Chapter 26: Shock within the Guild

Vahn exited the dungeon and prepared to head towards the Guild. Just as he was about to exit Babel he felt a powerful grip on his shoulder. Turning his head he saw Nicholas with black lines hanging down his face concealing his eyes. Vahn noticed a vibrant red flame-like aura emanating from his body…

Tightening his grip on Vahn’s shoulder, Nicholas slowly raised his head. “Vahn Mason, I believe I owe you a lecture.”

Vahn could see veins bulging on Nicholas’s head as the strength put into the hand on his shoulder increased. He recalled the chilling sensation he had felt when entering the dungeon before bowing his head. “I am very sorry. I should have been more careful.”

Hearing the apology and seeing Vahn’s expression, Nicholas released some of the pressure he had been using in his grip. He sighed while giving a cursory glance at the boy in front of him. Unlike the previous day, this time he managed to return without any injuries. Even his clothes, tacky as they might be, hardly had a single speck of blood even though Vahn had spent a longer period of time within the dungeon.

“Judging by your appearance, it would appear that you had learned your lesson. Make sure you show extra caution in the future and don’t overlook making proper preparations. Remember that the Guild has numerous resources and books about the dungeon. Don’t discredit the importance of knowledge, as it could be the difference between life and death when you encounter a new monster.

Lightly patting the shoulder he had previously been gripping, Nicholas began to turn away before noticing a peculiarity in the situation. He gave a second glance at Vahn and determined where the weird feeling was coming from. No matter where he looked he was unable to see a weapon on Vahn’s person. Moreso than that, he didn’t even see a pouch to hold magic cores and drop items…

“Where are your weapon and the loot you obtained from the dungeon? Don’t tell me you just pretended to enter and spent the day playing around…”

As Vahn had already been preparing to walk away, he almost tripped after hearing the question. He tried coming up with various excuses in his mind but was unable to think of one on the spot. Sighing, he turned towards Nicholas and considered everything that had happened between them.
Though it was just his job, Nicholas had given him a very detailed explanation regarding the dungeon. He was also one of the people present when Vahn had passed out at dungeon’s entrance. He was even there to lecture Vahn when he woke up at the medical ward..

Vahn looked closely at the aura coming from Nicholas, before remembering the contact from before.

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‘View Affection: Nicholas Grimm {[Affection: 51[Neutral], Intrigue:60[Concerned]}

Seeing the values Vahn decided to mention his ‘storage magic’ to alleviate Nicholas’s suspicions. He held out his hand where it was not easily seen by outsiders and withdrew a magic core from his inventory.

Seeing an item aparate right in front of his eyes, Nicholas was very surprised. He quickly looked around before shepherding Vahn towards a more discreet location. After he was satisifed nobody was paying attention to their conversation, Nicholas looked towards Vahn and gave him a fierce look.

“Is that Storage Magic?” He glared directly into Vahn’s eyes as if trying to peer through any falsities.

Seeing his expression, Vahn felt a bit of pressure. “Yes, it’s a unique skill that I’ve always had since my time in the forest with my Grandfather…”

Though he could feel something off about the statement, he was unable to detect what was true and what was false. Knowing that it was considered taboo to force someone to reveal their secrets, Nicholas decided to not press any further. He looked towards Vahn before cautioning him with a firm tone.

“Vahn Mason, you should know that Storage Magic is a very rare skill right?”

Vahn nodded.

“Good. Then you should also be aware of the dangers if people discover you have such a skill. If anyone with malicious intent became aware of your capabilities, they would do everything in their power to use you for their own agenda.”

Vahn nodded again. He had considered this previously when discussing the matter with Sis. He knew that before he was strong enough it would be best to keep the existence of his ‘storage magic’ and inventory a secret.

“From now on, whenever you’re entering and exiting the dungeon you should carry supplies on your body. Though it’s not obvious at first, seeing someone walking around without even possessing a weapon is a red flag to anyone paying close enough attention.”

After hearing those words Vahn felt like slapping himself in the head. He had grown so accustomed to the ease of use of the equipment system, that he would often keep his gear stowed away until he needed it. He looked around and saw that every other adventurer was carrying their weapons openly and realized the foolishness of his oversight.

Vahn discreetly removed his dagger bow from the inventory and slung it over his shoulder. He also withdrew a quiver and fixed it into the area of his belt around his lower back. Luckily whenever he purchased arrows, they always came in bundles of 30 with a corresponding quiver.

Seeing the items continually appear from thin air, Nicholas could feel a cold sweat on his back accompanying the twitch in his eye. He tried to use his body to block the line of sight of anyone that could potentially look over. After noticing Vahn had finally situated all of his gear, he released a heavy sigh and almost wanted to yell at the airheaded boy before him…

“That’s much better, but remember to buy a backpack or satchel to store goods in the future. You don’t have to keep anything in it, but it will be a helpful disguise against any inquiring eyes.” Turning away from the nodding Vahn, Nicholas felt a strong desire to just go home and sleep.

After his interaction with Nicholas, Vahn decided to quickly leave Babel tower. It was now approaching 4:30 PM and he wanted to exchange with the guild before rushing over to the ‘Hostess of Fertility. Though it had been less than two days since his last visit, he was no longer able to find the roasted meat and jerky within his inventory palatable. He wanted to try all of the dishes he hadn’t experienced yet. If they were half as good as spaghetti, he might even be willing to ‘get pet’ by the black-haired Chloe in exchange for a larger portion…

Shivering at the thought, Vahn turned into a nearby alley away from the view of others. He looked through his shop for a few minutes before purchasing a leather satchel that could be attached to the belt. He swapped locations with the quiver and stored both the bow and arrows back into his inventory. Removing his sword, Vahn placed it into the corresponding sheath that had been sitting in the inventory since it’s purchase. He felt that walking around with a sword was a lot cooler than carrying a bow…

Satisfied with his setup, he continued following the route towards the Guild. Though he was in a hurry, he decided it was a good opportunity to increase the quality of his map. He took note of the various buildings and shops along the way and made mental marks for each of them. In the future, he would be able to find their locations easily if needed.

After nearly half an hour, Vahn finally reached the guild. It was actually a bit faster than his expectations, likely a result of his increased parameters since entering the dungeon.

He made his way through the large entrance of the guild and looked around. He had expected to see Fauna or Millie, but it seemed as if they were both off-duty at the moment. Since he didn’t recognize anyone, he slipped his hand into the satchel and withdrew half of the spoils he had obtained in the dungeon from his inventory. He felt the weight of the bag increase, but there was no noticeable change in appearance so he didn’t worry that anyone was aware of his action.

Making his way towards one of the booths for exchanging items, Vahn had to wait in line for ten minutes before coming face to face with someone he hadn’t expected. Standing before him at around 158cm was the half-elf receptionist Eina Tulle. He hadn’t recognized her at first due to how young she looked, but the emerald green eyes and brown hair made it very obvious she was in fact Eina. At this point in time, she wasn’t wearing her glasses, and Vahn felt it made her look particularly cute.

Noticing the blank stare of the boy in front of her, Eina gave a gentle smile before speaking. “Welcome to the Guild Exchange Counter. I’m Eina, and I can help you exchange any cores or items you may possess for Valis. I can also log items for any missions you had previously accepted.”

Hearing her speak, Vahn turned his gaze away and sighed slightly. He needed to break the habit of staring at people so directly, but it was just so interesting seeing the real-world versions of the characters he had only known from the pages of manga in his previous life!

“I’m sorry for staring miss Eina. You looked very familiar and I got a bit distracted when I saw you. Please forgive me if I offended you.”

Hearing his polite response and seeing him bow, Eina couldn’t help but chuckle at the boys’ innocence. “It’s alright Vahn. I wasn’t offended in the least.”

Vahn looked up and saw her aura was gentle like sunlight and had a mysterious purple hue along the edges. He quickly took out the monster cores from his bag before arranging them on the table.

Though it had been a quick glance, Eina was still able to see the change in the boys’ expression. She began to wonder if maybe the person she reminded him of was someone close to him. His expression seemed to carry a hint of affection and curiosity. As these thoughts crossed her mind, she began to look at the items he had been neatly arranging on the desk by size.

Though it was just a few small magic cores at first, Eina began to sweat as he continued pulling more and more out of the bag on his waist. Out of curiosity she began to count and noticed he had already laid out more than fifty cores and didn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

“Vahn, why did you wait so long before bringing in all these monster cores?” Out of curiosity, she couldn’t help but ask. Seeing the boy look at her with a confused expression, she began to feel a strange unease in her stomach. (“Don’t tell me…”)

“I got all these when I went into the dungeon today though? I haven’t been waiting or anything like that.” Vahn couldn’t understand why Eina asked the question.

Her intuition had been correct. Apparently, the boy in front of her, who seemed to lack common sense, was more capable than she expected.

“Can I ask what level you are and what familia you belong to?” Eina found it odd she had never seen or heard of such a peculiar young boy before.

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Vahn nodded mechanically while answering. “Sure…I’m level 1 and don’t belong to a familia yet since I just arrived in the City a few days ago.”

Eina almost fell over after hearing his words. Level 1? Not in a familia? This boy who earned more than most small groups earn in several days was just a freelance dungeoneer!? She gave Vahn a curious look before asking the question that plagued her mind.

“You’re able to earn so much in a single day…why aren’t you in a familia yet? Surely someone that is as strong as you are at Level 1 would be able to join an A or B ranked familia. You’re only hurting your growth by staying as a freelancer.” She stared at the large sword on his back and imagined him cutting through hordes of monsters only to end up surrounded and die due to entering the dungeon alone.

Vahn finished lining up the remaining cores as the contemplated his answer. Even he wasn’t sure why he hadn’t joined a familia. He felt it was a combination of trying to protect his secrets and the fact he didn’t recognize most of the Familia on the list. At the same time he felt that joining a familia might restrict his actions, and he still wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to accomplish in this world.

Though he had said he wanted to become the strongest adventurer, he was beginning to get distracted in various other things. There were so many interesting people and places he wanted to visit. And after eating at the ‘Hostess of Fertility’ he could feel an obsession rising in him to try the various different foods and dishes within the City.

In summary, it came down to the fact he didn’t know what he had to do to ‘live free and happy’ like his mother wanted. He felt that even in the forest he was free, at least compared to his previous life. Just making enough Valis to eat good food was enough to make him ‘happy’, or at least the closest thing to happiness he had ever known.

Eina could see the various emotions her question had stirred in the boy. She began to feel guilty that she had introduced so much doubt into his life with just a few simple questions. Remembering he words, she couldn’t understand what had set off his moment of introspection. It was likely due to something that happened in his past and was likely his reason for coming to the City in the first place. Judging by his shabby appearance, he was a few years younger than her and yet had to make a living venturing into the dungeon alone. She began to feel pity for the boy she had just met and wanted to say something to alleviate his melancholy.

“I didn’t mean to upset you Vahn, I was just a bit curious. Even though you’re so young, you’re able to easily enter the dungeon and return with a large harvest. I’m sure you’ll become even stronger in the future and be able to find the answers you’re looking for!”

Vahn listened as her words went from downcast to a more upbeat tone towards the end. He looked into her eyes and could see concern and expectations for his future, and understood she was trying to encourage him. (“That’s right, as long as I’m strong I can do whatever I want…I don’t have to be in a rush, and even if I joined a familia it’s not like I wouldn’t be able to join another in the future. I can go at my own pace, and even if I decided to become the strongest adventurer, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy good food. It would even make it easier to do so!”)

Vahn began to tremble with excitement at his realization. He couldn’t help but laugh within his mind at how he had begun to waver over nothing. Looking towards the young girl before him, he smiled remembering a scene from the manga.

He bowed towards the girl that had just given him advice.”Thanks, Miss Eina, I love you~!” Vahn shouted, causing everyone within the Guild to look over while the girl he made his proclamation towards turned beet red up till her pointy ears.

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