CLACK clack CLACK!
Sounds of wooden one-handed swords smashing together could be heard reverberating across the backyard of a certain abode in Haluville. An older male was pressing a much younger male with a striking resemblance to him in a clash of wooden swords. A cheer squad consisting of an older female and two identical little girls was whooping and hollering off to the side.
Reivyn had complained about the noise distraction caused by the women in his life, but Refix had quickly pointed out that combat was often a loud, distraction filled affair. Reivyn had stopped complaining, out loud, but he was never really distracted in the first place. He was simply embarrassed to have an audience. He was wise beyond his years to not allow that sentiment to escape his lips, lest his father use it as fuel to tease him mercilessly.
Sweat stung his eyes as it poured down his face, but after years of training, he had become immune to the feeling. Well, not entirely immune. It still sucks. The little thought caused a hiccup in his defense, and instead of a loud clack of wooden sword on wooden sword, a heavy thunk of wooden sword on flesh followed. Pain Resistance showed its worth, as Reivyn allowed the sensation to wash over him but not dictate his following actions.
Refix smirked at his son, likely enjoying some schadenfreude at his son's situation. He was perfectly aware of what it was like to get your butt handed to you all while girls watched from the side and your body was sending nothing but signals to make it stop to your brain. He never even paused in his assault, much less considered giving Reivyn a reprieve.
Over the past year, ever since Reivyn had unlocked the Mythic Skill, which was quickly followed by a considerable slow down in Stat growth, Refix had changed the style of training from one of an exercise in form to one of actual combat practice. He had started slow, just above an appropriate Skill level to pose a not-too-difficult challenge to his son, but every time Reivyn had made improvements, either in his Skill level or his utilization of the Skill, he had kept pace, and Reivyn had not once stood a chance of "winning" against his father. A lesson in humility for his extremely talented son would go a long way in the real world.
Reivyn, despite an admirable job of recovering, was never able to get his stance fully corrected, and he was quickly routed by the more experienced swordsman. With a quick flurry of exchanges, Refix performed an envelopment, and Reivyn's sword went spinning off into the distance. The older man didn't add insult to injury by striking his vulnerable son, and he ended with his sword expertly controlled, pointed at Reivyn's throat a hair's breadth away.
"I think you're ready to move on to the next stage," Refix said with a smile.
"I was trounced," Reivyn called back over his shoulder as he jogged to retrieve his discarded practice weapon.
"I was using an approximate Skill level of 26-28. That's Journeyman level," his dad replied. He counted off on his fingers as he explained, "There's basic, which is Skill level 1-25; Journeyman, which is 26-50; Expert, which is 51-75; Master, 76-100; and anything above 100... gets complicated to explain. You're not likely to meet someone of that caliber anywhere around here, and if you make it there one day, you'll already understand by then. You're performing solidly in the low Journeyman Skill level, which, quite frankly, is astounding. What level did you say Weapons Master was at?"
"Twenty," Reivyn said. He quickly returned to his father's side, and, recognizing that the training session had moved on to verbal instruction, he stowed away his and his father's wooden swords. His mother ushered his two sisters inside alongside loud complaints that their entertainment was over.
"So it appears that Weapons Master doesn't just allow you to perform equally with all weapons, but it also accelerates your actual mastery if not the Skill leveling speed. If you acquire Classes that focus on weapon Skills and have a decent growth bonus to them, it is very likely that you will, in fact, reach Skill level 100, and possibly beyond," his father clapped him on the shoulder, a look of pride on his face. "Let's go get cleaned up."
Reivyn glanced at his father's pristine appearance, shook his head, and then made his way to the bath house to cool off and wipe the sweat and grime from his body. He didn't even break a sweat. We sparred for an hour...
Reivyn leaned back in the cold water, his arms out to the side and his head back against the tile. He allowed himself to relax every part of his mind and body as he entered into a state of Meditation.
He had been incredibly dumb, in his own opinion, in just how long it took him to figure out how to unlock the Skill. It turned out that the secret to getting the Skill was actually incredibly simple. He asked his mom for help.
"Meditation is both easy and hard to unlock," Ameliyn had patiently explained. "Most people assume you just have to relax your mind and body and clear your thoughts. While these steps are necessary, there is one crucial step that most people don't pay attention to. Let me ask you, what happens when you absorb too much mana when using the Skill Absorb Mana?"
"A burst of energy," Reivyn didn't have to think about this question at all. He was intimately aware of the results.
"And what do you think all of the mana intrinsic to yourself is doing inside of you?" she queried. Realization dawned on Reivyn. With a quick internal check, he noticed the mana in his core send out an almost imperceptible pulse of energy. It wasn't enough to actively distract him, but it was definitely enough to interfere with the process of clearing his thoughts, even if only subconsciously.
"But then what's the solution?" He inquired.
"The solution is to release the mana from your core, and either spread it evenly throughout your body so that it's not concentrated, or, if you have too much mana, to expend it before working on unlocking the Skill. Once it's unlocked, your mastery of it, and the boost from the System, will mitigate that necessity."
It had been a quick affair that night to unlock the Skill, and Reivyn had added another task to his daily training schedule. Luckily for him, Meditation not only fit perfectly in his time table after his sparring matches, but it allowed him to assimilate the lessons learned at a quicker pace.
The cold water surrounding Reivyn started to steam as its temperature slowly increased. After cooling off for an appropriate period of time, Reivyn started cycling through the different elements of mana being Absorbed. He always started off with the Skill Fire Affinity, moved to Water Affinity to help disperse the heat into the bath, used Wind Affinity to whisk the heat off the surface, treating the bath like a giant heat sink, and then ended with grounding the heat with Earth Affinity. His mother hadn't only taught him how to unlock the Meditation Skill.
"Mom, what's that bright light and pop of mana I see sometimes when you're weaving?" Reivyn had asked. His mother sat up straight with her eyebrows raised in surprise.
"So I hadn't been imagining things, after all!" Ameliyn exclaimed. "That, my Dear, is Light Mana. It is an element. Different elements have different effects on objects in the world. Typically, if you imbue your mana into an object, it will hold on the surface before slowly dissipating away.
"Your mother is a Light Weaver, and, due to a peculiarity of the System, if one imbues their elemental mana into a craft throughout the process of making it, even if all of the materials involved are themselves finished products, the completed item will permanently hold that mana. Imbuing mana into craftsmanship like this isn't the same as Enchanting, but it still has a small role to play. When I imbue Light Mana, it acts as a sort of subconscious illusion making the ones who look at it have a higher likelihood of a favorable impression towards it."
"Can you teach me?" Reivyn pleaded with a hopeful look on his face.
"I could teach you..." Ameliyn said while thoughtfully tapping her chin. She quickly shook her head, though. "But you can't learn it."
"What?! Why?" Reivyn almost whined. This was the first time he had ever been told he couldn't learn something.
"Two reasons," his mother held up two fingers. "You don't meet the prerequisite mana affinity Skills: Fire, Water, Wind, and Earth, and you don't meet the prerequisite of acquiring those mana affinity Skills, which is Mana Sight. Or do you?" She narrowed her eyes at her son. He quickly shook his head. "Ok, yeah, I didn't think you had that one yet. I can teach you that, though," she said offhandedly. He quickly nodded his head enthusiastically.
"Ok, come here," she directed him to sit in front of the fireplace. "Close your eyes, open your Sense Mana, and enter into Meditation. Feel the mana around you. Notice the warmth of the fire. Fire mana spits out of the heart of the flame to dance on the air like tiny sparks. They travel about, here and there, without purpose. See in your minds eye the little red motes dancing before you.
"A breeze comes through, and wind mana detaches from the breeze to scatter the flame motes, and the red of the fire mixes with the green of the wind to carry it ever further from the blaze.
"As the wind mana transports the fire mana further and further way, the temperature in the air gets cooler as it is filled with moisture, and little drops of blue mana lazily float about and suck the energy out of the embers. The water mana gets heavier from the burden of the excess energy, and they slowly fall until they at last come into contact with the brown mountains of earth mana.
"Open your eyes," Ameliyn whispered.
Reivyn opened his eyes to a new world. It was far from the intricate tale of dancing mana that his mother spoke of. Different, muted colors crashed together and created a strange tableau of interwoven energy. The scene quickly faded from his vision. It had been similar to looking at a bright source of light and then quickly looking away. He shook his head and looked up at his mother.
"I couldn't tell anything from that. It was just a huge, fleeting jumble of confusing colors," he complained. She playfully swatted him on the back of his head.
"Of course, not," she replied. "That was your first time. I'm surprised you saw anything at all, honestly. Continue."
Ameliyn spent the next hour or so patiently concocting various tales of improbable activities being performed by the various motes of mana. She weaved her words as intricately as one of her pieces on the loom. Reivyn felt incredibly gratified that his mother would go to such lengths to assist him when she clearly had so many other things to be doing.
|New Skill Unlocked! Mana Sight (1)|
After approximately an hour and a half of alternating between listening to strange tales of odd behavior and quickly opening his eyes to see for himself, Reivyn was finally awarded with the notification. He smiled up at his mother.
"Thanks, mom! I just got it," he happily said. Ameliyn was momentarily surprised before she guffawed and chuckled awkwardly.
"More and more, I see what your father meant," she said. "I spent two weeks - two weeks! - unlocking that Skill, and the System practically gave it to you." She threw her hands up dramatically in mock imitation of her husband. "Just gave it to you!"
Reivyn smiled sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his head. His mother rolled her eyes at him and shooed him away with her hands.
"Go on, get. I don't want to look at you, right now," she huffed as she stalked back to her loom. Reivyn knew she was just playing around, so he didn't take it to heart, but he wasn't quite finished. He still had another question for his mom.
"But what now?" He called out to her.
"You Level it to around 15 or 20. Then you come back to me," she smiled as she replied, letting him know, as only a mother could, that everything was fine, and that she loved him and was proud of him, all in one quick look.
Reivyn towelled himself dry as he exited the pool of water. He had worked diligently at yet another Skill for over a year until he had finally been able to make heads or tails of the mana around him. His mother had then instructed him on how to unlock his affinities. The key had been to identify each individual element, and then absorb that one element exclusively through Mana Absorption until he unlocked the Skill. That had been pretty simple, but he had had one last point that had bothered him.
"But why is affinity a Skill?" He had put the question to Ameliyn.
"It's only half-way a Skill," was the reply from his mother. "It's a little complicated, but basically you have the Skill you can train, and you have your inherent affinity for each element. No matter how hard you train, and no matter how much time you invest, your Skill Level in these affinities are capped at a different level for each individual. It depends on your talent how far and how fast you can take the Skills."
All four of the basic affinities had levelled up at the same speed for Reivyn. It wasn't slow, but the Skills didn't level up as fast as many of his other Skills did. He had no idea what any of that meant for his talents. He shook his head as he made his way out of the bath to more practice in his literary Skills. He wouldn't worry about it too much.
The wind whipped through his hair as Reivyn and his three friends ran along the rooftops in the commercial district. It was a rare event, these days, that all four of them could be together. With Teilon turning nine, and the other three right behind him at eight, the other three boys had started the proverbial sprint towards Class Unlock, and they had finally gotten serious about trying to train up some of their Stats before it got harder.
Reivyn had been amused at the thought that he and his friends had approached life in exactly opposite ways. While he had spent his early to mid childhood frantically training his Skills and Stats, his friends had focused on almost exclusively gallivanting and horsing around. He was sure they had gotten some Skill Levels and Stats, what with the amount of effort they had put into playing, but they had been living a carefree life. Now that he had reached the point of diminishing returns on training Stats, he was now the one enjoying a life of leisure as his friends had to buckle down.
He came back to the present as they scrambled to traverse the differing heights of the buildings and leapt across chasms made of alleyways in turn. It didn't do him any good to get lost in thought while a couple of stories off the ground.
One day, several months ago, Teilon had been daydreaming as the troupe had meandered around town with his head in the clouds. He had suddenly come to a halt, Will almost walking into him, and he had a thoughtful look on his face.
"I wonder what it would be like to fly above the town, like a bird, without having to take all of these twisting back roads to get anywhere," he suddenly opined. Reivyn glanced at him before using his Acrobatics skill to jump from wall to wall in the narrow alleyway and shimmy himself up to a lower rooftop.
"I don't know about flying, but this is probably the next best thing," He called out to his friends. When he didn't get a response, he leaned over the ledge to find the three other boys staring at him in slack-jawed silence.
"H-H-How did you do that?" Teilon stammered, pointing up at Reivyn like he had just spotted something he couldn't believe.
"It was easy," Reivyn said with a slight frown on his face. "Just use your Acrobatics Skill."
"What do you mean, just use your Acrobatics Skill?' Teilon rolled his eyes so hard his whole head twirled around his neck. Will and Simmon looked at each other and nodded in silent agreement.
"You don't have Acrobatics?" Reivyn asked, incredulous. "What have you been doing with your life?"
"Hanging out with you!" Teilon shrugged while gesturing towards Reivyn, as if to say obviously.
"Well it's an easy solution. Just unlock the Acrobatics Skill and practice it by jumping up these walls," Reivyn retorted.
Teilon looked at his friend as if he had grown a second head. "Just unlock the Acrobatics Skill, he says," he mumbled. "What the f-. You know what. I can't even with you, right now."
Reivyn easily scrambled back down to ground level. He approached his friends as he said, "C'mon. It'll be easy. I'll help you."
The next hour had been spent with Reivyn assisting the other boys in performing various high-level movement techniques such as the tuck-and-roll, the cartwheel, and the popular fall-on-your-face-while-trying-to-flip. A breakthrough had been made when Reivyn had had Teilon step into his hands with one foot and then get launched into a backflip. It wasn't pretty at first, but the other boys could finally start to feel something different, and with a little extra effort, they all eventually unlocked the Skill.
"That was pretty fun, actually," Teilon said with an almost confused look on his face. "And pretty fast, too." Reivyn just stood to the side with an expression of I told you so on his face.
"Fastest Skill I ever unlocked," Simmon piped up.
"Yeah," Will agreed.
The four boys looked at each other and grinned before they launched themselves to the rooftops. It turned out that, while not a Skill itself, the activity of parkour worked wonders for quickly levelling up Acrobatics and Balance.
The rooftop had served as their personal highway ever since. A good thing, too, with all of the new people coming and going from Haluville.
The boys took a break to gaze down at the Town Center. Where once it was a bevy of people walking from point A to point B and occasionally haggling in some personal bartering outside of the storefronts, a small marketplace of tents, stands, carts, and blankets had formed. The foot traffic had recently shot through the roof, and luckily, so had the boys.
"Bad business that," Teilon said with an uncharacteristic serious expression on his face.
"What's bad about it?" Reivyn asked. Will and Simmon looked also looked towards Teilon, waiting on his explanation.
"Not that," Teilon gestured down towards the impromptu market. "That's fine. That's whatever. No, those are all Adventurers. Hadn't you noticed?" He scrutinized the other boys' faces. Teilon could be surprisingly insightful at times.
"Yeah, Torhn and his crew say there's some work in the city," Simmon ventured.
Teilon gently cuffed his friend on the back of the head. "This is the city," he said while pointing down to emphasize his point.
"You know what I mean," Simmon retorted with an eye roll.
"Yeah, I do, but Torhn is likely to smack you across the mouth instead of the back of the head if he hears you implying otherwise. You know how the locals are," Teilon had placed his hand on Simmon's shoulder as he gently chastised him.
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Simmon said, scratching his head in slight embarrassment for the lapse in speech.
"Anyway," Teilon continued, "My daddy says it's government work. You all know how they feel about Adventurers." The three other boys nodded in unison.
Several months ago, emboldened by their success at repeated pilfering of pies over time, Teilon had gotten daring and started trying to unlock Pickpocket. He wasn't a thief, so all he would do is reach in, grab something, usually coins or lint, and then let go. There were a couple of close calls, but he had successfully gained the Skill. He had convinced the others to join him in his antics, and while still reluctant to have anything to do with those types of Skills, Reivyn had agreed.
His mother had not been too happy with the pie episode. She had lectured him on thinking before acting for a good hour, but she had still been at least a little proud of him for deciding to do the right thing in the end. Refix had had a completely different take on the event.
"Tell me, is a Skill evil?" Refix asked his son as they were sitting at the dining table.
"I don't see how it could be," Reivyn had replied after some careful thought.
"That's right. No Skill is inherently evil. It's what you do with the Skill that matters," Refix poked his finger into Reivyn's chest to get his point across. "Now, tell me, who is the best at spotting a thief?"
"The Guards?" Reivyn ventured a guess. From the context of the conversation, he was pretty sure it was a trick question, but he honestly didn't know a better answer. Refix just chuckled as he shook his head.
"No, another thief is the best at spotting a thief," Refix answered. "If you level your Skill properly, it can be used for good, so don't ever look down on a Skill."
That lesson had heavily influenced Reivyn's decision to follow through with his best buds. Things had gone extremely well from there. The quartet had levelled their Skill and kept a clean conscience by not ever actually stealing anything.
Everything had gone wrong, though, when Teilon had gotten a little too bold for his britches. The damn fool had tried to pickpocket a City Guard of all people. Sure he had targeted a rookie, but his teammates weren't rookies.
An armored hand had clamped down on the offending arm as Teilon had his hand in the rookie's pocket. "What the hell do you think you're doing, you little runt." Teilon got spun right into the face of a great big bear of a man with a full beard and mean eyes.
"I wasn't doin' nothin'! I swear! I was just practicing, is all," Teilon blurted out as fast as he could. Reivyn, Simmon, and Will had run up upon noticing the trouble, but the other guards stood in their way, separating them from their friend. They were in a small side alley, and none of the other pedestrians even spared a glance their way.
Big Bear spat in disgust right at Teilon's feet. "Damn Adventurers and damn Adventurers' kids. Ain't got a lick of sense," He said. He shoved Teilon into the wall, hard, and he crumbled to the ground. "Keep your filthy paws to yourself." The man landed a few kicks to Teilon's midsection with the intention to cause pain. If he had wanted to actually hurt Teilon, it would have been an easy thing with his Stats and Class.
Reivyn frowned at the display of petty power. "What? Got somethin' to say, Adventurer's kid?" The Guard in front of him provoked.
"My parents aren't Adventurers," Reivyn replied, the frown never leaving his face. He had had no idea these kinds of sentiments existed in the small town.
"High level combat class comes in from out of town. Either a deserter or an Adventurer," the Guard spat at Reivyn's feet. "Basically the same thing, in my book."
The Guards shoved all of the kids, Reivyn included, to the ground as they finished displaying their authority and sauntered off. Later, his parents had consoled him and convinced him to not let a few bad examples ruin his impression of the town. Most of the Guards were decent folk who showed his dad, who had been working as a Bodyguard Captain for a rich merchant in town, respect.
"Yeah, they're right A-holes," Will said as he spat on the rooftop.
Reivyn reached over and gently cuffed him without thinking. "Don't be spitting like them. It's disgusting," he admonished. Will ducked his head with a sheepish look on his face.
"Yeah, well. Ain't got nothin' to do with us," Teilon declared after a moment. "C'mon, let's go."
The four friends ran off in search of some more "adventure."