“The sun’s rising.”
I turned back to Daniel. The Human man had halted right behind me and began fumbling with his cloak. I glanced over at the horizon, seeing an inkling of daylight seeping into the canvas above. I cocked my head.
“Is that unusual?”
He sighed, rubbing at his temples.
“Here, just put this on. It’ll be bright soon, and we don’t want anyone to see you.”
I asked the question as he threw his cloak over me. I found myself wrapped in the dark cloth, its bottom edges folding into a wrinkle on the ground. I lifted an arm up, inspecting the strange material.
[Cloak of Shadows: Medium Grade Armor - A black cloak that obscures your face; it also has a resistance to cutting.]
Daniel hesitated as he pulled something out of his pocket. He muttered under his breath.
“Good thing I took a spare…”
He turned and handed a link of tiny metal rings interlocked to form a circle. It held on it a golden shell wrapped around a crimson crystalline object which seemed to shimmer even in the dark.
“If anyone sees you, they’ll probably freak out and try to kill you just like I did. Demons are not…uh, liked here in this world. So you have to lay low.”
The Human man unlinked the chain, before apprehensively proffering the necklace to me.
“W-wear this. Even with the cloak on, people can still use [Identification] to figure out you’re a Demon. This is a Necklace of Lesser Obfuscation. You can use it to hide or change either your Class or your levels.”
I quickly grabbed it off his hands and raised it up. I stared at it, then him.
“Is this why my [Identification] doesn’t work on you?! I thought you were Level 60 or something!”
“No I’m not— I’m barely your level. The reason you can’t see that’s because of my Necklace of Greater Obfuscation. It can hide and change both my Class and my levels in the eyes of others. Although if I make myself appear as a Level 50, it won’t do anything to actually make me stronger— it just dissuades low leveled bandits from attacking me.”
I nodded along, listening to the man’s explanation. That was why he was so weak! I was starting to think that I was actually stronger than even Level 60s and 70s here in the Mortal Realm— I was thinking of finding a monster of that level and fighting them! It was a good thing I knew better now.
“I see… what’s a Class by the way?”
“You don’t know what a Class is? Wait— do you even have a Class?”
“Is it a kind of way to sort things by a common factor? Because if so, I don’t think I’ve ever done that.”
“No— not that kind of class. I mean a Class. The reason you can use Skills and stuff… you have one, right?”
I gave him a blank look.
“But I do have a Subspecies though, if you’re talking about Skills. I got three when I evolved into an [Imp], and my intuition is telling me I couldn’t have gotten my first two if I wasn’t a [Demon Larva].”
The Human man frowned as I peered at him curiously. What’s he confused about? Doesn’t he have a Subspecies? But he shook his head.
“I thought only monsters had… nevermind. Just put on that necklace. Tap on it and channel mana into it until it turns blue. It will hide your Subspecies so no one can see that you’re an [Imp].”
I followed his instructions, feeling some mana pour into it. Its color shifted, turning slowly to an azure blue that gleamed like the sky during the day. Daniel gave me a satisfied look, before turning to continue on our path through the trees. I followed after him as the vermillion glow of the sun rose ever so slowly.
The Human man said nothing, although he occasionally peeked back at me with a nervous look. I waited for him to turn back before I decided to ask him a question that I suddenly had.
“Is being a Demon bad?”
He jerked, taking a few more steps forward before stopping.
I nodded as he continued to stare at me for a moment, before he slowly answered.
“No— not bad. In fact, I don’t even think Demons are considered monsters. There aren’t any open bounties for them last I checked, though I’m not entirely sure. However, Demon summoning is outlawed in most places due to the nature of the ritual.”
“So what’s wrong if people see me?”
Daniel trailed off, glancing to the side as he placed a hand right below his mouth, before finally looking back at me.
“You told me yourself, right? You were attacked in Silvergrove because Humans got scared of you. Maybe that wouldn’t have happened normally— maybe, I’m not too sure— but right now, there’s a Demon on the loose destroying villages and attacking travellers. Because of that, everyone’s on edge and I don’t think they would react too… amicably to you.”
“What does that mean?”
“I mean they’ll attack you.”
I considered this, casting my gaze to the sky as I tapped my chin with a clawed finger, mimicking his previous gesture. Then I crossed my arms defiantly.
“If anyone attacks me, I’ll kill them.”
“And that’s exactly what we don’t want to happen. So far, you haven’t killed anyone, right? No Humans, just monsters?”
I nodded. That was what I had told him numerous times before!
“No Humans, no animals. Just monsters. Although I should’ve killed those Humans back in that city, but they somehow healed themselves so quickly!”
“R-right, but you don’t kill them. Which is a good thing— there is no real bounty on you, so you won’t be hunted down. If that ever happens, you’ll have all kinds of adventurers, soldiers, guardsmen— everyone coming after you. Because they think you’re bad.”
“Then I’ll just—”
He quickly spoke over me.
“And that’ll be bad because then no one can help you go back to the Netherworld, right? And you don’t want that, right?”
I paused. I definitely did not want that to happen; Haec was my companion and he recognized me as such. I had to get back to him to bring him with me.
“Exactly! We want to keep anyone from attacking you so you can return to the Netherworld. Makes sense, right?”
“So when we get to Hazelbury, make sure you keep that hood over your head and stick close to me. Don’t leave my sight— because I’m telling you right now, you will somehow get into trouble, and you might get found out. Got it?”
I sighed as Daniel pointed a finger at me. Nodding, I felt my shoulders sag forward as I replied.
He looked at me once over before lowering his arm, satisfied. I continued to follow him with the oversized cloak blocking half of my vision. He paused, suddenly having a thought.
“By the way, since I gave you my cloak and my necklace, can I have my ring back?”
I stared up at the Human man with a flat look.
“I can’t believe it’s already day. Wasn’t it evening when we fought? How long was I knocked out?”
“Not for long— after I kicked you, I thought you died so I shook you a few times and you woke up. But then you blinked, screamed, and fell unconscious.”
“...did that really happen? You’re pulling my leg, right?”
“I’m not pulling your leg. If I was, my hands would be on your leg. And yes, that really did happen.”
“Oh, well that’s embarrassing. Please don’t tell anyone about that.”
“Don’t do this, don’t do that— I might as well not do anything!”
I grumbled, walking right beside Daniel as we reached the city. He eyed me with a sidelong glance right before we reached the gates of the city and an armored man called out to us.
“You know I wasn’t actually asking you to— hey! Adventurer here. Just entering the city with my friend.”
“Adventurer, huh? You a part of the Iron Champions Company?”
“No, just an independent.”
“Then it’s 5 silver each. No company pass means you still have to pay the fee.”
Daniel reached into a pouch hanging around his belt, digging into it as it clinked with the sound of metal, before he pulled out a handful of glinting round objects.
“In you go. Come on, don’t block the way. Others are trying to leave!”
The armored man pushed Daniel into the gate as I followed behind him. He tried to reach for me— to shove me too— but I easily dodged it. I glared back at him as he scoffed, turning away from me.
“I don’t like him. He tried to attack me.”
“He’s just paid to do that— be rough with any Adventurer not part of the Iron Champions Company. It’s one of those perks signing up with them.”
“Iron Champions Company?”
“Yeah, it’s the local company adventurers. Well, I say local, but they more or less have control of all the adventurers around the area. They’re only contested by small, minor company which don’t have enough power to even challenge their authority by any substantive means.”
“...what’s an adventurer?”
Daniel stopped right next to a fountain, turning to stare at me. There was a moment of silence— except it was not silent, as the sound of splashing water filled the background. I looked back at him, cocking my head.
“Nothing. I just have a lot of explaining to do, don’t I?”
The two of us entered a building called an ‘inn’. It was apparently a place where Humans went to rest or sleep for the night, so they would not have to worry about being attacked by a monster or the weather.
“Why do you need to sleep?”
“That’s just how Humans are.”
“And so what if it’s cold?”
“We can get sick— listen, us Humans are just built differently from you, ok? These are things you don’t need to know about.”
Daniel chugged down the liquid he called an ‘ale’, before slamming it down on the wooden table. He raised the mug, swinging his hand in the air as he called at a Human woman passing by.
“You’re drinking early, aren’t you?”
“Just had a busy night.”
She refilled his mug, pouring more of the drink until the glass was filled to the brim. Then she leaned over to him, and quickly closed one of her eyes.
“How about tonight? Will you be busy then?”
The Human man shifted uncomfortably in his seat, averting his gaze from the woman.
“S-sorry, I’m… taken.”
“Aw, poor me. I would’ve liked to have been the lucky woman.”
Daniel fidgeted as she left and reached for his drink. He paused, staring at the mug for a moment, before pulling his hand back. Does he not want to drink anymore? I thought, looking at this. He sighed.
I perked up.
“Listen, when I said I would explain things to you, I didn’t mean I would explain everything. I’m telling you right now, I’m about just as clueless you are about almost everything. The only questions I can answer right now are simple questions.”
“Like about adventurers?”
He leaned back on his chair, now turning his attention to the plate of meat in front of him. He cut a small piece of this food and put it in his mouth.
“Yes— mm, this is delicious. Want some? No? Alright.”
He continued chewing on the food, cutting more and more meat off, until it finally disappeared from his plate. What’s he doing to it? Where’s it going?! I watched this happen in shock as Daniel spoke.
“Adventuring is a job. It’s… what Humans do to protect our cities from the monsters threatening it. We also do it to raid Dungeons and get rich off the loot in it— but that doesn’t matter right now. Basically, to be an adventurer is to put your life on the line to fight monsters.
“However, then there is the question: what does an adventurer have to gain from doing this? Well, the answer is simple. We get paid to do this. Whether it be by selling monster parts in the market or by taking up local monster bounties. But then what makes being an adventurer any different from being a mercenary or just some kind of monster hunter?”
I looked at him inquisitively. He waited for my response as I thought about it. Then I shrugged.
“I don’t know.”
Daniel swallowed the food in his mouth and drank from a different cup full of water.
“That’s where the companies come in.”
“The Iron Champions Company?
“That is one of the companies, yes. But a company is something anyone can start if they have enough funds. It’s a place where adventurers gather. It’s a place where you pay a membership fee— a certain amount of copper, silver, gold, whatever— every month or year to join a company. You’ll have access to things like exclusive contracts, exclusive markets, and exclusive locations.”
I listened attentively as he continued to delve further into the subject.
“Working as an adventurer requires you to sign with the Adventurers Guild. But there are probably tens of thousands— or even hundreds of thousands— of adventurers out there. Such a large organization can’t manage every single tiny detail when it comes to adventuring. So that’s where adventuring companies come in, all with their own individual perks and benefits. They make deals with the local government and form partnerships with local businesses, making big companies dominate the adventuring sphere where they’re located. And while there are commonalities amongst all companies, anyone can run their own company however they want as long as they sign with the Adventurers Guild.
“However, it’s not like you even have to be a part of a company to work with them. In fact, a significant portion of adventurers are probably independent like me. Most companies try to appeal to independents by offering them enticing jobs and prices which would draw them into joining the company. I had actually accepted a request from the Iron Champions Company to cull the population of Stamped Elks… which I now just realize you dealt with.”
I stared at him, confused.
“That’s the Species name of those [Green Stags] you killed. They’re known for quickly overpopulating, which leads to large stampedes that can wipe out whole towns and villages. Very invasive. Very territorial.”
“Huh. You don’t have to worry about them anymore, I think.”
Daniel shook his head, sitting up on his seat as he finished his food.
He leaned forward, placing his arms on the table and holding his hands together right in front of his chin.
“So, that’s the basic run down of an adventurer and what an adventurer does. Any questions?”
I nodded and he sighed.
“Questions pertaining to adventuring.”
I slowly stopped nodding and scratched the side of my hooded head.
“Nope! None at all.”
Daniel stood up and placed a handful of coins on the table. They clattered on the wooden surface for a moment as I peered at the brown and silver items.
“And those are coins. Money. Do you know what that is?”
“I think so. They’re used as a medium to exchange stuff, right?”
“That is correct. Now come, let’s go up to my room.”
“To your room?”
I hurried after him as he started up the stairs of the inn, leaving behind the serving woman who gasped when she saw the money.
“Didn’t you say you would help me return to the Netherworld? Can we do that in your room?”
“Not now. I need to rest. Get some sleep because of the rough night. But tomorrow— when I wake up— I promise you, I will find you a way back to get back to the Netherworld.”
He placed a hand on my shoulder and slowly met my gaze. I looked back at him, seeing determination in his eyes. I frowned.
“Wait, are you asking me to do nothing until you wake up again?!”
I stared at him and he gulped.
“P-please don’t kill me.”