Many months have passed since we moved to Ingralowe.
My current routine revolves around finishing daily chores, practicing some alchemy, writing notes from the magic textbooks, and a trip to the forest for some combat training or to feed the Man Eater every once in a while.
It’s a pretty peaceful life.

Olivia is free from school today, so she’ll be hanging out with her two demi-human friends.
I accompany Olivia to the dorm’s entrance, and then turn around to practice some alchemy, but Amy tells me to please go with them too.

“There’s something we want you to see.”

They tell me that, so I accompany them into the city.
It’s still pretty early so most of the stores haven’t opened yet, but apparently that’s better for what they want.

“Natalia, apparently there’s a new shop in the city!”
“Hey, I thought we agreed we’d take care of my business first!”
“U-umm, please wait for me, you two.”

Olivia runs ahead full of excitement, while Amy scolds her.
They bring me to a rather large store, with a sign that reads ‘Nekome Store, Western Ingralowe St.
I think this is one of the stores operated by Amy’s family.

“We’ve been waiting for you, esteemed friends of Amy’s.”

A middle-aged man comes out and greets us with a hunched stance.
He’s the manager of the store.

“Take us to the place where it’s being sold.”
“Please follow me then.”

The manager leads us to the books section.

“Many clients were skeptical at first, but it’s become one of our hottest items.”
“Heheh, you heard him, Natalia.”

Amy turns around and looks at me with a proud look on her face.
I’m actually happy it’s selling well too.

“Manager, this is Natalia, the author of the book.”
“Ohh, so that was you.
It’s an honor to meet you.”

“The pleasure’s mine, let’s keep working together.”

The manager greets me, and then starts discussing the sales with Amy.

“For now most of the clients looking for it are students, but every now and then someone older asks for it too.
I’m sure the sales will keep growing as word spreads.”
“That’s a very promising start then.”
“It does sound that way.
This reference book only covers half the topics in the ‘Fundamentals of Magic Theory’ textbook used in the first year of school, but I’m almost done with the manuscripts for the remaining half, so it should be ready in a few days.”

I’m working hard on the book since it also helps my own magic practice, and I feel like I’ll finish in around a week.
After that I’m thinking of focusing a bit on magic circles and the different branches of magic and their uses.

“Hmmm, I feel like it’s a bit too soon to release a follow-up.
I think we should focus on making sure every single student knows about it first.
Also if we time the second release at the same time as those topics become relevant in school, there will be more demand for it.”
“You have a point, I’ll leave you in charge of deciding that then,.”
“Mhm, I also need to talk with the guys doing the printing first.”

I had the upper hand during negotiations, but Amy is taking full control of everything here.
In a way, she’s telling me not to get involved with the business side of things.
Then again, that makes things easier for me, so unless she does something extremely bad, I don’t plan on contradicting her.

“Oh yeah, I heard they study alchemy and magic device creation in the second half of the year, but since that depends a lot on every person’s affinity, I heard theory is prioritized above practical skills.
I guess there might be a demand for reference books for that too?”

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Out of the blue, I’m offered a new work opportunity.
That sounds so business-like that I’m starting to enjoy this as well though.

“Hmm, I also have a personal interest in that, so I’d like to give it a try.”

I’m already using alchemy from time to time to create potions, or purify metals, and knowledge about magic devices ought to help me maintain the magic devices Ophelia left behind.

I really want to learn those topics in depth.
Writing those notes also helps me focus when studying, so I’ll keep working hard at it.

“Natalia, Nataliaaa.”

I feel something tugging at my sleeve so I turn around and see Olivia, frowning as she looks bored.

“Are you done talking about complicated stuff? I want to look around the store.”

Apparently she’s been waiting for us to finish all this time.
Meanwhile Christina is really engaged reading one of the reference books on display.

I look at Amy and the manager, Amy replies with a slight shrug.

“That’s all I really wanted to talk with you about.
I still have some things to discuss with the manager, but you two can go on ahead.”
“If you’ll excuse us then.”

Amy waves at us, and Christina is too absorbed in reading my book, so Olivia and I leave them as we tour the store.

The moment Natalia and Olivia left, Amy’s expression stiffened.

“Manager, have there been any updates on the incident?”
“I could tell you but…”

The manager answers with a glance at Christina.
That was something he only wanted to discuss with other merchants, so he did not want an outsider to hear about it.

“Ah, don’t worry about her.
Chris is a noble’s daughter, so I’m sure she already knows about it, maybe even more than I do.”

Hearing that, the manager looked around the store to make sure there was no one else nearby, then began whispering.

“Alright then.
So the first case was around two months ago, when they found a female adventurer’s body in the Valhen woods with her heart ripped out.”

It was common knowledge that being an adventurer was a dangerous job.
It was common to see half eaten bodies in monster dens, and most of the equipment used by monsters like goblins once belonged to adventurers as well.

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But with that specific body they could tell she had not been killed by monsters, but that a human had done everything.

“They found traces of a specific monster’s venom in the body, but there were no signs that the monster had ever bitten her, and someone had burned monster repellent incense in the area too.
At least three more similar bodies have been found since then, two in the alleys of the city.”

Usually monsters would eat the body of their prey.
There were some monsters that would only eat the hearts, but those had never been spotted in the Valhen Woods, not to mention that a monster would never burn incense to repel other monsters.
The logical conclusion was that the killer did not want monsters getting in the way, or eating the body after he was done.

“Do you think it’s the Heart Collector?”

Christina finally raised her eyes from the book and asked that.

“You think so too then?”
“Well, I’m a noble too after all.”

Heart Collector was the nickname given to a serial killer that had been running rampant in Seperion and other neighboring countries.

His usual targets were young female adventurers who were hard to identify.
He would always set up a zone clear of monsters, use a certain type of venom, and always took the hearts of his victims.
There were other habits of his that matched the killings in Ingralowe, so the nobles and the guild believed the Heart Collector was there.

“Though well, I’m still a student, so I won’t poke too much into that.
I’ll let the guards and guild take care of it.”
“That would be for the best, yes.”
“I’ll do the same, I guess.”

The Nekome store sells mostly common household items and other miscellaneous things, but the selection feels a bit more varied than other stores I’ve visited, and the items are easy to see on the displays.

Olivia’s eyes are brimming with excitement as she looks at everything available for sale.
Usually she’s a bit of a tomboy, but now she’s actually acting like a girl her age.

“Natalia look, aren’t these the ones you’re always using?”

The store has a section for scent pouches too.
Some are of flowers, fruits, and even types of trees.
I can tell they have a large variety at first glance.
But none are the same as mine.

“No, I use a different type.
I made mine with the rinds of Man Eater fruits.”

It’s a good selection of scents, but they’re all from regular items.
I guess something that came from a monster named Man Eater wouldn’t sell well.

“That reminds me, the scent of mine has been fading a bit, so I should probably renew it.”

I really want to get more Man Eater fruits soon, but they take a long time to grow, so I don’t know when I’ll get the chance.
But there’s a large variety of other scents here, so I guess I’ll just get one of these.

I begin searching through those available here, looking for one I like.
Man Eater fruits have a really sweet scent, so maybe I should pick a more refreshing one next.

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“Hey, I think this one might suit you, what do you think?”

Olivia offers me a pouch with a light blue color.
I take it and give it a sniff, a very familiar and refreshing scent filling my nostrils.

“That’s Spica Lily scent.”

That explains why it feels so familiar.
I could never forget my favorite flower, the one Olivia put herself in so much danger to get for me.
I start smiling just thinking about it.

“I guess I’ll get this one then.”

I don’t have a reason to hesitate choosing it, just like back then.

“I’ll get one for myself too then.”
“We’re matching then.”

I never did anything like this as a guy, but I always heard that girls always are closer with each other than guys, just like how they’re more comfortable with skinship too, so I guess this is normal for them.

Not to mention that Olivia is basically part of my family now, and my new master, so I really shouldn’t overthink this.
Olivia looks happy, and that’s what matters the most.

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