1-24 Furtive

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Author: EnroItzal Original Source: Scribble Hub

Erin and Nivia arrived at the main road without any difficulties. As Nivia had claimed, the Rot-rats pulled back their pursuit a mile before the main road came into sight. It was just an inkling but from what Erin saw, the Rot-rats retreated as they were yanked back by some leash. To this phenomenon, Erin suspected there was something compelling the monsters to stay inside the forest much like there was an external force needed to compel the monsters to leave the forest.

Is there some kind of huge spell cast on the whole forest? I should look up this topic if I get a chance to visit the bookstore again.

When Erin relayed her thoughts to the Elf, Nivia took the self-presumed opportunity to impress Erin by flaunting her knowledge of the “external force theory”. While Nivia lost herself in that delusion, Erin’s mind was lured by a relatively minute detail.

Nivia Willowglade – Faerie-kin: Elf

Level: 17 | Status: Disquiet | Moderate Exhaustion

Might: 15 | Arcane: 22 | Finesse: 20

Magic Arts – Wind Magic Lv. 5 | Light Magic Lv. 5 | Spirit Magic Lv. 5

Combat Arts – Dual Blade Art Lv. 4 | Body Strengthening Lv. 3 | Bow Art Lv. 2

The appraisal result of Nivia did not state anywhere that she possessed the Appraisal skill. Erin remembered Nivia was able to discern the Core belonged to a Goblin when her eye color changed to cyan. Erin presumed that to be the side-effect of Appraisal but that didn’t seem to be the case.

Though Erin was truly curious as to this peculiar matter, she couldn’t exactly focus on any topic at present. Not when there was a dire issue currently at hand.

Why am I still being carried by Nivia?!

Erin would have been fine if Nivia merely carried her until the main road but she insisted on carrying her all the way to the town.

“Even if you looked fine, I refuse to believe you are completely fine in essence. Therefore, allow me to carry you until we reach absolute safety.” This was Nivia’s reasoning but Erin wasn’t so convinced considering Nivia was muttering darkly on a repeat of the words. “soft” and “big” all the while carrying her.

Erin had never felt so humiliated in her life ever since she attained the title of Sword Saint. Although Erin accepted the fact she was now in a woman’s body, her mind for the most part was still holding on to the principles of men. It was an utter embarrassment for her to be carried by an Elven female.

Of course, Erin did not just hang idly and let herself be carried. She had put up some struggle against the persistent Elf but ultimately, Erin lost the scuffle and resorted to be carried. Though Erin had the higher number in Might, Nivia overcame that disadvantage with her Body Strengthening and Wind Magic.

Another peculiar thing Erin realized was that Nivia’s Spirit Magic, Wind Magic, and Light Magic were all level five and these three were her highest level skills. Her Dual Blade Art was only level four. Erin thought Nivia, who was level seventeen, would possess tremendous values in her stats but it was only slightly better than hers.

Am I really special after all even among the Faerie-kin? No, that can’t be. Having a good start does not denote one’s superiority.

Aside from her ancient bloodline, Erin surmised that her superior initial stats were remnants of her former abilities. It had indeed helped her through the various predicaments she encountered that would otherwise spell her demise. Although, her concurrent growth rate was substantially impeded. Erin couldn’t help but put the unfounded blame on her evolution but she hoped she was wrong and she just needed to find stronger monsters to hunt.

Though if it was the latter reason, it was still a case of easier said than done. She couldn’t exactly just wander into the inner layers with only this much preparation. From what she read in the handbook, the forest couldn’t be said to be big but it was still of a considerable size. It would take at least a day to reach the deepest parts of the forest. If one wished to venture into such depths, the main consideration in the preparation would be provisions. The second concern would be to find the right teammates. Even a fool would know better than to tread into the deepest layers without company. Third, there was the matter with baggage carrying. Baggage includes provisions, tools, weapons, medicines, potions, and last but not least, spoils of the hunt, which was essentially the yield of the excursion.

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On a minor note, unless the party encountered a river or a just a small pond on the way, cleaning up one’s body wasn’t even a consideration or a possibility in the excursion. As Argon Raze, Erin didn’t even mind if she had gone through a week without bathing but now she wasn’t just a woman but also a Fox-kin. She saw how bogging her tail became just from going through half a day in the forest without washing. She didn’t even want to know what it would be like with a week’s worth.

In the end, I guess I really do need to form a party if I wished to tread deeper. A competent and versatile one.

Erin let out a disheartened sigh.

After only a short while on the main road, the town’s gate finally came into view. It wasn’t bustling with people like Erin had expected but when she gave it some pondering, it was only a matter of course. Merchants who passed by were fewer than few and majority of the adventurers were out on excursions around this time.

Speaking of the adventurers, I hope I didn’t cause any collateral.

It would be a lie if Erin said she didn’t feel a tad guilty and slightly worried about the adventurers who could have ran into the swarm of Rot-rats. She had even expressed this concern to Nivia on their way back but Nivia dispelled her worries by assuring she wouldn’t be blamed for causing a monster train. In fact, such a phenomenon was even encouraged by The Guild as it prepared the adventurers for the latter parts down the line of the adventuring business.

“If they did take action against you, they would be obligated to do the same to the ninety-five percent of all adventurers in the world. As a matter of fact, an adventurer who had never cause a monster train before is often called a liar or a craven. However, it will be a different story if someone causes a monster train with the intent to inflict harm on others.”

While it didn’t set aside all of her worries, Erin was at least relieved to know that she hadn’t done something illegal by The Guild’s law.

As they came into the sight of many people as they neared the gate, Erin jostled Nivia to put her down which the Elf reluctantly complied. Although Nivia relented her hold, her gaze was still firmly attached to Nivia.

The passers-by were only giving warm looks at the two of them instead of finding it demeaning like Erin had imagined. In the eyes of others, the scene was nothing more than a friend helping another friend in need. What’s more, it was a matter between two women. It was all the more welcome to their sights. But it went without saying it would cause quite a contention if Erin had the appearance of her past self. Be that as it may, it still put a wound to Erin’s pride. There were questioning gazes mixed among the warm looks but those were direct at Erin’s tails. They must be wondering about the numbers as quite a lot of them remember Erin only had one tail, not three.

Nivia was surprisingly one of those “questioning gazes” but her curiosity was slightly different than the others. Erin felt like the Elf’s gaze would eventually bore a hole into her tails if she tried harder.

Her unhealthy tendency is just getting worse. At least she’s able to put on a facade for the public. But what can be done about this?

As Erin brood over the dismal providence of her relationship with Nivia, her attention was switched out with another matter.

“Miss Erin!” A young adventurer with an enthusiastic voice ran up to Erin from the entrance gate.

“Cal?”

“Thank the gods, you’re alive.” Cal’s eyes were glittering at her.

Although the young boy’s words were somewhat discourteous, Erin understood his concerns. “Of course I am. It’s just a monster train. There’s no reason for the melodrama. Thanks for this,” Erin expressed her gratitude and returned his sword.

Cal received it with a befuddled gaze. Erin was sure that he would have taken a whiff of his sword if Erin turned away and there was nobody else present.

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“See? I told you a Faerie-kin like her would be safe,” Selene responded to her companion’s antics. “Besides, Nivia probably wouldn’t let any harm befall on the only other Faerie-kin in this town.”

Erin was mildly shock to hear that. It seemed that the town might had an idea on Nivia’s “hidden” side but most likely no one dared to utter it out in public.

Nivia tapped on Erin’s shoulders. “They don’t look surprised at your tails,” Nivia whispered. She had been pestering Erin for answers regarding the extra numbers but even Erin herself held not a notion of this development. It was settled with a “let’s figure it out together later!” by Nivia.

“Good. Now, can we move?” asked Aedan who was just sitting on the ground by the entrance gate. The bundle of logs lay just beside him, still wrapped in the Magic chains. The passers-by gave barely a glance towards his way.

Hmm. Seems like this was nothing uncommon for the town. Well, Aedan had been living here for more than ten years now.

Erin was pleased to see that the Dire Wolf’s core was still wrapped in the cloth, resting safely atop of the logs. Her trust in Aedan’s discretion had not been misplaced despite his periodically uncouth manners.

Aedan pushed himself off the ground and patted the dirt off of his rear. “Here,” he muttered plainly as he flung the Core back into Erin’s hands with just a flick of his fingers.

Cal quickly stepped aside to avoid being crushed by the incoming projectile. Although Erin received the throw without breaking a sweat, the level three Cal would have been flattened by such a weight coming at that speed.

Even so, Cal’s eyes were still on Erin. Instead, Selene was the one shooting an incensed glare at Aedan which the Dragon-kin in disguise merely shrugged it off.

“What’s that?” asked Nivia.

Erin canted her head in confusion. She was able to appraise the Core through the cloth but Nivia’s appraisal-esque skill didn’t seem to possess the same function.

Whatever she used, it’s definitely not Appraisal but something similar. Question is, what?

Erin could have just asked but in doing so, it would be revealed she had Appraisal. Considering it was a skill that pretty much invades others’ privacy, she didn’t think it was a good idea to reveal she had such a skill.

Wait… if I can appraise the Core through the cloth, what about Aedan? Can his Appraisal skill also circumvent the cloth? He’s keeping quiet but that’s not any indication. Damn it! This is so frustrating. Of all the people I can’t appraise, it had to be the one person I wished to know the most about.

Refusing to accept the unfavorable state of affairs, Erin cast Appraisal in succession on Aedan but her efforts were fruitless.

Hmm. If I can’t appraise you, but what about your Magic?

Thinking so, Erin cast Appraisal on the magical chains constricting the logs.

Oh? It worked— sort of? But that’s still something!

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The only thing that was remotely readable in the Appraisal result was the name and a part of the details. The spell was called Mystic Chains. It was not a Magic Art itself but a spell under a Magic Art known as Abyss Magic.

Abyss Magic?

To her question, an explanation appeared in her head.

[Abyss Magic – One of the few known dark-type Magic Arts which draws power from the Nether Realm. The limits of this Magic Art has yet to be determined.]

Okay, that’s very ominous to know. Is he some sort of Dark Dragon or something. Damn it, why can’t I appraise him?

Erin tried to appraise Aedan again but to no avail, only his name and races were revealed. Unbeknownst to Erin herself, she was staring quite intensely at Aedan.

“It’s rude to stare, Miss Fox,” Aedain said, dryly.

Erin reeled her attention back in upon Aedan’s remark. It was hard for her to retort considering his remark was veracious and she was truly staring at him without blinking. No matter how one sliced it, it was completely her fault.

Before Erin could even utter her apologies, Cal was a step ahead with his tactless antics. “Do you perhaps fancy Mister Aedan, Miss Erin?”

Selene immediately smacked the back of Cal’s head hard but it was a useless gesture as the arrow had already been released from the bow.

While Erin was coming up with an explanation, Aedan’s rigid chuckle interrupted her thoughts.

Do you find this amusing?! You’re in this misunderstanding too, you dunce!

“Though it may sound incredibly preposterous, I do wonder if that is the matter of fact.” Nivia chimed in before Erin could even have the chance to plead for her innocence.

Of course that is not the matter of fact, you fool of an Elf!

As if fate wasn’t done with its jape at Erin, an unexpected individual was thrown into the mix of this spiraling misunderstanding.

“Is that true, Erin?” asked a voice filled with disbelief and dismay.

Erin spun her head to the voice. “Lyra?” she gasped. It was at this moment Erin understood her ears and nose were just as useless as her eyes if she didn’t make good use of them. She picked up Lyra’s scent but with the misunderstanding developing at an absurd rate, Lyra’s scent didn’t tally in her mind until it was too late.

Going by Lyra’s begrimed attire and ruffled hair, it was obvious she had just returned from her hunt. Erin could smell the fragrance of the herbs she collected with a small sack and tied to her waist. Much like Erin, Lyra also received a herb-collecting quest as a front for her Goblin investigation task but from what Erin remembered Lyra had told her during the night prior in the middle of their “session”, her quest location was in the outer areas of the forest.

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Erin was a little concerned about Lyra’s state that didn’t go well with her wintry expression. Apologizing for being intrusive in her heart, Erin appraised Lyra.

Lyra – Human: Westerion

Level: 8 | Status: Moderately Exhausted | Withdrawal (Mild)

Might: 10 | Arcane: 6 | Finesse: 15

Magic Arts – Wind Magic Lv. 1

Combat Arts – Bow Art Lv. 4 | Fleet Foot Lv. 3 | Brawler Lv. 2 | Sword Art Lv. 1

Innate Skills – Eagle Eye Lv. 2

Erin didn’t know what a Westerion was but she guessed it must be an ethnicity. To her amazement, Lyra had advanced to level eight and even more surprising, Lyra had Wind Magic albeit of only level one.

What’s Eagle Eye? That sounds— wait. What’s with her status? Withdrawal? Mild?

“A-are you alright?” Erin asked worriedly.

Instead of a reply, Lyra walked briskly up to Erin. “Is it true?” she asked again.

Nivia was about to intercede but Erin gestured for the Elf to rest assured. Perhaps also sensing the unusual state of Lyra, Nivia prudently took a step back which surprised Erin with her capacity for tact and compassion.

“Answer me… please.” Lyra was beginning to beg.

“No,” Erin answered earnestly. “Of course not. It’s Aedan here we’re talking about. I’m hurt that you would even think of considering that as the truth.”

I’m sorry, Aedan but please the scapegoat for now. And it’s not like you don’t deserve some of this jab.

Cal and Selene winced, as if they were the one being belittled.

But for the person-in-question himself, Aedan merely shrugged and beckoned the two greenhorn over to leave the three to their own devices.

“Truly?” Lyra raised an eyebrow.

“What’s with you, Lyra? You’re acting so… deprived.” Erin knew why Lyra was upset but she didn’t know what caused the reason.

“Come with me.” Lyra said and forcefully took Erin by her hand and dragged her along.

Before Nivia could move to intervene, a loud and obnoxious voice swept over the group.

“There you are! You impudent b̲i̲t̲c̲h̲!”


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