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A note from Kyfe

A couple of things to note:

I have been paying attention to the constructive feedback I've gotten, and, along with myself, Chapter 3 is pretty much universally detested, haha. I will be doing a full rewrite of that chapter soon, and I'll let everyone know in an Author's Note when that happens.

As for the other edits and suggestions, I will be making those changes after the Writathon is over, as I've mentioned in a comment on a previous chapter, I want to spend the time of the Challenge pressing forward, not looking backward, which is what editing fundamentally is.

And finally, a point about something in this chapter regarding the time spent on building the road:

Research shows that it took a roman legion a single season (6mo) to build a road of 28 miles in length. In this example, 6 weeks was cut out due to rain, so about 4 1/2 months. Round down to 4 months, divide by 7 (28 miles vs 4), equals about 17 days. Factor in professional masons assisting and Skills, and approximately 1 week is perfectly reasonable to build a 4 mile long road up a walkable slope

 

Reivyn woke up to his skin itching something fierce. He had attempted to mimic his mother's use of mana to heal herself that he had witnessed both during his birth and that of his twin sisters, but there was some element of the operation that he was lacking. He didn't know if it was a Skill that he needed to unlock, or if he didn't have the requisite affinity.

He still worked on improving his affinities occasionally if he had the free time, but it had recently taken a backseat to his other training endeavors. He had witnessed his mother using Light mana, and she had told him the basics of how to unlock higher tier affinities, but he wasn't there, yet.

His wounds hadn't been too serious, and his own natural healing ability had long since gotten him back to full Health. He wasn't sure of the mechanics behind it, but despite having full Health, it didn't mean his wounds had completely disappeared and been replaced with new skin. His wounds had only scabbed over, and that was causing the intense itching sensations.

He groaned as he sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. He contemplated on the fight he had suddenly been thrust into the night prior. He had spoken with Brace and Corporal Decker briefly before going back to sleep.

"That guy was obviously after you," Brace had said. "I've never heard of any Skill that could let someone fade out of reality like that, so he was likely in possession of a powerful magical item. I know what you're thinking, and I doubt it's Ren's family. It definitely wasn't Ren, because not only does he have a solid alibi, I saw him with his squad myself, but he also doesn't have the Skill level that man displayed. Theoretically, his family has the ability to hire such an assassin, but it seems unlikely. They're not that influential, yet, but it's not outside the realm of possibility. My gut tells me there's something else involved."

Reivyn had to agree with Brace's analysis. Ren was the only enemy that he had ever made, but it didn't seem to him that the level of enmity warranted hiring an assassin to kill him. Granted he was looking at it from his own point of view.

"Regardless," Corporal Decker interjected, "We'll have to make sure you're always paired up with someone. Standard procedure has always been to have you in a team with Brace, so there's no reason to change that, but when it comes time for any fire watch duties, we'll make sure you're either teamed up in a group of three, or relegated to internal patrols, or both." Decker added that last point as if it had just occurred to him. It wasn't a bad idea. If he was only assigned to internal patrol, it wouldn't be too much of an imposition to simply double up the teams.

Reivyn got up and got dressed. As they were currently doing physical labor of laying the foundation for a road, they didn't wear the armor, and they had only been carrying their sidearms with them to work. Reivyn decided to take his shield with him and leave it strapped to his back. With his recent level gains, his Strength of 39 meant he didn't feel any strain from carrying the added weight.

Reivyn checked the notification that he had ignored until now.

Combat Initiated.
Enemy has escaped combat.
Neither victory nor defeat.
+0 Exp
Combat Resolved. Calculating...
+45 Exp
Experience: 85/400

That was interesting. So far he had gotten experience for winning a fight, getting defeated, and for simply surviving without determining victory or defeat. He had no idea how the Experience was calculated, but anything was better than nothing.

He stepped out of the tent that he had randomly switched owners with, and made his way through the din of others getting up and preparing for the day. He met up with Brace, who nodded in greeting, and they made their way to the chow area. He spotted a familiar figure eating sullenly by himself, and the duo joined him.

"I got attacked by an assassin last night and suffered numerous cuts, but how is it that you look worse than me?" Reivyn asked Teilon. His friend had a bruise on his face and a vacant look in his eyes.

"I don't wanna talk about it," he mumbled around a mouthful of food.

Even though Teilon was sitting alone, the other levies that he was paired up with were sitting nearby, and Reivyn could hear them laughing at Teilon's response. He looked between his friend and the others.

"What's going on?" He asked the other men. He was concerned for his friend and wanted to make sure he was fine, but if it was something he could use to tease his friend, that would be even better.

"Turns out that Kimberly girl interpreted his invitation to 'dance' as an invitation to spar," came the reply. "She beat the hell out of him, hahaha."

"Yeah, yeah. I let her win," Teilon grumbled.

"Uh huh. More like you had no idea what to do. The best part was, as he scampered off like a beaten dog with his tail between his legs, she called out 'same time tomorrow.'"

Teilon glanced at Reivyn with wide eyes. "I don't know if it's worth it," he said. Reivyn just smiled and clapped him on the shoulder before tucking into his breakfast. They still had a lot of work to do. There were several miles left to go, uphill, to the dungeon that had been found. Then they would have to build the actual road after laying the foundation.

 


 

Skill Levelled Up!
Mining (9 ->10)

Reivyn and Brace quickly worked on digging out the foundation for the road. Their pace had noticeably quickened at each of the levels Reivyn gained in his Mining Skill. The group of soldiers weren't all together working forward as a unit, but had been broken up into a long line snaking up the mountain to work on sections concurrently. The NCO's spent their time moving from section to section that their men were working on to ensure a uniform depth and width.

The levies had been tasked with procuring and cutting the stones to be used in the paving. A masonry expert had arrived with his team, and they had a Skill that allowed the levies to perform an accurate enough square cut, and then the masonry team was free to only have to make small adjustments to make them uniform, to which the levies would then place the stones into their final resting spot.

Reivyn looked back as he stretched his back and noted the progress that had been made on the road. They had been working for a week and were nearly done. The final length of the road from the prospector town up to the dungeon had ended up being close to four miles. Not very far relative to the size of the mountain range, but still a decent distance.

After a moment's rest, Reivyn's Stamina was topped up enough to continue with his work. He had been working on getting quieter and quieter on his activation of his Class Skill Devastating Strike, and he had finally gotten it down to simply mouthing the words without any sound. He hadn't quite grasped being able to invoke the Skill completely in his mind, but it was right around the corner with continued exercise.

He mouthed the activation and performed a powerful overhead strike into the rocky ground, and he watched with satisfaction as there was a considerably larger effect than the first few days he had used the Skill.

Skill Levelled Up!
Devastating Strike (22 ->23)

He didn't know why levelling his Class Skill was different, but it levelled up considerably faster than any of the other regular Skills that he had. This left him optimistic about levelling his other Class Skills that he hadn't had the right opportunity to level up once this mission was done and he could go back to determining his own schedule.

Reivyn buckled down to perform his manual labor. He subconsciously whistled, without any specific tune, as he and Brace progressed on their section of road. It wouldn't be long before they were done.

 



Reivyn stood in formation in complete silence. A procession was passing through the camp as all of the soldiers and levies stood in solemnity. The fallen troops had been placed in magically sealed body bags that prevented decomposition. It was standard procedure, at least for this county, to return the deceased combatants to their family members.

The officers stood in the front of the formation and saluted the passing wagon. The visiting masons had given the perfect pretext to return the fallen ahead of time, as, along with their own security escort, a caravan was made with some of the cavalry acting as honor guard.

The atmosphere was heavy as the officers held their salute until the passing deceased had completely left the pallisade. Knight-Captain Reifold turned to face the men and women after to address them.

"Dismissed," he said. There was no fancy speech or rousing demagoguery. The men had already been given the orders earlier that they were going to dismantle their current encampment and move up to the dungeon entrance where another pallisade had already been constructed. The men simply turned and got to work.

The men worked in silence, and the thoughts of mortality were prominent within Reivyn's mind. He had the dreams of a past life, and he knew intellectually that that other life had ended. He didn't have any remembrance of the passing, though. The recent attack, luckily with no duplicate instances, made him aware of the possibility that this life could come to an end, too.

He had been confident in his own training, but the "spar" with Ren and the attempted assassination had disabused him of his prowess relative to the wider world. He had only ever compared himself with his contemporaries, and his father, but that doesn't count. Getting conscripted gave him the revelation that he wouldn't be competing against his peers in age, but instead his peers in Skill or Level.

He had been confident in his Epic Class and Stats, but knowing that his commanding officer was an Epic Class, a Tier 3 one at that. Witnessing that commander basically toying with another equivalent Tier 3 made him remember that he was only a Tier 1, and a fresh Tier 1 who hadn't had time to grow, yet.

He was a weak youngster who had been thrust upon a larger stage ahead of his time. Getting a head start in his Class and Levels didn't mean he was going to be ahead of everyone else. It meant that until he had time to establish himself firmly, he was actually behind those he was interacting with.

Determination filled him as he worked. Determination to get stronger. He had heard many other young men, and he had done it himself, too, boast about becoming a powerful, high Level Class. They had declared to their friends that they were going to do great things and become great people. Reivyn wasn't determined to get stronger so that he could do great things and become a great person.

He was filled with determination to get stronger so that he wouldn't get himself killed.

 



Reivyn watched as a group of unfamiliar men decked out in exotic armor came walking through the gate to the pallisade. The new location was quite picturesque as it afforded a stunning view in both directions. Down the direction they had come from, the vast plains and forests could be seen spreading out for miles and miles. In the other direction, snow-capped peaks and hints of valleys could be spotted in the endless-seeming mountain range that they could barely be considered to be upon.

It was a group of six men that walked through the gate. Their armor varied as much between themselves as it did with the military unit occupying the encampment, which was just a typical pallisade and ditch, just with the dungeon in the center. There were two men who were obviously swordsmen: one had a sword and a more flexible type of armor while the other carried a large kite shield and was attired for standing his ground. Two men were in leathers: one with a bow and short sword, and one who was practically shrouded in a dark cloak covering everything contained within, only offering occasionally glimpses of the leather and daggers strapped to his body. One man was wearing loose robes and carrying a staff and satchel, and the last man was also wearing light leathers, but he only had a dagger and a giant backpack strapped to his back.

They all came to a halt and assessed the situation all around them, never letting their gaze linger on one spot for too long. Even in their relaxed stances, Reivyn could recognize from his Weapons Master Skill coiled strength ready to explode at a moment's notice in their bodies. These men had seen battle, and they practically screamed "danger" in Reivyn's mind.

Shortly after they entered the pallisade, Knight-Lieutenant Brand came and greeted them. They exchanged a few words before the Adjutant invited them further inside. Reivyn elbowed Brace and nodded at the men.

Brace looked at the passing men for a moment, observing them carefully, before turning back to Reivyn.

"Adventurers. I'm sure they've gotten wind of the newly discovered dungeon and have come to check things out. They look pretty experienced and well funded, which means successful most of the time. We'd have to see them in action to gauge their actual combat ability and Levels," Brace explained. "Unless, of course, you had an appraisal Skill geared towards people or were in charge of them in a way that the System provided that information, like with our officers.

"They have the standard Adventurer Party make-up: Shield-bearer, two close combat, one ranged combat, one mage or healer, and a porter," Brace turned and thrust his finger into Reivyn's chest. "If, after you get out, you decide to become an adventurer yourself, don't join any teams that deviate from this pattern unless you absolutely know their abilities. If you get a bunch trying to recruit you and they're all dressed in plate with shields and swords, then you know they're idiots. Stay clear." Brace gave him a severe look to get his point across.

Reivyn nodded his head, "Sure thing."

They had completed the mission of eliminating the Orc Camp, building the road to the dungeon, and establishing a base. The last leg of their journey was to send out constant patrols to kill off any ferocious beasts in the area, and then to keep doing it until the lower level beasts were deterred from the area and retreated further into the mountain range.

A group of City Guard style militia were being recruited and trained in the city, and they would eventually be moved out here to take over the duties of guarding the area. The route would enjoy more patrols from the regular military, and civilians. Adventurers and Lifestyle classes both, would eventually be drawn to the dungeon and most likely turn the area into another settlement. The resources available within the dungeon, as well as the surrounding mountain range, would ultimately determine how large and prosperous the settlement became.

Reivyn and Teilon had already talked about making plans to come back here after attaining Tier 2 to establish or join an adventurer team. With his added Stats and the taste of explosive growth from the battle, Reivyn was contemplating whether or not he should come sooner. With his Rare Fighter Class upgraded to Epic in Tier 1, he was well situated to take advantage of the opportunity.

 



The military base needed most of the personnel to remain in the encampment to act as garrison in case of any unexpected events, so only one or two squads would go on patrol duty in the local area at a time. While in garrison at the camp, the days were spent mostly how they had been while camped outside of Haluville waiting for the other levies to converge.

In the mornings, they conducted physical exercise, led by an NCO on a rotating basis. Afterwards, they would train with practice weapons, working on their weapons, armor, and shield Skills respectively. Without the threat of death accompanying life or death situations, Reivyn's explosive growth in his Skills lessened to a more normal rate, but from the context of chatter from the other soldiers, he suspected it was still elevated compared to them. Especially the Skills he had been born with at Level 0.

Finally, after weeks of practicing to acquire the Skill properly, Reivyn made a breakthrough with his Mana Circulation.

As he did every night he had the time available, which was every night he didn't have any fire watch duties, Reivyn sat in his tent in a relaxed manner, his legs folded underneath him. He centered his mind and delved his awareness into himself and located the ball of energy floating in his core. He grabbed a strand of the energy and separated it from the nucleus. He visualized the route the System had shoved into his head when he gained his Class and the one his father had taught him, and he guided the energy along the meridian lines.

It was a weird experience, because before unlocking the Skill, he could only vaguely grasp the feeling of the energy he grasped, but not the meridians they followed along. That wasn't to say he was moving it around blindly and hoping that it followed the correct path. He simply couldn't move the energy anywhere but along the meridians. It was like walking down a pitch black hallway.

It was difficult to master the feeling of performing the action without the Skill assisting him, as well. He had to maintain a balance between calm meditation and focused willpower. If he went too far in either direction, the mana ball would slip from his grasp, disperse into his body in an unconcentrated gas, and return to the nucleus.

To compound the matter, it left a prickling sensation along the path his mana followed. It felt like when one of his limbs would fall asleep from lying on it in an awkward position, but it felt like what it would feel like if that sensation came from inside his body radiating outward. It was incredibly strange, and it was incredibly distracting. He had spent three days of fumbling just to make the first full inner revolution.

In the beginning, there were multiple points along the path that warped the little ball of energy he was manipulating, and it caused it to flow through at an extremely slower pace. It was like the neck of a gourd, and it restricted the amount of energy that could flow through it.

When his mana encountered one of these points, he would "polish" it by rotating the mana along the walls like a whirlpool. This act would slowly expand the walls to allow for more mana to pass at once. He would only be able to maintain a few swirls of his mana before he felt a strain coming from the meridian. As he couldn't actually feel the meridian lines themselves, the best description he could give it was like a tiny, pulsing bruise that he could only somewhat pinpoint.

It was a long and arduous process of polishing his meridians, so he had long since quit trying to keep track of the progress, and he just mindlessly performed the task.

Finally, on this particular night, he was unable to find any constrictions, and before he knew it, while searching for points to polish, his mana ball had unknowingly circulated throughout his entire body and returned to the nucleus of mana in his core. He was abruptly brought out of his trance by a notification.

New Skill Unlocked!
Mana Circulation (1)

He jumped up and exclaimed in excitement, forgetting that he wasn't alone in his tent.

"Quiet down," Brace called out as he threw a pillow at Reivyn's head. Reivyn ducked and laughed with a silly grin on his face.

"Alright, alright," he placated his squad mate. "I just finally unlocked the Mana Circulation Skill after several weeks, and I got excited."

"What?" Brace asked in confusion. "Just now? I would have thought you got the Skill a couple weeks ago with your diligence. As far as I know, Decker only took a week and a half."

Reivyn shrugged his shoulders, and Brace, not being one to pry, dropped in and rolled back over to go to sleep after Reivyn tossed him his pillow back. Reivyn wasn't going to tell him, or anyone besides his family for that matter, that he had an additional pathway attached to his Class meridian pathway, and it was not only longer, but much more complicated and filled several times more bottleneck points.

With elation Reivyn resumed his seat to continue working on his Mana Circulation for a bit longer before going to sleep. He was still addicted to the feeling of getting Skill gains and improving himself.

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A note from Kyfe

Slightly shorter chapter at 3566 words. Mainly because I'm still struggling with a laptop that no longer maintains a charging status while in use, and can only be charged while closed. I have a new laptop ordered and on the way, though, so I'll only have to deal with if for another week, approximately.


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Kyfe

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