Dungeon Diver: Stealing A Monster's Power - C.209

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We approach the desert village and my eyes widen as I take in the view.

This place looks so alive...

There are kids playing and villagers buying and selling goods in the streets.

Mana crystals, potions, food, handmade clothing, and all kinds of other magical items fill the tables and tents that line the streets.

As soon as we approach, an older man greets us. He's no more than 160cm tall, wearing a pale red robe, and sporting a wide smile across his wrinkled face.

I use Inspect and Appraisal as he gets closer.

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[Lv. 271]

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Active Items:

[Robe of Protection] +100 Defense

[Enchanted Silver Ring] +40% Mental Strength

[Enchanted Salamander Leather Boots] +30% Speed +50% Fire Resistance

Active Skills:

Appraisal

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Once I see his Appraisal skill, I activate conceal to hide the majority of my abilities and rare items.

The man speaks up.

"Welcome outsiders. Please, do state your business."

With a kind look remaining on his face after the initial greeting, the old man's gaze scans over each of us. I watch his left eye twitch, but he keeps a cool and collected expression even after seeing some of my teammate's gear.

The man doesn't seem overly impressed. He is a pretty high level, after all, maybe he was a hunter in his younger years.

Arie speaks up.

"I'm a native, from a village right outside Solara. Just a few days from here by foot. These 3 are from outside the walls, but they're with me. We're just stopping by for the night on our way to visit my hometown. If you'll allow it, of course."

The dark-haired archer bows slightly, and the old man nods while clasping his hands together.

"Very well. If you're from inside the walls, you know the rules. Whatever trouble you make is on you."

He points off to one of the larger buildings in the town and continues to speak.

"I'm sure the mercenary guild has a few rooms available for you if need be. A hot meal too. If you can't afford it, there's work available for hunters of your caliber."

Arie raises his head and thanks the old man. Maria, Abby, and I walk by giving him polite nods, but not saying a word.

I whisper under my breath as we get further away.

"That went well..."

I look to my left and right, seeing the vendors at closer range.

There are all kinds of E and D class gear lining the tables and shelves of the wooden, fabric, and stone stalls. It looks like excellent quality.

There are large mana crystals glimmering bright pink out on wooden tables, and the rings, potions, and unique-looking artifacts are polished to look as good as new. It doesn't exactly match the rugged handmade quality of the town around us.

What's even more concerning is the lack of people buying this premium gear. The sellers all eye us as we walk by.

I speak up louder, so Arie can hear.

"Hey- where do all these items come from? Are there dungeons out here? Or special trade routes...? All this gear looks brand new, it's nicer than some of the stuff in the capital!"

The archer looks back at me, with a puzzled look on his face.

"Honestly, I have no idea. There are dungeons and some traveling merchants, sure... but the last time I stopped by this village was on my way to take the C-Class exams. There weren't nearly as many people, and that was only a few weeks ago... It's more crowded than I've ever seen it."

He looks to both sides, matching the friendly expressions of the villagers.

The further in we approach the center of town, the more crowded it gets. More and more people, dressed in all different kinds of clothing, selling very different styles of gear and items.

Something is definitely out of place, Arie's assessment of the village seems to be spot on. I'm not sure how or when, but recently there's been a large influx of new villagers.

I wonder why...

We make it to the front of the dome-shaped mercenary guide to see a large man standing out in front of wooden tavern-style doors.

He wears a full set of lightweight leather armor and carries a large silver axe. The man has dark sun-baked skin and short dirty blond hair. He's muscular and easily 190cm tall.

Arie and I stand up front while Maria and Abby follow.

He speaks.

"You 4 new to town? What brings ya by the guild? If you're looking for some decent work around here, you better be strong. Competition is tough."

The archer nods and answers.

"That's fine, we're not looking for work anyways. Just hoping to buy a few rooms for the night, that's all."

The brute grins.

"Outsiders with deep pockets, huh? How could I refuse."

He steps aside from the front door, and we walk inside. There are rows of crowded tables with rougher-looking hunters making a ruckus. 𝐟𝐫eewe𝗯𝐧𝚘ve𝐥.c𝚘𝚖

The clean, well-dressed vendors and children lining the streets are nothing like the men and women inside here.

Laugher, conversation, and the occasional sound of metal on metal from armor and weapons clinking fill my ears. This is where rogues and traveling hunters congregate to make their money.

We walk in and I feel the gaze of a few too many eyes on me.

Over 2 dozen roughians turn to see who came in the front door from their tables filled with drinks, food, silver, and stacks of paper.

There's a massive pinboard to my left side. It's one of the first things I notice when entering the room. Some of the quests posted immediately catch my eye. They're made of the same tough paper material that is resting on many of the tables in the bar.

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[Salamander Skin] x60 : 4 Silver

[Mana Crystals] 5000MU : 6 Silver

[Escort: 50km Travel] : 8 Silver

[Element Stone: Fire] x1 : 27 Silver

[Mana Crystals] 10000MU : 11 Silver

[Escort: 120km Travel] : 15 Silver

[Salamander Skin] x100 : 10 Silver

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On it, there are dozens of quests and jobs with payment details.

At the top of the list, there seem to only be items relating to pure mana crystals, escort protection through the desert, and some drops from Salamanders.

Coincidently, that's the same mob that came running at us in the desert before we got here.

The payment offers seem very low... I can get almost 10x the same rate for mana crystals back in the capital. Plus, I've never even seen an element stone for sale, I'd assume they're worth many gold.... Not 27 silver...

It is a bidding system, so the only offers are from people in town that need certain items or services. There's no set price, it just depends on what people are willing to pay.

Many other quests are buried below the current ones with lower bounties and more obscure items.

My gaze finally leaves the pile of papers pinned to the wall when the bright flaming magic enters my field of view.

I swiftly turn my body around and hear the raspy voice of an arrogant-sounding desert rogue.

"How about this old man! Another one in the books, hand over the 27 silver haha! It only took me a few hours to take that beast down. A good day's work indeed."

A tall hunter with black slicked-back hair, a tight white shirt, golden jewelry, and very tan skin turns to show the room a toothy grin while he holds up a flickering Firestone in his right hand.

I use Inspect and Appraisal on him and the item in his hand.

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[Lv. 326]

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Active Items:

[Element Stone][Fire Aspect]

[Enchanted Boots] +35% Speed

[Enchanted Gold Ring] +50% Mental Strength

[Gold Necklace of Protection] +45% Defense

[Enchanted Gold Bracelet] +45% Mental Strength

Active Skills:

Combat Magic [Fire Summoning]

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An old white-haired man at the long wooden counter in the back of the guild room quickly rummages through items on the floor until he takes out a small humming containment tray.

The rugged hunter drops the flaming stone into the tray and It rattles, throwing sparks up in the air. The tray is clearly an old one and isn't doing a perfect job of keeping all the element-imbued mana contained.

I activate my All-Seeing Eye to watch large amounts of blood-red magic seep out.

The man at the back table begins to count out silver coins with his head down, not making eye contact with the rude hunter.

The moment he stops counting, the fire user grabs the coins and turns around to leave.

"Thanks, I'll be back to clear the highest bounty tomorrow too. Hopefully, there's another request for those fire stones, they're easy pickings. A great workout too!"

With a confident look across his face, the man puffs out his chest and starts walking through the crowd of wondering eyes.

A thin, younger looking light blond-haired man speaks up.

I can feel the tension in the room as he raises a hand and jumps in front of the large fire-wielding rogue's path.

"H-Hey sir, how much would it cost for you to clear the break? Y-You seem to be strong enough to do so, our village, a small one off to the east about 1km has been-"

He cuts off the frail man.

"Not for sale. This break is a cash cow! Haha!"

He smirks, pushing the scrawny man out of the way as he passes paying him no mind.

"I have 50, no 100 silver. Everything I have, think of the children in-"

The fire user swings open the guild's wooden doors and leaves without hearing another word.

There's an awkward silence in the air for a moment.

The blond-haired man looks down at the ground with a frown across his face. I feel bad for the guy for a moment, but the mood in the room quickly changes.

The chatter and laughter of other rogues and mercenaries starts to pick up again. I watch the older white-haired man at the front of the room wiping his forehead of sweat, then he puts on a smile.

The 4 of us take advantage of the situation and continue our walk through the guild. Now, with much less attention on us after that debacle.

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