Chapter 8 – Disgrace
A week passed.
In all that time, I had yet to leave the area directly around the castle.
"Yo, shield brat."
I was walking around town half-naked when the owner of the weapon shop called out. Well, it was true that I had wandered in front of his building, but what business could he possibly have with me?
"I heard you tried to rape your comrade. I'm gonna hit you now."
He walked right up to me in a rage, fists clenched, with no intention of hearing me out first.
It was the same everywhere. Nobody wanted to listen to me.
As a foreigner to this world I might not really know what passes for common sense, but clearly sexually assaulting an unwilling woman was absolutely impermissible.
Still, it was strange. Even looking at this old guy preparing to beat me to death, I couldn't see anything but that bitch's face.
I clenched my fists and defiantly stood my ground.
"What's wrong? Weren't you going to hit me?"
The shopkeeper relaxed his fists and sighed.
"I changed my mind."
"Oh. Guess it's my lucky day."
No matter how low my attack score was, I was sure I could fight a normal person well enough. However, hitting people for no reason wouldn't do me any favors. If I had the time to waste on something as unproductive as that, it would be better to go out and make money to fund my future activities.
Plus, beating up on some balloons should be enough to make me feel a little better.
"Wait a minute!"
I had started walking to the castle gates, but the shopkeeper called out again. When I turned around, he tossed me a small sack.
"You look ridiculous like that. Consider this a parting gift."
Inside the bag were a slightly stained cloak and some cheap, hempen clothes.
"Five copper coins. It's on clearance."
"...Understood. I'll be sure to pay you back."
I had been worried about wandering around in my underwear, so naturally I accepted his offer.
"You better come back safe, now. Since the only thing I believe in is money!"
I changed into my new clothes, and headed to the plains to hunt Balloons.
"ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA!"
Though it still took five minutes to kill one, the fact that I wouldn't take any damage no matter how much they attacked me meant it was relatively easy work. I ended up spending the entire day fighting them just to take my mind off things, and accumulated a fair amount of balloon scraps in the process.
You have reached level 2.
Orange Small Shield and Yellow Small Shield Unlocked!
I also prepared and investigated various things. By evening, though, I realized I was starving, so I reluctantly returned to town and found my way to a merchant that dealt in monster materials. As soon as the plump little man behind the counter saw my face, he broke out into a broad, silly grin. He was obviously planning to rip me off.
There was one person in line in front of me, selling various materials.
"Hmm, yes... how does one copper coin for two pieces sound?"
The merchant pointed at the balloon scraps on the counter and assessed their value. So the going rate was half a copper coin a piece, huh...?
"Thank you very much."
The other customer left. It was my turn.
"Hey. I brought some monster materials I wanna sell."
"Of course, welcome, welcome."
Did he think I couldn't hear his greedy snicker or something?
"Ah, yes. Balloon scraps, huh? I can offer you... how does one copper coin for ten pieces sound?"
A fifth of the value! What kind of rip-off was this!?
"Didn't you just buy the same thing from the last guy for a lot more?"
"Did I? I can't seem to recall."
If things kept going like this he'd probably try to excuse himself by saying "it's just business" or something along those lines.
"Hmph. Well then."
I grabbed the merchant by his collar and pulled him toward me.
"Guh, w-what are you..."
"Why don't you buy these guys, too? They're much fresher."
A snarling Orange Balloon clamped on to the merchant's face.
After letting him thrash about for a bit, I kindly pried the monster off and gave him a kick.
"How about we drag you out to the edge of town and do our business there? I've got plenty more product in stock that I'd love to have you take a look at."
I showed off the five Balloons I had hidden under my cloak.
It was something I had thought of back in the plains. If it didn't hurt no matter how much they bit me, why not let them? Then I could tear them off and stick them on whomever I liked. It was rather brilliant, if I did say so myself. And great for negotiations.
After all, since my attack score wasn't very high, it was impossible for me to threaten people directly. Nobody would take me seriously.
This guy probably realized that as well. But even so, when I implemented my special tactic I was able to make a future where he was devoured without a trace by Balloons flash before his eyes.
"I'm not gonna force you to hand over all your money or anything, but if you don't at least give me market price things could get messy."
"You can't do this...!"
"I wonder, what sort of end do you think is in store for a merchant known for ripping off adventurers?"
That's right. For a merchant like this one, reputation was everything. If he had tried to pull a stunt like this with any other adventurer he would have gotten walloped for sure, and probably would have lost a customer to boot.
Fury burned in his eyes, but finally he relented and slumped his shoulders.
"Now, if you agree to drop the lazy strong-arm tactics and become my loyal customer, I'd be willing to accept a little less than market price."
"To be perfectly frank, I'd really like to reject that offer and never see you again. But still... I suppose the goods you're selling didn't do anything wrong."
In the end, the total sore-loser merchant bought my balloon scraps for just under market price.
"Oh, and tell everybody you know about what happened here. I want every merchant in the city to know that messing with means turning into a Balloon snack."
"Right, right. Whatever you want, you son of a bitch."
After pocketing my earnings for the day, I went straight to the weapon shop to pay back the shopkeeper for my clothes and cloak, then got dinner at a cheap restaurant. However, for some reason everything was completely devoid of flavor. I had thought it was a joke the first time it happened, but it seemed something really was wrong with my sense of taste.
As for lodgings, I didn't have any money left so I just slept in the plains! Since the Balloons there couldn't hurt me, it wasn't a problem. Well, I did wake up buried under a pile of Balloons the next morning, but it turned out that busting them apart was actually a pretty relaxing way to start the day. Plus, more dead monsters meant more cash for me!
Still, I needed a way to make money that didn't involve desperately fighting for my life. First things first, I found something to sell besides the scraps from defeated Balloons: medicinal herbs growing in the plains. It was actually pretty easy, all told. I just looked for a pharmacy wholesaler in town, memorized what their product looked like, then searched for similar-looking plants out in the wilderness.
When I tried picking one, there was a response from my shield, and the herb I had just harvested was suddenly sucked up.
Leaf Shield Unlocked.
Which reminded me, I hadn't checked the Weapon Book since I leveled up. I quickly pulled it up to confirm what I had.
Equip Bonus: Defense +3 (Mastered)
Orange Small Shield
Equip Bonus: Defense +2 (Unmastered)
Yellow Small Shield
Equip Bonus: Defense +2 (Unmastered)
Equip Bonus: Gathering Skill 1 (Unmastered)
...Right. Time for the Help screen again.
Weapon Transformation and Mastery
Weapon Transformation refers to your Legendary Weapon's ability to change form.
To activate this transformation, simply hold your hand over it, and think of the name of the weapon you wish to use.
Using weapons increases their mastery, and fully mastered weapons grant permanent bonuses.
Equip Bonus refers to the special abilities conferred by equipping different weapons.
For example, when a weapon with the Equip Bonus "Air Strike Bash" is equipped, the skill "Air Strike Bash" can be used.
Likewise, a weapon with the Equip Bonus "Attack +3" will have three points added onto its attack score.
Basically, equipping different weapons let me use different abilities, and by mastering weapons I could keep using those abilities even when I switched to something else.
As for how mastering weapons actually worked, it was probably something along the lines of "fight a lot of enemies with the same weapon equipped", right? Really, this world was seeming more and more game-ish with every new development.
Though I wasn't really excited by the prospect of more fighting, the Leaf Shield's Equip Bonus piqued my interest.
"Gathering Skill 1". From the sound of it, it was a skill that would apply some sort of bonus when gathering herbs.
Right now, I was completely broke. My very survival depended on being able to get the highest quality goods for the least amount of effort, so I switched to the Leaf Shield without even an ounce of hesitation. With a wind-like swooshing sound, the Small Shield on my arm transformed into a green shield made of vegetation.
...However, my defense didn't drop at all. Probably because the Small Shield was already so weak to begin with.
I decided to test it out by picking one of the herbs growing in front of me.
It came up easily, with a nice sound. As it did, I could almost swear it shimmered with a faint light.
Gathering Skill 1
Aello (Quality: Normal -> Good)
An herb used in medicinal salves.
A window popped up to report the change. Amazingly, it seemed the skill was even more useful than I had imagined.
After that, I passed the day wandering around the plains gathering herbs and stuffing them into my bag like it was my job. I couldn't tell you if that was the reason or if it was something else, but I managed to master the Leaf Shield almost immediately. I took the opportunity to go ahead and master the other colors in the Small Shield series as well.
With that done, I returned to town to sell my wares.
"Oh? These are pretty good quality. Where did you get them?"
"From the plains outside town. You couldn't tell?"
"Hmm. Were there really goods of this quality out there...? It's a little hard to believe..."
I chatted with the merchant as he completed the transaction. All in all, I ended up with one silver coin and fifty copper coins. A new income record! I decided to get dinner at the tavern with my newfound wealth. While I was eating, various people kept approaching me saying they wanted to become my ally, but not a single one looked even the least bit trustworthy.
...Ever since that day, nothing has had any taste.
Each new bite I took made me painfully aware of that fact.
"Hey, Shield Hero, why don't you partner up with me?"
Somebody called out condescendingly. Honestly, I just wanted to ignore it. But then I saw his eyes. He had the same eyes as that bitch. Something inside me snapped.
"Sure, why not. Shall we go over the terms?"
I needed to calm down. A guy like this, if I left now he'd just follow me.
"First of all, wages will be completely piece-work. Do you know what that means?"
I really wanted to punch his stupid face in!
"Basically, it's a method for determining how much of our adventuring income you get. For instance, say we earned 100 silver coins. As the leader, I get a minimum of 40% no matter what, with the rest distributed to you based on your performance. If you did all the work, we'll split the money, whereas if you simply stood by and watched you get nothing. Of course, the actual amount I give you will vary at my discretion.
"What the hell? Isn't that just sayin' you're gonna monopolize everything!?"
"If you do your part there's no problem, right? Assuming you're up to it."
"Well, whatever, I accept. Let's go buy equipment now, 'kay?"
"...Go buy it yourself. It's not my job to dress you."
Probably, the equipment had been his real goal. Once he had that, he'd just rob me and run off somewhere. He really was just like that bitch.
"Oh, fuck it, just give me all your money!"
"Huh? What's a Balloon doing here!?"
"Oh god it hurts!"
The Balloon sent the tavern into an uproar, but that wasn't any of my concern. I plucked my Balloon off that noisy idiot, left the money for my meal on the table, and walked out into the night. Were there no honest people in this world? It seemed like every last one of them just saw other people as prey to be devoured.
At any rate, I gathered money like that little by little, the same events repeating day in and day out. And before I knew it, two weeks had passed.