Did I want to accept a reward? Who wouldn’t? “Yes!”
A pool of light flashed from the ground, expanding until it was a foot wide. With one last bright pulse, the light disappeared leaving behind two black leather arm bracers, an obvious matching set to the leather breastplate I wore.
“Wahoo!” Like a kid at Christmas, I threw my hands in the air — and instantly wailed in pain. Breathing hard, I hugged my arm and applied pressure to the now freshly bleeding wounds. I glanced at the arm bracers on the ground. “Too bad I didn’t have those five minutes ago,” I muttered. I reached out and put them in my Items Bag.
That done, I looked at the next order of operations — the notice that there was something new to my Stats. I opened the screen and gasped. My HP went up! But that wasn’t the only thing. All of my Stats had increased by one. There was also something new. [Stat Points +3]
There was a ping sound and a new window popped open. [Please assign your new Stat Points.]
“So I can just add these points to anything?” I whispered to myself. “So if I want to add one to strength …” The words were barely out of my mouth when my strength increased one point. I blinked at my new number, shocked. “Oh, well I guess that works. I better put some thought into this a little more, though.”
I didn’t want to put myself at a disadvantage by stockpiling all my points in just one area — I did want to improve my strength, though. In the end, I added another point to Strength and the remaining point to Constitution.
EXP to Next Level 9
Stat Points 0
After living with and viewing such horrible Stats for so long, I felt like crying. My total HP had practically doubled, so each tiny little hit wasn’t going to kill me. On top of that, most of my Stats were in the double digits. Granted, they were just barely there, but it still felt like a miracle.
For the first time I felt hopeful for the future. I still couldn’t feel the differences in my Stats, but seeing the change was enough for now.
I closed out of my Stats then paused — two new buttons had appeared on the Main Menu. The first read Abilities right beneath the Stats button. I clicked on it. It opened showing only one thing titled, [???]. That was it. The pale gray question marks just sat there on the screen, mocking my curiosity. I couldn’t even look it up in the Hunters Guide.
Humming with slight annoyance, I went to the next new button labeled Skills, only to be faced with another [???] mystery.
“What?” I moaned. “It’s my body! Why can’t you give me more of a hint?”
I exited out and looked at the glowing Drop Item orb lying on the ground beside the wolf carcass. I reached out and added another wolf pelt to my Items Bag. The carcass vanished, leaving its energy crystal on the ground. I couldn’t stop myself from looking at it, wishing I could pick it up. With a frustrated sigh, I swung my kindjal and the crystal dissolved into dust.
It’s okay, I thought to myself. I can still sell the Drop Items. I didn’t know a thing about sales, but if there were a day to learn something new, it was today.
I stood outside the door for a minute, staring at the sign that read Armourer Gil’s Shop and Trade. The reviews gave this place a good evaluation, so that counted for something, and it sounded like he didn’t ask as many questions as other shops did about where items for hock had originated from. Since I had no idea how much this pelt was worth, I figured he would.
I took a deep breath and walked inside. The smell of animals hit me like a nine pound hammer. The small storefront was clean enough inside. Shelves behind glass cases were organized and full of cool things, like the dragon claws arranged in a rainbow pattern, jewel from purple to yellow-gold and all the colors in between. I didn’t even know that dragons came in that many colors. The pelt of something huge, furry and acid green in color hung on the wall. I had no idea what it was, but I could tell from the look of the hide that it was once a very strong monster. Arranged on countertops were other smaller items, like scales and eggs, and something that looked like steel turds.
No matter where I looked, everything screamed expensive and high quality. Was my plain little Vale Wolf pelt really going to cut it here? The owner wouldn’t look at it and laugh, would he? I mean, it could still be used to make armor and what not, right?
A bell jangled as the door closed behind me. Agruff voice called from the open door to the left of the shop’s counter. “Be there in a bit.”
I tugged on my hair and walked to the counter. I looked at the glittering energy crystals displayed under the glass. They were so much bigger and brighter than the two I’d shattered today. Perfect for smelting together with metal to make a weapon for a Hunter.
A burly man walked in the room from the back door. It was obvious that he dealt in rare items and armor from his clothes alone. Two magic necklace pendants dangled from his neck. The belt buckle peeking out from his rounded belly was also laced with magic. He wore custom arm shields on both arms, a chest protector that I’m sure was more than it looked, and studded armored pants. The quality of his equipment alone was very high. He looked me up and down, his gaze lingering on my armor, then smiled friendly. “Evening, miss. I’m Gil. What can I help you with?”
I shifted my injured left arm slightly behind me as I pulled out the two wolf pelts and set them on the table. “I want to sell these.”
The rolls of fur looked so pathetically average compared to the dragon claws and huge — whatever that green thing was. Especially compared to all the refined products Gil wore.
“Let’s see what you got.” Gil picked up one of the pelts and started examining it. He ran his hand over the top and bottom of it and stretched it out across the counter, measuring the size. He leaned in close, obviously seeing more than I could with a glance.
The door dinged behind me and someone with a power presence walked in, but I was too focused on the trader to see who entered.
“I’ll be with you in a minute,” Gil said to the customer. He took one last look at the pelt then his eyes focused on me. “Well, I can give you thirty-five dollars for each pelt.”
I froze, shocked. Thirty-five for each? Seriously? That was only seventy dollars, nowhere near enough money. One small E Rank energy crystal was worth a hundred dollars alone. I bit my lips, thinking of how the System warned me not to touch the energy crystal. I didn’t even know why. I mean, a main reason why Hunters hunted was for energy crystals. If this was all I would get for two pelts, could I really afford to not collect the crystals?
Gil waved his hand and a blue screen appeared in front of me asking if I accepted the trade of my two wolf pelt for thirty-five dollars each.
I stared at the screen, my finger hovering over the accept button. Sure, I didn’t have to skin the wolf myself but how was this any better than what I had before? Struggling to stay fed?
“Thirty-five?” A man spoke up behind me. “If the pelt was in bad shape, it might be worth that. But it’s in pristine condition. They should be worth at least sixty a piece.” His subdued voice was thick with disapproval.
My eyes popped open as a chill went from the base of my skull to my toes. I almost sold them for half their value? Geez, how stupid was I? I was so ashamed, I couldn’t even turn around to face the man behind me.
Gil’s squared features scrunched up, looking flustered. “Ah, sir…” He stalled, as lost for words as I was.
The man’s presence receded from me and the door dinged again.
The trader jumped. He reached out, eyes still on the door. “Wait, where are you going? This won’t take much longer.”
My fists clenched at my side. Of course not, I was such an easy target after all.
“I don’t deal with dishonest scum,” the man said.
I peeked a glance over my shoulder just as the door slammed shut. All I could make out through the store light reflecting from the small window was neatly trimmed bleach blond hair. A second later, the man was gone.
The trader growled low in his throat as he turned his furious face to me. “You just cost me my best customer.”
I glared back and drew the wolf pelts back into my Items Bag. “You just cost yourself two costumers.” Ignoring the foul words he spewed, I hurried out the door.
By the time I made it outside, the blond man had vanished into the darkening night. Crud. I’d wanted to thank him for helping me and ask where I should go that wouldn’t rip me off. I guess I’d have to gamble on reviews again. At least I knew roughly what the pelts were worth.
Almost an hour later I found myself in an armourer shop in the hazy area between the C and B Districts. I stepped into the last shop and felt overwhelmed with all the high-end items that filled the shelves. This new shop, Maveric Armoury, also displayed amazing items, but it was done in such a tactful way that I felt quite comfortable. The room was designed in whites and cool grays. There was a set of shining armor in the corner. A scaly pattern weld criss-crossed the steel armor, making it look like dragon hide. Green and blue magic stones gleamed from the gauntlets and shone around the waist. The design was simple, but elegant.
A man dressed in a simple red tunic over jeans looked up from polishing an energy stone. His pale brown hair was cut short and spiked in a lazy way. He smiled at me, his plain but neat features friendly. “Good evening, miss. I’m Maveric. Can I help you?”
I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a bleach-blond man in the room. Throwing him completely out of my head, I walked up to the counter. If I’d learned from the last shop, it was that I’d been naive. Even though I wasn’t in the Gate Vale, there was still a hierarchy. If I acted weak, then I was weak, and fair game to anyone stronger. Even if I was weaker — and inexperienced in trade — I couldn't show that. I had to act strong.
I took a breath and gave a small smile. “Evening. I wanted to sell these.” I reached out and lay the two wolf pelts on the counter.
“Let’s take a look, then.” The energy stone and rag disappeared from Maveric’s hand, obviously pulled into his Items Bag. He smoothed out a pelt and ran his heavily scarred hand over it, his movements slow and careful. “You did a nice job, miss,” he said.
I wasn’t the one who actually did it, but I nodded anyway. “Thanks.”
“These are Vale Wolves from Edmond Woods, correct?” He looked up at me, his expression nothing more than polite professional indifference..
There was no use trying to deny that they were the weakest of the weak or that I was still a level 2, E Ranked puke. Since he was higher ranked than me, he could view my ranking.
I nodded. “Yes.”
He bobbed his head and ran his hand over the pelt again. “As it is, I’ve already started collecting wolf pelts to get ready for the new Hunters next year. I’ll give you sixty dollars for each.”
Sixty bucks — just like what that strong Hunter had said. Still, looking at the chill Maveric, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could press for more. I’d heard before that some armourers negotiated. Maybe Maveric would? I wouldn’t know unless I tried.
I swallowed and tried to look like my insides weren’t wiggling like worms. “How about seventy?” It was only a small increase, but right now, I needed every penny I could get.
Maveric tilted his head to the side, thinking. “How about we meet in the middle and say, sixty-five?”
“Deal.” I smiled at him and gladly accepted the trade. Instantly, my System dinged, letting me know that money had been transferred into my account. The fact that there was money in my account at all was a novel idea.
I couldn’t have been happier at how smooth everything had just gone. As uncomfortable as it was to exit E territory and venture into districts I wasn’t welcome in, I had a feeling I’d see Maveric often. If every transaction went like this, I was pretty sure that every Drop Item I sold would go to him.
Just before I left Maveric called out, “Ah, miss?”
I froze, worried that he’d ask me more questions. “Yes?” I looked back.
“I’m curious about your breastplate. It’s very well done, but I can’t figure out whose handy work it is and there is no branding. Who made it for you?” He paused. “And … what type of leather is it made out of?”
What type of leather? I glanced down at it. The type? Black. It was black leather. That’s all I knew. What surprised me was that Maveric knew his trade. Well. I thought for sure that he would know more about my armor than I did. I mean, I just wore it and hoped that it worked.
“Um.” I tried not to fidget under his gaze. What should I say? “I don’t actually know. It was a gift and … the one who gave it to me isn’t here anymore.”
I didn’t feel that bad about lying to him, it was only a little lie. The armor was a gift, he didn’t need to know more than that. It’s not like I could tell him the System had given it to me. The explanation could be taken several ways.
Luckily Maveric interpreted it the way that I hoped. He nodded slowly. “Ah, I see. I’m sorry to pry.” After all, who hasn’t lost someone inside the Gate? It was just one of those things that no one talked about. “Well, have a good evening. I look forward to future dealings, miss.”
I smiled and waved. “Bye.”
That night, I laid in my bed, dead tired. My arm, cinched by a bundle of medical gauze, still hurt but I felt at peace in my little hard bed. There was a new safe in my closet, a new lock on my new, thicker door, and I was now a level 2.
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I am an author, mother, wife, and jack of all trades. I mean, every mom is, but I’ve found that through my research for different stories, I’ve picked up a lot of random (and sometimes actually useful) knowledge and skills.
I’ve had a vivid imagination since I was a child. And as much as I wish I could actually live in the worlds in my head, the closest I can get is with the words I put on the page. These characters are like real people to me. The funny lines they say, their emotions that make my heart bleed, the amazing things they can do that I physically can’t, the adventures and sights that I can see in my head. I love sharing those things with my readers and hope that they can feel at least a part of what I do.
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