At everyone's agreement, including Mia's, she was taken outside the tavern to a cave on the outskirts of Clearlight Town.
She did consider trying to tank her so-called escorts' attacks with her hidden Slime Armor and making an escape, but decided against it. It didn't seem worth it to her to have come this far only to run away. After all, didn't she want to learn some thief class skills and obtain a thief sub-class in the first place?
The entrance to the cave was secluded in a remote hilly area where even magical beasts were scarce. Upon arriving, Dega pulled out a small booklet from his tunic and lightly tossed it over to Mia.
"This is a [Ransack] skill book, a basic skill for locating valuable items," Dega informed her. "Do you know how to read?"
Mia nodded in affirmation. "I was taught from a young age." Well, the truth was that no normal child as young as she was would normally be able to read anything more than children's stories, but she couldn't say that now, could she?
Dega believed it to be the result of her upbringing and scowled at the reminder, but paid it no mind. At any rate, it remained to be seen if Mia would be able to pass this little trial or not that he had in mind for her.
"Your task is to explore this cave and bring back the most valuable item you can find within it to me. It's not a very large cave. I estimate that it would only take thirty minutes at most to finish exploring – if it was uninhabited, that is. You see, there's also some weak monsters inside. Don't say I didn't warn you. You need to have at least some level of strength if you want to prove to us that you're worthy of working together with."
Dega paused for a moment here. "Oh, and, by the way, this is the only exit, so don't get any funny ideas. We'll be waiting right here for you. If you can't bring me the correct item, that means you don't have the strength or the talent to discern and bring back whatever's the most valuable item inside. This is the trial cave I've used to test everyone who's wanted to join me, so you're going through what everyone else did. It'll be completely fair. If you're not worthy of working together with us, we'll just have to think of some other method to make use of you."
Mia noticed that the man with the sinister expression grinned upon hearing this. She really was going to have to do something about him in the future, but knew that she first needed to concentrate on this little "Cave of Trials".
As for "fairness"?
Mia was only a young girl still, a fact evident for anyone to see. She was supposed to undergo a trial meant for adult men, even if it was only a beginner-level trial? How ludicrous. Still, Mia knew that it wouldn't be wise to speak up about her opinion.
Besides, Mia had her own plans. She needed to make them accept her so that she could finally have her first batch of followers that would do her bidding, no matter how shady these followers seemed.
She wanted more resources at her disposal before she made her move against her father Count Hart. What was she, a single little girl, supposed to do against an entire mansion's worth of roughly thirty servants as well as the fifty or so members of the Hart army stationed in the nearby barracks? It was impossible, no matter how you looked at it. It didn't matter even if Colson was added into the equation.
And even if she removed Count Hart from the equation somehow, she couldn't possibly rule an entire domain by herself. Mia had asked her personal tutor before regarding what would happen to underaged noble heirs, and learned that the royal capital would send a guardian noble to manage the domain in her stead. There was no telling what type of person would arrive.
That's why Mia wanted more support first – where the support came from didn't matter to her. She was the type who valued the result over the means. If she could get these thieves on her side instead of them becoming her enemy, that would complete the first step of her plan. Relying on the power of friendship and true companions? She felt that relationships of mutual benefits were far more trustworthy.
'Still, a bunch of low-level thieves like them? Isn't this just like the typical game scenario where they always throw some small-time hoodlums at the main character at the beginning of the game? Such characters are typically incredibly weak and easy to defeat. However, the current me isn't even strong enough to take any one of them on."
Mia could only smile wryly at her own current lack of power. Even if she suddenly attacked one of the men, at worst she would probably only leave a bruise. It was questionable whether she even had enough physical strength to knock any of the men unconscious. Mia knew her own body's limits quite well after all her practicing with Colson.
The cave was completely pitch-black inside and Mia wondered if she would have to rely entirely on her [Detection] minimap skill once inside. She stepped inside the cave to take a better look.
To her surprise, all the torches embedded in sconces on the walls suddenly lit up magically for no apparent reason. It was now more than simple enough for her to see her way without stumbling.
"What just happened? Why did all these torches suddenly light up?" Mia inquired out of curiosity.
Dega sent Mia a condescending look. "You don't even know about the God of Adventurers' blessing? He oversees all who would risk themselves on an adventure for glory or treasure or whatever else. His blessing provides magical lights in places where there are none to be found. Not only that, he even provides treasure chests filled with helpful items for any daring adventurer. Your challenge is to bring back only the most valuable item for me, which will prove to me that you have the strength and knowledge to obtain The fact that the torches are lighting up is evidence that the God of Adventurers is acknowledging your spirit," he said with a hint of surprise at the end.
The God of Adventurers? Mia felt like her jaw was almost about to hit the ground. She knew that there were multiple gods in this world and numerous religions, but hadn't paid much attention to studying them. Hoplia's dominant local religion worshiped the Elemental Lords, not the gods, which was the extent of her knowledge. She wasn't the highly religious type, and thought that the gods wouldn't have anything to do with her either, as no god had ever appeared before her and taken credit for her reincarnation.
Mia was now feeling that she still had much to learn in order to catch up to and truly become a resident of this new world she was in. The God of Adventurers sounded like a complete handwave on how treasure chests would always magically appear untouched for game players, or how caves and dungeons that should have theoretically been pitch-black were always well-lit without the players so much as carrying a light.
She couldn't help but want to learn more about such mechanics as they would be of great use to her in this world. "Treasure chests? Are they one time only or refillable? Do they appear for everyone?"
Well, perhaps it was only natural that her interest was piqued by this topic. What gamer wouldn't love the idea of treasure chests?
However, she could tell from Dega's tone that he was apparently becoming impatient with her as he answered. "Treasure chests? Only those acknowledged by the God of Adventurers can see them; not just anyone can open them up freely. Just hurry up and start your trial already! I don't have the time for all your questions."
Mia was somewhat disappointed at not learning everything she wanted to know. However, she put her disappointment behind her. After all, it wasn't like Dega was her teacher or even friend yet, so she couldn't possibly expect him to be that patient or kind. She could always experiment by herself later, or ask Colson about what he knew.
Just as she prepared herself and began walking inside the cave, Dega called out to her again, seeming to think of something. "Take this with you," he said gruffly as he tossed a small pouch to her. "You're of no worth to us dead. Open this up and scatter it if you're in danger – it's very low level magic beast repellent. Should be more than enough to save you if you're in a pinch. Of course, you fail the test if you use any. I'll be checking to make sure if you've touched this or not at the end."
Was this his way of trying to ensure that she didn't die in there? Mia supposed that was probably a good sign of sorts. Still, that also meant that the magic beasts inside would be potentially dangerous. Mia accepted the pouch and gave her thanks.
She then went deeper inside the cave until the passageway took a turn and she could no longer see the men waiting at the cave's entrance. Mia summoned out her Wind Slime to give it some exercise, as it had been cooped up, hidden on her body for the entire day so far. She then began taking a look at the [Ransack] skill book.
Skill books. So, this game concept, like many others, existed as well? Mia idly wondered if the fact that people could learn skills from books was a contributing factor to the high literacy level for a world with only medieval technology.
[Ransack] was a basic skill that would teach a person how to identify certain non-mundane items' mana wavelengths. This was an active skill which could scan in a certain radius around the user for valuable items.
Mia had a different idea for it, however. Weren't minimaps in many games conveniently equipped with the function to identify items or treasure chests on the map? Mia wanted to see if she could pull off something similar and upgrade her mental minimap.
Presently, she had the ability to identify living creatures' mana waves over the air currents at a roughly fifteen-meter radius. However, that was only when outdoors – she noticed that the radius was drastically reduced whenever she was indoors or in enclosed areas like this cave.
However, that was it – she could only identify mana wavelengths for living creatures, but not for anything that wasn't magical in nature. Basically, she could only sense magical beasts and humans, while ordinary non-magic creatures and plants were excluded. It remained to be seen if she could find magical plants, but she didn't have any available to test that out on.
Nor was she capable of sensing specific terrain features. In the end, her mental minimap function worked just like a blinking array of dots that she could keep track of in her mind. It was far more inconvenient than an actual minimap function in any video game and was probably closer to radar instead.
It took Mia about ten minutes to get down the basics of sensing items' mana wavelengths. Suddenly, a faint small blue dot appeared in her mind, right on top of her. Mia didn't think that she had anything that valuable on her, though.
Was it her wooden sword? Mia unbuckled it and placed it a few meters away. However, the light blue dot was still on top of her. She then tried putting the [Ransack] skill book together with the sword. That worked! She now saw the light blue dot a small distance away from her.
The skill book wasn't consumed after usage and remained perfectly usable. Still, that didn't mean that anyone could just learn any skill they wanted. People were limited to learning skills only related to their main and sub job classes.
Mia continued integrating her newly learned [Ransack] skill and succeeded in being able to sense items passively without having to use [Ransack] as an active skill. This was a lot more convenient, as it meant she wouldn't have to constantly stop and scan around her. She definitely planned on taking inspiration from other features from her previous world and creating her own magic spells or modifying existing ones in the future as well.
Since Mia had learned [Ransack] successfully, she knew that meant she probably successfully received a sub class along with this new skill. She didn't have Colson and his Status Stone with her, so she would check her own status later. However, what she didn't realize was that Dega and his crew were all bandits, not thieves or even members of the Thieves Guild. This meant that the job class she actually received from Dega wasn't thief at all. Instead, she became a bandit, with no way to change her sub class…
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