Stealth Kid Goes to Cotton-elka – Part 03

“This is quite something,” Kelbeck said, pleased to see the items that Hikaru had brought with him.

Head of Pond’s Thieves’ Guild, he had short red hair and a large tattoo on his face that resembled a flame. His toned body, his thick shirt, along with his baggy pants and high-cut boots, gave him the appearance of a veteran mercenary, but Hikaru was unfazed.

“How much will you pay for it?” Hikaru asked.

“Let’s see… 15,000 gilans.”

“You must be joking. I heard Black Moonflower buds alone go for 20,000 gilans. Add to that the other medicinal herbs and the Honey Crystals from a Rogue Bees’ nest, this should be worth no less than 30,000 gilans.”

“True. Your Honey Crystal is in good condition, but it’s not really worth that much at the moment. There was a huge raid on Rogue Bees near the border last month. The royal capital is overstocked with the crystals.”

“The Adventurers’ Guild received a commission for Black Moonflowers from a moneybag. They’re good for kidney diseases. 27,000 gilans.”

“It’s not like we can’t sign up for the Adventurers’ Guild. 22,000 gilans. Final offer. Didn’t you come here because you can’t sell these out in the open?”

“Deal. In my case, I just don’t want to draw attention. I’m not really doing anything shady.”

“You sure talk big for a kid. Don’t adventurers want attention? That way, you can make as much money as you want from designated commissions. Here’s your money.”

Kelbeck placed a leather bag containing gold and silver coins on the thick table.

Hikaru checked the contents. “Thanks. Wait, there’s 2,000 gilans extra.”

“A little bonus. I knew about the moneybag wanting the Black Moonflower, but I didn’t know about its medicinal properties. Where did you learn that it’s good for the kidney?”

Hikaru’s knowledge came from the memories of Roland, his body’s previous owner. As he became more familiar with this world, the memories faded gradually, turning into simple information.

“I had a friend who was familiar with Sorcery and herbs.” Hikaru grinned.

Kelbeck raised an eyebrow. His large build might suggest that he couldn’t do anything that required precision, but he was in fact a skilled Artificer, someone who incorporated elemental or healing magic into physical objects using elemental magic stones or magic gems. This included locks that used mana signature as the key itself, and handy tools that warmed the air. These techniques were called Sorcery to distinguish them from Magic.

“They’re dead now, though,” Hikaru added, wearing a rueful look.

“I see. I thought you didn’t have any friends ‘cause you’re always just wandering around by yourself, but I guess you do socialize.”

“That’s none of your business.”

“By the way, how was the actor I sent?”


Kelbeck was referring to the man who took part in Lavia’s rescue mission. His job was to briefly stop the carriage that Nogusa’s party was escorting. Hikaru had never used Group Cloaking before that point, so just to be safe, he hired someone to distract Nogusa and his team for even a moment, ensuring a flawless escape.

“I heard that a certain girl was in that carriage, and she disappeared without a trace,” Kelbeck went on.


“Curious. How did she escape without anyone noticing? That reminds me. There was someone who entered my office before without my men noticing. Is this a coincidence?”

“If you have something to say, spit it out.”

Hikaru stared at Kelbeck. He was ready to activate his Stealth and pull out his dagger at any time.

Kelbeck was the only person who connected Lavia to Hikaru. That’s why he didn’t bring her here.

“Whoa, there. Don’t give me that look. I’m just kidding.” Kelbeck raised his hands jokingly. Sweat beaded on his forehead.

“I don’t like unfunny jokes,” Hikaru said.

“Got it. My bad. You didn’t kill anyone, you just hired an actor from us. I don’t really gossip about the nobility anyway, and I don’t particularly care who killed the Count.”

It was actually Hikaru who killed the Count. As soon as he stopped glaring at Kelbeck, the man relaxed.

“I’ve gotten myself a troublesome client,” he groaned.

“I think we can do good business with each other,” Hikaru replied. “You called me a client. I’ll take that as you understanding that it’s safe.”

“Safe? Did you see the look on your face when you were staring daggers at me?”

“It looks like you sent your men away because you thought I might be dangerous. You can keep them around next time.”

“You noticed that too, huh?”

“I try to protect myself.”

“Clients don’t usually protect themselves.”

After their back and forth, Kelbeck reached a decision. Although he had always treated Hikaru favorably, accepting a job and even purchasing materials from him, he was unable to gauge just how capable Hikaru was. Pointing out that his men weren’t around was what convinced Kelbeck that Hikaru was, in fact, skilled. What he didn’t know, of course, was that Hikaru only knew because his Life and Mana Detection didn’t pick up anything.

“I’ll even sell you some magic items,” Kelbeck said. “My apprentice has been working hard lately, so I have some interesting stuff. An earth magic item that can punch holes in walls, an explosive that combines fire and air magic, and a healing item created after greasing some priest’s palms.”

“Thank you. Sounds interesting indeed.”

Hikaru talked business with Kelbeck.

Could come in handy.

Hikaru had been considering buying supplies. He realized the need back when he fought Lawrence D. Falcon, the Sword Saint. Hikaru had his Projectile Skill, but just throwing stones at Lawrence was completely ineffective. His Dagger of Strength, his only means of attacking, was not enough either.

I specialize in Stealth. I should focus more on offense rather than defense.

Hikaru then went to see Leniwood, a dashing elf at the Leniwood Weapon Workshop.

“Hohoho! That’s one fascinating weapon.”

The elf gladly accepted Hikaru’s request. He said he could have a prototype ready the next day. Either he worked fast when he was excited or business was just slow.

In short, Hikaru was quite busy.

So it was not until the evening of the following day that he learned about the Forest of Deception.

“Did Paula leave for Cotton-elka already?”

Hikaru wondered why the guild was even more deserted than usual, when Freya told him about the Forest of Deception. Some adventurers were looking to make money by killing monsters that had overrun the dungeon, while others had left Pond because they were scared.

The receptionists were also busy dealing with matters related to the Forest of Deception. The adventurers who had accepted the commissions to slay monsters around Cotton-elka and escort villagers to Pond were meeting with Unken and Gloria in a separate room. They were scheduled to depart tomorrow.

As such, Freya was the only one at the counter.

“Where have you been the past two days?” she asked. “You always just pop in out of nowhere. I thought you went to Cotton-elka too.”

“No. This is news to me.”

“You have keen ears for the strangest things, though.”

Hikaru had no idea that something huge had happened in the past two days. What he was concerned about was information about Lavia’s disappearance, not the dungeon.

“But I’m glad you’re still in Pond,” Freya said.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re Rank G, so don’t think about going to the Forest of Deception. I don’t care if people you know are there. Entry to the dungeon is limited to—”

“Adventurers ranked D and higher, right?”

“Right. You’ve read all our resources.”

Hikaru had consumed all the reading materials available in order to create an alibi for the day of Lavia’s disappearance. Everything was inside his head.

“I must say, this incident is very intriguing,” he said. “The kingdom wants to ignore the Forest of Deception. That place is an artificial dungeon created by a rare life-form called a Dungeon Master. As I recall, it uses elemental magic stones, magic gems, ores, and metals to create monsters. Sounds like a sure-fire way to make a killing.”

“That’s right. Wait…”


“Oh, i-it’s nothing.”

Freya was acting strange, but Hikaru let it slide.

“I wonder if the dungeon will sustain itself if ignored,” he continued. “If it keeps on creating monsters…”

“I don’t know… The dungeon does produce raw materials, but a mine with a good vein is much more valuable.”

“So what you’re saying is that the kingdom currently has its eyes on something more valuable than the dungeon.”

“…No comment.”

“I get it.”

“What did you get?! I didn’t say anything, okay?!”

“You’re good. Are they trying to start a war?”

“I, uh…”

“I get it. I’m good now.”

She’s so easy to read. Freya fell for Hikaru’s bait.


“I have just one last question. Paula and her friends already left, right?”

“Uh, yeah. They took a stagecoach yesterday afternoon.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

Hikaru left the counter. Freya looked like she still had something to say, but kept her mouth shut as other adventurers were coming.

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