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A note from kosnik4

Might want to read this one on Patreon. I don't know what it is, but RoyalRoad makes it so difficult to put pictures in the post.

 

The chapter is public, click here to be redirected. 

“And right there, I’ll put a tree. A happy tree,” I try and give my best Bob Ross impression.

 

Waving my hands around, I manipulate the experience around me to form an oak tree. It's hard to create one based only on my memories entirely, but oak trees were pretty common in my past life, and I only need to get the outward appearance to match the shape in my head.

 

I hold my fingers up like I'm looking through a camera and marvel at my handiwork. This is my biggest project to date since I received my second tier 5 skill, Soul Manipulation.

 

I look around my soul, at the clearing I usually appear in, and marvel at all the changes I made.

 

Since my jump in levels, it's been harder to fall asleep at night, and I've frequently resorted to retreating into my soul. What was once a chore of having to sit still and meditate for hours on end while my body rested in the real world has turned into a sim building game.

 

Soul Manipulation is the only skill I can use and practice inside my soul. In the past few days, I’ve started by figuring out how to widen the small clearing I appear in, and from there, I started crafting a whole garden around me.

 

I've only been able to replicate stone pathways and plants, but I'm hoping to eventually mold inanimate objects from my previous life and maybe build a small building in the future.

 

I reach out and touch the rough surface of the oak tree’s trunk. The surface of the tree looks a little too uniform to the eye. No matter how good I am or how much time I spend working on it, I can't match nature's beauty. I consider starting over; with only a single wave of my hand, I could destroy hours of work in a single moment.

 

Like everything else, destroying is easy; it's creating that takes the most time.

 

This isn't the first tree I've tried to make; heck, it isn't even the twentieth. But this is the first tree from Earth I’ve managed to craft without it looking like a half-melted sculpture.

 

Though I consider the tree a benchmark for my skills rising strength, it’s the first plant that I crafted that brings the biggest smile to my face. I walk over to the center of the clearing and look down at the six-foot by six-foot patch of grass I have meticulously grown from the surrounding experience.

 

Not to be confused with the wild grasses I can find around the village, or even the sprouts from the seed the keepers grow in the animal pens. No, this patch of grass is unique in this world; it's grass from Earth. It took me forever to figure out how to form a single blade of grass, let alone group them closely together and make them flexible to the touch.

 

My first try at recreating the grass that I remembered from parks back on Earth resembled a bed of nails rather than groundcover.

 

But all my hard work finally paid off, and now every time I enter my soul, I appear atop a soft carpet of grass under the moonlight sky.

 

I let myself fall over and sprawl out on the lush green carpet, remembering the times I played in the park or just in my backyard as a child in my previous life.

 

Slowly, I sit up and glance at the mess surrounding me. All my projects are scattered across the clearing, with most being unfinished works in progress. Random flat stones and bricks of different colors are embedded everywhere in the ground next to plants I've tried to replicate.

 

On one side of the clearing, I have copies of the common plants around the village, while on the other side are all plants I’ve tried to recreate from my memories of Earth. There's an apple tree that looks closer to a kid's drawing than the real thing, and flowers of different shapes and sizes surround it. I'm not even sure if some plants are ones I encountered or if they're fictional foliage I remember from movies. I’m pretty sure that glowing fern is from James Cameron’s Avatar.

 

The funniest of all has to be a rose bush I made that’s covered in flowers of every color I could imagine. It looks like a rainbow fell out of the sky and landed on a bush. The colorful plant always brings a smile to my face.

 

I look up at the stars and moons hanging overhead and raise my hands in a grabbing motion. "The very heavens move to my will!” I call out in an exaggerated manner.

 

I hold that ridiculous pose for a minute before I drop my arms in defeat. It would be cool if that worked, and I could arrange the stars into my own constellations, but I can't fly before I've learned to walk.

 

After meeting the goddesses' avatars, I now know that the stary sky I see is actually the outer barrier of my soul and the moons are the representations of the links to the pantheon of gods. What makes me curious is there are supposed to be six gods, yet there are seven moons, I ponder to myself.

 

Gods, actual gods. Beings of immense power.

 

I wish I could talk to mom or someone about meeting the goddesses, but a voice in the back of my head keeps telling me that's a bad idea every time I try to bring it up. And considering that Mental Resistance doesn't stop the voice, I'm inclined to believe it.

 

My world view has changed a lot recently.

 

There are things out there I couldn’t imagine.

 

“And gods help me; I want to see them all.” I stare up at the moons looking for any minute changes.

 

"Nothing," even though I call out to them, nothing changes. I'm sure my first impressions of them were correct, and they don't care enough to interfere with my life. Knowing I won't accidentally summon a wrathful goddess every time I swear was a massive load off my mind, but I still wish I could've asked them some more questions.

 

No, I don't think I could handle meeting them again; the first time was mentally taxing enough.

 

It was only thanks to breaking down in my mother's and father's arms; I was able to let out all my pent-up feelings after meeting the deities. Though as the days passed and after some self-reflecting, I realized I might not want to meet the goddesses again, but the thought of encountering another creature like the soul eater intrigues me. I want to see more of the world, and that includes the monsters roaming through it. I don't have a death wish, though, and I'd never want to fight such beasts, but the thought of seeing them with my own eyes makes my blood boil in a way I never thought possible.

 

A big part of me wants to expand my horizons.

 

Thinking about expanding my horizons, that reminds me, I should check if it’s morning yet. I don’t bother to stand up and start walking towards my sea of memories; instead, I choose to stay seated on my patch of grass.

 

Using Sense Soul and Soul Manipulation, I look inside myself. This body represents my consciousness, and with my new skill combined with the skill levels I gained after the Soul eater incident, I can now feel the connection my consciousness has with the real world.

 

I bring my right hand up to my chest and slowly push. My fingers pass through the surface of my clothes and skin as if they weren’t solid.

 

“There it is,” I mumble to myself. In the center of my consciousness is a thread that connects me to my physical body. As soon as my fingers touch the connection, I feel my consciousness being inverted on itself as it’s snapped back into my body.

 

I slowly open my eyes to see the familiar ceiling of my room.

 

I smile to myself as I sit up without feeling the strain of being forced from my soul by the moons. I still sometimes go to my sea of memories to train Mental Resistance but exiting my soul of my own volition is much less taxing on my mind and lets me be more productive during the day.

 

It's still dark outside, but I can tell by the faintest of glows in the distance that the sun will soon be rising.

 

Today will be the fifth day since I woke up after meeting the goddesses. I was out for a long time; I wonder where Kervin is at right now? I'd guess he's either in Teeburn or already left it. I wonder if the general liked the arrow or not?

 

I wish I could start the next arrow, but I'm stuck crafting the weaker arrows without the supplies I need. Whether the general liked the arrow or not, I'm excited for my delivery of kaglese anyway. I need to forge a new sword, and I plan on making it out of a steel and kaglese alloy. And this time, I'll be adding mithril to the mixture as well. I want to enchant my next sword after I figure out that damn engraving ink recipe.

 

I started practicing synthesizing the ink and even gained the Alchemy skill, but I've burned through a tenth of my materials so far, and I've only figured out how to do the first few steps correctly. Too bad the ink wasn't as easy to figure out as my katana.

 

I miss my flaming sword, but my last few fights have proven the flames were mostly a novelty. Though highly effective against chameleon spiders, I've found myself using my mana to strengthen Mana Skin or using other forms of magic rather than use it to engulf my sword in flames.

 

In both my fight with the bandits and the soul eater, the flames my katana could produce were utterly pointless.

 

With my rising Strength stat, it's more practical to have a stronger and heavier sword. In fact, it makes sense for me to go back to using an axe, but I can't get over how fun it is to practice swinging a sword. I guess I'll always dream of having an epic sword fight like in the anime I used to watch.

 

I get out of bed and start my morning stretching routine as the sun slowly makes its presence known to the village.

 

As I move to brush out my hair and tie it up, I hear mother and father shifting around their room.

 

While I'm getting ready, something obscures the rising sun from shining through my window for a brief second. I know it isn't something close by because I don't pick up anything with Sense Mana. Peering out my window, I see a great bird diving towards the headman's house.

 

The large brown bird moves through the air at lightning speeds, so much so it’s hard for my eyes to follow it. That has to be a messenger hawk.

 

Maybe it’s another letter from Kervin like last time?

 

When mother and I go for our morning run, we'll swing by Camden's house to check.

 

"Aaliyah, are you up, sweety?" Speak of the devil; I hear mother through my bedroom door.

 

I’m already dressed and ready for the day, so I move over and open my door rather than call out through it. “Morning, mom,” I greet mother with a big smile.

 

“Did you sleep well? How are you feeling today?” Mother asks me while leaning in and wrapping me up in a hug.

 

“I’m fiiiiiiine,” I draw out the fine, exasperated from her asking me every morning.

 

“Are you sure?” She asks, leaning back and staring me directly in the eyes.

 

"I'm sure," I give her a crooked smile. Thanks to my mother's and father's support, I was able to recover so quickly after the soul eater attack, but while dad still asks me every so often how I'm doing, it's mother who sees fit to ask me the same question multiple times a day.

 

I’m all for sharing, but she asks me so frequently, I don’t have anything else to talk about!

 

“We need to stop by Camden’s house before we start our run,” I tell mother, breaking out of her death-grip.

 

Mom gives me a curious look when I hear dad call out from their bedroom, "You're heading to the headman's house; what for?"

 

“I think I saw a large bird flying over to his house. I might have gotten a response from Kervin regarding the general’s arrow,” I explain to the two of them.

 

“My group is working that way as well. We can walk together.” Dad offers, walking over to mother and kissing her on the cheek.

 

"That sounds like a lovely idea," she gushes and returns dad's kiss with one of her own. I turn away from the sweet atmosphere before my teeth start to rot.

 

Mother and father eventually separate, and the three of us move into the living room together. Mother moves to put on her shoes while father and I grab our axes. It's annoying having to carry such a big weapon on my back, but we still live in a remote village, and I need something to defend myself with if something happens. Mother doesn't advertise it, but I know she always has a dagger on her person, and every so often, I catch a glimpse of her practice swinging it.

 

I guess the good news is that everything has been relatively tranquil around the village after the soul eater event. The hunters have reported smaller game returning to the woods, and hopefully, the bigger animals will soon follow now that the spiders are all but gone.

 

When I accompanied my mother to have tea with Sarette the other day, I was told thanks to all the tree felling around the village, the fields will be expanded more than ever this year, and we'll have more crops than we know what to do with.

 

Our village has suffered many trials and tribulations this year, but things are finally looking up.

 

*Knock**Knock**Knock*

 

We all jump at the sound of someone knocking on our front door. “Hello, this is Nicolas. May I come in?”

 

The three of us share confused looks before mother, who’s standing next to the door, flips open the latch we use to seal the house at night and pushes the door open to let our early morning guest in.

 

Nicolas moves into our doorway and scans the room, meeting each of our gazes. "I'm lucky, you're all still here," he sighs in relief.

 

"Is something the matter?" Mother asks, concerned, noticing the strained look on the young man’s face.

 

"Father received a messenger hawk from Drey and told my brother and me to gather the senior members of the village immediately," Nicolas tells us while trying to catch his breath. He must have run straight here.

 

“What was the message?” Father curiously asks.

 

"I don't know, father wouldn't say. Please head to our house; I still have to go and inform a few others of the meeting." Nicolas turns around and takes off towards his next destination.

 

Really. I know my luck isn’t the best, but I tempted fate only five minutes ago! Shouldn’t there be a grace period before fate reacts to a flag?

 

"So much for it being a message from Kervin," I joke darkly.

 

“Now sweety, we don’t know what the message is about. No use worrying until we meet with Camden. Let’s hurry over and see what the fuss is all about.” Mother rushes father and me out the door and over to the headman’s house.

 

On our way over, Ronald silently joins our group.

 

We pass by many villagers starting their day, and many notice we’re walking towards the headman’s house as a group. A few of the braver ones call out to us and ask us what's going on, to which we have no answer.

 

By the time we reach Camden's house, I can see master walking over in the distance just as Salus rounds a nearby house to join our little party. "Morning Silvia, Darrius, Aaliyah. Oh, and to you, Ronald, I didn't see you there." Salus politely greets all of us. "I don't suppose any of you know why we're here?"

 

“I would like to know the same thing?” Our group turns around to see Anastasia walking over, followed by Nicolas. I don't understand why she was summoned; Anastasia's healing is important to the village, but she doesn't usually concern herself with its affairs.

 

Master walks over and stands next to me.

 

"As I said, Ms. Anastasia, my father didn't say." Nicolas is trying to keep a straight face, but judging by his twitching eyelid, she's asked him more than a few times already. Nicolas looks like he's about to say something else to Anastasia but turns towards us instead, looking past our group, and smiles in relief.

 

Turning around, I see Nicolas’s brother Braddon leading Markus and Ezekiel over to our growing group. The two men look just as reluctant as Anastasia does at being summoned on such short notice.

 

Braddon walks next to his brother. “Everybody here?”

 

“Yeah,” Nicolas responds. “Was it difficult convincing them to come?”

 

The two brothers share a meaningful look between the two of them that speaks volumes of their troubles.

 

Nicolas clears his throat and turns to everyone gathered. “Alright, everyone is here; follow me to the drawing-room."

 

We’re led into the headman’s house to the familiar room the family uses for entertaining guests.

 

"Silvia, Aaliyah, come sit next to me," Sarette calls out to us as soon as we enter the room. Mother, Anastasia, and myself each take a seat while the men stand around the room. Camden watches everyone file into the room while sitting in a chair with his hands folded and one of his legs nervously bouncing.

 

Usually, Sarette would try to start with some friendly conversation with my mother, but Camden's heavy atmosphere keeps anyone from trying to talk to one another. Even Anastasia, who's known for being impatient, stays quiet until Camden decides to speak.

 

“I’m sure my boys told you I got a letter from Drey… it isn’t good news." Camden reaches to his side and reveals a wrapped piece of parchment with a fancy broken seal; he leans over and places it on the coffee table. “The message was sent from the city’s lord; I’ll summarize the contents for you.”

 

Camden takes a deep breath to steady his nerves. "Fort North Ridge has fallen, and Scholl is likely to move in our direction."

 

The room becomes ominously silent after Camden drops that bombshell on us before everyone erupts with questions.

 

“What are we to do?”

“Are we in danger?”

“What does this mean for the village?”

 

“What happened to the general?” I find myself caught up in the heat of the moment and call out my own question.

 

Camden holds his hand out in a stopping motion until everyone stops talking. “I didn’t receive any news about the fort itself, only a message from Drey's lord on behalf of the Earl,” Camden answers my question first.

 

“What was in the message?” Mother asks the million gold coin question.

 

"The message informed me that effective immediately, all villages, towns, and cities are placed on high alert and that we're to support any official sent to combat Scholl's forces in any way they deem necessary," Camden explains.

 

“What does that mean?” Markus asks.

 

“It means if a soldier under the Earls command shows up in a village, they’re allowed free reign of the place,” mother snaps at Markus before turning back to Camden. “Is that all?” She hesitantly asks.

 

“No,” Camden lowers his head. “Each village and town are required to send supplies to their nearest cities, in our case Drey. Food, weapons, people, the message was purposely vague, but the wording suggested we would receive little compensation."

 

“People!?” Mother exclaims.

 

Camden slowly nods his head. "The lord of Drey is scraping together as many people as he can to repel Scholl's advance. The message said if there were not enough volunteers, the city lords and commandeers under the Earl hold the right to conscript people to fill out their numbers." Camden says everything with a strained expression.

 

News of a draft infuriates everyone in the room. Markus and Ezekiel are red in the face from yelling, while mother is tightly gripping fathers' hand that's resting on her shoulder. If anyone were drafted from the village, it would be mostly the men.

 

Our village is remote, but even we heard about the army taking in anyone willing to defend the fort. What happened to everyone there? Did Scholl kill everyone?

 

“That’s not all,” Camden interjects between Markus’ and Ezekiel’s protesting. “The last part of the message said every person level 50 and above is required to report to their nearest cities, lord."

 

The room goes deathly quiet as everyone turns to look at master, Ronald, and me.

 

Oh shit!

 

“They’re also calling on any healers to report in as well,” Camden continues with the bad news. “You can see why I’ve called you all here today.”

 

“My daughter isn’t going anywhere!” Mother stands up with fire in her eyes.

 

“I’m not leaving the village either!” Anastasia slams her hand on the coffee table in front of us.

 

“We can’t send our best people off to war!”

 

“That’s right,” Ezekiel agrees with Markus.

 

Camden carefully studies everyone in the room. “You’re all talking about defying the Earl’s call to arms. What you’re saying could be considered treason.”

 

Ezekiel and Markus shut up as soon as they hear the word treason, but they still have the same displeased looks as everybody else. Everyone shares tense looks.

 

According to that piece of paper on the table, almost half of the people in this room are officially drafted already.

 

"I summoned everyone here because I can't decide how to proceed by myself," Camden laminates. "Whether we follow the orders of the summons or pretend it never arrived, the people in this room have to be in agreement."

 

“Are we?” Ezekiel hesitantly asks.

 

“Talking about going against the Earl, yes.” Camden nods his head. “Master Del, myself, Ronald, Anastasia, and Aaliyah will all have to leave for Drey if we decide to follow the summons.”

 

“You, why? Who will lead the village?” Markus asks.

 

“It's been a busy year, and I recently reached level 50 myself. I’d leave the village in Nicolas's care. His brother and mother will help him, but once I leave the village, Nicolas will be the new headman." Camden gives his eldest son a half-smile in acknowledgment. Hearing that someone reached level 50 would typically warrant a celebration; too bad under these circumstances, it only makes things worse.

 

“And if we disregard the summons?” Anastasia gives the headman a pointed glare.

 

“Then things become tricky," Camden folds his hands in front of himself. "We're quite remote, and other than sending our taxes to Drey every year, only a handful of people know that miss Anastasia is living here and even fewer know the levels of our residents.”

 

“Then we should be fine then if we don’t send anyone,” Markus exclaims.

 

“Yes, but we could still be found out should the army or nobles send a representative to the village. We would most surely be labeled as traitors and executed.” Everyone in the room pales upon hearing the consequences from Camden.

 

It’s moments like these that I’m reminded I’m living in a feudal system. I’ve been spared having to deal with this world’s hierarchy, having being born in such a remote village. It’s quite disheartening seeing how the local nobility is reacting to an invasion.

 

They demand supplies for free and declare every strong person part of their fighting force.

 

I wonder how Scholl would manage things if they were in charge?

 

No, I shouldn’t think about that. Those bastards might have killed the general and ruined my future business plans.

 

Though that does mean there’s one less person who’s aware of me, silver linings and all that.

 

“How long until we have to decide?” Ezekiel whines.

 

Gods, those two are annoying; they can't even think for themselves. But he does have a good point; how long until shit hits the fan?

 

I turn towards Camden, “do you have a map?”

 

Everyone looks at me, curious. "I have one of the village,” Camden offers.

 

“No,” I shake my head. “A map of the region. Like where Drey, Teeburn, and the other major cities are,” I ask.

 

"I think my father had an old one, but it's probably outdated," Camden warns me.

 

“That should be fine. Can I see it, please?”

 

“Give me a moment,” Camden stands up and heads out of the room.

 

"What do you need a map for?" Markus asks me. He isn't outright rude to me because he knows how strong I am, but I can tell he still thinks of me as a child. And he and Ezekiel are both looking at me like I'm wasting everybody's time.

 

I’ve never been more compelled to try out my tier 6 skill than right now.

 

“I have it right here,” Camden calls out as he rushes back into the room. The two assholes none the wiser to how close I was to snapping at them.

 

Camden carefully lays the map out on the table. The parchment looks like it will crumble under the slightest touch.

 

“Where are we?” I ask.

 

"We're down here in the middle of the forest" Camden points to a blank spot on the map that has a crude circle drawn with the name of our village scribbled illegibly nearby.

 

“Then that’s Drey,” I point to the closest city on the map.

 

“That’s right, and that’s Teeburn, Blaiton, and Yleles,” Camden points to each of the cities on the map.

 

There’s none of the smaller towns or villages are marked anywhere on the old map.

 

“There’s a mountain over there?” I point to the center of the map.

 

“That’s Red Dust Mountain, it isn't very tall, but the land is hard to traverse. It once supplied all the cities around it with iron ore, but it was mined out during my grandfather's generation." Camden informs me.

 

"And this city up at the top of the map? Couldn't Scholl consider moving in that direction," I point out? The city's name has faded too much to read it, and only the R at the beginning is legible.

 

"I don't remember the name of the city, but that's the shortest route leading towards the capitol. I'm no expert, but Olebert's forces should be marching down that path as we speak."

 

Damn, so once they take Teeburn, they can hold of Olebert there and move this way. No wonder the local nobility is freaking out.

 

Studying the map, I notice a small circle under the city of Yleles. Does that say Earl Yleles? “Hey Camden, the city is named after the Earl’s family?” I ask.

 

"Not anymore; the Yleles suffered from a string of bad decisions when my father was a boy and was replaced by the current lord, Earl Rodrick Vagan. Though the Yleles were stripped of their rank, a side branch of the family still governs the city." The more Camden explains to me, the more a small smile grows across my face.

 

“Is this really necessary?”

“Yeah, can’t we get back on topic?”

 

The peanut gallery strikes again; only this time, everyone in the room gives them a dirty look causing the two men to flinch back.

 

"I think we're in luck," I say to the room, gathering everyone's attention.

 

"What do you mean?" Camden leans over the map, trying to see what I see.

 

“They’re coming from here, right?” I lead everyone with my finger. “We know where they're coming from, and we can guess how long they're going to take to reach Drey."

 

“And how do you know that?” Sarette asks me.

 

“Kervin told me he takes around five days to reach Teeburn from Drey. If we factor in how fast an army can move, we can guess how long it will take them to reach the city,” I explain.

 

I turn towards our resident healer. "You were in the army, Miss Anastasia. Do you know how long it takes for an army to march from city to city?”

 

Anastasia seems surprised by my question. “I was only trained for a little while and never on logistics.”

 

“That’s ok,” I tell her before she becomes too discouraged to answer my questions. “I’m sure you must have seen them send out troops on exorcises. How fast did they seem compared to a cart?”

 

Anastasia frowns at my question but looks like she’s thinking of an answer. “Maybe a third of the speed of a cart,” she hesitantly offers.

 

"Thanks, that helps a lot," I smile at the woman. "That would mean we have roughly two weeks before Scholl's men near Drey. "And that isn't factoring in skills, so they might even be here sooner," I point out to everyone.

 

“That still doesn’t tell us much?” Markus again points out to me.

 

I smugly smile at his question. "Look at where the Earl's residence is. They sent out word to every village because they're hurrying to gather people. If we could guess how long it will take Scholl to reach Drey, I'm sure the Earl has already done the same. Two weeks is not enough time for them to mount a sizable defense of Drey."

 

"I've been to the city, and I don't see that many guards on the walls. Unless they have a secret army hidden somewhere or plan on forcing every citizen to fight, they won't hold the city. If the Earl tries to keep the city, he’ll lose men and spread his forces too thin.” I explain my thinking to everyone.

 

“I think I see what you mean,” Camden nods his head at the map. “When you look at it like that, it makes sense for the Earl to abandon Drey. The city isn't as wealthy as Blaiton or Yleles, and it will take Scholl days to get a whole city of people under control. Now that I think about it, the army may take longer to reach us if we factor in Scholl securing Teeburn,” Camden gives his opinion.

 

“And you forgot about the good part,” I say out loud for those who aren’t following our train of thought. "As long as we send some supplies to Drey and make a token appearance of helping, we can just wait for Drey to fall. If Olebert later retakes the land, we can always say we were too late in sending off our villagers." I cross my arms in front of me, feeling proud of my evil villain insight.

 

"That sounds good in theory, but what if Scholl can't take Drey?" Sarette asks me with a worried look.

 

"Scholl managed to take a fort with someone over level 100 guarding it. If by some miracle they can't take the city, we revisit our plan. The main thing is we should wait to see how things further develop," I smile at my mom's friend.

 

A lot of people looked relieved after hearing my plan. It may not be patriotic to the kingdom of Olebert, but I care more about Ezekiel and Markus than I do a lord who couldn't spare us help when the Chameleon Spiders first showed up.

 

The only thing that matters to me is keeping my family safe and staying out of a war…

 

"OH, SHIT!" I curse out loud, scaring everyone at the table.

 

“What?” Mother asks me.

 

“Richard and Sarah, aren’t they still in Drey!?” I shout.

 

A cold realization dawns on mine and Camden’s family.

 

Isn’t Sarah close to being a mage? Would they try and draft her? I panic to myself.

 

“Honey, our little girl!” Sarette brings a hand to her mouth and looks at her husband with tears in her eyes.

 

“I’ll take care of it,” Camden reassures his wife before turning on Markus and Ezekiel. “Do we have any produce ready to be harvested?”

 

The two men share a look before Markus answers. “The wortel could be harvested early; why?"

 

“We’ll take an emergency cart of food and some of the spears Aaliyah made for the village and bring it to Drey. We can say we brought everything because of the summons and use that as an excuse to bring Sarah and Richard back to the village.” Camden hastily explains.

 

“But our food stores are running low,” Ezekiel says the right thing as one of the head farmers, but he isn’t talking to Village leader Camden; he's arguing with worried parent Camden.

 

"Losing a few crops won't hurt us that much," Camden looks ready to bite Ezekiel's head off and eat it. "Our fields are larger than ever; we can spare a few crates of wortel.”

 

Ezekiel wisely steps back and keeps his mouth shut under the heavy gaze of Camden.

 

I dislike Ezekiel and Markus as much as anyone else, and I’m just as worried about brother and Sandra, but now isn't the time to fly off the rails. "Camden," I call out to him to grab his attention.

 

Not only the desperate-looking headman, but everyone turns their attention back to me. "Ezekiel may be an insensitive ass, but he's right about the food. We only have two to three weeks to prepare for the coming army. I lost my composure just like you did, but we need to be extra careful right now.” I tell Camden with a serious look.

 

The rage slowly fades from his face as he collects himself. “What is it that you propose, then?” He asks with a raised eyebrow.

 

It isn’t like I have any great ideas rattling around inside my head, so I tell him the best thing I can come up with. “I’ll run to Drey and find them.”

 

"Absolutely not!" Half the room shouts at me. Careful master, I send him a side-long glance reminding him to stay calm, or more people will find out you don’t have a speech impediment.

 

"You know what happened last time you left the village!" Mother looks ready to shake me in frustration. I'm not sure if she's talking about the soul eater or bandits; either way, I technically won both those fights.

 

"I do, but I'm a lot stronger now," I plead my case in an even tone as to project a calm atmosphere. "I'm faster than I ever was, and a journey to and from Drey should only take me four days by myself. I can find Richard and Sandra and talk to them. If we need to, we can send a messenger hawk to the village. I also need to meet up with Mr. Grey and discuss where our business deals go from here.”

 

Though I made a fair argument, mother still looks reluctant to let me leave.

 

I don't want to tell her, but I will if I have to. Running to Drey isn't just for business reasons or meeting up with Richard; no, I want to run to Drey to prove that I'm not afraid to leave the village!

 

I've noticed it every time I've walked to master's clearing; I get antsy when I'm alone in the forest now. I don't outright panic, but I can feel my body tense, and I feel like I'm being watched even after I've scanned the area a dozen times.

 

The longer I wait to leave the village; the more my sense of paranoia will likely grow until I mentally limit myself and never leave the village again, giving up on my dreams.

 

I stand up to see a three-way divided room. Ezekiel, Markus, Salus, quiet Ronald, and Anastasia don’t care whether I go or not. Mother, Father, and master look ready to hold me down while Camden and his family look torn between asking me to go and agreeing that I should stay.

 

“I’m making the run,” I say, activating Shout of Valor without raising my voice. I can see how my skill brushes up against each of the souls in the room. The skill’s low level probably wouldn't affect most of the people in this room, but with a gentle nudge from Soul Manipulation, the skill manages to take hold of the entire room.

 

Everyone looks at me with wonder in their eyes, feeling the uplifting effects of my skill… for a few seconds.

 

My skill combination can't overcome everything, and mothers scowl returns even deeper when the effects quickly wear off. “Did you just!?” Mother dragon once again awakens.

 

Damn, I missed my chance to exit like a hero.

 

“I’mdoingtherun, seeyouinfrontofthevillage!" (I'm doing the run, see you in front of the village!) I quickly blurt everything out and escape the drawing-room as fast as my stats will let me.

 

I know I'm going to regret that later, as I burst through the headman's front door, but I put all those negative thoughts aside for now and head home to gather my supplies quickly.

 

I need to leave as soon as possible.

 

I wonder how fast I can run with my improved stats? A manic grin forms on my face at the idea. I'd try to make the full run in only three days, but I learned my lesson after encountering the bandits last time. I can’t push myself that hard when I’m running alone.

 

I wonder if this is considered an adventure, I ponder to myself as I reach my house.

 

Knowing my luck, it will be.

 

No matter, this adventure will be different. I’ll kick ass and take as many names as I have to, proving to my parents and myself that I can handle life outside the village!

 

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A note from kosnik4

6,350 words.

 

How do you like the village's reaction to the war? I forget which chapter; it was a while ago, but I wrote that small villages usually flip-flop allegiances during territorial disputes because of how insignificant they are. Though Aaliyah's village is anything but insignificant, only a few people outside the village see it that way.

 

Was the map helpful in visualizing everything? I don't know if I've said it yet, but I'm a horrible artist, like always drawing stick figures bad. So think of the map as a rough outline.

 

Tell me what you think below.

 

As always, stay safe.


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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