“Once you mentioned the horde, I figured you would call me in.” Del’s response to Camden doesn’t reach my ears.


How does he know my level? Did Sandra say something to him? But she hasn’t seen me in over four years.


“I still need to thank you. I know how much you loathe talking to people, it was surprising to me when I heard you took on an apprentice. Despite your quirkiness, you’re the strongest person in the village. We need your help against the horde.”


Does he know my status page!?


“That bad, huh. You said there’s a horde, how many goblins did Ronald observe in the woods?”


What else does he know about me!?


“He could only observe their camp a few minutes before he had to leave. Ronald thinks they number around 400.”


Mother and father warned me about people like him discovering my abilities, I need to know what his intentions are! I don’t even know when I stood up but I’m staring down at Camden.


“Woah, don’t panic at the numbers Aaliyah.” What is he talking about? Doesn’t matter.


As I continue to stare at him, his reassuring smile fades and he looks worried up at me. I take a step forward, only to pulled back by master’s arm. Both Camden and Nicolas flinch as I’m pulled back.


“Calm down there.” Masters words don’t pull my gaze away from Camden.


“I apologize if I offended you in some way.” He’s apologizing to me what did he do!? Did he threaten someone in my family!?


Another hand restrains my other shoulder. “How do you know about my level! Only Del and my family should know about it! Did you threaten my family!?” I practically growl the words to the man sitting before me.


“Oh that. I thought you were mad about me requesting your help with the goblins.” The headman takes a breath and adjusts himself. Finding a relaxed position in his chair again, Camden looks up at me with an understanding look in his eyes. “I noticed your high level back when my daughter and your brother left for Drey.”


His answer distracts me, causing me to stop struggling against Del’s grasp. When I suddenly stop resisting Del, the force of his arms yanks me backwards into his chest.


“How?” I mumble.


“He has a noble skill.” Del’s voice echoes behind me.


Seeing the confusion on my face, Camden explains. “Some skills are more likely to be unlocked when a person reaches a high enough social status. They’re called noble skills because knights, nobles, and people that govern over others are the most likely to obtain them. I won’t tell you which of my skills it is, but it allows me to estimate the levels of my villagers that I govern over. I noticed your high level when you were saying goodbye to my daughter.”


He has noble skills that can approximate someone’s level and one that can influence the mind. What a scary combo. “Do all village leaders have skills like that?”


“No. As I said, the skills are MOST likely to be obtained by people in my position. Leaders of merchant groups have been known to unlock similar skills. But just like all skills, they are only unlocked through hard work. I thought I was talented, that is until you surpassed my level before you were even considered an adult.”


Sensing that I’ve calmed down, Del releases his grip and sits back down. Free from Del’s grip I take my own seat as Camden continues to talk.


“Realizing your ridiculous leveling speed, I contacted my daughter a few years ago and you know what she wrote back?” Now that I’m relaxed, it looks like he’s more confident talking to me. “She told me to leave you alone.” He starts laughing. “She said not to poke a hibernating karhu. I of course agreed with her and have watched you surpass Ronald’s and mine level over these last few years.”


Sandra was looking out for me, even when she was off at Drey learning to be a mage. She’s a good friend. “You understand that I don’t want to stand out, right?”


“I figured as much. You have nothing to worry about from me. Villages flourish whenever they produce a high leveled individual like yourself. If you need anything at all, please find myself or Nicolas.” I see Nicolas standing by the door, nodding his head.


“If you’re being so accommodating, can you remove the skill that keeps the idea of defending the village from bouncing around inside my head." The accommodating smile falters on Camden’s face.


“I’m sorry but I don’t have that kind of control with that skill. It affects the whole village and I can’t afford to remove it. I hope you understand?”


Before I can say anything else, Master Del cuts in. “I know this is the first official meeting between the two of you, but Aaliyah’s parents will become worried if she doesn’t return home soon. We should talk about the horde before they show up.”


“You’re right, we’ve drifted off the trail for a moment there. You probably know the reason I called you here tonight, instead of waiting for tomorrow.”


Master’s eyes narrow at Mr. Downs. “I can only assume Ronald confirmed that a horned hobgoblin was amongst the horde.”


Nicolas shivers hearing Del’s words and his father looks just as worried. “That’s right. He could only observe one, but when it comes to goblins there’s usually more that you can’t see.”


“Master, what’s a horned Hobgoblin?” I can guess by their context that it’s a stronger version of a goblin but how much stronger?


“Goblins are peculiar creatures. A goblins life cycle is one of the wonders of the world. Goblins are born and reach their first form of maturity in only five months. By eight months they can breed and they usually die before they can reach two years old. Goblins that reach one and a half years of age can be as strong as a level 15 villager. The goblins you’ve met so far were mostly between six months and a year in age, making them even weaker.”


“So, what makes them so dangerous other than their numbers?”


“Once a goblin reaches two years of age, they enter another growth phase.  In only a few months they go from three and a half feet tall to nearly five feet tall. At this point they’re closer to say a level 30 person, still manageable to an adult hunter, but much more dangerous to your average villager. We call those goblins hobgoblins or hobs for short.”


Master takes a deep breath and rubs the back of his head before he continues. “Once a goblin turns into a hob, they slowly get stronger with time. Goblins are prey for most creatures, but if a hobgoblin survives and reaches five years of age, they enter another growth phase. Each goblin grows differently during their third growth phase, some barely pass five and a half feet, while I’ve heard horror stories of goblins reaching seven feet tall. Disregarding the height difference, goblins that old can be identified by the horns that they grow on their heads.”


“How strong are these horned hobgoblins, master?” I’m practically vibrating with nervousness.


“It varies, but the weaker ones are usually in the high forties. Mid-fifties are a safe bet whenever someone is gauging the strength of horned hobs.”


“Oh, Gods!” This is bad.


“I’m glad you understand the dilemma I face.” Master and I both turn to Camden. “The worst part about goblins is their mob approach to fighting. The three of us and Ronald are the only ones that have the levels to match a horned hob. Del-Razen, I need to use your strength to reassure people that this isn’t a hopeless battle.”


Master slowly nods his head. “I understand, but we need to be careful. I may have a little combat experience but I just make use of my high Strength stat. Aaliyah is not suited for this kind of combat and I doubt you’ve fought anything recently. That leaves me and Ronald to handle the higher tier goblins. I’ll say this now, if there’s more than six horned hobs, we’ll need to retreat.”


“Even you can’t handle more than six horned hobs?!” Nicolas breaks his silence for the first time. I can’t help but agree with him. When I first met master, he was level 87. He has to have leveled at least once or twice these last few years. Is he saying even someone at level 89 can’t handle seven horned hobs?


“Boy, I may seem strong to you, but you have to remember I’m a craftsman. Stone Kin have no reason to learn self-defense unless we decide to join our cities militia. I only learned how to utilize my strength in combat after I left Truset. Other than a pressure skill, I only have hammer arts and other crafting skills that I’ve never needed to practice in combat. When I said if there was more than six, I was talking about Ronald and I working together against them.”


Camden looks like he is squeezing his hands together quite hard, he was probably hoping for more of a reassurance from master. “If we have to, we’ll kill as many goblins as we can and retreat if there’s too many hobs, horned or otherwise. I’ve already been given Ronald’s approval, I just had to make sure you were going to help the village.”


“Humf, I’ve been living here long enough to consider this my home, of course I would help defend it.” If only a little, Camden and Ronald lose some of their tension.


Wait. Why are they looking only at Del? “Am I not expected to fight?”


Turning towards me, Camden doesn’t hide the look of unease on his face. “I promised my daughter that I wouldn’t force you to help the village. You may be the second highest leveled person in the village but you’re also still too young for me to ask you to come along with us. I’ll let you and the few others that are close to your age participate if they want to. I would be overjoyed if you’d join us but that has to be your decision, not mine.”


The last rays of light filter through the window. Standing up, Sandra’s father bows his head. “I want to thank the two of you again. If either of you have questions, you can find me here tomorrow. Nicolas, escort them out please.”


Master Del and I are escorted out of the headman’s house and Del escorts me home. Before we separate in front of my door, we decide to meet up tomorrow in his clearing.


Opening the door to my house, I see father helping mother prepare dinner. Slipping off my shoes, I close the door behind me.


“Ahyt ls weem appiss!”


I clean myself before I slip my feet into my slippers. The magic draws my parent’s attention for a moment, but they’re used to me using the spell in the entryway when I come home late.


Clean, and with my slippers donned, I move towards the kitchen and help make dinner. Everyone is silent, we have too much to talk about and if we start now, we won’t be able to finish dinner until tomorrow morning. 



The sun has nearly set, as we eat our first spoonfuls of soup.


“I’ll grab the candles.” Father moves to pull out his chair.


“It’s ok, let me handle it.” I’ve already shown off the spells I can use to my parent’s, but it’s rare for us to eat dinner this late.


“Cicsh het ploetts lages!”


The ball of light illuminates our table. The playful jabs at my secluded training last night are missed in this awkward silence. The three of us share looks of unease, and as usual it’s mother that ends the silence.


“What did the headman want with you, sweety?” Mother and father both stop eating and wait for me to answer mother’s question.


“The headman wanted to talk to us about the horde.” I shovel two spoonsfuls of my soup into my mouth and try to avoid my parent’s gazes.


“Us? You mean Del right? Why would the headman want to talk to you?” Mother interrogates me while looking worried. I turn away from her and look towards father. He has a flash of understanding and looks even more worried than mother.


“He called the two of us over because we’re the two highest leveled people in the village.”


“What!?” Mother looks like she’s about to explode with anger. Father hangs his head, trying to hide his own fury at the situation. “How does he know your level!? Was it Del!?” I laugh at mother’s absurdity.


“Why would Del tell the headman about my level, mother? Apparently, the headman has a skill that lets him approximate people’s levels. He said he’s been keeping an eye on me since I said goodbye to Sandra. And before you run over to his house, he didn’t say I had to participate in the fight.” Quick glances at my parent’s faces tell me they already know where I’m going with this.


“You are not participating!” Mother’s face tells me she’s firm about not letting me go. “The headman can be happy that your father is going. He doesn’t need my daughter as well.”


“I need to go.” I can only stare at my soup. I know mother is about to yell at me. Bracing for the impending argument, I slowly look up.


“You don’t…” Mother’s wrath abruptly stops when father places his hand against her arm.


“Why do you think you have to go with us?” Father is trying to be supportive, but his unwillingness to let me go is apparent.


“The horde has horned hobs. The headman wanted to warn Del that he would need to use his name as a reassurance, when he discusses the horde tomorrow with the village.” Mother appears too startled to speak, while father loses his mask of understanding and betrays his fear of the situation.


“Ronald and Del will handle the horned hobs, but even then, there will be regular hobgoblins to worry about. I’m stronger than most of the villagers. If I don’t go, dad and many others could die.”


Mother still looks like she wants to argue. I know it’s coming from a place of love but I’ve already made up my mind. “Mother!” Using Intimidating Shout, I stop her before she can yell again. “I love the two of you so much, but I’m 15 now, this is my decision to make.”


I never thought I would have to use the rebellious teen excuse. I wish I could go to my room but I’m the one providing the light.



The rest of dinner passed silently between the three of us.


Once the kitchen was clean, I lead us towards our rooms. I make sure I’m in front so I don’t need to make eye contact with mother or father. I wish Richard was back home right now.


Opening my bedroom door, I can’t think of a time that I’ve been this at odds with my parents. I’ve never openly disobeyed my parents’ wishes like this before.


Mother and Father shift to my left and go to open their bedroom door. As they start to disappear into their room, I’m reminded of how quickly I died in my previous life. I never had a chance to tell my previous family how much I loved them. You never know what the future can bring and going to bed angry is never a good option.


Before their door closes completely, I push it back open. Mother and Father look startled, but before they walk to their sides of the bed, I run up to them and give them a hug.


We don’t say anything.


Breaking apart after a few minutes, I kiss their cheeks and walk back to my room.


Closing my door softly, I change into my nightgown. Sitting on my bed, I hear the muffled sobbing of mother through the walls.


Despite all my hard work today, I don’t feel tired.


I should check my status page.


LV: 59 Experience: 46,072/ 385,461

Health: 2,000.00/2,000

Stamina: 412.91/1,250

Mana: 357.46/1,000

Vitality: 200.00

Endurance: 75.01

Strength: 100.00

Dexterity: 100.04

Senses: 60.11

Mind: 61.94

Magic: 100.09

Clarity: 75.04

Status Points: 31


Tier 1:

Meditation (LV77), Running (LV66), Axe Skills (LV51), Cleaning (LV50), Blacksmithing (LV50), Hammer Skills (LV45), Chanting (LV42), Mining (LV42), Drawing (LV37), Dagger Skills (LV31),  Acting (LV30), Cooking (LV29), Trading (LV26), Sewing (LV24), Wood Carving (LV19), Spear Skills (LV2)

Tier 2:

Sense Mana (LV76), Charm (LV50), Double Step (LV39), Measurement (LV36), Hammer Arts (LV34), Writing (LV32), Mathematics (LV30), Axe Arts (LV30), Intimidating Shout (LV26), Dagger Arts (LV12), Increase price (LV7), Lower Price (LV4)

Tier 3:

Expel mana (LV53), Mana Manipulation (LV41), Double Strike (LV21), Precise Strike (LV18)

Tier 4:

Inject mana (LV40), Mana Skin (LV29), Mental Resistance (LV24)

Tier 5:

Sense Soul (LV17)


My higher stats boosted my mining and axe related skills. I can’t sleep and I only have a little bit of mana to train with. I need to be stronger.


I need to level as many of my relevant skills as quickly as possible. I’ll need to practice my physical skills tomorrow. If I can’t sleep tonight I might as well work on the three skills that will help me gain the most experience. Mana Skin is the first thing I should work on. I have about 150 mana that I can spare tonight.


Getting into my meditative position, I activate Mana Skin. If I let the skill activate by itself, it usually costs 51 mana to cover my body. After my body is covered, I can keep Mana Skin active with only a point of mana every 84 seconds.


Unfortunately, skills only level when you push them. Usually I increase the mana expelled to form the barrier around my body. The thicker barrier makes a better insulator against the weather. With my higher stats I plan on trying something new.


While the skill activates, I release 100 mana. It takes a few seconds but now my body is covered in a barrier half an inch thick. Del told me he can’t see anything when I activate the skill, so it should be ok to use during the fight.


Sinking into a deeper meditative state, I focus on the barrier my skill created with my heightened Clarity and Mind stat. The barrier only works with temperature because anything can pass through the barrier. If I can condense the barrier, maybe it could deflect physical things too.


Forcing away stray thoughts, I use Mana Manipulation to exert pressure against the barrier and try to slowly compress it.


It’s working, I can feel the magic becoming denser against my body. If I can compress it another three times I can… defend the village.


Gods, lost my concentration. That stupid compulsion in the back of my mind makes it impossible to completely focus. The constant prod in the back of my mind feels like someone is poking the inside of my skull. In between pokes I can focus but each time the compulsion activates it ruins my concentration.


Luckily my Mana Skin skill wasn’t deactivated by my focusing blunder. Checking my remaining mana, I see I only have 17 mana left for experimentation. The mana surrounding me also lost 25% of its composition.


This time I wait. Meditating, I try to sense the next “poke” that’s coming.


16 mana left.


15 mana left, when is it coming?


14, how long…


The faint desire to help the village momentarily flashes through my mind.


Alright, now! Expelling another 10 mana, I use Mana Manipulation to try and compress the barrier around myself. I don’t have enough time to experiment with different levels of compression so I burn my mana trying to compress it to half of its normal thickness.


Focus! Almost there!


I got it.


Opening my eyes, the magic surrounding me is thinner, but I don’t have time to analyze it deeper. Another “poke” should be coming soon.


Slowly lifting my right hand, I try to grasp my left forearm. I need to be fast but if I move too quickly, I might ruin the progress I made by accident.


With my right hand above my forearm, I try and squeeze my arm.


Pure joy lights up my face as I can feel a barrier separating my hand. Slowly increasing my grip strength, I try and feel what the barrier does under increasing force. The barrier only stops what I can say as about 30 strength worth of force before my hand sinks into the barrier, allowing me to grab my forearm.


Let’s see what happens when I remove my… help the village.


This is pissing me off now.


My Mana Skin doesn’t revert back to the thicker version this time, but trying to poke my arm reveals that the strength of the barrier has dropped to only a third of its previous capabilities. 


My mana is… crap. Deactivating my skill, I’m 27 mana under my reserve. I shouldn’t have pushed so hard. The lower my mana drops the slower it regenerates. I would normally not care about a few points under my soft limit but I need to be able to regain all my mana by the time we leave for the forest.


Camden’s skill has opened my eyes to how much I focus when I use most of my skills. When walking, eating, and doing normal everyday activities Camden’s skill is nothing but a thought in the back of my head. However, when I focus, his skill becomes a noticeable problem. I need to try and remove it.


With my five days of soul training, I can look closer at the general area of my soul. Maybe I can pick the fragments of his skill out of my soul if I try hard enough.


Focusing inwards, towards the center of my chest, I try scanning the outer reaches of my soul. If I look at too long, I’ll get a headache, so I need to… protect the village.


“Aggg.” I grit my teeth before I scream in the night.


This will be harder than I thought.



Four hours later and I couldn’t remove a single shred of the headman’s skill. There’re only a few hours until the sun rises. I hate that I have to use my backup plan, but I need to at least sleep a little tonight.


Before another “poke” arrives, I try to look directly at my soul.


Everything fades quickly and I’m in the forest again. I wish I could take a nap, too bad I never feel tired here, and the passage of time is twisted.


Standing up, I make my way towards the sea of stars. The quicker I get to the eyes the quicker I can wake up. If I’m lucky it will be morning and I can talk to Del about the coming battle.


The only good thing about this space is that I can constantly run without getting tired. I think of it as a game, and I need to dodge all the trees as I run towards the goal.


Enjoying this one moment of happiness before the eyes shock me awake, I make my way through the dark forest.


What’s that?


While running, I notice a small light casting shadows behind a root of a tall tree. I’ve been here dozens of times and the only light comes from the moons and stars.


I was running pretty quick, so I backtrack to find the tree and search for the light. Finally, I notice the soft glow of the light in the distance. Steadily making my way over, I stand before a tree. The tree looks like any other and has no distinguishing features. Circling the trunk of the tree, I find the light source.


“What the hell?” Stuck near the bottom of the tree and a large root is a small translucent fireball. Are those flames from my soul!?


The translucent fire isn’t spreading, the flames just seem to stick to the tree. I channel my inner child and do something stupid…


…I try and poke the flames with one of my fingers.


My finger slips through the flames without harming my hand. If the flame isn’t dangerous, I try and scoop the ball of fire into my left hand. The flames seem to defy any sense of gravity and only move once I encase them in both my hands.


Opening my hands, the flames are now stuck to the palm of my right hand. Raising the flames to eye level, I try to inspect the most detailed piece of soul I’ve ever seen. Flipping my hand upside down, the flames now look like gravity has been reversed, making the flames look like they’re dripping from my hand.


What’s weird is the flames contain very little information and the information that is there is fragmented. Maybe there’s more of these flames scattered around.



Playing hide and seek in a place that has no concept of time turned out to be a tedious endeavor. I made sure to avoid the sea of stars and combed every inch of the forest and the surrounding rocky landscape.


I was right in believing there were other flames hidden. Turns out, I found 146 of the little balls of fire. Bringing any of the flames close together would cause them to fuse into a denser ball of translucent flames.


Now that I found them all, I’m back in my clearing. I can’t leave now.


The ball of fire in my hand is whispering in my ear now that I’ve combined all the fragments.


“Save the village.”

“Save the village.”

“Save the village.”


I started to realize what the flames were when I had most of them collected, they’re the fragments of Camden’s skill!


I’m sure his skill was absorbed by my soul.


That would mean...


I’m in my soul right now!


Looking around the clearing again, I can’t help but reexamine every tree around me. Is the ground truly the ground?


I always thought this was a place inside my head that I go to whenever I overtax my brain by looking at my soul directly.


This changes everything. If this is my soul, examining every inch of this place might hold clues about how skills are stored in the soul.


I have so many things to try, but one thing stands above the rest right now. Peering down at the ball of flames in my hand, I need to remove this skill. I need to be able to focus during the battle, but how can I destroy it? Nothing works here.


Now that the flames aren’t scattered anymore, maybe I could extract them when I leave.


Or, they might just disperse again.


I don’t want to have to look for the flame fragments again.


If the skill is mixed with my soul, I’ve already helped by gathering the fragments together. Maybe when I leave, I can take them with me.


This is the longest time I’ve ever spent here. I need to check how much time has passed outside my soul.


Holding the skill, I make my way towards the star sea. This time I don’t rush.


Every rock.


Every leaf.


Why does my soul look like the forest to me? Before I realize it, I’m already entering the desert of rocks that surrounds the forest. What kind of metaphor is this place?


Maybe I need to stop looking at everything like a Rorschach test. My skills obviously aren’t strong enough to comprehend my surroundings, I should focus on removing this invasive skill.


Finally, standing on the cliff, I look at the calm sea. Alright skill, let’s see how well you do against the eyes.


Holding the flame out in front of me, I watch the second moon rise from the sea and join its twin in the sky.


My left hand goes to my chest, my heart is rapidly pounding against my ribs, trying to escape its prison.  With my new understanding of this world, I’m terrified of the rising moons. What are they?


As they reach the pinnacle of the sky, the eyes open, and I brace for the coming sense of unease.


But this time I don’t feel like the eyes are focusing on me. Usually I can’t look away but without the direct pressure of the eyes I can finally look around. looking at my right palm, I watch as the flames are slowly being snuffed out. The eyes are focusing on the invasive skill! Are the eye’s guarding my soul?


If they are, then they will probably boot me out of here next. But why do they wait for me to reach here of all places before they kick me out?


Before the flame winks out of existence, I try and look around again. The surrounding cliff is the same and so is the night sky. The ocean is…


The dark ocean is gone, replaced by sea of lights. One of the closest lights draws me in, and in the light, I see myself having dinner with my parents from last night. Everything’s the same. Are these lights my memories!? What if I go deeper, I could…?!


I can no longer look at the lights, the overbearing force once again descends upon me and I’m forced to look up. Once I make eye contact with the twin orbs in the sky, I’m waking up in my bed. The sun hasn’t risen but the night is quickly receding.


Sinking into a meditative state, I’m happy to see that Camden’s skill is gone from my mind. I need to check my status page.


LV: 59 Experience: 178,372/ 385,461

Health: 2,000.00/2,000

Stamina: 1231.99/1,250

Mana: 584.31/1,000

Vitality: 200.00

Endurance: 75.01

Strength: 100.00

Dexterity: 100.04

Senses: 60.11

Mind: 62.09

Magic: 100.11

Clarity: 75.07

Status Points: 31


Tier 1:

Meditation (LV77), Running (LV66), Axe Skills (LV51), Cleaning (LV50), Blacksmithing (LV50), Hammer Skills (LV45), Chanting (LV42), Mining (LV42), Drawing (LV37), Dagger Skills (LV31),  Acting (LV30), Cooking (LV29), Trading (LV26), Sewing (LV24), Wood Carving (LV19), Spear Skills (LV2)

Tier 2:

Sense Mana (LV76), Charm (LV50), Double Step (LV39), Measurement (LV36), Hammer Arts (LV34), Writing (LV32), Mathematics (LV30), Axe Arts (LV30), Intimidating Shout (LV26), Dagger Arts (LV12), Increase price (LV7), Lower Price (LV4)

Tier 3:

Expel mana (LV53), Mana Manipulation (LV42), Double Strike (LV21), Precise Strike (LV18)

Tier 4:

Inject mana (LV40), Mana Skin (LV32), Mental Resistance (LV30)

Tier 5:

Sense Soul (LV23)


Wow! I gained a level in Mana Manipulation and three in Mana Skin with my magic practice last night. But the most levels are in Mental Resistance and Sense Soul. I gained six levels in mental resistance, most likely because I managed to remove Camden’s skill.


But I feel the biggest payoff came from Sense Soul. My tier 5 skill also leveled six times last night. I don’t think I was supposed to see those memories. That has to be the next step I have to take to improve Sense Soul. I’ll hit my first test once its hit’s 30 and every ten levels I’ll have to overcome another obstacle.


All of the mental training finally pushed Mind to 62.


If I have some time later, I might try and enter my soul again.


I need to meet with Del and stop by the headman’s house to tell him I’ll be participating.


Dressing in some clean clothes, I leave my room to finish my preparations for my part in the coming battle.

A note from kosnik4

5,300 words.

Hope you enjoyed the chapter and as always, stay safe.

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About the author


Bio: Just love a good story.

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