Exiled West

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Beginning of a Journey

Chapter 4: Beginning of a Journey

After getting raided by a gang named the Hell Hounds who were notorious for invading towns and other gangs to steal their resources and even riches like gold. It was my first time also being in somewhat of a gunfight and I felt utterly helpless in that situation. I decided to stay in Vornil and accepted John’s offer putting in my share of physical work while also having him train me to use a gun properly and how to fight. The physical labor of constructing buildings and moving heavy things while also training was indeed a very difficult thing for a former wealthy man but I pushed myself forward whether I wanted to or not. Since it would take much more than what to withstand when I would head out on my own for my endless goal.

Six months had passed and there had only been four raids during that time. Two of them were done by the Hell Hounds gang and another two were of new criminals that were just exiled to Velorian that attempted to take over the town. Vornil only suffered a few casualties during those raids thanks to John who clearly showed so much experience in fighting and also being a High Roller that gave him an edge towards the common man. Anyways, it was one early morning and I was assigned to replace spices that surrounded the town. Spices are used as a form of barrier to prevent the souls of the Dead Realm to enter Vornil. Spices are hot which I learned is also just as effective as a fire to stop the dead from eating our souls but a new application must be added every week to keep it fully potent. Because just one soul from the dead realm could sneak inside and end up killing someone during the night.

“Hey! Levi!” Jackson shouted out my name who had lost quite some weight throughout six months working hard labor building more muscle than fat.

I glanced over towards Jackson and although six months ago I had shaken hands with him to leave our little dispute in the past and move on. I still held some disdain towards Jackson and he also felt the same because of how I threw away my wealth on purpose to come to Velorian. Despite our hostility towards each other, we both didn’t start problems since John said he would kill us, and from the look on his eyes when he gave the threat it was clear he had no problem putting a bullet in any of our heads if we started any fights. Not just with us but anyone in Vornil who would only ever cause problems especially those like me with criminal pasts then John would kill.

“John wants to see you,” Jackson informed me and left to continue working on construction already knowing I wasn’t going to thank him for relaying the message.

I stopped doing my share of work letting someone take over while I went to see what John needed me for which was the first time he called. I walked through the town where the people got accustomed to my presence knowing I wasn’t a relentless killer. However, I was still unapproachable and most of the folk avoided talking with me since I didn’t exactly give off a friendly expression. Since Vornil was still a very small town there was no proper currency system in place and everyone had a responsibility to do their share of work and are paid with food and water. Such a trust system with no abuse only worked because of John’s capabilities as a High Roller and also because he wasn’t a heartless selfish man to abuse that power.

“You wanted to see me?” I arrived at John’s office and asked as he looked at some papers that were the daily records written by some people who kept track of the resources of Vornil.

“It’s time to restock our supplies,” John said and placed the paper down on his desk.

“… Does that mean you want me to be part of the expedition group?” I asked guessing that’s what he wanted me for.

“That’s right, I think you’re good enough to handle yourself out there compared to six months ago,” John said and sat on his chair pouring a drink. “Sit and have a drink until the others arrive. You’ll be following the orders of Eric, be sure not to cause any problems with him or anyone else who is going.”

“As long as he allows me to do my own thing, I won’t give any complaints,” I said with the intention of asking about Logan Campbell.

Vornil Town is made and funded by a city named Delidaware located up north from Vornil about seven hundred miles away. It takes at most six days to arrive on a horse without having the horses carry much other than necessities like food, water, and tents. Returning to Vornil with lots of resources from Delidaware takes longer being eight days. But we also add up the time spent coming across two other towns along the way that is the same as Vornil to get permission to enter, rest, and restock supplies totaling sixteen days. Depending on the weather and other circumstances it could end up taking an extra day or two.

Vornil Town only sends out one group every two months as Delidaware takes the other month to send their group with not just resources but also new citizens to live in Vornil. From the last two expeditions that have happened during my time in Vornil. Only one was raided but managed to return with the wagons full of bullet holes and covered in blood. Two men from our town were killed by a different gang that tried to sack the wagon but failed. John can’t join them since he has to look after the town to protect the people. Vornil also has backup stock just in case those who were sent out do not make it back within twenty days.

Once Eric showed up and saw me waiting in John’s office he right away knew that John had intentions of making me tag along with them for the voyage.

“Hey, don’t tell me you’re making him come with us? I still don’t trust this guy. Rich folk always scheming to be richer at our expense!” Eric loudly said not being friendly which made me suspect we wouldn’t get along at all.

“Levi has been living with us for six months now. I haven’t seen anything from him that would indicate if he’s a scumbag.” John said sticking up for me.

“He’s probably just waiting! What if the bastard kills us on the way to Delidaware!?” Eric kept insisting to not allow me to go with them.

“Eric!” John shouted his name getting tired of him refusing. “You’ve been living here for some time now; I’ll know if he has done something to you. And don’t forget, the same applies to you. Don’t even think about doing any funny business.” John walked over to Eric starring him down face to face. “I could see your anger, Eric. You want to take a shot or what?” He asked knowing Eric felt displeased and wanted to still speak up against John.

“… No…” Eric doesn’t bother trying to fight John knowing he wouldn’t stand a chance.

“Alright, you two best behave yourselves out there or you’ll get killed,” John said and walked over to grab some envelopes with a seal. And two papers one that looked like a list and another a permit with a stamp. “Here, now go get the horses ready,” John told Eric who took the envelopes and papers.

“Let’s go!” Eric shouted out to his men and left John’s office.

“What you waiting for? Go help them out.” John told me.

“Well, I wanted to ask for some advice,” I said.

“Advice? For what?”

“On what to do if we come across a High Roller.”

“Chances of that happening around these parts is low. But if you do encounter another like me then sorry but you’ll get killed.” John said without hesitation.

“… There’s no way to avoid it? Like if I become a High Roller?”

When I asked that question, John squinted his eyes and looked directly at mines.

“Still curious about becoming a High Roller?”

“From what you told me about Velorian. I won’t survive out there even with the training you have been giving me.”

“Levi, becoming a High Roller means sharing your soul with another, and depending on the soul it would only hinder you non-stop in order to devour the other half of your soul.” John walked towards me and placed his hand over my shoulder. “Don’t be in such a hurry, savor being able to have a full clean soul as much as possible. Because once you become a High Roller you’ll start living in a completely different world.”

“I have already been living in a different world ever since I washed ashore into Velorian.”

“Fair enough,” John went over to his desk and sat on his chair. “If it is your… destiny or whatever to become a High Roller then it will happen. Now go on and help Eric or he will start bitching and complaining about you.”

“Right,”

I left John’s house and along the way to help prepare for the journey I observed the town of Vornil seeing the people live no different from back in my country except a bit happier. Kids running around playing, men carrying wood and materials to further improve and expand the town, and women doing the cleaning and managing the food and life stock. The only difference is most are equipped with a gun to fend off against gangs and other malicious people who try bringing harm to their town since there was no big official government or police established, yet.

“Just how different would it be?” I asked myself having recalled what John said about High Rollers living in a completely different world from those who aren’t.

I would inevitably come to experience that different world of interacting with both the realm of the living and dead. But that will all come later as I helped out with Eric getting the horses and other things ready for the long journey to Delidaware. Eric and some of his men constantly looked at me with distrust while also rudely speaking to me. Such things didn’t get to my head so long they wouldn’t try killing me or getting in my way of finding Logan Campbell. Well, I’d normally say words have no effect on me but if they were to insult my dead wife and kids then I would have them suffer and beg for forgiveness.

“Everything’s in order!?” Eric shouted out from the front taking lead in a wagon.

“All ready!” The men all replied.

“Alrighty! HIYA!” Eric whipped the horses lightly to make them start moving.

After six months only ever living in Vornil, I had completely forgotten all about the curse and would experience more of it as I rode in a wagon with five other men. Each had their guns on hand prepared to react as soon as a gunshot is heard. It was an uncomfortable long journey riding along in a cramped wagon with five other men. After only four hours a stench began to form from the sweat due to the sun shining brightly and I was still in the process of getting accustomed to the smell of low-class people. The man in front of me named Billy saw me rub my nose a lot doing my best to withstand the smell.

“Can’t handle the poor smell rich man?” Billy asked me in a taunting manner.

“I’m not rich anymore.” I simply told him not taking the bait.

“Right, you threw it all away just to chase after some guy who could be dead already. Such a damn waste. What happened with your wealth?”

“The government most likely took it all.”

“Shit… would it have killed ya to give it all away to poor people who needed it first? Before going on a suicide hunt.”

“Why should I? I’m not obligated to give my money to anyone.”

“Prick. Well, I’m not one to give ya shit about throwing your privileged life away. Since you don’t seem to act or look like one of those assholes acting all high and mighty. Treating us like filthy dogs. I at least admire your courage coming to this cursed land.”

“Courage? More like craziness! Hahaha!” Another guy in the wagon said and everyone laughed except for me.

They chatted away primarily making fun of me but with no ill intent in making me angry or upset. Which in that regard I didn’t mind but their jokes didn’t make me laugh since at that time I haven’t laughed or smiled ever since the tragedy that happened to me. Although I wasn’t much interested in listening or talking with those men in the wagon it was still a good way to pass the time. The journey was indeed very rough for the first time since trying to sleep was difficult when you’re worried about these dead invisible ghosts trying to devour your soul. You’d also always hear the echoes of voices screaming or damning someone in the darkness. An utterly unpleasant first experience and despite having things that prevent the souls from killing us I still had many sleepless hours for two days.

Eventually, we reached the neighboring town called Ardien which was a bit more established compared to Vornil but still wasn’t big enough to start being a city with a currency system in place. Our wagon was surrounded with the guards of Ardien aiming their weapons at us dressed the same like we were and they checked everything including us to make sure we weren’t hiding anything suspicious. While they were checking us. Eric who was in the front showed the permit to the one in charge showing proof that we came from Vornil Town. Took some time but eventually, they allowed us inside the town of Ardien where we would make our stop for the day and have a decent rest in a bed and a good meal.

“Damn, I want to ask around about Logan but I need some rest.” I thought to myself as we arrived at a building specifically for travelers between Vornil or the other town.

“Alright! Be sure not to cause trouble and get your rest! We’re setting off first thing in the morning!” Eric ordered everyone from our expedition group and he walked to the left heading somewhere first before he took his rest.

“Hey, where is he going?” I asked someone from my group.

“He’s just stopping by to check in with the sheriff.”

“Just like John?”

“Yeah,”

“Is he a High Roller as well?” I wondered being curious.

“That’s right, now stop asking me questions. I’m going to take a nap.”

Everyone from my expedition group wasn’t going to explore the town since they were also yearning to recover some lost sleep. But I put the temptation of having a nap on hold and followed Eric to meet the other High Roller. I wanted to know his view about the so-called different world where one lives between the realm of the living and dead. I followed Eric back to a home that was slightly bigger and more organized than John’s. There was also someone guarding the door and stopped me from entering.

“Hold it, what do you want with the sheriff?” The guard asked me who wore a hat and slightly dirtied brown clothing.

“I wish to speak with the sheriff. The person who came first is… the one in charge of my group from Vornil.” I explained and was about to call Eric my boss but avoided it since that would make me upset.

“Alright, but you’ll have to wait. Unless it’s important?”

“… I’ll wait,” I said not wanting to talk with Eric being present figuring he would just make things annoying for me.

About ten minutes passed and Eric came out of the sheriff’s office and home. Upon seeing me sitting around the two-step wooden stairs he was not pleased.

“Hey, the hell you doing here?” Eric asked me having suspicions I was up to something no good.

“Just want to ask the sheriff some questions.” I simply replied not wanting to instigate anything.

“For what? I already finished our business with him. There’s no longer a need for you to talk to him.”

“It has nothing to do with our journey. If you’re worried that I’m trying to go behind your back to take over your position as the leader for the next voyage. Then I’ll make it clear and tell you right now that I don’t care about such a thing.” I explained being upfront knowing that was the reason for Eric being confronting about it.

“Ha! Trying to take me for a fool, eh!? Since when have rich folk ever been honest? You’re all just a bunch of snakes always trying to backstab others and steal their hard work!” Eric refused to believe my word thinking I was just scheming to get into a high position in Vornil Town by sweet-talking or doing favors.

“… You’re not going to believe anything I say, are you?”

“I’ll never trust the word of the rich. I don’t want to have any problems with John but just know that as soon as you give me a good reason to kill ya. I’m pulling that trigger.” Eric told me straight to my face and left.

“Rich? You’re rich?” The guard asked who listened to our feud.

“Used to be. Can I enter?”

“Go on, try making it quick. He doesn’t like long talks.”

I entered the home and office of the sheriff which despite being bigger than John’s it didn’t have that many things present. Just a bland empty house with only a desk and a few shelves. The sheriff of Ardien was named Marcus who rocked back and forth on his chair giving the first impression of someone not liking the life of just sitting around managing a whole town.

“What do you want?” Marcus asked in an annoyed tone and wanted me to get straight to the point.

“My name is Levi Carter, I came from Vornil. I wanted to ask if you heard of a man named Logan Campbell?” I asked.

“Never heard of em, that all?” Marcus wanted me to finish my business quickly and leave him alone.

“… You seem to act quite different from John.” I said hoping saying that would pique his interest in some way.

Marcus suddenly looked at me in the eyes which were quite intimidating and stopped rocking his chair back and forth. Having said John’s name managed to make him inquire further about me.

“You… what are you looking for?” Marcus asked being able to see my intentions that I was looking for someone.

“The man who killed my family, Logan Campbell,” I answered.

“Oh!? First time I have come across a man willing to dedicate his life for revenge. I could see it in your eyes and soul.” Marcus said and then nodded his head letting me know to have a seat. “The name’s Marcus, what else do you want? I can tell you’re not only here to ask about this Logan guy.”

“I wanted to know your thoughts about being a High Roller. John told me his view about it and doesn’t recommend anyone to attempt becoming one.”

“Haha! That son bitch still going on about the High Roller life being bad? Listen, that life is only bad if you’re a weak Cracker that breaks easily. But if you can handle it… boy o boy… you’re in for a wild ride.”

“… From the impression you gave me, you don’t seem to enjoy your duty as sheriff?”

“Not here, place is too peaceful. There aren’t many gang raids happening in Ardien. I wanted to get placed in Vornil but that bastard John bested me.”

“Bested you?”

“Yeah, we had a duel. First to hit or kill would win their spot in Vornil.” Marcus said and lifted his right hand showing a wound around the edges of his thumb and index finger. “Bastard managed to land a clean shot and disarmed me. I hate that serious attitude of his but… the man got skill.”

“I see… Why stay here if you wish to use your capabilities of a High Roller?”

“Well, as much as I’d love to get into life and death gunfights. I also love sleeping on a comfortable bed without worrying about my soul getting eaten or having to hear the annoying voices of the dead. Oh! And nothing beats having some decent food every day and water.”

Marcus went on telling me how John was a criminal as well who was part of a criminal organization back in our country. Deep down John insisted on being the sheriff of Vornil because he too wanted that satisfaction of being able to fight a lot. In the end, Marcus was all for people trying to become High Rollers if they were worthy of it and told me I was someone capable of withstanding the burden that comes with it. Marcus also went on to tell me that there were unique ones out there who are capable of more than what he and John could do and are far more dangerous. So dangerous that they even have wanted posters of those dangerous High Rollers throughout Velorian to let the people know to run for their lives if they encounter one of them.

Once I finished talking with Marcus I returned to the place where everyone from my expedition group was taking a nap. It was cramped but enough space to get decent sleep although it was still difficult since the stench still lingered and many were snoring their lungs out. Luckily, I was too tired to have that keep me awake for long and fell straight asleep for two hours until Billy woke me up.

“Time for dinner,” Billy told me and had a plate in his hand. “They were about to leave you with nothing but… that’s something I didn’t agree in letting happen.” He said as he handed me the plate.

It was stew which didn’t look appealing but after six months living in Velorian, I no longer expected anything of high class. Nor did my growling stomach care what it looked like so long it was edible and tasty enough.

“Thanks, I appreciate it.” I gave my gratitude knowing Billy wasn’t like the others who didn’t like me just because I used to be rich.

“No need for thanks, I just don’t like anyone experiencing hunger. Going through starvation is the worst fucking thing any man could go through. You probably wouldn’t know anything about it since you were rich and all. Just don’t make me catch ya taking food for granted, ya hear?” Billy warned me and left me to eat my stew in peace.

The words of Billy made me think for a moment about what Marcus said about preferring to have food and being able to sleep soundly over going out into the wilder side of Velorian. Things were already rough for me coming from a wealthy background and I started to wonder if I’d end up regretting abandoning everything once I went deeper into the lands of Velorian and become a High Roller. And that’s if I could become a High Roller and not end up like a lifeless human worm forgetting the memories of my loving family.

Those thoughts were scary to think about but they weren’t enough to keep me away. I was already utterly determined ever since I killed an innocent man who only did his duty. All I could do was just take the advice John gave me and savor the bland food and decent enough bed as much as possible until the time would come when my real personal journey began. In which at the time, I didn’t expect it to be very soon.


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