13: The Targeted Children
Part 1: Vagabond Arc "Ash-crowned Princess of Slaughter" Chapter 1: The Heroine Went Against Fate
♢ Aria (Alicia) Race: Human ♀ Rank 1
⦗Magic Power: 54/65⦘ ⦗Stamina: 33/37⦘
❮Strength: 3 (3.3)❯ ❮Endurance: 4 (4.4)❯ ❮Agility: 5 (5.5)❯ ❮Dexterity: 6❯
◄Stealth Level 1► ◄Night Vision Level 1►
◄Light Sorcery Level 1►
◄Daily Life Magic ×6► ◄Non-Elemental Magic Level 1►
◄Magic Power Control Level 1► ◄Detection Level 1►
◼Comprehensive Combat Strength: 26 (During Body Strengthening: 28)
It took me around ten days to finally learn Heal and acquire level 1 of light sorcery.
It might seem like a long time, but ten days was actually a very short time by general standards, which was comparable to the speed at which a sorcerer who had mastered other spells could learn a new one. Certainly not the speed at which a child could learn a spell from scratch.
However, it was worth it since my rank went up from zero to one.
The rank level was based on the highest level of your elemental sorceries and combat skills. With that I have passed the minimum requirement to be able to join the Adventurers' Guild, but I didn't plan on joining any time soon.
The reason being that without obtaining at least the equivalent of a level 1 close-quarters combat skill, a child like me could immediately be preyed upon by other adventurers.
I have kept up with my close-quarters combat training, but I still haven't learned the skill.
Should I keep practising close-quarters combat, or else, should I research the meaning of Heal's words more to increase the accuracy of the sorcery? I also wanted to learn the other first rank sorcery, Cure, but since I was close to running out of supplies I made up my mind to head to the town I haven't been to in a while.
I had intended to gather things that I could sell for money before my next trip to the town, but I've been too busy practising my sorcery to gather much of anything.
The grandpa at the general shop also wanted me to bring him rabbits, but I would eat them if I managed to hunt them, and I was still too unskilful at dismantling so I couldn't just sell their pelts either.
"...Can't be helped."
I would be bringing with me the rare wild grasses I found during these past three weeks of living in the forest.
There was no money to be made by bringing the detoxifying herb used as household medicine that grew everywhere, or insecticidal grass, which was relatively easy to find. Although they did have some worth, I would only get a few copper coins for a jute sack stuffed full of them.
I was reading the hand-written medicinal herbs book that woman had stolen from her sorcery master.
At first I had to pull the words I read from the "knowledge" as if I was looking them up in a dictionary, but now I had become able to read, although slowly.
With this knowledge, I managed to find "magic-scented fruits".
This was a fruit that grew on shrubs in areas with a low concentration of magic particles. The flesh of the fruit was two to three millimetres, astringent and not suitable for eating, but this fruit had a tendency to accumulate magic particles in its seeds in order to survive harsh environments.
These seeds were used to create "magic potions" that restored magic power.
The medicinal herb book also contained the basics of alchemy, which I intended to start doing myself, but I currently lacked the equipment to do anything related to that.
I was lucky to find this fruit. There was only one tree growing on the cliff of the mountain, and I was able to collect a few fruits, but I decided it would be better to sell them than to keep them.
The reason was that while only the seeds, which could be stored for a long time, were used in potion making, they had to be processed in a special way. And although the flesh of the fruit itself didn't have any magic power and couldn't be eaten, it kept the magic power from dispersing, so if it was still there, the fruits could be sold for a higher price than the seeds alone.
I finished eating before departing. There was little left of the dried vegetables and dried meat that I had bought last time, but I poured the last of the dried vegetables and dried meat that I made into a soup seasoned with salt into my stomach.
The bowls and pots I used were made of clay that was baked after being solidified with the Daily Life magic Hard. They weren't good enough to be sold, but in the last few weeks I had learned to make them reasonably functional.
Although the completed soup wasn't tasty, I felt a little more energized when I put something warm in my stomach, and to begin with, I had a high tolerance for bad food.
I took off my clothes and washed myself in the upper part of the stream where I was based.
Although I was a street urchin, it was undesirable for me to dress like one. People would look down on me when trading, and a street urchin without the protection of a feudal lord would be an easy target for robbery.
So I washed my clothes occasionally, but should I buy new ones soon?
They were relatively decent second-hand clothes, but they were getting worn out from living in the forest. More than that, it seemed that my body had grown so fast due to the increase in magic power that the hem was getting shorter.
The hem of the robe-like simple clothes I wore, which used to be just above the knee, had shortened to about mid-thigh. It wasn't like I cared if the insides could be seen, but I had a feeling I would encounter more trouble if people found out I was female before I learned a combat skill.
I didn't really understand why, but that was what the "knowledge" told me, so I should be careful.
Now it was time to go. As the sun began to set, I left the camp, shouldering my bag.
With my current social status, the soldiers patrolling the main road were the most troublesome. It would be troubling to be taken into custody because I was still a child, and I wasn't confident that I could escape if the soldiers turned out to be evil. But if it was during the night, I had the night vision skill, even though it was only level 1, so I thought I could manage somehow.
It was an ability I had acquired by seeing magic particles as colours, but my accuracy had definitely improved over the past three weeks of living in the forest. The soldiers were troublesome, but they were also removing dangerous creatures like wolves, which made the night safer for me.
I used Body Strengthening to walk noiselessly along the main road. While training to match the magic particles of my surroundings in order to conceal my presence, I also practised moving without making any noise. I have found that just moving slowly and quietly wasn't enough to muffle the noise, but it also required a lot of muscle strength.
By using the muscles of the legs and the whole body to reduce the impact, the sound would naturally become quieter. And by moving along with the flow of magic particles around me, my presence would blend even more into the surroundings.
I used Body Strengthening not to increase my speed, but to kill the impact of my steps, muffling the sound, as I made my way to the town at a faster pace than usual.
It would take half a day to get from that campsite to the town in an ordinary carriage, and on foot you could leave early in the morning and arrive at night.
On my first trip to the town I left in the morning and arrived in the middle of the night, close to dawn of the next day, but this time I left in the evening and arrived at around the same time, thanks to my increased magic power and the ability to keep using Body Strengthening.
Nevertheless, I was quite tired, so I decided to sleep until morning in the surrounding forest to recover my magic power and stamina. I would be able to recover quickly by using Heal, but if, as Feld said, healing with magic made it harder to build up my stamina, I thought it would be best not to use it as much as possible during training.
I took a nap in a tree and woke up when the bell rang out three times, which was eight o'clock in the morning, and trespassed from the usual place into the slums of the town.
I matched the magic particles of my surroundings to erase my presence and walked in a way that prevented my heels from hitting the ground to muffle my footsteps.
Thanks to my Stealth and Detection skills I was less likely to be noticed by the slum dwellers. But even though I had "knowledge", I lacked practical experience, so I couldn't be careless.
What is this...I can feel a "presence".
I wonder who it is...I can't quite grasp it. It's not a gushing, easily identifiable presence like Feld's. It's not exactly a presence either...more like a "something feels out of place" kind of feeling.
It's not that something is "there", it's that something that was always there is "not there".
...Am I just imagining it? While thinking this, I walked a little faster and left the slums. I had a bad feeling about it, so I decided to leave the town as soon as I was done with my shopping.
"So you're back, huh... 'Ash covered'."
As I walked through the door of the general shop, the old shopkeeper glared at me.
"Preserved food again?"
"Mhm. Do you have...something nutritious that can be kept for a long time?"
"'Nutritious'? You know a weird word even though you're just a brat. I don't know anything about that, but if it's something that fills you up, I have nuts."
The shopkeeper frowned in annoyance, but brought a small jute sack from the back.
"It's filled with all sorts of random nuts. One small silver coin."
"...They're charred, though?"
They have already been roasted to make them last longer, but many of them turned out strangely charred and cracked.
"I already told you this is that kind of shop. If you want decent goods, go to a decent one."
They were probably leftovers from street stalls and food carts that were left unsold.
They looked bad and tasted bad. That was why they couldn't be sold on the "front", so they were sold here at dirt cheap rather than being thrown away. And some people, like me, would still buy them as long as they were cheap.
"...Give me a little extra."
"I'll give you extra if you buy a bit more. Want anything else?"
"Do you buy these?"
When I took out the magic-scented fruits I had brought from my bag, the old shopkeeper's eyes widened slightly, then glared at me again.
"...Where did you get these?"
"From deep inside the forest. There was no landmark so I can't explain where exactly."
The shopkeeper, who was convinced by what he saw in me that it was not stolen, stared fixedly at the magic-scented fruits before showing a thinking gesture for a moment.
"Do you know what these are?"
"...These aren't bad but they're uneven. Seems it's been some time since you picked them so they're starting to spoil. Considering the time it'd take to find a buyer...I won't be able to buy them at the regular price."
"No problem. This is 'that kind of shop', after all."
The old shopkeeper smiled slightly when I said that.
"There're six, huh. Then I'll take them all for two silver coins. If you don't like it, go somewhere else."
"That's good enough."
It was probably less than half of the regular price. Perhaps, even if I took them to decent shop, there was a high chance that I would be taken advantage of and receive an even lower price.
Besides, even though the old shopkeeper had an unpleasant look in his eyes, was unfriendly and wasn't particularly lenient with children, I felt he was sincere in his business dealings.
I also bought some beans, dried meat, a bit of salt and sugar even though it was a little expensive, and then the shopkeeper gave me the remainder which was one silver coin.
Dried vegetables seemed cheaper to buy from the stalls, but as I pondered about what to do, the door of the shop behind me opened and small silhouettes burst in.
"You brats, enter quietly!"
The two silhouettes cowered from the shopkeeper's yell. Children? I thought and turned around, but before I could see them, one of the children shouted.
They were the two street urchin siblings I met in the slums before. The younger sister, Shuri, shouted my name and hugged me, forgetting all about being yelled at just now.
The older brother, Gil, looked alternatively between me, Shuri and the old shopkeeper and finally settled on me to escape the grandpa's piercing gaze.
"A-Aria, you, just where have you been, huh?"
It wasn't like they were my comrades, nor were they my friends. In the first place, I wasn't even a resident of this town. When I replied curtly, pulling Shuri away, Gil flinched and closed his mouth, then as if suddenly remembering, took something out of his sack.
"Even I can go outside! I came to sell the rabbit I hunted outside!"
"...Wouldn't it be better to just eat it yourselves?"
Apparently he hunted a rabbit outside of town, but it took him so long to catch it that the surface of the rabbit was ragged, besides he didn't drain the blood. When I casually glanced at the shopkeeper, the grandpa was sighing in annoyance at the sight of the rabbit.
"Aria, did you grow taller?"
Shuri, who had been watching the exchange between me and Gil, interrupted.
I had a feeling I grew because of the "growing pains" from the increase of magic power, but Shuri noticed because her eye level that was the same the last time we met was now slightly lower than mine.
"By the way, why were you in such a hurry earlier?"
I didn't want to explain too much about magic power and the like, so I changed the topic, and as if recalling it, Gil took the bait.
"That's right! There was this strange uncle out there! He frowned after staring at Shuri and me for a while. It was unpleasant so we ran away."
A strange uncle? Was it Feld? While I was thinking such a rude thing, the old shopkeeper, who was listening to the conversation, spoke up.
"Recently, it seems there's an unfamiliar man around these parts. Rumour has it that he's a thief from the way he looks and carries himself. You brats, try not to get kidnapped out there."
"..." The siblings nodded deeply.
A thief, huh...troublesome. Such an opponent would be several times more troublesome than some random unskilful soldier for the current me.
Thieves weren't just robbers or thugs, they had skills specialised in stealing. They also probably had some means of combat. They were managed by a mafia-like criminal organization called the Thieves' Guild, and although they didn't do anything fancy that would cause the country to move, they were only in it for the money, so you couldn't predict what they would do.
The "presence" I felt when I came here might have been that man.
If it wasn't just my imagination and he really was there, I felt that he was far more skilled than I was now.
...Let's quickly get out of this town.
I was still halfway through my shopping but I couldn't risk it, so I left the shop and headed straight for the hole in the wall that surrounded the town.
I used Stealth to shake off the siblings that tried to follow me again, and just before I reached the exit, I noticed the "presence" I had felt when I came in.
To be precise, there wasn't any presence. But there was something that was so conspicuously absent that it made me feel something was missing. Understanding that there was a "skilled thief" there led me to the idea that it was because he was using Stealth.
Quietly looking around, I noticed a place where the "colour" of the magic particles was unnatural.
I would have missed it if I had only seen it with the naked eye. Even if I had sensed only the magic particles, they would have been lost in the surroundings and I would not have noticed it.
However, the colour of the magic particles took the "shape of a person", and when I paused my gaze on it, the human-shaped magic particles suddenly swelled up.
I wouldn't have known if I hadn't felt Feld's Body Strengthening first hand. No, it's mostly a coincidence that I understood it's Body Strengthening. The moment I thought this, I jumped to the side almost unconsciously, and a moment later an iron blade pierced the ground where I had just been standing.
A man materialised displaying a human presence, probably because he had released his Stealth, and gave me a manly smirk after seeing me dodge his throwing knife.
"Looks like I'll be havin' me some fun."
Who is the thief that suddenly came to attack?
Next time: Fighting the thief.
- [+] Something that was added in the light novel.
- [–] Something that didn't make it into the light novel.
- [≠] Some difference in details.
- [–] The status at the start of this chapter. I agree it's quite unnecessary, and the original has an error in it where it still kept the 13Up from the last chapter (which I removed), but it does serve to indicate that it's a new day because her magic power has recovered quite a bit.
- [–] Mention of ten days being the speed it took to learn a new spell for a sorcerer who had already mastered other spells.
- [≠] In the web novel the seeds needed a special way to process them for long-term storage and the fruit's flesh helped with preventing the diffusion of the magic power, but in the light novel it was simply due to the fruit itself looking more "fresh".
- [+] The phrase "I obediently nodded at the grandpa’s words" when agreeing to the price of the magic-scented fruits.
- [–] Her mentioning not even being a resident of the town when talking about not even being friends with the siblings.