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“Are you sure honey helps infections?”

Rowan’s back whiplashed straight, twisting. A cough tore up his throat. "Viola. Aren’t you supposed to be helping someone?"

"Gab sent me. A Forester can help you harvest the honey. A Farmer can keep you safe from the bees." She smiled matter-of-factly.

He let his muscles relax, his fingers loosening around the mithril dagger’s bone handle. "I was just going to smoke the hive and cut a section out, and to answer your question: it depends on the honey."

"Which ones?"

He shrugged. "Most are alright. I read on the forums Manuka honey is a particularly effective disinfectant, but it’s legendary rarity in this game."

"Never heard of that one, and I love my honey."

"Neither did I. It’s from a remote country near Australia. This world also—" He laughed. "You wouldn’t know a thing about Australia, unless it’s taught in your schools." She was so life-like; it was easy to forget even with her Elven appearance.

She tittered a few breaths. "I like the sound of Australia."

"Nah, it’s really hot, and a million ways to die outside the cities."

Slow nods. "Good to know."

Rowan took a breath. Now was a good chance to ask. "I’ve been wondering," he began in a nonchalant voice, "why are you and Skylar are being so cooperative? Is it because you have a slave kink? Sorry, I’m taken."

Her jaw momentarily dropped. "I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that second half. Skylar and I are cooperating because: one, you haven’t done anything bad to us… yet, and two, we more or less agreed with your first speech."

His forehead lumped up. "When we first met? When I was sleepy and irate?"

"Yes. Why not build up a beautiful Elven city here? I’d like to have my own farm out here."

"It wouldn’t be an Elven city. I’m not a Sun Elf."

"You’re not really a Demon either. You seem alright."

He blinked twice. "Did you see what happened to the Trolls?"

"That’s why I said alright. If you go berserk on us…" she trailed off.

He evaluated her words, replaying her reasoning thrice over. "Alright. Fair enough. Anyway, there’s a sick slave that needs treatment." He turned around, eyes focused on that hive hanging from a branch. Bees were coming and going, not many, but they’d swarm the moment he disturbs them.

Thankfully, he had a little helper.

Viola stepped forward. Her head jerked toward the hive. "Want me to do it now?"

"If you’re not busy. Also walk me through how your skills work."

She laid a sheepish look on him. "This skill, Forester’s Sight, reveals things I can harvest within fifteen yards of me." A muttered mystical word left her mouth, and her form glowed dark-green for a moment. Her irises were lit up.

"What does it look like?"

"Little bits of light marking things of potential value. There’s like thirty things here."

"Does it tell you what they are?"

A quick head shake flung chestnut hair. "Question marks unless I know it. I can filter them if I do."

"Like with names, then."

"Exactly like names." Her eyes returned to normal as she said another word in the mystical language. Waves of beige mana emanated from her index finger toward the hive. Bees that were flying drifted toward leaves and branches, stilled. "This Farmer skill, Calming Breeze, does basically what the name says in an area in front of me."

"Does it work on me?"

"No, just low-level unintelligent animals, insects, and plants."

Interesting. "Plants can be calmed? Could’ve it worked on the bears back there?"

"No, they were enraged. Some plants are apparently snappy. I haven’t seen one yet."

He huffed. "You really didn’t pay attention in school."

She grasped her hip. "The Archer ascension was hard."

"What did you have to do?"

Another head shake. "I don’t want to think about it. This Forester skill, Forage, works on anything that lit up with Forester's Sight, including trees, but grown trees take a bit longer." She raised her left hand, holding a large pot by its handle, and said two words in the mystical language. An orb of green mana shot down her arm toward the hive. A miniature vortex-like graphical effect circled the combs for five seconds, then a larger orb boomeranged back. Viola caught it with the pot.

Impressive—much, much faster than manual labor. "That was about five seconds, but Zaine said he can only do like two units of logs per—"

"Forage has a long cooldown. You shouldn’t waste it on stuff that you can easily pick by hand."

A fair skill design. "Is the hive empty?"

"Nah. Three more."

"Leave it for the bees, then." Rowan squinted slightly at the golden-brown liquid free of waxy particles. The pot was four-fifths full.

Unidentified Honey
Item Type: Raw Food | Raw Medicine
Quality Rating: 569

It didn’t look like Manuka, but it could be a mix of several. Rowan’s nose wrinkled for a second. "Do you have a skill that can identify it?"

"Nope."

"Damn." He sighed. "Let’s hope this one works well with garlic and ginger. Let’s go." He gave her slave thread a small tug, remembering to be gentle.

"Yes, master." She giggled.

His eyes rolled as he strode forth, leading the way downhill. Finding this hive within a few hundred yards of camp had been yet another lucky break. Perhaps Gabrielle’s points had something to do with it, but the tooltip had stated it was non-retroactive. Rowan was already disagreeing with such an opaque game mechanic making the game less skill-based. Why not just simple magic-find for loot? Global Luck was a headache waiting to take vice on his skull.

Rowan asked along the way, "By the way, where’s that gold deposit? Is it close?"

"I’m not a miner."

A frown pushed Rowan’s brows together. "Faenin said everyone was apart from Luthias."

"Oh, did he? Only him, Liluth, and Zaine are. Skylar and I are both Farmer-Foresters. We’re saving our third basic profession slot for either Enchanter or Builder."

"Why would he lie?"

"Hmmmm. Maybe he misspoke?"

It had to be that. Misspeaking was common in his experience. No one was perfect, including these life-like NPCs… But Faenin had said he could employ everyone to mine the gold at his behest. That had to be desperation talking—to save his mate. A forgivable lie, Rowan judged. "Maybe I misheard. It’s been a hectic few days."

"Is that why Gab calls you a dummy?"

A facial tick squeezed his eye. "Quiet, slave."

"Kay."

And she didn’t dare say another taunt. Good Elf. Rowan put his legs on auto-pilot for the rest of the short walk while his eyes skimmed through the forums, mostly through the General sections. That’s where all the big news usually went in most communities. Nothing big so far, but someone had already hit level twenty—a Swordsman. Sour envy crawled up Rowan’s torso.

Inside the hovel, Liluth was kneeling at Faenin’s side, her palm on his forehead. Two bowls of cooling boiled water and bandages sat on the opposite side. His wounds were cleaned once more, ginger paste applied, but still swollen. She sighed, "Why did you not tell me? We could’ve treated it early."

"I’m sorry. I did not wish to worry you. I did not know how Rowan would react."

"Very unwise." Her tongue clicked. "You are lucky he is caring and knowledgeable with medicines."

Rowan’s throat cleared. "I had help via divine communication. And don’t you have Bedrooms to build? I see barely a foundation."

"Apologies." She jolted to her feet and hurried past, jogging. Her face was brought down with worry.

Viola slipped in and placed the honey by the rags.

Rowan nodded at her. "Thank you, I can take care of it from here."

"Good luck, Fae. I hope you don’t kick the bucket." She left with a gait too upbeat for the mood.

Kneeling, Rowan plucked a piece of cleanish wood from the floor and scraped honey from the outside rim. He held it to Faenin’s dry lips. "Do you know what kind of honey this is? Have a taste."

A slender tongue licked. "A combination of many flowers."

Unhelpful. "Better than nothing, I guess." Rowan washed his hands in one of the bowls. The water was hot, at least ninety degrees celsius, but combined with his Demon skin and the game’s pain reduction, he felt no discomfort. His Health bar didn’t dip at all.

Faenin said, "We need a Priest… or a Shaman. I fear for Liluth. What if she—"

"Gab’s going to be a Priest. We’ve got it planned out." Planned out as in Tasha spending real world credits to buy tomes from other players.

Faenin’s eyes drooped. "What class will you—"

"Swordsman."

"Zaine is very skilled with a blade. He can teach you where your class does not."

"Yeah. He’s bit of a teen prodigy. Have you known him for long?" Arguably the most valuable of the six—the one with the most potential.

"Not long. He was assigned to our expedition."

"What were you looking for?"

"Rare ores. Mithril, adamantium, blacksteel, dragonsteel."

"How’s blacksteel and dragonsteel different from regular steel?"

"They are entirely different, only similar in name."

That was common in fantasy worlds. "Oh, and did you misspeak when you said everyone was a Miner in Jin’tal’s house?"

Those weakening eyes widened, pupils narrowing. "I did."

Rowan breathed through a snarl, smelling a myriad of scents, the simmering stew from the workshop above all. Delicious. "You were desperate to save Liluth. It’s reasonable. I forgive you. I’m a fair ruler. How many times do I have to say it?"

"Apologies. You can be…"

"There’s a reason I got the Demonborn."

"I read as such."

Rowan scrubbed under a last nail and removed his steaming hands. He shook them dry into the corner, then dipped a scrunched bandage into the honey pot. With quick but gentle strokes, he applied generous slathers to those gag-inducing wounds, ignoring Faenin’s occasional sharp intake of breath. Every little detail, every little fibrous gleaming inch of flesh, was photo-realistic to perfection. Rowan could’ve mistaken this for the real world if it weren’t for the eddies of magic rushing to these wounds, pumping in the bloodstream. The heart was a magical apex, a similar amount in the brain as well.

The honey application was done in less than two minutes. When it came time for bandaging, a tad more difficulty was had. Perhaps Rowan should’ve called in Liluth, but he needed the practice sooner than later. Five strips were enough to cover the three gouges by the armpit, and when wrapped and tied, they held well enough, quite tight. The cut under the collarbone was trickier. Rowan managed nevertheless. Thank the gods for Priests and Shamans. He couldn’t imagine doing this for every last wound and illness.

Rowan stood, stretched his back. "Done. How’s your debuff?"

"Treated, quality rating four-fifty-two. Thank you."

"And that means?"

"The chance of it developing to Major or Lethal has decreased by slightly less than fifty percent."

A coin flip. God damn. Rowan massaged pressure points on his face. "No lies. How long will it take to mine and smelt the first gold vein into abysmal quality? The one by here. When did you survey it?"

"Last week with the Trolls." A tense moment passed. "With everyone helping by hand… maybe ten or eleven days."

"How many units? Do you remember?"

"At least eighty units, but the the skills carry inaccuracies."

"Survey and Smelt?"

Faenin nodded.

Now wasn’t the time to let stress win. Rowan steeled his emotions. "Then let’s hope that eighty turns out to be a hundred. That will be the next priority after the Bedrooms."

"What of the Lavatories?"

Shit. I forgot they need to take shits. "We’ll just have to dig long-drops. Do you know what they are?"

"I do, though I don’t like it."

Rowan’s face deadpanned. "Didn’t think you would. How are lavatories different?"

"An Enchanter can make it so waste is composted in seconds. This is the minimum needed for a Lavatory room."

"Then Lavatories will be priority one when we have an Enchanter. Does that sound good?"

A slow nod.

"Good. You stay here. I’ll go help Liluth. I have a feeling this next week will be boring as hell."

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