The Path of Stealth
As soon as Hikaru left the Adventurers Guild, he made his way to a certain place, pondering things along the way.
So the Four Stars of the East are going to search for Lavia. Definitely not what I expected.
Hikaru was eavesdropping right outside Unken’s office. He checked Selyse’s Soul Board as well.
【Soul Board】Selyse Lande
Age: 19 Rank: 41
She was strong. Not as strong as the captain of the knights Lawrence, who was also known as a Master Swordsman. Her fighting style was most likely different from him as well. Unlike the captain, who relied on instinct and brute strength to mow down his enemy in one blow, Selyse looked to be the type to rely on her speed.
She doesn’t stand a chance against me, though.
Hikaru might lose in a simple one-on-one, but a one-on-one where anything goes, he was confident he’d win. Lawrence had his Instinct, but Selyse didn’t. Her scouting skill was the same as the average person.
A party, huh…
The Four Stars of the East was a party of four women. It was safe to assume that one of them excelled at scouting. Selica, who looked to be someone from a different world, had those monstrous stats, so its either of the other two members. Lawrence alone was absurdly powerful. It seemed necessary to assess the strength of the Four Stars as a group.
Soon enough Hikaru arrived at the sewers. He wanted to see Kelbeck of the Thieves Guild. As always the air was damp. Amidst the smell of mold, he caught a whiff of something sweet, coming perhaps from fruits picked by bats. In one area of the sewer system were residential quarters, and Kelbeck was in one of the rooms there.
「…Son of a!」
Hikaru called out to Kelbeck out of nowhere, causing the man, who was glued to his desk, to be taken aback. He had red flame-like tattoos that ran from his forehead to his right cheek, to the back of his neck and down to his body.
「Y-You ass! I told you the next time you come to go through the front.」
「I didn’t see anyone.」
「Not that again. Well, whatever. So what do you want? First there was that fellow, and now you… Do kids these days not have any manners?」
「That fellow? Who?」
「She’s a little older than you and had fluffy hair. You didn’t pass by each other?」
I didn’t pass by her… I think. The way Kelbeck said it, it seemed she was just here a few moments ago. A woman a little older than Hikaru.
A member of the Four Stars of the East.
He didn’t expect them to come here before him. They most likely passed by each other in the sewers, and that sweet smell must’ve come from her.
Did she notice me? Nah, I doubt it. It was too dark.
Hikaru glanced at every corner of the room, thinking perhaps she was lurking close by. It was his first time having a close encounter with someone who could use Stealth and it made him feel uncomfortable. He was both lucky and unlucky.
Had he arrived a little bit earlier, he would’ve heard what the two of them were talking about. If, however, he arrived way earlier, the woman could’ve eavesdropped on them instead.
Should I add more points to both Life and Mana Detection? I don’t have a lot of points left, though.
Hikaru thought he could beat Selyse in a one-on-one. But against someone who could use Stealth, he realized he couldn’t. It would be a draw. The enemy wouldn’t be able to see him, but he wouldn’t be able to see the enemy either.
「What are you looking around for?」Kelbeck asked, puzzled.
「Did she mention her name?」
「She did. Sarah of the Four Stars of the East.」
「Did you tell her about me?」
「I would never sell a paying client out. Even if they’re a cocky brat.」
Hikaru hired Kelbeck for Lavia’s escape, in which he asked for a man to distract Nogusa and his party. It was a safety measure he had to take since he had no points in Group Obfuscation back then. Even if he did, he had no idea how effective the Skill was.
「She wanted information so I gave her some, took some money, and shooed her away.」
It seemed the Four Stars of the East came here to search for information. The daughter of a Count had disappeared. They most likely assumed that someone from the underworld pulled some strings. They were right in coming here. Hikaru was struck with fear. The good thing was they didn’t know that Kelbeck himself was involved in stopping the carriage.
「Just to be sure, is the fellow I hired safe?」
「Yeah. He’s a peddler. Right now, he should be in a port city about two mountains away from here buying stocks. He won’t be back in Pond until spring next year. There’s no way he’ll get tracked.」
「What? You had doubts about the way I do things?」
「Man, you’re infuriating. Get outta here!」
「I’m here today as a client.」
Hikaru took out some coins from his leather bag.
「Tell me everything you know about the Four Stars of the East.」
That evening, Hikaru went straight back to the hotel. In the end, he wasn’t able to see Jill, but there was nothing he could do about that. The Four Stars of the East could be in the Adventurers Guild. He had seen the faces of Selica Tanoue and Selyse Lande – the latter he saw from afar as she left the guild. The other two were named Sarah and Sophie Bloomfield. Kelbeck described both their appearances in detail – for a hefty price of 10,000 gilans – but he could still mistake them for someone else. He couldn’t rely on verbal description alone. It was also possible that Sarah used Stealth.
After careful consideration, Hikaru decided to put points on his Mana Detection. Why didn’t he choose Life Detection? It was because he recalled the cloak Princess Kudyastoria wore. He could only sense her with Mana Detection back then.
Hikaru paid a visit to Dodorono’s shop to ask the dwarf if it was possible to make equipment that had cloaking capabilities. He said that with expensive materials, it could be done – a gear that could conceal the wearer’s scent, heat, and overall presence. In other words, things that were related to Life Obfuscation and Imperceptibility.
Mana Obfuscation was still a fairly unknown Skill apparently. So Hikaru thought that Sarah most likely excelled in either Life Obfuscation or Imperceptibility. It was nothing more than speculation, of course. But he didn’t have unlimited points, so he thought it’d be best to put what he had on Mana Detection.
His soul rank had gone up three levels; two from Lavia destroying the Goblin settlement and one from killing a few monsters afterwards. He put two points on Mana Detection and a new Skill branched out from it called Detection Expansion.
【Detection Expansion】Extends detection range. Max: 3.
After mulling it over, he put one point on Detection Expansion. Even Unken only had two points on Mana Obfuscation. Hikaru doubted Sarah had three points or more on hers.
Right now, there was no way of knowing if he made the right choice, but one thing was certain: Expansion was one hell of a Skill. Three points on Mana Detection gave him a search range of thirty meters. With one point on Detection Expansion, it went up to almost a hundred meters.
He could see soft, blue flames outside the walls – signs of people. It was like one of those cheats in first-person shooter games where one could see enemies behind walls.
Though in order to find out who’s using Stealth, he had to use his actual sight as well. If he saw blue flames with his Skill, but his eyes couldn’t perceive anyone, then that person was using Stealth. It was quite annoying. Plus he had to get as close to five meters to even check their Soul Board.
I wanted to improve my fighting Skills or Stamina, but I suppose I’ll just have to take it one step at a time.
Hikaru’s Vitality and Magical Power were still unlocked. If possible, he wanted to use magic as well. But he also wanted to master both Stealth and anti-Stealth. Right now, he needed to eliminate the danger.
Lavia was reading the botanical picture book when she noticed Hikaru’s return.
「I have some bad news.」
「Aren’t you supposed to say “I’ve got good news and bad news. What do you want to hear first?”」
「What is this, some American TV series?」
「Ah, no. It’s nothing. The bad news is…」
Hikaru told Lavia about how the Four Stars of the East were most likely looking for her. He left the part about Kelbeck and the women’s Skills, however.
「I see… Are we leaving town, then?」
「No. We’d only draw suspicion if we left. We came back to Pond knowing they would be here. We’ll just have to carry out what we need to do.」
「I’ll get to rank E tomorrow then we’re going out of town.」