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A note from Kyfe

Going to take the weekend off. This chapter is technically Friday's chapter, because that's when I started writing it, but it was posted late due to some charging issues with my laptop. No chapter post Saturday or Sunday. I will continue to post everyday during the week.

Exp + 30
Exp +30
Exp +30
Exp +30
Exp +20
Exp +20
Exp +20 (190)
Combat Resolved. Calculating...
Exp +350
Level Up! Fighter Lvl 3
Level Up! Fighter Lvl 4
Experience 40/400
Skills Levelled Up!
Balance (34 ->35)
Marching (9 ->12)
Medium Armor (13 ->15)
Observation (27 ->28)
Shields (15 ->18)
Spatial Awareness (6 ->7)
Tactics (1 ->5)
Weapons Master (23 ->25)
New Skill Unlocked!
Battlefield Awareness (1)

Brace wasn't lying when he said they would be crippled if the Knight-Captain took care of everything by himself, Reivyn thought. This was the most explosive Skill growth he had ever seen. He had gained his relatively high Skill levels through constant, steady practice, and in one intense life and death battle, he had gained several levels in several different Skills all at once. He didn't know how the System calculated it, but it would appear it took his accumulation that hadn't caused a level increase into account as well, because why else would Marching level up from the quarter mile march to the battlefield.

Reivyn had mentally manipulated his notification screen to stop telling him when combat was initiated when he initiated it, and he got rid of the list of squad members. He didn't have time to look through it during combat and it was useless information to him out of combat when he could just look over and see that they were "healthy" as the System deemed, though he didn't know what that was based off of, because Cliff had his arm in a sling, but he was still deemed "healthy" by the System. Maybe it just means combat ready?

The battle had been very fierce for Reivyn, so he hadn't noticed it in the midst of combat, but once the mop up had been taken care of and the adrenaline had finally stopped pumping, he took note of the fact that he hadn't felt much of the Euphoria during combat. He had turned to Brace to ask him about it.

"There's a couple of reasons for it," Brace replied. "First and foremost, that goblin had been the first time you ever experienced it, and it was after the battle, so of course it would have been particularly noticeable at that time. Another reason is that for some reason, and I don't know why, I'm not a scholar, Orcs are only considered to be like half-monster or something according to the System. It might have to do with their level of sophistication and civilization, but who knows?" He ended the answer with a shrug.

Reivyn and Brace carried a dead Orc between them towards the mass grave that had been dug by the levies. Half the levies had dug a giant ditch while the other half grabbed the goblins they had fought and similarly tossed them in. Reivyn spotted Teilon leaning on a shovel in conversation with a few other levies waiting to fill the ditch back in, and Reivyn walked up to him and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Hey, you made it!" Reivyn teased his best friend. They had had minimal interaction during the journey from the initial camp outside Haluville all the way here. That isn't to say they hadn't spoken at all, they had just been too busy with their own things, and it really hadn't been that long all things considered.

"Yeah, killed me six gobbies, too!" Teilon thumped his chest as he bragged. Considering the goblin to levy ratio, that was actually pretty impressive, and Reivyn smiled and nodded his head, acknowledging his friend's feat. "And now that the excitement is over, we get to be ditch diggers. Yay!" Teilon pumped his fist in excitement as if ditch digging had been his ultimate goal in life.

Reivyn gave him a flat look. He took in his friend's clean appearance, and then he looked down at his blood coated armor. He looked up at Teilon with his head still down, a smirk on his face. He rubbed his chest with his hand where some of the blood was still wet. He had gloves on, no way would he do something like that with his bare hands.

"I know you were excited about being 'a real soldier,' so here, let me help you with that," Reivyn reached out and smeared some blood on his friend's gambeson, leaving a small streak of red across the armor. He stepped back and tilted his head as he admired his handiwork. "Now you look the part."

Teilon stared at Reivyn slack jawed before shaking his head and exclaiming, "Hey! I was gonna wear this to the dance tonight! We got all the girls over in our levy camp. You have fun hanging out with all the dudes over in the regulars." He leaned forward and elbowed Reivyn in the side while wiggling his eyebrows up and down. "Reivyn, there's this girl, Kimberly. She is so fine. I'm talking," Teilon wiggled his hands in an ambiguous manner. He leaned back and lifted his chin up in an expression of practiced nonchalance. "Yeah... she's into me." The other levies finally cracked and guffawed at the statement. Teilon gave them a fierce glare.

Reivyn looked over at Brace in the lull in conversation. He stood there with a puzzled look on his face, and then Reivyn heard a mumbled, "Dance...?"

Reivyn rolled his eyes and smacked Brace on the shoulder with the back of his hand. "Don't listen to his nonsense." Reivyn turned his attention back to Teilon to find him in a heated debate with the other levies.

"I'm telling you, it's the truth," Teilon defended his earlier statement.

One of the levies smirked and shared a look with another. "Easy way to find out," he said. Teilon looked at him questioningly. The man pointed over Teilon's shoulder and said, "She's right there. Hey! Kimberly!" The man put cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted as Teilon tried to grab his arms and shush him.

Reivyn turned his head to look in the direction the man was pointing. Two girls were walking side by side not too far away, and one of them looked over at the shout. Well, she's got a cute face... but she looks exactly like everyone else wearing a gambeson, Reivyn tilted one eyebrow as he glanced at Teilon sideways. Teilon had been trying to wave the other man off, but as soon as the girl, presumably Kimberly, turned her head, he put his hands down and looked off to the side like he hadn't been doing anything.

The man gave a sly smile to Teilon as he noticed Kimberly's attention on their group and continued, "My boy, Teilon, here says he wants to ask you to the dance."

Kimberly was silent for a few seconds, and then she yelled back, "Who's Teilon?"

Teilon hung his head down and tried to make himself small, but the other man clapped him on the shoulder and said, "This here's Teilon." Teilon gave him a fierce glare, but it only made the man chuckle more.

Kimberly again paused for a few seconds before she shrugged and then responded, "Tell him I said yes." She and her friend turned and quickly left, back to their task.

Teilon threw his arms up in delight and then pointed at the man who was now standing in stunned silence. "Hah! In your face!" He cheered.

"Alright, alright, Teilon, we gotta get going," Reivyn waved goodbye to his friend as he and Brace made their way back to the line of dead Orcs.

After a few steps in silence, Reivyn looked over at Brace who still had a confused look on his face. "Dance...?" He mumbled to himself again. He shook his head and then looked over at Reivyn. "Well, the only dancing we're going to be doing is with a pick and shovel. Word in the Lance Corporal Underground is that we have to build a road into them there mountains," he nodded his head towards the mountain range.

Reivyn raised his eyebrow and asked, "How do you know that?"

Brace looked almost offended at the question. "What do you mean, 'how do I know?' It's the Lance Corporal Underground," he said. He leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, "We know the Knight-Captain's orders before he does." He looked around as if to make sure nobody had heard him, and then he continued, "And if you stick around long enough to get promoted, you'll know too."

Reivyn shook his head as they continued their task of burying the corpses.

 


 

New Skill Unlocked!
Mining (1)

Reivyn received the notification among the swings of his pickaxe. Brace had been right. The sergeant had assembled the platoon again after the battle, and they had been informed that after a night's rest, they would immediately begin the next task assigned to their unit: building a road into the mountains.

Apparently, according to some rumors circulating about by the Lance Corporals, some Adventurers had stumbled across a newly formed dungeon a few miles into the mountain range. Dungeons that were located in or near a County's borders were considered strategic resources. The Count could send his own people in to plunder resources, and he could tax Adventurers for the benefit of access.

The rumor of a dungeon, one in a low level mana zone making it appropriate for Tiers 2 and 3, made Reivyn keenly aware of the fact that he was only temporarily conscripted, and the fact that he hadn't really decided what he wanted to do with his life now that he was going to be faced with legal adult status earlier than anticipated. Reivyn had spotted Teilon with an excited look on his face at chow, and the two shared a knowing look.

Reivyn continued to slam his pickaxe into the stone located on the selected route for the road, noticing a considerable improvement to not only his movements, stance, and Stamina consumption, but also the effect of the strike. He paused for a second as a thought struck him. He looked up and waved at Brace to get his attention.

"Hey, I've been so busy and distracted that I've completely forgot to ask something important," he said. Brace looked at him expectantly. "How do you use a Class Skill?"

Brace was silent for a moment, and then he threw his head back and laughed. He laughed, and laughed, and laughed, ending up doubled over, holding his stomach. He finally straightened up and wiped a tear from his eye.

"You mean to tell me, that this whole time, in spars and two, two battles, you've only been relying on your passive Skills? No wonder you got thrashed by Ren." Reivyn scratched his head sheepishly. "It's no big secret or anything," Brace continued. "You just have to invoke it. Mentally summoning the will to perform the Skill will initiate it, and the System will pretty much take over for a moment and have you perform the action. For newbies like you, it helps to shout it out to get the feeling of invocation right, but it's not necessary, and there are some people who never practice and have to use the shouting method as a crutch forever. There's more than one person who will suck in a deep breath, gather their will, point to the sky, and heroically shout... 'Big Step!'"

Brace chuckled at his own joke, but he wasn't lying. Reivyn had heard exactly that on one occasion while still in garrison, but he hadn't put much thought into it at the time.

Reivyn looked at the pickaxe in his hand then down at the stone ground. He adjusted his grip and stance, took a breath, steadied himself, and then whispered, "Devastating Strike," as he lifted the tool above his head. He felt himself involuntarily shift his body ever so slightly into the appropriate stance and bring the pickaxe down in a swift strike at his intended target.

Clunk.

It had been... surprisingly lackluster.

Skill Levelled Up!
Devastating Strike (1 ->2)

Reivyn was taken aback at the sudden notification. That was easy, he thought. He glanced at his Stamina in his Status page, and he noticed it had gone down a whole 10% from that one move. He pondered about it for a moment, and then he came to the decision to intersperse his Class Skills while working on the road as often as he could. No use in having Skills he never used. He opened the Skills page and checked the details of the Skill.

Devastating Strike (2): Deal 102% Damage.

That explained the "Clunk" earlier. It had been one whole percent more powerful. He chuckled ruefully to himself as he continued his work with renewed vigour.

 


 


"Brace, Reivyn," Corporal Decker called to the two men as they trudged along working to build the foundations of a real road. They paused in their task and looked up at the Squad Leader. Reivyn wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his forearm, leaving a streak of dust on his face. "You two have guard duty tonight around 3am. The sun's about to go down, so the two of you go ahead and stop now to get some chow and clean up. Get some rest so you're good to go later."

"Yes, Corporal," the two men answered. They packed up their gear and made their way down the mountain, back to the prospecting town where they had set up the encampment among the remaining foundations.

Each shift was broken down into two hours, and to facilitate maintained vigilance, the sentry duties would be rotated between standing sentry for one hour and walking patrol for one hour. The unit had already been hard at work laying the foundations for the road for a week, and this was the first time that Reivyn would have to perform this duty.

He and Brace grabbed a quick bite to eat, washed up, and went straight to sleep. Brace made it clear that while it was acceptable to relax and socialize for a short while, it was smarter to get as much sleep as they could.

Reivyn was startled awake by someone shaking his shoulders, and he was momentarily confused as to where he was. He sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes as it slowly came back to him what he was supposed to be doing. He and Brace quickly got dressed in full gear and reported to the front of the pallisade to perform the sentry change.

There were eight other men assuming guard duty along with Brace and Reivyn. They were all experienced veterans to this task, so they explained the pros and cons to choosing which duty to perform first.

"If you take standing Sentry first, you'll have to fight your body's natural inclination to be bored and go back to sleep, even while standing, and with a sleepy brain, you might hallucinate some things in the darkness," one man offered. "These hallucinations aren't anything like detailed monsters or people. It won't look like anything obvious. It'll be vague flashes of movement that you're not quite sure if it's really there or not. Something I frequently experience is it seems like bats or some other winged creature fly past my head, and I just catch a glimpse of it."

"Yeah, and always stand with the light source at your back," another said. "You don't want to mess up your night vision. If you have to look at the light for whatever reason, close your dominant eye first." Reivyn nodded at the advice.

"Another downside to taking sentry first, is that when it's your turn to change shifts with the next batch of men, you'll have just finished walking around, getting your blood flowing. It might wake you up and make it harder to fall back asleep," Brace added to the conversation. "Conversely, if you take patrol duty first, you'll wake up for sentry duty, and be ready to go back to sleep after, but you'll be sluggish and slower to respond to any actual threats, and you're much more likely to run into anything that is trying to infiltrate the camp than the sentries standing in the light."

Reivyn thought about it for just a brief moment before he decided, "Well, I'm going to have to eventually do both, so might as well just pick one and do it. So I'll start with Sentry duty first." The other men nodded and they broke up into their two-man units.

The men hadn't lied to Reivyn. He was bored. There was no talking. No laughing or joking. They stood still and kept their eyes on the surroundings. Reivyn had a slight advantage over the other men, though. This was his first time doing something like this, and as such, the anticipation of a new experience had woken him up, so he didn't experience having to fight off sleep.

The seconds seemed to stretch forever, and Reivyn experienced, for the first time, the folly of having a perfect time piece in the assistance of the System. He could practically see the seconds tick by, and they seemed to move slower and slower the more he concentrated on it. This had to have been the most bored he had ever been in his entire life.

It was inappropriate to distract himself with looking at his Status while standing guard, so he had to just deal with it, but the hour eventually expired, and two other men came to switch out duties with him and Brace.

The two squad mates shouldered their spears and began their patrol along the outside of the pallisade walls. There were light sources set up on each corner and at the entrance, and remembering the advice, Reivyn kept his line of sight pointed outwards, into the open fields. There was some cloud cover moving across the sky, and the brightness of the moon alternated between being dim and shining down on the grasslands. The trees in the distance took on an ominous look in the dark, shifting between visible and indistinct.

Even though there was just as much going on during the patrol, the fact that they were moving around and able to view a changing scenery as they passed from one side of the encampment to another meant that boredom never set in. It was amazing how much difference just moving around a little in a simple walk made versus standing still.

The clouds once more covered the moon and stars in the sky as the duo passed through the darkest point between the two corners of the pallisade on the opposite side of the entrance. A small movement appeared in Reivyn's senses from his Spatial Awareness Skill. It was incredibly subtle, and if there hadn't been nothing at all for so long, he wouldn't have noticed it.

It appeared as just a point following him in his mind, and it slowly crept ever closer to him. When it reached the point of passing over his right shoulder, it exploded in acceleration and moved in front and down across his face, never becoming visible to his eyes. Reivyn, trusting his instincts, allowed his body to react without thought, and he jerked his left arm up in a guard stance just inside the point between it and his body. A fraction of a second later, a low metallic sound echoed out as a pressure assaulted his arm.

He was finally able to see what had triggered his Spatial Awareness. A dagger in a fist was attempting to slice his throat, and it had been blocked by his vambrace.

The assailant suddenly wrapped his arms around Reivyn in a bear hug once the person realized their stealth assassination attempt had been thwarted. Reivyn, utilizing every ounce of his Weapons Master Skill, forcefully squatted down while throwing his shoulders up and elbows out to break the hold. From this position, he dropped his spear, as it would be too unwieldy to swing around when already in such close quarters, and he drew his sword as he spun around while yelling at the top of his lungs.

"Enemy attack!" He yelled. It had only taken a split second for him to react from the bear hug to the spinning sword draw, but his sword clanged against a swift stab from a short sword. The attacker was extremely fast, and in that moment, he had switched his weapon from a dagger to a short sword and launched an attack, hoping to impale Reivyn in the back.

The man was dressed in all black with just his eyes visible, and he had timed the assault at the perfect moment. The clouds obscured the moonlight, and they were at the farthest place from any artificial source of light.

Reivyn fought for his life as swift slashes and stabs immediately pushed him on the back foot. The short sword glinted from the far away light, but then it would snake around and attack from a different direction. The man was obviously doing it on purpose, as he used the shadows and light to his utmost advantage.

Sweat quickly poured down Reivyn's face, his heart pounding. The man's weapon was elusive and started getting close and closer to dealing some real damage to Reivyn as he fell further and further behind in his blocks. His vision was interfering with the information his Spatial Awareness was sending him, and he wasn't used to receiving such contradictory sensory input.

Reivyn suffered a few shallow gashes on his unprotected arms and in the gaps between his metal plates on his stomach and legs. Blood flow started accumulating, and he knew that if he didn't do something different, he would die here.

The only thing he could think of was to stop the sensory overload, so he shut his eyes tight and allowed his Blind Fight Skill to mesh with his Spatial Awareness as best he could. The effects were noticeable, but they weren't enough. He was already too far behind in his reactions, and he was still getting further thrown off rhythm.

A spear came hurtling through the space of their duel, and it pierced right into the shadowed assailant. Elation quickly turned into alarm as the man's body simply faded away. The spear had hit nothing. Finally, with a moment to catch his breath, Reivyn unslung his shield and put his back to the wall. He kept his head on a swivel as he scanned the surroundings for the man. Brace dropped his spear and assumed the same position to his right, covering him from that angle.

Now that the short, intense conflict was over, Reivyn realized it had only been a three second long exchange. In those three seconds, he had exchanged what felt like a hundred blows, and he had been so panicked that he had completely forgotten about Brace accompanying him a short distance away. They hadn't been walking exactly side by side, but had allowed some room between them to better utilize the length of their spears if needed.

Brace had reacted immediately to the sounds of swords clashing and Reivyn's yell, but it had felt like an eternity to Reivyn.

They stood in place, shoulder to shoulder, shield to shield, panting as they looked all around. Adrenaline turned into confusion as no other attacks ever materialised. Anywhere. It slowly became clear that this wasn't a diversion for another force attempting to infiltrate the camp. Reivyn and Brace seemed to have come to the same conclusion at the same time as they shared a look.

The other patrollers finally came running up as Reivyn could hear activity of men being woken and quickly readying themselves for a battle that wasn't likely to come.

The first patrollers arrived on the scene, and Reivyn and Brace finally relaxed and lowered their guard. Reivyn's hair stood on end as his body was consumed by a chill running down his spine as his mind screamed of danger. He once again moved completely on instinct, and he ducked his head and raised his shield as fast as he could possibly move.

CLANG!

An arrow smashed into the shield so hard it knocked him off balance into the wall. Men started yelling and pointing, and Reivyn could hear some horses galloping out into the night to find the invader.

New Skill Unlocked!
Danger Sense (1)

Knight-Captain Reifold was suddenly beside Reivyn, and his body was finally able to relax as he had supreme confidence in his commander's abilities.

"What happened here?" The commanding officer asked.

Reivyn glanced at Brace, who motioned for him to go ahead, and he answered, "Sir, Lance Corporal Brace and I were on patrol. Everything was routine and nothing was out of the ordinary. As soon as we reached this center section of wall in the darkness and the cloud covered the moonlight, someone suddenly appeared behind me, got into position without either of us noticing, and attempted to cut my throat."

Reivyn swallowed as he relived the harrowing experience from telling it. Knight-Captain Reifold didn't hurry him, but he just stood there, patiently waiting.

"Umm..due to a Skill, I was able to react out of instinct and managed to block the dagger. I yelled that an enemy was attacking, and engaged the man. He was completely shrouded in the dark and was skilled in misdirection by using the glint of his blade and the quickness of his movements. I wouldn't have lasted five seconds if Lance Corporal Brace hadn't reacted in time, but when he thrust his spear through the man, he just vanished like he had never been there.

"We assumed a defensive stance and waited for reinforcements, and after they arrived, one final attack came my way," Reivyn gestured toward the arrow on the ground.

Knight-Captain Reifold stood in quiet contemplation for a moment before simply saying, "I see."

He located his Adjutant arriving and beckoned him over. "Conduct change over of the guard, but triple it for the rest of the night," he ordered. He then leaned in and whispered, "Have Private Reivyn move to a different tent without alerting anyone."

The men all got their orders. The guards were switched out at the routine time, but in strength, and a detail of the light cavalry went searching the plains.

The attacker was never found. There were no footprints, scent, or any evidence that he had existed other than the cuts and blood on Reivyn and the arrow on the ground.

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Kyfe

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