Disclaimer: I don't own the Legend of Mana or any other game series.

Chapter 13: A Day in Norwich

Vetch POV

"This man-thing is strange," she thought as she accompanied Sean from one destination to the next, watching him check off items from his to-do list.

The bustling marketplace was their first stop upon leaving the "Kupo" junk shop. The humid air stank of human sweat as bodies barely brushed past each other in a rush to acquire goods. Not one to stand for this, Vetch discreetly cast the [Scent] spell in the immediate area around her nose to ward off the stink. A potent vanilla scent tickled her senses.

The pair were given a wide berth due to the repellant mixed in with Vetch's perfume.

Her eyes glued themselves to Sean's form as he visited each stall, feeling up produce and completely uncaring of the world around him. Every purchase he made vanished into his inventory, a fairly common occurrence given the presence of other wizards and magical folk. Only children out with their parents were amazed by his 'magic,' their eyes shining with wonder.

What mildly baffled her was how the human repeatedly froze in place for brief periods.

Vetch quirked her brow as Sean picked up an orange in one particular instance. He stared off into space for only a second and it was behavior one could spot only if they were actively searching for it. Most would mistake it for a tic and that was the reason why none of the vendors batted an eye at Sean's mild strangeness.

"What is going on with you?" She asked as they left the butcher's stall; not the ones who chased Koroku. In her human disguise, she forewent her normal speech patterns.

"Oh, I was just reading," he replied nonchalantly. Koroku nudged Sean's leg for a piece of meat and the human rolled his eyes and cut him off a small bite from his inventory. He also gave one to Faith used the [Aero] spell.

"Reading what?"

"The small window on oranges."

Any passerby who were knowledgeable enough in arcane matters assumed he was referring to the [Scan] spell. It was a fairly common, low-level piece of magic used to give information on a target. Vetch's gut told her that wasn't the case.

Then there came the notice board and the magic shop.

Numerous flyers were posted to the board like always. A light wind rustled several of the sheets, but they stayed firmly affixed. Most asked for assistance with banal, tedious tasks covering everything from painting a fence to fetching packages. Sean's eyes combed over each of them until they settled on one in the center for an inordinate amount of time.

It was a simple advertisement asking if anyone needed more firewood.

Yet, as they stood there, she closely observed Sean's eyes running down lines of unseeable text. Vetch blinked in bewilderment when he reached up and removed the flyer from the board. She swore she saw him take the paper, but when she looked back at the notice board, the advertisement was still there.

The human became ever more perplexing when they entered the magic shop, their entry heralded by the chime of a bell. The pair found reprieve in the cool, air-conditioned atmosphere from the heat outside. Four ceiling fans spun swiftly overhead, mixing around the floral and herbal scents of potion ingredients spilling from the back. Metallic chains used to adjust their speed clinked lowly as they were shaken about.

The barest amount of sunlight filtered through the windows to vivify the burgundy-painted walls.

Black-tome filled bookshelves lined the walls and displays showcasing everything from staffs to cauldrons occupied the shop. Small aisles lined the main floor, stocked with various bits and bobs and simpler, less dangerous items such as the basic [Potion] and [Ether]. At the front of the store, there was a glass display case with rings, necklaces, and an assortment of accessories placed inside.

A female, purple-scaled kobold watched them enter her shop with mild interest. She wore ripped jeans and a black biker jacket that was a size too large over a red shirt. Curiously, a spiked, black choker wrapped around her neck.

"Sup," she said in greeting from behind the counter.

"Nothin' much," Sean replied, increasingly interested in her wares. His eyes wandered along the racks and cabinets of potion bottles behind her, each containing differently colored mixtures. The colors came together to form a liquid collage akin to the paintings of a pointillist and their vibrancy was enhanced by the meagre light spilling into the store. "Thought I'd drop by and see what you had."

"Take your time. Most other places don't have as good a selection," she spoke proudly.

Sean nodded and grabbed a basket from the nearby stack. He briefly glanced at Vetch and found her eying the potions on the racks. He noticed earlier that his constant pausing and use of [Observe] bemused her, but it was worth it.

Plus, it wiped off her earlier expression where she looked as if she'd smelled something rotten.

"You don't mind pets do you?" Faith huffed and nipped at Sean's leg at being called a mere pet. "Hey! No biting." Sean narrowed his eyes down at her and moved his leg away. The she-wolf simply snorted at him and Koroku sat on his haunches like a good boy.

"Nah," Peli replied, not in the least bothered. "So long as they don't wiz on the rug, it's all good."

"They'll behave." He scratched the top of Faith's head and she leaned into the petting.

While Sean explored the aisles, Vetch's acute sense of smell distinguished the potions from each other and she could even tell their exact composition. For instance, [Maiden's Kiss], a potion used for curing the [Toad] status effect, smelled of rose petals and strawberries. [Eye Drops], on the other hand, had a faint, salty scent.

Years of experience in brewing potions for the clan made such a thing a breeze.

The bubbling of cauldrons and their smoky, metallic stench clouding the lab in the back, clued her into the fact that all of the potions were brewed in-house.

"That's a neat conjuration you have there," Peli commented. She sought to kill the mind-numbing monotony accrued from standing there for hours on end each day. "Don't think I've seen that type of wolf before."

"She's not a conjuration," Sean responded a touch tiredly. "She's a summon. I once explained to a friend of mine that I simply call on them and they decide whether to help me or not. There's no master-slave bond and I don't know enough to give a greater answer."

"I thought something like that might be the case. I didn't see a leash on that wolf of yours, but you two do have an aura travelling between you."

"What do you mean?" Sean inquired curiously.

"It's like a campfire in the dead of winter," Peli answered. "It feels warm and inviting and not at all threatening."

"That's interesting," he uttered, deep in thought. He looked down at Faith and stared into her eyes. The fire-affinity wolf tilted her head to the side, wondering what he was thinking. Sean turned back to the shopkeeper. "You wouldn't happen to have any books on sensing mana, would you?"

"No," Peli replied. "That's something you pick up while learning how to manipulate mana." She paused and regarded him with a confused expression. "Shouldn't you already know this?"

"I got a late start."

"Do you have any [Quick Thinker] in stock?" Vetch asked. She grew impatient with their conversation.

Peli nodded. "Got about ten bottles in stock. How many would you like?"

"I'll take three of them."

"That'll be 700 Lucre."

Vetch reached to her side to retrieve the necessary payment and felt around for the correct coinage. Sean was currently standing in the back corner out of her view, but his distinctive mana signature made him easy to track.

"You two dating?" The kobold shop owner suddenly asked, almost making Vetch drop her money.

"What gave you that idea?" Vetch's face twisted in disgust. Such a repulsive idea made her want to retch.

Peli shrugged. "Don't know," she said innocently. The kobold turned around and pulled three potion bottles from the rack. "But he's got some of your scent on him."

"I'd never date that filthy worm."

"I took a shower this morning!" Sean called back humorously. "Sweet! [Triple Triad] cards." He found them on a shelf, nestled betwixt various prank and joke items. He placed multiple packs into his basket on top of 5 more spell books.

There were other items he wanted to grab, but his lack of knowledge and experience held him back. That wasn't to mention missing vital equipment such as a potions lab and blacksmithing forge.

Peli snickered as she placed the glass containers on the counter. "You need anything else?" She asked with a chill smile. She found further amusement in how Vetch subtly kept her eye on him and couldn't help but think of an overbearing girlfriend.

"That will be all," Vetch stated crisply.

Sean soon returned and put the basket on the counter next to the cash register. He had a happy air about him and he was in a jovial mood until he saw the price tag on the rings and other accessories. He frowned in disappointment since most of the equipment was upwards of 10,000 Lucre.

"Anything catch your fancy?"

"Can I have a closer look at that ring there?" He pointed to a much cheaper, plain blue ring.

"Sure," Peli responded and opened the back of the case. "This'll give your magic a boost."

The group of four left the shop a short while later with their purchases tucked safely away. Sean glanced at the clock at the top of his screen and saw a few hours had already elapsed.

"Hey. I was thinking about getting some new armor and weapons next," Sean announced. "But would you like to get a bite to eat first? We've been walking around for a while now."

"I'm fine," she stated.

"Are you sure?"

"Bribery won't work on me," Vetch responded, thinking ill of him. "Now keep silent and go do what you were going to."

Sean shrugged in resignation. "Well, I tried." He moved down the street to the next shop and Vetch walked in step next to him. Neither spoke another word for the time being.

Sean POV

6:58 PM

"Man, I hope this shit ends eventually," he thought as he [Paused] to go over his notifications and check his new items. He and Vetch were currently sitting in a booth in [The Wandering Specter] waiting for Schierke to arrive. The female rat still wasn't speaking to him. "Let's see now."

Elemental Affinities

In the Legend of Mana, only 8 elements are present, each represented by their own Mana Spirits. They and their respective spirits are as follows:

Fire: Salamander

Water: Undine

Earth: Gnome

Wind: Jinn

Plant/Wood: Dryad

Gold: Aura

Darkness: Shade

Light: Wisp

However, this isn't quite that story. 10 other elements remain, divided into 8 secondary and 2 tertiary elements. Of the main elemental spirits, Aura, the spirit of Gold, has been missing for some time.

Secondary Elements:

Moon/Space: Luna

Ice

Lightning/Thunder

Poison

Sound

Normal/Neutral

Holy

Mind/Psychic

Tertiary Elements:

Time

Soul

In the Mana series, the Moon/Space Element is commonly represented by the spirit [Luna]. However, this was changed for the Legend of Mana. She and her element were both replaced by [Aura] and the element Gold. This was possibly done to better balance the in-game elemental grid, making Aura the antithesis to [Dryad], the elemental spirit of trees.

"It wasn't until I was older that I learned what the Gold element meant."

In fact, the only other game where he'd seen the Gold element was in a walkthrough of the game Lennus 2, a Japan-only release on the Super Nintendo. It was a sequel to Lennus, renamed Paladin's Quest, which came to the United States.

This drew some puzzlement. Sean remembered an earlier notification mentioning that Moon-elemental magic grew stronger on Aura Day.

"If Aura is meant to represent Gold and Luna the Moon and Space, then why are they mixed up like that? And what's that about Aura missing?"

Quest Alert!

Mining for Gold

Aura, the elemental spirit of Gold, has been missing for some time though traces of her element do continue to linger. Find the forgotten Mana Spirit and discover what's going on.

Main Objectives:

-Find the Elemental Spirit Aura (0/1)

-Learn the nature of the mix up between her and Luna, the Moon Spirit

Success: 50,000 Exp, 30,000 Lucre, Increased Reputation with the Mana Spirits, Increased Reputation with [?], Automaton Summon

Bonus Objectives:

-Fully Master a Gold/Metal-Elemental Spell before meeting her (0/1)

-Raise your Gold/Metal Affinity to at least 500 (0/500)

Bonus Reward: x10 Aura Gold Spirit Coins, x10 Aura Silver Spirit Coins, x10 Luna Gold Spirit Coins, x10 Luna Silver Spirit Coins, +10,000 Exp (per additional gold spell mastered), Upgrade Spell Book

Quest Failure: Loss of Opportunity

"Judging by the name, Ulkan Mines would probably be a good place to start."

For using common sense, you have gained +1 INT.

INT: 70 → 71

Additional items worthy of note were his reconfigured [Options] menu and [Improved Event Notification] with [Response Time]. They made it much easier for Sean to find and complete quests as the Legend of Mana didn't have a set timeline. The player could complete many quests and quest lines in almost any order they wished.

With [Response Time], Sean would quickly be alerted to any sudden quests that came up and an estimate of how long he'd have to complete them.

On a lower note, Sean did visit the library. It was a two-story building no different on the inside than a typical library. The young man found a book on plant care while combing the shelves, but he was unable to find one that pertained to sentient flora such as Li'l Cactus. What information he did find was basic such as not overwatering cacti and providing them with good sunlight.

"Suppose I'll have to wait for Trent or speak to Gaeus."

Sean also stopped to pick up new weapons and armor as he said he would and ended his shopping trip after all the money he spent.

Lucre: 33795 → 26795

He later tracked down a small, uncrowded park and took a load off on a bench under a shady tree. The gentle splashing of water emanated from a nearby fountain decorated with floral designs. Birdsong from branches above flowed along with the aquatic ambience to create a soothing atmosphere.

It was for this reason he sought it out for the four of them.

Sean withdrew two bowls from his inventory and fed Faith a juicy cut of monster steak while Koroku was given only a little to complement his dry kibble. Koroku glanced between the two bowls and eyed hers hungrily, but a low growl from Faith made him think otherwise and dig into his own food voraciously.

Sean spent the next several hours casting spells and practicing a select set of skills until it came close to 7, the time of his meeting. He simply sat there on the bench and allowed the magic to flow around his hands in a myriad of colors. Sean refrained from any and all exercise to not bring greater attention to them.

Vetch's posture relaxed in the peaceful park as she sat next to him, though she stayed vigilant. Neither said a word to the other and simply enjoyed the calming sounds of nature.

Breath Control Lvl 18 → Lvl 22

Appraise Lvl 5 → Lvl 8

Cure Lvl 23 → Lvl 25

Protect Lvl 8 → Lvl 10

Shell Lvl 4 → Lvl 10

Numb Lvl 1 → Lvl 5

Haste Lvl 5 → Lvl 11

Observe Lvl 45 → Lvl 50

Level 47: The user can now see the target's relationships.

Level 50: The player can use the [Telephoto] ability.

Telephoto (Active/Passive) Lvl 1 [0%] Cost: 0 MP

Not as cool-sounding as hawk or eagle eye, a telephoto lens is a long-focus camera lens that allows photographers to zoom up close and see objects from much farther away. This skill allows the player to see things from much greater distances than the limitations of the human eye permit and it puts birds of prey to shame.

Dispel Lvl 1 → Lvl 7

Lvl 3: The user can negate the [Fear/Afraid] status effect.

Lvl 7: The user can negate the [Regen] status effect.

SPI: 188 → 192

"Guess I better get back to it," Sean said and resumed his journey. He felt it best to absorb the other four spell books later since [Dispel] seemed the most important.

The bar was fairly busy that evening. Waitresses flitted through the pub with practiced ease, carrying precarious platters of food over their heads with a single hand. Patrons' voices grew progressively louder as they tried to speak above each other in spite of their close proximity. Billiard balls clacking and the clinking of cups and cutlery intensified the roaring, headache-inducing ruckus.

It almost made the warm, buttered roll he was eating unenjoyable.

"You sure you don't want one?" Sean asked. He held the basket in his right hand and shook it. "You haven't eaten anything all day."

"I'm fine," Vetch snapped.

Sean rolled his eyes. "Will you stop being so fricken stubborn? It's not like I poisoned the thing."

"I said I'm fine."

"Is there a problem here?"

Sean glanced up to greet the speaker and found a mysterious woman staring at them with a stoic expression. Her skin was as pale as the moon and two brilliant, citrine eyes cut through a curtain of black hair. She was dressed in a dark blue tunic and a grey hooded cloak. A silver wolf pendant hung around her neck.

"Schierke?" He voiced, going by her eyes. Unlike with Vetch, Sean couldn't see her normal form.

"I trust you weren't waiting too long," she said politely as she took a seat.

"Nah, we've just been hanging out here."

"Speak for yourself," Vetch growled in a low voice. "There's nothing relaxing about this place."

"I apologize once more, but you were the best person to send," Schierke stated sincerely. "Kieran awoke hours after you departed and he's faring much better." Her words cooled Vetch's fiery temperament and turned her scowl into an even expression. "I had Horatio prepare him and the other children a light soup for supper."

"Is everyone else doing okay?" Sean inquired.

"All is well though many of my people are still feeling sluggish. I suspect this will fade in the coming days."

"That's good. I thought they'd be fine, but then again, I'm not a doctor."

Orlha, the nighttime bartender, zipped between tables in Sean's peripheral. She was calmly jotting down orders on a notepad since the bar was presently short-staffed. The rapid influx of people did nothing to spoil her smile or positive attitude.

"Would you like me to order you anything?" Sean asked. A plate where a 1 lb. cheeseburger once sat and a previously shattered glass rested on the table in front of him. He only partook of a single roll in case Vetch changed her mind. "I tried getting food for this one." He gestured to Vetch. "But that's proven a waste of time."

"You were being too nice," she replied in a less ornery mood.

"Now, now," Schierke interjected. "There's no need for hostility. I'm sure his intentions were not of the malevolent sort."

"I had no ulterior motives, but there was—" He paused in his speech as an all-familiar pulsing noise shot forth from Schierke's person. Both women heard his heartrate speed up in excitement and they didn't miss the fractional widening of his eyes either. "—something I needed to talk to you about."

Those two signs were clear enough confirmation for Schierke's suspicions. Vetch, although she couldn't hear the pulse, reached the same conclusion.

"Are you an artificer?" Schierke asked.

"Yes," Sean replied with zero hesitation. Their powerful hearing rendered lying pointless. "And I'm guessing you're one as well since you're asking about it."

"Indeed." From her cloak, she placed a rolled up, sky blue flag on the table.

[Legendary] Artifact: Unifying Flag

Created upon the founding of the City-State, Two River City, this flag originally stood for the city's independence and the unification of its people. Sadly, internal conflicts have led to this part of their history being largely forgotten.

Allows the artificer entry into Two River City.

"Where'd you find this?" Sean asked, waiting to see how this conversation played out. He didn't want to touch the flag and risk provoking them.

"I happened upon it during a trip to said city," Schierke answered. "A merchant in a tent sold it to me at a low price. They were unaware of its true nature."

"They weren't a rabbit were they?"

"No. The seller was a red fox with closed eyes."

"Crazy Redd?" Sean briefly wondered.

"How long have you been an artificer?" Schierke inquired. Vetch listened closely to the discussion, her face now a blank mask. The twitch of her ear hinted towards her search for eavesdroppers just in case the spell failed.

"About a week," he replied casually. Koroku was flopped down on the floor; wiped out from walking around town all day. Faith lie by Sean's legs and kept her head on a swivel for signs of trouble. "It was pretty much dropped in my lap."

"How so?"

Sean proceeded to give a short recap of how he arrived at his new home and of the [Colorblocks] artifact that the Sproutling gave to him. He exercised caution and left out any information pointing towards his otherworldly nature. Steady speech and a calm countenance made him all the less dubious.

"Which brings me back to what I wanted to talk about," he tacked on at the end. "All that crap with Mantis is likely going to happen again."

"Has someone else set their eye upon my people?" Schierke asked calmly, a hidden edge in her voice.

"Possibly, but that's not what I meant," Sean responded. "I'm talking about Mantis and the bird in Norwich coming back to 'life.' Those aren't going to be isolated incidences."

"Do you know the nature of his possession? Of the energy that kept Mantis alive?"

"I do," he stated assuredly. "Or at least 85% sure." "The Mana Tree is returning and saying she's pissed would be an understatement."

Vetch scoffed. "The Mana Tree is gone. You humans saw to that."

"Nine centuries ago, the Mana Tree burned to ashes. The power of Mana lived on inside Mana stones, enchanted instruments, and artifacts. Sages fought with each other for control of these last remnants of Mana," Sean recited from the game's opening. "Then, after hundreds of years of war, as the power of Mana began to wane, those who sought it grew scarce, and the world returned to peace."

"Is there a point to this?"

"Yeah. I said that 'the power of Mana lived on' inside these various objects. If the Mana Tree ceased to exist forever, all of these things and the ability to cast magic should've disappeared," he said like it was the most obvious fact in the world.

"Do you have any proof of this?" Schierke inquired, willing to hear him out. "While what you say could hold some truth to it, there are other explanations for these happenings."

"Before your clan came to attack Domina, I spoke with a few people and police officers and they referred to you as the 'Luon Highway Chobin Hood Tribe' since that's where you mainly operate," Sean said. "One of the 7 Wisdoms, [Gaeus], resides in Luon Highway. He knows that the Mana Tree is returning as do the rest of the Wisdoms. [Rosiotti], the King of the Beasts, lives in a [Jungle] if you know where to find it and [Nunuzac], one of Geo's professors, knows as well. Oh! And you might be able to find [Tote] in [Lake Kilma]. I think that's where he mainly lives. Just watch out for the [Gorgon Eye]."

"Gorgon Eye?" Vetch parroted.

"It's a huge monster that looks like a floating eyeball with spikes jutting out of it," Sean explained. "It has the power to petrify people. Fairies living in Lake Kilma may be helping it."

"This is quite concerning," Schierke commented. "I'll be certain to verify the veracity of your words, but do you have any physical proof of your claims?" Her face showed no emotion.

"Not at this time. No," Sean replied, upset that his game knowledge provided him no evidence. Then again, the Legend of Mana felt a bit unfinished, as if there were ideas that were never incorporated due to a deadline. "Could possibly explain why most of the game doesn't actually focus on the Tree of Mana itself."

"I see," Schierke said. "Was that everything you wished to speak of?"

Sean shook his head. "No. I'd also like that artifact there." He pointed to the flag. "And any other you might have."

"Don't get ahead of yourself," Vetch spoke irritably at his lack of respect. "What makes you think we'll give you anything?"

"I can start by giving back all the bows and arrows I took from your men."

"Such things are pittance to the artifact's value."

"How about answering a few of my questions?" Schierke said. "I'll give you the flag in exchange for information."

"That sounds fine, but I might not answer based on what you ask."

"Everyone is entitled to their secrets. But I'm curious as to how you found our home."

"Artifacts allow me to travel to other locations without needing a map." He pointed at the flag once more. "For example, I have no idea where Two River City is located, but I could use that flag to find it."

"How deeply have you tapped into the power of the artificer?"

"I'm not sure I understand the question." "Sounds like there's more to it than what the game showed."

"We can come back to it another time." She moved on without giving him the chance to make his own inquiries. "Boone reported that you used small plant creatures to tie up the prisoners. Were they the same ones from the village? And how did they purify Mantis? I've until now not heard of a person harnessing the purifying properties of Altena Alloy."

"Truth be told, I'm not sure how much I actually purified him or if that was more you or The Gamer at work." "Going in order: Yes and I'm not sure. I can purify corrupted mana and some of my abilities extend to my summons."

"Summons?"

"Not conjurations," Sean stated quickly. "They're different creatures I can call for help."

"That explains the connection between you and that wolf of yours."

"You can see that, too?" Sean asked. "The kobold in the magic shop pointed it out."

"Yes," Schierke said. "Anyone with a thorough understanding and experience in wielding Mana should be able to see it."

"We do have a symbiotic relationship." Sean reflected on how Mandragora was protected from the corruption controlling Mantis and wondered to what extent these benefits stretched.

"Would you mind performing a demonstration of your purifying abilities?"

"Removing the corruption from your clan wasn't enough?" Sean asked. "That's the reason why you couldn't cure [The Fifth Day]."

"I merely wish to have one of my associates study it to prevent things of this nature from recurring."

"Maybe at a later time," Sean replied slowly after mulling it over. He didn't really see a downside to agreeing, but then again, there could be unforeseen consequences to such an action. "I'm not that experienced with magic yet and I'd like to get a better grasp on it first."

"Understandable," Schierke replied calmly, not at all bothered by his answer. "Are you free tomorrow?"

"As far as I can tell, but shit always seems to happen."

"Would you mind meeting us in Two River City tomorrow at noon?" Schierke asked. "A friend of mine has recently found themselves in a spot of trouble."

"That's fine with me." "Not without some backup, though."

"Very good." Schierke stood from the table and Vetch rose to join her. "We'll meet you at the town entrance tomorrow."

Sean blinked. "You're leaving already?" He asked, seeing as she'd only been there for a few minutes. "I thought you'd have asked more questions or something."

"My priorities permit me little time away from the village at this moment," she replied. "And I don't wish to be too invasive in my line of questioning."

"Okay." Sean reached into his inventory and pulled out a [Triple Triad] starter box, along with a few additional packs. "Since you're both heading out, I'd like to give you this, Vetch." He handed the items to her.

"What is this for?" She inquired suspiciously.

"For your son and the other kids," he responded. "I thought it'd be a nice thing to do since you were kept away from him all day."

"I already told you bribery won't work on me."

"I'm not doing anything of the sort. And don't mistake this as an apology either," Sean replied in a heated tone. "It's just if I had a kid who recently recovered from a fatal malady, I'd want to be with them 24/7 to make sure no other shit happened. So just take the damn thing and give it to your son for your absence."

"You have our gratitude." Schierke took the box and cards from Vetch and held onto them securely, making sure she couldn't dispose of them. "We'll be leaving now."

"See you later then. I hope you make it back safely."

The two women wove through the cluster of rowdy customers and exited the bar into the quiet night.

"Why did you give-hand over the artifact, chief?" Vetch asked as they passed under a streetlight. Their 'human' shadows stalked the desolate road behind them. "The man-thing is up to something."

"That is possible," Schierke agreed. "But he also could have returned to his domicile and allowed the prisoners in Norwich to die from their affliction. I felt it was a proper reward and who knows, collaborating with the human may prove beneficial in the future."

Vetch snorted. "I'm not so certain-sure of that."

"Please don't let past grudges burden you. Not all humans are the same nor are we."

Vetch fell silent and neither woman said anything more as they made their way back to Rider's Rest.

Back in the bar, Sean leaned back in his seat and finished off the rest of the rolls in the basket. He would always enjoy food even though [The Gamer] removed the need for it. Theoretically, Sean could go on eating forever without consequence due to that power. Either way, in the course of his consumption, he gained the recipes for cheeseburgers, the streak fries that came as a side on his plate, and dinner rolls.

Due to your actions, your reputation has changed.

Vetch: +30

Schierke: +30

Current Reputations:

Vetch: (Unfriendly: -120/-1999)

Schierke: (Neutral: 230/499)

"Huh, I'm surprised it improved seeing how pissed Vetch was," he thought as he let his eyes settle on his plate.

Being amongst regular people made him much more aware of how strong he'd become. When the waitress brought his meal to him, Sean promptly shattered his glass into a hundred pieces as he was handed his drink. Lemonade splashed onto the table and formed a puddle on the floor. This drew the curious, judgmental stares of nearby patrons and stoked the flames of Vetch's ire.

The disguised rat glared venomously at him as the waitress stammered an apology and rushed to get some napkins. This attention had been enough for Sean to reload a save file from just minutes before.

Afterwards, he simply waited for the waitress to bring out his meal again as he stared at his hand in surprise and concern. He hadn't grabbed the glass that hard, or at least he initially believed so, and only used the necessary strength to hold it.

He used [Observe] on the patrons as he ate his meal again and truly noticed how weak almost everyone else was. The average STR for a normal adult in this world fell between the range of 30 to 50 and Sean was around 3 to 5 times that at his base. Stats such as INT and WIS were higher, but DEX and VIT were about the same and LUK and SPI were nearly nonexistent.

The reason he didn't notice this before was that he was focused more on leveling the skill than the actual information he was given. It was much like skimming through a book. A person might catch a few details, but they'll miss most of what they're reading.

"What's happening, dude?" Jack asked from out of nowhere. He clapped a hand on Sean's shoulder, causing the younger man to stiffen up in discomfort. "Was curious what happened to you. Your name's Sean, right?"

"Uh, yeah," he replied awkwardly. He wanted to knock Jack's hand off, but didn't want to be rude. "How've you been?"

"Pretty rad all things considered." Jack removed his hand. "But you're going to want to be more careful in the future," he said in a lower voice. "Biggs and Wedge came around asking about the breakout."

"Why do you suspect me?" Sean asked in an equally quiet voice.

"Biggs said something about a lullaby putting people to sleep and the smell of onions," Jack responded. "Not a big leap of logic to guess it'd be your little friends."

"But Mandragora don't sing lullabies. Their loud shrieks are supposed to kill people," Sean rebutted.

"True," Jack agreed. "But they also don't grow legs or manifest from orbs."

"Is this just a friendly warning or did you want something?" Faith sensed her master's change in mood, the mild hostility beginning to radiate from his person and the menacing tone creeping into his voice. She stared at Jack silently and waited to see if he'd try anything.

Jack raised his hands placatingly. "Whoa, man. I'm not here to cause trouble. I just wanted to let you know to be more careful, that's all. Thought I'd give you the benefit of the doubt after you helped us out."

Sean exhaled, but remained on edge. "Sorry about that. I've been dealing with a lot of shit lately."

"I'll say. Between the breakout, monster attack, and Domina, you sound like you've had your hands full."

"You heard about that?"

"Doesn't take long for word to travel," Jack responded. "And some of the townspeople have family in Domina."

"Makes sense. Was there anything else you needed?"

"Did you want to come over and hang out at our table?" He jabbed his thumb through the crowd at a specific table. "Some of my bros and I agreed to meet up after I finished fixing the fields."

"You're done already?" Sean asked. "That whole area was completely devastated."

"Plant magic is an awesome thing, dude." To reinforce his point, a small plant with the head of a red tulip grew on his shoulder and spat out a seed at Jack's table. The pod struck the hand of a bearded giant who aimed to steal Jack's medium-well, sirloin steak.

The giant winced and shook out his hand. He shot Jack a mild glare and flipped him the bird. Jack smiled back in a mellow manner and lit a piece of sugar cane that the little tulip placed in his mouth.

"Yeah, sure," Sean replied after a moment, amused by the display. "And Schierke and Vetch are still here." He didn't miss the two white circles on his map slowly walking away from the bar as he rose from the table. "Better wait for them to leave before I do." He then walked with Jack back to his table after having already paid the waitress upon receiving his meal.

"This the one you were talking about, Jack?" asked a tall woman with long indigo hair that fell to the middle of her back.

Blood red eyes swept across Sean's form, her slit pupils drinking him in. A large pair of black, bat-like wings grew from her back and they didn't help the vampire image she was exuding. Nor did the ruby red lips or the sharp teeth poking out. A pair of bountiful breasts were kept contained behind a simple blue shirt and luscious legs hidden by skinny black pants. They led down to a pair of inhuman feet more akin to those of a bird. Three sharp claws stuck out of the front and one in the back on each.

Race: Winged Horde

Description: Often confused with vampires and succubi, it would be wise not to refer to them as such. They closely resemble humans, but instead possess bat-like wings and clawed feet. Despite this resemblance, they aren't well-received by humans, one such example being Two River City where many have turned to thievery due to being refused jobs and other opportunities. They normally frequent mountains and other high-up areas, but due to conflict with other races, they've been forced to cohabitate in lower places.

Jack nodded. "This is him."

"Welcome, friend," the giant greeted amicably before lifting a piece of mutton to his mouth.

"Aye, what he said," the dwarf spoke.

The giant was a mountain of a man, built like a brick shithouse and standing at a height of 8 feet. He looked as if he were stolen from the Viking era. His torso was covered in a dark green tunic and large furs. Storm blue eyes stared at Sean in respect above his long, brown beard. His head was shaved aside from a short Mohawk in the middle and a mighty, two-handed axe leaned against the back of his chair.

The dwarf, by contrast, was much shorter as was common amongst his race. He was an elderly fellow with white hair mostly hidden under a round, grey helmet, thick white eyebrows, and a well-groomed white moustache and beard combination. He wore a hoodless white article of clothing with a green stripe travelling vertically down the center that appeared a few sizes too large for him. Interestingly, a circular, white pendant with a mirror-like surface hung around his neck.

Race: Dwarf

Description: Humanoid in appearance, this race of mighty warriors and blacksmiths can often be found living in or near mines or in mountainous regions. They love a good fight and strong ale and respect strength. Challenging one to a fair fight or a drinking contest is a great way to get into their good graces, even more so if one was to actually win, a rarely occurring event.

"…." The last woman stared silently as she drank from her cup.

She was a tall warrior woman who wore little in the way of clothing and left much of her well-defined musculature exposed. A metal-plated headband kept her wild brown hair out of her eyes and a grey loincloth protected her modesty. A silver buckler sat on one shoulder and a long sword hung at her waist. A large fur wrapped around the right side of her hip and the only other clothing she wore were brown boots, wristbands, and an armored, brown bra.

Name: Celeste

Race: Winged Horde/Vampire Hybrid

Title: Half-Breed

Age: 30

Level: Lvl 43 Next Level: 3000/8800

Affinities: Wind: (300), Darkness (1000)

Likes: Flying

Dislikes: Judging People Based on Appearance

HP: 5075/5075

TP: 11800/11800

MP: 4250/4250

STR: 197

VIT: 203

DEX: 275

INT: 170

WIS: 210

SPI: 178

LUK: 52

Synchro Effect: [Whole Colony Lvl 1]

Effect: When fighting in a group, Celeste's stats increase by 5% for each person. Her stats increase by 10% for each Winger in the group including herself.

Stat Points: 215

Perk Points: 86

Description: Stigmatized at a young age due to her hybrid nature, this young woman holds close ties with her family who stand in full support of her. Doesn't drink blood or entrance people like her appearance might suggest. Ages more slowly due to being part vampire.

Name: Erik Bjornson

Race: ?

Title: ?

Age: ?

Level: ?

Description: A bull-headed man who disrespects the cowardly, he lives for combat and facing mighty foes.

Name: Gort

Race: ?

Title: ?

Age: ?

Level: ?

Description: A seasoned warrior of many years, this dwarf loves a good drink and seeks to reignite the flames of battle within his soul. Has a granddaughter.

Name: Hanna

Race: Human

Title: Lone Warrior

Age: 27

Level: Lvl 47 Next Level: 5200/9600

Likes: Meat, Children

Dislikes: Senseless Violence

HP: 5500/5500

TP: 14,400/14,400

MP: 1000/1000

STR: 345

VIT: 220

DEX: 231

INT: 40

WIS: 110

SPI: 10

LUK: 20

Synchro Effect: [Second Wind Lvl 1]

Effect: When defeated in combat, allows the user to get back up with 20% of their HP restored.

Stat Points: 235

Perk Points: 94

Description: A silent woman of few words. She's one wild child and she loves meat. Prone to wandering around from place to place.

Observe Lvl 50 → Lvl 51

"Jack here has told us of your exploits," Erik mentioned. "Commendable of you to stand before mighty foes with so few in number."

"I was just in the right place at the right time," Sean replied modestly. "Or wrong time." "And I didn't do that much over here. I'm assuming Jack's the one who slew the beast."

"You still stuck around when most others would've fled, lad," Gort said and took a swig of mead from his wooden tankard. "Shows you're not a blithering feartie."

Sean sat down in the only available seat between the two ladies whilst they conversed. Hanna didn't seem too keen on chatting, but she did gaze down at Faith stoically, the red wolf having gotten up after nudging Koroku awake. She sat on her haunches and returned the human's stare whilst the Shiba Inu tried and failed to go back to sleep. He flopped down onto his stomach again by Sean's legs and whined as he placed his paws over his ears in a futile attempt to block out the noise.

"Anything else going on since you got back?" Jack inquired and took another drag of his sugar cane. In the background, three darts thunked against a dartboard all at once and struck the ground due to a man's poor attempt at impressing his friends.

"Not much," Sean answered. "Just did a bit of shopping and met up with a couple acquaintances. How do you all know each other?"

"Jack used to be a member of the [Adventurer's Guild]," Celeste said. She reached down and scratched Koroku gently behind the ear. He relaxed under her tender ministrations and pushed his head back into her petting. "The rest of us are members."

Sean looked at her description again and found a new sentence had been added on. It read, "Member of the Adventurer's Guild." It stood to reason that other information would be added to character descriptions as he learned more about the various people populating this world.

"Or what? You going to find adventurer to get them for you? Everyone know police can do nothing without having their hands held."

"Once again, the timing is perfect," Sean thought. "How exactly does the Adventurer's Guild work? I've visited the notice board in town and was curious if you operated the same way."

"We do have a board in the guild for different quests and jobs," Celeste said. She picked Koroku up to no protest and placed him on her comfortable lap. He practically melted as he lie there and fell back asleep. "But individuals can also be hired for jobs for a specific price."

"That's good news." "Are you bound to jobs around here?"

"Wherever there is an office, we may go," Eric stated loudly. "And the ever-growing flow of battles has expanded the guild to every major town and city." Happiness flashed across his face at that fact.

"How much would it cost for someone to go with me to Two River City?"

From there, Sean explained his predicament and gave what details he could as he figured out a game plan for the next day.

Author's Notes: Here's Chapter 13. I decided to wrap it up here. Sorry that it's been a while since I've updated this story, but I got a new job a while back and it's left me less time to write and do other things. I'm going to keep updating this story, but I don't know when the next one will be. Thank you everyone for your patience and your kind words. I really appreciate all the favorites, follows, and reviews and I'm glad people have been enjoying this story.

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