Even though Aron tried to convince me to go to school, I flat out refused to leave the room until I was back to normal. I would not go out into public looking like my scales were rusting off and Jak made no attempt to force me go, simply grunting and going downstairs to start his day. Eventually Aron relented, I wasn’t budging and he was going to be late otherwise.
There wasn’t much to do in the room by myself, but my pride couldn’t suffer other people seeing my scales tainted like this. I tried to forget the humiliating run from her cottage to the Inn as my scales started turning. At least the smell had been useful for clearing people out of the way quickly.
Sitting up, I wrapped the blanket over my head and went to the slanted window above the desk to look out. It was like every other day, peaceful clouds drifting across a sunny blue sky and gentle breezes flowing over the houses. Down below, villagers went about their daily lives, I could hear voices from the street but I couldn’t make out any words.
I jerked back as a small bird shot past the window, diving to seize its prey: a grasshopper. Or at least that’s what I thought it was, as perceptive as I was; my eyesight was the same before. I watched the brown bird fly up and settle on the roof opposite me.
A longing filled me as my unsettled wings flexed under my shirt. I looked at the clear blue sky dotted with occasional fluffy clouds, I’d never flown before, other than planes but that wasn’t real flying, I mean it was flying but not flying. My chest ached with a yearning that shocked me, and I grabbed my shirt over my heart.
I looked down trying to breath slowly through my mouth, staring at the wood of the desk, focusing on the uneven twirls and lines. Slowly the feeling in my chest gave and I exhaled roughly, sitting in the chair by the desk. Hands shaking I looked at them, I’d never felt such a strong urge to fly before, even when I’d been practicing.
Ignoring it for now I looked out the window again, this time avoiding looking at the sky or the bird. Soon it became boring watching people walking back and forth, stopping and chatting. I sighed, resting my head on my arms. Bored I activated [Battle sense], almost everything showed up as blue, though anything that showed up as red or green seemed to stay in my head even if I closed my eyes or looked away.
Focusing on a spec of green I noticed ants I hadn’t seen before milling around on the ground. Slightly surprised I watched them, were they the same ants from the ant nest at blacksmiths place or was I allied with all ants? How big were ant territories anyway, the blacksmith’s place was near the village edge and the Inn near the centre which was only a few hundred meters apart and I doubted being friends with one ant nest made all ants like me.
Watching them I saw trains of ants coming back and forth from an open window next door, I looked in and saw that someone had forgotten a half eaten slice of bread on the table and the exploring ants had discovered it. Now it had ants crawling over the plate, cutting off crumbs and carrying them back to their nest.
I wrinkled my snout in disgust at seeing their tiny black bodies all over the plate and bread. I might be allied with them, but that was nasty. Looking away, I followed the lines of ants and could see them sticking close to the buildings as they marched down the street using cobble stones and short tufts of grass that grew near the walls as cover.
A black cat slunk along the wall, pausing with one paw in the air to look around, before jumping on the windowsill and through the open window. It sat on the table; unperturbed and completely disinterested in the ants as it started grooming it’s face, flicking the tip of its tail. It licked it’s back a few times before yawing and jumping onto a thin pillow on a chair by the table. It turned in circles a few times before curling up take a nap.
Snorting I looked away bored almost jerking back again as the same little sparrow from before flew across my vision and landed on the windowsill. Annoyed I glared at it twitching its head side to side as it hopped forwards and pecked down.
Suddenly the bird turned red. Surprised I started at it, I mean I’d been annoyed but was that enough to warrant enemy status? Watching it I could see it was actually pecking at the ants and eating them. Their dark bodies showed up glaringly against the white paint of the windrow frame and though confused at the break in the ant chain, they still ploughed forwards albeit a bit more erratically.
Thoughtfully I watched them, chances were the bird was now classified as an enemy since it had attacked my allies, not just because I was annoyed at it. I reached out with [Formation] and tried to get the ants on the window to get off it and the ants still in the room to wait before moving past the bird. There was limited success as the ants under attack moved in irregular directionless motions in an attempt to get away from the larger predator. Though the ant train inside had managed to come to a stop, or at least I didn’t see anymore of them coming onto the window anymore.
Maybe stress or fear made the ants less likely to comply with my orders. Frowning I watched the ants systematically get swallowed up by the short beak and soon another bird joined its colleague seeing its success. Irritated I watched the ants get annihilated, frustrated by my own inability to help. I tried ordering an ant near the birds to bite into its spindly feet. The ant swerved towards the closest bird and tried to sink its pincers in, but either it wasn’t strong enough or had missed since the bird hopped away and the beak of death came down on the failed assassin ant.
I flashed back to the alley with the Orc; if you can't beat them, get someone who can. Clenching my fists I focused on the ants inside the house and tried to urge them to go to the cat. Surprisingly quickly the whole stream made its way up the chair leg and started climbing around on the cat aimlessly. They made poor progress in the cats fur and though it twitched, it didn’t wake up. Irked I urged the closest ants to bite the cat’s ears.
When the first ant reached an ear to bite into it, the cat only fluttered its ears, but soon more ants piled on as the cat scratched its head, suddenly jerking up yowling scrambling around on the chair sending the birds soaring up with flapping wings. Twisting and jumping mid air, it knocked the chair over in a loud clatter and before shooting off into the house shaking ants off it as it ran.
Well even if it hadn’t attacked the birds, it had scared them off so it was a success? Without having to give further instructions the ants resumed their previous behaviour of taking breadcrumbs outside without much fuss for their fallen comrades.
I scowled at the 2 pests on the roof; they were hopping back and forth, beady eyes watching as their brown heads turning from side to side looking down at the window. And soon enough one of them deemed it safe and flew back down again to restart its ant massacre.
This time, the second it landed I urged every ant to swarm the bird and bite it. They reacted better this time, probably since they hadn’t been attacked yet, and most of the ants managed to head towards the bird, although a few failed and even fewer succeeded in a speedy charge. Nonetheless, considering the overall amount of ants, a decent amount made it to the bird’s feet before it hopped away, but they clung to it's feet biting.
The bird fluttered its wings a bit as its head came down to use its beak to scrape the ants off, which was a mistake as it gave more ants the opportunity to catch up and join the fray. Soon the sparrow flew up shaking ants off and landed on the roof where it had started, feathers ruffled, it preened itself and looked around. I grinned at the victory, even if the sparrow wasn’t really injured; it had lost the fight against the ants.
|You have reached: [Tactician Lvl 4]|
|You have reached: [Formation Lvl 2]|
I inhaled sharply forgetting about the ants and sparrows. How had I levelled from that, wasn’t it supposed to be hard to level up? I mean I wasn’t sure, but Jak had to be around 60-70ish years old and Aron had bragged that he was a level 39 [Chef] so if that was impressive then levelling had to be slow. Or maybe the first levels were really easy to get and it got exponentially harder to level later on. I sat back contemplating that, ignoring how quickly I’d levelled, what about the how, I’d only been messing around with insects out of boredom.
I sat back a looked at my status. I’d received another 10 Skill points and 10% available stats. Curious I decided to see if I had any new Skills available.
|[Tactician Lvl 4]|
[Battle sense Lvl 6]
[Formation Lvl 2]
[Motivational speech] – 10 Skill points
[Convenient environment] – 10 Skill points
[Charming disposition] – 20 Skill points
[Talent seeker] – 30 Skill points
[Steel carapace] – 50 Skill points
There were 2 new Skills, I couldn’t afford either of them, but the last one gave me pause to think. A carapace was a hard shell covering that many insects had. It seemed like more than a coincidence that I had a Skill like that available after I levelled fighting with ants.
I’d been under the impression that Skills were either randomised or predecided by the Class, but this indicated that my actions could influence it to some degree. Then again, I hadn’t done anything to really earn [Charming disposition] so maybe it was just random.
The prices were both exciting and frustrating, a more expensive Skill likely meant it was better, but I also couldn’t afford it. I flopped back in the chair, resting my head on the back of the chair and staring at the ceiling. I’d kind of been excited about getting a new Skill, but now the only one I could afford to take was [Motivational speech] and that wasn’t something that sounded particularly cool or useful. It would be better to wait and save Skill points to afford better Skills, but that was no fun.
“Uggghh” I rocked forwards on the chair and dropped my arms on the desk, guess I wouldn’t be getting a new Skill for now. I thought about allocating my new 10% of stats, but it would be more useful to wait until I knew if it was possible to improve base stats first to get the maximum out of it. So waiting it was.
I scowled closing all the windows, glowering at the red tinged bird sitting on the roof preening its feathers. It was boring and frustrating not to use what the level up had given me, even if logically it was the best move.
Irritated with the whole thing I turned away from the window standing up and pulling the blanket higher up so my head was completely covered like some kind of miniature cultist.
I shuffled across the room to the door, tightening my hold on the blanket and slowly opened it looking around. Realistically, Aron was in school and Jak was tending the Inn, so no one was up here and they’d both already seen my disgraceful appearance so it a futile effort to hide, but I still bolted across the living room swaddled in the blanket until I was in the bathroom with the door locked behind me.
Exhaling I dropped the worn blanket to the floor by the door and padded over tot eh mirror above the sink. Leaning forwards I inspected my face, it had been a day since the incident and luckily the disgusting orange was beginning to recede. In some areas it was faster than others, like at the end of my snout and around my eyes, which gave the appearance of a blue/orange panda.
I brooded there in front of the mirror, almost waiting to see if it would dwindle faster, but there was no change. I loathed that infernal woman and I would make her suffer an equal indignity. I snorted hot air out of my nostrils, watching it mist up the mirror as my tail lashed quickly.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it yet, but I would destroy her, make her suffer the greatest humiliation I could. She hadn’t hurt me physically, so I balked at striking her back like that, no she’d attacked my pride and so I would obliterate hers.
Satisfied that my normal colouring was returning I stripped and filled the tub with water. Jumping in I ignored the cold and scrubbed harshly at my scales, as if that somehow would remove the orange from inside, which of course it didn’t. Frustrated and shivering I sat there in the tub and scowled at the wall.
At least the smell had been completely gone by the time I had woken up so now it was just a waiting game for this abominable hue of orange to disappear. Looking into the mirror, I saw I was a shade lighter than usual and became aware of how cold I’d gotten. Sloshing around in the water I stiffly got out and dried myself with a towel.
Dressing myself and huddling under the blanket I raced back to Aron’s room and sat down on the floor. Forcing myself to take the blanket off, I sat in the sunlight absorbing its warmth. It took me a moment to convince myself to reveal my wings, spreading them out to soak up the sun despite their stained complexion. Closing my eyes I settled in.
“Hey you’re looking much better,” my wings automatically snapped back together and I spun around glowering at Aron, angry that he’d snuck into the room without me noticing. Registering what he’d said I paused and looked over my shoulder, hesitantly spreading my wings.
The orange wasn’t completely gone, but it was now reduced to patches along my wing frame and I breathed out relieved. By any luck I’d be back to normal tomorrow morning.
“Yeah it’s getting better. Did you just finish you school?”
“No dumby, its almost dinner rush, I just came from work, got another 12 coppers” he held up his bounty grinning before tucking it away into his trouser pocket. Looking out the window I saw how low the sun hung in the sky, had I been sitting here all day?
“How much more do you need for the lute?” I asked yawning as I got up to stretch.
“I’ve made 24 so I just need another 14 and then I’ve got 4 silvers to get it” excitement shone in his eyes as he bounced up and down “I’m actually going to do it, I’m going to be a [Musician]”
His smile was infectious and I grinned, “Yeah you are, by the way you have 3 Class slots right?”
“Yup” he mock threw his fist into the air “More augmented stats for me, boom” I froze as that sunk in, having more Class slots didn’t just mean another Class and more Skills, it was also an extra income of stat %, so the more Classes you had directly meant higher stats.
“What’s the usual amount of Class slots for humans?” I asked curiously fishing for information.
“I think 2 is most common but its not unusual for people to have 1 or 3, though I’ve heard some nobility have 4 which is insane” he flopped down onto his bed leaning back on his elbows “Is it different for drakes? I know some species tend to have more or less slots on average, I think lizardfolk are pretty much the same as humans in that regard though”
“Yeah its not too different for drakes” I said sitting down, hopefully that was true “Have you thought about what to use your last slot for? I mean if you keep [Cook] and get [Musician]”
“I don’t know yet” he slid down until his back and head rested on the bed and he folded his hands on his waist “Hadn’t really thought about it, I’ve wanted [Musician] for so long”
He sat up “Hey what kind of Skills do you think [Musicians] get? Maybe if I play in front of the whole village I can get something really cool like [Harmonised soul fire] or [Mass healing note] or [Infuse giant’s strength] or-“
“Are those even real Skills?” I eyed him sceptically.
He paused to look at me, squinting his eyes, he gulping air into his mouth and puffed up his cheeks slowly blowing the air out “Maybe?”
I rolled my eyes and threw my pillow at him “Idiot, you’ll probably get Skills that make your music louder or nicer or something”
He grabbed my pillow and threw it back at me lightly “Yeah at first, but maybe I get really really really lucky and get something cool early on, you know like a Skill that you’d get with a named Class at level 50+ or something”
I was sure what a named Class was but I looked at him doubtfully “First of all, that seems very unlikely, you don’t even have a Luck base stat you can increase to give yourself higher chances of getting better Skills” I had no idea if that’s how it worked, but I was going to bluster on unless Aron corrected me “Secondly, even if you did have a Skill that people usually get at high levels available, you wouldn’t have enough Skill points to get it”
He winced and looked down “Yeah true” he sighed, “Skills get so expensive the better they are. You know I’m a level 9 [Cook] and I only have 2 Skills. I’ve been saving for [Soothing glow], I can get it when I level up to 10, but after that levelling is going to be crawl, I’m not looking forward to that” he made a face at me.
“What’s the best way to level?”
He looked at me surprised “You mean [Cook]? Do you want to learn cooking?”
“No I mean like in general”
“You mean like successfully doing new things, difficult things, risky stuff or high stakes stuff related to your Class…” he trailed off looking at me weirdly “Or what did you mean?” he asked slowly looking a bit confused.
“No I was just asking because I got a new Class and I wasn’t sure how to level it” I said hastily, he had told me what I’d wanted to know, but I didn’t want him to know I hadn’t know something basic like that.
“Oh what Class did you take?” he sat up curiously watching me.
“[Tactician]” I said licking my lips deciding to go for it.
His eyes widened “Bullshit”
“No I really got it,” I asserted, my tail rapped on the mattress irritated he didn’t believe me.
“How did you even unlock that? Don’t you have to study at special schools to unlock it or something?” he sat up unsure watching me.
I shrugged “I don’t know, maybe I studied it before I lost my memories and then I did something that triggered it to unlock?” I said cautiously, hoping he’d buy it.
“Maybe you’re like the daughter of a politician and you’re actually rich and you had a bunch of cool Classes unlocked and you lost them when you lost your memory and now you can re-unlock them just by repeating an action similar to the Class” he rambled on excitedly “That’s so cool, what if you’re like a [Mage] and you don’t even know it? If you remember how to use magic, can you teach me please please?” he begged looking at me in awe.
“Uh I don’t think I’m secretly a [Mage]” the idea he’d had about me losing my unlocked Classes with my memory wasn’t actually terrible, I could use that to explain me quickly unlocking certain Classes which I had knowledge about from my life on earth. Though knowledge from earth definitely would not help me with any magic related Class.
“But if it turns out you are, can you?” he leaned closer and I pulled back a bit “Yeah sure, I’ll tell you and teach you if I ever unlock a magic Class” I passified him.
“Promise?” He held out is pinky finger.
“Promise” I said more firmly holding out my blue scaly pinky finger and we shook on it. I guess pinky promises also existed here.
He grinned at sat back bouncing up and down on his bed “We should go and find out if you can do magic, maybe not in here in case you set the Inn on fire or something, but we should go somewhere and practice magic” I could see he was getting convinced that I knew magic and just had to remember how to do it. I had to nip that at the bud.
“You know the chances of me actually having forgotten how to use magic are very slim? I doubt they teach many 9 year olds magic”
“They don’t teach many 9 year olds strategy and politics either and you’ve got [Tactician]” he countered and I floundered.
“Well I doubt they would teach a 9 year old both”
“Yeah maybe” he stopped bouncing looking a bit disappointed “We can still try though”
“Sure, but don’t expect me to start shooting fireballs”
“Yeah yeah” he waved me off “But we need to go wash dishes, your face is mostly alright now, so are you coming down?”
I hesitated, I could hide my wings and arms in my clothes and my hands were almost completely clear of orange now and leaving Aron to do my work felt wrong. I nodded sucking it up, I could make it downstairs and help out as long as I didn’t have to go out and see people.
That night I lay in bed and thought about what Aron had said: successfully doing new, difficult, risky or high stake things related to your Class was the best way to level.
I’d levelled helping ants fight off a much larger predator. That had been new, but none of the other criteria applied to me in that situation. Maybe it was just very easy to get the first few levels; Aron had mentioned that levelling slowed down a lot after reaching 10.
I sat up suddenly, or what if, due to the nature of my Class being that it revolved more around my allies than me, it levelled depending not only on my personal new/difficult/risky/high stakes situations, but those of my allies I was commanding?