Chapter 2 – How to socialize with Elves
Proofreaders: Dreen, TheDarkLink, Rooker
There are many differences between a game and real life, even if you’re living that real life in a fantasy world. In a game, rain is mostly just annoying, limiting your visual range. But on the other hand, it can make a game world more believable and beautiful.
In real life, you get wet. Even after using oiled coats with hoods, you’ll get wet if you’re not careful. Your clothes will rub against your skin, you feel cold all the time, your nose starts running, and you feel unpleasant.
By the way, I’m half-naked.
Why? Because Kyou-san didn’t have a coat for rainy weather.
So she demanded me to hand over mine, but I declined. Then she got Rine on her side, who looked at me puppy-eyed again, forcing me to give Kyou-san my coat. In the end, I did. At least it was worth a WP.
Since wet clothes aren’t very comfortable and they’ll be soaked in no time by this heavy rain, I removed my armor and most of my clothes, put them in the backpack and just went on. The cold is draining my SP continually, but at least Kyou-san casts [Stamina] at me a few times. But do you know what would be better? A rain coat!
It’s cold and wet. And lonely.
We left the mountains and the terrain is more of a hillside. There is little vegetation, but you could run into something hidden behind a raise.
“Phew…” I deactivate the [Track]-skill. I used it before to get a picture of the monsters around here, but the tracks are washed away. And it’s highly improbable that monsters will attack in this weather.
…I take that back, I just heard some snarling. I use the [Pitch]-skill, it’s ahead of us. Seems like they’re attacking someone. I can hear wood shatter, a man’s yell and other indicators of an attack.
Well, not exactly my problem.
“Did you hear it?” Come on, Rine. It’s raining and you don’t have the [Perception]-ability, so you shouldn’t hear anything at all!
“No?” I shoot a glance to Kyou-san. ‘Don’t let her do this.’
‘Understood.’ “Rine-chan, I’m sure, you just misheard it.”
“Are you sure? This sounds like someone is in trouble.” She looks at me, as if she wants to check it out together.
No. Way. “Rine, it may be a monster influencing your mind. So don’t do what it wants you to!”
“If it’s a monster, I need to slay it!” Ah, didn’t consider her heroic impulses. The only answer I can muster is a facepalm.
‘Idiot’. Kyou-san sighs.
Rine charges right in and I follow her, retrieving my spear from the backpack.
It’s just behind the hill.
In front of us, hard to see because of the rain, is a covered wagon on a muddy road, being attacked by five mobs. The monsters are formed like beetles, but have the scales of a fish, a pair of muscular arms and the face of a shark. What are these mobs even called? Sharkbeetles? At least they’re only as large as big dogs.
Surrounded by them is a single humanoid shadow, it’s the yelling guy from before. The man is wearing a hooded cloak as well and he wields a saber. He’s not bad at fighting, dancing between the sharkbeetles, always attacking the ones which want to take a bite from the already damaged wagon.
I don’t need to get into details here. Rine comes, death flourishes and I help a bit, starting with a [Speedthrust] into the opponents. In the end, there are only five monsters. Nothing to be afraid of.
But Rine’s totally drenched now, in blood and water, since fighting while keeping the cloak shut is nigh impossible.
Same goes for the man, who has black, long hair and a beard. Black hair? But he’s clearly not Asian. So there are people like that, huh? In Feuerberg, most people had bright hair, like blonde, dark blonde, light brown, or red. I guess he’s from another country.
“Thank you, I thought we would be doomed. I’m a merchant. The name is Correo.” Sounds Italian to me. Yes, I guess the complexion would be also similar. “And how is your name, brave barbarian?”
Is he talking to me? “Barbarian? That’s quite rude.”
“I apologize, I jumped into conclusions after seeing your attire and your combat skills.”
Ah. I guess being half-naked automatically makes me a barbarian. I better check, if I got the option to choose the [Barbarian]-class… As I expected, it’s not that simple.
I’m being sarcastic, you know?
“I’m Kenta.” I leave out my last name. I would rather use a false name, but Rine will never be able to hold a secret identity, be it her own or mine: “That’s Rine. And somewhere should be another one, Kyou.” Kyou-san didn’t follow us into battle, so she may be still a few meters away, hidden by the heavy rain.
“But strange, Kenta. An unusual name, this attire and an actual skill, everything would point to a barbarian. Or a hero. Ah, I see.” Did he see through me, even though I have a poker face? Or did he read Rine’s?
“Ken, it would help, if you hide your enmity. Good Greetings, I’m Kyou.” Kyou stands beside me now and smiles at that Correo-guy in her fake friendly manner.
“Well, in his shoes I would be careful too, so I don’t mind. And it must be fate to meet you, since I’m a special kind of merchant, you know. But please, let me first confirm if my daughter is alright.”
Correo looks into the covered wagon. “Ogra, are you alright?”
The voice of a young girl is answering, elementary school age, I think: “I’m good, papá.”
“Ah, thanks to the gods. Please bear a bit with it, I have to talk to our saviors.”
“Papá, your eyes are shining. Are they customers?”
“Maybe, my dear. Maybe.”
Ah, so he’s a greedy merchant. I’m OK with it.
Looking at the faces of Kyou-san and Rine, both couldn’t follow the conversation. I guess Rine’s ears are only keen when it comes to detecting monsters to kill and people to save. Well, damage occurred, let’s roll with it for now.
“Dear custo- erm, I mean, life-saviors. A bit further down the road is an inn, let us travel as a group and I will buy you a meal.” Ah, he totally wanted to call us ‘customers’.
“We’ll discuss that.” I sign my companions, that I want to talk to them in private and they follow me a few meters. “Something is not right. He’s alone with his daughter, even though he seems to be able to defend himself, why should he be here?”
Kyou’s speaking openly. “He’s a merchant. I’ m sure he cut the costs of bodyguards. And only one wagon, he may be poor.”
Rine is even simpler. “We saved his life, so he’s simply grateful.”
“Less grateful than opportunistic, Rine. He already sees us as customers. I don’t like it.”
“Ken, he’s just trying to get a profit. That makes him predictable.”
“And merchants in the Wildlands are often not well-guarded, Kenta, since there are only a few bandits here. The scaleetles are only that active in rain, otherwise, they wouldn’t come near a trading route.”
“So they are called scaleetles? And what about other bandits, like human ones? Are they that rare?”
“If you camp outside the trading routes, it gets too dangerous, so only a few dare to do so.”
“Phew.” I mistrust that Correo-guy, but the others want to accept his offer. We return and I say: “Throw a coat in and fine.”
“Go into the wagon, each of you. I will give you mine after we arrived at the inn, but for now, I need it to drive.”
This is definitely a trap! I use about every [Perception]-skill, but I can’t detect anything wrong, which only supports my theory.
Rine just goes in. “Hello, I’m Rine.”
“Hallo. My name is Ogra.”
Kyou-san also enters the wagon. “My name is Kyou. Nice to meet you.”
I follow them irritated. The inside is cramped with crates and between them is a single, little girl. She has black hair like her father and dark eyes. She might be around ten years old, her hair is tied into twin tails, a rather childish hairstyle.
She looks at me with the innocent eyes of a child: “And who are you, sir?”
“Kenta. Get lost.” She reminds me of the little girls, who used to slander about me. I hate kids!
Kyou-san is rolling her eyes, Rine is tilting her head, but Ogra just smiled innocently. “Don’t worry, sir. We won’t get lost.”
“Ah, that’s what he was talking about.” Rine, you’re on the same level as that pipsqueak.
“Phew.” I just give up and stay alerted, in case that this Correo-guy will betray us.
“What was that, sir?” Ignore. “Are you tired? Do you feel unwell? Why don’t you have any clothes on?” Just ignore it. It will stop, if it’s tired.
Or if someone like Kyou-san starts a conversation with that pipsqueak. “Ogra-chan, may I ask you a few things?”
“What kind of merchant is your father?”
“A merchant, who deals with heroes.”
What kind of merchant would specialize in trading with heroes!? Are there so many of them? Well, Correo only has this one wagon and his daughter is helping out. But that’s too much of a coincidence.
“So a hero-merchant, right? What are you doing here?” Kyou-san is asking the right questions, using a kid to find about its parent’s business. Evil. I like it!
“Papá and I were in Feuerberg, since there are supposed to be new heroes there, but when we came to Esse, none of them were there anymore.”
This seems almost believable, but why didn’t he travel to the border to Daemonicus, the demon realm? Kyou-san catches my glimpse and responds to it. “So why didn’t he follow them?”
“Nobody wanted us to know, where the heroes are. We only knew that they were ordered to fulfill a special mission.” Was that catching Rine?
“What kind of mission might that be?” The girl in question sucks at reading between the lines.
“We don’t know, but papá decided to travel back. He hopes to find more clues in Aroahenn.”
“The elves?” Rine seems to be in wonder.
“Aroahenn? What’s that?” I have to ask myself, to get some information.
Even if means asking that brat. “The forest-city of the elves. They know everything about heroes.”
“Yes, but only few may enter. The elves are dangerous and have magic wards and such. But maybe papá, who also knows a lot of heroes, may enter their forest!”
This girl doesn’t seem to know much. So it comes down to ask Correo directly later. But there are other things to learn. “Rine, pipsqueak, what do you know about elves?” They may differ from the ones from games, so I have to be open-minded here.
“Sir, did you just called me pipsqueak? My name is Ogra.”
“Just shut up. Wait, don’t, tell me. Now! You too, Rine!”
““You’re mean!”” Both of them are pouting.
“Rine, tell me.” But I already educated the princess a bit.
“Erm… Elves are the young folk.”
“Young? They aren’t immortal?” Wouldn’t you call an immortal race the ‘old folk’, normally?
“They might. There are no old elves, as far as my family knows.”
So they stop aging? Well, it’s still in line with my basic knowledge. So because all of them look young, they’re called the ‘young folk’, huh? “Anything else? Are they bound to nature?”
“I think? Sorry, we don’t know much about them.”
Useless princess. Maybe a question she might rather know. “Good at magic?” Militaristic potential.
“Definitely. Elves are very skilled, every one of them is supposed to be able to use magic. They know spells, we can’t even think of.”
Kyou-san interferes: “So they know about curses?”
…could this be? The flag to another route?
“I think so. The elves know much and are capable of powerful magic. Why do you ask?”
I facepalm. Rine really forgot that we’re cursed! Girl, please! Stay focused!
So it really comes down to a talk with Correo. If he doesn’t stab us in the back, he may be a really good source of information.
Let’s push our luck.
We’re inside a run down inn. There are several ones at the trading routes of the Wildlands, they’re big, not well kept and the quality of food and drink is something I fail to express in words. Kyou-san is cooking much better, but oh well, it’s not me, who paid these overpriced meals.
Even though it’s outside Feuerberg, all we can see here are humans. But according to Rine, there are few other races but humans, who would even try to make something work in the Wildlands, especially this close to Feuerberg. I guess humans are actually quite tough, compared to others.
But seriously, most of the people here look no better than bandits. There are sleazy-looking merchants, furious-looking guards, poor-looking vagabonds, about every cliché of bad people is in here. Good thing that we keep our money in the backpacks and they’re only usable for us.
And in the midst of all this are we, five humans, who are targeted by stares. Well, Kyou-san and Rine mostly. But some are looking at me, wondering if I come from the south, same goes for Kyou-san. But nobody is that intruding to ask us this directly, they’re just wondering, while I can hear every word via [Pitch].
I better turn my attention to the people in front of me.
Correo and pipsqueak are sitting opposite of us. The girl is already at her third serving, while her father is drinking wine with a light meal. Today’s special is grout. Or something which was mashed into one.
I stir my grout listlessly, while exchanging looks with Kyou-san. Since her [Persuasion] is way higher than mine she should lead the conversation, but she’s reluctant. ‘Serious, do it already, or do I have to!? Remember the ss’rak!’
‘Don’t remind me.’ In the end, she gives in. “So, Correo. You wanted to talk with us.”
“That’s right. You have to know, that there are quite a few heroes in this world.”
“How many. And you know that we’re from another world?”
“I don’t know the exact number, but across the races are hundreds.” Hundreds? So being a hero is not as special as I thought. Well, if we count every hero of any race, this number shouldn’t be as shocking, Feuerberg has summoned 30 with us. But Correo added another thing: “And every hero is from another world.”
Wait, that’s a new information. If this is right, then there have to be more worlds than the two we know, since the patriarch I dueled against was also a hero. Is that the reason, why he seemed to be that different? What kind of world did he live in?
A few theories spring into my mind, but the conversation goes on. Kyou-san just keeps it fluent.
“I see. Ogra-chan told us, you’re a merchant, specialized in heroes?”
“Ah, my daughter…” Correo scratches his beard, like he was just caught. “Well, she’s not off, but not right, either. I’m a relic trader.”
“Relic?” Kyou-san asked the question, I had myself.
“You already know magical items?” Like Rine’s sword or the cursed ring. “You know, there are some, which can only be used by heroes or only be used on them, for some reasons. A simple would be this.” He takes a manacle from his breast pocket and put it on. “So you’re a [Scout], you’re a [Cook] and what do we have here? [Princess Knight]? Never heard of that class.”
This manacle is able to see what classes we’ve currently selected? “May I have it?” I wanted to hold back, but that’s too interesting!
“For 2 million Newgold, it’s quite precious, so I won’t lend it.” Money-grubber. Even though I was thinking about stealing it for a moment. Or two.
Kyou-san thrusts her finger into my side under the table, and continues without letting it show: “Are all relics that expensive?”
“Most. But heroes tends to be rich and those who fight them as well. One of the main reasons for these prices is the fact, that relics can’t be reproduced, even by the best artificers. They’re gifts from the gods.”
“And what would be an inexpensive one?”
“This ring, which becomes warm, if one hero meets another of a higher level.” He seems to know some things about the hero-system. Well, he claims to be a merchant, who trades with heroes.
“Please, no rings.” Kyou-san rejected the offer, before the price even comes up. Even though it would indeed be a useful item, I feel the same.
“So you’re no potential customers?” Correo’s eagerness flows down a drain. “This is… unfortunate.” You mean, we’re poor beyond comparison and you’re regretting buying us a meal. We saved your life, money-grubber!
“Papá, the poor folk want to know about elves.” Sorry, that you have usury prices!
“Ah, I see, I see. You know, I’m also dealing with information. About the elves… ten thousand.”
Kyou-san keeps her smile. “Three. We already know a lot about them, so your information is less valuable for us.”
“Three thousand? How can I feed my little girl that way, you see how much she eats!” And so the haggling began.
In the end, we paid 6.159 Newgold, most of it in valuables.
“The elves. Elves are also called the ‘young folk’, since no human so far even saw an old elf. Some people think of them as immortal, but at least it’s known, that elves can live hundreds of years and can be killed due violence. They avoid contact with humans and the few encounters between humans and elves weren’t that favorable for us. It’s common, that elves are bad omens, which should never be angered. If a human thinks in days and years, an elf thinks in terms of decades and centuries. Elves did take retributions for actions long forgotten on the descendants of the ones, who incited it.”
Similar to the elves in games so far.
“The nearest settlement of elves is in Aroahenn, northwest from here. I can show you a map… Here it is. And we’re here. So it’s quite a distance away from the trading routes, I also thought of visiting them, but for that, I need to hire some bodyguards first. The reason for visiting them is… the elves of Aroahenn are a insiders’ tip for relic merchants, since they’re investigating heroes and have some really powerful and rare relics.”
“One of them would be one, which can let you deselect a class.”
“!” Kyou-san seems to be surprised and even I’m quite interested. Not that I need to delete one of my classes, but if there is an item like that, I may be more open to trying out new classes.
For Kyou-san, she’s surely eager to get out of her support-only role. Then she might select an actually useful class for combat and if the curse is broken on the way, she can rejoin her friends without a worry. Which would be a good thing for me as well.
Correo continues. “But Aroahenn is quite well-guarded by magical wards, so getting in is nearly impossible. You have to be invited by the elves and the elven guards around the forest-city aren’t the welcoming kind.”
“What about the abilities of elves?” I take over the talk, since Kyou-san seems to be euphoric by the news. She even giggles so softly, that only I’m able to hear it.
“Good senses, masterful archers, powerful magic.”
“Would they know about curses?”
“If not them, who else?”
Then Correo begins his talk about history and other things, but they aren’t essential for now. We got the map as a gift, even though it’s more like a sketch, which is not that accurate.
“I see. Thanks for the information. Excuse us for a bit, we need to talk about what we learned. If we have further questions, we’ll let you know.”
We move into one of the two rooms Correo got us. It’s supposed to be used by the girls, since we couldn’t possibly declare, how exactly we’re related to.
“So, the elves.” I scratch my chin. “Seems to be better than nothing.”
Kyou-san is not even trying to hide her excitement. “I think visiting the elves is a wonderful idea. I can get rid of the [Healer]-class and there is a chance to break that curse!”
And for some reason, Rine is the cautious one. “The elves are dangerous. But I think, we can deal with it together.”
Well, we got a consent. “So nobody is opposed. Then the next question: Who’s for leaving right now, getting a head start, before that Correo-guy might do something?”
“Me.” Kyou-san raises her hand.
“Mn? What’s with Correo?” Rine cocks her head.
“I don’t like him, Rine. That should be enough.”
“So nobody opposed to that, either. We got his coat, we got his map, let’s climb down the window and run into the rain!”
Correo is sitting in his room and is using a spyglass. This spyglass allows him to observe people even through walls, as long as he knows the face and the target is within a range of a hundred meters (almost 330 ft).
“They left.” He says it to the girl, who is called Ogra.
“Master, I don’t like that guy. He’s looking at me suspiciously and called me ‘pipsqueak’!” She’s sulking like the little girl she currently appears to be.
“This only means, our disguise worked. Be proud of my cover, slave.”
Yes, instead of being father and daughter, their real relationship is that between master and slave. She’s magically bound to him, unable to deny his commands. She’s his bodyguard, his servant, and his pretend daughter at the same time.
“But you’re right, those three are different from the ones we met before. The man is distrusting, the black haired girl calculating and the blonde one seems to be from a different world than the other two. But her swordsmanship is quite good.”
“Quite good? Seriously, Master, it would be problematic, if I have to protect you while fighting that one. She might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but her battle instincts are keen. The moment I directed the slightest killing intent, her hand was already at her sword. I would probably overpower her, but if I have to defend you at the same time… krrrrk!” The girl called Ogra strokes with a finger over her throat. She has a mad smile on her face, maybe she would actually enjoy fighting the blonde one.
“Your tongue is slipping again.”
“! Sorry, Master!”
Correo is a man, who dislikes the vulgar. He’s also someone who works for those who benefit him the most. Currently, he’s serving someone with a keen interest in the new heroes and who wants to get the elven relics.
So using the heroes to infiltrate the city of Aroahenn seems to be viable. They can show their strength, while being in conflict with the elves. And the moment they enter the city, the plan will come to fruition.
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