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“Master?!”

 

“Master?!”

 

“Master Del?!” Entering Del’s clearing, I’m surprised that Del isn’t on his favorite bench.

 

“Stop your hollering, I’m coming out!” His voice echoes out of his hut.

 

A few seconds later, Master Del appears in his doorway sporting some metal armor. I recognize the armor as the same pieces I saw when I first cleaned Del’s house. I had no idea the armor was meant for his personal use.

 

Looking at master from head to toe, I try not to laugh. “Master, I think you might have to adjust the midsection.” I can see where his armor is constricting his gut. “Puffff.” I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

 

“I haven’t needed to wear this, since I left Truset. The metal must have warped after I’ve left it laying around for so long.”

 

“I’m sure that’s the reason, master.” I bring my hand up to suppress another snicker.

 

“Cheeky, brat.” While Del walks over to his anvil, he carefully takes off his armor. When I first cleaned his house, I didn’t know anything about blacksmithing. Now that I can craft my own, I can see the superb craftsmanship hidden amongst the plain looking armor. The straps are hidden and look to be reinforced by metal clips. The outside looks like plain steel, but the plates overlap perfectly giving the wearer an added protection against stray arrows or the lucky sword stroke. I hope that I can achieve something similar in my future works.

 

Once his armor is removed, Del moves over to his anvil and grabs a smaller hammer that we use for more precise work. He inspects each piece of armor carefully, adjusting it if he spots some hidden imperfection.

 

“You coming with us tomorrow?” Master’s question pulls me out of my peaceful hypnotic state. Watching Del work seriously, is beautiful. I can almost meditate to his hammer strikes.

 

“Of course, I’m going. You think I would let you and dad go alone?”

 

Master stops his swings and looks up at me. “You sure? We can handle the goblins. You don’t have to force yourself to go.”

 

Scrunching my face, I snap back at master. “It sounds like you don’t want me to go.”

 

“We’ve known each other for five years now, I know you don’t like conflict. You may be the second-highest leveled person in the village, but you’ve distributed your Status Points over many attributes. Your strength stat is the same as a villager’s strength when they’re in the level thirties range. What I’m trying to say is, you have to be sure that this is what you want to do. Don’t force yourself to go, just because of your level.”

 

I have to steady myself after that little speech. Del’s usual passive antics sometimes make me forget how much older he is than me. Even if I include my past life, he’s more than double my age. I’m not sure if he does it on purpose, but when he has these random moments of wisdom, they leave a much more lasting effect on me.

 

“It’s not like I want to go hunting for the goblins. I just can’t stay here knowing you, father, and so many others are leaving to defend the village. I might not be able to fight a horned hob but I can at least help with the regular hobgoblins. If I go, it will lessen the danger to the village. Plus, if Richard and Sandra came back home and Dad or the village headman died during the fight, I could never face either of them ever again.” Maybe because I wasn’t shouting at my mother, I was better able to articulate my desires. Saying my reasons out loud feels like I’ve gained a much stronger sense of purpose.

 

“Wow, the headman’s skill got you good.” And master goes back to his hammering and his annoying jokes.

 

“Sorry, but that’s all me. His skill was ruining my concentration, so I dispersed his skill last night.”

 

Master jerks his head up towards my direction and barely shifts his strike at the last minute to avoid his fingers. “You were able to cancel his noble skill!?”

 

I give master my best shit eating grin possible. “Yep, gone. It wasn’t even that hard once I figured it out.” I’ll leave out the hours I spent failing at removing the skill and how I stumbled upon the solution.

 

“It was that skill, huh?” Master refuses to ever mention the words “tier 5” or the name of my skill out loud.

 

“Yeah.” I lightly reply. Master nods his head and goes back to adjusting his armor.

 

After he finishes a piece, he puts it back on to test out the new dimensions. It only takes him thirty minutes to finish adjusting each piece of his armor. Without the armor looking too tight for him, Master Del looks incredible. He reaches over and grabs his heaviest hammer and does a few practice swings. Seeing the armored Stone Kin waving the heavy hammer like it’s nothing gives me hope for the coming battle.

 

“Master, why aren’t you using your pickaxe? Isn’t it stronger than your hammer?” I’m confused at master’s weapon choice.

 

“My pickaxe may be stronger, but I have more levels related to my hammer skills. I’m better with a hammer, so there’s no point in bringing my pickaxe even if its enchanted.”

 

Master continues his swings, but I have an idea we need to try. “I think you should bring your pickaxe and keep your hammer as a side weapon.” Pausing his swing, master looks at me with an inquisitive look. “Hear me out master. What if I fill your pickaxe with my mana before the big fight? The pickaxe went through the stone in the mine easily, and I only have a fraction of your Strength. It won’t last long, but if you take care of the horned hobs quickly enough, bringing your magic pickaxe would be worth it.”

 

I can’t hide the excited look from my face. Del might not be able to utilize mana but he can use items that already have a mana supply like the light-hats.

 

“That might work.” Walking over towards one of his sheds he grabs his pickaxe.

 

Twirling the pickaxe in his hands, he doesn’t look as confident. “I’m not sure if your plan will work. I don’t know how the pickaxe will react when it’s charged with your mana. It’s dangerous to use a new weapon in a fight.”

 

He’s right. I didn’t want to spend any of my mana today, but Del needs to practice with his axe fully charged. Maybe he can practice on some rocks? “Master, why don’t we go to the quarry and you can practice with your pickaxe on the stones there?”

 

“We could try that, but we need to hurry. We both need to pack for our trip into the forest.”

 

We start walking towards the quarry. Without having to pull the cart, we’ll reach there in record time.

 

“Why do we need to pack supplies? Aren’t we just going to the goblin’s camp?”

 

I try to keep pace with Del as he chuckles at my question. “Remember that Ronald reported that the goblin’s camp is near the edge of the hunting grounds?”

 

“Yes, I remember.”

 

“How far do you think that is from our village?”

 

“Well if you’re asking me, then it has to be farther than I think. Just tell me already.”

 

“The hunting grounds are the sections of forest surrounding our village where the nature magic isn’t that dense. Because of the lower magic levels only lesser beasts reside here.”

 

“Wait! Farkas and karhu are considered lesser beasts!?”

 

“They may be big and strong but neither are magic beasts. As the magic density in the forest gets stronger the plants grow rapidly and the forest becomes much denser. If the plants become stronger it’s obvious the animals will too. Though a karhu is big, many beasts that are half its size can kill it with their natural magic.”

 

“That’s cool and all, but what does that have to do with us packing supplies?”

 

“I’m getting there… no patience I see. Our village was settled here because it’s close enough to the denser magic region that rarer plants and animals have a small chance to show up, but on the opposite side we’re far enough away from the denser forest that the village is out of range from the stronger magic beasts. Even Ronald, one of the faster hunters in the village, would need a day and a half to reach the denser part of the forest. We will need to travel as a group towards the goblin’s camp. It will probably take us two days to get within range of the camp, and then people will need to rest for the battle. If everything goes our way, it will take us at least five days to get back to the village.”

 

“If the goblins are so far away, why is the headman so sure that they will attack our village?”

 

“Goblins are scavengers, for whatever reason these ones were forced out of the denser forest, they’ll need a lot of food. Our part of the forest is safer but it doesn’t have the abundance of materials to support a goblin tribe as big as this one. They will fan out and eventually find our village. Our food stores would be their only choice at survival. When winter comes, they will be exceedingly desperate. It may be dangerous to attack their camp, but many more would die if their tribe raided the village during the winter.”

 

Leave it to talks about being attacked to ruin the mood. We spent the last few minutes of travel in silence. I need to make sure I’m at my best when the fighting starts.

 

When we reach the bottom of the quarry, I’ve made up my mind. I quickly pull up my status page and distribute my status points.

 

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

Health: 2,000.00/2,000

Stamina: 1,084.62/1,320

Mana: 584.31/1,000

Vitality: 200.00

Endurance: 80.00

Strength: 116.00

Dexterity: 110.00

Senses: 60.11

Mind: 62.09

Magic: 100.11

Clarity: 75.07

Status Points: 0

Skills:

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)

 

I don’t like not having any spare status points, but I can’t hold back during the fight. I raised my Strength to 116, endurance to 80, and dexterity to 110.

 

“Master, if I pass out don’t worry. I’ll wake up in a couple hours.” Ignoring his questions and protests, I focus inward and watch my soul the best I can. The colors that emerge from my soul aren’t as diversified as last time.

 

I already know that the translucent colors improve my body, so this time I focus on only my soul. I still can’t look at the center of my soul, where the colors appear to originate from, but I can tell the flames surrounding my soul are much more active right now.

 

The closest thing I can compare my soul to right now is a star. The flames are acting like solar flares, explosions casting the colors throughout my body.

 

If my soul is acting like a sun, maybe the colors are my status points being converted into the energy that nourishes my body. What are the status points that we gain from leveling? Each time I think I learn something new; I’m left with a dozen more questions.

 

As the colors finish merging with my body, I’m lucky I didn’t pass out this time. Exhaling the breath I was holding during my soul observation, I straighten my back and try and feel the new state of my body.

 

This time I don’t trip over myself. I think because my stats were already high this time, boosting them isn’t as hard to control.

 

“Did you just level or something?” I turn to Del who’s patiently waiting for a response.

 

“I had some Status points that I had saved up, and I figured I should use and get used to them before we leave for the forest. While you practice with your pickaxe, I’m going to practice with the axe I take with me when I go to work with father. You want me to charge your pickaxe now?”

 

As he passes me the pickaxe, I reflect on my higher skills. When I distributed my points a second time, I was overwhelmed with the new sensations but with this time my mind is free enough to examine my new stats and I’m reminded how amazing this world is. With a strength of 116, I can hold his pickaxe easily in one hand.

 

Magic is cool to use, but seeing myself reach physical limits that wouldn’t be possible back on earth is somehow more satisfying.

 

Looking at Master Del, I tell him how many times I can charge his pickaxe. “I need to let my mana fully recharge before we leave tomorrow, so I can only fill the pickaxe three times.” As I fill the pickaxe with mana, the beautiful copper lines once again appear across its surface.

 

Handing the pickaxe back to master, I take a step back as he shifts his hands to a better position.

 

“It doesn’t feel any different to me.” The axe arcs through the air creating a sharp whistling sound with each of Del’s swings. “Let’s see what she can do?”

 

Master takes a strong stance, in front of the wall of the quarry. “Haa,” with an explosive shout Del swings his pickaxe horizontally.

 

It’s hard to look at his swing when he moves so fast. Relaxing his stance, his strike is over in a blink of the eye. The wall of the quarry now has a clean scar that runs six feet across its face.

 

“Torrow’s forge! I didn’t even use any skills.” We both look at each other. If Del can do that much damage to stone, maybe the horned hobgoblins won’t pose as much of a threat as we thought.

 

**********

 

After a few hours of practice, we decided to separate, and pack for the expedition. I don’t want to stay and watch Del tear through his stuff looking for what he considered necessities. I don’t think a flask twice as big as his usual one would be considered a necessity.

 

On my way home I stop by the headman’s house. I figured I should give him some good news and let him know I’ll be participating tomorrow.

 

“Does my wife have to leave tomorrow?”

“What about my kids, who will watch over them?”

“What should I bring with me?”

 

Poor Nicolas is being surrounded by villagers, each with their own questions. It looks like he’s keeping people from intruding into their home. I squeeze myself against the building and slowly push my way up through the crowd towards Nicolas.

 

Once I make my way to the front of the crowd, I try and get Nicolas’s attention. “Message from Del-Razen.” A few people around me quiet and Nicolas makes eye contact with me.

 

With a head nod, he moves to the side, and motions for me to enter their house. Nicolas follows me through the door but turns towards the crowd before he shuts the door. “I’ll be back to answer your questions in a minute.” Some are shouting in disappointment while others appear to understand and quiet themselves waiting for his return.

 

“Follow me, Miss Aaliyah.” Nicolas leads me to a door that sits off to the side.

 

I can’t help but ask. “Having a hard time with the villagers?”

 

Without turning around, Nicolas answers my inquiry. “This is just training for when I’ll be the next headman. Father left me to answer people’s questions while he prepares for tomorrow. Besides, they all ask the same questions, I just wish they all came together, so I wouldn’t have to answer the same question twenty times.”

 

“At the risk of asking one of those same questions, are you participating tomorrow?”

 

Pausing for only a second, he tells me “no” as he opens the door. “Father said if anything happens to him that it was my job to manage the village in his place. My younger brother is one of the village’s hunters so he’ll be participating tomorrow.”

 

We descend stone stairs and enter a room filled with candle light. The room has swords, daggers, and other weapons hung up on the walls. Cadman and his second son are checking the condition of some sort of hide armor.

 

I’ve seen Braddon returning to the village from hunting in the woods on my way home from Del’s. His tall willowy figure is hard to forget. His long dirty blond hair covers most of his eyes, not that you’d want to look at them. His brown eyes have a sharpness to them that most hunters earn with experience.

 

Attending to the two is Sarette Downs, Sandra’s mother. The busty blond looks sweet on the outside but everyone knows she manages the village’s taxes and other financial aspects with an iron fist. She’s known to be nice to talk to unless you haven’t contributed to the village’s taxes. She’s the first to notice me following Nicolas.

 

 “You must be Aaliyah. Welcome to our home.”

 

Making sure I don’t miss a step walking down the stone stairs, I greet her back. “Thank you for having me. This is…a nice armory you have.” I try not to sound too awkward. Thankfully she just laughs and continues to help her husband try on his armor.

 

“I think you can take it from here. Mother, father, the villagers still have questions. Excuse me.” Nicolas turns around and starts walking up the stairs before either of his parents could answer him.

 

“That boy, always being so formal. I miss the day’s he would smile and give me a hug.” Sarette complains as she tightens one of Camden’s armor straps.

 

“You know he takes his job seriously, honey.” Camdan sooths his wife, before he turns to me. “What do I owe the privilege of your visit, Miss Aaliyah?”

 

“Sorry if I’m bothering you during your preparations. I thought you might like to know that I decided to join the expedition.” I take my last few steps down the stairs.

 

“Are you sure sweety? It will be dangerous. Don’t let my hubby pressure you.” Sarette’s concern was unexpected.

 

“I’m confident that I can...” As I’m talking to Sarette and Camden, Braddon rushes me and throws a right punch at my stomach.

 

He moves faster than father but slower than Del. I step back with my left foot, turning my body to avoid his strike. He wants to test me!!?

 

I use my Precise Strike skill and uppercut the part of his armor covering his diaphragm. He overextended himself when I dodged his strike, so when my fist connects with his armor, he can’t move to soften the blow.

 

My strike sends him flying back seven feet before he collapses on the stone floor, breathing heavily. My fist hurts from striking his armor but it should be fine by tomorrow morning.

 

I turn towards his parents. “You teach your kids to sneak attack people?” It’s a good thing I was keeping all three of them in my sights, I was trying to be respectful towards the family.

 

“Please don’t take my son’s actions in the wrong way. I’m sure he was merely trying to make sure you were ok to join us on the expedition. My family didn’t believe me when I informed them that you were a higher level than myself and Ronald. Braddon, apologize to her.” The headman quickly tries to downplay what happened.

 

As Braddon stands back up, I make sure to note that he was only down for a minute despite the place I stuck him. “I apologize. I was concerned that your skill was exaggerated by father. I couldn’t, in good faith, let someone so young accompany us without proper skills.” His apology looks sincere but that doesn’t mean I will condone his actions.

 

“I accept your apology. I’ll see you tomorrow morning, good day.” I turn around and start to climb the stairs.

 

“Are you sure you don’t wish to stay? We can prepare some snacks if you would like?” Looking down at Camden, I can see him starting to sweat.

 

“Thank you for your offer, but I still need to prepare a bag for tomorrow. I’ll see the two of you then.” I give one last long look at Braddon and watch him make an awkward face and rub the area where I struck him.

 

I make my way up the stairs and walk back through the headman’s house. I promise to myself that if Braddon tries that again, I’ll aim for his face next time and use Double Strike instead.

 

Squeezing out the door, I try to wish Nicolas good luck with the crowd but my voice is only one amongst the many villagers. I settle with a hand wave, as I start walking home.

 

Everyone is running around the village. People arguing over supplies, and I’ve passed at least four discussions about the goblins. The words “Horned hob” are circulating through the villagers like fire in a dry field and the only water around is Del. Arguments about whether Del can handle the horned hobs or not are taking place everywhere.

 

Moving in and out of people, I finally make it back home. Walking inside, I make sure to clean myself.

 

“Ahyt ls weem appiss!”

 

That’s the last bit of magic I’ll use until we reach the goblins. I notice mother and father are packing supplies onto dad’s harness that he uses to transport wood.

 

Walking next to them, I’m nervous. I gave them a hug and said goodbye this morning but I can still feel the tension from last night.

 

“Mom, dad.” They both turn to look at me with a half-smile, it’s obvious they can also still feel the tension.

 

“What do you need, sweety?” Mother asks, while standing off to the side of father.

 

“Del told me how long the trip to the goblin camp will take. Can you help me pack, I’m not sure what I should bring?”

 

Father smiles the way all parents do when they’ve already packed a bag for their children. “Your mother and I are almost finished packing everything we need.”

 

“Don’t I need a bag?”

 

“It will be easier if I handle our luggage. I used to camp in the woods with my father, so I know everything we need.” Dad turns around and continues to pack our bag.

 

With dad packing the bag, mother and I share the same confused look. We don’t know what to say to each other. I’m sure she hasn’t changed her mind about me going with the expedition, and she has to know that I haven’t changed my mind about participating either.

 

“Mom, I…” Mother takes a few steps forward and wraps me in a hug.

 

“Don’t sweety. You shouldn’t apologize for your feelings and neither will I. I just want you to promise me that you’ll be safe and if something goes wrong you run back to me, ok?”

 

“I promise,” I sniffle in her ear.

 

***********

 

The rest of the night was strangely similar to our regular nights. With feelings patched, not mended, we were able to sit and relax together. Mother roasted a large bird and we all enjoyed dinner together.

 

Laying in my bed, I look up at the goofy clouds I painted when I was younger. I’ve grown a lot since then. Maybe I should try and paint newer clouds when I get back. Crap that’s a flag, I can’t make any plans for when I return.

 

This is the last night for me to try and cram some more levels in, and sticking to my no mana policy that leaves only one option. I wish I wasn’t so eager to dive into my soul, but between not being tired yet and hearing my mother trying to quietly “Make dad happy”, I’m all too eager to knock myself out.

 

Waking up in my soul, I plan on spending most of my time meditating. My skill won’t rise but I can still use it to help me focus on the questions I have about this place.

 

If this truly is my soul, how am I here? I already know where my memories are, so what is my current form made of?

 

I don’t think this body is made out of mana. I only started coming here after I unlocked Sense Soul. I thought leveling Sense Soul would be difficult but the more I learn to manipulate the skill in here and in the real world, the easier it seems to level, period. The stronger the skill becomes, the less my soul rejects me. How many levels until the eyes stop banishing me from my memories?

 

Wait?! Levels!!!

 

If I grow stronger here when my Sense Soul skill levels, then this body must be made from my skill! The skill must create this mirror image of my body and drag me here when the skill becomes overwhelmed when I look directly at my soul.

 

If I want to level quicker, I just need to continue to shock the skill. I need to visit the eyes more.

 

Standing up from the forest floor, I rush to my sea of memories.

 

Coming to the familiar cliff, I watch the moon’s start to rise. Maybe I can access my memories when my Sense Soul reaches level 30.

 

When the moons are half way through the sky, a crazy idea pops into my head. Why am I waiting for the moons to come to me?

 

Screw waiting for the moons to boot me out, I’ll try to enter my memories myself. “Cannonball!”

 

Right before I hit the water, the world shifts around me. As the world settles, I’m greeted by a giant Richard, a giant young Richard. Looking over myself, I realize I’m a baby again. I’m about to complain about the memory when I see Richard’s smiling face above me. How long has it been since I’ve seen his smile?

 

This wouldn’t have been my first choice for a memory but I’ll take it. The only question I have is, how long do I have here?

 

Unfortunately, I get my answer all too soon. The memory is shattered and I’m looking up at the eyes again. Do they look madder than usual?

 

Waking up in a sweat, I’m convinced the eyes were madder at me than normal when they forced me out of the memory. I’ll have to try again and see if I wake up feeling less terrible if I let the eyes boot me out earlier.

 

I can try again before the sun… rises! The first rays of the sunrise peek through my window. Usually I’m kicked out of my soul and only a few hours would have passed. This time I spent my whole night in my soul. Getting up, I stretch my body.

 

Despite being awoken like I would a nightmare, I only feel slightly tired this time. If I can get enough sleep using my Skill, I might have a way to deal with the high leveled sleeping problem. I’ll have to run more tests when I… oops, almost did it again.

 

I must have gained some skill levels after all of that hard work. Pulling up my detailed status screen is easier than ever. Why don’t I try and add something? It would be nice if I can see which skills are capped at their testing point.

 

LV: 59 Experience: 242,522/ 385,461

Health: 2,000.00/2,000

Stamina: 1,084.62/1,320

Mana: 871.69/1,000

Vitality: 200.00

Endurance: 80.00

Strength: 116.00

Dexterity: 110.00

Senses: 60.12

Mind: 62.12

Magic: 100.12

Clarity: 75.08

Status Points: 0

Skills:

Tier 1:

Meditation (LV77), Running (LV66), Axe Skills (LV52), 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), Axe Arts (LV32), Mathematics (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 (LV21)

Tier 4:

Inject mana (LV40), Mental Resistance (LV33), Mana Skin (LV32),

Tier 5:

Sense Soul (LV25)

 

It worked!

 

Axe Skills rose to level 52 along with Axe Arts passing level 31 and reaching level 32. My use of Precise Strike against Braddon pushed the skill past level 19 and broke into level 21 matching Double Strike in levels. Sense Soul rose another 2 levels and Mental Resistance gained 3. I only need 140 k more experience and I’ll reach level 60. If I had two more days, I could probably reach level 60 but I can’t risk training my soul skills during the expedition.

 

I can hear my parent’s bedroom door open; I can’t waste anymore of my time laying here.

 

I get dressed and brush my teeth. Once I’m ready I leave my room and find my parents in a deep embrace. Seeing me walking over, mother tries to hide her tears by burying her head in father’s chest. I pretend not to notice by adjusting the strap connected to my axe and making sure my dagger is secured.

 

Once her eyes are clear, mother beckons me over and the three of us share another hug. Great, now I’m going to tear up. We stay connected as the three of us move towards the meeting point with mother in-between the two of us.

 

It doesn’t take long for us to reach the rally point. Everyone in the village is either here already or walking over to join the crowd.

 

“Please come over and see me if you’re participating!” The headman’s voice drowns out the many conversations people are having around us.

 

“I’ll go inform the headman that we are ready to go.” Father places his pack beside me and moves from mothers embrace. I can see her reluctance to let go of him.

 

“You should go with dad, mom. I’ll wait here for the two of you to return.” Mother smiles at me, and wraps herself against dad’s arm again. I didn’t tell her to do that because I was losing circulation in my own arm, definitely not.

 

With my parents disappearing into the crowd, I try and spot Del. I hope I’m not sent to wake him up, if he doesn’t show up on time.

 

“You going too?” I hear a voice ask behind me.

 

Turning around, I see the two junior hunters Andre and Lucas. Both are apprentices studying to be true hunters. Andre is 21, while Lucas is 19. They are around Richard in age but the two of them always ignored him and wouldn’t let him play with them. Both have the slightly skinny dexterity build and are around 5’ 10’’, making them shorter than me.

 

As they glance at the bag beside me, I can see the ridicule in their eyes.

 

“Yes, I’m going with my dad.” I try to give them a look that says ‘piss off’.

 

They must take my expression as a challenge because they only get closer to me. “Great, another useless villager we’ll have to look out for. When we reach the goblins try not to cry too loud.”

 

Their levels are probably in the high twenties. If I punched them, would I kill them? They can’t be that good if they haven’t noticed Braddon standing behind them.

 

“What are the two of you doing here!?” Lucas and Andre jump three feet in the air before they land and turn to face Braddon. “The two of you should be double checking your supplies, not causing trouble for those who decide to help. Move it!” The two race off into the distance at Braddon’s command.

 

With only the two of us left facing each other, I watch Braddon rub his armor where I struck him yesterday. He decides to nod his head to me and runs off towards his father. Maybe he is sorry about yesterday?

 

No one else bothers me while I’m waiting but I can hear muffled conversations about me joining the expedition. Mother and father return and the people talking about me scatter. They must not have wanted to chance it that one of my parents could hear their conversations.

 

We stand together, until the headman’s skill infused voice rings throughout the crowd. “Everyone who’s going, gather up front!”

 

Father and I hug either side of mother and give her a kiss before the two of us make our way up front. Thankfully I see Del standing next to the headman. Once we’re at the designated rally point, I quickly count everyone around us. Including me there’s 74 of us, maybe 20% of our village.

 

Is this going to be enough?

 

“Everyone quiet!” The headman bellows again. Using the same skill as two days ago that causes everyone to close their mouths. This time I shake off his skill before he even starts talking.

 

“To the gods above, we ask that you watch over us as we move to defend our families. Please bless the path before us as we travel into the unknown. Please give strength to those we leave behind, as we ask for your guidance in our times of crises. We thank your eternal watch.” The headman claps once, and the rest of us follow with our own clap. I’m glad dad warned me about the clap, I can see a few of the younger people who didn’t know what to do.

 

I see Nicolas pulling the largest Jelen from the stables over to the side of his father. Camden mounts the tall beast easily and raises his sword. “To Glory!!!”

 

As he spurs the beast into the woods, we follow behind him.

 

“To glory.” I mutter under my breath.

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A note from kosnik4

5,766 words, are these getting longer? Are they any better than when I started? I hope you think so.


I want to thank all the new patrons along with everyone who stuck with me.


I know things are still crazy out there. So, no matter if your protesting or staying home, I wish for everyone’s safety.


As always, stay safe.


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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