14: The Compensation for Risking One's Life
Part 1: Vagabond Arc "Ash-crowned Princess of Slaughter" Chapter 1: The Heroine Went Against Fate
In a deserted corner of the slums, a man pointed his knife at me.
He was in his mid-thirties. With a medium build, average height, brown hair and brown eyes, he looked like a man that could easily be overlooked in the streets. The moment I saw his manly grin and felt his killing intent, I activated Body Strengthening at full power and began to run.
The man's Stealth skill was several levels above mine. There was probably an incomparable difference in terms of combat ability. So I abandoned fighting and hiding, deciding to flee with all my might.
The hole leading out of the town couldn't be passed by grown men. I thought I could escape if I went in there, so I dashed forth without a second glance, when I heard the sound of something slicing through the air and a sharp blade passed by me, grazing me a little.
"Oi, oi, don't run away."
Cold sweat ran down my back as the man's killing intent was slowly seeping out.
He's playing around with me... There was enough of a difference in ability between me and the man to allow him to do so.
This man wasn't just a simple thief. I had no opening to use an Appraisal Crystal, but I felt a different type of "pressure", not as strong as Feld's, but close to it.
Will I manage to escape from this man? Still, it's far better than choosing to fight. The moment I decided that, I started to run, and the man immediately followed me.
But that was because the man underestimated me as just a child and let his guard down. Otherwise he would have thrown a blade at my back and that would have been the end of it.
The man raised his voice when I threw a steel skewer at him while running away with my back turned towards him.
I had been practising but have yet to acquire the Throwing skill, so I still couldn't penetrate deeply into living creatures. But I thought that since the man was still "playing", he wouldn't go so far as to risk injury.
The skewer was easily deflected by the man's blade with a clang. However, when that momentarily distracted him, I gathered up the magic particles of light around me and forcibly dyed my own magic power into the colour of light.
I combusted the magic particles all at once to release a strong light that lasted only an instant.
The man's surprised voice resounded. I couldn't afford to miss the opportunity I had created. When I used that moment to take a sharp turn around the corner, the man muttered something.
Sorcery!? At that moment I heard the sound of that man stepping on the ground in the direction I was heading, so I immediately leapt sideways.
My vision was also affected by the light and wasn't perfect, but I should have managed to take away the man's sight.
I didn't know what that sorcery from earlier was, but when I tried to leave the place, relying solely on the colour of the magic particles and my senses, my head was suddenly grabbed tightly from behind.
The man who should have been in front of me was behind me. And even though I was supposed to have taken away his vision, he knew exactly where I was.
I put aside thinking why for later and pulled my knife from my waist almost as a conditioned reflex, but it was deflected with a clang and sent flying away from my hand.
Exhaling heavily, I forcefully sank my agitation to the bottom of my heart like when I killed that woman, and while enduring the pain in my scalp, I forcefully shifted my position and elbowed the man's wrist.
Forcing my way out of the man's slightly loosened hand, I rolled on the ground away from the man and looked up at him while on all fours.
"..." We both stared silently at each other.
So this is a real battle, huh... The man squinted from his still imperfect vision, frowned at the ashes on his hand and flashed a fiendish, fanged grin.
If it hadn't been for the ashes I put on my hair to hide its glossiness, I wouldn't have been able to escape from that situation. I was still holding on because he wasn't serious, but the difference in our ability and the sense of intimidation released by the man made me shiver.
Running away from that hand didn't make things any better. I probably can't run away from him. He's not someone I can fight and win against. But...
As if to counteract the fear that was growing in my heart, I inhaled the magic particles around me and coloured them into light once again, and while wishing for my stamina to be recovered, I exhaled like a cat.
There was no gap for me to use Heal. However, having grasped the first level of light sorcery, I felt like I could get the effect just by wishing for it, and perhaps it was just my imagination, but I really did feel a little more energized.
No more running away. As I shifted my mindset from fleeing to fighting, I felt something click into place in my head and the gears started to move in harmony.
I know that if I fight this man, I will not win. But that doesn't mean I'm giving up on my life.
I'll grasp for life in the jaws of death. I'll struggle to the death and show you what I'm made of as I bite into you.
I pulled a skewer from my waist and held it with my teeth. My strength was lacking. My speed was also insufficient. Realising that I couldn't go faster with just my legs, I used Body Strengthening on full power to claw at the ground with my arms as well as my legs, and strained my whole body like a bow to release myself as an "arrow".
Regret attacking me for fun.
Even if I don't win, I will definitely give you a wound that will make you regret it.
If that wound becomes the reason you lose to someone else, it will be my victory.
"Whoa!? Wait, wait! Time out!!"
The man yelled in panic, threw the dagger he was holding and raised both hands in the air. What are you scheming? When he saw me still planning to attack him, he raised his voice even more.
"Wait, wait, my bad! Sorry! I was just looking for a brat from the slums that could be used for a job!!"
...Hah? What did he say?
"Weeell, I'm really sorry!! It was the first time a brat saw through my Stealth, and the way you were fleeing was so splendid that I unconsciously gave chase!"
I glared with half-lidded eyes at the man, who sat on the ground and clasped his hands together as if to show that he had no desire to fight, while I used Heal on myself.
It's this again! It's this type of adult again! First Feld and now this man, do I produce some sort of scent that makes these men chase me!?
If this man's words were to be believed, he seemed to be looking for a child to do a job. Would anyone entrust a job to a child? Was what I wondered, but I guessed there were a lot of uses for them, like fighting in cramped spaces and making adults lower their guard.
When I asked why would a man of his calibre do such a thing, I was told that he wanted to test a kid, and if they seemed useful, he wanted to secure the kid in hopes that they would grow into a person who could be continuously entrusted with jobs in the future.
"Ooh, you can use Heal even though you're just a brat. Where did you learn it?"
"That doesn't matter. So...what does a thief want a kid to do?"
"I'm ain't a thief! Despite appearances, I'm a member of the Adventurers' Guild, I'm a fully-fledged scout. Don't lump me in with that bunch. Here, here, look at this."
He enthusiastically shoved his guild tag, which served as an adventurer's identification, into my face to show it to me. Rank 4...just as I thought, he's considerably skilled.
Although I imagined that some thieves also joined the Adventurers' Guild, it should be rare to find a thief who possessed this level of combat ability.
Thieves and scouts were often confused due to the similarities, but were in fact quite different.
Thieves were criminals who were trained in stealth, detection and lock-picking, with an emphasis on avoiding detection rather than fighting. In the end they were a bunch who couldn't overcome their own greed, so their members weren't very skilled, but their cunning was astonishingly good.
Scouts were similarly adept at stealth and detection, but were more concerned with finding rather than avoiding being found.
They detected and disarmed traps in ruins and dungeons. They also gathered information and passed on the profitable information to their employers. Originally, adventurers were mercenaries who specialised in exploring ruins and bringing back information, so the guild still had plenty of scouts with high combat ability.
The man bragged about his work proudly. He gave off the same "slightly disappointing adult" smell as Feld. Is that why seeing this man reminded me of Feld?
"I ain't an uncle. Call me Viro. And I'm still 35."
That's already the age of an uncle. At the very least, he's older than Dad.
"...Viro. So what do you want from me? Is it a job from the Adventurers' Guild?"
I didn't trust him completely, but still, with Viro's ability, he'd probably make a lot more money exploring ruins than tricking kids to sell them. So I didn't trust him, but I lowered my guard a notch.
I knew I couldn't escape from him anyway.
"Ain't a guild's job. Originally it was the client of a job I got from the guild, but now I'm contracted privately to undertake their jobs."
"I won't do anything bad. But...is it even something I can do?"
"It ain't anything criminal. It's more of a security assistant role. And if it were you, there wouldn't be a problem. ...Kuku."
My question seemed to remind Viro of something, which made him slap his knee while laughing.
"There were only normal brats around here. Even brats from the slums would take a while until they become useful, so I was re~ally getting discouraged, but then a good pick like you showed up. You have good senses, and you can also use sorcery even if it's still immature. And what the hell's up with that killing intent at the end! That's not a killing intent that a brat can release. For a second there I thought I was facing a cornered monster wolf."
That was how Viro described my death-defying fighting spirit.
Killing intent...I didn't really understand what that meant, but I have murdered three people, so it wouldn't be surprising if I had it. Was it because of the training to put my will into the spell, so the will to kill was exuding together with my magic power?
"What happens if I refuse?"
"Hm? I won't do anything. It's pointless to force someone unwilling."
I was nervous that if I refused, there would be another battle, but Viro said that with a harmless expression.
"...What does the job entail? What's a security assistant in the first place?"
"Ou! There's a proper task I wanna leave to you, but for now I'm planning to test whether you're usable or not by working you like a gofer. Whether you can properly understand what you're told, whether you make any stupid mistakes, and, most importantly, whether you have the guts to be entrusted with something dangerous."
"You're a bit extreme, but I commend you for being quick to focus on escaping when you realised you were outmatched. There's no objecting your guts. In that case, maybe it's fine if I skip forward a bit and make sure you're useful directly."
Viro's gaze on me sharpened.
...Ah, this, it's the same gaze Feld made when he declared he was going to train me. Seems like Viro acknowledged me...
"Ooh, that's great. No, you really saved me. After all my client is going to scowl at me if I don't bring someone back soon."
Viro sighed in relief and patted his own shoulder like an uncle.
I still didn't trust him completely, but I felt that it was to my advantage to be at Viro's side.
Viro is an adventurer scout...which is a perfect match for me. I'll stay at his side, steal his Stealth and combat techniques with my eyes and make them my own. I believed that to be a shortcut for the present me to become stronger.
"Alright, let's go to the guild right away."
When the decision was made, Viro, who had been sitting on the ground, stood up without making a sound.
"Guild...the Adventurers' Guild? Why?"
Is there something he wants to check? When I wondered what I should do since I had no business there, Viro became slightly puzzled.
"Why... Of course, to register you as an adventurer."
"...Huh? I don't have a combat skill, though?"
Certainly, I had learned light sorcery, but I thought it would be more trouble than it was worth to register as an adventurer on that basis alone. When I insisted on that, it Viro who made an exasperated face this time.
"What are you saying? You're still only around ten years old but can already use Body Strengthening, there's no way you don't have a combat type skill with that fighting strength, right?"
It took me a moment to understand the meaning of his words, and when I did, I hurriedly took out an Appraisal Crystal and tried checking myself. And there...I found the Dagger Arts skill that I had been unable to acquire all this time listed in my status, along with two unknown skills.
♢ Aria (Alicia) Race: Human ♀ Rank 1
⦗Magic Power: 33/70⦘ 5Up ⦗Stamina: 29/52⦘ 15Up
❮Strength: 4 (4.4)❯ 1Up ❮Endurance: 5 (5.5)❯ 1Up ❮Agility: 7 (7.7)❯ 2Up ❮Dexterity: 6❯
◄Dagger Arts Level 1► New ◄Martial Arts Level 1► New
◄Stealth Level 1► ◄Night Vision Level 1►
◄Light Sorcery Level 1► ◄Intimidation Level 1► New
◄Daily Life Magic ×6► ◄Non-Elemental Magic Level 1►
◄Magic Power Control Level 1► ◄Detection Level 1►
◼Comprehensive Combat Strength: 36 (During Body Strengthening: 38) 10Up
Aria uses a gender-neutral way to refer to herself, but for some reason Viro is aware of her gender.
Next time: Going to the Adventurers' Guild.
- [+] Something that was added in the light novel.
- [–] Something that didn't make it into the light novel.
- [≠] Some difference in details.
- [+] "The man’s expression changed when he sensed the clear change in atmosphere." after she readied herself to become an "arrow".
- [+] "I wanted to ponder a lot of things, but right now I focused on my talk with Viro." before asking if she was allowed to refuse.
- [+] "If it was about guts, then I might have more compared to the average children." after Viro told her what he'll test her on.
- [+] A bit about how she got a hunch things would become troublesome and that she already had her answer before agreeing to go with Viro.
- [≠] The stats in parenthesis seemed to have been rounded up in the light novel, so instead of "Agility: 7 (7.7)" it's "Agility: 7 (8)" in the light novel.