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“Almost there!”

“Just a few more feet!”

“Finally!”

I finally finished dragging the cart out of the forest, and to the front of the village. Pushing down the desire to stop and relax, I scan the surroundings for Kervin.

It doesn’t take me long to notice the campsite I’m looking for. He’s set up in the small clearing next to the road that leads outside our village.

Wiping the sweat from my brow, I continue to pull the cart towards the merchant, who’s patiently waiting for me. As I reach Kervin, I can better make out the campsite. Two large silver bivol are tied to the largest trees outlining the clearing. The firepit is lit, with Kervin standing next to flames, waiting for me to get closer. His two guards are sitting on a couple of fallen logs that are outlining the center of their campsite. The two men wear full-body hide armor that shines brown in the morning sunlight. You can only see their eyes, scanning the surroundings, behind their helmets. I’m sure they noticed me before I even rounded the bend to their campsite. I learned to ignore them years ago, quickly realizing they offer little conversation.

Pulling Del’s cart next to Kervin’s, I greet the trader who comes to our village regularly.

“After noon, Kev. Did you finish selling your stock?”

“Afternoon, miss Aaliyah. I sold a little less than I was expecting, but you don’t have to worry. I have plenty of room in my cart for your goods. What do you have for me this month?”

“I have 10 pots, 10 pans, 12 daggers, 8 cooking knifes, 1000 nails, 250 arrow heads, an axe, 3 swords, 4 spears, and a full set of steel armor.” Even winded, I stand proud, telling Kervin about my goods.

“No magic weapons? Maybe a magic tool somewhere in there?”

“You know Master Del doesn’t sell his work, you’re stuck with me.” I try to sound hurt, but I’m used to him asking me the same question every month.

“Don’t get me wrong Aaliyah, I’m happy to purchase your work. It’s thanks to you, I now pull a decent profit from traveling here. That said, a piece of true dwarven craftsmanship would sell for a hundred times higher than anything you’ve ever brought me.”

“I know that Kervin. But if Master Del ever did decide to make something, and choose to sell it, he wouldn’t make anything magical. If he tried selling anything like that, people would trace it back here and annoy the both of us till we had to leave the village.”

“I could only dream of being so lucky! I would be instantly promoted. Maybe I’d get to run a caravan route between cities, the Silver Heard Trading Company would finally realize how great I am.”

“Kervin! The greatest trader in Masora, has a nice ring to it.” I try to keep my face serious. Picturing Kervin managing a larger wagon train, and spending even longer outside is difficult.

I introduced myself to Kervin three and a half years ago. Once my training with Del took off, I realized how much of a packrat Master Del was. Del likes to do a lot of forging at once, leaving his extra work laying around. If someone comes to ask him for anything, he can give them one of his works that he already has finished.

It took me a while, but I managed to convince Del to keep the pieces he already had and let me sell everything that I make. After teaching me to forge the most common items the villagers needed, I took over 99% of the forging. I make sure Master Del continues to watch me work and point out where I can improve, but now he lazes around a lot.

Needless to say, I wanted to earn as many experience points as I could, so I accepted all the work I was given. I made sure to balance mining, smelting, and forging, so I could earn experience in the quickest way possible.

With all the items I was forging, I figured earning some money would be easy. I introduced myself to Kervin and now we meet up every month, after he sells most of his stock to the villagers the day before. Kervin works for the Silver Head Trading Company, which is the trading company that Anastasia’s family owns. They got their name from the silver bivol, they use to draw their carts.

I don’t know why he ever wanted to be a merchant? Kervin is a slightly chubby man, with a round face and short black hair. He has the glow of someone who invested heavily in Vitality, but lacks the muscle tone of someone who spends so much of his time outside. I think he wanted to work indoors at one of company’s city branches. Kervin is only 5’ 10’’, which is forcing him to look up to meet my eyes.

We’re close to my fifteenth birthday and I’ve finally stopped growing. I inherited some of dad’s height, making me 6’ 1’’. I continued my exercise routines daily and managed to keep my slim build. The main difference are my arms, swinging a 20-pound hammer repeatedly has helped define my arm muscles. I can’t say they’re as big as Del’s or father’s, but anyone could see the physical work I do on a daily basis. I thought my hair would darken as I got older, only to watch it turn a reddish-orange like the flame of a forge. I worked with mom to sew some sleeveless tops, which showcases my arms and front assets. I ended up a little smaller than mother in the front department, but I’m happy with my figure.

“Ready to talk business Kervin? Did you bring me any more metal?”

“I managed to bring some more bronze, copper, and some raw Fire-iron ore this time.”

“Really, that much? Don’t tease, let me see it!”

“Of course, one second.”

Kervin waves his hand and one of his silent bodyguards walks over to his carriage. After a minute, the masked man walks over and places a wooden box at my feet.

Bending down, peering inside, I look at the treasures placed before me. I see four ingots of bronze, six ingots of pure copper, and three chunks of bright red rock. Checking the mana inside the materials, I can see the fire mana swirling inside the stone. Placing a finger on the red surface, I can better feel the warmth radiating from the ore.

“Good stuff, right!? The branch in Drey thought I was crazy, bringing magic ore to a small village.”

Putting on my game face, I respond in a half-hearted manner.

“It’s ok. The heat coming off of the stones is only lukewarm, the magic inside can’t be that strong. Master probably won’t even want to work with it.”

Kervin’s smile hardens, and I feel his skills activate. Mother taught me that this is how all merchants operate. Their skills help them get the best deal that they can. After trading with Kervin for so long, I’ve gained a few merchant skills myself. Activating my skills, Kervin’s pressure recedes a little. I can feel his skills overwhelm mine, but my skills act like a thin jacket in a snowstorm. I’m used to this oppressive feeling by now.

I only use my merchant skills a few times a month, so they’re not that high. Most of their use comes from my trades with Kervin, and whenever a villager comes to negotiate for something they need.

“You should be happy. A villager like yourself getting their hands on any magic material is lucky. So lucky, I might have to charge you just for looking at it.”

For a second, I feel like I am lucky just to see the ore, before my skills reduce Kervin’s hypnotizing words.

“I’ll admit it. I’m thankful for you bringing me this, but the quality of the ore stands. Two silver for the ore!”

“You can’t compare this to the small samples I’ve brought you in the past. This ore is worth six silvers, I dare say even seven!”

“I remember paying a lot for those small samples. I wanted them for my collection, not to forge, you owe me one. Even if master doesn’t work with this metal, I’ll still make something decent with it and sell it back to you. Three silver!”

“Now your saying you’re going to forge with it. That drops the price of the final product, five silver!”

“You know my work, three and a half silver!”

“I think four is a more reasonable price. Do we have a deal?”

We stand, staring at each other, letting our skills settle this quiet war. When his skills finally beat mine, I’m faced with the choice to leave the ore behind or take the deal.

“Deal!” I reluctantly say.

“Always a pleasure.”

Shaking each other’s hands, the rest of our trading is much easier. We already have prices set aside for the other metals and my goods. We try and renegotiate every few months, but we usually settle around the same prices we’re used to. A basic bronze ingot runs me 25 bronze coins, and copper is only worth 15 bronze. With my quick Mathematics skill, I know the metals and ore will cost me five silver and nine large bronze coins.

Pots= 1 bronze coin X10
Pans= 1 bronze coin X10
Daggers= 4 bronze coins X12
Kitchen knife= 5 bronze coins X8
Nails= 10 iron coins X1000
Arrow heads= 25 iron coins X250
Axe = 20 bronze coins X1
Swords= 17 bronze coins X3
Spears= 25 bronze coins X4
Full armor set= 2 silver coins

All my goods add up to 6.415 silver, leaving me only 51.5 bronze coins for a profit.

Grabbing his money from a small safe built into the cart, Kervin hands me 5 large bronze coins, 1 small bronze coin, and 5 large iron coins. Normally I make a lot more, but when he brings me anything unique like the Fire-iron, I have to buy it.

I managed to grow a small collection of minerals, and even if I rarely get enough to forge with, Master Del could still teach me the properties of the rocks themselves.

With the money exchanged, both our skills fade away, and our normal smiles return.

“You’re lucky your skills are higher than mine, Kervin. One of these days, I’ll get you to give me a proper deal.”

“Please don’t. Watching your progress over the last three years, I’m inclined to believe it.”

“Yeah-yeah. Any news from brother in Drey?”

“He gave me the usual parcel for headman Downs, and wanted me to let you know, it should still be another eight months before they could return to the village.”

“That’s disappointing. Any interesting news about the outside world?”

“The neighboring kingdom of Scholl sent more troops to their fort in the Scarred Divide. The cities near the end of the company’s route are preparing for a possible attack.”

“Wait! So, I should have charged more!”

“Next time you will. The attack hasn’t happened yet, and I only told you because we’re friends.”

I look down at Kervin, with a suspicious look.

“Alright-alright, you got me. I want you to make me more spears, and swords. If I can get more quality weapons for the company, I might get a promotion.”

“That sounds like the Kervin I know. I’ll see what I can do. Thanks for the compliment about my work. See you next month. Gentlemen!”

I always make sure to say farewell to his guards. Del told me you should always show respect to people who choose combat professions. Even if a crafter obtains a high level, they will never be as deadly as a person who dedicates themselves to combat.

Throwing my box of goodies into the cart I make my way back to Del’s hut.

 


 

Entering the clearing again, a quick scan reveals everything is still in its place. The tools are organized on a rack, the barrels of materials are covered, and Master Del is still napping on one of his benches.

Parking the cart, I grab a bucket of water and start creeping towards master. “What are you doing?!”

He doesn’t open his eyes, but calls out to me when I get within three feet of him.

“It’s no fun waking you up anymore, master.”

“That’s because I gained the Danger Sense skill from you always attacking me in my sleep. I can’t nap properly anymore.”

“Stop whining, master. You should be happy, gaining such a useful skill from your talented apprentice.”

“Can’t you feel the joy radiating off of me? How did your trading go?”

“I made 51 bronze today.” I set the bucket down, sad that I won’t be using it.

“That’s it! What did that bloodsucking merchant sell you now?”

“He got me three decent sized chunks of Fire-iron; you know how long it’s been since I got a chance to forge with this much magic metal. I had to buy it! Besides, what’s the point of money if you’re not going to spend it.”

“If you saved your money and took a trip to Drey, you could buy much better samples than what that man brings you.”

“Why do you hate merchants so much master?”

“Does it not anger you, knowing he’s underpricing your goods? Craftsman are always subjected to the whims of merchants. Whether it’s buying materials, or selling our hard-crafted goods, merchants are always there to take their pound of flesh. Damn buzzards!”

“Craftsmen could just sell their own goods, why do we need merchants to sell our products?”

“Because anybody buying something, over a silver in value, will hire a broker to help them purchase the item at the best price they can get. Brokers are merchants that bleed craftsmen, who sell their own goods. So, craftsmen need to hire a merchant for their store, or enter a deal with an outside merchant to sell their works for them. When you actually leave the village, you’ll understand quickly why merchants are all dragons seeking gold.”

“I don’t know, I think it’s fun haggling over prices. It’s just one more skill I can exercise.”

“That’s because you’re a monster yourself. No one your age has the levels or skills, that you do.”

I try to look offended at master’s remark, but he still has his eyes closed, laying on the bench. Walking over to the next closest bench I pull up my status page.

LV: 58 Experience: 214,915/ 353,634
Health: 1100/1100
Stamina: 317/720
Mana: 473/640
Vitality: 110
Endurance: 54
Strength: 52
Dexterity: 56
Senses: 50
Mind: 50
Magic: 64
Clarity: 59
Status Points: 296
Skills: Sense Mana (LV75), Acting (LV30), Meditation (LV75), Expel mana (LV53), Charm (LV50), Running (LV66), Cleaning (LV50), Mathematics (LV30), Writing (LV32), Mana Manipulation (LV40), Wood Carving (LV19), Drawing (LV37), Axe Skills (LV50), Inject mana (LV40), Mining (LV37), Cooking (LV29), Sewing (LV24), Chanting (LV41), Blacksmithing (LV50), Hammer Skills (LV45), Measurement (LV36), Intimidating Shout (LV26), Spear Skills (LV2), Dagger Skills (LV31), Trading (LV26), Hammer Arts (LV34), Axe Arts (LV29), Dagger Arts (LV12), Double Step (LV39), Increase price (LV7), Lower Price (LV4), Double Strike (LV21), Precise Strike (LV18), Mana Skin (LV29)

I wonder how much Sandra and Richard have grown? Since they left, I’ve made sure to exercise every morning and practice wielding three different types weapons. I focused on Axe skills, because I would most likely need to defend myself while looking for materials. Whether I’m in the forest with an axe meant for chopping wood, or down in a cave with a pick axe, I figured those would be my closest weapons. Hammer Skills and Arts rose naturally from all the blacksmithing I was doing, so I only needed to practice a little to use a hammer in a fight while sparring with dad. Finally, I made sure to always carry a dagger with me, making training with it a must.

After my drills would finish, I would either go learn from Del or spend my day’s off with father and mother. If I still had any mana left over from the day, I would practice before I would fall asleep.

Looking back, my schedule looked too busy, but I’ve had an amazing time over these last five years. I can forge decently enough now, according to Del, and I managed to spend my free time with my parents.

Thanks to all my hard work, I’ve gained ten new skills, and leveled my old ones quite a bit. I gained the three art skills while training with dad. Trading with Kervin helped me unlock the Trading skill, Lower Price, and Increase Price, the opposite of mother’s skill. Blacksmithing with Del unlocked Double Strike and Precise Strike, both of which I can utilize when fighting after I practiced enough.

Those eight skills where effective for my everyday life, but the other two are my favorites. After I broke past the level 50 test in Running, I managed to unlock Double Step before I hit level 51. It allows me to take two steps rapidly, increasing my speed for a moment. And best of all, the cooldown is quick so I only need to wait five seconds before I can use it again.

The skill I’m most proud of, is Mana Skin. Working off of the properties I learned about fire mana from Del, I developed a method to insulate my skin. Using Mana Manipulation and Expel Mana, I cover myself in a thin veil of mana reducing the effect of outside temperature. When I’m working by the forge, I can use it if I get too hot, or I can use it while running in the winter, so I stay warmer in the snow. Mana skin is my second tier 4 skill, while Precise Strike is tier 3, with the rest being at tier 2, except for Trading being at tier 1.

I managed to raise my base stats a little higher, but only my Magic and Clarity saw any significant growth. A close second though was dexterity, between my running, stretching, and forging all day, I managed to raise it naturally by six points.

“I think I’m ready to distribute my status points.” Talking to myself, I psyche myself up for what’s to come.

“What!”

Dismissing my status page, I turn to Del, who’s finally sitting up.

“Now you sit up. What’s wrong with distributing my points?”

“Don’t you have to wait longer?”

“I’m almost 15, Del. I don’t think it matters if I distribute my points a week early. Pulling your cart to the front of the village and back was tiring. I’m ready to take the next step. Is there anything wrong with that?”

“No, if that’s what you really want. I forgot that you’ re a human for a second. We Stone Kin don’t unlock our status page till we’re 20, and don’t place our accumulative points till we reach 70. Thinking back, has It only been 5 years? It feels like I’ve been teaching you for decades.”

“That’s because I make you teach me, and I won’t let you sleep all day.”

“In all seriousness, Del. Any advice for me?”

“I think you know what you want. I never thought someone could work so hard as you do, with such low stats points. I won’t tell you to become a mage again, but it wouldn’t hurt to place some of your points in things other than your physical stats. I do have one question though, what level did you make it to?”

Smiling like a demon, I look Del in the face and answer, “58.”

“Monster. Be careful of the forge after you distribute your points, I don’t feel like having to fix anything today.”

Del closes his eyes and lays back down, but I know he’s secretly paying attention to me. With 15 years of hard work, I’ve already reached the level of senior villagers.

Pulling up my status page again, I distribute the 275 points I’ve saved up since I was 10.

LV: 58 Experience: 214,915/ 353,634
Health: 2000/2000
Stamina: 847/1250
Mana: 836/1000
Vitality: 200
Endurance: 75
Strength: 100
Dexterity: 100
Senses: 60
Mind: 60
Magic: 100
Clarity: 75
Status Points: 21
Skills: Sense Mana (LV75), Acting (LV30), Meditation (LV75), Expel mana (LV53), Charm (LV50), Running (LV66), Cleaning (LV50), Mathematics (LV30), Writing (LV32), Mana Manipulation (LV40), Wood Carving (LV19), Drawing (LV37), Axe Skills (LV50), Inject mana (LV40), Mining (LV37), Cooking (LV29), Sewing (LV24), Chanting (LV41), Blacksmithing (LV50), Hammer Skills (LV45), Measurement (LV36), Intimidating Shout (LV26), Spear Skills (LV2), Dagger Skills (LV31), Trading (LV26), Hammer Arts (LV34), Axe Arts (LV29), Dagger Arts (LV12), Double Step (LV39), Increase price (LV7), Lower Price (LV4), Double Strike (LV21), Precise Strike (LV18), Mana Skin (LV29)

I save a few of my points, and close my eyes, sinking into my deepest meditative state that I could achieve.

It’s been a long time since I used any of my points, and my Mana Sense has grown by many levels since then. Scanning my body with Mana Sense, I try to notice the changes within my body.

Suddenly there is an explosion of translucent color inside my body. It doesn’t feel like mana, but the colorful mass appears inside my body, seemingly out of nowhere. I watch, as the colors merge into the different areas of my body. As the colors fuse into my bones, muscles, and tendons, my body feels lighter, stronger, and more flexible. Watching the fusing continue, I see a smaller amount fuse into my skin, ears, eyes, and nose. Smells become stronger, my ears hear Del breathing louder, and I can feel the texture of my clothes better. I resist the urge to open my eyes, and continue to watch the fusions in my body.

Once the colors enter my mana stream, my Mana Sense turns fuzzy for a moment. My mana stream becomes brighter as it assimilates the colors, and I feel my empowered mana stream pushing my new wealth of mana throughout my body.The translucent mist fuses with my brain, making my mind feel clearer, as the mist settles.

When the colors finish fading into my body, I search the area the colors erupted from. Though the colors appeared throughout my body, most came from the center of my chest. Even now small amounts are materializing around a single spot that has nothing important. There’s no organ there, and only a few of my smaller mana streams run through the area.

Using my new wellspring of mana, I try and send my mana towards the center of my body. As I increase the mana towards the spot, I slow down the excited mana, trying to pool my mana in the center of my chest. While manipulating my mana, I try to notice any differences in my mana around the area the colors erupted from.

It’s faint, but a small point within the mana seems to be pushing the mana flow around it. I try forcing my mana directly towards the small point, till I notice a clear fire the size of a pin head. Is my mana burning for some reason? I can’t feel any heat from the flame.

Trying to focus on the deepest point I’ve ever tried with my mana, I notice a small ball that the flame is surrounding.

All at once I feel sensory overload. I can feel three of my skills breaking barriers and reaching the next level, but I ignore those feelings immediately. While looking at this tiny ball, smaller than a pin head, I feel like every part of me becomes exposed. Something bigger than me is watching my body, my mana, even my thoughts! Who is it?!

Breaking away from my meditation, I fall to the ground and curl into a ball. I can’t stop shivering.

My stronger eyes are useless, as they fill with water.

“What’s wrong?! Aaliyah! Aaliyah, tell me what’s wrong!?”

Looking up at Del, through my tearful eyes, I see the worry on his face. I want to try explaining myself, but I can only mumble a few sounds that make no sense. My voice refuses to work properly. Something must be wrong with me!

Pulling up my Status page again, I’m shocked at what I find.

LV: 58 Experience: 226,815/ 353,634
Health: 2000/2000
Stamina: 847/1250
Mana: 362/1000
Vitality: 200
Endurance: 75
Strength: 100
Dexterity: 100
Senses: 60
Mind: 60
Magic: 100
Clarity: 75
Status Points: 21
Skills: Sense Mana (LV76), Acting (LV30), Meditation (LV76), Expel mana (LV53), Charm (LV50), Running (LV66), Cleaning (LV50), Mathematics (LV30), Writing (LV32), Mana Manipulation (LV41), Wood Carving (LV19), Drawing (LV37), Axe Skills (LV50), Inject mana (LV40), Mining (LV37), Cooking (LV29), Sewing (LV24), Chanting (LV41), Blacksmithing (LV50), Hammer Skills (LV45), Measurement (LV36), Intimidating Shout (LV26), Spear Skills (LV2), Dagger Skills (LV31), Trading (LV26), Hammer Arts (LV34), Axe Arts (LV29), Dagger Arts (LV12), Double Step (LV39), Increase price (LV7), Lower Price (LV4), Double Strike (LV21), Precise Strike (LV18), Mana Skin (LV29), Sense Soul (LV1)

Meditation and Sense Mana, finally broke through after two years of being stuck at level 75. I never stopped practicing with the skills, even with them stuck at the 75-level test, but they broke through so easily now. My Mana Manipulation also broke through, even though I only got it to level 40 five months ago.

However, none of that matters right now. The newest skill causes my shivering to intensify.

Sense Soul!

I was looking at my soul! The most intimate place inside a person. The translucent colors that erupted throughout my body, must have been from my soul.

Doing some quick math in my head, I realize sense Soul is a tier 5 skill! The type of skill that kingdoms covet.

My head is killing me!

As I start to pass out, I’m reminded of my parents.

They’re going to be pissed when I wake up.

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A note from kosnik4

Thanks to everyone, I reached the top 90 for a little bit. I’m thankful for everyone’s kind words of motivation.

I plan on releasing another chapter later in the week, but I’m not sure when. My job called me back and offered me some hours, so I’m going back to work for the first time in two months.

I hope everyone enjoyed the chapter, and any comments are welcome.

As always, stay safe. 


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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