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140. Skills and Stuff

[Totem of Incense: Mythical Grade - ???]

“Is this really the Totem of Incense?”

“It has to be.”

I grunted as I pulled the statue-like figure of a Kobold out of the ground. The sand and dirt covering it fell to the side in a deluge— it had been buried deep into the earth, and it took a bit of effort to yank it out.

“I mean, I identified it, and it’s called the Totem of Incense.”

I propped it up so that it would stand upright. It was about the size of a Kobold, meaning that it was just about three quarters of my height. About a head or two shorter than Daniel. However, that didn’t mean it wasn’t still heavy.

It probably had color once. Now though, it was all faded away, leaving behind a white figure with stains that came from time and erosion. Yet, I could sense the powerful magic within it. I knew— beyond just the fact that I couldn’t see what Grade artifact it was— that it was what Xidra said it was.

The Totem of Incense held the Herald’s Brush in its hands. It was clutched tightly to its chest, almost like a spear. I pulled the second artifact out, identifying it clearly this time.

[Herald’s Brush: Epic Grade Item - A brush that will cleanse the earth, the sea, and the sky from any impurities. Its effects are not permanent, however it does not require an exorbitant amount of mana to wield.]

“This is much lighter.”

I waved it around— the feathers at its tip swaying gracefully about, despite my rough handling of it. I spun it around my back, before jamming its dull edge into the earth.

“Yep— I’ll be carrying this. Daniel, you’ll carry the Totem of Incense.”

The Human man blinked. I crossed two of my arms as the other two held onto the Herald’s Brush.

“You’re a strong, [Hero], aren’t you?”

“Yeah, but—”

“Didn’t you get a Skill just for that at Level 40?”

He scratched his cheek.

“Uh, that’s [Passive - Hero’s Strength].”

“That’s right! You get some huge bonus to your [Strength]! So, you carry it!”

He sighed, reluctantly picking up the Totem of Incense. It didn’t seem that heavy when he hefted it over his shoulder. I nodded smugly as I watched him take a step forward.

And the entire Kobold figure disappeared. I stared at him.

“What?”

“What?”

He looked back at me, perplexed. I opened my mouth, trying to wrench some words out of it, but Edithe spoke up first.

“You have a Dimensional Storage Unit?!”

She took a step forward, her eyes lighting up. The Human man hesitated.

“Uh, yeah. It was given to me by the Elutra Kingdom when I was first summoned. I use it to keep anything important.”

“What is its capacity? What Grade is it? Wait, is it anchored onto that necklace around your neck?”

“That’s my Necklace of Greater Obfuscation. The Dimensional Storage Unit is this pen here.”

“This is… and what is its capacity?”

“It can hold up to 200 individual items at a time, although—”

He held up the object for Edithe to inspect, and the red-haired woman gushed over it. I watched on for a while, feeling my annoyance build up.

“Aren’t you supposed to be mad at Daniel, Edithe?”

I glared at the [Hero] as I spoke. I gestured at the pen, then vaguely behind us where the dead [Wights] lay. The mist filling the cave chamber had slowly dissipated. I could see much more clearly now.

“Not only is he a [Hero], but he hid all these cool things from us! Our life could’ve been so much easier up until this point!”

Daniel shrunk back. Edithe drew her lips into a thin line.

“Well, that’s definitely true.”

She glanced between Daniel and me.

“Look, we’ll scold him later. For now, we should just leave this place.”

“Fine.”

I scowled, turning around. I paused as my companions began after me. Then I doubled back and loomed over Daniel. He apprehensively met my gaze.

“Y-yes, Salvos?”

“Here!”

I pushed the Herald’s Brush into his arms. He stared at the golden, gleaming item.

“Store it in your stupid thingy! I’m not going to carry it!”

“...that’s fair.”

He didn’t protest any further.

—--

We returned back up to the top of the mountain, where the crater was located. It was now night. The sun had fallen, and my companions needed to rest and set up camp before we could traverse through the Plaguelands once more.

Daniel talked about his world, Earth, telling Edithe all about it as I listened to the side. I had heard most of this before. So, I wasn’t impressed. Meanwhile, the red-haired woman was fascinated by almost all facets of his old life.

“You mean that everyone owns an artifact that can double the speed of a [Beast Master]’s horse in their homes?”

“Well, not everyone— and only a few cars can travel that fast. But yes, that’s right.”

She stared at him with round eyes. It was like when Rachel found out Daniel was a [Hero]. Even though Edithe was an adult, their reactions were not much different. As if they were caught in some kind of a spell.

Daniel went on to list out all the things his world didn't have, which seemed to break Edithe from the illusion she was in. I rolled a few rocks around on the ground as I snorted.

“See? His world isn’t that amazing. I think the Netherworld is much better.”

The pair turned to face me, giving me a blank look.

“You don’t actually believe that.”

“You’re right, I don’t.”

As much as I hated to admit it, I was curious about this world of Daniel’s. I would like to visit it one day. Maybe once I reached Level 100 and received my Class, I ‘d be able to just cross worlds whenever I wanted. I could check out Earth for a bit once I dropped him off, maybe take a trip in one of these “planes” Daniel talked about— the ones that could fly across the seas.

“If you’re able to cross worlds, wouldn't you probably be able to fly by yourself at that point?”

“Yep, so?”

I stared at Daniel who seemed bewildered for whatever reason.

“Uh, nevermind.”

“It would be cool to have wings, but I also think it’s cool to fly on a plane! What don’t you get, Daniel?”

I scoffed, tapping a clawed finger on a rock. He didn’t say anything in return. After both Humans had their fill from dinner, Daniel went on to scribble in his diary with a relieved look on his face, while Edithe sat next to me as I played with my Star Forge. Or rather, it was just an orb of fire right now.

“Can I see that?”

The red-haired woman peered curiously at the magic. I beamed, showing it to her proudly. It floated next to her, not changing shape, but remaining an inert sphere for her to study.

“Interesting. It’s far more condensed than before. It’s almost like a ball of cloth— one which you can unravel and change into any shape you want.”

Nodding, I poured some magic into the orb, making it change shape. A ripple ran through the white surface. Spikes jutted out in all directions before it receded into a smaller ball. Then finally, it expanded.

A white scythe landed on my open hands. It felt solid in my fingers, but the flames wisping off it ran like water. It dripped blazing embers from the tip of the blade and the butt of the pole. The fire did not touch the ground. It simply vanished the moment after it fell. Just like the cinders from a campfire.

“Ta-da!”

I presented the weapon to Edithe. She ran a finger down the scythe, closely inspecting it.

“This is… a Lesser Grade Weapon.”

“It is!”

“You can create Lesser Grade Weapons now. Out of magic.”

“It’s amazing, right?”

Edithe drew back, placing a hand on her chin.

“That is certainly incredible. And the flames are white, even though your Passive only lets you create blue flames.”

“I’ll be honest, I don’t know what that Skill even does.”

I paused, and quickly amended my statement.

“Other than the obvious, of course.”

“Right. Well, from what I’ve learned, magical flames have different tiers to them. It’s in the same way adventurers have different ranks. Red flames conjured by magic are usually considered to be the weakest from starting [Mages], with white flames being the kind used by Diamond Ranks.”

“What about golden and black flames?”

“There are some exceptions, and those are two of them.”

“Huh.”

I never really thought about it that much. They just looked colorful and pretty to me! I let the Star Forge dissipate. It wasn’t a Skill, so keeping it up for protracted periods of time was a little difficult. Also, since I no longer had the Stat boost from Daniel’s [The Will of the Hero], I found it more taxing to maintain than before.

“What should I do with this Skill, anyway? Should I try replacing one of my lesser-used Skills with it?”

“I think you should just keep it for now.”

Edithe replied after a moment’s thought.

“Unused Skills do advance with Class advancements, almost like your regular Skills. Of course, it’s not guaranteed. You’ll always have to meet some kind of criteria to have a Skill change into something similar and better.”

I tilted my head up slightly, facing the night sky, twinkled by the stars above.

“So, both [Star Forge] and [Horror’s Flare] could become useful Skills I could use in the future?”

“Possibly.”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me this?!”

I sputtered, realizing how many Skills I tested and wasted. Edithe shrugged.

“Again, it’s a rare thing. But for something you’ll likely be using as often as Star Forge, I’m sure it’ll advance along with you.”

Scowling, I grumbled about the wasted potential. Well, sure, most of the Skills I discarded were not nearly as good as any of the Skills I had now. But they could be! Edithe smiled, looking at me weirdly.

“Honestly, Salvos, there’s still so much for you to learn. Magic has almost no limits as long as you keep practicing and improving. While you can grow faster with Classes or evolutions, they make you complacent, reliant on their abilities. Take your Runic Scroll of Starfall for example. While it is good that you have a scroll on hand that could cast magic above your level, wouldn’t it be better if you just knew the spell yourself?”

“I know that! All you [Mages] keep saying the same thing. First Saffron, then you, and then you again.”

She rolled her eyes, although she didn’t grace the quip with a response.

“While you’re growing really quickly, you need to slow down eventually. Otherwise, all your faults and your flaws will catch up to you. Look all around us.”

I stared at Daniel. The Human man was yawning, looking like he would fall asleep at any moment. Edithe grabbed my head and pivoted it around.

“I meant this crater. What do you think caused this?”

“You said it was done by magic.”

“That’s right. But it’s not done by just any magic. It was done by a Skill.”

She ran a hand through the rocks. I narrowed my eyes.

“How do you know that?”

“It’s too uniform. You can sense the mana in the air. The remnants of its blast. It was not spread out, in some kind of haphazard blast. That’s what magical Skills do. They regulate the outcome of the spell. However, with magic of this calibre, how long do you think it will take before whoever who caused this could use the Skill again?”

“A day?”

I wagered a random guess. Edithe shook her head.

“It could be a day. Or it could be a week, or a month, or maybe sometimes even a year.”

“That’s a thing?”

I felt my jaw drop.

“They’re rare. But the Immortal King Alexander was said to have a Skill that could level an entire country. And it was one he could only use once a year.”

She stood up, starting in the direction of her bedroll. Daniel was already in his, cozily tucked in, passing out the moment he closed his eyes. The red-haired woman glanced back at me.

“Sure, this Skill, whatever it was, managed to destroy the top of a mountain. According to Xidra, it was the Lich who killed the Kobolds transporting the Totem of Incense and the Herald’s Brush, and he was also probably the one to turn them into [Wights]. However, what would have happened if that one Skill wasn’t enough to defeat them all? What, then?”

I opened my mouth, but she cut me off.

“You don’t have to give an answer. I don’t have one either. However, it’s a delicate balancing act, and while you’re doing fine so far, what happens if you make a mistake in the future? It’s just something for you to think about.”

With those words, Edithe went to sleep, leaving me alone, the only one ever awake at night. What she told me made sense; I believed that was why I could still beat Daniel in a fight, even when he was close to my level. I fought him twice, and I won twice.

Daniel. A [Hero].

He was inexperienced, and his Class gave him too many advantages to properly gain those natural abilities and instincts when it came to fighting. Even with his current Skills, I was certain I could beat him in a fight if we were ever forced to do battle again. And if we removed both our Skills— I knew I could kill him easily.

As for Edithe, even if she had no Skills, she was still a dangerous fighter. She had proven it not long before, when she hadn’t advanced her Class yet. I should slow down eventually, especially with how risky it was to fight monsters and undead far above my level.

“...maybe I should go to magic school.”

I mused to myself. I glanced around— at my sleeping companions, then at the sky and the blight in the distance.

“But only after we return from the Plaguelands.”

All we had left to do was bring the Totem of Incense to Xidra, and we were done, right?

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