Chapter 22: The Dark Knight Arises

That night, Ella and I each patrolled the city’s western wall, waiting for the chance for the Shade Queen to appear. From what I knew, this was only the second day of its ‘raid’, so it should surely appear again. The two of us weren’t walking together, both because it would let us cover more territory and because I was training my Stealth skill at the same time. If the boss did appear, I would need to take advantage of my Assassination to deal a major blow.

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We waited until about an hour after sundown, at which point there was a shout from near the gate. A black head had emerged from the darkness, biting at the body of one of the soldiers. When I saw that, I began rushing over, drawing my bow. Now that I had Adrenaline Rush, I should be capable of fully drawing the bow.

Ella was closer to the fight than I was, and held up a staff. From the tip of it, a serpent of dark flames emerged, slithering through the air to entangle the boss. My eyes widened briefly, seeing the boss struggle against the serpent. A skill that big had to have a major mana burden, even with her trait reducing it.

There wasn’t any time to waste. Once I was within a safe firing range, I pulled back the string and activated the enchantments on my bow, as well as my Assassinate skill. Taking a deep breath, I released the arrow.

Because Ella was holding the monster in place with her flaming serpent, even if it was struggling, its head was fairly stationary. Such a large target, how could I miss? A blue line pierced a hole through the boss’s head, and it began to collapse powerlessly, the flaming serpent dissipating. At least I didn’t die this time.

Now, it was certain that it would be fully aware of either myself or Ella in the coming days. My only concern was whether they would try to say that we didn’t do enough to earn a reward. However… that concern was quickly dismissed as the body was gathered, the kind guard that I had spoken to before handing me a sack of silver coins, and another to Ella.

Recalling the way that the guard captain had chuckled when I signed up for the request, I kept having the feeling that something was wrong. However, even if I stayed for another hour, the Shade Queen didn’t try to attack again that night. Thus, I returned to the inn to sleep, planning to train my archery for a few hours in the morning before working at the store.

My income from the store… varied wildly. On the first day, I only made thirty-five silver coins from a day’s worth of appraisals. Most of the items that came into the store were sold, so my total cut was reduced heavily.

After staying in the city for a week, the most that I earned from the store in a single day was sixty-nine silver, most of which came from equipment identification. However, I was starting to get the sense that something was indeed wrong. The attacks of the Shade Queen hadn’t shown any signs of slowing down even after a full week of raids.

During this time, my passively active skills had leveled up a lot, with Perception almost ready to evolve. Additionally, my Appraisal skill had evolved into the Observe skill, which still allowed me to identify objects, but could also be used to identify monsters. I had also earned roughly five gold in total from my wages in the two jobs.

It was only at this time that I remembered something. Back when I was training my archery… the group that had passed by and mentioned a dungeon. My eyes widened, realizing that the dungeon that they discovered must have been the one that the shadow monsters spawned from.  Because the monsters weren’t repopulating as they should, the queen’s rage continued to grow, and that’s why she still remained so active.

But… the players aren’t going to give up on the dungeon. I thought to myself, understanding that they would continue to farm it for resources. That’s why he chuckled like that when I signed up to help. He knew that the Shade Queen wasn’t going to be stopping any time soon, so my declaration to leave after it had finished its attacks…

I shook my head. The money from working on the wall and in the store were nice, but I did not have enough time to train my skills, especially my active ones. The only skills that had made significant progress recently were my passives and Arcane Arrow. I couldn’t continue to stay in Arcanhide anymore.

However, part of me was tempted to stay a little longer. There was another skill that was close to evolving, aside from Perception, and that was Mass Appraisal. I had asked the shop owner what the evolution of that skill was like, and she said that it was generally seen as a waste. Not only was the mana burden higher, but so was the experience cost. Meanwhile, the only benefit was that you could tell which items were dropped by other players rather than monsters.

Such items were still purchased from the appraisal store without any issue, so there was no need for them to evolve this skill. Only knight investigators would use the skill to identify bandits.

I wasn’t looking forward to that evolution… instead, I was planning to let Perception and Mass Appraisal both hit level twenty, and see if they would combine. I had thought about this for the standard Appraisal skill, but felt that it was more likely to have a synergy with the larger version.

After thinking about it during my walk back to town, I decided against staying any longer. If I continued to linger without doing any active training, my power would fall behind that of other players, and it would be difficult for me to narrow that gap again.

First, I reported to the guards as I entered the city, informing them of my decision. It would be impolite to simply leave without saying anything, so I bid them farewell, before doing the same to the Appraisal Store owner. Next, I sent Ella a message, letting her know that I was preparing to leave the city after upgrading my equipment.

Wait! Don’t go yet! She urged, catching me off guard. I have something that I want to give you!

I hesitated for a moment, telling her that I was on my way to the blacksmith’s shop, and that she could meet me there. When I arrived, I found the nervous Ella, glancing around shyly. This was definitely her player. I had encountered her a few times over the week, typically either when I was working in the store or on my way back from training.

When she saw me approach, she gave a bright smile, running over to me. “Sorry for suddenly calling you like this. I figured that I might not get another chance to give this to you for a while.” When she said that, she held up a silver ring, adorned with a red gemstone.

“You got me a ring?” I blinked, and she nodded her head quickly.

“Y-Yeah! The Valentine’s Event just started yesterday. For the rest of the week, all monsters have a higher chance of dropping accessories. It took me a little while to get one, but I wanted to give you a present before you left, to thank you for setting me up with that job!”

My face darkened just slightly when she said that, and I cleared my throat. “About that… from what I can figure out, the Shade Queen’s attacks won’t be stopping any time soon. You should be aware of that before you decide if you want to continue.”

Ella blinked in response. “Oh! Sure, I was starting to outlevel it anyways. Still, the money was good, so I hadn’t considered leaving yet. Are you still planning to head to Decashear when you leave?”

I gave a small nod of my head. “That’s right. But… are you sure that you want to give me this? Event or not, accessories are quite rare.”

Ella smirked, showing that she already had a necklace. “I-I didn’t think that a necklace would suit you as well. But this ring should be great for you!” Arching a brow, I cast my Observe skill on the ring.

Ring of Bonds – 5s

Durability: 100%

Enchantments: 1/1+1

Innate: +1 Enchantment Slot. Only viable when freely given to another target on the original owner’s friends list. Cannot be enchanted twice by the same character.

Fire Snake (10☆): Create a serpent of flames to ensnare all targets in an area, dealing constant fire damage.

Mana Burden: 0/sec

My eyes widened when I saw the skill that she had put on the ring. The Fire Snake was essentially her signature ability, which she used to restrain the Shade Queen almost every time we fought it. Looking at its low cost, that must have been because of the restriction for its innate property. In other words… it’s meant to have one skill from the original owner, and one from the person it was gifted to.

I reached out, gently accepting the ring with a smile. “In that case… thank you. If there is anything that I can do for you in return, please let me know.”

Ella gulped, before quickly shaking her head. “Like I said, this is my thanks for helping me to get the job. I heard that there’s a fire dungeon about a day to the east, so I’ll be visiting there soon, and can’t join you at Decashear. Hopefully, we’ll be able to meet up again in the future!”

I nodded my head. “I’m sure we’ll meet somewhere down the road.” I said, reaching out and lightly patting her head. Her eyes went wide, quickly lowering her head and bringing her hand up while letting out a surprised gasp. With a grin, I turned, entering the store.

With the exception of my ring, gloves, and bow, I completely upgraded my equipment with black steel equipment. Black steel was a higher level material formed by combining shadow iron mined from the nearby dungeons with regular iron and coal. Its level was comparable to my bow, so I was not upset at spending just over three gold on the full set. Afterwards, I sold my old equipment to the appraisal store, earning me almost fifty silver back.

This upgrade naturally included a helmet, which I had been missing until now. Since I had become strong enough, nobody I had met even suspected that I was a failure, but it still felt nice to have protection for my head. Also, since I bought it all from a city’s smith, there was a selection to choose from. With the exception of my new scimitar and shield, all of the items had four enhancement slots.

Now, all I had to do was to apply the enchantments to my gear. Which… was definitely needed, given that losing all of the enchantments from my old set made the new one feel quite heavy. It was awkward to move around in even after I activated all of my personal enhancement skills, though thankfully I wasn’t laughed out of town or anything.

Also… I finally bought myself a set of proper clothes, so I wasn’t just wearing my armor all of the time. That was rather important, too.

There was just one place left for me to visit before leaving, which was the skill store. When the man saw me enter, he smiled professionally. “What can I help you with, sir?” He asked, not seeming to recognize me in my new armor.

“I’m looking for shadow skills.” I answered, and he immediately recognized my voice. “Magic or martial doesn’t matter. The cheaper and more basic, the better.”

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“A rare guest indeed.” The man chuckled. “Only wanting basic skills, huh? Let’s see…” He stood up, walking towards the shelves. “We’ve had a large influx of shadow skills, thanks to the regular dungeon raids.”

“The most basic is Shadow Spike, which is the darkness equivalent of the Mana Bolt skill. There’s also Shadow Slash, Shadow Armor, and Lesser Animate Shadow. All of these skills are stronger at night, or in an area of darkness. Of them, Shadow Slash is Martial, and the rest are Magic.”

Hearing that Shadow Slash was a Martial skill, I couldn’t help but think that it was similar to Ruby Slash. Only, instead of making the weapon more brittle, the skill was weaker during the day. “How much for all of them?” I asked, catching the man by surprise.

He checked the prices of each before looking back at me. “Eighty silver in total.” He said, bringing the skills to the counter. “I guess someone has decided to play a dark knight.”

I shook my head, not explaining as I paid the money. Now that I had three new magic skills, I had to acquire a piece of temporary equipment from the blacksmith’s shop to put them on. That would only cost me about twenty silver… but a total of one gold for four new skills to add to my collection was not bad.

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