CHAPTER 5 - The Looking Glass (5)
Alex walked beside the lead wagon of the caravan. He had dropped OPTICs since it drained a large amount of mana to keep active. Demetrus was beside him, and Treya had resumed her position atop the canopy. They were headed towards the city he was originally moving towards, and they made small talk along the way.
The Flare Wolf corpses were stacked in one of the wagons, and Alex had several small purple stones in a pouch on his tactical vest.
‘Even mana crystals. If the research team knew about this, their heads would explode!’
It was then that ALICE’s voice interrupted his thoughts.
‘You moron. You know that you should have kept your identity a secret, right? This is going to cause so many problems!’
Alex replied telepathically so as not to confuse those nearby.
‘Oh, come on. The protagonist’s identity always gets revealed in the end. Or there’s some convenient explanation like some god summons people to the world randomly. Hell, maybe I’m a summoned hero!’
‘No, you’re a giant imbecile. This isn’t one of your stupid books!’
‘Isn’t it, though? Who knows, this might even BE a book. Maybe we’re just characters, and someone is reading about our lives right now!’
‘Do you really believe that?’
’Honestly? I don’t care enough to think about it. I dunno if you’ve noticed, but there is a REAL LIFE FUCKING ELF!”
‘… I hate you sometimes.’
‘Oh, shut up. You know you love me!’
It was at this moment Treya’s voice interrupted their dialogue. Up ahead, the line of people and wagons seeking entry into the city was drawing near.
“So, I will venture a guess here and say that you don’t have a Status Plate since you’re not from here.”
Inwardly smirking at the idea of another common isekai trope and being cussed out by ALICE, Alex responded.
“No, I’m afraid not. I take it they’re pretty necessary in Arcadia, huh?”
“Don’t worry too much about it. They get lost pretty frequently; we’ll get you set up with one once we’re through the gate.”
“You sure? I don’t want to be a burden, after all.”
“Burden? I don’t think you understand just how much you saved our hides with those wolves. If it weren’t for you, we’d be dead.”
Alex frowned. Those wolves didn’t seem that strong, but not much did when viewed through the scope. “Right, then I appreciate the assistance. I feel like I’ll be stuck here a while as I try to figure out how to return home.”
“When we get inside the gates, we should make a few stops before getting your plate. I know some local merchants, so we can offload your crystals for some coins and get you less conspicuous clothing. Then we will go to the Guild and get your plate.”
“… Like an Adventurer’s Guild?” The excitement broke through in his tone as he looked up at her expectantly.
Treya laughed and nodded.
“You are correct, Mister Jaeger.”
“’Mister’? Come on; I’m not that old. Just call me Alex!”
“… As you wish, Alex. Now, we are in the guards’ vicinity. Why don’t you hop inside the wagon so we don’t get a bunch of looks and questions about your outfit from the locals.”
That made sense, so he quickly complied. He slid into the carriage beneath Treya and pulled aside the canvas covering just enough to peer out. All kinds of fantasy races greeted his vision as their caravan reached the back of the admittance line—Dragonkin, dwarves, humans with animal features, and so many more.
Coming to a virtual halt like rush hour traffic on the interstate, the caravan crept forward a small amount every so often. The line probably had a couple hundred people ahead of their group, and the sun slowly crept across the sky while they waited.
Alex wasn’t too bothered by the wait. It gave him some time to organize his thoughts. It was a rare moment where ALICE was silent. She was probably still angry at him, but he couldn’t help that. He wouldn’t have been able to keep his identity a secret for long, and things would have wound up worse if it was discovered he had been lying the whole time.
Lost in his own mind, the time passed quickly. He occupied himself with potential scenarios he might encounter on his journey to return home. Plans, then backup plans, then backups to the backups. In this manner, Alex almost drifted off to sleep.
The sound of a commotion up ahead snapped him from his peaceful thoughts. The wall loomed overhead, and he realized they were very close to the gate, if not next in line. Demetrus tensed beside the wagon, his hand gripping the handle of his sword. From above, Treya’s voice called out, apprehension and unease evident in her tone.
“Something is wrong…”