It was still quite early when we went downstairs, the restaurant area was still fairly empty, only a young couple sat by a window sharing what looked like pancakes. Jak had a green metal watering can and was carefully watering some of the flowers, he seemed to lovingly feel them with his other hand, pausing and closing his eyes before taking out tiny gardening shears from his pocket and snipping at some of the stems.

Aron looked over and back at me as I watched Jak while we went to get our breakfast before whispering “Yeah as much as grandpa loves cooking, I’m pretty sure if it was a viable business plan he would have focused on [Gardener] and become a [Florist]” as he grabbed a cookie from a jar and shoved it into his mouth.

Picking up plates of scrambled eggs, assorted meats and bread that Jak had clearly prepared for us we went over to a table and dug in. There were no special healing effects in this food, but then again we didn’t need it and it was still delicious.

Cleaning our plates, we pocketed our lunch of thick sandwiches and fruit and left the Inn heading to school.

“So when are you heading to the adventurer’s guild?” I asked curiously as we slowly walked along the cobbled street.

“After my apprenticeship, if you want I can meet you by the blacksmith and we can go together since you don’t know the way?”

Turning into an alley “Sure, I’d like to check out some que-“

A torrent of water drenched Aron and splashed onto me as laughter erupted above us. Rage rose up and a snarl ripped out of my throat as I glared up, lips curled back from my teeth. I hissed seeing the same ginger kid and 2 of his lackeys standing on the cottage roof holding an empty bucket of water.

“Hey flower boy, we just wanted to make sure you stayed cool and hydrated in the sun, heat stroke is a killer you know” he smirked down at us.

Aron hadn’t moved the whole time, shoulders sagging as he looked down before clenching he jaw and purposefully marched forwards.

“Hey where are you going flower boy, look I even brought a watering can just for you” he jogged along the roof to catch up to Aron holding a yellow watering can aloft and tipping it so water slowly poured on Aron's head. Aron flinched, but kept walking while the ginger followed him slowly emptying the can on his head while the other 2 kids stood behind him giggling.

Suddenly Aron stopped and looked up causing the ginger to over shoot with the watering can “Just go away Carston, you’re a jerk” he yelled clenching his fists.

Carston just turned the watering can upside down emptying the remaining contents on Aron’s head.

Before I knew I was moving, I’d kicked my boots off, claws ripping through the front of my socks, scaled the chimney of the stone cottage in seconds and launched myself at Carston claws outstretched and fangs bared. Panicked yelps from his groupies as they leapt out of the way and Carston took a step back, arms coming up in surprise.

Digging my claws into his arm, I landed with my feet on his waist, scrambling for purchase and trying to claw him while I leaned over his arms trying to snap at him with my jaws. He stumbled back trying to hold me at arms length before grabbing my shoulder and physically ripping me off him and throwing me at the chimney.

Twisting mid air I landed with feet and hands against the stone, claws instinctively finding purchase and I turned my head to hiss at him, tail arched and stiffened. Inwardly I was shaken, Carston was a head taller than me, but he had the spindly arms of a 12 year old and yet he had the strength to lift and throw me 2m with more force than should have been possible.

“Fucking feral lizard” he glared at me, shallow furrows in his forearm bled lightly where my claws had dug in. He wiped the blood on his shirt glaring at me as his groupies recovered from their shock and moved to back him up.

“I’m not a lizard” I glared back meeting his angry look.

Watching me steadily he moved his jaw “Yeah that’s right, I’m sorry, calling you a lizard is an insult to all lizardfolk, you’re more of a gecko”

Nostrils flaring, my face contorted in anger “I am not a fucking gecko, I’m a drake” I snapped out, head lifting in pride.

“Really” he smirked tilting his head looking me up and down “You look like a gecko stuck to the wall, do you eat mosquitos too?”

Mouth working in rage I tried to find a better comeback than ‘fuck you’ as his friends grinned at each other voicing their agreement.

“Don’t worry little gecko, I don’t pick fight with yellow bellies, so I’ll let you have this one, but if you attack me again I’ll make you eat dirt”

“I’m blue,” I snapped out belatedly realising that yellow belly insult probably didn’t refer to actual stomach colour as he looked at me incredulously before laughing. I felt my face heating up, but I stuck to my guns and continued to glare at him while he ignored me shaking his head “Come lets leave the gecko and flower, school starts soon”

The group walked to the opposite edge of the roof, chatting and laughing before jumping off the cottage on the other side. Once they were out of sight I slowly dropped from the chimney onto the roof and looked back into the alley I had come from. Staring up at me wide-eyed, halfway up the wall was Aron.

“They’re gone, are you ok?” I asked

He looked at me and reddened a bit “I’m stuck”

Snorting, I grinned at him, relaxing a bit and climbed down the wall to stand underneither Aron “Step onto my shoulders”

“What?” he tried turning to look down, honestly he’d only made it up about 1.5m off the ground.

“I’m right here just put your weight on my shoulders and then you can climb down”

Hesitantly, he lifted one foot from the wall and swung it around and I guided it to my shoulder, but when he moved his second foot, he lost his grip and came crashing down on top of me. In a pile on the floor, my face was pressed into the dirt with Aron’s butt on my head “mrov” I tried to get him to move and he scrambled to his feet reaching out to help me up.

Dusting myself off I glared at him rubbing the side of my snout “Sorry” he looked for flustered “For falling on you and for Carston”

“Its not your fault” I sighed dropping my hand.

“I was going to come up and rescue you” he blurted out “That’s what big brothers do, sorry I didn’t make it” he looked a bit forlorn standing there soaking wet.

“Hey Carston picked on you first, I was protecting you, that’s what sisters do too, don’t steal my thunder” I bumped his shoulder with my fist and he looked up flashing me a grin.

“What’s Carston’s problem anyway? And what’s a yellow belly?” I asked as his smile fell from his lips, he looked away again.

“Carston’s dad is a really tough guy, he’s Captain of the guard here and made sure Carston got combat class when he was little. Carston idolises him, but he’s the kind of jerk who thinks everyone should have a combat class and if you don’t then it means you’re just a coward. That’s what yellow belly means, someone who doesn’t have a combat class, though I guess people also use it to mean coward”

Thoughtfully my tail swished side to side, Aron really wasn’t the fighting type so it made sense that Carston, someone who apparently looked up to his dad who thought that having some type of combat class made some people better than others, would look down on Aron.

“Come on, we’re going to be late, we need to get a move on”

“Yeah we need to run” Aron agreed and we raced off towards the school, it wasn’t far and we made it to the door at the same time as the teacher. She smiled at us and gestured for us to go in first.

“Feeling better today Sasha?” she asked and I nodded, Aron had told the teacher I had missed school because I was sick which was far better than saying I’d had Skill strain.

“Did you go diving for Luck in the fountain again Aron?” she smiled looking at Aron bemused.

“Yes Miss Brethar, no Luck so far”

Aron refused to look at me, ears reddening a bit at the lie and went to sit down.

I followed him to my seat; I wasn’t going to tattle if he didn’t want to tell the adults that would just make it worse and break his trust in me.

Today we had English and history, English, like maths was a piece of cake, and history was surprisingly interesting. They talked about the Battle of Gallenfield, which 200 years ago had been a pivotal turning point in the civil that had ravaged the kingdom for 2 years. Queen Rosthal of Valensir had defeated the Duke of Cavensar in a final battle which resulted in 80 000 dead including the duke, but had led to the firm establishment of the Rosthal royal family in the kingdom.

You have unlocked the Class: [Scholar]

Waving the notification away I soaked up the history until class finished. Standing up a stone formed in my stomach, I really didn’t want to go back to the blacksmith. Aron was smiling again as he ran off to his apprenticeship which was no doubt going better than mine.

Dragging my feet I arrived at the smithy and tapped on the door. There was no response but I could hear the rhythmic clanging of metal on metal and smoke was coming out the chimney so cautiously I pushed the door open. The blacksmith had his back to me and was working on something so I closed the door quietly and went to sit by the wall where I’d been last time.

He glanced my and I froze but he turned back to his work wordlessly. I wondered if he even noticed or cared that I hadn’t been here yesterday.

Well if he didn’t want to talk that was fine by me, unpacking my lunch, I started eating, wondering what the adventurer’s guild would be like. My eyes trailed down and I almost jumped to the side, there was a millipede twisting around between metal shavings surrounded by ants that were attacking from all sides. Watching them I almost dropped my sandwich and edged away a bit.

Fascinated by the disorganised attack, I watched the ants throw themselves at the much larger millipede, heedless of the personal danger and simply trying to overwhelm it with numbers to inflict numerous injuries to kill it before it killed them and got away.

Taking another bite from my sandwich I wondered if I should intervene, hesitantly I thought about activating [Battle sense]. I hadn’t used it since the first time and I had apparently levelled up to 4, but I was cautious about reliving Skill strain.

Mulling it over I watched the millipede rear up, exposing its many short legs, before using its antennae to find a ledge on a rusty metal rod sticking out above it and started hoisting itself up onto higher ground causing most of the ants to fall off and run around in confusion trying to find their opponent.

Deciding I would eventually have to use Skills again, I might as well do it now, so I activated [Battle sense] promising myself that if I got the slightest ache I’d stop. The world turned blue again, much more noticeably than before, the ants were still green but this time I didn’t have to concentrate on them to see it. The millipede showed up in bright red contrasting sharply with the rest of the area.

Vaguely surprised that the millipede was classified as my enemy, I supposed it made sense since the ants were my allies and they were fighting against the millipede. The millipede crawled along the metal rod before reaching the pile of rubbish it was sticking out of and disappeared underneath. Rearing my head back I looked at the orange spot where the millipede had disappeared. That was new.

Leaning around I tried to get a better look but I couldn’t see the millipede, so I reached over and lifted some of the scrap off the top of the pile. I found the millipedes wriggling body stuck to the underside of the leaf I lifted and I jerked back throwing the leaf into the air, pulling my hand back flapping it around.

The orange spot where I had last seen the millipede vanished and the red of the millipede was visible again. So orange was a warning of where I had last sensed an enemy that I could no longer sense. I suppose that meant [Battle sense] couldn’t just inform me of enemy movements that would otherwise be impossible for me to know. If I really wanted to make the most of [Battle sense] I probably needed to improve my senses, not that I had that much interest in becoming a [Tactician].

Picking up my sandwich again I watched the ants swarm the millipede; I had inadvertently thrown it right back into the ant’s path.

I yelped as something hit me in the face and I rolled backward expecting another blow but nothing came. A wooden broom lay in my lap and the red tinged blacksmith was looking at me “If you’re going to be here, you might as well make yourself useful so go clean up”

“You’re supposed to be teaching me blacksmithing” I snapped back before I could stop myself. He sneered at me “A lizard runt like you couldn’t hack it so there’s no point in teaching you, now get cleaning”

Fuming I picked up the broom and angrily started sweeping, I was never coming back in here after my apprenticeship ended. Looking up at the blacksmith I could still see red surrounding him so I deactivated [Battle sense], didn’t want to make the same mistake as last time.

It took a while; there were a lot of metal clippings, scrap and junk all over the room, but I swept everything into neat piles and then brought of the bin. Moving around in the sweltering heat of the forge was unpleasant, I decided it didn’t matter if I never unlocked [Blacksmith] I wasn’t ever going to be a blacksmith. I tipped the bin on its side so I could sweep each pile into it. It would have been easier with a dustpan and brush but he hadn’t given me one and I wasn’t going to ask.

The bin was overflowing when I dragged it back to its original spot and I was sweating in my shirt. I stood and waited for him to notice I was done but he didn’t so I spoke up and he just grunted and waved me off “Get out of here then, don’t need you shedding scales now its clean”

A bit insulted but glad to be able to leave I left, pulling out my unfinished sandwich and sitting down outside on some patchy grass to finish my lunch. I still had some time to kill before Aron would come to find me to go to the adventurer’s guild.

Bored, I stood up brushing my hands together to get rid of any crumbs and walked over to the wall. Jak had said not to go up since Orcs were in the area, but if I kept my head down beneath the top of the wall on the scaffolding, even if there were Orcs, they wouldn’t see me so it should be ok.

This time though, the wall wasn’t empty; there was a guard looking out over the grasslands every 100m or so, presumably for the Orcs. Scowling I figured that meant they wouldn’t let me up on the wall.

Walking along the wall I decided to kill some time exploring before heading back to meet Aron.

“Hey kid, how’s it going?” I looked up and saw Dante looking down at me from the wall.

“It’s ok, are you on the lookout for Orcs?” trying to ignore the kid comment.

“Yeah, but don’t worry, I doubt they’ll come to the village, Orcs don’t usually attack villages so we should be fine and as long as you kill the [Chief], they’re not usually a problem, but still gotta keep a look out”

“Can I come up?” I ventured.

“Sorry kiddo, only for [Guards] and VIPs” being called kid was really irked me and scowled up at him.

“I’ll tell the chief you lost me when we left Tycel’s” I bluffed and he glowered at me “Real brat aren’t you”

I grinned up at him and he relented “Fine but if anyone catches you up here, I found you here and was telling you off”

“Sure” I complied taking my boots and shredded socks off and before Dante could ask what I was doing, I climbed the support beams to the top in seconds.

“A brat and a monkey” he noted, “You could have just taken the ladder", he pointed a bit further along the wall and I reddened a bit, I hadn't seen it.

“This is faster"

“Yeah but now you don’t have any shoes”

I ignored him and walked over to the wall “Woah not so fast kid” he grabbed the collar of my shirt and dragged me back “Some ground rules up here, first, I’m in charge up here” I scowled but nodded “Second, if anything happens, you do exactly what I say, no questions or hesitating” I nodded, fair enough, “And third, no coming up here alone, ok”

“Ok” he let go of my shirt collar and I rubbed my neck in exaggerated hurt, he only rolled his eyes and walked over to the wall, leaning against it to scan the grasslands. I walked up to join him peering over the edge. It was exactly the same as the last time I’d come here; tree branches and tall grass swaying in the breeze as the wind rolled over the hills.

I had planned to practice flying, but I didn’t want to do that embarrassing show in front of Dante so I scrapped that plan “How many Orcs are there?”

He shrugged “Dunno, a tribe usually has a few hundred members, hey shouldn’t you be at school or something?”

I made a face “School is done and my apprenticeship sucks”

“Ah who’d you get? I remember my fair share that sucked” well at least he wouldn’t rat me out.

“The blacksmith”

“Yeah he’s a grumpy fellow, but he does good work,” he said thoughtfully. Dante was human so he probably had different experiences with the blacksmith than me. We settled into brief silence and I decided to activate [Battle sense].

I stiffened as the grasslands lit up like the sky, but instead of twinkling white stars, there were uneven red blobs spread out near the village. Eyes widened I stared at the closest one; there was just grass there, though when I focused on it I could see it didn’t move in quite the same way as the rest of the grass. Trying to decipher what made it different, the image of grass distorted and shattered as a dark figure stood up drawing back a bow and loosening an arrow while Dante yelled out and shoved my head down behind the wall.

A pained screamed ripped out behind me and I turned back, to see Dante throw himself on the ground next to me. His left arm was destroyed above the elbow; the flesh and bone had been torn and splintered in a spiral fashion in the fist-sized wound around the arrow. Blood spurted out and splashed on my face as he tried to get a horn from his belt, which he almost dropped before put it to his mouth and blowing. A long deep sound trumpeted over the village causing a flurry of movement just as hooting and screaming erupted beyond the wall and dragged me out of my stupor.

I ripped the bottom of my shirt off and pressed it around the arrow wound as Dante cried out in pain before clenching his jaw and helping me wrap a tourniquet around the arm, which hung limply at his side. I could hear footsteps running and more [Guards] and villagers flocked to the wall to help defend it. A lizardfolk [Guard] appeared at my side and helped Dante form a makeshift sling for his arm. His eyes were watering and I could see him straining not to scream at having his arm moved but she ignored him and in practiced moves finished the sling “Can you walk to the infirmary?” she asked calmly as people ran along the battlements, taking up positions and exchanging arrows with the Orcs.

Dante breathily nodded and rolled onto his feet, face pale as he jogged to the ladder, before using one hand to slide down it, face contorted in agony as he fell onto the ground before, struggling up and staggering down the street.

Jerking back as an arrow embedded itself in the scaffolding in front of me I turned back and swallowed at the sight of people with round wooden shields defending against the heavy arrow barrage while others returned fire. The lizardfolk woman from before was firing a recurve bow and was yelling orders at other archers.

Frozen I watched as crude grappling hooks appeared on different sections of the wall while people tried to pry them lose before Orcs could make it up. No one seemed to notice that I was here; they were too busy defending against the Orcs to look behind them. Turning to jump off the scaffolding to follow Dante into the village, I stopped horrified.

There were Orcs in the village; from up here I could see dots of red flowing over the wall on the far right side of the village before slipping into the streets. Even though I couldn’t see the actual Orcs, the red aura and slightly distorted images gave them away. I swallowed thickly, deliberating for a moment before I turned back and ducked down to crawl between someone’s legs to get to the archer woman who seemed to be in charge.

Reaching her I tried standing up and tugging at her sleeve to get her attention. She looked down angry before goggling at me “Get this child out of here” she snarled at the person next to me and an arm started to drag me away but I held onto her sleeve “Wait, there’s Orcs in village” I yelled “They’re coming over the wall over there” I pointed desperately.

She frowned at me looked over there clearly not seeing anything, but she didn’t dismiss me completely “Are you a [Scout]?”

“No but I have Skill and I can see them” she turned “Point one out for me” impressed that she could be so calm in this environment I point at an Orc climbing over the Wall “Just past the red chimney, above tha-“ she loosened an arrow which thudded square into the red spot I’d indicated. Immediately an Orc became visible, clutching its arm and staggering sideways.



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