With a deep breath, Naffur brought his focus back. Although his hands were trembling, he picked up the letters.
Just take steps forwards. The results will come with practice.
There was note that gave Naffur some encouragement. After the Lottery, Naffur had access to a new Path: the Path of the Order Ducis I. It had even been a measly 50 PP. In the intervening four weeks since it had happened, Naffur had even been able to finish it. But the rewards he got were a bit… strange.
He received a big boost to his health and two Skills: Summon Mask (Un) and the Devil’s Luck for Entrances (L). Both had proven to be more disturbing than useful thus far.
Naffur’s eyes flicked to some of the newspapers piled beside his bed, but his stomach twinged strangely, so he returned to the letters. After burning at least 25, he finally had reduced all of the applications to two: The Order Sanus and the Order Machina.
There wasn’t a quota, per se, for what he had to allow. Or at least Naffur hadn’t been told about one. The Ghosthound could do as he pleased as far as Naffur could tell, and as of right now Naffur was something of a proxy for Neveah, who was a proxy for a Ghosthound.
It was all rather confusing.
There were a few things that Naffur did know.
There would be a summit for the Orders in a few days, on the same day of Mareen’s party. That was part of the reason that Naffur was so shocked. Neveah had delivered the invitation and itinerary to Naffur that morning by silently causing them to appear in Naffur’s room, just as she did with the letters and money. It was somewhat disturbing that it was so easy for Neveah, but Naffur figured that for all she wasn’t the Ghosthound, her dealing with the terrorists proved she was far beyond him.
Luckily the meeting was for earlier in the day, while Mareen’s party was in the afternoon. And they were both in the Eastern Gardens of the Orchard. With this fact, and Neveah’s delivery, Naffur felt quite pressured to attend.
But what did they expect him to do once he was there…!?!
Pacing back and forth, Naffur’s eyes kept flicking to the itinerary laying on the crumpled pile of bedding which was where he slept.
The meeting marked three months since the Orders were founded, and would review what had occurred and needed to be addressed. It also seemed that these meetings would become a semi-annual event.
One of the items on the agenda was “review recommendations of the Order Ducis for appropriate groups to become orders”.
“Fuck this…” Naffur finally whispered with a shake of the head. He was hungry. The decision over these two orders could wait.
Without much fanfare, he hopped down and gripped the scaffolding to climb down from his roost with all the grace of a monkey. Although the Skill rewards for the Order Ducis I Path were Skills, he had also gained 50 free stat points from it. With those points, he was physically much improved, because most of the points went to Strength, Agility, and Perception.
The noise of his landing was a soft one, and Naffur brushed him off before he walked around the corner and found him faced with three individuals.
Congratulations! Your Skill The Devil’s Luck for Entrances has become Lvl 26!
Congratulations! Your Skill Summon Mask has become Level 12!
Naffur’s expression became ugly as he viewed the two masked men holding up knives to an elderly man with an expensive looking leather backpack. This shit again…!
HIs Skills were more trouble than they were worth.
The Devil’s Luck for Entrances (L): There is a small chance to walk in on a situation in a key moment, for good or ill. That chance is vastly increased when the concerned parties are related to the Skillholder, or thinking about the Skillholder. Frequency increases with Skill Level. The timing of the entrance is perfected with Skill Level increases.
Summon Mask (Un): After selecting a basic mask or disguise, you may summon it to your position at any time. Cost increases with distance and size of the mask. Effect is always instant. Cost decreases with Skill Level. Warning, when the user is surprised, there is a high chance of activating automatically.
“Shit, it’s the Knight-Errant Ducis!” One of the masked men shouted. Then he immediately turned and dashed away, leaving his partner holding the backpack man and a knife.
The remaining man’s eyes widened until Naffur could clearly see the whites of his eyes, even through the Ghosthound mask. The man was clearly trembling. “Please… please…. Don’t come any closer… I’ll-”
Naffur stepped forward and punched him in the face.
Congratulations! Your Skill Cheap Shot has become Level 52!
The problem, Naffur thought ruefully as the backpacked man thanked him, was that recently, rumors of the presence of the Knight-Errant Ducis had spread through the streets of the Orchard. Most people were proud that such a hero was here. But criminals dreaded Naffur, even though he wanted nothing to do with them. For all Naffur cared, the common crime could continue unabated. He had been on the receiving end long enough to have little empathy for rich individuals who had a little skimmed off the top due to a poor decision to go down the wrong alley.
The six castes of an Order were Cadets, Knight-Errants, Gallants, Chevaliers, Paladins, Abbots, and finally Prelates. After the Lottery and Naffur’s appointment as a Cadet of the Order Ducis, Nevaeh had quickly announced that as the only current Cadet, he had been promoted to Knight-Errant due to “inherent qualifications”.
Knight-Errant didn’t mean much to Naffur at the time, but that was because he didn’t quite understand the difference. But after hearing some of the same youths who had previously bullied Naffur excitedly talking about how much they wished they could be a Knight-Errant in any Order, Naffur realized his understanding had been a bit shallow.
A cadet was an aspirant. A Knight-Errant was the basic full member of an Order, and it was on the Knight-Errant’s that an Order would be judged. It was them that the population would interact in most frequently. Or at least, that was the state currently with all the Orders in fledgling states, trying to market themselves.
Plus, with Naffur’s Skill basically forcing him into awkward situations…
It did have the positive benefit of giving him some chance to test out his new fighting Skills, so Naffur’s initial reaction to it was rather annoyed, but overall not too bothered.
Then Naffur had walked in on a woman being eaten out in an alleyway, and she had beaten the shit out of him. Of all times, the Summon Mask chose that moment not to appear to cover his face. It had been a firm reminder that although he was getting stronger, it was nothing compared to most people with Classes.
And it also served as a reminder that he was not lucky, he had the Devil’s Luck. For good or ill.
Naffur hurried away from the scene of the mugging, leaving the knocked out man on the ground. After he was out of eyesight, he removed the mask and tossed it in the trash with a forlorn expression. No matter what he did, it would be back. Naffur had even tired keeping himself deprived of Mana so it wouldn’t randomly appear, but that hadn’t stopped it.
The only real consequence was a killer headache from Mana deprivation.
His meal tonight was street tacos from a small truck in one of the slums of the Orchard. But for all that the company wasn’t the best, the chorizo was to die for. Still, Naffur ate with his eyes peeled. He had also found that even if he wasn’t moving, sometimes trouble would find him.
Still, to his delight, the meal was a peaceful one. Not willing to press his luck, Naffur hurried back on the roof to avoid people. Unfortunately, it only took five minutes for his plans to go awry.
Naffur twisted around at the voice, only to see a figure leap over the edge of the room and crash into Naffur. Instantly, instincts kicked in and Naffur fell while grasping at his side. The figure seemed incredibly surprised to have hit someone and slowed to a stop to peer at Naffur.
The voice was gruff and male. “Kid, are you alright? I didn't mean-”
“Hmph, you have a lot of nerve if you dare pick my pocket and lingering around chatting,” A female voiced hissed. Instantly, the man’s face paled. Floating over the edge of the roof and landing on the roof was a lovely woman with dark hair to her shoulders. In her left hand was crackling electricity. In her right was a pure blue orb that made Naffur cold when he just looked at it.