After Rache showed me around the place, it didn’t take too much longer for Thessa to return, her backpack loaded down with a large quantity of produce. She hummed happily to herself as she took the load inside, placing her hand on the fridge. Immediately, I could see her backpack visibly shrinking, the contents inside vanishing.
So the fridge is essentially a bag of holding… got it. I nodded to myself as I watched the event.
While she was gone, Rache had been telling me about the unique resources found on this floor. I was actually surprised to find that there had been so many that the people had yet to discover. There were some strange minerals, plants, and even some animals whose pieces possessed special properties.
When I heard all of that, I couldn’t help but give a small nod of my head, smiling to myself.
“So what’s the deal with that girl?” A human clad in silver armor asked a nearby shopkeeper shortly after the black-haired halfling had left.
“What girl..?” The shopkeep asked in confusion, before realization dawned on him. “Ah, you must mean Thessa, right?”
“I suppose? Shouldn’t she be down on a lower floor, with how young she is?” It was rare to see men or women so young with bodies capable of easily withstanding the pressure that the nineteenth layer brings. Even more so when you consider the sheer amount of weight that she had been carrying.
“Ah, you must be new around here.” The man shook his head with a sigh. “It’s no real secret, so no harm in saying. Thessa and her sister live off with a man nearby by the name of Styx, so I hear. Every now and then they’ll come around to buy goods or just hear about what’s going on with the world below.”
“This doesn’t exactly strike me as a place to settle down…”
“Huh? Oh! No, they don’t have that sort of relationship!” The store owner laughed, shaking his head. “At least, not as far as I know. Styx just can’t leave this floor, so they stick around to keep him company. Apparently, they’re busy exploring all the hidden secrets this floor has to offer. Who knows, they might have even found a new rune or two with how long they’ve been around.”
As he said that, the man shrugged his shoulders, returning his attention to the storefront. “Is that so..?” As he left, he dropped a gold coin on the counter to thank the man for his troubles.
“If I had known that stuff like this was here, I would have asked Ryone to join us.” I chuckled as I looked down at the stone Thessa had handed me. I could feel a faint magical aura from it, one that seemed to be naturally occuring.
“I already sent a few samples of these off to her.” Rache said with a small grin. “She’s not sure how many other uses that they have, but there’s one that she thought you might be interested in, and it’s the use that gave it the name ‘Void Concealing Stone’.”
“Okay, now you can’t just lead with that and not tell me what you’re talking about.” I told the golden-haired halfling with a raised eyebrow while I rolled the magical rock in my hand.
“Oh, I know~. I just like to let the suspense settle in for a moment. Anyways, this rock can be used as a substitute for those gems in an enchantment concealing ritual. The magical energy of the rock can be extracted, and masks the nature of enchantments against identification and location spells.”
I couldn’t help but send another glance down to the rock when I heard that, surprised it would have such an effect. “As great as that sounds… how common are these rocks? If it’s easier to just find the gems, then they won’t have any real value for that.”
“It’s actually a rather common stone here on this floor!” Rache laughed, shaking her head. “And you only need a small rock like that, as opposed to a bunch of big gems, so I think people will be all for it. More importantly, you can fashion the stone into a necklace or ring, and you yourself would be hidden by the same properties.”
“It should be pretty easy to figure out that someone is wearing one of these if you get close to them, right?” I could feel the magical aura of the stone myself, so there was no reason to think that others wouldn’t be able to.
“Oh, sure! But that’s only if you get close enough. For a stone that big… I’d say you need to be within three feet to feel its energy. It’s also that stone that has honestly kept people from exploring this floor more. Well, that and the sea monsters.”
“Come again?” I glanced up to her, waiting for an explanation.
“Well, you see… there are some big veins of those stones in nearby islands. The aura they give off blocks most detection spells. So when people use magic to try to look for points of interest on this floor, whether it is a new rune, an orb, or an intelligent race, the spell gets lost in the aura of the rocks, and always answers that it didn’t find anything.”
I gave a small nod of understanding at that. If they didn’t think that there was anything valuable on this layer, and just the basic minerals, then they wouldn’t put too much focus here. The requirements for a miner in this layer was too high, and it would simply be easier for them to extract those common resources from lower layers instead. Maybe once they ran out of gold or iron on all of the previous eighteen floors would they turn their sights here, but that was something for far in the future.
“Between the uncertainty that there is anything of actual value in this floor, and the known presence of undersea dangers, people aren’t willing to devote the manpower needed to properly explore this floor. The only ones that can do so safely are mages and some specially trained monks. Anyone else would need a boat.”
“I get it.” I said with a sigh, setting down the stone. “Are there any runes on this layer, though?”
“Tons!” She said in exasperation. “Bihena and I keep picking some at random to throw around on every floor. Sometimes, they’re runes people already know, sometimes they’re entirely new. There’s one not that far away, the second tier Shatter rune.” She huffed, crossing her arms in front of herself. “I placed that one myself, and nobody’s even tried to find it.”
I shook my head with a small smile, before Thessa’s voice called out. “Sir, you have guests approaching. Two by air, shall I let them in?”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll go out and meet them.” I said with a small smile, finally getting the chance to try something out. I’d only been down here for a day, but I had discovered a cool trick that I could do now with my spiritual energy.
Closing my eyes, I began to focus, lifting one hand up. Grey mist seeped out from my palm, forming into a large cloud. The cloud quickly condensed as a figure walked out of it, a perfect copy of myself.
For a moment, I was assaulted with two viewpoints, feeling like a lesser version of world sight. However, once I closed my real body’s eyes, I was able to focus entirely on the duplicate. Like how Tsubaki was able to create avatars of herself by dividing her body, I could do so by dividing my soul.
Of course, the combat power of this avatar was fairly limited, but it was something that wouldn’t hurt me much if it was destroyed. Thinking of that, I caused the avatar to disperse into the air, reappearing outside of the house. Looking up, I could see two people flying over, while Thessa walked up next to me. Strangely, she seemed to be carrying a shovel with her.
Of the two people, one was obviously a mage. Her robes fluttered in the air while her magic supported both herself and the man next to her. As for the man himself, he wore a silver armor that covered his body from head to toe, carrying a large blade on his back.
I waited as the two landed, each seeming to be giants from my current perspective. The two humans set down on the ground, and then began walking over. The first to speak was the warrior clad in armor, his voice echoing within his helmet. “You are Mister Styx, I presume?”
“That’s right.” I said with a nod. “Is there something that I can help the two of you with?”
“I think that there is, actually.” The helmet moved to nod. “I’ve heard that, due to unusual circumstances, you are unable to leave the Great Blue?”
I assumed that was their name for this layer, so I nodded my head. “That’s correct. No real secret, is it?”
“Quite, I just wanted to confirm it with you. My name is Ryner, and I work for the Council.” As he said that, he held out a hand, and a black back appeared above it. “We would like to hire you for a mission that you seem to be uniquely suited for.”
“Oh? And what would that be.”
The man turned his head, glancing towards the mage that he had brought with him, who began to speak in a cordial tone. “We would like to hire the former adventurer Styx for a mission of exploration. As I am sure you know, these waters are uncharted, and home to many dangers. Due to your ability to break the limits of power on this world, you are the most suitable candidate for such an operation.”
I couldn’t help but give a small chuckle at that. “So, basically, you want me to take a look around, that way you don’t have to risk any of your own people?”
“That… is one way of looking at it, yes.” She said, her brows furrowing a bit. “You would be paid handsomely for any discoveries you can present that hold some significance. If you find anything of real value, we may find enough reason to further occupy this floor, and allow you to no longer live as secluded a life.”
“I’m fine with seclusion.” I shook my head with a smile. “But for significance… Thessa, would you grab the stone from your sister inside? I think these two would be interested in it.”
Thessa nodded her head, immediately turning and heading back inside while I explained. “You see… I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name, miss.”
“Hana.” She said, looking at me rather curiously, with a touch of skepticism.
“Well, you see, Hana. Not too long ago, the girls discovered this peculiar little rock. Apparently, it’s quite common in these parts. And I think you’ll be able to understand its significance fairly easily. This rock can be used to create a simple nondetection effect. Simply carrying it on you can render you invisible to spells.”
While there was no movement from the warrior, Hana’s eyes widened for a moment, before her face returned to a stoic mask. “I believe, if you words are true, that would indeed be significant. However, we’ll need a bit more than just your word.”
“Of course, of course.” I nodded, glancing back to see Thessa walking out. “You can keep this rock. I can find plenty others if I need something.” When I said that, Thessa glanced over to me before shrugging, tossing the void stone towards the mage. Ryner’s arm flashed out, snatching the stone from the air before it could come close to her.
“That will be all for now.” Hana said with a shake of her head. “Maximize. Strengthen. Flight. Group.” As she spoke the words in the runic language, the bodies of herself and Ryner lifted into the air. “If you find anything else, please report to the priest in town, and he will send word to us.”
I simply gave a nod, waiting for them to fly away.
“Is it fine to leave it at that, my lady?” Ryner asked as the two flew away from the island.
“Of course.” She smiled, bringing a black cloth up to cover the lower half of her face. “We can just let him run around for a while and collect information for us. The Council simply wants new lands to control, it doesn’t really matter who handles the task.”
“And… if he creates a problem for us?”
Hana let out a light laugh at that. “According to the reports, Styx’s training is too spread out to qualify as a proper Maxer, despite his levels. If he becomes a problem in the future, we’ll just have to take care of it.”
Ryner simply gave a determined nod at that, one hand clutching the stone that he had caught as they flew away.