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The smell of blood and soot was suffocating. The clash of battle could be heard all around her as she huddled in her room. Refix, like a bulwark in his gleaming armor, stood as a bastion of safety in the doorway. Anything that got close was quickly dispatched, but he was already covered in blood, and his Stamina wouldn't last forever.

The first powerful enemy emerged to pose an actual challenge to Refix, and his Stamina was dangerously depleted. The grotesque enemy, indistinct and out of focus from her vantage, finally collapsed to the ground adding another body to the pile surrounding Refix. He planted his exquisite sword in the ground and leaned upon it, panting and trying to recover as much Stamina as he could.

It was a losing battle, and they knew they were just delaying the inevitable.

A grizzled veteran wielding a bloody halberd and attired in fancy armor led a troop of younger soldiers in a sortie to provide relief to their position. The old veteran had a solemn look on his face, and the younger men he lead had eyes wild with fear. The commander's presence and Skills staved off panic, but even with his calming aura, it was clear it was only a matter of time.

After all of the local enemies had been dispatched, the older man turned to Ref, "You have to get out of here. You can only make it with one. You'll have to leave the rest behind." Refix wanted to argue. He placed his head in the palm of his free hand and shook his head back and forth, warring with what he knew to be the truth. The commander placed a hand on his shoulder with surprising gentleness, "We'll try and get the others out, but you have to go. Now."

Ref looked back at Ameliyn with love and fear written on his face. He quickly made his decision and strode towards her with a grim look set to his face. He grabbed Ameliyn and ripped her away from the arms holding on to her for dear life and started dragging her out of the room.

"No, no, no, no," Ameliyn pleaded as she tried to remain with the outstretched arms trying to cling to her, but Refix was resolute in his decision, and they left everyone else behind as they fled into the night.

Despite the late hour, it was almost as bright as day. There was an orange tint to everything as the sky itself burned. The cries and pleadings of those left behind echoed in her mind.

Ameliyn sat up in bed with a yelp. Her heartbeat was out of control, and she was covered in sweat. A weight on her chest threatened to drive her racing mind into panic as she felt constricted, but she immediately calmed down after she looked down and realized it was just her daughters sleeping soundly attached to their mother.

Refix awoke next to her, and seeing the sweat and distress on her face, he quickly embraced her and hugged her head into his chest, mindful of the two babies.

"Shhhh, it's ok. It was just a nightmare," he gently coaxed her. They eventually parted after she had calmed down enough. They sat there and looked at each other for a moment before Refix quietly said, "I'm sure some of them made it."

Ameliyn gave a weak smile in reply. They both knew it was unlikely.

"I can hope."

 



Life was beautiful and carefree for young Reivyn. With his father working his job, and his mother working hers while caring for two infants, he suddenly found himself with a lot more freedom to choose how he spent his time. He spent an entire year over-indulging in play time, and he neglected his practice in writing and mathematics.

I'm only a child, he justified to himself.

But then something that shouldn't have been unexpected happened. The Dreams that he had vividly experienced while in the womb came back. They had an obvious slant in their meaning, as he dreamed about duty and responsibility. It was almost like his subconscious was trying to tell him something.

He tried to ignore it at first. He didn't completely disregard the message from himself, but despite the approving nod from his mother when he resumed his writing, the dreams changed in intensity. No longer did he dream about examples of duty and responsibility. He had nightmares of the consequences for ignoring it.

Blood and death were the rewards to the men in his dreams with lackadaisical attitudes. Their ill-preparedness resulting in not being able to cope with different situations.

Reivyn looked at his Skills page.

Skills:
Acrobatics (16), Aim (0), Akashic Record (1), Athleticism (9), Balance (20), Command (0), Daggers (0), Drawing (7), Dreams of the Past (12), Eavesdropping (13), Evasion (5), Haman (13), Hiding (11), Identify {Mundane} (6) Inspire (0), Linguistics (8), Mana Absorption (24), Map Making (1), Mathematics (4), Mental Fortitude (6), Numbers Concepts (4), Observation (17), Pain Resistance (0), Penmanship (5), Piano (0), Pugilist (17), Running (14), Sense Mana (28), Sneaking (9), Staves (0), Stealth (4), Strategy (0), Swimming (0), Swords (0), Tactics (0)

He made great progress in his physical Skills, while his mentally focused Skills had virtually fallen by the wayside. Starting to work on those Skills again hadn't been the right solution, though. He bowed his head as he thought about the problem, and if finally came to him.

Look at all of those zeros. I've had these Skills unlocked for years now, but over ten of them haven't been used even once. I have an expert in several of these Skills right there, just waiting for me to utilize, and I haven't said a word to him.

A new determination filled him.

 



That night at the dinner table, Reivyn picked at the food on his plate. His mother was teasing his two sisters while only half-way focusing on her own meal, and his father was shovelling the food down his gullet with gusto.

"I have something to confess," he declared to the surprise of his parents. They looked at each other, mouths full of un-chewed food. His father resumed chewing as he looked back to Reivyn and pointed at him with his fork.

"Out with it, then," he said. Reivyn took a deep breath and kept his gaze on the table in front of him.

"I didn't have only sixteen Skills when I first told you about them. In fact I didn't unlock my System at that time. The System has been unlocked for me for as far back as I can remember, in this life," that last line was tossed in there almost as an after thought. "I have several Skills unlocked, but their Level is at zero."

Reivyn looked up in time to see a large, leafy green fall out of his father's mouth to plop onto his plate. Refix had resumed eating as Reivyn started his revelation, but he quickly stopped eating as he stared at his son, mouth agape. The soft plinking sound of vegetable hitting ceramic woke him from his state of shock.

"What exactly are you saying, son?" He queried.

"I want to practice with weapons," Reivyn blurted out. "I have Swords, Daggers, and Staves unlocked but sitting at zero," he quickly supplied as he saw his father frown at the declaration.

"You have Swords, Daggers, and Staves unlocked," Refix replied in a deadpan matter. Ameliyn sat to the side staring at her son. Her two daughters clamoring for her attention momentarily ignored. Reivyn nervously glanced back and forth between his parents.

"Umm, yes? Among other things?" The statement came out more of a question.

"Among other things," his father again deadpanned. Refix slowly, deliberately set his fork down, never taking his eyes off of his son. "What exactly do you have unlocked?" Reivyn sighed as he resigned himself. He opened his Skills page and listed off the ones at zero.

"Aim, Command, Daggers, Inspire, Pain Resistance, Piano, Staves, Strategy, Swimming, Swords, and Tactics," he listed them off. Refix leaned forward with his eyes narrowed, and he placed his weight on his elbow on the table.

"You have Command and Inspire unlocked? Do you have any idea how hard... No, of course you don't," Refix thunk-ed his head down on the table. "What have I been doing with my life... And the System just gave them to you!" He devolved into mumbling to himself. Reivyn was pretty sure he heard the word "mutant."

"Did I do something wrong," Reivyn asked in trepidation. His mother quickly reached out and held his hand.

"No, Honey. This is a good thing. It's just... I don't even have the words for it." His mother didn't do a very good job of comforting him for once. Refix suddenly sat up and threw his hands in the air.

"Just gave it to him!" He stood up, scooped up his plate and utensil, and took his meal with him to finish outside. Ameliyn patted Reivyn's hand.

"Don't worry about him. Let him wallow in his self pity," she instructed her son. "He spent years unlocking those two Skills. It must have been a pretty strong blow when you told him you already have them unlocked."

"I didn't do it on purpose," Reivyn tried to explain himself.

"I know, I know," Ameliyn responded. "It's just weird. If I didn't know you, and if those Skills weren't at zero, I would think you had a noble's education. Heck, even nobles don't always have an easy time unlocking those two particular Skills. Now finish your dinner. Your father might seem like he's upset, but I guarantee he's already devising plans to help you achieve your goals."

Reivyn finished his meal in silence as his mother finally returned most of her attention back to his two sisters. They were surprisingly well behaved for babies being ignored by their mother, all things considered. While they were loud and making a minor nuisance, they never screamed or cried. They weren't unusually mature like he had been, but more like the comfort of each other kept them grounded.

He could still hear the sounds of his father puttering about outside when they left the dinner table, and he could only imagine what sort of training regime a vengeful father could come up with.

 



"Stand up straight. Feet shoulder width apart. Maintain your balance and stand on the balls of your feet with your knees slightly bent," Refix hadn't wallowed in self pity for very long. Reivyn even had a sinking suspicion it had all been theatrics.

They were currently in the backyard on one of Refix's days off. Refix was pacing back and forth with a wooden rod. He was holding it in one hand while absentmindedly smacking the other end into his other palm. The words "Rod of Love" had been carved into it.

Reivyn was holding a small, wooden sword with a bit of lead inside of it to provide the proper weight and balance. It was designed for a child his size with his approximate Stats, and his father had just happened to have it.

He had showed up with an entire armload of wooden armaments, a puzzled look on his face and a confused declaration of having no idea where they had come from or why they had them. He had just found them already in one of the storage rooms by happenstance.

Definitely theatrics.

Reivyn looked down at the wooden sword in his hand and then at the pile of weapons. He then looked up at his father.

"Dad, I don't have most of these weapon Skills unlocked," he said. His father struck a pose with his finger pointing in the air.

"Yet!" He confidently exclaimed, a bright smile on his face. Reivyn was still nonplussed.

"Won't I be spreading myself too thin like this?" He hadn't learned only to be prepared from his dreams. He also had gained an understanding in biting off more than he could chew.

"Normally, I would say yes. But with you, I'm not so sure. I've had an idea ever since I was young, and I wanted to try it out with you. I would never recommend this with anyone else, but rest assured, I'm only going to have you train to Skill level 10 in each of the weapons you don't already have unlocked," his father patiently explained. "Now focus. I'm going to demonstrate the basic moves, and you're going to follow along. Once you get the basic gist of it down, I'll correct you, and that's how we're going to train. Follow my example."

Refix simply used the rod he was carrying to demonstrate the movements, grip, and stance used for each weapon. He didn't have the Skill unlocked for all of the weapons in the pile, but he had been a combat Class through and through from day one, and he had enough experience in seeing others using the weapons to get his son started on the right path. Once the Skill was unlocked, the System itself would help him develop more properly. The goal wasn't for him to master all of those weapons, but instead to have simple understanding.

The two of them worked all morning on just doing simple movements with each of the weapons. This wasn't enough to unlock all of the weapons, and they hadn't expected it to be. Though Reivyn did level up each of the ones he had unlocked and gained a couple that were tangential.

Skills Levelled Up!
Aim (0 ->1)
Daggers (0 ->1)
Staves (0 ->1)
Swords (0 ->1)
New Skills Unlocked!
Bows (1)
Katars (1)
Spears (1)

Reivyn worked up a sweat and saw his Stamina dip further than it ever had before. This was the first time he had had to pant for breath that he could remember since being born. They worked up quite an appetite, and after a quick, hearty lunch with some words of encouragement from the baby-tending Ameliyn, they kept at it into the afternoon.

"Now we're moving on to the next phase. You have a basic understanding of the movements, grips, and stances. You will continue to perform the actions with each weapon in turn, and I will correct you," Refix resumed his position he had had at the start, smacking his hand with the rod.

Reivyn got into position with his sword, prepared to continue the movement to train his Skill.

WHACK!

Reivyn cried out in pain and dropped the wooden sword, rubbing the back of his hand. He looked up at his father to witness his expression change from stern to worried instantly. His father tossed the rod aside and quickly went to his side.

"I'm so sorry! Are you hurt? Did I hit you too hard?" His father was extremely remorseful and concerned, so much so that Reivyn couldn't help bursting into laughter.

"Dad, I'm fine. I was just surprised. I didn't expect it," now Reivyn was trying to console his father. His father tilted his head to the side in confusion.

"What did you think 'correct you' meant? I'm even standing here with a rod typically used for correcting flaws," Refix said.

"Umm... I thought verbal correction?" Reivyn stammered out. Refix paused for a moment and looked at his son.

"Sometimes I forget how young you are despite how small you are," his dad sighed to himself.

"I'm not small! I'm taller than the other kids my age," Reivyn defended himself. He was a healthy four and a half year old. That would have been nearly six in his dreams. He already came up to slightly above his father's waist.

"You know what I mean," Refix rolled his eyes at his son. "Ok, no more dilly dallying! Back to work!"

And so he did. He spent the rest of the afternoon getting whacked around by his father. I mean, corrected in my Skill practice.

His suffering didn't go without its reward.

Skills Levelled Up!
Aim (1 ->2)
Daggers (1 ->2)
Pain Resistance (0 ->3)
Swords (1 ->2)
New Skills Unlocked!
Axes (1)
Cestus (1)
Glaives (1)
Great Swords (1)
Hatchets (1)
Slings (1)

 



Reivyn huffed and puffed as he sprinted along the wooden palisade, a pack quarter-filled with rocks strapped to his back. Sweat was dripping down his face and stinging his eyes. The occasional passerby would stare at him as he ran past. The other kids his age were still playing tag and hide and seek. He had graduated from that over a year and a half ago, now.

Temporarily graduated. He corrected himself. Those games are still fun, and dad says I should be close to what he hopes for, though he still hasn't told me what.

Kailey and Riley, his two little sisters, were almost old enough to begin playing those games themselves, and Reivyn had made a couple of friends in the neighborhood. He didn't only train all the time. He was still a kid. But he did take levelling his Skills and Stats very seriously.

His dad had insisted on him doing his calisthenics and Stat training before his Skill training, and it was always a gruelling experience.

"You need to be tired when you practice your Skills, and then you have to practice them perfectly. That way when you're in a situation where your Stamina is running out, you'll maintain your proper form automatically, because that's what your body has ingrained into itself. Sure, the System can assist with the boost, and relying on the System while training slowly makes the knowledge of the Skill truly yours. There are little tips and tricks that most people don't know about, and they wouldn't tell you even if they did.

"The most important thing to know about the System Skill boost is that it only applies in perfect condition. As in the System assists you to perform properly as you would in an ideal condition. If you haven't trained in adversity, your body will still be affected by the loss of Stamina. Your focus will be off, your stance will be wobbly, and your grip will be slippery from sweat. None of those things are accounted for by the System. Training in that situation will not only be better efficiency over all, anyway, but it will allow you to perform peak performance long after your opponents have lost the ability to put up a fight. Trust me, I know."

There was another hidden benefit: Skill training while tired after physical exercise continued to put strain on the muscles in various ways, and it continued to contribute towards Stat training. If one performed Skill training in peak condition, the movements were easy and not tiring for the most part, and people took breaks to practice their Skill longer to get more Skill gains at a time. This type of thinking was perfectly logical, but as deemed by an expert, his father, it was actually counterintuitive and was doubly hurtful in that it did noticeably increase Skill gain over training while tired, but it also actually diminished the amount of Stat training one could accomplish in the same amount of time.

Knowing, and agreeing with, the perfectly reasonable explanation for training in this method didn't make it any easier. Reivyn's starting point was exhaustion. His Stats had increased enough that just running wouldn't tire himself out enough to the point he needed for his Skill training, hence the pack filled with rocks.

Reivyn trudged into the backyard of his house, and without any breaks immediately dropped down to the ground to do pushups. He smoothly transitioned from pushups, to situps, to burpees, to pushups again in a cycle until his various muscles were burning and near the point of not being able to continue. He kept the pack on throughout the entire ordeal.

He finally unslung his pack for his weapons practice. His father told him that he would eventually need to practice while burdened with different things, but his Skill levels weren't high enough yet for it to be necessary.

One of the other benefits about training with such high intensity was how short it was. He didn't train until sundown or anything like that. He spent ten minutes on each weapon and then, whether he wanted to or not, he collapsed into a heap on the ground. His body had slight tremors run through it as he lay there panting. His Stamina showed that it was under 10.

While it was possible to go until hitting 0 in Stamina, it was dangerous. People usually only paid attention to their Health when it came to considering life or death, but a complete 0 in Stamina ran the risks of heart failure, even in a child. It was the biggest warning his father had given him when he started the high intensity training.

He eventually recovered enough Stamina to get back up. He had to wait until it was over half-way full before he could. The strange thing about Stamina, was that if it was depleted below a certain threshold around 20%, the level of energy one had per point of Stamina was less on the way back up to recovery than it was on the way down. This was another hidden aspect of the System that could be trained, and the only way to do it was to consistently push past that threshold over and over, over a period of time. Reivyn had already reduced it to around the 18-19% range.

He made his way to the bath house, a small room attached to the main building out back, and settled in for a cold bath. He could take the time to warm the water up, but he preferred it to be cold on hot summer days. Even if the water was a little warm, he would end up sweating immediately after getting out from his body being overly hot internally from the workout.

He leaned back and relaxed in the water as he checked his Status.

Status
Name: Reivyn Class: <None> Age: 6
Health: 140/140 Stamina: 260/260 Mana: 195/195
Physical Stats Mental Stats
STR: 12 INT: 19
VIT: 14 MAG: 20
DEX: 13 CLA: 14
CHA: 3 PER: 12
LUK: 3
Skills:
Acrobatics (16), Aim (10), Akashic Record (1), Athleticism (16), Axes (10) Balance (22), Bows (10) Cestus (10) Command (0), Daggers (13), Drawing (7), Dreams of the Past (12), Eavesdropping (14), Evasion (10), Fans (7), Glaives (10), Great Swords (10), Haman (20 MAX), Hatchets (10), Hiding (11), Identify {Mundane} (8) Inspire (0), Katars (11) Linguistics (8), Mana Absorption (26), Map Making (1), Mathematics (9), Mental Fortitude (13), Numbers Concepts (5), Observation (20), Pain Resistance (11), Penmanship (10), Piano (0), Pugilist (21), Running (22), Sense Mana (30), Slings (10), Sneaking (9), Spears (10) Staves (12), Stealth (4), Strategy (0), Swimming (0), Swords (18), Tactics (0), Throwing (10), Whip (10)

There were some new additions to his Skills page over the past year and a half. Fans was by far the hardest Skill he had to train among all of the weapons Skills. His father insisted he practice it up to level 10, but it had taken him over a year just to unlock it to begin with. It must be a mental block of some sort, because he just couldn't wrap his head around how it could be an effective weapon for the longest time. Apparently the dreams that had helped him so much so far also had negative consequences in coloring his vision sometimes. Once he got the hang of, the fan was a very interesting hidden weapon, and he would definitely train it up past 10.

 



Ameliyn smiled to herself as she watched her son make faces at his sisters from across the dinner table. Despite how he constantly trained his physical skills after that stunning revelation, he was still a goofy kid in his heart. He still loved to play, and he insisted that weapons Skills training, while exhausting, was immense fun for him. She shouldn't have been surprised.

Kailey and Riley were already three years old, and they were quite a handful. Luckily Reivyn had taken it upon himself to pass down his legacy of playing hide and seek and tag. He even occasionally let them win. His playing with the girls had the added benefit of allowing her some alone time with her man.

Reivyn had been incredibly easy to get to sleep on his own. They had just put a bed in his room and told him he was sleeping there from now on, and that was it. The twins weren't so accommodating. They still had to have mommy nearby or they would cry. As such she actually had to tuck Reivyn into bed before the younger girls.

"Goodnight, sweet prince," she whispered to her son. She affectionately combed his hair and then gave him a kiss on the forehead.

"Night, mommy," he sleepily replied. He was out before she made it to the door.

Her husband was standing there, waiting for her, as she came out. He looked at her for a moment without saying anything until she closed the door.

"You really shouldn't call him that," he said. He wasn't stern or overbearing in the way he said it, but something about it still infuriated her. Her mouth made a thin line as she huffed.

"It's a term of endearment. A lot of mothers call their sons that." He didn't argue with her. He didn't explain anything to her. He didn't even get a look on his face. He just stood there with a sad smile. All of the anger in her over the little thing left as quickly as it came, and she hugged her husband, "You're right."

Reivyn was truly asleep. He didn't notice the little interlude between his parents.

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Kyfe

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