The sun was setting over the forest, and while Nissa set up a safe fire for them to brave the chill of the autumn night, Bedora pulled Kahari over to a flat area between two large trees. It was a good sized space, with plenty of room for them to move around in. She sat her bag against a tree, and motioned for Kahari to do the same.
“Today we’ll be focusing on giving you a decent grasp on the basics of your four weapons, yes I’m including that hammer. While we’re at it I’ll have you in your armor so you can get used to moving around with it. Depending on how quick you learn, we might even start basic sparring, though nothing freeform as of yet. Get your armor out, I’ll show you how to put it on and make sure it’s properly strapped to you.”
“Please don’t call me that, just say ‘Ma’am’ or ‘Bedora’ please. I’m not a true teacher, just someone that can give you the basics.”
Kahari sat the bundle of equipment on the ground, and pulled out the scuffed breastplate he’d been given. It was made by his dad, he could see the maker's mark, but it’d been used only a few times. Bedora instructed Kahari to remember what she did as she strapped the armor to him. He could put the arm guards on on his own, but he did as she said and paid close attention to how the armor felt, and how she’d slipped it on him.
“Do a little stretching, feel how the armor changes your ability to move, I’ll be back in a few minutes, going to check on Nissa and make sure we have some water over here.”
Kahari twisted and stretched in the same basic ways he’d seen Marge put the town watch through. He found she was right, even the breastplate limited some of his range of movement, while the arm guards weren’t restrictive, they were an unfamiliar weight that changed how he had to move. It was about five minutes before Bedora returned, carrying a waterskin which she dropped by their packs. She looked down at the weapons Kahari had left behind, before picking up the sword and testing it’s balance.
“Low quality material, but well made. Properly balanced with no rusting or chipping, you and your dad knew what you were doing.”
She offered the sword to Kahari. After a moment of hesitation, he took it. It was a simple shortsword, a straight double edged blade that fit comfortably in one hand with a plain leather wrap, and no real distinguishing features.
“We’ll start with the basic cut angles, and grips on the sword. From there we’ll move to thrusting, and chaining attacks, before we pick up one of the other weapons. We’ll start without a shield, get your skill level a bit higher before we divide skill gain away from the sword.”
With that she started coaching Kahari through the basic attacks, one by one. She had to correct his grip a few times, as well as his uneven stance, but he was picking it up. She nodded.
“Good talent, most people take a few days to start getting used to the stance, old habits die hard.”
“Don’t get too full of yourself, you’re still basically just hacking with no finesse. If you were to get into a fight, anyone trained would dance circles around you.”
They continued like this for a while, when as the shadows lengthened and the light was nearly gone, Bedora called for a halt before withdrawing her warhammer. She raised her hand and muttered some spell, before a flash of white light covered the warhammer. She gave it a swing, and Kahari could see that it stopped short of hitting the tree by a small barrier, though the bark still did crack somewhat.
“I’ll put one on your sword too, and we’ll see how you’re doing.”
Kahari handed over his sword, which she repeated the spell on, and the following test which also cracked the bark but otherwise did not make contact. Giving the sword back, she and Kahari both got into position before.
She came at him fast, far faster than he thought someone of that size could move, though he had seen Marge move even faster when she wanted to. She was doing what she said and only using basic patterns so he would know the correct block, parry, or when to dodge, but the gap in their power was obvious to him. She was experienced, and at a higher level, even slowing herself down and only using basics, it took everything he had to keep up with her. Even then, more than once he got smacked by her hammer while he failed to land even a single glancing blow. They went on like this for about fifteen minutes, before Nissa called out that dinner was ready. The voice distracted Kahari for a moment, before his vision filled with steel and then turned black. He was unconscious for the third time in as many days.
This time though, everything didn’t stay black, instead strange images filled his head. A tower of glass, a home brightly lit even in the dead of night, metal automatons rolling down the street. This wasn’t Kahari’s first life. There he was an accountant in England, there he as a she was a housewife to a detective, there he had been a writer in Japan. He could count five different lives, five different names appearing before him. He was a reincarnation, one not native to Nisteria. A tidal wave of emotions raged inside of him as he remembered friends and family he would never see again, lives that had been cut short or lived to their full. He somehow knew most of these memories would fade to vague snippets once he awoke, but here and now, it was almost as overwhelming as everything else he’d been through these past few days.
Kahari’s eyes snapped open, with both Bedora and Nissa arguing over him, a fire crackling nearby.
“-it was an accident, his focus isn’t up to snuff for fighting yet, he got distracted.”
“You hit him in the face! With or without the training barrier that can break bones, you’re lucky he isn’t dead!”
“Look, he’s already awake, he’s fine!”
“I’m the healer, I’ll be the judge of that Bedora.”
Nissa bent down to inspect Kahari, and after a moment, checked his other bruises again now that he was moving. His shirt was off again, and his skin seemed paler in the firelight. He heard a soft gasp from Nissa as she was inspecting his ribs, making sure there were no cracks, when she saw his back. The distinct mark, a black flame over an orb representing the world, was now there. It was small, on one of his shoulder blades, but it marked him as a reincarnation.
“That blow jostled his memories loose, looks like there’s three of us now.”
Bedora turned at this, and saw Nissa looking at his back. She moved around and saw it for herself.
“Do a status read on it, what reincarnation skill did he get?”
“I’m working on it.”
Kahari felt warm hands touch his left shoulder blade before a status window appeared in front of both the caster and himself.
“Jack-of-all-Trades, owner treats all skills as job skills for prerequisites, all penalties are zero while bonuses remain the same, and skills can level to one level above owner’s actual level. IE Level 2 skills are available due to the owner's current level.”
“Not the greatest one I’ve ever seen, definitely a creeper skill. Both the ones we got were abilities, which are much more instant.”
“Yeah, but this means that he can effectively have any abilities he wants without worrying about gaining a tenth of the SXP or something because of a job or racial restriction.”
“Nissa, that skill is only going to get better as he gets to higher levels.”
“Yeah, the gap between two and three is greater than one and two, and the pattern holds with every level they’ve tracked.”
“He’s a natural, I’m glad we picked him up.”
Kahari cut them off at this, adding his own piece.
“Guys...can we stop talking like I’m not here. Also I want to put my shirt back on, it’s cold.”
“Right, sorry. Nothing’s broken, just normal training bruises. You can get dressed, we’ll eat and then get some rest. I’ve already put down wards, nothing strong enough to pass them is in the area, I already scouted.”
Kahari nodded and pulled his shirt back on before a bowl of stew was put into his hands, with lumps of potato and carrot mixed with venison, it seemed the deer Bedora had hunted was still feeding them, though Kahari didn’t know where they got these things from. As he ate his stew, the two sisters talked quietly, before Bedora turned to him.
“Well we know what you got for naturally reincarnating, only fair you know what we have if we’re going to be a party. Mine is called Indestructible. The primary effect is that when my health drops to 33%, I gain two minutes of invulnerability to all damage, though not debuffs or non-damaging status effects. It can activate a number of times per day equal to my level divided by five, minimum of three. It’s secondary effect is that I can’t lose any body parts or have them crippled unless I’m already dead. In essence, my arms, eyes, and so on can’t be permanently debalitied, and even if lopped off, regrow in an instant at full function, though armor damage and item loss remains. It’s also rather painful to regrow the limbs. It activates the moment my health hits the threshold, so I can never be killed in a single attack.”
“Mine is called Dryad’s Soul. During daytime hours I get small boosts to my stats, even the hidden stats of luck and intelligence which require high level spells to see. Furthermore my mana and health regenerate faster during daytime hours. All effects are increased if I’m in direct sunlight, though we can’t see what the exact buffs are without those same high level spells. Same block that the hidden stats have, no clue why.”
“Those are...quite nice, almost broken.”
“All natural reincarnation abilities or skills are to some extent, a reward from the gods for lives lived. All we know is that these abilities and skills are determined at the time the memories awaken to mark you as a reincarnation, so they always match the kind of person you are at the time they awaken. I know one guy that has one called Divine Heart, not entirely sure what it does, but it sounds like he’s connected to the gods. What’s more, Reincarnation abilities can’t be locked by anything short of divine intervention either, so they’re always available to him, even when in an anti-magic zone.”
“So how many?”
Kahari turned from Nissa to Bedora and cocked his head in confusion.
“Yeah, how many lives did you see?”
“I’ve got three, and Nissa has four. Doesn’t seem to change the strength of the skill then, so there goes that theory.”
“Yeah, no one knows exactly how the abilities are granted or how their strength is determined, and there’s not many that can be researched to test the theories. Well, activated ones anyway. They say a full quarter of the population, including the sapient Monsters, are reincarnations, just unawakened. Most never wake up. It’s always under stress or in great need.”
Kahari listened attentively to this as he ate his stew, before draining the last of the broth and putting the bowl away, it was his, Nissa had gotten it from his pack while he was unconscious. He unrolled his bedroll, a simple thing lined with sheep wool, and found a good spot to lay down. His eyes watched the sky, before his weary body dragged him into sleep. That night he dreamed of the lives he had left behind, and of the trials ahead of him. By morning these dreams would fade into a vague if mixed sense of melancholy and hope.