People with high-grade professions were basically superhumans.
Those who were Level 10 or above would at least have one or two supernatural powers. Taking the druid Soran just met as an example, she knew a spell which allowed her to travel nimbly from tree to tree.
Meeting strangers in the wilderness was a common occurrence, thus Soran did not bother following the woman. Sometimes, people who came across one another would chat shortly, but most just nodded as a greeting and went their separate ways. As long as the person did not hold any enmity, Soran was not concerned.
Druids disliked communicating with others, be it commoners or those with professions. They were reclusive beings who pursued their own goals, and people with strong faith in what they believed. Their stance and actions were considered neutral, but at times they might attack anyone, as long as they believed they were restoring balance to the world.
Balance—this was the faith druids believed in. To them, good and evil were just relative in nature; balance and equilibrium were what mattered. Druids were Daoists in a sense, believing in nature and action through inaction. Even so, they were by no means toothless tigers. They would mercilessly hunt down and execute those who excessively damaged nature.
There was once a period when alchemy was all the rage for humans, mostly because they had discovered several ruins of the Arcane Empire. Many wizards learned advanced alchemic techniques and knowledge from the ruins; some even managed to create factories which mass-produced items using golems. This, however, did not last long; the mass use of alchemy polluted the water sources and the land, killing countless animals and destroying many forests as a result. The Druid Orders across the world were enraged by such actions, and they waged war against the humans. Terrible storms and whirlwinds struck the newly established alchemy city, turning everything into ashes.
There was little information on this battle in recent times. What was known was that the druids defeated the army of golems in an intense battle. Over ten Legendary Druids joined hands in the assault, and some of them were even powerful stormlords. In the war, the wizards suffered severe casualties: a Legendary Wizard died, and two others were forced to morph themselves into liches. In the end, alchemy’s advanced studies became taboo knowledge.
In order to soothe the rampaging druids, the human churches began placing restrictions on alchemy as a whole. This was not done purely for the druids’ sake though; the rivers near the alchemy city were dyed black due to pollution, and the land nearby was rendered uninhabitable. People would suffer from metal poisoning after drinking the water, and the crops grown using such filthy water were poisonous.
The druids stubbornly believed that the evil cult of alchemy would destroy the world if left alone, damaging the environment to the point of no return and causing a global crisis. Thus, gnomes and dwarves who were still developing alchemy could only do so in secret.
Wizards and druids did not work well with each other; it was almost to the point that both parties despised the other. Many wizards would conduct academic studies and researches, but druids rejected such things and deemed them dangerous. Even now, there were druids who conducted surveillance in secret on specific wizards to prevent them from conducting hazardous experiments. They would also hunt down followers of the fallen and stop the spread of pandemics on the side
Soran walked back along the road, and soon saw the stockaded village he was looking for. Torches were lit on all sides of the walls, and he could just barely see the guards on the archer towers.
"Who's there?" a brawny man shouted from above.
Soran showed himself from within the shadows, with his hands held up high to show he was friendly.
"A human adventurer travelling alone. I just met a group of kobolds and got injured a bit, so I’m hoping I can stay here for the night."
After noticing Soran's appearance, the guards loosened up a little. The brawny man shouted something, and a man who seemed to be the captain of the militia donned in leather armor appeared on the archer tower. He had a full beard and was about thirty to forty years of age. He look at Soran as if gauging him, then asked, "Just you? You shouldn't travel alone in the wilderness."
The captain was surely an experienced ex-adventurer. Even though he could guess Soran's profession, he still felt vigilant.
"Yes, just me." Soran lowered his arms and continued, "I wanted to train myself in order to explore and overcome my boundaries. That is why I’m travelling alone."
The captain hesitated, then signalled the others to open the gates.
"You can stay here for the night, but I hope you won't cause us any trouble."
"Of course I won't," Soran smiled and said, "I'll leave tomorrow to kill the nearby monsters. If possible, would you mind telling me the distribution of monsters nearby?"
Creatures in the wild rarely stayed at a specific location for too long; only the nearby residents would have a grasp on their movements. Knowledge was power, which was why gathering information was a crucial part of adventuring. When done properly, it could save people a lot of trouble.
The heavy wooden gate opened. Five guards were standing at the sides, each holding their weapons. Their gazes still showed signs of wariness as Soran entered, but they relaxed a little after Soran showed no abnormal actions after entering.
The captain climbed down from the tower to greet Soran. Noticing his wounds, the captain said, "We rarely see adventurers who travel alone these days. Who would have thought rogues cultivated themselves like monks?"
Soran simply smiled and did not answer.
The captain waved his companions over, then pointed to the side and said, "Stranger, we cannot fully trust you, which is why we cannot offer you lodging in our houses. If you don't mind though, you can sleep in the barn that way. There's hay inside, and I can send some soup and food as well."
Soran nodded and bowed slightly. "I'm very grateful. All I need is a proper place to sleep. I can't sleep well in the wilderness, as monsters might attack me."
The captain nodded and sent a young man to bring Soran over to the barn.
After Soran left, a nearby guard asked, "Captain? He's clean, right? He's an outsider after all."
"There shouldn't be any problems." The captain glanced at the barn, and said in a low voice, "I'll test him out myself later and see if he really did exterminate the kobolds himself. It's getting pretty dangerous nearby lately, so if someone can take care of the monsters, it will help ease the pressure on us."
The wilderness was a dangerous place. They did not have to pay taxes here, but they had to face plenty of troubles, including monster raids.
Soon, the militia captain came over along with two villagers. Soran was sitting on the soft hay, applying medicine to the wounds on his legs and bandaging them. The wounds were recovering quickly; they would be fully recovered by tomorrow at this rate, meaning he could fight at full strength once again.
The military strength of the village was not bad at all; Soran could see a few Grade 2 warriors among the guards. The village had probably produced a handful of experienced adventurers.
A slightly chubby village girl who had plenty of freckles brought soup, some pickles, and bread for Soran. She curiously looked at Soran and even blushed a little after noticing his decent looks. The guileless girl wanted to stay behind, but the captain glared at her, sending her away with a fierce glance. As she left the place, she looked back and peeked at Soran. To the villagers, a young man who travelled alone was something of interest.
Soran thanked the captain, then began to drink the steamy soup. There were mushrooms and vegetables in it, and it went well with the hard bread. It did not feel good to eat rations all the time, thus Soran fully enjoyed the proper meal while answering the captain's questions. He was obviously being questioned and probed by the other party, but Soran did not feel surprised as he was an outsider.
"You said you killed a large group of kobolds?" the young man next to the captain asked with a doubtful expression.
Soran could not be bothered with explaining with words, so he unsheathed his sword. With a simple movement, he swiftly chopped a nearby log into four pieces of similar size. The young man did not question any further and even showed signs of respect.
Soran had exhausted plenty of his stamina during the day, thus he gulped down the soup and bread, as well as a bit of dried meat that he had brought with him.
He stood up and said, "I want to know about the distribution of monsters nearby. Would you mind giving me some information about that?"
"That is fine," the captain said and nodded after being relieved of his doubts. "There are quite a few monsters nearby, and we have been waiting for someone to come and exterminate them. You can come back anytime in the future; we'll prepare your meals and a place for you to rest.
"Ah, it's getting late I guess. Since you’ve cooperated so well, if you don't mind, you can rest in my house tonight. I'll find someone to clear up a room for you tomorrow."
Soran shook his head, and replied while patting the stack of hay, "It's fine. This is more than I can ask for already. I'm used to sleeping on hay.
"Now then, let's get to the main topic."
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