༺ Little Night (1) ༻
Lots and lots of thoughts crossed my mind after having the crocodile skin sandals made for Luna.
What should I say when I hand them over to her? How should I do it? When should I even do it? Would she like them?
It has been a long time since I gave a gift to someone, not to mention the fact that it was a gift for someone of the opposite gender, so I was feeling rather awkward about the whole ordeal. Constant thoughts that this whole gifting process was actually pointless troubled my mind, making me afraid.
I sincerely hope that she’ll like them.
I don’t think many women in this world own products made out of crocodile skin.
Well, this world was still more or less a mystery to me. Maybe she’d get angry at how I wasted precious crocodile skin for mere sandals.
I had imagined multiple possible reactions— multiple ways this whole scenario could play out.
But I never thought that she’d start crying instead.
What? Why is she crying?
I felt my heart tighten up in guilt and anxiety. Had I done something perilous?
“Hey, why did you suddenly start crying?”
“Uh, it’s weird… I’m just so happy. Don’t you know what it means to gift someone shoes?”
“Does it have any meaning? I just thought I’d prepare something for you..”
“I see. You were unaware… W-Well, you don’t have to know for now. On the other hand, these look so well crafted.”
Luna wiped the trail of tears falling off her cheeks with the back of her hand. I can’t describe the amount of relief I felt when I realized she was crying tears of happiness instead of sadness or anger.
“Hassan, this is the first time I’ve ever received such a valuable gift… B-But what should I do? I have nothing to gift back even though you gave me something so precious…”
“What do you mean by you can’t give me anything in return? Can’t you make me a child or two?”
“Why are you so surprised? Can’t you give me one of those Moai totems or something? They are called child, right? Did you forget already?”
The bizarre carvings Luna had made, during that whole child-making fiasco, offered me the ability to increase my stats such as strength and agility by consuming 100 task points.
Instead of having to train for months or even years and invest countless efforts into increasing my stats, I could just ask Luna for a few totems and easily increase my overall parameters.
“T-Totems? Yes, a Moai… I’ll make a lot for you. I’ve got a lot of Karma after finishing this quest. Still, thanks a lot. I think these are too precious for me to wear them.”
Somehow, I felt proud of my own insight when I saw the pink-haired shaman girl rubbing the sandals on her face while sniffing them every now and then.
“I can’t just wear something so precious. It would be such a waste to dirty them.”
“Just wear them, will you? And if you’re still troubled about what to give me, then, buy me something better with your own money after you get some good income.”
“Okay, then. I’ll use them well! And, you can be sure that I’ll gift you something really good when I am able to afford it!”
Nothing could beat the feeling you get when you see the recipient of your gift liking it so much.
I think I now understand why couples would spend so much money on gifts and anniversaries back in my world.
“The subtle scent of the swamps that these shoes are giving off… I love it, it reminds me so much of Ideope.”
Luna continued to sniff the leather until the food and alcohol we had ordered were about to be served. Seeing that, she finally put them down but I could clearly perceive that she was reluctant to do so.
Come to think of it, she was living alone in a place far away from her hometown for all these years. The swamp-infused smell of the crocodile leather must have made her feel a little bit homesick.
I wondered if I intentionally made her feel depressed but I couldn’t notice any lasting feeling of sadness on her face so I just ignored that gnawing thought.
“Samaritan gentleman, here’s the pheasant you ordered. They came out pretty good too.”
“That’s not really grilled pheasant, is it?”
“How did you know?”
Wait, I thought it was only a mistake with the menu but he was actually trying to scam me, wasn’t he? Shit, what in hell is he trying to pull off?
“My health has improved a lot since the last time I saw you, by the way.”
The owner of the inn secretly whispered to me after placing the dishes on our table— where I was sitting along with Luna. This guy often tried to sneakily talk to me.
I don’t know if he was brazen or just nosy. Anyway, I was feeling great after making a lot of money so I didn’t really feel bothered or displeased by his sneaky acts.
“I’m just asking because I noticed the change, but is that really crocodile skin? It seems adventurers make quite a good amount of money. Of course, it makes sense too since you have to risk your life a lot. Ah, think of this as a special service.”
The innkeeper slammed a plate with something solid on top of it on the table. When I looked at it, I was awed at the sight of an unevenly frozen lump of ice.
“Keep it a secret from the other customers, okay? They always make a small ruckus if they can’t get their hands on some of this.”
Holy fuck, was he giving me ice cubes for free?
In this world without refrigerators, ice cubes were pricy commodities.
Let’s not even mention completely filling your stomach on a day-to-day basis, most could not even afford a single meal per day and had to starve for days on end. Ice cubes that had no use other than making your drink cooler were a luxury among luxuries in that regard.
There were about 10 coppers of ice cubes inside the plate.
“S-Special S-Service? L-Look, Hassan, it’s ice cubes!”
Luna’s hands were visibly trembling from the sheer excitement she felt at the thought of putting these cubes in her lukewarm drink. The innkeeper laughed heartily, seemingly satisfied at our honest reactions.
“A good-natured mage visited the day before yesterday. He could use ice magic without having to use a spell or any form of chants, but the shape came out a little messed up. Anyway, I was wondering if you could help me with something…”
Aha, and I was wondering why he was being so kind. Looks like it was some kind of bribe, damn it.
“What do you need? You’ll have to go through the guild if it’s a quest though.”
Personal requests and formal quests requested through the Adventurer Guild were quite different matters altogether.
Without the guild acting as an intermediary, the one offering the quest could save money, money that would most of the time go to the one being requested, netting an additional gain for the adventurers commissioned. At the same time, private contracts offered a lot more freedom in the clauses which was different from formal contracts regulated by the guild.
While the short-term gains were quite appealing, there were still risks— one of the major one being, the one commissioning the quest refusing to hand over the reward or it disappearing somehow. It was a high-risk high-reward choice, so to speak.
On the other hand, the guild would take commissioning and relay fees from the reward money for their services, but they also ensured that nothing would happen to the money and that the content of the quest wouldn’t change halfway through out of the blue.
The guild wouldn’t stay still if something like that happened.
Although each method had its advantages and drawbacks, I preferred going through the guild. The legal way was just overall better, in my opinion and there was also a plus side that personal unregulated quests could never bring…
And that was contribution and fame. Simply said, the more guild requests I accepted, and in that way, the more I brought income for the guild in commission and relay fees, the easier it would be for me to reach the silver tier and higher.
“Well, I wouldn’t have come to talk to you like this if I could do it through the guild now, would I?”
Well, the innkeeper was a native of this world and probably dealt with a lot of adventurers throughout his life. And thus, he should certainly have a good reason for this sudden and illegal request.
That probably meant that…. What he was about to say next was something for my ears only. No authorities could be privy about that matter. Shit, this is making me a bit nervous now.
“What is it then? I’ll decide after listening to your request.”
“Well, it’s regarding my wife… old age hasn’t been tender with her and her lower back is not in a good state. The alchemists at the treatment center gave me some potions for her but they weren’t very effective for some reason…”
“Ah… So, she’s having trouble with her lower back, huh…”
“Do you have free time in three days during the evening? I’ll be sure to reward you handsomely. I’ll obviously keep it a secret, I can swear it by the river Styx too if you’d like.”
Was this innkeeper asking for an illegal business massage or something along those lines? Of course, it wouldn’t be a weird massage like whatever happened last time but a true physical therapy this time around.
Doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me. I was in pressing need of a hefty amount of task points too, at the moment.
I had a need for every single point I could get my hands on since I had recently discovered that they had so many uses.
“Sigh, what a relief! I’m so grateful. Enjoy your meal then. Just ask me if you need anything.”
The innkeeper left for another table to take orders after leaving me with those parting words. I and Luna then began gobbling down the fake-pheasant meat that the dastardly innkeeper scammed me into eating.
This grilled pheasant, or whatever the fuck it was, turned out to be more delicious than this world’s standard dishes and their god-damned weird names filled to the brim with unique spices.
And so we drank barley wine while stuffing ourselves with copious amounts of meat. I soon felt full and began feeling rather tipsy from all the alcohol I chugged down my throat.
“Then you started screaming “Hwaaaaah”! I thought you went crazy for a second there, but then a miracle happened and the crocodiles actually started running away in fright.”
“Is that so? But you did well too, Hassan! I felt really afraid when you started screaming as you slashed all the goblins and crocodiles. You were just like a vicious murderer, out for blood.”
“Dayum, that bad, huh?”
Even though we didn’t have anything to snack on, our conversation was still enjoyable. It always felt great to discuss the experiences we shared together, be they good or bad. Was this great mood why every adventurer pushed themselves so hard?
Sizzling hot meat.
A cold brew.
And heavy coffers that would give you a good night’s sleep.
Not to mention, a casual stress-free conversation full of laughter with your comrades who you shared life and death with.
To the tired me, all of these felt like finding a true oasis in the middle of a blazing hot desert. It was no different from achieving paradise. I was so happy, smiling so hard that my cheekbones began hurting from the overused muscles.
“I’m going to get promoted to the bronze tier soon. T-To think I am a bonafide bronze-ranked adventurer now! I still can’t believe it. It really feels like a dream.”
Luna blinked rapidly as though she couldn’t believe that all of this was real. I was surprised too when I first heard she was getting promoted, but I quickly changed my mind after seeing how the bronze-ranked adventurers I partied with during the expedition behaved throughout the quest.
There were very few differences between iron, bronze, and silver-ranked adventurers when it came to experience and equipment; what truly differentiated them, however, was their skill. And when it came to skill, there was no chance of comparing between them, the gap was just that large. It was akin to the difference between heaven and earth.
“I’ll have to face new hardships after getting promoted to the bronze rank. I don’t know if I’m ready to face them. I’m feeling a bit scared now that I’m thinking clearly about it.”
“What are you so stressed about? Don’t worry, you’ll do well.”
I remembered Luna’s image as she viciously swung her silence totem while fighting the skeletons and goblins.
Instead of a voodoo shaman maybe the role of a physical warrioress suited her better; that was the conclusion I came to after observing her during the quest.
“Thank you for your support. Unlike what your looks might suggest, you’re really kind, Hassan.”
Well, calling an adventurer kind in this world wasn’t really a compliment in the slightest.
Only idiots that were waiting to get exploited to their very last bones were unlucky enough to be called kind in this ruthless and barbaric world…
“From your spirit, I can gleam that you grew up loved by many people. You grew up far from struggle and fighting, right?”
I got lost in myriad thoughts after hearing Luna’s evaluation of my life. As Luna just mentioned – and as I was a person from the 21st-century earth – I lived as sheltered as one could get.
Wow, Luna actually had great intuition. Has her voodoo talent finally been awakened? She then added in a whispery tone.
“But then you went on and became a savage murderer that could cut people and goblins alike in half without the slightest hesitation.”
“I had to, I’d be the one currently lying dead otherwise.”
“True. I’m happy though. We actually came back safely from the dreadful swamps of Acheron. We fought goblins, crocodiles, and even a giant skeleton dragon. It wouldn’t have been weird for us to get severely injured or leave a few limbs behind in this kind of dangerous scenario. You even faced a necromancer, Hassan. That’s amazing you know! Really amazing!!!”
Luna’s eyes were sparkling as she directed her eyes at my spoils of war – the necklace hanging around my neck – the Black Star. Holy shit, now that I think about it, I still can’t believe I just dealt with one of those overpowered necromancers, that too all alone as Hippolyte became immobile from that spell spewing out black lightning.
Previously, I was still overwhelmed by the excitement of combat and obtaining an epic-grade relic, and could only process my feelings right now.
I could only come to the disappointing conclusion that I was very lucky. It’s an actual miracle that I didn’t get a single injury from fighting the goblins, the crocodiles, and the skeletons, and even the last fight with the overpowered necromancer.
Damn, how did I even survive all that?
I began reminiscing about the past events with a slightly intoxicated mind. Soon, however, I remembered something I had forgotten in the wake of the intense battles.
“Is your ankle okay now?”
“Didn’t you trip over a stone and fall on the ground last time?”
“Ah…yeah, I did, didn’t I….?”
Luna absent-mindedly nodded as if completely clueless about her injury. No matter how clueless she might be, I never thought she’d even forget how she got injured.
“Doesn’t look like it should be hurting anymore since you forgot about it.”
“It’s actually still stinging a bit even now but I’m alright, it’s bearable.”
“It might worsen if you leave it like that. Apply some medicine or have it checked out at a health center.”
Even in the modern society, that boasted of high medical development, I came from, little injuries could easily spiral out of control and turn into life-threatening calamities.
Not to mention this superstitious world where licking a wound was expected to have a healing effect.1Finley did that in the early chapters.
“What? Going there just for this? The health center is very expensive. They’d treat me for things I didn’t ask for and would charge extra for issues that may not even exist…”
“I guess so… But it’s worth it at the end of the day. Anyway, do you want me to massage it for you then?”
It was a drunken joke. I knew Luna was reluctant to show her ankle to others and would thus not easily accept it.
“W-Well, if you don’t mind doing it…”
Holy shit… Was she really agreeing to my bullshit proposal…!?
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- 1Finley did that in the early chapters.