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A note from kosnik4

You can read 15 chapters ahead on Patron, over 80,000 words if you need something more

“You guys know the plan, right?” I whisper to master and Ronald. Leaning around the tree I’m hiding behind; I use Sense Mana to confirm the chameleon spider hasn’t moved.

 

"We're ready to cover you," Master says from a tree to my left. I look to my right at Ronald, and he gives me a nod of confirmation.

 

Here goes nothing.

 

I stealthily make my way closer to the hidden magic beast. This would be incredibly dangerous by myself, but with master and Ronald watching my back, I can test Sense Soul on a magical beast without worrying about being eaten.

 

I move just close enough to see the spider's body without entering into its striking range. Over the past 12 days, I've tested Sense Soul on master twice and secretly scanned a handful of people in the village, making sure I only look at the outer parts of their souls. I started calling the scanning of the outer part of a soul a casual scan while looking into the soul's center is regarded as a deep scan.

 

When this spider was spotted by the hunters yesterday, I hatched this plan with master and Ronald to see what happens when I use the skill on something other than a human.

 

I activate Sense Soul and focus on the central part of the spider's body. The first thing I'm going to test is how the creature reacts to a casual scan.

 

As the wisps surrounding the spider's soul become visible, the magic beast starts to freak out. The camouflage on the carapace fades away, and the massive spider starts shifting in place and slamming itself into the nearby trees.

 

I activate Flash Step and jump back next to Del and Ronald.

 

The spider starts to screech as I continue to look at the outer parts of its soul. Judging by the amount of experience around its soul, I can estimate its level is around 77 if monsters level the same way humans do. That’s a lower level than I initially thought it would be, is this one just weaker than the others we’ve fought so far?

 

The spider finally notices us and madly charges. People usually feel like they’re being watched; I guess a spider that spends most of its time invisible doesn't care for that kind of feeling.

 

I drop Sense Soul and draw my sword, getting ready for part two of our operation.

 

Ronald quickly fires three arrows at the spider’s joints while master and I rush forward towards its two front legs. I activate Weighted Strike and swing my katana with my 130 points of Strength. For the first time, my sword cleanly slices through a chameleon spider’s limb.

 

I dodge another leg coming from my left by using Double Step to move backwards. Master, being the powerhouse he is, severs the limb he was aiming for and steps forward, cutting off a second leg before he has to dodge the flailing spider.

 

The three of us move as a fine-tuned machine and dismember the spider one leg at a time. We've developed a sort of rhythm after hunting so many of these beasts. We usually focus on removing the five legs on one side of the monster before concentrating on the main body that can't move after half its limbs are removed.

 

This time is different. We remove the five legs as usual, but then we add insult to its injuries and remove the other five, leaving the body's central part to bleed out in the snow.

 

It may be cruel, but this is the safest way to deep scan the magic beast. I can't look at the center of its soul during a battle because the beast might try to flee, and the eyes might incapacitate me if the soul of the spider acts like a human’s.

 

I sheath my sword and sit down on the snow-covered forest floor. Ronald and Master Del stand behind me, ready to guard my body if something should go wrong.

 

I reactivate Sense Soul and once again look at the spider's soul. The floundering body of the spider starts twitching, and its screams become more frantic. I only hesitate for a moment before I go from a casual scan of its soul to a deep scan.

 

I quickly take note of its soul's size before the two eyes appear and immediately shatter my focus on the creature. I'm ready for the backlash this time.

 

I can fight off the searing headache enough that my Mana Skin skill doesn't collapse on me. I still have to grind my teeth together to prevent myself from screaming out in pain.

 

Unlike when I looked at master’s, only two eyes are guarding the spider's soul. The poor limbless creature lets out a new kind of scream we’ve never heard before. The sound isn't one of anger or pain like we've listened to in the past.

 

No, this is a scream of fear.

 

A fear that goes beyond the fear of death.

 

I once more try to look at the core of the chameleon spider's soul. I pushed through the pain and look at the soul guarded by the eyes. I prepare for them to reject me again, but the pain never comes.

 

The two eyes suddenly turn towards the center of the spider’s soul and blink.

 

Their blink only lasts a tenth of a second, but a deep wave of primal fear overcomes my body in that second. As soon as the eyes blinked, the soul inside the spider disappears. The body of the spider stops twitching and lays before us dead. The two eyes look back at me one last time before vanishing themselves.

 

Is that what happens when something dies? The eyes that guard the soul take it somewhere, or do they devour it?

 

Before I can start to panic, something else happens inside the body of the spider. The chameleon spider looks like it’s starting to steam.

 

I look at master and Ronald, hoping to ask if they also see what’s happening. Only when I look at them, I see their souls. I still have Sense Soul activated!

 

I quickly look away before I suffer another backlash. Looking back at the dead spider, I watch what I now realize is the wisps formerly surrounding the spider’s soul diffuse into the surroundings.

 

Most of the wisps of experience seem to vanish quickly, but three streams flow towards us, passing through trees into our chests.

 

I watch dumbfounded as a part of the experience that used to belong to the spider merges with my own soul space.

 

Is that how everything gains experience when they kill other creatures?

 

Del and my parents always told me people gain experience from battle because of the effort they put into the fight. I'm not sure how much effort plays a part in the amount of experience I get from killing something, but now I know experience comes directly from whatever you killed.

 

Another important fact I learned was that most of the experience from killing something is lost to the surrounding area when the soul leaves the body.

 

I feel like I just witnessed something important! We take in a part of the soul of whatever we kill.

 

“Are you ok, Aaliyah?” I quickly jerk my head towards master. He takes a half step back and looks at me concerned.

 

His worried look knocks some sense into me. I’m suddenly aware of the radiating pain in my head and the fact I’m covered in sweat. I blink my eyes, aware that my eyes were wide open in shock the whole time I observed the spider’s death.

 

"I need time," I whisper through my clenched teeth.

 

“Ok, rest up while Ronald and I start processing the spider.” Master and Ronald move to start dismantling the spider while I wait here and recover.

 

When the headache recedes enough for me to contemplate what happened, I remember only two eyes appeared. Does that mean master's soul is somehow different from mine and the spider's?

 

I'll need to perform another deep scan on someone else to be sure of the difference.

 

I cross my legs underneath me and enter a meditative state. I need to digest everything that just happened.

 


 

“I’m home!” I shout as I burst through our front door.

 

“Ahyt ls weem appiss!”

 

I activate my cleaning spell and shut off Mana Skin.

 

I quickly notice my mother sitting in her chair, sewing a pair of father’s pants.

 

She looks up at me and smiles. “You’re back, already? I thought the chameleon spider spotted was miles away from the village?”

 

I brush off a few of the remaining dirt flakes leftover from my spell. "We finished pretty quickly. The spiders aren't a challenge for us anymore. The only reason it took us this long to get back was that it took longer than usual to butcher the beast and haul everything back.”

 

"Did you let your father know you're safely back in the village?”

 

I kick off my boots and change into my slippers. "I stopped on the way home to see how he's doing. At the rate the deforestation crew is working, there won't be any trees left in sight of our village.” I joke to mother.

 

“I noticed yesterday when I went to visit Sarette, now that your father is in charge of removing the surrounding trees that might just happen. They’ve cleared nearly 100 feet around the entire village.” Mother tells me offhandedly.

 

"I know what you mean. I've never seen the village this active during winter before." I walk over to mother and hug her.

 

She’s momentarily caught off guard by the action but embraces me the same way. As we separate, she gives me a questioning look. “Did something happen on your hunt?”

 

“Can’t a hug just be a hug?” I try to give her an offended look.

 

She quirks an eyebrow at me. “Alright, fine. You don't need to give me that look." I sigh in defeat. "I tried using a different skill on the spider than I usually do," I tell her.

 

“Did it not work, or did something go wrong?” She asks.

 

“Not necessarily. The skill answered questions I never thought about before and left me with new ones I’m not sure how to solve.” I tell her my dilemma without revealing what skill I’m talking about. Master said I should avoid mentioning the particulars of Sense Soul to anyone, including my parents.

 

“What does the skill do?” Mother questions me.

 

'It's a skill that lets me judge somebody's level." I lie by telling a partial truth. "The problem is every time I use it on someone, they feel like they’re being watched, and they feel outright fear if I focus on them too deeply. If that wasn’t bad enough, for me to use the skill to its full potential, I would suffer a backlash in the form of a splitting headache." I explain our fight with the spider earlier.

 

“And who else have you used the skill on?” Mother sends me a reproaching look.

 

“Why does that matter?” I feign ignorance.

 

“Well, there’s been rumors around the village of people suddenly feeling like they’re being watched. Does that sound familiar to you?”

 

“I may have briefly practiced my skill on a few people." I try to downplay what I did.

 

“Over thirty people swear they were being watched this last week. Sarette told me her husband promised to look into the matter.” Mother crosses her arms.

 

Damn! That’s what I get for practicing my skill in a small village like ours.

 

Mother notices my dejected look and sighs. “I’ll let the headman know it was you testing out one of your skills when I visit Sarette tomorrow. He'll reassure people the feeling was all in their heads, but you need to stop testing your skill on our neighbors. People are still worried about the spiders, and feeling like something is watching them is not helping." Mother quickly comes up with a solution to my problems.

 

“Thanks for the help, mom.” I still feel down after thanking her.

 

"When you thank me with that look on your face, it doesn't feel sincere."

 

"Sorry, I'm thankful for your solution, but that still leaves me with the problem of practicing my skill."

 

“Have you only practiced it on the villagers and the spider this morning?” Mother asks me.

 

“Master Del has let me use it on him a few times, but as I said, people become paranoid and afraid when I use the skill too much. Master and I decided I would only use the skill on him once a week, and I have to wait at least five days before I use it on him again."

 

“And why does it only have to be Del you use your skill on?” Mother gives me a challenging look.

 

“It’s not like I haven’t thought about asking you and dad.” I can see where this is going.

 

“So why haven’t you asked us for our help?”

 

I turn my head to the side, refusing to look mother in the eye. "It's just that master has a really high level, and even he was disturbed by my skills effects. The first time he helped me practice, he wouldn't look at me for hours after using it on him. I don’t think I could handle seeing you or dad be that scared of me.”

 

Mother closes the gap between us and gives me another hug. “Silly girl, we could never be afraid of you. When your father gets home, and after we've had dinner, we can help you practice your skill."

 

“Ok,” I mumble in her arms.

 

“How long has it been since you practiced your Sewing skill?” She asks while I’m still trapped in her arms.

 

I choose to plead the fifth. My silence says everything she needs to know. "Come help me stitch up your father's shirts; he's so busy he's been ripping them every other day." Mother practically drags me over to her work station.

 

I can craft a sewing needle if I have to, but ask me to use one, and I’m all thumbs.

 


 

I helped mother stitch up father's clothes and helped her with dinner before father came home for the night.

 

We chatted about our day during dinner, and father agreed with mother that I should ask them for help more often. I tried to steer the question towards Kervin arriving any day now with the magic items I ordered, but neither was falling for it.

 

Now the three of us are sitting on our living room floor on top of an old blanket.

 

“Are you sure you guys want to do this?” I hesitantly ask my parents again.

 

“What, you think your old man can’t handle an intimidation skill?” Father boasts.

 

“Fine,” I give in to them. “Who wants to go first?” I look back and forth between mother and father.

 

Mother gives dad a look and tries to egg him on. “Go on, Darrius. Show her you can handle it.”

 

Mother knows what's going to happen. I tried to warn father about what it will feel like during dinner, but he cut me off, saying he can handle anything I can throw at him.

 

Father straightens his back and looks me in the eyes. “I’m ready, bring it on!”

 

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” I activate Sense Soul.

 

As soon as I look at the outer parts of father's soul, his confident expression vanishes. A side glance at mother reveals she's surprised how quickly father looks uncomfortable.

 

I can see by the amount of experience around his soul he’s around level 42. I’m not surprised by his level; he’s been working incredibly hard this year and did a lot during the goblin extermination.

 

Usually, people look around, searching for whoever is watching them. Because father was already staring into my eyes, he knows where the feeling is coming from.

 

“Is this what you were worried about?" Father pretends that he isn't feeling uncomfortable. "I guess that makes me better than Del, then!" He boasts.

 

I hope he can say that after what happens next.

 

I take a second to prepare myself mentally for what's about to happen, and it's not just the eyes I'm worried about.

 

I look at the center of father's soul, and everything changes. His fake bravado immediately shatters as he tries to stumble to his feet to get away from me.

 

It only takes a few seconds for my father to make it to the other side of the room, and I'm lying on my side, trying to endure the two eyes that kicked me out of his soul.

 

Mother looks scared and keeps looking between me lying on the floor and father breathing heavily across the room, trying to decide who she should go to.

 

“I’m… ok…” I hiss through my teeth.

 

Once mother hears me, she moves over to comfort father who’s shivering in place.

 

It takes ten minutes for her to coax him back over to our blanket and for me to recover enough to sit back up.

 

"That's what I was worried about." I solemnly say.

 

Father looks at me for a moment before hanging his head in shame. “That was worse than I thought it would be. The first part was unnerving but bearable. Whatever happened at the end, there had all my instincts telling me to flee. You said it was a skill that let you estimate someone's level?” He looks directly at me without any fear in his eyes.

 

I’m about to cry.

 

Father is still shivering slightly, but he sees my teary eyes and looks concerned. "What's wrong!? Are you still hurt?"

 

“I’m just happy,” I mumble. “Master couldn’t look at me for hours after I first used the skill on him.”

 

Dad leans over and gives me a hug. “Your skill might have frightened me, but I would never be afraid of you."

 

"Thanks, dad." We embrace each other until my headache fades away, and father stops shaking. "I think its time for bed." I let go of my father and start to get up.

 

“Where do you think you’re going.” Mother’s voice stops me in my tracks.

 

I give her a confused look. “Don’t you think that was enough for today?”

 

“It’s my turn next.” The serious look on her face throws me for a loop.

 

“After you saw what happened to dad, you still want me to use my skill on you?”

 

“I told you earlier today that both of us will help you with your skill. Are you trying to make me a liar?” She narrows her eyes at me.

 

“Alright, if you insist.” I give in to mother’s request and sit back down.

 

I re-center myself; this will be the first time I've performed two deep scans back to back.

 

I use sense Soul on mother, and I’m surprised to see she doesn’t look that uncomfortable when I look at the outer part of her soul. If she isn't reacting as bad as father and Del, I'll move straight onto the deep scan.

 

As usual, I only get a second to look at my mother's soul before the two eyes appear yet again and sear my brain. I deactivate the skill and notice mother isn't running across the room to get away from me.

 

She’s amazingly still seated in front of me. She’s pale, but she still has her motherly smile plastered across her face. Father and I both look at her in astonishment. I must have leveled Mental Resistance because the pain is fading quicker this time.

 

Mother wipes at her face as a single bead of sweat drips from her forehead. "That was pretty bad," She remarks.

 

“How were you able to resist the urge to run away?” I hastily ask through my lessening headache.

 

Mother ponders my question. “Well, I expected the worst after I watched how your father reacted, so I prepared myself. It was bad, but not the worst thing I've ever felt. Giving birth to you and your brother was much more painful, and it lasted a lot longer. Also, every time I level, I put a few points into my Mind stat. I bet that helps counteract the effect your skill has on me.” Mother’s explanation gives me a lot to think about.

 

Mother scoots right next to me. 'So, did your skill work? Can you tell me what our levels are?"

 

I smile at mom. “You’re level 38, while father is level 42.” I look between them.

 

Mother looks astonished. "Your skill doesn't give you an estimate of our level, but the exact number! Skills like that are scarce."

 

“It’s hard to explain. I don’t technically see your level; I see your experience.” I tell them. “After comparing your experience with myself, master, Ronald, and the people I've secretly observed around the village, I can accurately guess your level. Most of the adults I've looked at are around level 35. Compared to the other villagers, you guys are strong.” I proudly tell them.

 

“Of course, we are!” Father exclaims.

 

"Not so loud, dear. It's late, and you and Aaliyah said you have lots of work tomorrow. Help me fold the blanket, and let's get to bed." Mother reprimands dad for his shouting.

 

We quickly straighten up and retire to our rooms.

 

In bed, I think about everything I've learned about souls these last couple of days.

 

First, the wisps surrounding the soul are the manifestations of experience and the place our skills are housed. Looking at that outer part of the soul doesn’t seem to anger the eyes guarding the soul. Considering how I’ve seen other people’s skills affect my soul, the outer part is very malleable and susceptible to influence.

 

It’s the center of people’s souls that remains a mystery. After examining myself, Del, and my parents' soul center, then comparing it to the chameleon spider, I've come to one conclusion.

 

My soul is abnormally large.

 

My soul is almost three times the sizes of master’s and his is bigger than mother's and father's by 65%. I can't say every soul is different because mother and father’s souls are very similar in size. Father's may be a tiny bit bigger, but I'm not sure if that's because he's slightly older than mother or if other factors come into play. The chameleon spider’s soul was the smallest at only half the size of father’s soul.

 

I'll need to look at a child's soul if I want to get another baseline to compare what I've seen, but I don’t want to scar a child with my skill.

 

I raise a hand to stifle a yawn. I need to check my status page before I go to sleep.

 

LV: 63 Experience: 188,119/ 514,704

Health: 2,090/2,090

Stamina: 1,072.33/1,403

Mana: 351.87/1,000

Vitality: 209.00

Endurance: 80.13

Strength: 132.00

Dexterity: 125.00

Senses: 60.56

Mind: 62.72

Magic: 100.89

Clarity: 75.71

Status Points: 0

Skills:

Tier 1:

Meditation (LV78), Running (LV73), Blacksmithing (LV65), Axe Skills (LV55), Hammer Skills (LV54), Cleaning (LV50), Mining (LV48), Chanting (LV47), Drawing (LV44), Cooking (LV38), Trading (LV37), Dagger Skills (LV31), Acting (LV30), Wood Carving (LV29), Sword Skills(LV25), Sewing (LV24), Pugilist Skills (LV4), Spear Skills (LV2)

Tier 2:

Sense Mana (LV78), Double Step (LV59), Charm (LV50), Measurement (LV45), Hammer Arts (LV38), Axe Arts (LV36), Writing (LV32), Intimidating Shout (LV31), Mathematics (LV30), Increase price (LV16), Lower Price (LV15), Dagger Arts (LV12), Sword Arts (LV8), Steady Hands (LV7), Marching (LV5), Gourmet (LV2), Shout of Valor (LV1),

Tier 3:

Expel Mana (LV59), Mana Manipulation (LV52), Precise Strike (LV35), Double Strike (LV34), Weighted Strike (LV24), Flash Step (LV17)

Tier 4:

Inject mana (LV48), Mana Skin (LV47), Mental Resistance (LV45), Extract Mana (LV26), Magic Blacksmithing (LV19)

Tier 5:

Sense Soul (LV32)

Increased Skill Levels

Blacksmithing (LV 62-65) 12,700exp

Hammer Skills (LV 53-54) 5,350exp

Mining (LV48) 2,400exp

Drawing (LV43-44) 4,350exp

Cooking (LV38) 1,900exp

Wood Carving (LV28-29) 2,850exp

Double Step (LV59) 5,900exp

Measurement (LV44-45) 8,900exp

Steady Hands (LV1-7) 2,800exp

Hammer Arts (LV37-38) 7,500exp

Expel Mana (LV59) 8,850exp

Double Strike (LV34) 5,100exp

Precise Strike (LV34-35) 10,350exp

Weighted Strike (LV24) 3,600exp

Flash Step (LV17) 2,550exp

Inject mana (LV47-48) 23,750exp

Mana Skin (LV47) 11,750exp

Mental Resistance (LV43-45) 33,000exp

Extract Mana (LV25-26) 12,750exp

Magic Blacksmithing (LV18-19) 9,250exp

Sense Soul (LV32) 16,000exp

 

Skill Experience: 191,600exp

Crafting Experience: 62,812exp

Fighting Experience: 3,719exp

 

Total experience Gained: 258,131exp

 

As soon as I saw that I leveled again, I distribute my status points. 5 points into Dexterity, 3 into Vitality, and 2 into Strength. I’ve noticed how Dexterity has become more important since I started practicing engraving and crafting the arrows Kervin ordered.

 

I also gained a new tier two skill, Steady Hands. It’s a passive skill, but it's helped not only with my wood carving and Drawing skills but also with my blacksmithing.

 

My mental fatigue is getting to me. I think tonight I won't go into my soul and instead try to get a good night's sleep for tomorrow. I only have two more days to finish everything before Kervin arrives.

 

I peacefully slip into unconsciousness.

 


 

I roll out of bed and shake the soreness from my limbs. Master and I have been running ourselves ragged the last two days, making sure everything is finished and packed in our cart for Kervin’s arrival today.

 

I throw on my clothes and put up my hair.

 

I make sure to kiss mom goodbye before I make my way outside.

 

I perform my morning stretches and watch the villagers carry crates of food over to the headman’s house. Kervin returned precisely two weeks after he sent me the letter. He’s never kept to this tight of a schedule before; I wonder if something is wrong?

 

I perform my usual loop around the village to make sure nothing is hiding in the trees.

 

I stop near our village's entrance, not to watch everyone unloading Kervin’s cart, but to stare into the trees at a spot that has suspiciously little mana. It almost looks like a small section of the forest is repelling mana away from it.

 

I take a mental note of the spot and run to Del’s house to get the cart we prepped yesterday.

 

I quickly make it to Del’s place and start pushing the cart to Kervin’s campsite. While I’m pushing the cart through the path that leads towards the village, I stop once again when I spot another area that's also repelling the mana away from it. I stare in its direction and estimate the place to be only five feet in diameter.

 

Whatever's in the mana-less area, hopefully, I can use it to craft something.

 

As I exit the pathway leading towards Del’s house, I pass by the area; I previously noted the unexplained mana phenomena. The site looks normal now, did whatever caused the phenomena move closer to Del’s house?

 

I debate whether I should inspect it now before it moves again, but Kervin’s cart looks almost empty, and I can't wait to see what he brought me.

 

I wait for the nearby villagers to leave before I pushed my cart next to Kervin’s. “Where’s the fire?” I ask him.

 

He looks at me, confused. "Fire, what fire?"

 

“I mean you came back to our village really fast this time, I assumed something must be wrong," I smirk at him.

 

“Funny,” he dryly states. “You have my order ready, right.” He sends me a hopeful look.

 

He’s just asking for it now. “What order?” I use all my acting ability to feign ignorance.

 

He quickly pales and starts to sweat. “Did you not get my letter?! I paid for a courier falcon to deliver it!”

 

Whoa, I wasn’t prepared for his panicked reaction. I quickly raise my arms and try to calm him down. “Chill, man. I was just joking with you; I got your message two weeks ago. I have the arrows you ordered in my cart.”

 

I expect him to be mad at my joke, but instead of anger, it's relief that washes over his face. He forces a laugh, "That's a good one. You had me going there."

 

Was master, right? Is he in trouble with someone? "Is everything ok, Kervin?” I ask him.

 

He suddenly becomes aware of himself at my question and quickly straightens himself up. "Everything's fine. It's just that I received a request from the army, and it's a big opportunity for me. Even headquarters is keeping an eye on me now. They told me to focus on getting anything the army asks for, so now I have a lot more freedom to move as I wish.” He gives me his merchant smile.

 

“What does that mean for me and the village?” I ask.

 

"Don't worry; I'm doing my best to keep your existence hidden. I commissioned arrows from multiple blacksmiths in Drey to cover up where I’m getting my supply from. I told Silver Herd about how much money I'm making delivering the food here each month, so they agreed to let me continue my route here as long as it doesn’t affect my trading with the army." I don't know what it is, but something is irking me about what he's saying.

 

I pretend not to be suspicious and ask him what he brought me. “You have some magical tools for me, right?” It’s not hard to fake a huge smile.

 

“I bought five different items with the coin you gave me.” He moves over to a crate he has sitting next to his cart with its lid leaning up against it.

 

He reaches in and pulls out the first item. "This is a firebox. You put magicite inside of it, and it produces a strong flame on the top to cook with." A portable stove for the rich, at least it probably has a fire rune on the inside.

 

He sets the metal box off to the side and pulls out the next item. "Here, I have a water purifier." It looks like an hourglass made out of metal welded on top of another metal box; I'm seeing a trend here. "You pour water in the top, add magicite into the bottom, then hold your waterskin down by this nozzle in the middle, and you have clean drinking water." I'll have to be careful with that one; we can use that in our home.

 

Kervin places it next to the firebox and picks up the next item… and it’s another box. Kervin notices the disappointed look on my face. "I know they don't look like much, but keep an open mind. If you want better magical items, you need to spend a lot more money. This is a cold box, you place it in a small room or carriage, put your magicite in, and it chills the air on hot days.” I feel like I’m watching a bad infomercial.

 

Seeing that I’m unimpressed, he moves onto the fourth item. Is that a knife stuck in a box?

 

"This is the fourth and fifth item together." He pulls on the knife handle sticking out of the box. The knife looks basic, but using Sense Mana; I can see the runes hidden on its surface.

 

"This kitchen knife is enchanted to stay sharper longer; I thought this would be the most appealing to you." .He picks up a twig sticking out of the snow and cleanly cuts through it with the knife.

 

“And the box?” I question.

 

"Not everyone is blessed with your magic talent. Items that recharge magic by themselves are expensive. This box uses magicite to charge any knife you can fit into its opening. The box allows restaurants with higher-level chefs to use magical items for a short time without needing any magical talent."

 

None of the items are too awe-inspiring, but Kervin did an excellent job getting me a good variety. It doesn't matter if some of the runes inside the items overlap, that will just help me see how universal they are.

 

"What do you think about everything?" Kervin probes.

 

"Not bad," I say. "I'm not going to lie; I thought magical items would be more impressive. But like you said, in my price range, I shouldn't have expected too much."

 

"If you want a better magical item, next time, I can use all your coin to purchase the best item I can find." He offers.

 

"That's ok, there's something more important I need help with. Have you heard of Eathrosse and Deli’s Poke?”

 

“I’d be a terrible merchant if I haven’t. What do you need them for?”

 

He doesn't know? "They’re both ingredients to make engraving ink. I need help finding information about them along with purchasing some more mithril.”

 

“Sure, how many bundles do you need? I’ll get you anything you want.” He cheerfully replies.

 

“What?” I freeze in place. How’s he so confident he can get me those items? Mother told me that the merchant companies monitor the sale of those herbs so the country officials can monitor enchanters. Since when does he have the clout to guarantee me that he can get them!

 

“What’s wrong, Miss Aaliyah? They may be expensive, but I’m sure I can get them for you.” He doesn’t realize what he’s telling me. He’s a traveling merchant out in the middle of nowhere, how does he have the connections to buy them for me?

 

“Did you tell someone about me," I ask, not concealing the malice in my voice.

 

His two guards move up to his side and pull him away from me while drawing their swords.

 

“I don’t know what you mean?” He lies straight to my face.

 

I infuse Intimidating shout into my voice while using Sense Soul on the three of them. “A merchant of your caliber shouldn’t be able to get Eathrosse or Devil’s Poke, not unless it’s through a black market. I never expected you to buy them for me. I wanted your help in finding out where they grow in the wild or any other useful information. You would need to explain to Silver Herd who it’s for if you were getting it from them. So, I’ll ask one more time Kervin. Who did you tell about me?”

 

I place my hand on my katana while looking at their souls. His two bodyguards are level 57 and 59. Kervin is surprisingly, level 54. His bodyguards already have their swords drawn; it would be difficult if I had to fight all three of them at once. I'll have to break our contract later.

 

My skills must have been working because the three of them look terrified of me. If they attack, I’ll deep scan their souls, that should have them running for the hills.

 

“Please wait!” Kervin steps forward, not looking as perturbed as his guards. Being a merchant, he must have a high Mind stat. “Give me a chance to explain! There’s no need for us to fight.”

 

I deactivate Sense Soul for a moment. “Your men drew their swords first. I only defended myself.” I look from Kervin to his two bodyguards. I need them to think I'm stronger than I am. "You two may be level 57 and 59, but that doesn't mean anything to me. Are you going to attack me or put your weapons away?" I offer them an ultimatum, ready to use Sense Soul if they choose wrongly.

 

Kervin turns his back to me. “Sheath your swords now. You know how important she is.” On Kervin’s order, the two of them finally put their weapons away.

 

“Why don’t we all sit down and I’ll explain everything.” Kervin motions over to the fire at their campsite.

 

I sit across from the three of them, ready to use Flash Step to gain some distance if they try anything funny.

 

“Last month after I stopped here, we went to Drey…” I listen to Kervin’s story of what happened to him this last month.

 


 

“After I settled everything in Drey and loaded up my goods, I came back here." Kervin finishes recounting his tale.

 

We spend a minute in silence while I digest what I was just told.

 

"So," I sigh. "Not only is your boss aware of master and me, but a general with a power level of over 9,000 is interested in me." I clarify with Kervin.

 

"I don't know what a power level is, but yes, both of them showed an interest in your goods," Kervin confirms.

 

This changes a lot; I rub my eyes with my hands. People might come looking for me soon. I wish I could be mad at Kervin, but he’s in almost as bad a spot as I am.

 

I look up at Kervin, who's nervously waiting for me to speak. If I tell him to get lost, his company will most certainly send someone else.

 

“I’ll sell you what I have today.” Kervin looks like I just saved his life. “But tomorrow," I cut short his enthusiasm. "We need to renegotiate our contract after I talk to my master and family."

 

He gives me a sorrowful look. "I completely understand, but I don't have the skill level to adjust our contract, and I can't form another one with you right after I break the first one. I can get someone from the company to come with me next month if you would like?" He offers.

 

I give him a callous look. “It should be fine if I do it then, I’ll sever our contract tonight. We’ll make a fresh one tomorrow.”

 

“You can do that!” He looks at me in disbelief. “So, any contract we make…?” It’s left unsaid that a contract between us is solely for my benefit.

 

“Do you have a problem?” I ask.

 

“No,” he hangs his head in defeat.

 

“Good, now on to how much I want for my spears and arrows. I want 30 gold coins.” I activate my merchant skills first.

 

Kervin flinches at my demand and quickly activates his skills to rebut me. “That’s outrageous!”

 

I completely disregard his skills and give him a look that says he has no choice. “Don’t think I didn’t notice how you left out how much my spears are really worth. I made you 28 spears, and I want half a gold for each, that's 14 gold there. I made you 400 of my finest arrows after you sent me that letter. I want 4 silver for each of them, that's 30 gold in total.”

 

"That's way too…" He tries to negotiate again, but I'm having none of it. I have all the power in this situation, and though I know my current situation isn't entirely his fault, I still hold Kervin partially responsible.

 

“We’re not negotiating today.” I cut him off. “30 gold, or send me your replacement. I’m sure you’ll find some way to make a profit.”

 

"Alright, deal." He surrenders, and I feel our skills fade away. "Do you want me to take that 30 gold and get you the materials you need?" He smiles at me like he's trying to be helpful.

 

"We'll talk about it tomorrow," I say to him in a severe tone.

 

Kervin looks at me confused, so I explain it to him. "Tonight, I'll be discussing everything you told me with my loved ones. Depending on how everyone feels, we might part ways tomorrow." I stand up, ignoring Kervin’s look of panic.

 

I walk over to the crate he brought my magic tools in and put everything back in the box. I pick the container up in my arms and turn to Kervin one last time. “I’ll leave my cart here tonight. See you tomorrow morning.”

 

I don’t look back as I make my way home. I stop when I notice the same type of spot a dozen feet into the tree line. I’m getting a bad feeling about that shifting spot.

 

I'll drop off the magic tools at home and then get Del. The two of us can check the area before we all have a meeting to discuss what will happen next.

 

My peaceful village life looks like it might be coming to an end.

 


 

?????????? Point of View:

 

I watch my target slip into her house. With the amount of magic she's radiating, I can track her movement inside the building.

 

I feel her senses shift away from me. I take the opening and run.

 

That monster found me three times, and I still don’t know how she did it.

 

As I run through the trees, I check each of my magical items. All of them are functioning correctly, so I can't tell how she noticed me every time I got close to her.

 

It would only be a matter of time before she came to investigate me. And if she brought the stone kin with her, I’m not confident I could escape.

 

This is going to be a pain to explain to the boss.

 

At least I'm not leaving completely empty-handed, I have her and her master's name.

 

I glance behind me to make sure I’m not being followed.

 

I wouldn't put it past her to be chasing me. Just thinking about the way she shut down those three with her skills terrifies me. Thanks to Body Language, I could tell all three of them were scared of even approaching her.

 

You hear origin stories of high leveled people, is that what this is? I might have witnessed a future monster.

 

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A note from kosnik4

6,900 words.

 

This was so hard to write! I always knew I wanted Aaliyah to notice that something was wrong with Kervin, but I debated immensely on how she'd react. What do you think? Did this feel like something Aaliyah would do?

 

Whether you liked it or hated it, or maybe you cared less, please let me know below.

 

As always, be safe.


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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