He'd set out nearly an hour ago, and somehow managed to get absolutely nowhere. He'd thought he'd gotten all of the information necessary to carry out his inconvenient task, but there was one thing the woman had failed to mention.
He'd thought that since the place seemed small he could just walk around until he stumbled across the stables, but apparently his recent string of bad luck was holding out.
"I swear I've passed that blacksmith five times," he mumbled to himself. It wouldn't have been so bad had the sun not been beating down on him the whole time. As it was, he was nearly dying of thirst, and each time the wind blew in a particular direction he could smell fresh baking bread, a cruel reminder of the fact that he hadn't eaten since dinner last night.
It was as he was passing by a shop specializing in archery equipment that a woman's wordless shout tore through the air. Spotting her in the crowd, he saw a man darting straight towards him, looking back over his shoulder, cradling a small bag in his arms.
"Thief!" the woman shouted in a panic. "Thief!"
She'd caught the attention of everyone nearby, but nobody else seemed to be in much of a position to do anything.
The man had just noticed him, but it was too late to change direction. They were on a collision course.
Clenching his teeth, all Seth had time to do was bend at the knee, driving his shoulder into the guys chest. He tried to twist in mid air to land on top, but apparently it was harder actually pull off than most movies would have you believe, and he wound up crashing into the compacted dirt. It was hardly better than falling on concrete.
Fortunately he must have knocked the breath out of the guy because he didn't make any immediate move to get up, allowing Seth to slip out and yank the bag away.
The thief gave up his prize surprisingly easy, and without a moment to spare got up and sprinted away just as the people in the town were closing in on him. But he didn't get away before spitting out one line in Seth's direction.
"So much for honor among thieves!"
The meaning didn't sink in for a moment, until suddenly it clicked, and a sickening feeling washed over him. The very reason he was in this place was because of what he'd done. It wasn't a sudden revelation about his actions that'd shaken him, however, but the fact that that guy seemed to know what he'd done.
He didn't have much time to dwell on the thought as suddenly the woman had materialized in front of him. She showered him in thanks and praise, but what he found strange was the atmosphere of disappointment surrounding them.
"I only wish there was some way I could thank you," she finished. And, after a moment, began digging around in her bag. "Here," she said, offering out her hand, holding some small red stone. "I don't have any need for it, so maybe you could put it to use."
As soon as the stone touched his skin, she was already darting away out of sight. "Th-Thank you!" he shouted after her, though he had no idea whether she heard him or not. Holding it up to the light, Seth ran his fingers over the perfectly smooth ruby red stone.
Despite his gut reaction, he knew it couldn't possibly be a gem stone. People didn't just trade around gems like that. It was the same size and shape as an egg, though it felt quite a bit heavier. Taking a closer look, he decided it came to too sharp of a point to really be called egg shaped. But what, then?
"I wonder what she meant by that," me mumbled as the crowd began to disperse, business returning to the usual. A use? Well, it was shiny and pretty, but he couldn't really say he had a use for it either.
Catching him off guard was a wolf whistle just behind him. It'd come from a young man, maybe just a year or two older than him, leather armor on his shins and wrists with a quiver strung over his back. "That's a pretty nice catch from a little event like that," the guy began. "I'd put it away before someone tries to steal it."
Seth gave the guy a wry smirk, tucking the stone into his pocket. This earned him a curious look from the man. He started looking Seth over in a way that made him very uncomfortable, and the troubled look on the guy's face only grew darker. Finally, he said "You're new, aren't you?"
Seth wasn't really sure how to respond to that. He had no reason to lie, but some part of him was compelled to. Regardless, it felt like the guy already knew the answer to the question either way, so what he said didn't matter much.
" I am," he answered cautiously.
The guy smiled in a way that was more analytical than amused. "I'm guessing you don't know how to ride a horse or else you'd have been long gone, huh?"
"And how'd you come to that conclusion so easily?"
"Been there, done that," the guy answered with a casual wave of the hand, leaning against the wall behind him. "So, I'll level with you. I only came back here because I wanted that rare drop."
Drop? Seth had to wonder. Could he be talking about that red stone?
"I'll teach you everything you need to know to survive here in exchange for the Teardrop."
"By Teardrop," Seth clarified, "you do mean this, right?" He held the rock out in his palm.
"Yes, yes, and I'll give you your first lesson for free. Say, 'Store'."
"Store?" Seth echoed back to him.
"No, with more conviction. Store!"
Feeling like a moron, he fully anticipated this to be some kind of joke. But the guys interest in the red rock, or Teardrop as he called it, seemed to be genuine. If he just played along for now, he might actually get something out of this. "Store!"
What happened next was something he could've never been prepared for. The red stone began to glow faintly, turning a pearlescent white in his palm. And as he watched, it dissolved into a thousand white particles, before drifting away in the wind.
"Wh- Wh- Wh-" he couldn't make sense of what had just happened. It had been there in his palm one second, and gone the next. "What did you do?" he finally demanded.
"Not a thing," the guy assured him. "That was just your inventory system."
The guy gave a dry laugh. "Welcome to Crown."