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The snow has almost finished melting.

The clear blue mana in the snow is mixing with the assortment of colors in the air, causing the snows mana to turn darker shades of blue, as it melts back into water.

Deactivating my Sense Mana and Meditation skills, the world turns solid as I open my eyes.

Seven months of training, have given all my skills a great boost. Status page:

LV: 40 Experience: 42,337/ 62,504
Health: 1100/1100 Stamina: 658/700 Mana: 530/530
Vitality: 110
Endurance: 50
Strength: 50
Dexterity: 50
Senses: 50
Mind: 50
Magic: 53
Clarity: 51
Status Points: 116
Skills: Sense Mana (LV50), Acting (LV25), Meditation (LV50), Expel mana (LV31), Charm (LV35), Running (LV37), Cleaning (LV24), Mathematics (LV26), Writing (LV15), Mana Manipulation (LV14), Wood Carving (LV10), Drawing (LV13), Axe Skills (LV13), Inject mana (LV9), Mining (LV4), Cooking (LV12), Sewing (LV6)

I can’t help but think about how hard I’ve worked these last few months. Being open with my family has given me so much more time to openly train all of my skills. Almost every one of my skills have leveled at least once, and most of them multiple times.

I leveled twice over the winter. I trained my mana skills so hard; my Magic and Clarity stats went up naturally, just like when I was little. I decided to place another ten points into Vitality, on advice from my parents. Mother said we both have the same Vitality now.

I’ve spent the last seven months helping my mom around the house, going out once a week with dad, and the rest of the time practicing my mana skills.

Mom taught me the Sewing and Cooking skills, before the snow even touched the ground. I thought I was a decent cook back in my old life; but now, deprived of internet access and modern appliances, I have a new respect for mom’s culinary choices.

The most important thing mother taught me about was my monthly visitor. That horrible day seven months ago turned even worse, with my first period starting the day after. Mother took the time to reassure me nothing was wrong, despite me thinking I had some sort of internal injuries because of Del. The best thing is, it doesn’t happen as much as back on earth. The higher a woman’s Vitality, the less her body needs to “heal” itself. Since me and mother have the same Vitality, she told me she only gets hers once every two moons. I almost dumped all my points into Vitality right then and there.

I made sure to exercise daily, even running laps in the snow. After the Del incident, no one calls me little rabbit anymore. In fact, most people ignore me now. Del has not said a word to anyone in the village since he beat up dad. Brother said there are rumors floating around the village, but I have chosen to ignore them.

Also, alongside my daily exercises, I made sure to go to work with dad at least once a week. The forest was beautifully covered in a blanket of snow. Most of the animals were holed up in their dens, so I used my time with father to practice my Axe Skills, and gather materials to practice Inject Mana.

Despite all those activities, I spent probably 70% of my time meditating and practicing my mana skills. It was funny the first few weeks, everyone couldn’t believe how long I remained motionless. When I reminded them of my years of practice, they could only half smile at my abilities.

Richard asked me to try and teach him some magic skills, but no matter what I tried, he couldn’t properly feel any mana in or around himself. I even tried using Inject Mana on him a little bit. Richards Magic stats were low but because of his high physical stats his inner barrier was the strongest I’ve seen. Even emptying most of my mana pool didn’t damage his barrier at all. He described it as the same feelings I had down by the mana vein. He could feel his body fighting off the foreign mana but was never able to sense his own.

I was worried he would resent me because I couldn’t teach him. He reassured me, after it became apparent, he had no magic talent; that he expected this and was just happy I tried to teach him.

Maybe if I can raise my skills even higher, I could try again.

The problem is, I finally hit a barrier with my skills. Sense Mana reached level 50 over two months ago, and Meditation reached 50 three weeks ago. The two skills that I’ve been able to continuously grow, haven’t improved even a little after they reached level 50.

Getting up to stretch, I’m happy I don’t have to train blindly anymore. I can just ask mom about my problems.

Walking out of my room, towards mother sitting and sewing one of dad’s pants, I want to kick myself for my previous paranoia. If I was honest with my family a few years ago, maybe my skills could’ve been even higher now. I could have asked them for pointers leveling skills in general, even if they can’t use magic.

“Hey mom!” I approach her smiling.

“Afternoon sweety! Finished laying around, doing nothing?”

My smile becomes strained. Mother loves giving me a hard time about meditating most of my day away. She’s supportive in her own way, but I think she worries about me practicing magic.

“Sort of. I’m having some trouble with two of my magic skills. I was wondering if you could help me out?”

“I don’t know anything about magic sweety. You might be able to ask Anastasia if you’re having that hard of a time.”

“No-no, mother. Nothing like that!”

“It’s about my skill levels. No matter how hard I try to raise them, they stopped leveling.”

“O, what level are they?”

“They both stopped at 50.”

Mother's frown turns into a smile. “You always make me so proud Aaliyah, to think, you reached the first skill challenge at your age.” Seeing my confused face mother explains skill levels for me.

“You see sweety, the higher the tier of a skill, the harder they are to level. Every ten levels skills become generally harder to level. But skills have tests at certain levels that you need to pass to continue leveling. Tier one and two skills have the first test at level 50, then another at 75, and the master test at 99. Tier three and four have the first test at level 40, then at 60, 80, and the master test at 99. Lastly, tier 5 has the first test at 30; then every ten levels you need to pass another test.”

“What about tier six, mom?”

“Knowledge on tier six skills are all rumors. No one knows how to gain, level, or even classify tier six skills.”

“Ok, but what are these tests? How do I pass them?”

“They’re not actual tests, sweety. They’re called tests because you have to test your skill to break through to the next level. You have to use your skills in a new way, or maybe realize a truth about your skill… they’re all different.”

“Don’t look down on the tests, even if they’re only in the first two tiers. Many people never pass their tests, and simply move on to train another skill.”

“But mom, I’ve never felt any real increase in difficulty till I hit level 50?”

“That’s because you are truly gifted Aaliyah. If a skill doesn’t feel like it’s getting any harder every ten levels, that means you have a talent in this skill. After you pass the first test, which I know you will; depending on how great your talent is, you could continue leveling like you are now until you hit the next test.”

So, I need to use my skills in another way. I think I know how to break through, but it will take some time and luck.

“Thanks, mom! That really helped a lot.”

Turning around, I start walking back to my room. Knowing is half the battle. I need to not only work on the two skills already at level 50, but prepare for Charm and Expel Mana to hit level 40 as well.

“Where do you think you are going?”

Turning back towards mother, she is moving her sewing supplies, and rising from her chair.

“Well… you gave me some great ideas. I thought I would go test them out.”

“I’m happy I was able to help. But you know; it’s your turn to help me make dinner tonight.”

“Oh…yeah…I forgot.”

“I’m sure you did. Go start the fire, while I get the ingredients ready.”

I start piling the wood in to the fireplace as mother starts prepping our kitchen.

Why can’t magic be easier. If I could throw a fireball into our fireplace, getting this kindling started wouldn’t be so hard. Staring at the embers, I hope I can convince Del tomorrow.

No, I will convince him tomorrow. Positive thoughts.

“Aalyiah?”

Stoking the fire, I don’t hear any cutting from the kitchen. Glancing at mom, she’s staring at me with a worried look on her face.

“Yes, mom? What’s wrong?”

“Are you going back to that man tomorrow?”

Replying without looking at mother is hard. “…Yes.”

“Did you not have fun with your father and me?”

Propping the tongs against the brick hearth, I calmly look at mother. “Of course, I had fun with you…but I want to be a blacksmith.”

“But what about your talent with magic!? You could practice at home, with us, and go to the city to find a great mentor when you turn fifteen!”

“I enjoy magic, mom, but a good crafting job is what I need. You told me mages are scarce, and if I went down that path, I would probably end up in the kingdom’s army. Any teaching they would give me, they would expect me to repay two-fold. The idea of using magic to hurt people; I can’t do it.”

“I know you’re worrying about Del. He overreacted but I also made a big mistake. If he truly doesn’t take me back, I’ll reconsider my options. Regardless how tomorrow goes, I need to apologize for my mistake.”

 


 

The rest of dinner prep passed silently between the two of us. As the food is almost finished, the door creeks open.

“Mother, Aaliyah; I’m home.”

Richard comes strolling in, unaware of the atmosphere between mother and me. He’s carrying a chair?

Before the door can close behind him, a lightly tanned hand grabs the door. Mother and I freeze as a girl around the same age as Richard walks through our door. As Richard changes his shoes, I get a good look at her.

She has long black hair that shimmers in the sunset. Coupled with dark blue eyes and a slender face. Her smile looks forced, like she’s nervous to be here. Unlike most villagers she’s not skinny, she’s not fat but she looks like she eats more than the average villager does. Her clothes are tailored, and she has two bracelets made of beads on her left arm and a simple necklace with a small polished gem on it. Her shoes look clean, with no stains from work at all.

It looks like she brought a basket of bread with her. She looks familiar, but I can’t place where I’ve seen her.

Placing the extra chair next to his own, Richard takes the girls hand and sits her at the table like a gentleman. Placing the bread basket on the table, the girl sits with perfect posture.

Before mom can ask the obvious question, our door opens with dad caring a bundle of firewood. Taking off his shoes, and looking up, he freezes after noticing the extra person in the room.

“Perfect timing dad. Mother, father, Aaliyah; I want to introduce Sandra Downs. We’ve been getting to know one another these last few moons, and she said she wanted to meet my family.”

With his goofy grin, anyone could tell how much he likes her.

For some reason, our parents look even more shocked after hearing her name. Wait, Downs, she has a last name? The only family with a last name in the village is the village headman’s family!

While Richard is still glowing and the parents are in shock, I walk over to Sandra.

“Hey. What are you doing with a guy like my brother? Something wrong with you?”

Sandra starts laughing while brother realizes what I just said.

“What does that mean Aaliyah?!”

“Obviously, I’m curious how you managed to “befriend” the headman’s daughter.”

With our parents nodding along with my remark, brother turns a scarlet red.

Unable to answer, Sandra answers for him.

“I met Richard a few moons ago, when a part of our ceiling broke because of the snow fall. While he was on his break, he noticed me practicing magic with Healer Anastasia. He gave me some hints to better harness my magic, and we’ve been talking ever since.”

“Richard gave you magic advice? He can’t even use magic.” What did Richard do? If he sold me out to a pretty face!

“I know he can’t use magic. But he told me he practiced for a while. He gave me several different exercises that helped me gain a few levels. Plus, he’s fun to be around.”

O, gods. She likes him too!

 


 

The rest of dinner last night was spent talking about Sandra’s family and her practicing to be a mage. I used Sense Mana when she was distracted with our parent’s questions, to get a look at her capabilities. Her mana pool was almost twice as big as mine, but seemingly lacked the control I’ve practiced.

Thanks to our uninvited guest, other than me stating I’ll go back to Del’s place today, the conversation never really turned to me.

Though, this morning dad was waiting with mom, as I tried to leave the house. Dad said he would stay in the area if anything went wrong, and mother almost smothered me before I could make it out the door.

Walking through the small strip of forest, I have to stop and calm myself. My heartbeat keeps speeding up, challenging my resolve.

Stepping into the clearing, the memories from last time I was here, make it seem like it was just yesterday. The slush from the snow, has the ground just as wet as the day I was kicked out. Looking at all the sheds and tools, it’s not that everything looks the same, it is the same! The cart from our mining trip is still sitting exactly where we left it. Other than some snow caught inside, the forge is as clean as the day I left. Has Del not done anything for 7 months?!

Richard told me Del was ignoring everybody including Salus. Poor Salus, he had to buy nails from the traveling merchant.

Del’s door looks so much more menacing right now. Pushing on it slowly, I hear pots being pushed around.

The room isn’t as dirty as when I first cleaned it. All the piles of ore’s and metal products are still neatly separated. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a mess. The floor is covered in dirty pots, and the fireplace has a pile of soot next to it. And…

Oh, Gods!

There’s a pile of bones in the corner!

Walking over to the pile, I can finally make out three farkas skulls. Is he keeping the bones for crafting or is this another sign of depression?

The hut stinks so bad it’s covering the stench of alcohol wafting up from the bundle atop the stone bed.

Checking the small keg, he keeps his drink in, it’s mostly empty.

I can’t wake him up with water, if I want to try to apologize.

I might as well clean as usual, everyone would be happier waking up to a cleaned room.

 


 

Sitting on the stone bench facing the house, I wait for the sleeping Stone Kin to rise. Even while I straightened out his house, he didn’t move a muscle.

Imagining all of the different ways this could have gone, I didn’t expect to be sitting here waiting for Master Del to wake up.

Now that I don’t have anything to do, I’ve started shaking again from the anticipation. This isn’t good, I need to be calm before I try talking to Del. If I’m anxious I won’t be able to calmly defend myself. If I act too weak, he’ll toss me away immediately, and if I rush my apology and come off rude, it could be worse.

I know what I have to do. Relaxing, I try to enter a meditative state.

This time I don’t close my eyes. I need to reach the next level in Meditation. I think I can pass the test if I can stay aware of my surroundings even while meditating. Next, I try to see the mana around me, not by closing my eyes and feeling it during Meditation. I think my eyes are the key to passing both of my tests together.

In, out
In, out
In, out

Regulating my breathing, relaxing, and focusing; all at the same time.

Time means nothing right now.

Slowly I start to see threads floating trough the air. Wisps of color, moving in and out of my vision. I want to look at each individually, but every time I start to focus, they fade away. I can’t move, it will break my meditation.

If I can keep this up…

Everything falls away as the door I’ve been staring at finally opens.

Standing in the doorway is Del. He looks horrible.

He still has no hair on his face or head; however, he looks tired. His face has the kind of tiredness that someone gets when they have nothing to look forward to.

As we make eye contact, a little life seeps back into his face.

Last time I was overcome by his presence, this time I won’t be scared away. Standing up from the bench, I walk in front of Master Del.

I decided earlier that I needed to show my remorse and sincerely as much as possible. I don’t know any of the customs of Stone Kin or even human etiquette for something like this.

Over the last seven months I tried to think of the best way I could express my emotions. Even my parents couldn’t think of anything off the top of their heads, so I used my previous life memories. There was a great way to apologize in Japanese culture, the dogeza.

With only two feet between us, I assume the dogeza position. I remember from my past life, this position represents acknowledging someone of higher status, or showing someone a deep apology, and even asking for a favor from the person. All three of these reasons are exactly what I’m looking for.

With my forehead on the cold ground, I give my apology.

“I am truly sorry for lying to you Master Del-Razen! You gave me your trust, when you told me your history. I dishonored you, my Master, by withholding such important information. If I can have one request, please continue to work with my father. My family was unaware of my talents. I only told them after you terminated my apprenticeship. I can only dream of your forgiveness. I promise never to lie to you again!”

“How long did you practice that speech?” Dang, and I just said I wouldn’t lie again.

“I’ve been practicing every night since our separation.”

“This type of apology may be favored amongst elves and other noble races, but you have to talk to a Stone Kin while looking them in the eye. Stand up!”

Climbing to my feet, I meet Del’s eyes. His face looks like it’s carved from stone, but I can see the anger bubbling underneath. Taking another breath to calm myself, I brace for any question he might ask.

“Who does your family serve!?”

What!?

“What are you talking about?” Crap, I dropped my calm face. How was I supposed to expect a question like that?

“Don’t play dumb with me! Your parents move here from nowhere, your father spends years befriending me, and their child is capable of stealing Stone Kin secrets! So, I’ll say it again. Who are you working for?!”

I can’t keep the shock from my face.

I can’t help but feel angry, right now. Is he trying to blame my parents or something?

“First, my parents moved here to escape my mother’s family, who were merchants by the way. Second, my dad is the nicest man ever, of course he wanted to befriend an angry Stone Kin on the outskirts of our village. And Last, I never asked you to teach me any secrets, magic or otherwise!”

“But what about all those questions in the cave? Asking more and more about magic?”

“I already told you, I …!” Stopping, I take another deep breath. I was really close to yelling; I know yelling never solves an argument. “I asked you those questions because you were the only one, I trusted. I kept all of my talent hidden from my family. They didn’t even know my level, but you did.”

“I’ve always kept my training secret, so I could only ask questions like that to someone I trusted.”

Del’s scowl finally slips. This is progress but I have to air my problems too, or I could never work under him again.

“I trusted you…and you hurt my father.”

He finally looks like he’s understanding me.

“You hurt my father, and you hurt me.”

“You scared my family, and you scared the whole village.”

“I came to apologize, and I hope I can work with you again, someday.”

“But, before that can happen, my family deserves an apology from you; especially my father, he always considered you a friend.”

I said my part, and Del looks like he is thinking things over.

“Good Day, Del-Razen.”

Turning away, I head for the village, feeling much better about myself. No matter what happens, my conscience feels a lot better.

Stopping right before the edge of the clearing, I turn around one last time. Del is watching we with thoughtful eyes.

“If you want to apologize, I suggest you do it in your real voice. Just a thought!”

With my last remark I disappear from Del’s sight.

Walking home, with the weight lifted off my shoulders, I wonder how mom will react when I come home. Maybe she’ll be so happy, that she won’t complain about me meditating again.

With my lighter heart, I know I can advance further.

There’s always something to improve on.

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A note from kosnik4

Thank you everyone who commented on my last chapter. Seeing everyone’s point of views and discussions, gave me great ideas for the future. Please continue to voice your opinions, whether you like what I write or don’t. I make sure to read every comment.   

If you have the time please rate my work, the more you guys rate, the more people read.

As always, stay safe.


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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