Chapter 368: The Big Score
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Author's Corner: Thank you to Casey Hall for another month of support! That's right... managed to get back to writing in time to do an early release.

A human woman sat in the alley, a black hood covering the majority of her face while a long robe obscured her figure. She had a soft smile on her face as she watched the various figures walking by down the road, her eyes scanning them from beneath the hood. Out of habit, she was analyzing any clearly worn items carried by figures that stood out, mentally appraising their values. Yet, she didn’t move to act.

Thelsa did not move out of simple greed, or even the thrill of the hunt. She was a very… different kind of thief. A thief for hire, but only for the jobs she chose to accept. Jobs where she would be stealing from those who use their wealth and power to hurt others. And, if someone tried to hire her when they themselves fit that definition… she would often actively seek out someone that they had harmed, performing a bit of ‘charity work’.

As Thelsa was watching the crowd, she heard someone clearing their throat behind her, her eyes widening. In shock, she spun around, dust kicking up as she rose to her feet. Standing before her was a rather unassuming halfling man, looking to be in his late thirties. From a brief inspection, the only item of any magical significance he wore was the storage bag strapped to his waist. Though, such things often held other valuables inside.

His dress was… plain, a simple cotton shirt and black jean pants. His hazel eyes stared at her for a moment before he spoke up. “Thelsa Whitefallow, correct?” He seemed to understand at least something, given that he had kept his voice quiet.

“You here to hunt or hire?” Thelsa asked, reflexively reaching towards one of the two daggers strapped horizontally along the small of her back. Given that this man had appeared without alerting her, he was either skilled enough to avoid detection, or so weak that he had no business being on a double digit floor.

“Hire, you could say.” The man replied with a small nod. “Perhaps the biggest, most important job you’ve ever done. And against the biggest target of your life.”

A wry smirk lifted Thelsa’s lips when she heard that. “If I had a coin for every time someone led with that…”

“Trust me… this time, it’s true.” His face turned serious for a moment. “Hyn’yor.” A brief pulse of magic rushed past Thelsa’s senses, but she didn’t mind it. She was familiar with this spell, a simple silencing magic to prevent noise from leaking out of a conversation.

“Well… seems like you know what you’re doing, if only a little.” She straightened her posture, crossing her arms behind her back. She made sure that her hands were still placed near her daggers, ready to draw them at a moment’s notice. “Let’s hear what you have to say, and then I’ll tell you the price.”

The halfling gave another nod. “There is someone currently holding two of the four remaining level orbs, keeping them within a vault so that they cannot be used. If they were to be acquired, and given to the central pillar, the level limit for all of Fyor would rise by a full quarter of what it is now.”

Well, that was getting her attention. Certainly, if this was correct, then it was a job that would match her criteria, someone actively using their power to weaken others. On a massive scale, at that. “Why not just tell the Council about it?” She couldn’t help but retort. “Surely, they could force whoever is responsible to hand them over, by word or by sword.”

A bitter smile appeared on the halfling’s face. “Because it’s the Council themselves that are holding these two orbs. I can’t say whether they realize that they are still in their possession, but they are within the Council’s own vault.”

And there was the ‘biggest target’... Thelsa gulped, unsure if she could properly believe what she was hearing. “You want me to break into the Council’s vaults, steal two of what are bound to be the most guarded treasures of the world, and make my way to the central pillar?”

“Actually, no.” He shook his head. “The orbs are not guarded more than any other object within the vault. They are simply held within a box that is enchanted against detection magic. And I’m not wanting you to simply take two orbs to the pillar.”

As he spoke, two gaps seemed to form in the air around him, swirling golden outlines that contained a deep darkness within. Thelsa could feel a subtle pulse of power from the holes in space that shook her very soul. The halfling stuck one arm into each of the holes, and pulled out two blue, crystal spheres.

“These are the remaining two orbs. I want you to deliver all four at once. I want you to remove the shackles that are binding this world to the first twenty floors.” With a casual motion, he tossed the two orbs towards Thelsa, the thief scrambling to catch them. Only after she had done so did her mind process the possibility of it being a trap. But, by that time, she could already see the messages rising from the orbs, telling her to return them to the central pillar.

She knew that this was a message from the system that only appeared with the orbs, something that even young children learned about. And the fact that this man had casually pulled them out of some other space, some gap in reality… “Why don’t you do this yourself? You know where the other orbs are… you clearly have the power. Why leave it to me?”

“I have my reasons.” He said with a somewhat mysterious smile. “The Council’s current stance will lead Fyor to stagnation. They don’t fear the other worlds because they are safe within their layer. Even if Fyor becomes the weakest of all worlds, the strong individuals of the others can’t threaten them for the foreseeable future. So, they would rather not allow Fyor to grow any further, to make sure that their grasp on their power remains firm.”

“I want you to correct them. Show them that there are still people of Fyor that have the power to stand up to them. Break their hold, and give the people the power that they should rightfully have.”

Thelsa stared blankly towards the halfling as he spoke, and then watched as he waited with an expectant expression. It took a moment for Thelsa to figure out what he was waiting for. “A-ah… no price. If I manage to do this like you said… I’ll get an instant level increase, a possibility for furthering my own training, and maybe even a new achievement…”

He gave a small nod, not choosing to say anything further. Instead, the air seemed to ripple and fold over him, his body vanishing entirely from view. Thelsa was left there, entirely unable to sense his presence, aside from the lingering aura of his power over the two spheres in her hands.

“Breaking into the Council, huh…? Guess it’s time to call on some old favors.” The two orbs flashed, vanishing from her hands as she pulled her hood a bit lower, walking further into the alley. The darkness appeared to wrap around her body, allowing her to vanish in an almost similar way to how her client had done moments ago.

When she re-emerged from the shadows, she was standing within a small living room, the lights arranged to leave one corner entirely dark. Extending her hand, there was a flash before a small crystal appeared within it. She sent a mental command to the item, causing an illusion of a dovah’s face to appear above it.

“Hey, Jax. I got a new job that I need your help with.”

The dovah let out a low grunt as he heard that. “What is it this time? Need a ward cracker again? I thought your last one should still be working.”

“No, no, it’s fine.” She gave an innocent smile as she pulled back her hood, revealing her fiery red hair. “I need a portable transporter, strong enough to penetrate single-digit floor barriers. The target this time is on a low floor, and I can’t risk being seen at the gate.”

She wanted to share the details with her friend, but this… this was a bit much. If she succeeded, it would be fairly obvious later what she had done. If she didn’t… it was better that he didn’t know.

“Single-digit, huh? Well… the walls are a bit thin down there, so it should be fine. I’ll need to buy up some power stones, though. Give me an hour or two to gather everything I need. You still staying near the usual channel?”

Thelsa playfully rolled her eyes at that. “Like the other businesses would let me near theirs.”

There was a nod from the man at the other end of the call. “Alright. But this is big. I give you this, we’re even, right? No more freebies?”

“I thought you just said it would be fine, because the walls are thin?” Thelsa asked with a groan.

“Oh, it is. If you were going after an upper floor, your credit wouldn’t be nearly enough. So, do we have a deal?”

“Yeah, yeah.” She waved him off dismissively. “I’ll need to start charging a bit more to make up for the costs… but sure. See you in a couple hours.”

After that, she ended her call, moving to her bedroom to get changed. Now that she was going there, she couldn’t stay in her ‘mysterious vagrant’ getup, and had to properly dress for the occasion. When she pulled her robe off, her lithe figure was quite evident, her arms stretching and joints popping.

She quickly changed into a red undershirt, a black vest covering it. On the base of her neck, just above the back of her shirt, the uppermost portion of a tattoo was visible. A circle of runes that had been drawn directly on her skin. Once she was dressed in her black leather jeans as well, she reholstered her daggers, giving her the appearance of a rather normal adventurer.

Once she left, she began humming softly to herself, the action mixing with her appearance to give her the image of a young woman. As she had told the dovah, she lived pretty close to her destination, having to walk for less than five minutes to reach a small store. Inside was a human man who welcomed her warmly. “Hey, Thelsa. Here to buy, or waiting for a delivery?”

Rather than answer, she snapped her fingers, a silver coin appearing in them, which immediately caught the man’s eyes. Most currency within Fyor had the face of Bihena on one side, and Aurivy on the other. However, this one had the faces of Ryone and Irena. To most merchants, this wouldn’t mean enough to raise a fuss over it, as silver was silver.

In a particular line of work, however, these coins were used as a badge. They had other uses as well, being more valuable than gold for buying certain favors or products, or storing certain items for easy delivery. “I see… a delivery, then?” The man asked, glancing towards a door leading further into the shop.

“Thanks, Charlie.” Thelsa nodded as she walked in, placing the coin on the counter as she passed. “I might be a couple hours, so is there a room prepared?”

He reached up, sliding the coin off the counter and out of sight as he spoke, not even glancing towards her. “First door on the right. You know the rules.”

“Yup!” She replied energetically as she rushed through the door, moving to wait for her delivery. When she was out of the room, Charlie gave a small sigh, shaking his head. He glanced down towards the coin in his hand, knowing that she shouldn’t have too many more of those. It took a big score to be able to trade for an underworld coin, and he hadn’t heard about her taking any big jobs in over a year.