If this old man weren't wearing an invisible helmet right now, I'd try socking him in his creepy face.


I knew the old man and lady would be trouble the second I saw them, but things are turning out for the worst. Being the second strongest person in the village, I was responsible for standing front and center when Scholl arrived. And if Scholl sent anybody else to our village, I would've gone unnoticed.


I would’ve liked nothing more than to remain back at the front of the village with everybody else, but master and I are the only ones capable of standing up to these two monsters.


And as my luck would have it, the lady and old man haven't taken their eyes off me since we started walking them through the village together. The quiet lady is unnerving, but the old man is relentless with his staring.


I'm guessing the lady isn't dangerous until she unseals her power, meaning I'll aim for her first if a fight breaks out. The old man, on the other hand, is a different story. The more I scan him, the more I'm convinced I'd be unable to scratch the cocky geezer.


I only have a general sense of the runes inscribed on his armor, but I can tell it isn't just invisibility. His armor is not only the most robust alloy I've ever seen, but it's also enchanted to reduce the impact of magic as well. And that isn't even including the fact that it's fuckin invisible!


His armor alone is enough to make me want to run rather than fight, and I haven't had the chance to scratch the other magic items he has spread all over his body. The sword on his hip is at least ten times better than my scimitar, and who knows what other enchantments he has on him.


My original plan was to have master grab Camden and run away while I overpowered my flame spell again as I did with the bandits. However, the more I look at the old man, the more I realize my plan wouldn’t work.


The only way I'll be able to hurt him is if I can freeform my own spell as I did against the soul eater, and I doubt he'd stand still for me.


I tried lying about the spears, but judging by the old man’s growing smile, he isn’t falling for it.


“I’m curious, why stay out here? With your talent, you could’ve walked into Olebert’s capitol and demanded the best master accept you as his disciple. Why limit yourself?” The old man drills me again.


“I don’t know what you mean,” I try to deflect again with my skills active, but it doesn’t work.


“I think you know what I mean,” he confidently smiles at me.


Shit, playing dumb is getting me nowhere. The old man is just pushing me further into a corner.


I glance away from the old man for a moment and see we’ve become everyone’s focus. Camden and Master are nervously watching me while the aid, which I think was called Jason by the old man, scampers over to the woman who's also nervously watching us.


I harden my resolve and look the old man in the eye. "You're asking a lot of personal questions for someone who has yet to introduce himself."


The old man throws his head back and starts laughing. “You’re right, I haven't given you my name yet, have I? You can call me Pacore. In my homeland, I'm known as Master Pacore the deathless, one of the pillars of Scholl."


As the old man gives me his name, his aura changes. The pressure radiating off Pacore becomes a physical weight on my shoulders. Out of the corner of my eye, I see master readying to strike while Camden and Jason have dropped to their knees.


I look Pacore in the eyes and with all my resolve ask him, “are you done yet?”


The pressure vanishes, and Pacore laughs at my defiant look. "Good, very good. Not even my commanders can stand up to me when I release my pressure. You know how strong I am, and yet you aren't afraid; that's commendable."


It's my turn to snicker. It's not that I don't fear him; it's just that I've come face to face with a monster scarier than he is, and no matter how intimidating Pacore is, his presence is nothing compared to literal gods. Even if he's high leveled, he's only a man.


Pacore’s smile slips momentarily when I start giggling. “I have to say that’s not the reaction I was expecting,” he notes my seemingly weird behavior.


This is the first time the old geezer has lost his footing, so I capitalize on the opening. I confidently step closer to him. "I have seen much scarier than you. What is one man compared to the monsters of this world?"


Everything turns silent after my question. Pacore and the unnamed lady are taken back by my sudden change in demeanor.


Pacore's expression hardens, and we stare at each other. There isn't a trace of anger in his eyes. I get the feeling he knows all too well where he stands in this world. He’s seen a monster just as I have and lived to tell the tale.


“And what monster has a level 74 child seen?” Pacore asks me in a curious tone.


Like I'll let you retake the lead.


I activate Sense Soul and zero in on Pacore’s and the woman’s soul. Both of them twitch under my gaze and look at me in wide-eyed wonder.


“Why don’t you tell me about the beast that haunts your dreams first?” I challenge Pacore. “I’m curious what beast someone at level 152 and 127 finds dangerous?”


The tension in the air becomes palpable after I reveal their levels. Pacore turns and looks at the woman behind him, and the two of them share a silent conversation with their eyes. It almost looks like they didn't know each other's levels.


Master Pacore eventually turns back to me and asks me in a cold voice, "my level is one of my kingdom’s greatest secrets. How are you going to compensate me for revealing it?"


I can’t back down now. “I guess we’ll have to keep each other’s secrets then,” I respond using the same tone.


Tightening my grip on my axe, I ready myself for his attack.


Pacore snorts and closes his eyes; bringing his hand up, he starts stroking his beard. "This is quite the predicament I’ve put myself in, isn't it?" The fact he's willing to close his eyes in front of us shows how little of a threat he considers us. "You just had to go and say my level in front of the general, didn't you?"




I don't understand what he's talking about. I know I should keep quiet, but my curiosity gets the better of me. "Why does it matter if I say your level in front of your companion?" I ask Pacore.


Pacore lets out a tired sigh. "I guess It's my fault for bringing her with me in the first place," he mumbles before opening his eyes, looking straight at me. Pacore points over his shoulder at the woman standing next to Jason, "she's my prisoner. You gave away my level to one of Olebert’s top generals.”


Camden, master, and I look past Pacore and stare at the woman standing behind him.


She's a prisoner?! Those magic bands she's wearing are not to hide her power but seal it completely.


A high-ranking general captured by Scholl. That means she can only be her, "you're General Pitz!" I exclaim in shock.


“I am,” the general mumbles in a defeated voice.


“So, you see why this is a problem,” Pacore cuts in. “One, I can only see a single solution to.”


Does he think he can silence all of us!? If that's really General Pitz, then we only have to worry about Pacore. He may have a high level, but if master and I work together, we might be able to take him.


“You’ll have to take responsibility…,” he tells me.


With my life, I know where this is going. As soon as he moves to draw his sword, I’ll attack. As soon as Pacore starts his next sentence, I rush forward.


“By becoming my student,” Pacore boldly proclaims.


Axe raised over my head; I stumble forward after hearing Pacore’s demand.


“You want me to what?” I ask in disbelief.


Pacore, unperturbed by my raised weapon, grins at me. “I need compensation for releasing my level to Scholl’s enemies, and I can’t think of anything more valuable than taking you in as my newest student.” Pacore starts laughing with all the confidence in the world.


Mouth open, I stare at him dumbfounded.




Master Pacore the Deathless’ Point of View:


It's excellent seeing Aaliyah's shocked reaction. She was ready to charge me just now, but it looks like she's forgotten all about that.


That look of confidence in her eyes as she raised her axe was beautiful. She honestly thought she and that stone kin could defeat me. Her courage is commendable. Stupid, but commendable.


She makes such beautiful weapons.


She can see through my strength and accurately determine my level, a feat that hasn't been done since I passed level 110.


And she has the courage of a cornered beast, with the level to back it up.


I shudder, thinking about what other talents she might be hiding. If I make her my student, I'm sure she'll pass me one day and take my place as Scholl's pillar.


Resources, money, expertise, I can give her everything she needs to become a paragon in this world.


In a few years, she might even grow strong enough to help us defeat the dragon!


The knowledge of my level leaking is nothing in comparison to what this young girl represents. She will be my greatest…!


“I refuse!”


Did the world just stop turning? I stand frozen in place, not comprehending what I just heard. “What was that?” I ask Aaliyah, not sure if I heard her correctly.


“I said, I refuse,” she calmly repeats herself.


Are the gods themselves playing a joke on me?


"I already have a great master," Aaliyah tells me before looking at the Stone kin and smiling. The Stone kin shakes his head in a reproaching manner, but the smile on his face contradicts himself.


Everyone else is just as surprised as I am; even the village's headman looks shocked she turned down my offer.




I’m at a loss for words!


"What happens now?" She asks me like she didn't just turn down a once-in-a-lifetime offer.


Everyone looks to me for my answer, and I'm still stunned in place. I fearlessly faced down a dragon, one of the most feared creatures in this world, without pause. And here I am, rendered speechless by a village girl, a mere fraction of my age.


“Master Pacore?” Young Jason calls out to me.


“I think you killed him,” I hear General Pitz snicker behind me.


I should be mad. A commoner turned me down. I have a right to be furious.


“Why?” I calmly ask her. “Do you know what you’re turning down?”


Aaliyah gives me an awkward smile. "I can roughly guess," she responds.


“You would receive anything you need,” I point out to her. “Scholl would give you training, materials, anything you could possibly ask for, it would be given to you. You would stand above thousands, hundreds of thousands! My majesty would give you land, a title!”


Aaliyah's smile becomes more strained like I'm an ordinary merchant trying to force his wares onto her.


"Tell me what you desire, and it will be yours," I hold out my hand. "Become my apprentice, no, my successor."


Everyone but Aaliyah gasps at my offer including her master who’s standing next to her. But I don't care about anyone else right now; I keep my eyes focused on Aaliyah.


When she lets out a tired sigh, my heart drops.


“And what if I ask for freedom?” Her voice rings in my ears. “If I took you up on your offer, would I be allowed to travel the world? You see me and are impressed with my strength, but the two of us use our strength for different purposes. You asked me why I’m out here? The answer is the same reason I’m turning you down right now.”


The more she speaks, the more resolve I hear in her voice.


"You want me to eventually take over your position, to lead Scholl's armies to victory?" She asks me, shaking her head. "That is not who I am. I have fought monsters, both beasts from the forest and those who look like you and me. I may enjoy the challenge, but I don't enjoy killing. You'd ask me to swear allegiance to your king and help win your wars. It's the same thing as being shackled to any other noble. That’s why I haven’t left my village yet. I’m not strong enough to stand on my own.”


“I can help you gain that strength,” I quickly offer.


"I can gain strength by myself," she says stubbornly. “Through blacksmithing and hard work, I’ll reach your level with my own two hands.”


Preposterous! Does she think she can reach my level through sheer hard work and willpower?! It's only thanks to his majesty's backing and the wealth of a country that I've made it to where I am today.


I want to grab the infuriating child and shake some sense into her, but her eyes…


Her eyes have no uncertainty in them. She has the look of someone who has no doubt she’ll reach her goals.


Such passion!


Such Drive!


Why did she have to refuse me?!


A heavy silence hangs over all of us. Now that Aaliyah has thoroughly turned me down, a choice needs to be made.


If I leave her be, she could become a threat to Scholl in the future. General Pitz knows about her, and once she's ransomed back to Olebert, the general would be a fool if she didn't send people out to secure her. The weapons Aaliyah makes are already reason enough to fight over her. In the future, she might even rival Stone kin masters.


If I try to drag her back with me, she and her master will fight to the death, that I'm sure of.


Do I kill her now, or leave her and hope Aaliyah doesn’t turn on Scholl in the future?


I glance over my shoulder at General Pitz to gauge her reaction and see she's gritting her teeth and clenching her fists. So, she's ready to attack me, too, even though she's sealed.


Things continue to become more complicated by the minute.


I take a deep breath and let out a long sigh. Decisions like this shouldn’t be made lightly. I’ll need time to think things through.


I turn my attention to the village's headman. The man flinches backward, seeing my emotionless face. "What's your name?" I flatly question him.


“Camden Downs, my lord,” he bows his head, unable to hold my gaze.


"Headman Downs, my people will camp in front of your village." I leave no room for him to negotiate or argue. Looking back at Aaliyah, I see her spirit has remained strong and that she hasn't changed her mind in the slightest. "We both need time to think. I'll be back to talk with you tomorrow."


Aliyah's eyes widen in surprise, but she doesn't say anything as I start to walk back towards my men. "Jason, hurry along, and don't forget to bring General Pitz with you," I call out behind me.


“Yes, sir!” I hear him shout. I keep my pace slow until I hear his and General Pitz's footsteps catch up to me. Neither of them says anything as we make our way back through the village.


When we approach the villagers, still ready to defend their village, the headman's son watches our lone approach with worry in his eyes. "Where is my father?" He points his sword at me. The level 50 archer stands next to him, but I'm too mentally exhausted to answer him.


The young man's face becomes strained as I walk past him without saying a word. He looks ready to order an attack when young Jason answers for me. "Your headman is back in the village, unharmed."


The boy motions for someone to go check on his father, but I don't care about that. I release a bit of pressure and the villagers part in front of me.


“Master Pacore, sir?” My commander walks up to me, seeing the complicated look on my face.


“We’re camping here for the day. Have the men set up the tents a little way away from the village,” I curtly issue my orders.


The commander must realize I'm not in the mood to talk. He salutes me and takes off, issuing my orders. My tent is prioritized first, and I soon have a quiet place to retreat to.


Leaving my armor on, I collapse on my bedroll, going over every option I can think of regarding Aaliyah.


“Do I really need to kill such talent?” I question the gods.


Silence is my only answer.




Aaliyah’s Point of View:


My heart pounds in my chest as we watch Pacore walk away.


When Pacore and his group are out of sight, all the tension leaves my body, and I collapse to the ground. For a second there, all my instincts screamed at me to run. I was sure he was going to attack after I turned him down. Is he going to attack the village because of me? I start trembling, thinking about all the repercussions everyone might face because of my actions.


Master walks over to me and bends down. He starts rubbing his hands in circles on my back, trying to help me calm down.


“I can’t believe you did that,” Camden mumbles, clearly shaken up just as much as I am.


Hearing Camden makes me second guess myself even more. Should I rush after Pacore and take him up on his offer? The last thing I want to do is get the village destroyed because of me.


“What do you think I should’ve done?” I ask Master.


"You should've taken the deal," Master bluntly tells me. My heart drops; even Master thinks I was wrong. "But I'm happy you didn't."


I look to master with tears in my eyes, “really?”


Master Del firmly nods. “You stuck to your beliefs. I can’t fault you for that.”


“What do we do now?” I ask.


Master and I look at Camden, who has his head buried in his hands, lightly groaning. Everything had just become a lot more complicated for everyone involved.


This is why I didn't want to leave the village. I knew something like this would happen eventually, but I never thought it would happen so soon.


“Headman Downs!” Our brooding is interrupted by someone running over to us. “Are you all ok!? We didn’t see you return with Scholl’s people.”


Camden jolts up, realizing we let that monster walk through our village by himself. It's understandable how everyone must be reacting, seeing how we didn't return with Pacore.


Camden quickly straightens himself up and puts on a brave front. "Everything's fine," he lies to the messenger. "Go back and tell my son to leave Scholl alone for now. Tell him, we'll set up a watch and that everyone is to hold on to their weapons for now."


The villager nods and takes off back through the village.


“We’ll need to have a meeting to discuss what happened,” Camden walks over to me. “I’ll grab my children while you find your family. Come to my house when you’re ready,” he tells me. “I need to organize the village,” Camden briefly explains before walking off, an invisible weight added to his shoulders.


“Come on then,” Master helps me to my feet. The two of us walk together back to my house.


When we get there, I knock on the door. “Mom! It’s me,” I call out.


There are heavy steps on the other side of the door as Mom rushes to let me in. She flings the door open and launches herself at me, wrapping me in her arms. "Are you ok?" She asks, sniffling.


“I think so,” I tell her.


“I’ll go find your dad,” master leaves the two of us alone.


Mother pulls back and looks me over, searching for the slightest scratch. “Did everything go according to plan?” She asks me, noticing I don’t have a single smudge on my armor.


I briefly think about lying to Mom to make her feel better, but that will only make what comes next that much harder. “No,” I hang my head. “Things didn’t go according to plan.”


Concerned, Mom asks me, “what happened?”


"I'll explain in a little bit. Can you just keep hugging me for a little while longer?"


Mom wraps her arms around me again, no questions asked. We stay like that until Master Del returns with Dad.


Dad moves in and joins our hug, while master awkwardly stands to the side. After a minute, I tell them, “we need to head to Camden’s house.”


It’s a somber walk for us. Armed villagers are returning to their families, unsure of what’s happening to the village. Scholl is camped right outside our front door, and the tension in the air has only increased.


A few scared people are standing outside Camden's house when we get there, but Sarette, who's standing outside, shoos them away when she sees us coming. "I'm happy you're all ok," she rushes over and hugs mother. "My boys are inside; they said Camden will be back soon." Sarette leads us into her house.


We all shuffle into the drawing room. Sarette places some tea on the table, but no one takes any. Dad and Mom sit on either side of me while Master stands nearby.


We wait like that for nearly twenty minutes before we hear the front door open.


Camden walks into the room, followed by Ronald, Anastasia, Markus, Ezekiel, Brother, and Sandra. The drawing room is packed with people nervously glancing at one another.


“What is happening, Camden?” Loud Markus is the first to speak up.


Camden looks at me, seeing if I want to explain, but I shake my head no. Mother and Father put their arms around me for support.


Camden lets out what has to be his 100th sigh of the day and starts explaining what happened with Pacore. Everyone but those who were there during the meeting pales in fright when they hear his level. The fact that the woman with him is the captured General Pitz doesn't do much for morale either.


The room explodes when Camden explains how Pacore asked me to become his student and my subsequent refusal.


“You killed us all!” Markus yells at me. Normally, I'd have something snappy to say back, but I'm afraid he's right this time.


“We aren’t dead yet,” Camden tries to calm down everyone in the room.


“Yet!” Ezekiel exclaims. “The monster is probably deciding how to burn down our village this very moment!”


“Say that again!” Dad stands up, towering over Ezekiel.


But Ezekiel is panicking. "We're screwed! We can't stand up to someone like Pacore, not even if the whole village tried to kill him! And it's all her fault!" Ezekiel points an accusing finger at me.


That finger is all it takes to push Father over the edge. He reaches and grabs Ezekiel by his vest and hoists him into the air. Markus, Ronald, and Nicolas try to pry Ezekiel out of Dad's iron like grip, but they can't match his strength. It isn't until Del moves across the room and punches Dad in the gut that he finally drops Ezekiel.


Mom yells as Dad drops to the floor, clutching his chest. She rushes to his side while I give Del a disapproving glare, despite fully well knowing it was the only thing that stopped Dad from ripping Ezekiel’s head off.


“It’s your fault!” Ezekiel continues to rant even after being freed.


Master, who just freed Ezekiel, turns around and slaps him upside the head. Ezekiel drops to the floor, unmoving. If his chest weren't barely moving, I'd swear that slap had killed him.


“Why did you do that?” Markus stares at his unconscious friend. “You just saved him?”


Master snorts at Markus. "I stopped Darrius from killing him; that doesn't mean I'm going to stand here and listen to you badmouthing my apprentice."


Markus looks at master like he just grew another head. “Your voice!”


Master was so worked up he forgot to use his broken speech around Anastasia and Markus.


“We’re getting off track,” Camden tries to reel everyone back in. “Arguing won’t solve anything.”


“You’re not going to do anything about him!” Markus points at Master while yelling at Camden.


“I won’t,” Camden calmly responds to Markus.


“And why not!?” He continues to shout.


"Because I was about to do the same thing," Camden's response causes Markus to take a wary step back. "You can't blame Aaliyah for not wanting to join Scholl's army. If you’re going to continue to yell, you can take Ezekiel and leave.” That finally gets Markus to shut his mouth. “We need options for tomorrow.”


The room goes quiet.


“Are the two of you able to beat him?” Anastasia asks Master and me.


Master hangs his head while I shake mine. "I'm not even sure we can get past his armor," I honestly reply.


"Armor?" Camden looks at me, confused.


Oh, yeah. I'm the only one who could see it. "He's wearing a set of invisible armor," I explain to the stunned room. "It makes my stuff look like paper."


"Then fighting isn't an option," Camden grumbles. "Any more ideas?" He asks everybody.


“We could run,” Mom says in a quiet voice.


“Silvia!” Sarette gasps at her friend.


"If it keeps our family and the village safe, it might be our only option," Mom points out to her friend.


"Even if your family leaves, that doesn't mean the village will be spared," Camden shakes his head. “Fighting may be our only option.”


“But you just said!” Markus whines.


“Do you have a better idea?” Camden challenges him.


I feel tears welling up in my eyes. Whether it’s my parents, Master, or Camden and his family, all of them are trying to think of a way to save me from Pacore. Not once have any of them suggested that I turn myself over. I’m not sure if I deserve this.


Mother notices my tears and pulls me against her. There is only one way I can guarantee everyone will be safe.


“I’ll take his offer.”


The room goes silent again.


“What was that, sweety?” Mom asks me.


“I said I’ll take Pacore’s offer,” I repeat through my tears.


"You don't have to…" Camden starts, but I shake my head.


"This is the only way that guarantees nobody gets hurt. Besides, he said I'll get anything I want," I try to smile to prove I'm ok with the decision.


Everyone but Markus frowns. Mom pulls me even closer and holds me tightly.


To save the village and the people I care about, I can do anything. This is my second life, after all; I'm playing with extra time on the clock.


When I meet Pacore tomorrow, I'll take him up on his deal; I'll join Scholl's army.




Master Pacore the Deathless’ Point of View:


“Master Pacore, I brought you dinner.” Young Jason calls out to me from the other side of my tent flap.


"You can bring it in," I permit him to enter.


Young Jason enters my tent, followed by General Pitz. I forgot I told him to watch her, I’m surprised she didn’t take the opportunity to try and escape.


"Here you go," Jason hands me a bowl of hot soup. I wordlessly reach out and take the piping bowl, unaffected by the heat.


Removing my helmet, I start shoveling the stew into my mouth.


"What a day," young Jason pretends to be tired and sits across from me. General Pitz joins him, and they both watch me eat.


“If you have something to say, spit it out,” I snap at the boy.


“I just,” Jason stammers, unsure how to ask his question.


"He's wondering what your plans for tomorrow are," General Pitz finishes Jason's thought.


I look the captured general in the eyes. "You're wondering if I'll destroy the village." Young Jason is horrified by my bluntness, but General Pitz just nods.


“You would really do that!?” Jason asks me, looking afraid of me for the first time since I met him on Drey’s walls.


“If I must,” I coldly answer, in between bites of my soup. I ignore my shocked aide and turn my full attention to General Pitz. “You knew she was out here, didn’t you?”


General Pitz's expression turns downcast. "I did. I planned to come out here after the war was over and recruit her to my house,” she honestly tells me.


“And were you aware of her skills?”


"Do you think I would've waited if I was fully aware of her abilities!?" The general sneers at me. "I knew she was a talented blacksmith, but I had no idea her level was so high. I was just as shocked as you were."


I need a drink. Reaching over, I pop the lid off my canteen and drink a mouthful of alcohol. The fumes from my drink are so strong, young Jason coughs until I close the canteen. "Then what would you do?" I level General Pitz with a challenging look. "How would you deal with the most talented individual you've ever met in your life?"


General Pitz bites her lower lip and doesn’t answer my question. I don’t blame the general for her silence; I’ve been sitting here for hours, and I'm no closer to answering the question than when I was when I first stepped into my tent.


“She made that arrow you used against me?” I offer the general my canteen.


"Yeah," She takes the drink. General Pitz uses the cap to measure out a small shot before throwing it back.


“Gods,” I remark.


"I know, right," General Pitz notes with her face scrunched up. She hands me back my alcohol.


I take another drink and ask her, “what are you going to do after Olebert pays for your ransom?”


General Pitz shrugs her shoulders. “Probably try to kill you again.”


“I mean before that,” I chuckle.


"You mean, what am I going to do with everything I've learned so far?" She inquires.


“Let’s go with that,” I tell her.


“It’s hard to say,” General Pitz glances at young Jason. “It’s clear Olebert has paid too little attention to this corner of the kingdom, and certain people will need to be held responsible for what's happened here. The issue with the dragon will fall on the king to decide, but it's too early to speculate on that."


“And the issue of young Aaliyah?” I press the general.


General Pitz narrows her eyes. "If you harm that child, I'll see to it that you die the most excruciating death possible.”


She doesn't mince her words, does she?


"That's good to know." I take another swig from my canteen. If I could drink the whole thing and get drunk, I would. Heck, I would take a hangover right now if I didn't have to deal with this situation.


At this rate, I doubt I'll be able to sleep tonight.


No matter how I look at it, my decision tomorrow will change everything.


"Gods help me," I silently plead as I tilt my head back and continue drinking, hoping I make the right decision.


A note from kosnik4

5,300 words.


Day what? 5? Maybe?


I'm editing multiple chapters a day and queuing them up for release.


You're reading it Thursday while I edited it Sunday night. I forgot my Patreon was over twenty chapters ahead of RoyalRoad. Still, a long way to go, but you deserve it after my long hiatus. 


I hope you enjoyed the chapter, I'll see you with the next one.

Support "Magic-Smithing "

About the author


Bio: Just love a good story.

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