Life of an Adventurer in a Harsh World – Part 04
“G-Give me a sec. I need to calm down.”
Hikaru moved away from the girl, about five meters, and the Soul Board disappeared.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Why do you ask?”
She was being extremely cautious.
“Ah, I mean, I asked you the way to the guild before. I made it there and got myself a guild card. I wanted to say thanks, and I thought it would be rude not to know your name.”
“Hmm… My name’s Rana.”
Aha! So that really was her Soul Board!
“I see. Thank you. Here’s something to show my gratitude.” He handed her a silver coin.
“Wow! So pretty! Money?!” She was elated.
I’m sorry. This is for science.
Hikaru opened her Soul Board again.
“Unlock Soul Board? Consume 1 point.”
“Uh, it’s nothing.”
The Vitality screen was unlocked.
Her total points had gone down by one.
So not only can I see other people’s Soul Boards, I can spend their points as well.
Hikaru shuddered. He had full access to everyone’s Skill Trees. His Stealth alone was a powerful Skill. What if he searched for trustworthy allies and put points on their magical abilities or sword skills?
Nah, it can’t be that easy.
Hikaru quickly collected himself. Points spent couldn’t be recovered. There was the possibility of his ally turning into an enemy.
He could not spend other people’s points unless they were someone he could really trust—someone he could share his secret with.
“Thanks for everything, Rana,” Hikaru said. “If you’re ever in trouble, I’ll be there to help you.”
Though he felt it was not enough as an apology for using up her points, he gave her one more silver coin anyway. The girl went home ecstatic.
“Now, then…” Hikaru resumed walking. “There’s one more thing.”
When he summoned his own Soul Board earlier, he noticed something. He hadn’t checked it since he first spent his points, so he only saw it now.
Age: 15 | Rank: 4 | 4
His points had increased.
“It definitely has something to do with this.”
There was one thing different from last time: the number below the “Rank” field was now 4.
“When did I gain ranks? If I recall correctly, you only gain ranks when you kill a monster.”
Hikaru couldn’t recall killing any monsters. He picked some poisonous herbs, but he didn’t kill them. He did, however, take down—kill—a human being.
“Wait a sec.”
A monster was defined as a creature that brought harm to humans. A very vague definition.
“What if it’s not about killing monsters specifically, but killing living things that are powerful to some degree…”
In short, he gained ranks by killing Count Morgstadt.
He was honestly thankful for the points. But he had mixed feelings about gaining them through murder. He needed time to think before spending them.
“I think it’s this way.”
Following the route Gloria told him about, Hikaru wound up at a place with an irrigation canal. As he went down a crumbling set of stairs, his nose caught a rank smell that hung thick in the air.
“Hmm… this looks like it.”
He spotted an underground tunnel that ran along the canal—the sewer systems. Sounds of flapping wings came from within. Bats, probably.
Hikaru activated his Stealth, and the bats and rats inside the tunnel calmed down.
I hope I don’t get some weird disease from those things. I doubt the viruses in this world are the same as those on Earth.
Though he had his Stealth and Blessing on, he proceeded cautiously. The water flowing down the sewers wasn’t that filthy, but the stench was unbearable.
Hikaru searched Roland’s knowledge. Every major city had sewers. Any sorts of excrement and sewage were gathered in one spot underground, where monsters called Chaos Slimes absorbed the filth, purifying the water. As a by-product, these monsters released nitre and compost that merchants would regularly collect.
So this water is from the Chaos Slimes.
Hikaru proceeded through a poorly-made walkway by the sewer. Stones had crumbled in places, exposing the bare dirt underneath. It was getting darker. He contemplated whether to use the small lamp he bought this morning.
Would using a light in this darkness expose him even with his Stealth on? Light could easily extend to places beyond one’s reach. He didn’t think he could expand the range of his Stealth that far.
I’ll just go as far as I can.
Steeling himself, he continued on slowly.
So who the hell is this Kelbeck guy to be living in a place like this? He’s an Artificer, so I’m guessing he makes magic items.
Suddenly he heard voices. The bats stirred.
“For real? Sounds like an easy job…”
Hikaru looked over his shoulder and spotted two men carrying a lamp coming from behind him. Is that Kelbeck? They didn’t look friendly. The scars on their cheeks marked them clearly as thugs.
He hurried on. There was a section along the way where the wall had collapsed, about three meters deep.
Hide and let them pass first? Or go onward?
He thought about it for a bit, then chose to hide. It was an expected choice for him. Stepping on the dirt, he entered the hollow area. He crouched down and held his breath.
“So you met the client.”
“He was like ‘another job well done’.”
“Stealing would be a lot easier.”
“Hey, killing is not allowed.”
“I know that. The boss hates bloodshed.”
“That’s not it. The authorities will step in if someone’s killed.”
“Are you sure? The boss… hmm?”
The pair stopped in their tracks near Hikaru.
“These footprints look small.”
There were footprints left on the mud. Hikaru learned that there was no point in using Stealth if the user was going to leave traces of them behind.
“There’s more orphans in Pond recently. They might’ve wandered in the sewers.”
“You’re probably right…”
They concluded that the footprints were left by orphans.
An expected outcome.
Hikaru was testing if he could hide his tracks as well.
A lamp would most likely give him away. Light reached far and reflected all over the place.
“Let’s go. We don’t want to make Kelbeck wait.”
“Yeah. The bossman can get really scary.”
They passed by Hikaru, not noticing him at all.
He mentioned Kelbeck just now.
Hikaru followed the men. This time, he paid careful attention to his footsteps.
In one section of the sewers was a residential area away from the eyes of the authorities. It was hardly a great environment to live in, of course. The outside smelled of sewage, and there was no sunlight all year round. But it was warm in the winter, and proper indoor ventilation kept the stench out. Above all, it was a great place to devise plots that you couldn’t talk about in the open.
“Hmm? You’re five minutes late.”
“S-Sorry. This guy just had to go hit on some girls.”
“What?! Why would you snitch on your boy?!”
“Shut up! You’re both responsible!”
A man who clearly didn’t give a damn about manners was perched on a chair, his legs outstretched on a fine table that seemed out-of-place in such a setting. Red, flame-like tattoos ran from his forehead to his right cheek, to the back of his neck and down to his body.
The men that Hikaru followed were standing before him.
“Well… you did okay on your job, ” the man said.
Relief appeared on the men’s faces.
“We’ll be leaving, then.”
“Aight. Make sure you work hard.”
After showing them both to the door, the man with the red tattoo turned, and froze.
There shouldn’t be anyone else in the room. And yet, a boy was sitting on his desk.
“Who the hell are you?!”
“Oops, no violence please. I’m not here to pick a fight.”
The boy carried himself like a complete amateur. The man didn’t think he had any sort of martial arts training, though he was wearing some decent gear.
The man brandished his dagger warily. “Where’d you come from?!”
“I’m here for a delivery.” The boy presented something.
“Huh? Is that a letter?”
For a moment, the man thought it could be some sort of a magic scroll disguised as a letter. No way. If the boy could use magic, he could just blow him up right there and then.
“You don’t want it? I’d really appreciate it if you take it.” The boy looked legitimately distressed.
The man felt stupid for being completely on guard around him.
Sheathing his dagger, he strode toward the boy and snatched the letter from his hand.
“Ah… It’s from the Adventurers’ Guild. Hmm, yes. I see.”
After skimming through the letter, the man turned his attention back to the boy.
“Let’s have a talk.”
“You want to know how I got in here?”
“Good, you know. That’ll save us both some time. Take a seat.” He pointed at a chair beside the table.
“What’s in it for me?”
“I’ll tell the Adventurers’ Guild one of their guys trespassed into my place.”
“Well, I don’t want to get in trouble. But that only applies to a typical residence.”
“Just shut up and take a seat.”
The boy sat down.
“What’s your name?”
“Hikaru. You’re Kelbeck, right?”
Kelbeck had short-trimmed red hair, with features that painted him as a veteran mercenary. As such, kids would normally tremble before him and wet their pants when he shot them a glare. But this boy was different.
“So, who let you in here?”
“Huh? No one.”
Kelbeck stood up, left the room to check something, and came back.
“It looks like you’re telling the truth. You’d have to get through three rooms before getting here. I have lookouts stationed in each room.”
“You didn’t notice? Every room has a lookout. I’m actually quite the big shot, so I have to protect myself. Not one of them noticed you, though. How?”
“Just lucky, I guess.”
Kelbeck was getting more and more uneasy. He was face-to-face with a strange kid who said he came here for an errand from the Adventurers’ Guild. Going by the contents of the letter, he was most likely telling the truth.
Normally, someone from the guild would be questioned at the entrance by his men. If they were a suspicious fellow, they’d ask the guild for information. Actually, they’d still do the same even if they were not suspicious. Yet this boy just waltzed right in.
It was then that Kelbeck noticed the boy’s outfit.
“I see. It’s your gear, isn’t it? You’re wearing clothes made out of raw materials from Night Wolves—the evolved form of ordinary wolves. Yeah, they’re perfect for concealing your presence.”
Hikaru’s eyebrow twitched. Looks like I hit the mark, Kelbeck thought. Of course, he never imagined that the boy was a master of concealing his presence completely.
“It’s decent gear. But there’s more to you than that. There’s something inside you. You don’t cower before me. You’ve got the spunk.”
“Thank you. Can you please sign?” The boy casually presented the commission form.
Kelbeck took it with a click of his tongue. He then signed it, took out a card from his pocket—a soul card issued by a temple—and pressed it against the commission from, verifying his identity. The paper glowed faintly, and the delivery was now complete.
“Hold it right there. What do you think I am?”
“An Artificer…” Hikaru paused and flashed a grin. “…is your designation, but you’re actually a leader of an underground organization.”
Kelbeck fell silent. Because he was right.
“Not that I care,” the boy added.
Kelbeck snorted. “Think you’re hot shit, huh? For the record, on the surface we’re called the Thieves Guild. Though we don’t target the poor.”
“I suppose not. Otherwise, you’d have attacked me already and asked questions later.”
“If you’re ever in trouble, just bring up my name and I’ll help you out. Not for free, of course. It’s called give and take.”
“You should pray I don’t cause trouble for the Thieves Guild.”
Hikaru left the room.
“Creepy kid,” Kelbeck mumbled. “But he’s got potential.”
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