Chapter 80 – Investigation Preparations
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"Thanks a ton. It's a relief to get another strong adventurer on the team."

I merely nodded.

"Its already been two days since we found out that people of Parietina Village were gone, so the expedition will be heading out tomorrow morning. Take today to get ready and meet up with the team at the western gates."

"Alright."

To be honest, I didn't really need much in terms of preparations, but it would be nice to stock up a bit more on some things.

(Or rather, this is basically a hostage rescue isn't it? Maybe I can get some stuff for that.)

With some final greetings, I left the guild building and started taking a walk through the city.

Now that I knew what I did, I couldn't help but wonder if the atmosphere was so dark here because people knew what had happened to that village, or if this really was the norm here. Thinking about it rationally, there's no way that the guild would let something that huge out before at least doing an investigation to confirm the situation.

(Then again, leaks happen to even the best kept secrets.)

In the end, finding out which it was took time and effort, both of which I didn't really feel like expending at this moment on something so inconsequential. I'd do my part to save those that can be saved, but otherwise this place didn't hold any significance to me beyond what useful information I could gather on vampires, if any existed.

The moment that I found out that the vampire expert might not exist was when I had started to lose any hope of finding anything of use here. At this point it would just be nice if I get anything at all. It would at least confirm or deny the preconceptions I had regarding the vampire reputation in this world.

But I wouldn't call this trip lacking in worth. At the very least, there were the villagers that needed help.

(I hope that they're still unharmed though.)

Since it's been a few days since they were taken already, it was possible that whatever fate the bandits had for them had already happened, but if they still could be saved, my conscience wouldn't let me not at least try.

But when it came to preparations, I couldn't really think of much I needed. My own body was my weapon, along with my spells.

(Then again, I'll be fighting with other people this time around.)

Concealing a bit of my abilities would definitely be a good idea.

With that in mind, I had a look around.

Thankfully the area directly around the adventurers' guild was surrounded by shops geared towards adventurers. Inns, food stalls, general stores, and of course, weapon stores.

That last type was the one that I stopped in front of. The store was a bit small on the front, but the smell of smoke and iron was strong even from the entrance. The fact that it was on the main street despite its limited initial impression spoke well of the store itself, though I wasn't some sort of expert on the subject so I had real no idea.

Pulling open the door, I went inside.

Immediately I was greeted with a slightly dark interior. The two windows flanking the door were covered up with all sorts of weapons, the walls on one side was covered in more weapons, and the other in armour, and there was a row of equipment stands along the middle of the store covered in even more gear. The far end wall also had shelves covered in all sorts of equipment as well. Due to the sheer number of weapons and armour, all gleaming as if they were just polished, there was hardly any space to move around.

Not really interested in any armour, I shuffled over to the weapons wall.

While the fanciest swords, axes, and bows were most prominently on display, it seemed like most of the weapons around were actually clubs, maces, and spears. Not many of them were fancy either, but the price tags on them were far lower than on the fancier weapons.

Though that probably had a lot to do with the massively increased amount of cheaper materials that was used in their construction. Swords were over 90% metal and my limited knowledge stated that bows needed good wood to be made, and aside from the string and grip that was all there was to a bow. And the price tags also confirmed my theory, as even amongst the fancy decorated weapons, the axes were the cheapest. The undecorated ones were roughly in the same range as a spear though.

Well, even if I thought about the price, I had no idea what was actually expensive and what was actually cheap. I've barely touched any real weapons in this life and the most I ever had in my previous life was a pocket knife. Knowing the quality of any of these weapons was beyond me.

As for my companions...

Claret was the most knowledgeable in general, but she didn't seem to have any interest in equipment unless if they had something to do with either me or the previous Scarlet. Even if she knew a bit about weapons, I doubted her standards would conform at all to what was on display.

The lesser spirits were even less help. They were just flitting around curiously checking everything out like it was their first time seeing it all. I couldn't tell if they simply had no idea what was displayed in this store or just had the memories of goldfish in regards to these sorts of things. It wasn't like I was able to understand what they were saying, if they were saying anything at all at the moment.

And lastly, Alicia...she hadn't even had the ability to see weapons before a little while ago, and the very thought of asking a child less than ten was absurd.

(At least these decorated weapons are pretty...)

Though there was no way I'd buy any of them. Most likely they were just there to attract the attention of people who don't actually use any weapons. I certainly wasn't fashion conscious enough to deliberately pick something like that for myself. And since I was buying a weapon as a decoy, picking something that flashy would probably just scream out 'I don't actually use this thing!'

I did have quite a few weapon skills, though my practical experience in them was mostly in bashing things as hard as I could when I had the opportunity in the lower floors of the dungeon back home. My claws were just that much better and more convenient back in the dungeon on the uncommon instances that magic wasn't viable against.

Unable to decide on what sort of weapon I would use, I moved along through the narrow aisle casually browsing though the selection until I ended up at the front counters. The counter was just a sturdy, simply made wooden counter. Behind it more weapons were on display, but none of them really piqued my interest.

Then again, I wasn't really that into weapons in the first place, so that wasn't really a surprise. A nice nail file was probably better for me from a practical standpoint than any weapon that was on display in this store.

But going to some different store was a hassle when the results would likely be the same.

As I moved to turn back to the aisle and try a second go, the sight of something behind the counter piqued my curiosity.

"Nah?!"

It took me a second to realize that it was a person crouched behind the counter. But that wasn't what made me yell out in shock, but his expression. That dark, singularly focused look of obsession as he polished something in his hands with a well worn rag.

But whatever spell he was under, the sound of my voice seemed to have broken it and he looked up.

"Ah, sorry. I didn't realize there was a customer."

The figure rose to his feet and bowed his head a little.

Looking at him properly, while he towered over and forced me to look up, he probably was only average height or so. His features were also pretty average, aside from the dark circles under his eyes and that slightly dangerous gleam his eyes were emitting earlier. His face was a little gaunt as well, but not to the point that it could be considered a significant feature. His figure was pretty lean, but I could see how touch his muscles were in the forearms he exposed from rolling up his sleeves to his elbows.

Over the grey shirt he was wearing a heavy looking brown leather apron, and equally heavy looking gloves covered his hands. His head was topped with a simple grey bandana covering his short cut black hair.

"Is there anything I can help with? Maybe a bow...or rather a crossbow? Hmm...maybe a wand is better? Unfortunately I don't have equipment for mages in my store."

I wasn't sure if the fact that he quickly decided that a bow wasn't for me when he glanced at my chest for a moment spoke well of him or not, but at least his eyes didn't linger despite how obvious the look was.

"Ah, umm...I was looking for...umm..."

I still had no idea what I wanted.

(Maybe it's best to just go orthodox and get a sword or something?)

"Are you not sure? Are you a new adventurer or something? In that case if you don't have any preferences, it would be best to coordinate with your party to fill any gaps. If there isn't any specific need then a spear is the most universally useful weapon to pick."

"Ah, umm..."

That was true, but a spear would be a pain to carry around. I could just throw it into my magic bag, but taking it out all the time would be a hassle, and I was liable to just forget it existed, ruining the entire point of getting a weapon.

"!"

As I contemplated, I noticed the thing that the store owner was polishing. It was small, yet gleamed brightly thanks to the man's efforts. It was comprised of four hoops with little spikes jutting out of them connected together with an extending arm then a gently curving crossbar.

"Ah, did this catch your eye? You've got some strange tastes, though I can't blame you. I'm a fan of these myself."

What I was looking at was a spiked brass knuckle. I hadn't expected to see something like this in this world at all. While my interest in it ended entirely at that point, as I've never even seen the real thing in person, the thought of something which felt like it didn't belong in this world instead piqued my interest way beyond anything else in this store.

"How about you try it out? This bar goes in the palm of your hand and you loop your fingers through these rings."

Showing how its done, the store owner then passed the brass knuckles to me.

But I quickly found a problem.

While they fit him fine, I couldn't get my fingers even up to the second joint with the crossbar in my palm. Even if I disregarded the crossbar and forced the rings as far as they could go, the narrow nature of my hands meant that I was forced to try to spread my fingers further than they could go without dislocating something.

Simply put, they were way too big. Or rather, my hands were way too small to use something that this average looking man could equip without trouble.

"Hmm, I thought that might be a problem. While I don't have any spiked knuckles your size, I do have something similar that I can adjust to fit you. Wanna try it?"

Being recommended something sounded nice, as it saved me the effort of picking something on my own, so I nodded.

"Gimme a sec."

With those words, the man disappeared through a door in the back. After a few seconds of the sound of rummaging, he came back with something in his hands.

It was a pair of silvery white metal plates with four little spikes sticking out. Underneath the plates was a bit of a mess of leather.

"Give me your hands."

Unsure what he was going to do, I cautiously did as he asked.

Immediately he firmly grabbed me by the wrist and slipped my glove off with practised ease. I almost pulled away from his sudden action, but managed to stop myself with nothing but a small jerk.

"Your hands are so soft, but you have a lot of strength huh? These might really work well for you then."

He pulled the metal plate up over my hand, the leather slipped around my fingers and he pulled a strap around the palm and back of my hand before wrapping it a few times around the base of my hand. Finally, he secured it to a buckle just underneath the metal plate.

The shop owner then did the same thing to my right hand before making a few adjustments to both and give me a bright smile.

"How do they feel?"

I opened and closed my hands. While there was some bulk in my palms, they didn't do anything to impede my fingers, and the weight was negligible. Though my stats meant that I would have a hard time noticing if they were actually heavy so that was hardly an accurate comment.

The plates settled firmly over my knuckles and didn't move in the slightest when I moved my hands.

Since they looked like punching weapons, I tried a few punches out. As I had very little experience doing real punches, I was forced to let my skills do all the work, but thanks to them, my body fell naturally into a secure feeling stance and my fists moved in fast and clean lines.

These things felt pretty nice. They were well and properly secure on my hands, yet didn't impede my movements much at all. And best of all, they were small and easily carried.

"Oh? You look like a natural. Do you like those cestuses?"

I turned and nodded.

Frankly, it was such a good fit for my needs that it was almost scary. What was scary though was when I noticed that the creepy glint had returned to his eyes as we watched my form.

"I'm glad. The cestuses I make are easy to fit on anyone and even easier to use, but not many people seem to like them."

To be honest, even I thought that it would be weird for a person to pick something like this as their primary weapon. At most it would be their secondary weapon, but at that point most people would be better served getting proper hand protectors and just punching with those instead.

It would take a weirdo or someone with very specific needs to specifically pick out weapons like this. Unless if you had weirdly inflated stats like me, it was just better to go for almost anything else. Everything else the store was offering had both better reach and destructive power. Fist weapons lacked both by huge margins and I doubted that grappling would be a popular fighting style outside of sport fighting in this world.

At least this guy had the sense not to fill up his store with the things. Rather, he really seemed to be doing well for himself even if there wasn't anyone else in the store at the time. Maybe he doesn't do maintenance and only sells gear? He was dressed like a blacksmith so it would be weird that he didn't do that sort of thing.

Maybe there was a different reason why the place was void of customers?

I looked more closely at the cestuses. The construction was quite simple, yet effective. Just a series of straps and points to connect them to the slightly curved metal plate. But the attention to detail was pretty remarkable. There were clear indentations for my knuckles and the spikes were placed perfectly so that they'd embed themselves properly with a straight punch, yet their shape would prevent them from getting caught inside of a target if the punching angle was different.

Probably. I was only guessing after all. I wasn't an expert even by the most generous of definitions after all.

But I did know physics, and the tangential application of that did suggested that my thoughts rang true. Against simplified geometry at least.

The metal plates were a little wide and overhang the sides of my fists, but they were workable and likely wouldn't be a problem.

But what surprised me though, was the fact that they glowed a little. There wasn't any reason why metal like this should glow under normal circumstances, so there was definitely mana imbued in these weapons. What that actually meant though, I couldn't be certain of.

Either way, it looked like I got a hit.

"Let me show you how to take them on and off."

With those words, I extended a hand towards him and he showed me exactly how he wrapped the straps around my hand and even made me do it twice so he knew I got it down right.

"Alright. Give me a sec then."

And the store keeper took the pair and went back to the rear of the store before I could have Alicia check on what the enchantment was, presuming that it would show up in some easy to read manner with [Scan]. There was the sound of banging and some scraping coming from the back room before the man returned.

"Try them now."

Without any reason to refuse him, I put the pair on, only to realize that the metal plates were a little shorter. They didn't overhand the sides of my fists anymore.

"Wait, this..."

"It's the least I can do for someone who finally understands how great fist weapons are!"

The shop owner gave me a smile so bright that it made me wince a little. Mostly because I hadn't actually decided to buy them yet.

But they did fit all my requirements and he went through the effort of modifying them to my size.

 

I stepped out of the store.

Inside of my magic bag was the two cestuses I had just bought.

A pair of mithril cestus of impact. For only slightly more than those decorated weapons.

I didn't understand what the price of those weapons meant, but I did know that I had gotten a massive deal on these weapons, being both enchanted and made of mithril. It was to the point that I couldn't really refuse. I would've felt bad after he even modified them to the point that they wouldn't fit a normal person properly anymore.

But it was a good deal, and exactly what I needed. But I only needed it as camouflage, so getting something so nice felt like a waste. But it was cheap for what it was, so it was hard to complain.

In addition, it was only after that I realized that he didn't suggest me any armour. It really made me wonder what he was thinking when he looked at me, but it wasn't really consequential so I didn't give it any more thought.

Instead I moved on to do the rest of my shopping.

With a weapon bought, and no need for any more combat equipment, the only things I could get were things for the kidnapped villagers.

I couldn't see how they would be treated decently, so food was definitely needed. I had already bought a bunch but, I had hardly made a dent in the funds I had gotten these last few days. Only these cestuses managed to carve a small hole into my wallet, but it was hard to imagine that anything else I could buy here that would be of use would hurt my wallet.

There were a few more things I could think of that they could benefit from, but without knowing more details, it was hard to know if any of them would be of use. And a lot of that could be procured and improvised wherever they were kept.

But food would be difficult. Especially the sort that the prisoners would most need.

With that in mind, I went around the various stores, and even visited some high end places.

Vegetables, bread, grains, were definitely high on the list and I got plenty of them, but what was more important was things like fruit, milk, butter, herbs, spices, and most importantly, sugar. Rather, I couldn't get my hands on refined sugar, so I had to settle with honey. But after pressuring a few stores, I managed to get a good few litres of the stuff.

It was unfortunate that we weren't anywhere close to my home dungeon, as I could have farmed this much up on my own in an hour.

Instead, as the light of the sun was starting to wane, I left the city and quickly did a little bit of hunting. Part of it was so I could top myself on blood as well as fill a few more jars just in case. The other bit was to feed to the survivors.

We returned to the city before the gates closed for the night and I played around with the little fluffballs while we waited for the investigation to start.

Hi everybody! Its your always fluffy furball! (≧∇≦)/

So Scarlet finally has a weapon now. Too bad its mostly for show, but maybe we'll see her actually use them?

Probably. I'm going to try to make it work, but I wonder if the scene will be satisfying? Regardless, it won't be the next chapter, so please forgive me for that. m(_ _)m

That aside, sorry for not replying to the comments as much or as quickly as usual. Trying to rebalance things when I keep trying to add more to my life is tough. I'll figure it out eventually. Probably. I think. I hope. (~_~;)

But anyways!

I'll see you in the next one!

Peace! ヽ(^o^)丿

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