After we got in town, I found Belinda looking strangely at Lilith and myself. However, after a moment she simply shrugged and walked off. Finding a map wasn’t really difficult, but we had a harder time finding tools of the quality we would need.
Moving through the stores in town, we ended up at a blacksmith shop. “Hmm… this seems to be our best bet.” Lilith nodded her head, looking at the store in front of us. It definitely did not seem like anything special, with neither more customers or a more well-kept appearance than other stores.
Once inside, I took a look around at the various items on display, and found myself stunned. The lowest quality items were all identifying as +1, while some went as high as +3. I nodded inwardly, this was good. We needed items with at least +2 craftsmanship in order to get the materials we need from the tree.
“Can I help you?” A male voice rang out, and we turned to find a rather tall, orange-skinned demon standing behind the counter. He had two black tails, a strong muscular build, and his eyes seemed to be on fire.
I glanced over to Lilith, who nodded and stepped forward. “Yes, we’re looking for some specific items. Another shop in town pointed us to you, saying that you’d be able to help us.”
“What’re you looking for, Miss..?”
“Lilith.” She smiled slightly to the demon shopkeeper. “And we need a hammer and chisel, as well as a woodcutting axe, all of as high quality as you can provide.”
The man nodded, looking at the various tools on his wall. “Well, I’ve got a hammer and an axe ready, but I don’t have a chisel made up, it seems. If you can come back tomorrow, I should be able to help you.”
“Thanks~! We’ll be back tomorrow, then.” She called out, before grabbing my arm and pulling me out of the shop. “Now we just need to find a place to stay for the night.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at that. “Good luck… before I had my little breakdown, I went to almost every inn in town, and there were no vacancies.” Lilith practically tripped when I said that, looking at me with a panicked expression.
“W-well… we can get some camping supplies, and sleep outside? We’ll need to set up watch to make sure that the wolves don’t come after us in the middle of the night…” I nodded my head at that, and Lilith let out a weak smile.
Naturally, our next stop was the general store in town, where we picked up two sleeping bags, two backpacks, and some cooking utensils. Thankfully, we had been left with a rather large amount of money from our last stop, so this much didn’t damage our wallet too much. “Okay… let’s… go out and find a spot, I guess.” Lilith sighed, her expression downcast as we walked outside the town once again.
“Don’t worry, this’ll be fun. Besides, there’s still some time before we have to turn in for the night, and we need to talk about some things before we get too distracted by stuff.” When I said that, she looked at me, a bit worried. No doubt, she was afraid I might have another mental breakdown like I did early. “It’s fine, nothing… okay, can’t say nothing major, but nothing bad, at least.”
She breathed out a sigh of relief, and we continued walking for some time. She tried to set us up just outside the walls, but I silently shook my head. What I had to talk to her about would require a bit of privacy, and I didn’t want a guard watching me as I revealed my inventory.
A little over an hour later, we were just outside of view from the town, on the edge of a small forest where the trees would block the line of sight. Lilith pulled the sleeping bag from her backpack and began rolling it out. “Alright, what did you want to talk about?”
I took a deep breath. “Well, you remember how I said that this was all a game, where I come from?” She nodded her head warily. “Well, there’s another aspect of that game, which doesn’t seem to apply to most people of this world.”
“Eh? That sounds weird, given everything else. What is it?”
“Classes. The main character in the game always had the ability to choose a class for himself, and each class had a special ability, as well as attribute bonuses associated with it.” I did my best to explain, and Lilith nodded again, sitting down on her sleeping bag.
“So, like Fighter, or Wizard? Those kinds of classes?” It’s good to see that she understood basic RPG classes.
“For the most part.” I started, shaking my head. “But most of them are a bit more complicated. Instead of a fighter, you might become a Cleaver, which is a class specializing in heavy swords.”
“I… think I get it. And, you got a class, I take it? That’s why you suddenly looked a bit different before?” Lilith asked, looking me over pointedly, as if making sure I knew she was aware of the changes.
“Yeah, that’s right. I had been holding off before, because I thought I’d be able to find a job and live a normal life.” I couldn’t help but sigh, feeling a pain in my heart that I had to fight down. This isn’t the right time to lose it. “But, after seeing Kevin, I knew I had to get a class.”
“Okay, so what’d you get, and what makes it so impressive?”
I took a deep breath, unsheathing one of my swords. I saw Lilith tense up, eyeing the blade with caution. “It’s called Living Armory, a class only available because of my special skill I told you about. As for its abilities… there are two, but I can only use one right now.” I closed my eyes, focusing, and mentally selected the Personal Armory skill.
I felt a slight prick of pain in my hand, and when I opened my eyes I found that I had cut my palm slightly with the blade. After a drop of blood fell on the weapon, the entire thing turned blood red and faded away like mist. Lilith was sitting there, eyes wide and mouth hanging open as she watched.
“Was that magic?” She asked, looking up at me. She knew I hadn’t taken the lessons, I had paid for her to go instead. Normally speaking, I shouldn’t have had the chance to learn magic since coming to this world.
“I… don’t think so? Maybe it’d be better to call it an innate trait?” I then looked to the two bags of money, and gulped. “I really hope that I don’t have to use a drop of blood for every coin.”
I saw Lilith’s face pale a bit when I said that, understanding my meaning. “Yeah, that would be bad. But, you can call the items back out, right?”
I nodded, focusing on my Personal Armory. As I did, a list appeared in my mind, telling me what was in there. Of course, right now it was only the single short sword. Selecting it, I held out my hand and waited. Red mist congealed in front of me, and soon it had formed into the shape of that same weapon. Once I grabbed onto the hilt, the red mist vanished, leaving only the item itself.
Lilith smiled, pleased with the results of this demonstration. “So, you said you had another ability, right? What is it?”
“Well… I can’t use it until I unlock my magic, but afterwards I should be able to place my personal brand on objects, and control them with my mind.”
Lilith let out a small gasp when she heard that. “Isn’t that basically completely overpowered, if you add in your Equipment Mastery thing? I mean, you already do some serious damage with just two swords, imagine if you could use double that at once.”
I let out a small smile. “Yeah, that’s why I chose this class. It’s the perfect support for the skill, and we’re going to need all the power we can get.”
My demoness friend nodded at that, unable to disagree. “Alright then! Let’s try to unlock your magic.” She clapped her hands together once with a wide smile, but then looked at me in confusion. “Uhm, how deep did they go into the explanation for how that works, in your game?”
At this point, I could only shake my head. “They didn’t, it was one of the areas they glossed over. As long as you had a free talent point when you took a lesson, the game skipped to you having your mana pool unlocked. After that, you could take certain actions to help unlock different magic paths, but it never explained anything that would help me here.”
Lilith smiled in relief, patting her chest. “Oh, good, so I can still be of some help, then. Come on, sit down.” I laughed lightly, sitting down in front of her. “So, you know about the magic brands, right?”
Once again, I had to shake my head. “The class skill was the first time I had heard of it.” Lilith seemed surprised at that, but shrugged it off easily enough.
“Okay, guess that’s just something else I need to explain.” She took a deep breath, holding up her right hand. When she clenched her fist, a glowing white pattern began to outline itself on the back of her palm. The top half looked to be wide, leathery wings forming two arches, while the lower half had two daggers coming down from those wings at an angle, the tips of their blades touching at the very bottom. Overall, it looked like a strange drawing of a heart with the general outline.
“From what the mage in Darknorth said, everyone has a mark on their soul. This mark represents who they are, and what they’ve been through. Over time, it may gradually change, if a shocking event occurs. For instance…” She looked a bit hesitant to continue, but eventually said it. “I imagine that your own mark looks different now than it had, before you discovered the truth.”
I could only nod with a bitter smile as her own mark faded, before continuing with her explanation. “Everyone has this mark somewhere on their body, generally in an area they frequently use. That lecher tried to get me to strip down for him, because he wanted to do a ‘thorough’ search.”
Lilith shivered slightly as she said that, bringing her arms up to cover her chest. “For most people, it would be their dominant hand. But, that’s not always the case. The brand is pulled towards areas of the highest activity, so if you are a constant runner, it might be on your foot or leg. A strategist might have it on their head, a singer on their throat. For you… it should be on one of your hands, I think.”
“Okay… so how do we pull it out?”
“I’m getting to that.” She chuckled, smiling to me as she started to relax, the mark on her hand still glowing as she extended it towards me. “Give me your main hand, and I’ll try to awaken your brand. This doesn’t take too long if you guess right on the first try, but each attempt uses quite a bit of energy. With my magic, I think I can only try this once tonight.”
I nodded my head, holding my right hand out towards her. She covered it with her own hand, and then furrowed her brows in concentration. I could feel a thick energy pouring into my hand, trying to pull something out. After the first ten seconds, it seemed to latch onto something in the depths of my hand.
It felt like there were invisible chains digging into my palm, and I suppressed a groan of pain as they pulled. “Found it.” She said with a grin, and the force behind the chains only grew stronger. I let out a hiss as I felt like the skin on my hand was tearing, but at the same time, a warm flow of energy spread out from my hand. This energy rushed through my body, flowing through every part of me before returning to the source, where I felt it stop.
When Lilith pulled her hand away, I saw for the first time what my own brand looked like. Unlike her own white glow, mine radiated a black light, in the shape of a skull. A single sword pierced through the skull, from top to bottom, and another through the sides. It seemed like some twisted form of cross, but I couldn’t help shivering as I saw the eerie black glow from it.
“Well, at least we have your magic unlocked now, right?” Lilith offered with a weak smile, also looking at the brand on my hand. “So, why don’t you give your other ability a shot? It should work now, right?”
I snapped out of my rather depressing thought regarding the imagery behind my brand when I heard her words, remembering the entire reason I wanted my magic unlocked in the first place. “Right.” I nodded, pulling out the same sword that I had used to demonstrate the Personal Armory. Before blindly testing the skill, I decided to first look at its unlocked description.
I was slightly surprised by the last part of the skill. Maybe it takes more proficiency in magic to split my focus enough to use more brands at once? I thought curiously, before selecting the skill, choosing to place the brand on the sword I was holding.
The black light on the back of my hand grew more intense, before the brand itself seemed to hover off my hand, floating through the air. It only moved for a few moments before coming to rest on the center of the short sword I was holding. When it made contact, black lines began spreading out in a network throughout the entirety of the object, and I felt an image seared into my mind. Every detail of the weapon was etched into memory, and I couldn’t help but visualize it.
With a thought, the sword flew out of my hand, hovering in the air above me before turning. With its blade pointed down, it stabbed directly into the ground, half its length vanishing into the dirt. Looking at my status again, my magic was declining at around one percent a second. I suddenly recalled an aspect of magic from the game, and hurriedly tried to cancel the ability.
In Layers of Hell, certain debuffs were applied when magic was reduced too low. Below 50%, the character suffered fatigue. Below 20%, it was increased to weakness, forcing them to drop any carried items. Finally, at 0%, the character would pass out entirely. I was not in a hurry to experience these effects for myself, so I focused on pulling my magic out of the sword.
Once again, my brand flew through the air. Though this time, it was leaving the sword in order to return to its normal place on my hand. At the same time, the image of the sword which had been burned into my mind slowly faded, the sword no longer touched by my magic. Oh… so the brands aren’t permanent. Well, that will make things more complicated.
“That was kind of cool.” Lilith said, still sitting on her sleeping bag. “You’re definitely going to need to train that a lot, you know?” I could only smile weakly, nodding my head. I would need to practice this. Having only two brands active at a time, each one draining a full one percent of my magic every second, would quickly make it difficult to keep up in the lower floors.
“Yeah, I know. But, at least we know how it works now.” I decided to finally get my own sleeping bag out and set up. “You go ahead and rest, I’ll take first watch.” Lilith gave me a smile, nodding her head as she laid down in her bag, while I looked to the back of my hand. The mark was still there, slowly fading back into my skin. The last thing to vanish was the skull, which seemed to stare at me as it gradually disappeared.