Mint and I were on our way to the orphanage.
After lengthy negotiations which made my head spin as I tried to decipher the double meanings and nuances as they set out a deal, in the end Mint managed to get a price on the soap that made my eyes bulge. They averaged an entire gold coin per bar of soap! And that wasn't taking into consideration the markup that they were going to get when the shopkeeper, Martin, put them on the shelves! To think that they would top the most expensive soap I saw last time I came.
(For a bar of soap to cost as much as an entire day's pay for a rank C adventurer...)
It made me glad that I had gone through the effort of putting together such precautions. If people found out that a group of kids were responsible for making soap that was selling for more than a gold coin each, I could hardly imagine what sort of trouble it would invite.
My eyes flickered to the side, glancing at Mint who walked beside me.
I could only hope that his professionalism and gratitude would be enough that he wouldn't ever take advantage of the orphanage.
"Is something the matter?"
"Ah, no. Anyways, it's over here..."
I turned my eyes forward and we slipped into a side street before soon reaching the orphanage.
Several kids who were playing on the street rushed over when they spotted me, but quickly noticed Mint following me. In an instant their expressions reversed and they huddled in front of me, using my body as a shield as they warily looked on at him.
"Ahaha, it's not like I can blame them, but it still hurts..."
The merchant scratched the back of his head as he tried to laugh it off. I couldn't blame the kids for doing that either. I didn't think he looked particularly threatening, but he was a strange man. In fact, it was probably better that I applaud them for their caution.
That said, it would be mean to let this continue.
"Don't worry. He's not someone dangerous."
"Really. In fact, you'll be seeing him a lot from now on, as he'll be helping out here and there."
"He will? Like playing?"
"Helping? Or cooking?"
"No, not every day. I'm a travelling merchant so I can't come too often, but every few months."
"Huh? That long?"
I didn't expect that.
"Oh, I'm sorry if I gave a strange impression, but as grateful as I am for what you have done for myself and my village, I do still need to do my normal work. Many people depend on me on that."
"Ah, yea. Sorry. I wasn't thinking."
"It's fine. It's not your fault. I haven't told you the details of my circumstances. Despite that, you've given me such an opportunity."
"Ah no, that's...anyways...you guys, can you call Philia for me?"
The kids ran inside as Mint and I followed.
After I explained the deal I made with Mint and Martin to Philia, the merchant left as it was starting to get late with the promise to meet up with me the next day. As I didn't really have anything special to do that night, I opted to stay as I had been doing lately.
"So you trust that man Scarlet?"
After the kids were tucked into bed, Philia and I were discussing the day's events at the dinner table.
"...I don't trust him. But I don't think he's lying either. At the very least, I think he's serious when he says he feels he owes me."
"Well, if you think so, I'll trust your judgment."
"That, and you can just go directly to Martin at the cosmetic shop for the deliveries if Mint betrays us."
"You've thought this through more than I thought."
At the very least, this was important enough for me to do so. Especially this late in the game, I didn't want Philia or the kids to be stabbed in the back because I wasn't being careful enough.
"I suppose, that means that you'll be leaving soon?"
"Yea. Once everything's been settled, I think I'll be moving on."
Philia's eyes turned to her lap as she fidgeted.
"I'll take good care of the children. You won't have to worry about that."
"You didn't have to tell me that for me to know. But you need to take care of yourself too Philia."
"You're the last person I want to be telling me that."
"Haha, I guess."
She gave me a wry smile to my words. It looked like things weren't as bad as I was worried about. Philia was going to be a bit lonely once I was gone, but she was strong. Stronger than me at least, and I could firmly see that in her as our eyes met.
"Do you know where you'll be heading next?"
"Not really. I figured I'd just ask for a recommendation and just try that."
"I see. Well, I've never left Linsington City, so I can't help you there."
Philia shrugged. I had a feeling that it was like that. It made me want to take her out and show her the world with me, but there was no way that could happen without bringing all the kids with us. No way that was happening. The logistics of it was overly daunting, and trying to keep them all safe would be insane. More importantly, I couldn't see the kids being able to keep going from one city to the next. They'd tire out quickly and get bored even faster.
It just wasn't a viable idea.
"You'll always be welcome here Scarlet, so I hope you'll remember to come by once in a while."
"What are you talking about? There's no way I'd forget to. This place is almost like a second home for me."
I got up and pat Philia on the head like I did with the kids. But rather than let me continue, she pulled my arm down and brought my face close to hers.
"It's still years early for you to be comforting me, Scarlet."
"Oh? Despite my appearance, I've been around for the better part of forty years now. If you think you can keep treating me like a youngster, you'll be burned."
I gave her a confident grin as I stared into her glistening marble-like brown eyes.
(My body might only appear to be that of a 16 year old, and I might have only had it for two years, but I have the experience of over thirty years in my previous life!)
"Forty years? You're barely an adult then. I don't know how long your kind live for, but we dwarves keep on pounding until we hit our second century. I'm still double your age you youngster!"
As the smile faded from my face, Philia's mouth curled up into a smirk before she quickly rose up and gave a small peck to my cheek.
"You're older than I thought, but still far, far too young to pull one over me Scarlet."
With those words, Philia hopped down from her chair and returned to her room.
(This world's fantasy elements just won't stop throwing me for a loop)
The next day, I headed out again after finishing up the morning duties. My feet took me straight to the inn Mint was staying at but when I got there the innkeeper told me he was out.
Unable to meet him to teach him the rest of his duties, I headed to the adventurers' guild to kill some time and try again later.
"Oh Scarlet. What can I help you with today? Are you looking for a specific request?"
Just like the day before, my timing had allowed me to talk to Lucy without having to wait in a line.
"Ah no. I wanted to use the library for a bit. Is that fine?"
"That's not a problem. Umm..."
"What is it?"
"Did you refuse the request?"
"The designated one that I gave you yesterday! How could you even forget that so quickly?"
(Ah, that thing. An escort quest...haa....)
It might not be as bad as it seemed on the surface. For all I knew, escort requests could be pretty decent unlike the ones I've had more than enough of in games.
"Ahh...ummm, are escort requests good?"
"*sigh* I suppose you wouldn't know since you're new to adventuring, but yes, generally speaking. In fact, there's a lot of adventurer parties that try to become regular escorts for merchants. Not only is it steady work, but it pays well for how little danger it usually involves."
I averted my eyes. Despite her words, my mind was filled with images of escort targets walking into walls and getting stuck, being ambushed by monsters that spawned out of nowhere only to die after I've been killed by another player waiting for the ambush to distract me, the escort target running off when surrounded by monsters, only to run into another group as I'm trying to cut down the first group and getting killed, the escort target getting interrupted mid-dialogue by unrelated stray monsters only for them to bug out and freeze until I could lure another stray mob into killing them so I could restart the quest, or...
"Umm...are you alright Scarlet? You look like someone who's suffering through a deathly fear or something."
"Huh? Oh, umm, I'm alright."
(Thinking about it, all those problems were due to design oversights by the original developers. Realistically thinking about it, most of those issues weren't possible for a real escort request. Especially the target trying to phase through a wall because of poor pathing.)
"Anyways, if you're so against escort requests, I can help you find something else."
"Ah no, maybe I'll try it out. It might not be as bad as I heard they are."
"I have no idea what sort of things you've heard about them, but it's rare for an escort request to turn sour."
I couldn't help but feel like Lucy had just raised a flag, but superstition only came true if you actually believed in them. Then again, I was in a world where magic and supernatural phenomena were commonplace.
That said, the escort request did lead to another city from what I remembered was written, so it was as good place as any to head to. Making some money on the way would certainly be nice.
"I guess I'll talk to him and take it, but for now, the library?"
"Ah yes, follow me."
Soon, I was under the unwatchful eye of that old man who seemed to always be in the library for some reason I couldn't remember.
I couldn't spend all my time here like I used to, so instead of just randomly reading whatever I could get my hands on, I tried out something a bit different. Scanning through the wooden planks, rolled up barks, occasional parchment and even rarer book, I took out any that mentioned anything about magic.
Next, putting them carefully onto the table, I took out an iron ingot and worked my magic on it and made a series of thin plates of steel, just thick enough that they wouldn't deform easily. My final step was to go through the various materials and copy out whatever was written on them and etch them into the steel plates. Rather than transcribing it manually, I relied on my [Terranian Magic] skill to simply copy what was written. It was nice how skills could fill in the gaps like that.
After confirming the first sheet was properly copied, I continued with the rest and had made copies of them all in less than an hour. I felt like a human, err vampire, photocopier, but it was effective and I could spend my time later on reading the pages I hadn't managed to by this point.
Happy with the results of my work, I got up to put the materials away when I noticed that the old man was staring at me.
"What was that you just did?"
"Uh, I just copied the texts. Is that not allowed?"
"You...just...copied...how did you do that?!"
I instinctively took a step back as the old man yelled, spittle flying out, but thankfully landing halfway between us.
"I just used magic to flatten out these metal sheets then etched in a copy of whatever was written."
"You just...which magical academy did you come from?! No wait, she wouldn't have any need of such low grade information about magic if that was true. Just where did you come from?"
"Umm, can I not answer that?"
"Bah, fine. But you, why did you copy those texts on magic when you are so capable?"
"I'm self taught, so there's a lot of normal things I don't know."
"Self...taught...? When your skill is so obviously high?!"
"Anyone can raise a skill to high levels if they push it hard and long enough."
I may have cheated at it being a vampire, but I couldn't see how it was any different for anyone else. At least if they spent enough time on it.
"That's...true, but to think someone had actually done it on their own..."
The old man sat back down into a quiet contemplation. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I quickly put the materials away and my transcribed plates into my bag before I escaped from the library.
Waving to Lucy, I left the guild building and headed back to the inn to see if Mint had returned.
When I asked the innkeeper, he stated that the merchant hadn't returned yet, so I asked if I could stay until he did. The old man agreed to let me, so I sat down at one of the nearby tables. The old innkeeper kept his eye on me, creeping me out a little, but he seemed harmless enough otherwise, so I did my best to ignore him as I lowered my hood a bit more.
Taking out the etched metal plates, I sorted through them and returned the copies of the texts I had already read before I started to read.
Like before, the texts varied in what they talked about, as if the library's collection was nothing more than anything that the guild could get their hands on rather than things specifically aimed at adventurers.
The first one wasn't particularly useful. It was a simple theory about the wind element and how it described it as a mystical force. I quickly scratched [This is most likely entirely wrong] at the bottom and moved on.
The next plate on the other hand was very much useful for me. It described one of the essential skills for a mage to learn: [Multi-cast]. The skill allowed the user to cast multiple spells in parallel, with the skill's rank determining how many that can be cast at once.
[Multi-cast] was learned by simply attempting to cast a second spell while another spell was already active or by trying to cast multiple spells at the same time.
I've already tried casting a second spell while one was already in use, but had given up while presuming that casting multiple spells wasn't possible. It seemed I was very much wrong to have done so. I only needed to keep trying to make it work.
Thinking about it, whenever I go through the master skill list, I had always just skimmed through it. With how long the list was, it was pretty much impossible to go through the entire thing without doing so, and it was a given that I'd miss things each time I did.
I should probably put in more effort into experimenting whenever I felt like needing a new skill rather than just looking for one in the skill list. I'd probably find some new skills unexpectedly that way.
(For now though...)
A sphere of ice formed in the palm of my hand the size of a small marble. While maintaining it, I formed another identical sphere in the other palm, but as the mana flowed from my body to coalesce, the first sphere shattered and returned to pure mana as the second sphere took form.
Some of the little fluffballs rushed over and flocked to my hand that was just freed from holding the small ball of ice. The fastest few slurped up the free-floating mana in an instant before the group backed off.
Their behaviour was a little surprising, but not really that much different from how they eat the mana treats I give them.
I continued to make little balls of ice over and over as the little fluffballs all diverted their attention to racing to grab the small bits of free mana that escaped when each spell broke.
'You have gained the [Multi-cast I] skill!'
After a while of working at it, the usual voice resounded in my head. Now, I could make two ice balls at the same time, or separately. But when I tried to make a third, the first one I created would shatter.
According to the skill's description: Allows one to have multiple spells cast simultaneously. The number of simultaneous spells doubles with each skill rank.
So at rank 1, I could cast two spells, but at rank 2, I could cast four spells. Some quick napkin math confirmed that I could cast 1024 spells at max rank. I wondered if that was the limit, or if there was an advanced skill that allowed for even more spells to be cast at once.
(Well, even if there were, I can't even imagine what practical use there would be to cast so many spells.)
As Mint still hadn't returned, I went back to trying to make a small pile of ice balls while the fluffballs kept attacking my hands like a flock of impatient pigeons.
"Scarlet! I'm sorry for making you wait!"
Turning to the side, Mint was standing there looking a little tired.
"If I knew when you were coming, I'd have finished my business earlier!"
"It's okay. I forgot to tell you when I was coming."
"Yes well, let's leave that aside for now. How about some drinks? I have some in my room?"
Actually drinking anything he had to offer wasn't really an option for me, but I could take a hint, especially when it coincided with my own interests.
We headed upstairs and he let me into the small, cramped room.
"So then, would you like some wine?"
(Wait, was he serious when he was offering a drink?)
"Oh, never mind. So I presume you came to explain the rest of the job?"
I explained to him the ingredients that the orphanage would need to produce soap, along with a few alternatives and possibilities they might request.
"I see. Well, it would be difficult to bring in enough wood to satisfy your demands, but ashes would pose no issue at all, and the other ingredients won't be any problems. Would there be any issues if any of them are preserved?"
"...for most of them it's fine as long as nothing is added, but not the flowers. They need to be fresh."
I was glad I was talking about this here. I hadn't considered that any of the ingredients wouldn't be in their normal state. While for most things I couldn't think of any issue of them being slightly altered from normal, anything that was used to make essential oils had to be fresh. The essential oils were quite volatile, as they wouldn't have a strong scent if they weren't, and so most of it would be lost if it's source was dried.
"Is that so. That would make flowers a little harder to get, but I believe it won't pose too much of an issue."
"Yes? Is there something else?"
"I was wondering about the request..."
"Oh that? If you don't want to take it, I won't mind. It would make me happy if you would, but I already have my usual escorts anyways. Unless something unusual like when we first met happens, there shouldn't be any issue."
"Ah, no. I mean, I was thinking of taking it."
"Really? I mean, thank you! I'll feel much more secure knowing that you were with us!"
"But, only until the next city. I think I'll be staying there for a bit."
"Oh, that's fine. The request was only for that far, and I won't feel offended if you're lured by what Knossos has to offer, being that you're an adventurer."
"You don't know about Knossos? The Labyrinth City Knossos?"
"Knossos is most famous for it's dungeon. It was built around one and I hear it's famous amongst adventurers for it."
"A dungeon huh?"
I really liked the idea of seeing what a different dungeon had to offer. Now I had to check this city out.
"Oh, you really like the thought of it huh? Well, I suppose that makes you a real adventurer then? Hahaha!"
I gave Mint a wry smile as he whole heartedly laughed.
"Now then, we'll be heading out tomorrow morning. We'll meet at the southern gates at the second bell. Is that fine, or do you need me to delay it?"
"No, I'll be fine. See you then."
"I'm looking forward to it Miss Scarlet."
We shook hands before I headed out and back to the orphanage.