A note from kosnik4

Some reeding for those of you waiting for the ball to drop or still partying. 

“I’ll take that one.”


“And that piece.”


“That’s a good one right there,” I exclaim.


I move between crates, picking out the samples of ore that have the highest content of kaglese. The size of the sample doesn’t matter; as long as the rock has a higher content of the ore I need, I set it off to the side in a pile.


Once I pick out the best samples I can find from each crate of ore, I further narrow down my ore choice so that I’m taking back only the best pieces with me. I eventually end up standing over a pile of ore that weighs roughly 100 pounds.


“Are you sure that will be enough ore for you to make the general’s arrow?” Mr. Grey asks from behind his desk.


“I’ll make it work,” I confidently proclaim. “The amount of kaglese in this pile of ore is the same as three hundred pounds of the other stuff. I'm used to helping my father carry large loads of timber, but I need to be able to move fast, so I can't carry more than a hundred and fifty pounds or so. And I’m already close to that limit,” I look at my travel pack sitting off to the side.


When I started this journey, my pack carried around twenty pounds of supplies; now, it bulges at the seams. Kervin took me to a stall this morning to buy more dried rations for my trip home, and he let me grab a few pairs of pants and a shirt from the clothes I folded. I 'convinced' him that I shouldn't have to pay for the clothes after I took the time to clean part of his house.


I quickly move the chunks of kaglese to a sack Mr. Grey provided for me. I'll secure the pack to a wooden frame that will help me carry the load, just like when I help father.


"Do you need to weigh this or something?" I ask Grey after all the kaglese ore is in the sack.


“I’m sure it’s close to what you said it is,” He smiles at me. Damn, I should have kept the extra chunks of ore after all!


I place the unknown metal for the arrowheads in with the kaglese ore and tie the sack shut. “And the feathers?” I ask.


“Right here,” Mr. Grey stands up and hands me a ceramic tube, sealed by a piece of fabric and some twine.


I untie the string and move aside the fabric to reach inside and pull out a feather. The Fechin feather sparkles just as beautifully as the one I saw yesterday did. I count ten feathers inside the tube, including the one in my hands.


Smiling while I seal the tube back up, I move over to the rest of my supplies and start strapping everything down.


I use a part of my Strength to tug in a few spots to ensure everything is secure. Confident in my work, I move in front of Mr. Grey’s desk. “I think everything is secure, ready to show me what’s in the box?” I motion to a spot behind his desk. The hidden box caught my attention as soon as I stepped into his office.


“Some might call that a breach of privacy,” He grumbles.


“That’s rich coming from you,” I sarcastically retort. “You think I wouldn’t notice a box holding multiple enchanted items?”


"Yeah, yeah," Mr. Grey leans over and pulls the hidden box onto his desk and opens it. One by one, he pulls out bundles of fine cloth and spreads them across his desk. He unwraps each bundle of fabric to reveal a different piece of jewelry. "Each one is enchanted to obscure a person’s mana.”


“May I?”


Grey waves his hand over the jewelry, giving me free rein to inspect them.


“Are there any differences between them?” I ask, looking between the two rings, an amulet, and a bracelet, all of which have a mana gem embedded in them.


“These pieces came from the capital. See the makers mark on them; they come from a workshop specializing in mana obscuring magic tools. The two rings are low-tier 3 items, the bracelet is mid-tier 3, and the amulet is a high-tier 3 magic tool." He explains to me while I’m holding one of the rings.


“What separates them in the same tier?” I question.


Mr. Grey goes full teacher mode on me. "Magic items are classified by many factors. The most important deciding factors on a magic item's price are the enchantment and the magic gem used. How much mana the runes need, how well it utilizes the mana, and the effect of the runes combined with different qualities of mana gems, decide the tier and price of the item."


“What about the item itself?” I ask.


"You'd be surprised how little that matters to most people. If the item is good enough to support an enchantment, you already know it's of decent quality. Imagine you have two swords to choose from, one is made slightly better than the other. Both swords have the same enchantment, but the lesser one has a better mana gem and more efficient runes. Nine times out of ten, people will buy the cheaper made sword with the better enchantments.”


Mr. Grey gestures to the ring in my hand. “All four of these pieces of jewelry are made from materials just strong enough to hold their individual enchantments. That’s why each of them looks pretty similar, but I’m sure a person with your skills can tell the difference between them.”


I start scanning the items one by one and quickly see what he means. They all use a silver alloy mixed with copper and another metal I haven't seen before. The only noticeable difference in their structures is the bracelet and amulet have a little extra of the unknown metal in their alloys.


I pour in enough mana to activate each item for a few minutes to observe their gems and runic structures. Size and clarity look to be the most contributing factors to the mana gems’ capacity. The jewel inside the amulet is the smallest, but the mana contained within is 25% more than the bracelet and 55% more than the two rings because of the sapphire's clarity.


Though the materials and mana gems are interesting to look at, it's the runes that have me mesmerized. Not only are the enchantments small enough to fit on a ring, but this is the first time I've seen tier 3 runes. Just like master told me, each rune is three-dimensional and incredibly complicated. I have no idea how an enchanter can carve perfect structures within an item without compromising its integrity.


“Is it really that interesting?” Mr. Grey asks me, reminding me where I am. I was so focused on the engravings I tuned everything else out.


"If you could see the beauty hidden inside these items, you wouldn't be asking me that question." I give him a half-smile. "I've only been able to look at cheap magic tools, items that have tier 1 and 2 runes at the most. I'd be tempted to ask whoever made this for an apprenticeship.”


“Really?” Kervin asks in disbelief.


I turn to him, “No, but I would try to drown him in compliments if it would earn me one piece of advice.” I chuckle to myself, staring at the amulet in my hands.


After another minute of quietly looking at the magic item, I put it back on its cloth covering and ask the big question. "So now that you have me hooked, what are their prices?" I eyeball the jewelry.


Grey points to one of the rings, "15 gold coins." Then he points to the other ring, "16 gold coins." He sits back in his chair and folds his hands. "The bracelet is 19 gold coins, and the amulet is 23."


I whistle at the prices. “And if we add in everything else?”


“The kaglese is 7 gold coins, and the ten feathers are 40 silver coins; which of the magic tools are you thinking about?” Mr. Grey asks.


"I want the amulet." I point at it, sitting on the desk.


“I don’t want to persuade you to pick one of the other options, but why the most expensive one?” He inquisitively asks me.


“I use my magic during everyday life. The amulet will waste the least amount of my mana pool while I keep it activated. In the future, I might even ask you to buy me a tier 4 version if I can afford it."


Grey laughs, "Tier 4 mana obscuring magic tools start at 40 gold coins and go up to 100 for the best ones. And don't ask me about tier 5; only a few are auctioned off by the Stone-Kin each year. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you the price of the starting bid.”


Holy crap! "You said Stone-Kin sold them; you can't get one from a human enchanter?" I ask Mr. Grey.


"There are only two enchanters in our kingdom that can craft tier 5 runes, and it's unknown how many they know. I'm not sure if you know this, but we humans are known for our celestial spells while the Stone-Kin focus on runic magic. When it comes to war, our army mages are brutal on the battlefield, but we'll never be able to compete with Stone-Kin when it comes to engraving." He explains to me.


Tier 5 runes, I wonder how much more complicated they are compared to tier 3?


“Let’s get back on track,” Grey brings my attention back to him. “The amulet is 23 gold coins, add in the materials you selected, and your total is 30.4 gold coins.”


“Whoa, there! I think you might have drunk too much last night. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe we made a deal yesterday,” I stop him before he can take the lead.


“Really, you think so?” Mr. Grey shows me his confident side and activates his skills.


I activate my own merchant skills, but they pale in comparison to his. If I didn't have Mental Resistance, I'm sure I would have agreed to pay him double if he asked for it. I do my best not to let the intimidation show on my face or in my body language.


“I think the price is fair,” Grey stands up from his chair and stretches out his hand, expecting me to agree.


“And the deal we made yesterday? You’re supposed to give me a discount in exchange for two of the special arrows I make later.” I raise my chin in defiance.


Mr. Grey looks shocked that I didn't agree to his deal. "How are you!?" He stops, knowing I won't answer. He straightens his back, "I remember our deal, that's why I'm not charging you for the special metal. If I were to charge you for the special ore, your total price would be more than 50 gold coins."


“And you aren’t going to get your money back with the arrows I make for you?” I make sure he knows I’m not a sucker.


He gives me a contemplative look. “Fine, 28 gold coins.” Whatever merchant skills he’s using once again decimate my own and try to force me to agree.


“You said the special metal would be sold for over 20 gold coins; you’ll easily make double that with my arrows. 20 gold coins for everything.” My skills try to push back against his, but I can't feel them making any progress.


"I'd agree to that price if you tell me how you're negating my skills. If not, 27 gold coins.” He narrows his eyes.


“No chance,” I fire back. “Give me everything for 25 gold coins.” I stand firm.


For the briefest of moments, his smile turns into that of a predator before quickly softening. "Deal," He holds his hand out.


I reach out and take his hand. “I’ll write out a quick contract regarding the arrows, and that you owe us 22.5 gold coins.”


I feel our skills finalize the deal, but I’m more focused on the sudden price drop. “Wait, why did you drop the price further?”


He continues to smile while his hand flashes across a piece of parchment. "I was informed a while ago by headquarters to give you a 10% discount."


“On everything?” I try to clarify.


“Of course, everything Kervin has bought for you has had a flat 10% taken off of the price." Mr. Grey quickly looks up and gives me a matter of fact look.


I send Kervin a questioning look, but he shakes his head, denying any knowledge of the fact.


“I thought you would get everything for 27 gold, but I guess seeing another part of your skills was worth the extra 5 gold coins.” Grey turns the contract upside down and pushes it over to me to sign.


It only takes me a moment to scan the document to make sure there’re no hidden clauses. I sign the contract, feeling a small bond forming between the two of us, while Grey puts the other three magic tools away.


I push the contract back to his side of the table and pick up my new amulet.


"Allow me," Kervin offers. I hand him the necklace and let him attach it around my neck for me. As soon as it's fastened, I fill it with mana and watch as an invisible barrier forms around my body. I'm happy knowing I have another defensive layer around me, even though it isn’t a physical one.


“Now that business is done,” Mr. Grey grabs mine and Kervin’s attention. “I’d like to hear the answer to my question last night.”


“The one asking if my opinion changed?” I make sure to clarify.


"That's the one," Grey appears happy I remembered.


"I'd be a fool if I trusted you after two meetings and a dinner." Grey looks saddened by my answer, like I kicked his dog. "However," I continue. "You've been good to me while I was here. I'm starting to think working with Silver Herd isn't as bad as I originally thought it would be." Grey, and by extension, Kervin, brighten up after hearing the second part of my answer.


“That doesn’t mean I want to deal with anyone other than Kervin.” I remind Grey.


"I can understand that. Hopefully, in the future, you'll feel more inclined to work with me as well." Grey and I share a mutual smile.


“Oh! I almost forgot.” Grey shifts in his seat. “Headquarters told me they would try to get you the instructions you asked for, but they need time. You know how matters regarding engraving ink are sensitive.”


I’m surprised by the news. “And you didn’t think to tell me that piece of news before you asked me what I thought about you?” I give him a smile that says I know what he did there.


“It never occurred to me.” Grey lies through his teeth, feigning ignorance. "Headquarters did want me to ask you one more thing, though."


“What is it?” I ask.


“Do you know anyone who has ties with the Panetta family?" Grey asks me in a tone that says he doesn't care about the answer.


“Panetta family? I’ve never heard of them. Are they people I need to watch out for?” I ask.


“No, no, everything should be fine. I don’t know what headquarters is thinking sometimes,” Grey laughs.


“Alright, I should be heading out. It was a pleasure to meet you.” I hold out my hand.


“The pleasure was all mine. If you come back to Drey for any reason, stop by, and I’ll get us another table at Alizio’s.” Mr. Grey firmly shakes my hand.


I turn around to grab everything, only to see Max holding my back sling in his arms, so it's easier for me to put it on.


I thank Max while fastening the straps around my shoulders. A quick jump up and down to check if anything is loose lets me know everything is secured.


“Anytime, Miss Aaliyah.” Max moves to open the door for Kervin and me.


I give the two men in the office one last departing smile before Kervin leads us back through the building towards the front desk. As soon as we make it into the lobby, Lurte, Ryiba, and Reel get up from their chairs and greet us.


“Ready to go?” Lurte asks me.


“I think so,” I answer.


“You’re going to make your niece carry everything?” A reproachful voice comes from the front desk. The head receptionist is shaking her head at Kervin.


“I, aaaa…” Kervin chokes.


"It's ok," I step in. "I've always helped move things around; this is nothing."


“It’s the principle of the matter, sweety.” She tries to scold me as my mother would.


“It’s really fine,” I try to tell her. “I’m thankful for your consideration, Miss…?” I try to get her name.


“Oh, it’s fine. We girls need to stick together.” She expertly continues the conversation, ignoring the bit about her name. She gives me a once over with her eyes and asks, “Are you leaving?”


"Yeah, it was fun hanging out with uncle Kervin, but I have stuff to do at home," I answer her with a fake smile.


“Well, I hope you enjoyed your time with us. I also hope you come back to say hi to me again soon!” She says in her bubbly voice and a warm smile.


“I did, and I will.” I lightly bow my head.


"Safe travels back to your village." It takes everything I have not to flinch. How does she know I live in a village?


I force a nod and turn around, hiding my nerves from the scary woman.


I take a few steps before I hear her call out to me. “By the way, I like your necklace. Very practical.”


I don’t turn around and move just a little bit faster to get out of the building. If I never see that woman again, it would be too soon.



“You sure you don’t need anything else?” Kervin asks me for the fifth time.


“I said no the last four times, mom,” I complain to him.


“You remember the way we came? You can have Reel go with you,” He asks me with a worried look.


I sigh in defeat, “I’m fine on my own. I follow the wall until I find the old path that leads to my village. Father taught me how to tell which direction I’m going, so you don’t have to worry.” I try to reassure him.


I lean forward, so people passing by can't hear what I say next. "And remember my level. I'll be fine,” I whisper.


Kervin shifts back and forth on his legs. “Ok,” he reluctantly says. “I’ll be back to your village in nine days.”


"Thanks for bringing me here, Kervin." I give him a genuine smile. "Wish me luck with the arrow, both our futures ride on it," I smirk when a nervous expression falls on his face.


“That’s not funny,” He complains.


I smirk to myself as I turn around and head to the gate leading out of the city.


I stop right before I enter the tunnel leading out of the city and look behind me. I commit the city's landscape to heart. It was a challenging couple of days, but it was worth seeing a part of the larger world.


I wave to the four men watching me leave, and get three to wave back to me in return. On the bright side, it will be nine days before I have to see Reel again.


I turn back around and start my journey home. I'm surprised to see the guards don't care about the people leaving the city.


As soon as I leave the gate, I'm greeted with an open landscape and the smell of fresh air. The sky is clear, and the winter winds are pushing in the direction I need to go.


A few people waiting to get into Drey give me curious looks, no doubt because of how young I look. I ignore their gazes and start walking on the path leading around Drey’s walls.


As the people I pass become fewer in number, I put more of my Strength into my legs. Walking turns into jogging, and soon I'm running down the trail.


Double Step helps me gain more speed despite the weight I’m carrying. Mana Skin keeps the winter wind from giving me an ice burn as I continue to gain momentum in the cold.


I soon reach a speed I’m comfortable keeping that won’t expend too much of my Stamina. This is what I always wanted to do, visit Drey, and return on my own terms. It's disappointing I didn't have time to stop by brother’s and Sandra's place, but they should be coming home soon.


I imagine our family reunion as I start to pass by more and more trees. Kervin's bivol could never hope to match the pace I'm going.


I start humming Country Road, with every step bringing me closer to home.



Reel’s Point of View After Aaliyah Leaves Through Drey’s Gate:


12, I count to myself.


The idiots next to me stop waving after Aaliyah vanishes through the gate.


“You think she’ll be ok?” Ryiba asks out loud.


“I’m sure she will. I mean, she has a higher level than most of us.” Lurte assures Ryiba.


Kervin is practically oozing nervousness.


124, I keep track in my head.


The four of us stand around in the cold, watching people coming into Drey. Our boss looks unsure of what to do, 491.


When I reach 600 in my head, I move next to Kervin, who hasn't moved from his spot. “You’re staying in Drey for the next few days, right?” I ask.


Kervin looks at me, uncomprehending. "Staying at your home?" I ask again with a little bite to my voice.


“Yeah,” He hesitantly answers me.


“Good. If, for whatever reason, something unexpected comes up, ask Leonard for help." I start walking to the gate.




“Where are you going!?” Kervin yells at my back.


I turn to face him but continue moving towards the gate by walking backwards. "I'm going to take a piss," I ignore the foul looks that the people walking by send me. "Probably take me a few days."


A look of realization crosses my coworker's faces, took them long enough.


725, I count as I make it through the gate. Aaliyah has a twelve-minute head start.


It will be tricky to tail her until she reaches the forest, then I can close the gap between us without her noticing me following her.


First things first. I start running the way we came to Drey. Even if there's a considerable distance between us, I need to get eyes on her.


I start running.


When I don’t see her on the horizon, I pick up speed.


I move faster!


And faster.





“Where the Fuck, is she!?” I swear out loud.


My heart starts to beat faster until I see a blurry figure far in the distance. I activate my Perception skills to confirm it’s Aaliyah.


The giant sack tied to her back, and her red hair is all the confirmation I need.






I push myself harder as she moves out of my sight again.


We should have almost the same Strength and Dexterity stats. What level is her Running skill!?


Is she planning on being a courier if her blacksmithing job falls through?! Is there anything this girl isn’t a monster at?


Follow her home, Giovanni said. It should be easy for you, he said. I curse my rotten luck and push myself faster at the cost of my Stamina.


This is going to be a long couple of days.



Aaliyah’s Point of View:


I need to work running back into my schedule; I forgot how much it helped clear my mind. And the feeling of running fast is second to no other; I could probably reach the same speed as cars traveling around a city.


I've been running for four hours, and with the amount of ground I'm covering, I should make it back to the village late afternoon tomorrow. By the time I stop for the night, I'll be over a third of the way home.


I’ve seen a handful of goblins just off of the road, but I fly past them before they even realize that I’m there.


If I remember correctly, I’m coming up on a small clearing that will be an excellent spot to rest for a little bit.


Following the forest path, I see the clearing, but I also see a downed tree blocking the way towards the village.


I move to check out the fallen tree, but halfway through the clearing, Sense Mana picks up the presence of humans hidden in the forest, and they’re rapidly approaching the clearing!


I dig my feet into the snow, trying to stop, but the extra weight I’m carrying causes me to skid forward closer to where the figures are approaching from.


Damn, I sense two more are closing in from the sides, moving to cut off my escape!


I draw my dagger and cut the straps securing my pack. As my goods hit the ground, I move to my left, gaining the most distance I can get from where most of the people are going to emerge from the woods.


I see their figures coming out of the trees as I switch out my knife for my sword.


“Look what we have here, boys! It might not be the merchant we heard about, but a beautiful girl is always a bonus!" A large rugged man in armor shouts as he walks out of the tree line.


I start counting the men as they enter the clearing, following closely behind the armored man. The two I sensed last appear off to my sides, keeping me boxed in and nine men spread out in front of me, all armed with different weapons and varying degrees of armor. I silently watch each of their movements.


“Why the silent treatment, girly?” The big man asks me. Judging by his pompous attitude, he must be the leader. "You don't want to ask who we are, why we're here? That's what people usually say in this situation." His smile disgusts me.


“It’s obvious who you are.” I narrow my eyes on the man but keep my other senses on the rest of the men, particularly the two boxing me in.


“You’re taking the fun out of this,” The leader feigns feeling hurt while twirling his mace around.


I don’t respond to the man and just sneer at him.




"What!" He snaps at the man beside him.


“My skills are going crazy; she has to have over 5 gold on her!” He shouts in excitement. All the men start eyeballing me and my bag that I left off to the side.


"It's our lucky day, boys! A beauty and a profit!" The leader shouts, and the men cheer.


I can't let things continue as they are. Each time the leader speaks, the bandits become surer of themselves and more confident.


I need to be smart about this, so I decide to laugh. I start out chuckling before I take large breaths and erupt in laughter until the bandits become quiet.


“It’s too early for you to snap, girl. We haven’t even tasted you yet.” The boss tries to regain his momentum.


“Sorry,” I apologize as I rein in my maniacal laughter. “It’s just you have no idea who you’re dealing with," I say in the most ominous tone I can imagine hoping my Acting skill can keep up.


“Is that so?” The boss calls my bluff.


I give the man a sweet smile before I point at one of his men. Activating Sense Soul, I start calling out their levels. "39, 41, 38, 40, 42, 39, 41, 38, 38, your buddy who can tell how much money I have is level 45, and your level is 49." Each number I call out causes the recipient to falter. Even the leader cringes when I tell him his level. "None of you are as strong as I am!" I push my mana into my sword and ignite its flames.


“Oh, gods!” A few of the men call out.


"Quiet!" The leader's voice echoes throughout the clearing.


“I’ll admit you’re flashy," He takes a step forward. "You might be able to scare these fools, but I've seen how people with real power act. If you were strong enough to take us out, you would've attacked us already. You're running back to your village, so your Stamina can’t be full right now. And by the way your sword is trembling, you've never killed a man before!”


I try to keep my confident facade up, but he's right. My Stamina is only around 600, and I've never seriously fought with another human before.


"We'll use the same rules as always," The leader shouts out. "Who wants to try first? The winner gets first taste!"


What the hell is he saying!? These bastards think so little of me that they’re willing to come at me one at a time!


“I’ll go,” a bandit holding an axe steps forward. His level was 41. "Surrender, and I won't be too rough with that body of yours," The man licks his lips at me. "Though a little blood helps with lubrication." The animal and his friends laugh at the taunt, and my hair stands on end.


I think about running, but I quickly toss aside the idea. I wouldn't make it far before my Stamina hit 0, and I doubt they wouldn't chase me.


"Fuck off," I try to convey confidence while taking up my stance, but I'm panicking on the inside.


“This should be fun,” The bandit raises his axe and charges at me.


I immediately notice he’s leaving his midsection open. I ready to cut open his stomach, but I hesitate when he enters my striking range. I recover and slash, but he skillfully uses his axe to deflect my strike and push me back.


"You're right, boss!" The man shouts over his shoulder. I gave her an opening, and she hesitated." A round of cheers erupts at my opponent's news. A few of the bandits are cursing for not volunteering to go first.


The man takes up another stance, only this time he properly guards himself. He left himself open to test me!


So many emotions flash through my mind but two most of all, anger and fear.


The bandit doesn’t wait for me to recover and starts swinging with his axe again. The man has killed before and is used to fighting other humans. Each of his strikes is aimed to maim me but not kill.


One strong swing of his sends me stumbling back for a second time.


“She’s not even fighting back!” One of the onlooker’s shouts.


He’s right, why am I hesitating?


Because he's human?


The thought of these men as humans fades from my mind. These are monsters, worse than goblins. If I don't kill them, they will surely attack Kervin or, worse, the village.


“We’re going to have so much fun together,” The bandit advances again.


This time his movements appear to slow as I silence the part of my brain reminding me it's a person in front of me.


I activate Flash Step and Precise Strike, appearing behind him. I face the cheering bandits with empty eyes as I hear the man’s body fall to the ground behind me.


Their cheering stops. One man stutters at the boss, “Holy Fuck! She cleaved Jim’s head off; what do we do now?”


“Looks like she has some fight in her after all,” The leader excitedly claims. “What are you whining about? Your share of the loot just got bigger. Besides, the girl is on her last leg, she can’t use that skill again. Who wants to go next?”


I thought my decapitation of their friend would scare them off, but the next man steps forward. I realize my swords flames aren't helpful in this situation, so I reabsorb the mana in my sword to save it for later.


“We’re down to ten shares, is it going to be nine?” The leader laughs and his men join him. It doesn’t look like any of them care if the man in front of me dies either. They will fight me one at a time, whittling away my Stamina until I’m helpless, while the survivors get a bigger cut of the profit, and apparently, the winner gets me.


My next opponent is level 39 and comes at me with his sword already drawn. He slashes at me, and I block, I try to cut him, and he dodges. We start dancing to the ringing of our swords.


A few times, he grazes Mana Skin, but he doesn't appear to notice it. He seems much more cautious of Flash Step, but it uses up too much of my Stamina.


I get a lucky cut in, and slice open his arm. When he recoils, I score a second hit opening his stomach. When he starts to stagger, I put him out of his misery by piercing his heart.


I try to take a few deep breaths, while the bandits decide who is challenging me next.


“The girl is fierce,” The bandit leader mocks me. “But I can tell her Stamina is almost empty; who else wants to give it a try?"


“I’m next!” Another bandit with an axe steps forward. If I remember correctly, his level was 40.


The back to back fights are quickly taking their toll. Compared to goblins of the same level, these men have years of experience and use strategy instead of brawn.


The man runs at me aggressively and swings his axe. While the last guy was wary of my movement skill, this guy’s strategy is keeping me on the defensive and it’s working.


I can match his Strength, but his weapon is heavier than mine, and my Stamina is nearly out.


Before my Stamina reaches below 100, I gamble and activate Weighted Strike. The axe wielding bandit can’t hold up against my weapon’s sudden weight change, allowing my sword to push his axe to the side and deliver a deep diagonal slash across his chest. The man falls face down in the snow and bleeds out in a matter of seconds, dying the frost crimson. Another win by the skin of my teeth.


I stumble forward away from the blood-soaked snow and collapse to my knees.


Seeing my prone form, the remaining eight bandits start to cheer. “Do you want to fight another one of my boys, or do you want to surrender? Either way is fine with us.” The leader laughs maniacally.


What do I do?


Do I kill myself?


I'd instead do that, then let them touch me.


The only thing I have left is my mana, but Mana Skin will only hold them off for so long.


Right now would be a great time to know how to throw a fireball.




I might not be able to conjure a fireball, but I can make a small flame!


A crazy idea pops into my head.


Worst case scenario, I die and take most of them with me.


Let's try it!



Reel’s Point of View:


Shit, shit, shit.


I arrive just in time to watch Aaliyah collapse on her knees. Why couldn’t she run just a bit slower or take a break sooner!?


I reach into my side pouch and withdraw a small green vial. I pull the stopper and drink the sappy medical paste and wait for it to boost my Stamina. I'll crash after the effect wears off, but it should let me fight.


I observe the situation from my hiding place behind a tree at the clearing’s entrance.


Why couldn't she kill a few more of them? I complain in my head. My fighting style is better suited for one on one fights. They've already lost three of their men to Aaliyah, so I doubt they'd take such a cavalier stance to my showing up.


I've only known Aaliyah for a little while, but I know she won't give up without a fight. As soon as she makes her last stand, I'll charge in while they're distracted and take her to hide in the woods. I think I’m still in range, so I can call Giovanni and have him send backup while we hide.


I feel my Stamina pool rapidly filling.


Alright, as soon as she…


I watch horrified as she tosses her sword and dagger away. “I give up,” She pants heavily.




"Smart move, girl. No need for your death to be a painful one. If you serve us with a smile, we might even decide to sell you off instead of killing you.” The leader of their group smiles triumphantly.


Aaliyah doesn’t answer him and instead brings her hands together and appears to start praying.


The eight remaining men start to converge on her like a pack of starving wolves. One of the men grabs her sword and dagger.


I’ll only get one chance to save her. When they start arguing about who should get to go first, I’ll rush in.


When the men make it a few feet from her, Aaliyah opens her hands to reveal a small fire burning in her palm.


A few of the men jump back while the leader laughs at them. “It’s only a tier 1 spell, if she could cast anything better, she would’ve done it long ago.” He savagely looks down on her. “What are you planning to do with that?” He taunts.


“Kill all of you,” I hear Aaliyah say. So, she is going to try something!


“How are you going to do that?” The leader asks in between laughing.


This is my chance! I activate all my stealth and movement skills to close the distance rapidly.


When I'm halfway to Aaliyah, I hear her say something that makes my Danger Sense go haywire. “Like this.”


Following my instincts, I activate Emergency Escape, changing my direction back towards where I was hiding.


I make it three steps before an explosion erupts behind me.


A blast wave knocks me off my feet and throws me forward before a wave of fire washes over me. My emergency magic ring negates a large part of the damage, but I still lose 10% of my health.


I look up from where I landed on the ground and see a plume of smoke where Aaliyah and the bandits once were.


Did she use a suicide spell!?


My limbs shake as I climb to my feet and wait for the smoke to clear and the magic fire to dissipate.


As everything clears, I see the remains of the bandits strewn across the ground. If I hadn't used my escape skill, or if I was a little bit closer, that could've been me. Explosive magic is exponentially deadlier the closer you are to its epicenter.


As I move a little closer, I hear something.


*Cough* *Cough*


My head snaps to the center of the blast, where the sounds of coughing are coming from.


Laying in a small crater is the prone form of Aaliyah.


I rush to her side and cradle her head. I fish out another potion from my pouch, this time purple, and force her to drink it.


I wait for the healing tonic to kick in before I drag her away from the explosion site. I see her eyes flutter before she starts thrashing as I move her.


"It's me, Aaliyah; it's Reel!" I shout, trying to get her to stop thrashing.


She doesn't open her eyes, but she does open her mouth. "What are you doing here?"


“You think my boss would let you run home by yourself?” I tell her as I set her on a bed of snow.


“Some help you were.” I hear her mumble.


"If you didn't run so fast, this might not have happened." I retort.


“Couldn’t keep up with a little girl, huh.” I look at Aaliyah to tell her to stop talking and freeze when I see her eyes open and giving me a strained smile. “Thanks for coming.”


I run over to her supplies that were knocked away by the blast and drag it over to her before I fish out her traveling blanket.


I lay out her blanket and gently move her on top of it before folding it over and tucking her in. "Who taught you that spell? It's a miracle you're still alive." I criticize the reckless girl.


“Would you believe me if I told you it was a tier 1 spell?” She must not be in her right state of mind if she’s so readily talking to me.


“Let’s say I did believe you; how did you make a tier 1 spell do that?” I ask her, not expecting an answer.


"A skill I recently earned; I can use extra mana to boost a spell. That was a tier 1 fire-starting spell using twenty times the usual mana." She deliriously laughs and ends up coughing. "I'm tired. See you in the morning." She manages to say before passing out.


I have just enough time to set up a temporary camp before my Stamina starts to fall rapidly. My tonic is wearing off fast.


I get comfortable next to the sleeping girl just as my Stamina reaches 0. I look down at her sleeping face; despite a few scratches and bruises, she seems fine. She must have used that skill she keeps around herself to endure the majority of the blast.


She risked her life to take out every one of the bandits. Maybe I should tease her less in the future?


I glance at her again and can tell she's knocked out cold. She's probably suffering from Mana and Stamina depletion. If she wakes up before sunrise tomorrow, it will be another miracle.


I let out a long sigh; how am I supposed to report this to Giovanni? It will be a miracle for me if he doesn’t send One to terminate me.


"Oh well, tomorrow's problems. For now, I’ll watch over the problem child.” I quickly decide.


I sit utterly still, waiting for my Stamina to start regenerating again.


I slowly let my thoughts fade away and focus only on our surroundings. The last thought I push from my mind is, I don't know if she has a devil's luck but I hope this girl is worth all the trouble.


A note from kosnik4

7,150 words.


A shout-out to everyone that's been reading and supporting my work. It's you guys that made 2020 bearable.


I hope everyone is enjoying their new year's celebrations.


Here's hoping 2021 is kinder to all of us.


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

Support "Magic-Smithing "

About the author


Bio: Just love a good story.

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