Lock was lying on his back bunching up a pillow in his arms, looking for faces in the wooden ceiling above and trying to find a way to articulate the first real moral conundrum he'd encountered in the world he now inhabited.
He gesticulated a bit with his arms, before giving up the motion. “It's just... He's my grandfather, you know. He's the person who taught me most of what I know about fighting and travelling. He was the one to babysit me when my father didn't have time because of potioneering. And now I'm supposed to kill him?!” he exclaimed finally.
Cindy shuddered next to him, shakily laid a hand on his bare chest, and groaned articulately.
“It wouldn't be so hard if the old man wasn't so damn nice about it! He even went and filled all of his class slots, so I would gain more when I finally did him in. That's like fattening yourself up as a pig to be slaughtered! What if I would rather have my grandpa for a few more years rather than some levels?” he asked heatedly. To which Cindy finally opened her mouth.
“Can't you just refuse to kill him? He can hardly throw himself onto your sword if you refuse to hold it,” she pointed out.
A valid point, but… “You know, I told him the exact same thing, Cindy, I did, I swear.” He tousled her red hair. “I guess great minds think alike.”
He went back to his diatribe. “You know what he said? He told me that if I refused, he would have one of my cousins do it. He mentioned Ross specifically as his ritualistic killer, because he knows I don't like the little shit, the old bastard!” he cursed and slammed his hand down onto the bed.
The slam didn't accomplish much apart from making the mattress bounce a bit, but Lock was pleased. The act of physical aggression had definitely added some oomph to his emotional distress.
“Well. He has you by the balls, I guess,” Cindy said and shrugged as her hand wandered lower down his body.
Lock reluctantly nodded. “Yes, he definitely has me in checkmate, doesn’t he? I didn't really bring up the issue because I was looking for some groundbreaking revelation. It's just annoying talking to my family or friends about it since they all don't see an issue with the tradition.” They just saw it as normal, as did most people whose grandparents had the same thing to offer their descendants.
Lower class people like Cindy had likely never really experienced the situation before, since they didn't take on combat classes that would gain any exp from killing. Which meant they were more understanding of the morality issue he was experiencing. Probably.
“I like lending an ear, and you're not dumb...” She must have seen his grin because she stopped in the middle of the sentence and continued with another one. “You're smart enough to differentiate between a whore and a philosopher at least.”
“So you think I'm smart, do you?” he said, to which the redhead rolled her eyes.
“Just let me do my job, will you?”
Lock pulled a beautification potion from the pants he'd just put on and gently threw it onto the king sized bed, next to the exhausted whore.
“This should cover the tab for this week's visits,” he said as he pulled on his brown doublet. It was slightly too big for him, having been bought with the knowledge that he'd grow into it.
“Common grade potion, I see you've improved your alchemy again. You'll be an official adventurer soon as well. Moving up in the world, are we?” she commented as she stored away the potion into the nightstand next to the bed.
Lock laughed at her veiled question. “I don't plan on raising my Strength attribute as you well know, only my Endurance, so I'll be coming to visit you for quite a few years more.”
Cindy stood up and started to dress. “That may be, but you're already tiring me out every time you visit with your beloved Endurance. It might not break me like it would have if you had double my Strength, but its still taking up more and more time. I'll probably have to raise the amount you pay me for a night.”
Lock hummed, slightly too distracted by the older woman dressing herself to immediately take in her words.
His physical stats were already higher than hers. When he actually turned sixteen, registered as an adventurer and started gaining class levels, and therefore attributes, his Endurance would become several times hers, which would make each session longer. It would take up time that she would, in the past, have had for other customers. It was only natural to pay more.
“I agree, more time spent between your legs naturally means more money spent. It won't be an issue though, since with attributes, I will also be gaining more coin.” Receiving a nod from Cindy, he made to leave, but turned around just as he was about to close the door behind him. “Maybe you can give some thought to getting a combat class and letting someone boost you a bit to increase your physical stats.” He left for real afterwards, not wanting to rush her into answering.
The outside was surprisingly warm considering that it was night out. He glowered at the additional hustle and bustle created by the pleasant temperature. One of the reasons Lock did most of his business right before the advent of the night was because he did not like big congregations of people. You could never keep an eye out for all of them and they were in most cases harder to predict than small groups.
Why was it so warm in the first place? Well, there weren't many plausible explanations. Only one suspect really stood out. Putting a hand to the ground confirmed his suspicion. The sewer system beneath the city was receiving one of its irregular cleanings.
The more appropriate word would probably be cleansings. Since the city's mage guild was paid to send several dozen pyromancers down there to, quite literally, subject the filthy river of refuse in the city’s underground tunnels to an equally impressive river of hellfire.
Which, contrary to its name, was quite efficient at removing filth.
Lock didn't want to imagine the smell the city would be subjected to if all entrances and exits to the sewer weren't temporarily enchanted to stop the smell from escaping. The lack of the usual background stink emitted by the city probably also contributed to the larger-than-usual crowd of people in the red-light district.
He chuckled to himself. Ironic, for people to be drawn out by the lack of stench, and then to be the reason behind a completely different cacophony of unpleasant aromas.
Lock thankfully wasn't forced to push his way through the masses, it was a blessedly smaller congregation than during daytime. It also helped that he was openly carrying a short sword and dagger at his side. Something only allowed to people who were in possession of a combat class.
An odd restriction, he'd once thought, since it wasn't as if you could see others’ classes and so determine when a person was carrying a weapon illegally. A hidden weapon was usually more dangerous than one that was flaunted anyway.
But as he'd come to learn, people who were in possession of combat classes were quite simple to distinguish from those who weren't.
The more muscular state of the body, simply the way they moved. It all differed greatly from Non-Professional-Combatants, NPCs.
He had also believed that the reason for the law was so that people knew who to turn to in the case of an attack, but his grandfather had cleared up that preconception pretty quickly. It was a rule meant to showcase one’s status in the society of humanity. People willing to pick up a weapon and swing it at monsters to defend their race were naturally worth more than those who weren't.
That might have not been the case were they living in a world without monsters, but alas.
Societies always looked up to people in possession of their collectively preferred traits.
It wasn't as if it was impossible to rise up the social ladder as an NPC. It was just harder.
He glanced at a few young men who were leaning on the wall of a shabby tavern, staring straight ahead with drool running down their chins. He grimaced. Well, neither was it impossible to sink one’s social status even lower than it already was.
Lock hurried with his steps as he made his way home, with one last stop in between signalling the end of his day.
A few minutes of solitary walking later, he ducked into a stereotypically dark and grimy alleyway, where he was then pulled through an almost invisible door, quite stereotypically, by a dark figure dressed in a rather expected manner.
Lock was immediately let go as the door behind him shut, and he theatrically patted off the parts of his clothes that had come in contact with his kidnapper.
“That was ridiculous, please don't do it again,” he commented at Shink, who had shed his hood to reveal his hooked nose and bulging eyes to the world.
Shink glanced down at him and shrugged with the one arm he still had. Well, it was hard not to look down on someone when they were two feet smaller than you.
Lock rolled his eyes at the man. “I know you think its cool, but it really isn't. I almost stabbed you as well. Be glad I recognized your tall frame.”
Shink gave a nasty grin at that. It seemed to be insinuating that, even had he tried, Lock would have never been able to actually stab him. Lock actually agreed with the rogue.
He probably wouldn't have been able to do so, but it was the principle of the matter to be boisterous, beyond common sense, about one’s own capabilities. Therefore, he rolled his eyes right back. “Definitely could have.”
“I'm quite sure about it actually, you see, when walking into the alley I intentionally kept myself at an angle pendicu-” Lock continued, only to be rudely interrupted by a bag of gold to the face. A bag he was thankfully able to catch, even if it stung his hand a little due to the force behind the throw. His face was too beautiful to be marred for even a day.
“Honestly, all money is a metal, couldn't they have just made paper a currency or something? I swear, it's so hard to lug this stuff around,” Lock muttered to himself as he put the small bag away somewhere on his body, then pulled out a small packet of fragrant yellow paper.
Not that it was the paper that mattered, Shink was paying him for what was inside the packet. Lock handed it over, glad to be rid of the stuff. Upon receiving the packet, Shink gave him a nod and stepped back into the shadows of the room, in which he promptly blended in and disappeared.
Lock considered informing the man that it didn't matter much if he was in stealth, Shink was hardly capable of teleportation or opening either of the two doors leaving the room without him noticing it. It made the entire act of going into stealth fairly useless and unnecessarily theatrical.
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