Rain was lying on his bunk reviewing his messages. He had woken to his alarm and walked around the room blasting everyone with purify to drain his mana down to zero before switching to amplified winter. He didn't plan on rushing for a quest today, so he had returned to his bunk to sort through the pile of experience he had gotten from the massive amount of mana he had used the day before.
General Experience Earned
Stamina Use: 50
Mana Use: 520
Skill Experience Earned
Refrigerate: 200 [Rank Up]
Extend Aura: 32
Purify: 250 [Rank Up]
Amplify Aura: 27
Intrinsic Clarity: 520 [Rank Up]
Richmond Rain Stroudwater
Refrigerate (3/10) Exp: 104/400
22-25 cold (fcs) damage per second to entities and environment
Sufficient damage causes slow
Range: 3 meters
Cost: 15 mp/s
Extend Aura (1/10) Exp: 92/100
Extend aura range by 1 meter
Multiply aura mana cost by 120%
Purify (3/10) Exp: 214/400
Purify poison, corruption, and contamination
Range: 3 meters
Cost: 30 mp/min
Winter (1/10) Exp: 31/100
Multiply M.Regen by 110% for all entities
Range: 1 meter
Cost: 1 mp/hr
Intrinsic Clarity (3/10) Exp: 395/400
Multiply base mana regeneration by 160%
Amplify Aura (1/10) Exp: 27/100
Multiply aura intensity by 110%
Multiply aura mana cost by 120%
Free Skill Points: 0
Dynamo is so awesome. I'm going to max out intrinsic clarity really fast at this rate. And that will just let me burn mana even faster. I don't think the higher class experience thing is going to be an issue.
Right, so priorities. Food, money, not dying, all set for now. What... do I want? Power? Fame? To go home?
At the thought of home, Rain felt a hollow sort of ache for his own world. He had no family or close friends, but it was still home. I wonder if anyone will even notice I'm gone... yeah, ok, my boss definitely will. He gets on my case if I am late to the site by five minutes. Other than that though...
Rain sat quietly as his mana regenerated, thinking.
I was...lonely. I was surrounded by people, lost in a sea of them, but how many close conversations have I had in the past year? I was just...existing. Here, here I feel alive.
Looking down at his feet, Rain let himself just drift for a while, lost in the past and uncertain about the future. He sat up, swinging his feet over the side of the bunk.
I... I'm not going home. This world... this is my home now. This is a fresh start. I'm tired of being alone. Tired of being weak and poor. I'll make my own way, reach out for what I want and work to get it, but I don't have to do it alone. I need to learn this language and to do that, I need to be around people. I'm going to spend some time in the guild today, or maybe I'll walk the city. If I can find a party to go on a quest with that would be ideal.
Course set, Rain pulled on his boots and made his way out of the bunkroom and into the noise of the quest hall. He didn't go to the board; instead, he wandered through the room to watch various groups of adventurers talking and laughing with each other.
Most groups were between three and five people, usually with at least one warrior type and one mage; however, there was a large variation even within the simple archetypes. Some warriors had swords, but there were others with different weapons such as pikes, axes, and hammers. There was even one individual who had made the questionable decision to dual-wield shields.
Solo adventurers were rare. The few that he saw quickly joined up with larger groups. Not all of the adventurers seemed to stay at the guild, many coming in from the front door instead of from the bunkroom. He only saw one other person clearly not in a group: the scarred man he had noticed before. He was hesitant to approach him though. Anyone with that many scars probably wasn't safe to be around, not because they would be sketchy or anything, but just because it showed a certain lack of an instinct for self-preservation.
Rain picked out the closest person that he had spoken to before and made his way over, intending to ask him about the etiquette of joining an adventuring group. Said person was the mage who had first noticed and taken advantage of his purification aura a few days ago. Rain had picked him out of the crowd by his height and brilliant orange robe, complete with pointy orange wizard hat. Greeting him, Rain had barely started trying to frame his question when he was interrupted by the arrival of two women.
Both were clearly adventurers. One was older, with steel-gray hair and a very serious expression on her face. The younger woman was closer to Rain's own age, with long brown hair and a cute, up-turned nose. She was wearing a dark blue robe banded with white around the sleeves in contrast to the practical outfit of the older woman, whose clothing was similar to Rain's own shirt and trousers, except in black. The younger woman was a mage. The staff was a pretty good clue, being the wizardly variety, not the kung-fu master type. Neither the older woman nor the man in the orange robe had a visible weapon.
The older woman had interrupted Rain when she arrived, placing a hand on the orange mage's shoulder and giving him an impatient look. She motioned to the door, speaking to the man while simultaneously grabbing the collar of the other woman's robe. The younger woman had been trying to wander off into the crowd, but the older one was having none of it.
The man in the orange robe turned to Rain. He apologized to him, trying to explain that he had to go.
Might as well try.
“Quest?” he asked hurriedly before the man could get away. “Level? Danger? I come?”
This was the older woman, not even looking at Rain as she dismissed him out of hand. Turning to the door, she started hauling the younger woman with her, heedless of her attempts to escape.
The orange mage glanced after her, then looked back to Rain, seeming torn. “Wait,” he said to Rain, then hurried after the woman, stopping her with a hand on her shoulder. He leaned in to whisper into her ear, then the two had a quick conversation, glancing over at Rain from time to time. Eventually, the woman sighed and nodded, then went off to retrieve the woman in blue, who had escaped at some point during the conversation.
The man in orange beckoned Rain over. As he approached, the man held out a hand to stop him, then asked a question, raising one bushy eyebrow. He must have been able to read the incomprehension on Rain's face as he tried again, speaking slower, and using fewer words.
It took him a while to get what the man was trying to explain, but luckily the two women took a few minutes to re-appear and he had time to piece it together.
They are going on a quest, and I can come and help, but I don't get a share of the reward, whatever that may be. I can live with that. This guy seems pretty cool, and learning about how to be an adventurer is probably more important than money.
Rain noticed the young woman returning from the direction of the tavern carrying a loaf of bread and half a chicken. The older woman was rapidly approaching in her wake, so Rain quickly nodded, accepting the man's terms.
The man beckoned, then started walking to the door. Rain followed, falling into formation with the two women. The older one ignored him, but the younger one greeted him cheerily with a wave, her mouth full of bread.
She’s pretty cute.
Upon leaving the guild, they stopped by a man sitting on the steps who rose to greet them, giving Rain an appraising look. Rain looked right back at him, noting the full plate armor and two shields propped against the wall near where he had been sitting. Really? This guy is with them? What did I sign myself up for?
The mage in orange spoke to the man briefly. Apparently satisfied with the explanation, the armored man nodded and extended a hand for Rain to shake.
“Carten,” he said, crushing Rain's fingers in his gauntleted hand.
“Rain,” Rain replied, trying not to wince at the deathgrip. Thankfully Carten released his hand without damaging it. The man in orange then introduced himself as Jamus and pointed at the two women, identifying them as Lavarro and Mahria.
The five of them set off, the older woman, Lavarro, leading the way. As they walked through the city, Jamus attempted to explain the mission, but finding that Rain lacked many of the needed words, this slowly transitioned into an impromptu language lesson.
Lavarro ignored this and led them to a stable just inside the gates where a largish cart was waiting for them. She spoke to the stablehands, who brought out a brown horse and attached it to the cart with a harness. Being from the city, Rain had very little familiarity with horses, so he did his best to stay out of the way.
The cart itself was empty as they rolled out of the city gates, heading north up the river road. Mahria quickly claimed a spot in the back, joined by Jamus, and then Rain, who clambered up with some difficulty. Lavarro was walking in front holding the horse's lead and Carten was bringing up the rear, seemingly unencumbered by his full plate armor and thick metal shields.
As the cart bounced and jostled down the road, Jamus continued instructing Rain, giving him words and having him repeat them back. He was a good teacher, clear in his explanations and patient with Rain’s mistakes. He was also a skilled artist, which aided matters greatly. Rain found his notebook filling up with hundreds of new words and images labeled with phonetic pronunciations and spellings in the glyphs of the common tongue.
After a few hours of this, Mahria butted her nose in, poking Rain and starting to interrogate him. Jamus waved her off, but she was persistent. Rain, not minding her curiosity, attempted to explain why he didn't speak common. He told her that he had woken up in a forest, far from his homeland and with no idea how he had gotten there. He refrained from mentioning that he had come from a completely different world, just shrugging when she had asked him how far was ‘far’. He was also cagey on the technical details of his home, hiding behind the language barrier somewhat deliberately.
Rain didn't have a hard reason for not telling her the truth. Part of it was a desire to fit in, which was much easier if you were just from 'very far' instead of 'another dimension'. The fact that his home was far enough away that he didn't know any of the local countries or geography was entirely true, and Mahria and Jamus seemed to accept it.
The other part of his evasiveness was, well, paranoia. He didn't know how he got here, and that meant a person might have brought him to this world, not some natural phenomenon. If they had, they probably had some sort of reason, and Rain wasn't keen to find out what that reason might be. Blabbing about it with people he just met seemed like a bad idea.
Rain also got his fair share of questions in, though it took quite a while to parse out the answers due to the language barrier. The name of the city that they had left was Fel Sadanis, and it had been independent for the last hundred years or so. Law was kept in the city by the Vigilant Order of Watch Keepers, or simply the Watch, which was a multinational organization dedicated to protecting the people from themselves. The guards and scouts he had seen in the city wearing the shield emblem on their plates belonged to the Watch, which had a much more military structure than the chaotic adventurer's guild.
From Mahria's expression as Jamus explained the Watch to Rain, it was clear that she didn't care for them too much. Jamus seemed indifferent, just giving Rain a few quick pointers about them so he could stay out of trouble.
Entry into the city required a plate from a recognized guild or a special residential pass. There was no offensive magic allowed in the city. The Watch grudgingly tolerated the presence of the adventurer's guild hall, trusting them to police themselves within the confines of the building. Beyond that, though, if you were caught using dangerous magic in the city, you could be fined or thrown in jail. Mahria explained to Rain that the Watch's definition of 'dangerous magic' included anything that they didn't understand. From her tone and body language, Rain was sure that she had gotten arrested by them before, but he decided against asking if it had been justified.
Rain's mana had reached full, so he decided to drain it out with purification. He warned the others so as to not startle them, then concentrated, calling up his aura with both amplify and extend. Jamus smiled appreciatively, but Mahria just looked confused as the white light washed over her. Jamus explained the effect of the aura to her pointing out how the dirt ground into the old boards of the cart was slowly disappearing.
This skill really makes no damn sense. It works fine on dirt, so could I use it to dig a hole? It didn't seem to affect the ground when Ameliah used it in the forest, just the slime gunk. Maybe it works on the dirt in the cart because it isn't supposed to be there?
Rain reined in his thoughts and brought his attention back to his companions. Mahria was watching the effect of the aura closely now, her face a wonder of disbelief. Catching on to what was happening, Carten had wandered closer to the cart and into the range of Rain's aura. Lavarro either hadn't noticed or didn't care to investigate whatever it was that Rain was doing.
At level three and with both modifiers applied, Rain couldn't hold the aura for more than five minutes. Still, by the time he had to drop it, the cart and its occupants were practically spotless. Carten was laughing uproariously at the sight of the horse. It was only three-quarters clean, its head and fore-legs dusty from the road, but the rest looking immaculate and freshly brushed. The aura hadn't reached far enough from where Rain was sitting, leaving a sharp demarcation on the horse's back where the effect had ended. Carten apparently thought this was the funniest thing ever from how hard he was laughing.
This was enough to attract Lavarro's attention. She clucked to the horse, halting it, then inspected the line marking the edge of Rain's aura.
“What skill was that?” she asked. Rain was elated that he understood her whole sentence.
“Purify,” he replied, smiling.
She looked at Jamus questioningly. Jamus was smiling smugly. Lavarro turned back to Rain, giving him an appraising look.
“Use it,” she commanded.
“Sorry, mana,” Rain replied with a shrug.
“One hour, two,” Rain replied, wiggling his hand ambivalently, giving her the time at which he would be recovered enough to use the skill again for a useful duration.
“Ok, we <something> in one hour,” she said, clucking to the horse again and continuing down the road.
Rain repeated the unfamiliar phrase to Jamus questioningly, who tried to explain, but was interrupted. Mahria jumped in, sweeping Jamus's hat off his head and onto her own. Leaning against the side of the cart, she pulled the hat down over her eyes and started snoring exaggeratedly. Sleep? No, that doesn’t make sense. Rest? Rest in one hour?
Jamus snatched his hat back from her and swatted her with it, replacing it on his head. Mahria stuck her tongue out at him, then looked down at her freshly cleaned robe and laughed. Without warning, she laid an arm around Rain’s back, giving him a side-on hug before jostling him around playfully and releasing him. Rain looked at her, awkwardly smiling.
Damn it, I’m not good with girls.
“You’re welcome,” he said, trying to keep his face from turning red.
Jamus saved him, saying something to Mahria which caused her face to light up. He was pointing to a large rock on the left side of the road ahead of them.
Mahria grinned and picked up her staff, pointing it at the rock as it moved by. She shouted a word and shot a white spike of some sort at the rock, missing by a comical margin.
Jamus scoffed, then pointed at the rock with a finger, shouting a different word. A blast of blue light shot from his fingertip, splashing against the rock and leaving a small scorch mark. Mahria tried again, missing once more but by much less this time. The two alternated for a few more shots, Jamus consistently hitting his target without trying, Mahria making perhaps one shot in three. When they rolled too far out of range they picked a new target and continued for a little while, stopping when Mahria slumped down in a huff, rubbing at her eye sockets. Out of mana I guess.
Target practice completed, Mahria rested quietly while Jamus jumped down to walk beside Carten for a bit, speaking quietly to the man. Looking at the pained expression on Mahria's face, Rain belatedly realized that he had forgotten to re-activate winter. He did so, using amplify to increase the effect as much as he could. I don't know how much clarity she has, but an extra 11% regen is better than nothing. Should help a bit. So she is some sort of ice mage, and Jamus uses... blue energy stuff. Jamus has more mana, and much better aim.
Soon enough, Lavarro called a halt and drew the cart to the side of the road.
“Thirty minutes,” she said, sitting on the back of the cart and pulling a ration brick from her pack without ceremony, taking an effortless bite of the rock hard ration bar.
Rain followed her example, pulling out his own ration and gnawing at it with significantly more care for his teeth. Carten set down his shields and tended to the horse, giving it a feed bag of oats but not unhitching it. He then fished out his own ration bar and bit off half of it with a single bite. Mahria wandered over to the tree line and sat against one, fishing out a packet of what looked like beef jerky from her bag, as well as half of the loaf of bread from earlier. Jamus was drinking from a large flask, and Rain was pretty sure from the smell that it contained chicken soup. I'm not sure if that is stupid, or brilliant, Rain thought as he gnawed at his tasteless ration.
After the promised 30 minutes had passed, Lavarro beckoned Rain down from the cart and hollered at the others, getting them to gather up. “Use it,” she said, once everyone had grouped around them.
Rain nodded, then activated Purify, draining out his mana again, which was mostly recovered after the hour and a half since his last use of the aura. Looking at the appreciative looks on most of his companion's faces, Rain tried to keep himself from smiling too widely. Yes, stand in awe of the all-powerful magus of dry-cleaning!
Unlike the others, Lavarro appeared indifferent, simply nodding to him by way of thanks. She walked back towards the road and got the horse moving. Instead of hopping up in the back, Rain quickened his pace and caught up to her, trying to start up a conversation. She answered his direct questions with just a curt yes or no, though some she just ignored entirely. Eventually, she turned and glared at him until he retreated back behind the horse where it was safe.
Carten laughed and clapped him on the back, the weight of the shield strapped to his arm crashing against Rain's shoulders and almost sending him sprawling to the ground. Carten just laughed again and pitched him up into the cart like a sack of potatoes, somehow managing to land him in the cart bed without crashing into either of the others.
Jamus was laughing too as he helped steady Rain in the cart to prevent him from falling out. Mahria was curled into a ball, apparently asleep or pretending to be. Rain tried to ask what Lavarro's deal was, but Jamus just laughed again and shook his head. “Lavarro is the boss,” he said, leaving it at that.
The group continued down the road, the farmland transitioning to rolling, rocky hills as the road wound onward. Rain continued his language lessons with Jamus and Carten plodded on tirelessly, bringing up the rear. Rain periodically activated purify, jumping out to walk next to Lavarro as he used it, then slowly letting the cart catch up so he got the entire group by the time his mana was expended. He repeated this four times before Lavarro called a halt at a bridge crossing a small stream.
“We will camp here,” she said, starting to unhitch the horse from the cart. Rain hopped down and moved hesitantly to help her, having gotten over his fear of the horse but feeling uneasy around the intimidating woman. She waved him off and he retreated to see about making a fire. The others set about making camp, Jamus cooking up a pot of stew using a boar-rabbit that Carten had run down earlier in the day. Watching the man in full plate sprint after the animal with the speed of an Olympic athlete had been equal parts amazing, hilarious, and terrifying. After they had eaten, Rain took care of the cleanup to everyone's appreciation.
Carten set himself up on a stump to take watch and the others pulled out thin bedrolls from their packs. Not having a bedroll, or even a blanket, Rain tried to find the most comfortable patch of dirt he could find and settled down. He focused on winter as he drifted away, trying to maintain the aura as his consciousness faded.