Empress said as she extinguished the burning spear. It was the words she was expecting to hear but she deemed to hide the smile of her satisfaction. "But as this was already delayed for some time, I am now inclined to your true assessment. In less than a month, the competition is about to start..."
The Empress soon stopped mid-way to her words as she was expectant to see what the Master in front of her was about to say. She invited dozens of Fire element masters from different kingdoms to assess her skills as someone who aims to win the upcoming competition, she strives for perfection. She also knew that this master in front of her will flauntingly bow down to her overwhelming might but contrary to what the lady was thinking, Nero got the general idea why his bluff had made so much sense now and he also knew the grave trouble he got himself into.
According to Ulier, the Fire Lady's name is Kathleen Flone Flamewright from a long lineage of fire mages and her father, Earl Flamewright was the current overseer of this frontier city. I guess it's time to con another youth with a bright future.
"And a straight personality indeed" Nero jested. "Your spear, do you mind attacking me with it?"
The Lady was startled by Nero's suggestion and was hesitant for a moment.
Despite reverting back to level one, Nero has increased stats due to all his titles and with over 80 points this is more than 20 levels combined. The way the young lady wields her spear, though graceful has a lot of things that needs improvement. A common practice seen from beginners was the way they extinguish their elemental weapon. Experienced adventurers would suck all the expelled energy instead of wasting it by eliminating the source. Though the lady showed great performance, it just showed how much she lacks in the live combat experience. He judged that Kathleen was about level 10 or 12 and the moniker of Flame Empress was just an honorary name instead of the reflective status of one's prowess.
"The contest has a variety of fields, some for theatrics and some are for live combat. I'm sure your graceful demeanor would surely fit in the theater" Nero smirked at the lady.
"I am not!" Kathleen exclaimed as she summoned her burning spear. Her temper reached it's limit because of what the master in front of her said.
"Good" Nero positioned himself sideways as he prepared for the attack "Flame burns brighter when enraged"
Kathleen wielded her spear and aimed at Nero's arm but was easily dodged by him after a minimal tilt.
"But did you know, flame flows more efficiently when in a better state of mind?" Nero continuously talked as the barrage of flaming spear headed his way "Oh, you seem to have strong arms. Fast and firm, if i say so at the least"
"Shut up, shut up, shut up" The lady was in rage as she continuously as the pride in her overwhelming might was easily dodged by her opponent and continuously attacked Nero.
The guards standing upright the door was keenly looking at the man dodging the spears wielded by their Master. Though they were currently feeling the heat emitted by the burning spear that seems to get larger the more she strikes, they were still able to stand still and just move their eyes to observe the situation.
"I am sure you've invited other Masters to assess your skills and for certain, most of them must have told you how good your skills are" Nero squatted as he grabbed the empress' feet and pulled it forward causing her balance to shatter "But it's far from enough to be called a true fighter"
Nero dusted his hands as some ashes formed and looked down at the dumbfounded lady sitting in the floor. "I guess my teachings has ended. Be sure to remember today's experience and strive for improvement". Nero wanted to get out of here as soon as possible as his true identity might get found out the longer he stays here. He knew that despite the lax in their security, not everyone here is as dumb as he wished them to be.
When he was about to leave, he heard the words he was trying to avoid. "P-please wait. Master Reeden, I am lacking and wish to learn more".
Kathleen said as she stood up and re-summoned her burning spear but this time, a willow of flame was rotating in the tip of the spear.
Looking at the determined Lady, Nero thought, so she does have something up her sleeves.
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