When Rakna stepped over the last stair leading to the commune section, he was welcomed by a notification that he had never seen before.
❮ ◈ ❯
You have been subjected to an analysis.
Your senses outstrip the other party.
Appraisal has intervened.
Absolute Cover has intervened.
The scan has been nullified.
Absolute Cover has leveled up! You can now hide two more elements from your status.
❮ ◈ ❯
Rakna scowled and looked around before spotting a certain group in the distance. They were the ones who had tried to approach Kaelith earlier. One of them was looking in his direction with a surprised expression as if he had seen something unexpected.
‘These trash are still here?’ He thought with an irked frown as he smelled the malice coming from them. He silently turned on his soul sense and took a look at theirs. The size and intensity of their souls were not even on par with Pronos. They also had no particular shape or color.
‘Hm, maybe shape and color represent their potential or a specific power like magic. Following that logic, their brightness and size might correlate to their fighting power or level…’ Rakna mused as he ignored their stares and headed to one of the Boards.
For now, it seemed that they were wary of him for blocking the analysis and he had no intention to start anything if he didn’t need to. Even if they didn’t seem much, probably around level 20 to level 30 based on the contrast he saw with Kaelith and Pronos, it was more than risky to initiate a fight in his condition.
He reached the Board and pressed on the screen to open the list from earlier. He thought about it for a moment before making it so that only Quests on the First Plateau could be seen. It was the safest way to approach it.
Rakna scrolled through and internally thanked the Pavilion for adding tags so that he could ignore anything that required fighting.
‘This is like browsing novels all over again,’ he remarked in amusement and a certain Quest caught his eye. He pressed on it and expanded the information about it.
❮ ◈ ❯
First Plateau Quest
Description: There has been a series of murders happening within a certain district of Black Steel. Several investigations have been made but to this day, no lead has been found.
The bodies were all found on the street with no external injury. However, autopsy results have shown that all the victims’ internal organs were inexplicably decomposed. As if the cause of death has been a premature and accelerated failure of all the organs.
Objective: Find the cause of the murders and if possible, remove it. Otherwise, refer to the local enforcement forces and relinquish the responsibility.
Skillset Recommended: Tracking, Analysis, or Sensing related abilities.
Rewards: 200 Exp, 5 000 Talys.
Would you like to undertake this Quest?
❮ ◈ ❯
Rakna hummed as he read the narrative. This Quest was like a shot in the dark. It was impossible to know how difficult it was and the rewards, while decent for a Quest on the First Plateau, were not high enough to compensate for an unexpected difficulty.
‘Should I take it or not… If it comes down to pure investigation, it shouldn’t be hard but I will have to be careful to not get into a physical conflict.’
After a bit of thought, he ultimately decided to accept it. He still had his way to defend himself if a fight occurs. Without even mentioning his equipment or weapons, The Trickster’s Sleeve was a trump card on par with his Nirvana Skills. On top of that, this was a Quest in the middle of Black Steel. There were high chances he could simply get help in case things turn haywire.
With all of this combined, Rakna selected yes and a pop-up appeared on both the screen and his vision as a System window.
❮ ◈ ❯
A waypoint has been added to your map. Please head to the First Plateau to initiate navigation.
You have accepted a Quest from the Board. You will be required to complete it or relinquish it before taking another one.
❮ ◈ ❯
‘I see. So, you can only take one Quest at a time,’ Rakna thought and closed what was pretty much his account on the Board and began to head back to the stairs. At the same time, he messaged Allan to tell him to meet him at the First Plateau instead of the Fifth.
‘Alexa, how do I leave the Plateau?’
[Normally, you would need to enter the Pavilion’s Portal Room that is located in the entrance hall behind the main reception. But since you possess the Badge, you can just ask me and I will take care of the process. Be aware that there are conditions that have to be met for it to work.]
Rakna scowled. ‘What kind?’
[One; the process will take thirty seconds and you cannot move. Two; you must not be in a fight. Three; your heartbeat and adrenaline levels must be stable]
‘Oh?’ He tilted his head as he reached the stairs. At the same time, his nose picked up a smell that he had already memorized earlier and looked over his shoulder to see the group from earlier getting closer. He hummed and went down the stairs while continuing to talk to Alexa.
‘I understand two first conditions. Why the heartbeat and adrenaline though?’
[It is meant to ensure that you’re in a relaxed state. You can see it as a sort of fail-safe for the second condition. Things like pursuits are not considered fights by the system and it would be unfair if the Host could simply teleport to another Plateau as he pleases to escape.]
‘Interesting,’ he thought and reached the main hall of the Pavilion. He casually put his hands in his pockets and exited the building all while completely aware of the people following him. The scents of both their aura and emotions were disgustingly blatant to him.
As he walked down the streets of the town, he spoke to Alexa, ‘Say, do you consider this a pursuit?’
[…I would say that this falls under the category of malicious stalking.]
Rakna blinked in surprise. Her intonation had sounded a bit weird for a second.
‘Did you just… try to tell a joke?’
‘Well, it’s nice that you’re trying. I look forward to what you come up with in the future,’ he said with a faint teasing tone.
[I’ll keep that in mind, Rakna.]
He snorted in amusement and turned at a corner inside an empty alley. The men following him began to run to catch up when they saw him enter an isolated area but when they arrived there, the alley was empty.
“What? Where did he go?” One of them said and they were unfortunately too absorbed by their own malice against their target that they didn’t notice the small silver disk on the ground. It was too late when it started beeping.
From a shadowy corner, Rakna emotionlessly watched them yell in fear and pain because of the explosion. As they scrambled to recover from the shock of the blast and their injuries, he turned Sonata into a bow and drew as many arrows as there were people in the alley.
He squinted and grunted as he felt pain course through his arm from just pulling the string which wasn’t even solid but made out of raw Eion. But he nonetheless aimed at the heads of his trailers, already picturing exactly how their head would be pierced by-
‘I’ll shape you up to be an even better killer than I am.’
‘Big… doggy… Please… I want… to… be with… mommy.’
‘Please stop! You don’t have to kill them!’
Three overlapped voices suddenly resounded in his head and his arm trembled. His eyes widened and he slowly lowered his bow while powering down the arrows. What was he about to do? Kill a bunch of nobodies for what? Because they were a bit jealous of him?
He huffed and walked further inside the alley while putting Sonata around his neck again. Those three voices echoed in his head like some sort of broken tape. A memory of Flavia’s tear-stricken face flashed for an instant and he groaned.
“Splendid. On top of nightmares and dreams, I’m starting to have existential crises,” he grumbled emotionlessly and stopped walking. “Alexa, initiate the transport to the First Plateau.”
[…acknowledged. Please stand still for half a minute.]
Rakna hummed and turned his head toward where he came from. His eyes turned golden and he zoomed until he could see the group of men helping each other out with the help of some passerby.
At that moment, where he was being followed, he had felt threatened. His mind hadn’t gone over the ways to shake them off but instead ruminated the best ways to kill them as efficiently and fast as possible with what he had available to him.
He berated himself internally. There was a reason he had decided to attend school on Earth in the first place and it seemed that the System’s environment was starting to get to him enough to quash it. After close to two years spent living peacefully, he had almost forgotten.
The uneasiness he had felt when he killed his first kobold during the Initiation wasn’t regret over killing a living being… it was fear that he might regress. Worst of all, he had ‘switched’ more times in the last few days than he had in an entire year.
He looked up at the gray sky and reminisced the exact words of his uncle from a few months after the start of his training.
‘“I said I would make you a better killer than myself. I wasn’t lying. I don’t do things half-assed and I accepted the fact that you’re probably too broken for me to get you out of this path. I believe that you have potential, kid. But, remember, I’m not here to teach a murderer. If you ever become one, I will be the first to separate your head from your shoulders. Mark my words.”’
[Five seconds left before transfer.]
Alexa’s voice jolted Rakna’s out of his daze. He shook his head and focused on the present. He had already gone through that phase and he wasn’t going to fall back into it.
[3, 2, 1… Starting transfer.]
As the light engulfed him, one last memory went through his head. An archetype speech that his uncle would utter with an overwhelming authority.
‘“I don’t want a murderer as my student. But since you like that word so much, I will let you indulge in it; kill. Kill as much as you want. I’m not innocent enough to tell you that you’re in the wrong for seeking reprisal. But let me tell you this, if you truly want to follow that duty of yours you keep ranting about, never forget that the blood you spill has value, regardless of if it is high or low.”’