The march back to Haluville was uneventful. Reivyn was back on his own two feet, and he marched alongside Teilon with the rest of the levies. Sergeant Mok led a small detail consisting of a few corporals, the drummers, and a supply wagon. The levies kept their gambesons and spears, Reivyn included. He had traded his gear out for convenience's sake. They marched in a proper formation, as everyone having the March Skill meant it was a smooth transit.

Sergeant Mok had explained to them why they were still marching and acting in a military manner despite being officially terminated as levies.

"There are goblins in the woods," he explained simply. "We're doing it for your benefit. On top of that, proper Marching gets you where you want to be faster than simply walking in a group."

Nobody had complained, and being an irregular unit, they didn't hold much sway to proper military bearing other than keeping in step with each other. As such, Reivyn found himself often conversing with Teilon, Kimberly, and a few others that Teilon had been teamed up with. They refrained from the more physical teasing and horsing around while they were marching, but the camaraderie was high.

The levies stopped in the same spot they had initially camped out in while waiting for the surrounding recruits to arrive, and there they turned in their gear as the ones from the surrounding villages split off and continued on under the supervision of a corporal.

The regular troops could have left them to their own devices all the way back in Magron, but they were determined to take their responsibilities seriously. They were the ones who had dragged them away from their families, so they were the ones who were going to make sure they made it back to their families.

Reivyn, as well as his friends, were immensely impressed with the professionalism with which the whole ordeal had been handled. It hadn't been nearly as much of an imposition as they had feared when they were first rounded up, and they had all, Reivyn especially, learned valuable lessons. The returning levies were excited that their Class of Peasant Levy still remained, so their Stat Points would continue to see a significant head start as compared to the other young teenagers who still had the Villager Tier 1 Class.

As an Epic rarity Fighter, Reivyn had far outpaced anyone else in his cohort. His Strength and Dexterity Stats had even overtaken many of the regular Tier 2 soldiers in the Lord's Retinue. Granted that was because they put most of their points into Vitality which was still far ahead of his, and they had to shore up their mental Stats more than Reivyn had to.

The soldiers with a Rare Class or a higher level like the senior Lance Corporals and NCO's still had superior Stats to him, but most of the soldiers only had an Uncommon Class and were around the level 8 to 14 range. Now that they had a Dungeon available to them, Reivyn expected their experience gains to see a significant boost as some sort of schedule was devised to see them taking advantage of the resource.

Reivyn saw a large crowd of people waiting at the gates of Haluville as he, Teilon, and the others finally traversed the last little bit to arrive in the town proper. There were no expectant families suddenly receiving a shock that their child didn't return home. Not many of the levies had lost their lives in the excursion, and the few who had had already been transported home to allow their families to mourn and lay them to rest.

Each of the returning teens spotted their families and immediately abandoned their friends to reunite with the loved ones they had been separated from. Reivyn located his mother standing with his two sisters, and he sprinted forward to be enveloped in a tight group hug. His mother didn't sob or exclaim out loud, but he could feel the warm wetness of tears flowing down her face. His mother was fairly tall, so despite growing at a prodigious rate, he was still slightly shorter than she was.

"I'm home, mom," he consoled her. "I'm home."



"...And then a big, hulking beast came crashing out of the woods. Rawr," Reivyn held up his hands like they were beast claws and took large, exaggerated steps towards his sisters. They squealed in delight and danced back away from him. "I thought to myself, 'No way am I going to let some stupid monster endanger my friends!' And so with a mighty heave, I hurled my spear at it and defeated it in one blow!"

"Nu uh! You did not," Kailey said as she stuck her tongue out. Reivyn placed his hand on his heart in mock indignation.

"Of course I did," he retorted. "Who do you think your brother is? I'm the Hero of this story. My training with dad didn't go unrewarded, and I was given a mighty Class and imbued with the strength of 10 men!" He kneeled down and curled his biceps in front of his sisters. They looped their hands around his arms, and he stood up and casually lifted them up and down while they giggled.

"Alright, girls, leave your brother alone for a bit," Ameliyn said patiently.

"Awwww, but we don't wanna," Riley complained from her position hanging from her brother's arm. Reivyn set his sisters down, and Ameliyn shooed them out of the house to the backyard.

"What really happened?" Ameliyn looked over at Reivyn with a bit of anxiety. Her son was standing in front of her, unharmed, but she was still worried about what he could have gone through.

"Knight-Captain Reifold casually swung his sword from his horse in the middle of the formation and split the ogre in half," he shrugged his shoulders like it was no big deal. "I didn't even fight in that first battle. I just stood there and watched."

"Knight-Captain Reifold was that man who singled you out and took you away when he could have just turned a blind eye?" His mother clearly held a lot of resentment towards the man.

"Actually, he wasn't so bad," Reivyn said. "He and the Adjutant took good care of me. There were some hiccups and a bit of danger, but they kept a special eye out for me and even assigned me to be the Aide of the Adjutant, Knight-Lieutenant Brand, after I got some experience with the regular troops."

"Wait, wait, wait... What?" Ameliyn waved her hands about in front of her as she asked in confusion. "Weren't you just conscripted as a basic levy? What do you mean 'experience with the regular troops' and 'Aide to the Adjutant?'"

"Oh yeah, you don't know. I didn't have time to go into it before leaving, but the System prevented me from being conscripted as the Class Peasant Levy. It said that my bloodline prevented the designation 'Peasant.' I'm an Epic Fighter Class. What's that all about?" He narrowed his eyes at his mother in suspicion.

Ameliyn sighed as a look of sorrow briefly flashed across her face. "You have the blood of the Imperial Line of Vynndin running through you. It will probably take a couple of generations before the System no longer officially recognizes it," she casually dropped a huge piece of news to Reivyn.

Reivyn froze as his mind practically exploded. Never in a million years would he have expected to hear something like that. He had assumed not being able to be designated as a peasant had something to do with his Mythic Skill or something.

"Woah! You can't say something like that and just leave it," Reivyn said. "Wh-wh-wh- I don't even know where to begin. If we're from some imperial bloodline, what are we doing all the way out here in basically the frontier? Are we hiding from assassins? I ran into an assassin! Did he know who I was? Is there some sort of secret cabal to retake the throne?" Reivyn rattled off several questions in quick succession. His mind was racing and making connections that hadn't previously been there.

"Shh, calm down," Ameliyn soothed Reivyn while rubbing his shoulder and upper arm. "It's a long story, and I'll be happy to tell it to you when your father is here, but for now I'll just give you the basics. Your father and I grew up in the Vynndin Empire, which is located in a Tier 4 Region, but it doesn't exist anymore. It's gone. There's no secret cabal to retake the throne. We're not hiding from - wait! What?! Assassin? What did you say?! Explain, now!" There was a fire in her eyes as she glared at her son. He shrunk beneath the might of the fury contained within that look.

"Well," Reivyn said with his head lowered. "I had a conflict with one of the soldiers who turned out to be a real piece of work. He took everything that happened to him because of his own actions as somehow my fault, even though I literally didn't do anything. When we were at the base camp for the new Dungeon - that was the reason for the conscription, to secure a new Dungeon in the mountains at the edge of the county - some shadowy figure attacked me while I was on patrol. We thought he was part of an attack on the camp, but he was alone and clearly after me, specifically.

"Later when the troops from the neighboring county came to press their claim because of the ambiguous county lines, he showed up again in the ranks of the other side. It turned out he had been working with the crazy loon who had blamed me for his problems, and they manufactured a situation where I would be exhausted and unable to escape when the assassin attacked a second time. Luckily one of the adventurers I had gained a passing acquaintance with spotted the danger and saved me.

"Mom, that guy was strong. He appeared in the middle of pitched combat from nearly a hundred yards away in an instant, and he had several mid-level Tier 3's terrified of his presence. All the while, he treated them like air as he casually uncovered the evidence of the collusion." Reivyn clenched his fist in excitement. Ameliyn looked at her son's obvious idolization with a smile on her face.

"Well, I'll have to thank him personally one day," Ameliyn said. "Is he the man you've set your sights on as a goal?"

Reivyn shook his head. "I know almost nothing about him. He only spoke one sentence to me, and I never witnessed exactly how strong he was. If I'm going to set someone as a goal to work towards, it would be someone like Knight-Captain Reifold. A man of strength and upright character."

Ameliyn crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. "Oh, a man of upright character you say? Do you have any plans of being a child snatcher in the future, then?"

Reivyn rolled his eyes at his mother. "Mom, it wasn't like that. And I told you they took special care of me."

"He will forever be the man who took my baby away from me," she harrumphed.

"Oh, I got something for you," Reivyn changed the subject. He grabbed his pack and rummaged through it. He had grabbed a couple of things that he thought his mom and sisters might find interesting when he was shopping the other day in Magron. He pulled the items out as he searched for the present he had gotten for his mother.

He pulled out two identical Warrior-Princess dolls that he got for his sisters. They were little plush figures of a woman attired in a dress and tiara, but they were holding swords. There weren't anything exquisitely crafted, but they had enough detail to see the facial features and they were well made. One was wearing a blue dress and the other a red one, and they each had a letter sewn onto them. He figured they were designed to represent the initials of any little girl who got one, but he couldn't find one with a "K."

He set the two dolls aside and finally pulled out the object for his mother he had been searching for. He pulled it out, and, keeping it cupped in his hand, he brought it over to his mother. She watched him with interest as he placed his hands in hers.

"I didn't have enough money to get a nice chain to go with it, but this caught my eye from one of the booths in the market square. I don't think the peddler knew what it was, and he had it on display as just a pretty stone." Reivyn removed his hand, and a small medallion made of a clear, glass-like stone attached to a copper necklace was left in his mother's hand.

"Oh, it's very pretty," Ameliyn inspected the bauble with interest.

"Look at it with Mana Sight," Reivyn said.

"Oh, wow. This is a Light Mana attuned Mana Stone. These are very rare to find out in a low Tier region like this," Ameliyn said with some delight. "How did you manage to find one?"

"I was practicing my Identify {Mundane} Skill while walking through the market, and this thing caught my interest when nothing happened when I used the Skill on it. So I activated Mana Sight, and I saw the swirling Light mana - which I unlocked the affinity, too, by the way - inside, and I immediately thought of you," Reivyn explained.

"I'm more impressed that you unlocked the Light Affinity," Ameliyn said. "Most people can't figure out the trick to merge the four basic elements without a guide"

"There's a trick to it?" Reivyn asked. "I got it on my first try." Ameliyn froze in her inspection of the Mana Stone.

"I forgot that I didn't give birth to a human baby, but instead a little monster," Ameliyn sighed. "I swear you were given to me as some sort of test."

Reivyn laughed as he scooped up the dolls for his sisters. "I'm going to give Kailey and Riley their presents," he yelled over his shoulder as he made his escape. He made his way over to his sisters who were laughing and playing in their own little world with his hands concealed behind his back.

"Hey, I got a present for each of you," He called out to them. They stopped what they were doing and ran up to him with glee.

"Yay! Presents," they said in unison. Reivyn chuckled as he pulled the dolls out from behind him and presented them to his sisters. He handed the one with an "R" on it to Kailey, and he handed the one with an "L" on it to Riley.

"Look here, it has the letter of your first name's sewn on it so you know which one is which," he pointed out. The girls frowned and looked up at Reivyn with indignation.

"Riley's name starts with an 'R' not an 'L,'" Kailey complained.

"Yeah, and Kailey's name starts with a 'K' not an 'R,'" Riley said. "You did it wrong."

"You did it wrong," Kailey echoed.

"Kailey? Riley? What are you talking about? I picked out the letters to your names," he pointed at Riley. "Left." He pointed at Kailey. "Right. Those are your names: Left and Right." Reivyn had a look of confusion on his face.

"My name's not Left!" Riley yelled with a stamp of her foot.

"I'm not Right!" Kailey mimicked her sister.

"Yup, you're wrong," Reivyn teased as he bent down really fast and snaked his arms out to tickle his sisters. They squealed and took off running, forgetting about their indignation at being named Left and Right.


"Now, like what you did to gain the Light Affinity, focus on all four elements, but, instead of merging them together inside your pure mana, concentrate on all of the tiny, miniscule motes and suck every last one of them out. Don't stop at just removing them from the orb, but keep pulling them further and further away."

Reivyn was seated cross-legged on the ground in the living room with Ameliyn seated just behind him. She was guiding him on the steps required to unlock more of the advanced affinities. They were currently working on how to unlock the Darkness Affinity.

Reivyn would have definitely hit a wall with this one. He might have eventually figured it out on his own, but it would have taken a long time. He had thought that his mana orb was already as pure as it could get, but with the guidance of his mother, he discovered that extremely tiny motes of the elements floated about within his conjuration. The next stumbling block would have been that he wouldn't have known that he would have to extract them further away from the orb than just removing them.

He concentrated on the task at hand. The elements didn't resist or elude him, but as he swept them up in one spot of the orb, others would make their way in on the other side. It wasn't a one to one addition to what he was removing, though, and he eventually cleared all of the elements out of his mana. He felt a subtle shift in the mana, and he opened his eyes.

New Affinity Unlocked!
Darkness (1)

A black, shimmering ball floated in his palm. It was hard to describe exactly what it looked like, but the edges weren't distinct. It was like a shadow given substance, but it leaked back into incorporeality the further it got away from the center. He let it disperse as he turned to face his mother.

"I don't understand. Shouldn't removing all of the 'impurities' from the mana orb just make extremely pure mana?" Reivyn questioned with a frown. Ameliyn chuckled at the question.

"Logically, that would make sense. But," she emphasized with a raised finger, "we're dealing with mana. Mana operates under different rules than the mundane world. All of those 'impurities,' as you called them, are actually part of pure mana. You can think of them like the mortar that holds bricks together. Removing them doesn't make the structure crumble, though, like it would in real life. It just changes the nature of the mana.

"Mana, for the most part, isn't inherently good or evil. Light mana isn't good, and darkness mana isn't evil. Light is just all of the basic elements combined together, and darkness is just their absolute absence. That being said, there are some forms of mana that are good and evil aligned. They operate under different rules than basic mana, and they delve into faith and divinity."

"I'm pretty sure I've seen them," Reivyn mused. "Knight-Captain Reifold is a Paladin, and I saw him using some powerful mana Skills. Knight-Lieutenant Brand told me his mana operated under fundamentally different rules. And there was a revolting mana from the Revenant I fought. It made me want to gag just sensing it."

"Stop!" Ameliyn shouted. She lifted her head up and covered her face with her hands. "Just stop." She paused for a moment to compose herself. "A Revenant?! You encountered a Revenant all the way out here?" She stared at Reivyn who gave her a sheepish smile. "When your father gets home, you are going to sit down and tell us everything that happened. Not in little pieces. From start to finish. You will leave nothing out. Do you understand?"

Reivyn nodded his head vigorously. Of course his mother would know what a Revenant was. After the revelation of her and Refix having grown up in a Tier 4 Region, Reivyn suspected their knowledge base was vastly superior to even the most educated citizenry of the kingdom they resided in.

"Of course," Reivyn agreed. "Though after mentioning the assassin and the Revenant, there's not much more to say. There was just the giant demon, the beast tide, the orc and goblin army, and the enslaved ogre in the boss room of the Dungeon." Reivyn recalled each of the incidents in a nonchalant manner.

"Aaahhh, you're going to give me a heart attack!" Ameliyn shouted. "Giant DEMON! Beast tide! Orc army and ogres? And you went into a Dungeon?! You're Tier ONE, Reivyn. Even the lowest Tier Dungeons aren't safe until you're securely in Tier 2, and then a boss room has at least a half-tier higher difficulty level." She pulled at her hair in exasperation. "You just wait until your father gets home." There was a definite threat in her voice.

"I think..." Reivyn said as he stood up. "I think I've learned enough for now. I'm going to go consolidate my affinities and Skills." He made a quick retreat to his room.

"Yeah, you do that!" Ameliyn called out after him. "Not much more to say," Reivyn heard her muttering as he closed the door to his room. His mother was scary when she was mad.

He sat on his bed and entered a state of meditation. Until his father got home, he had decided to work exclusively on his mana Skills. He felt it was prudent to put unlocking more mana affinities on hold until his mother calmed down.


"Mom, is there a way to get a Tier 3 Class while in Tier 2? From what I heard from the others, conscription was the only way they knew to get a Tier 2 Class in Tier 1," Reivyn asked.

"Of course there is," Ameliyn answered. "Let's think about it. What caused you to have a Tier 2 Class in Tier 1?"

"The conscription," Reivyn answered.

"Not quite. Think about it deeper. What did the conscription do?"

"It caused the System to force me into a Class..." Reivyn said with dawning realization. "So the System has to force a class. If that's all it takes, how come it's not more common?"

"Peasant Levy has very low requirements to unlock as a Class. I assume it only requires a Vitality Stat of 20, which is one of the reasons that was the stipulation. Higher Tiers have more stringent requirements, so even if there was a situation where the System could force a Class onto someone, if you don't meet the requirements, it's not an option for the System to choose for you.

"Why do you ask? Do you want to try and trick the System into forcing you into a higher Tier Class again?"

"Yeah, I've been thinking about it," Reivyn nodded. "From what I've been told, Tier 1 and 2 Classes are limited to Rare, and if I just go along with life passively, my Tier 2 Class will naturally be restricted to another Tier 2 Class. I already have an Epic rarity Combat Class, and if I Tier up, I can either keep the same Class, but downgraded to Rare, or I can switch focuses, but it would still be Rare. Any way I think of it, it seems like a downgrade instead of an upgrade."

"Hmmm, that makes sense," Ameliyn said. "Peasant Levy is just an Uncommon Class, so the upgrade isn't so pronounced, though it is there. Having a Rare Class upgraded to Epic definitely opens up opportunities. What kind of focus were you thinking of for your next Class?"

"I think I should choose something to take advantage of my Mental Stats and Mana Skills. I've always had more talent in those aspects, and I want to be well rounded."

"That's a good idea. I imagine you want to have a Rare Tier 3 Class. The Stat requirements for those are typically around 200, but Stat requirements aren't the only ones. There are Skills, both the ones you have unlocked and their Level, and the System also takes your life experience into account. Getting Achievements can both unlock more Class possibilities and lower the requirements. What are your Mental Stats right now?"

"Around 31 for all three," Reivyn answered. "I'm level 11, and I get 6 unassigned Stat Points per level up. So I have 19 more levels at 6 Stat Points, which means I have another 114 Stat Points to freely assign. That's not enough to get a Stat to 200..." Reivyn tapped his chin in contemplation. "I also have one Achievement that gave me plus one to all of my Mental Stats."

"Oh, nice," Ameliyn said. "It's common knowledge in higher Tier Regions that Achievements that award a specific set of Stats lower the requirements by one point per Stat increase. There are four Mental Stats, so that Achievement lowers the requirements by 4 points. Too bad you don't have an Achievement that granted points in Luck. Those achievements lower the requirements by 5 per Luck Stat given."

"Umm, actually," Reivyn said, "I did get an Achievement that gave me two points in Luck."

Ameliyn looked at her son with some surprise. "Ok, then. That means you only need around 186 points in your Mental Stats to meet the requirements of a Rare Tier 3 Class, but I think you're thinking about this the wrong way. You don't have to race to get your Stats at the required amount before you reach Tier 2 if you're aiming to force a Class. Don't you remember that all of the other villagers had their Tier 1 Classes overwritten and they got all of their additional Stat Points retroactively? I think the fact that you got a Class ahead of time has been affecting your thought process."

"Oh yeah, you're right," Reivyn smacked his head. "I completely forgot about that. In that case, I can take a Rare Tier 2 Class for several levels before trying to get it changed. Why don't more people do this?"

"Well, it's not common knowledge in lower Tier Regions, as evidenced by your friends only knowing about conscription. Though that doesn't mean the higher ups don't know about it. The real bottleneck for allowing someone to force a higher Tier Class, though, is the life experience. Most people will never encounter situations that the System will count as a higher Tier fulfillment. You would have to live your life and do things that the higher Tier would typically do, and not just one or two things. The fights that you've described sound like a good start, but you would probably need to consistently explore the 2nd floor of the Dungeon beyond the boss room for the System to count it."

"Hmmm... I think I can manage that if I can get into the right group," Reivyn said. He recalled the adventurer that had saved him and his team. He wouldn't need to find them specifically, but the fact they were around meant there might be others that were powerful enough. He would just need to figure out how to get into such a team.

"Ok, we know it's possible, and I have a clear path on gaining the appropriate life experience, most likely. Now I just need to figure out a way to force a Class."

"You can apply for an academy in the capital. I know they exist, and such academies typically grant a Class. If you meet the life experience requirements and graduate from the academy, the System is likely to give you the Class ahead of the typical trigger, which is reaching max level and experience in Tier 2. Gaining admission into such an academy, though, would very likely interfere with your plans to go to the Dungeon. You would have to jump through some hoops to get in."

Reivyn thought about the sealed envelope containing the letter of recommendation from Knight-Captain Reifold. "I don't think I have to worry about that. Ok, I think I have a clear path ahead of me." Reivyn smiled.

The front door opened, and the two looked up to see a tired Refix enter the house.

"Hey," he immediately walked over to Ameliyn to give her a hug and kiss in greeting. "So what did I miss while I was gone?" He stood there with his arm around his wife and smile on his face.

Reivyn and Ameliyn looked at each other before Reivyn answered. "Nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary happened." Ameliyn snorted and rolled her eyes as Reivyn laughed.

Refix looked between the two of them, confusion written on his face. "Ok, what am I missing?"

Ameliyn gave Reivyn a severe look. "Your son went on an adventure," she said. "And now that you're back, he's going to tell us exactly what those adventures were."

Reivyn felt sweat trickle down the side of his face. It was going to be a long night.

A note from Kyfe

This chapter was published on Monday on Patreon.

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