Letras was a trading city and due to the winter lockdown, dimensional magic was still banned inside its walls to prevent illegal food trades to alter the price markets.
Like most of the cities of the Griffon Kingdom, it was divided into three areas.
The outer rim was the biggest and the most populated one.
It was where the commoners lived, the granaries were located, and the resting place for tired travelers like stingy Rangers who wanted to save a few coins but still enjoy a decent meal and bed.
During winter, moving huge loads of merchandise required wagons and draft animals, so the roads were large enough to accommodate three of them at once.
One lane was usually reserved for civil servants tasked with removing the brown and yellow snow that would otherwise turn entire city blocks into open outhouses.
The houses were one or two-storey high, made of stone or wood based on the owner\'s income.
They were usually tightly packed with little to no space between them.
Entire blocks consisted solely of warehouses, most of which were located near the city gates or bordered on the middle rim to facilitate the transportation of goods.
The middle rim was occupied by merchants\' shops, craftsmen\'s and artists\' workshops.
Only the middle class could afford a house there.
They were all made of stone and at least two storey high.
There was enough space between them to have a garden or a small stable.
According to the Desk Sergeant who welcomed Lith when he stepped out of the Warp Gate, the Wild Boar tavern was located in the middle rim.
The ground level consisted of a wooden floor and walls, with several hardwood tables where groups of clients could sit to order their meal.
Those who came in alone would rather sit in front of the counter to enjoy the company of the barkeep, of the other customers, and be served more quickly.
The room had a cozy feeling and was lighted by several chandeliers and a big popping fireplace that occupied a good quarter of the east wall.
A whole pig was being roasted over the fire, spreading in the air a delicious smell that made people open up their stomach and loosen their wallet.
Lith was no exception, so he ordered a plate of roasted pork and a beer to go with it even before sitting down at Morok\'s table.
The Ranger was eating one of the tavern\'s famous pork shank with the appetite of a man who had been stranded for a long time and had forgotten his manners.
\'Bright cyan core, excellent physical conditions.
According to my mana sense he shouldn\'t be an Awakened and based on my life sense he is human.\' Solus said.
The man had a lean but muscular physique.
From the last time Lith had seen him, Morok had cut his hair, but the beard was still there.
Except it was now dirty with gravy and the fat dripping from the meat.
Please, have a seat. Morok said with a full mouth and spitting over most of the table.
A powerful burp later, he cleaned his right hand over his shirt before offering it to Lith, who reluctantly shook it.
\'If all Rangers are like this guy, I now understand why we have a bad name.\' Lith thought.
It\'s great to eat warm food without worrying about it getting cold or luring hungry beasts, right
Lith nodded, his appetite waning by the second.
Morok noticed Lith\'s eyes staring at the grease stain above his heart which had yet to completely fade.
I almost forgot how a civilized human behaves.
I\'ve become too reliant on the self-cleaning properties of our uniform to fix my mess.
I\'ll never be grateful enough for it.
Without such a marvel, after a few weeks in the open, we\'d stink so bad that the stench would kill us faster than any enemy. He laughed, making Lith glad for Solus\'s company and the safe haven she represented.
Any question about the mission
How dangerous is it supposed to be Lith asked.
Wish I know.
It can go from boring as heck, where the worst thing we have to face is the whining of pampered smarty-pants, to a nightmare where we have to pave our road in blood, steel, and bacon.
Bacon Lith asked regretting the question the moment he heard himself saying it out loud.
When push comes to shove, we might run out of supplies, and monsters are meat, after all.
A man needs to eat. His words sent a shiver down Lith\'s spine and made him check his food supplies stored inside his pocket dimension.
How are you supposed to evaluate me if nothing happens
I wish I was still such an optimist.
Shit always hit the fan, kid.
It\'s only a matter of when.
If it\'s of any consolation, I\'m not enjoying this any more than you do.
As soon as winter ends, I\'m going to retire. Morok replied.
Retire You\'re what, 25
Being a Ranger it\'s not an easy job.
Most people quit after two years, four tops.
I\'ve been a Ranger for six years now.
I\'ve done my part and now I\'m eager to convert my merits in a noble title, get me some lands, a missus, and dedicate my life to magical research.
As for you, I heard you are a bounty hunter and now even a Spellbreaker.
This mission is the perfect task to put your abilities to the test.
When exploring ruins, the real danger doesn\'t come from monsters or magical beasts.
The real threat usually comes from the human sitting right beside you. Suddenly, Morok\'s jovial mood disappeared.
He took a dramatic pause, looking at some point past Lith.
He had the expression of a man who had experienced one betrayal too much and was now lost in unpleasant memories.
Lith felt an odd sense of kinship toward the fellow Ranger.
At least until Morok stood up and said.
Man, the food here is great, but it runs through your stomach as if it Warps.
See you in a jiffy.
Lith sighed, wondering what kind of a moron he had been paired with while pondering Morok\'s words.
So the army suspects that someone inside the group might be a foreign spy interested in our ruins.\' Lith thought.
\'Or maybe they want to prevent an internal strife.
In case of a big discovery, a lot of people might be tempted to cause an accident to take credit for it.
It\'s not just a matter of fame or glory, but also of the reward that the Crown would bestow upon the one who contributes the most.\' Solus suggested.
After Morok returned, they went stockpiling for food and everything they could need during the following days.
Once they were done with the preparations, the two Rangers left Letras by flight.
Our destination is the crystal mines in the duchy of Laroxya.
The rest of the expedition should arrive shortly. Noticing Lith\'s surprised look, Morok quickly added.
Do you remember the monster outbreak Well, some crazy-ass goblins raided the permanent guard post that protects the mines.
Normal monsters would have been easily killed, but the little bastards could fire some black rays from their hands that pierced through our defenses like they were made of paper.
Lith had no idea how to call it, but he had seen Chaos magic enough times to recognize it from its effects.