"You don't have to worry about anyone trying to snatch you up against your will," Refix said. "Trust me, there's nobody around with a big enough fist to throw their weight around our family. That being said, it's good practice to always keep your cards close to your chest, and there's no reason to take the risk of accidentally making an enemy out of any of the churches."
"Yeah, one of the Sword-Priests, a decent guy by the name Josn, tried to recruit me, actually," Reivyn revealed. "We had a run-in where he tried to use the angle of heresy because of the flower crowns Kailey and Riley made to interrogate us on the road to the Dungeon Town. We met up later due to the Abyss Affinity making me immune to the corruption, and he turned out to be alright.
"He gave me a badge that represents that I'm a Friend of the Church."
"That's not bad at all. The churches all have connections with Ascended beings, so they have access to knowledge of all sorts. Magical weaves and how to unlock some pretty potent Skills are definitely things you can get if you keep up that relationship. All the more reason to hide your Status from them."
"Yes," Reivyn agreed. "What do I need to do?"
"Ok, pull up your Status Page," Refix instructed. Reivyn nodded his head for his father to continue. "Now, while leaving it open, open up another Status Page. It's kind of tricky to get the System to - "
"Got it," Reivyn said. Refix looked at him with a flat look for a moment.
"I forgot, you have the Veridical Affinity already," Refix shook his head. "The only thing I really know about that Affinity, other than it being the true building block of mana for the Realm, is that the System uses it.
"Ok, so this should be very easy for you then. You saw that I only sent over the one Skill to you when you asked about my Weapons Prodigy, and I know that you've looked at your Status Page with only your Stats and not your Skills and vice versa. This is the same concept, kind of.
"The next step is to focus on your second page and will it to be just a representation of your Status Page. Not your Status Page itself. Does that make sense?"
"Kind of like a reflection?" Reivyn asked.
"Exactly. Well, not exactly. You don't want the words to be flipped like in a mirror, that would definitely give the jig up," Refix chuckled.
Reivyn concentrated on the second Status page that he had pulled up next to the first one, and with a mental tug, he made it into a picture of the other Status page. The page seemed to lose its connection with his inner being, but it remained tethered to the other Status page. He couldn't see it with Mana Sight or anything, but he could tell that his Veridical Affinity was giving him that sense.
Since my Veridical Affinity is helping me to sense that it's connected to another page and not my being, will it also help me spot other people who have done this trick? Questions for later, Reivyn mused.
"Ok, now that it's not representing who you are but instead representing the Status page, all you have to do is will it to change the numbers and what is available to be shown. That's it. If you can get this far with manipulating your Status Page, then changing numbers around is actually the easy part."
"What's stopping me from showing that I have like 1 in all of my Stats. Or 1,000 for that matter?" Reivyn asked.
"Nothing," Refix replied. "But who would believe that? In order to sell the lie, it needs to be believable. One of the reasons your mother's and my Status page are as believable as they are is because we're in a Tier 1 Region. If we were in a Tier 3 or 4 Region, it would make more sense to let more of our true abilities show on our Status pages because everyone else would be stronger than the average person here is."
"That makes sense," Reivyn said. "But, especially since you said I don't have to worry about anyone trying to snatch me away against my will, I don't particularly want to hide who I am or what I'm capable of. The main purpose of going to the Academy is to force the Class transition, and I'm betting that I'll need to graduate at the top of my class in order to get that function to activate from the System.
"If I'm going to stand out anyway, might as well stand out as exactly who I am. I'll just hide my Tier 5 and above Skills and Affinities."
"Hey, that sounds good to me," Refix said. "There's no reason you can't shine bright wherever you go. You're a Vynn." Refix winked at his son.
"Ok, so let me just concentrate here..." Reivyn skipped over all of his Stats and moved his focus down to his Skills and Affinities. He simply cut off the page when it reached that low. On second thought, there's one other Skill I should probably get rid of, just in case. He also erased the Dreams of the Past Skill from the list. I don't think this one would cause me any problems, but why chance it?
"Ok, what's the next step?" Reivyn looked at his dad.
"Ok, now what you do, is you simply overlay your fake Status Page with your real one. You combine them in a way that it's like pages in a book. Place the fake one on top, and make the real one 'Page 2.'" Reivyn did as instructed. With the help of his Veridical Affinity and the practice he just got manipulating his Status, it was done in an instant. He nodded for Refix to continue.
"The last step is to will your second page - the Real Status - to be locked, and only you have the key. Simple. Easy." Reivyn locked the second page and got a notification for his efforts.
New Skill Unlocked!
"Status Manipulation?" Reivyn said out loud. He looked up at his dad. "You said this was how to get the Status Lock Skill, but you never mentioned Status Manipulation." Refix frowned.
"I don't have Status Manipulation," he answered. "It's probably because you have the Veridical Affinity. Hey, more Skills is a good thing, so just slowly explore it when you have the chance."
"Alright, but it says that my Status Lock Skill is only at Level 1. That's not going to prevent too many people from being able to see through it," Reivyn pointed out.
"Have no fear! Your mother and I already considered this. Here," Refix pulled out a little amulet and handed it to Reivyn. Reivyn inspected it and noticed that the cord was actually tightly braided with some sort of vine. He threw an Inspect at it.
|Flower Knight's Amulet
Shields the wearer from Inspection.
"Your mother enchanted the amulet with her illusion abilities. It will hold off anyone below mid-Expert in any kind of Analyze Skill. She got your sisters to make the cord. It was more of an idea to see if she could make a collaborative magic item with them than for any real function, but it seems to have worked," Refix said.
"Ok, but if anyone sees this amulet, then they'll know that I have a fake Status page by Inspecting the amulet," Reivyn pointed out.
"Ahh, that's the beauty of it, though," Refix retorted. "The effect of the amulet applies to itself when it's active. Put it on and inspect it again."
Reivyn put the amulet on and tucked it into his shirt while pulsing some mana into it to activate it. He looked at the cord and threw another Inspect at it.
"Huh, that's neat," Reivyn said. "Well, I guess with this I'm good to go, now."
"Yup," Refix nodded. "And any of the tools the Academy uses to Analyze will also be subjected to the restriction placed on the Amulet. The people at the Academy know that they have some people with sensitive information and backing, so they likely restrict their tools to just below the Expert Level. I'm not 100% sure, but that seems to be the standard practice.
"Alright, now that we're done with that, time to work on your Breath Control Skill some more," Refix clapped his hands together. "We'll make sure you're able to defend yourself land, air, or sea."
The words jolted Reivyn momentarily. He glanced at his father and said, "I think 'air, land, and sea' has a better ring to it."
"Hmmm, I guess it does," Refix chuckled. "But you can't fly yet, so it's a moot point."
"Yet?" Reivyn cocked his head. Refix winked again.
"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon," Teilon said as he dragged Reivyn out of his house. "We've been in The Capital for almost two months now, and we've done only a little exploring. Melissa said there's some 'to-do' going on today, so we're gonna go visit a restaurant, do some shopping, and take a peek at what's got her all excited."
Reivyn let Teilon drag him out. If he really didn't want to go, Teilon didn't have nearly enough Strength to force him to move. Kimberly was there as well, and she was just as excited as Teilon was to go out and about.
"We'll meet up with Melissa and the rest over at this fancy place near the main street," Teilon continued, letting go of Reivyn once he noticed they were firmly outside and walking in the right direction.
"Apparently, it's better than anything we had even at the Count's table," Kimberly spoke up. "And since we have all of that money from the Experience Crystals we sold to the Adventurer's Guild a while back burning a hole in our pockets, we decided it would be a good idea to experience it before the semester starts in a couple of weeks."
"Yeah, we don't know how busy we'll be once the semester begins," Teilon said. "I mean, we haven't seen Melissa or Larissa in a long time. It seems they have a short break between the end of the semester they were just in and the admissions for the next."
"Has she or Larissa explained anything about the admissions process to either of you?" Reivyn asked as they strolled through the streets. The pedestrian traffic began picking up immediately after only getting a little ways away from the residential district Reivyn's parents had settled in.
"Yeah, a little," Kimberly said. "We've already submitted our copies of the Count's letter as a recommendation, and we were told that we were already accepted. We just have to show up on Admissions day to run through some Martial Combat so they can get a gauge of where we stack up against the others in our Class."
"Kimberly won't tell you, but she's pretty nervous," Teilon said with a conspiratorial look at Reivyn, holding his hand against his mouth like he was trying to hide his obviously not whispered words from Kimberly. Kimberly just rolled her eyes. "I mean, we're just in the beginning stages of Tier 2, and because of our Peasant Levy Tier 1 Class, we're going to be the youngest applicants there."
"We're both a little nervous," Kimberly admitted. Teilon shrugged and nodded his head in agreement. "We don't know anything about the other talented people applying for the Knight Academy."
"You guys will be fine," Reivyn said. "Despite Teilon's constant complaints about training, you guys never slacked off, and you have tons of real-world combat experience. I doubt there are going to be many people in your Class that stood and faced an invasion of thousands of Tier 3 Revenants and Tier 4 demons."
"Well, when you put it like that..." Teilon said, trailing off. "Anyway, it doesn't matter all that much how we do in the Admissions tests. We're already accepted as students."
"Yeah, there might be a few nobles who are a bit higher level than you, but their Tier 1 Classes are also only going to be Uncommon, just like yours. And Tier 2 is restricted to Rare Classes, and you both have those, as well. I'll make a bet with you that, with your Skills and experience, you're going to be two of the better applicants in your class."
"We'll see," Kimberly said as she craned her neck to see above the crowd. "We're almost to the street the restaurant is on. It should be just ahead," Kimberly pointed to a side street branching off of the main road. "A few more minutes of walking and we should be able to spot Melissa or Larissa waiting for us."
The trio continued to banter as they made their way through the throng of people. Sure enough, after a couple of minutes, Reivyn spotted Melissa standing at the foot of a wide staircase leading up to an extravagantly decorated building. All of the buildings along the main road, and the ones on the side roads closest to it, were expensive-looking, but this one stood out even among the others.
It doesn't stand out because of how lavish it is, Reivyn noted as he took it in. It stands out because the quality is obvious while also being much more subtle as compared to its neighbors. All of the buildings seem to be doing their best to attract attention, but the owner of this restaurant has done so by focusing on the opposite. It actually stands out more because of it.
Reivyn and his friends walked up to Melissa. He hadn't noticed right away because of all of the other people walking around and waiting in front of the restaurant, but Melissa wasn't accompanied by just Larissa and Erik. There were three other young girls around Melissa and Larissa's age standing and talking with them.
Reivyn took the opportunity of his high Perception Stat to observe them from afar. The other three girls were wearing clothes of just as fine a quality as Melissa and her sister, but two of them were obviously not quite as pretty as Melissa.
Oh, they're still pretty, Reivyn thought to himself. But they seem to lack a certain something when compared to Melissa and her other friend. I can't quite place my finger on it. It might be something intangible, like poise or something. If I had to bet, I would say they have a lower Charisma Stat. Yeah, that makes sense.
Reivyn hadn't interacted with too many people - other than my parents, now that I think about it - who had Charisma unlocked. It made sense that the scions of wealthy and noble families would have the Stat unlocked.
In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense that Melissa and Larissa would appeal to me so much more than any of the other Adventurers in the Dungeon Town. My own Charisma Stat probably had the same effect on them, as well.
Reivyn, Teilon, and Kimberly finally got close enough to be seen by Larissa, and she jumped up and down in excitement as the three friends approached.
"Oh, oh, oh, here they are," Larissa shouted, waving at the three. Reivyn just shook his head slightly and smiled.
The other girls stopped their conversation and turned to take Reivyn and his friends in as they approached. Reivyn could practically feel the eyeballs on him as the three new girls looked him up and down from top to bottom. He waved as he approached and was about to greet Melissa, but one of the girls spoke up before him.
"Melissa, you never said your new friend was so cute." She gave a sly smile and wink to Reivyn as she spoke to Melissa.
Many thoughts flashed through Reivyn's mind as he processed the words, and he decided to just go with it. He struck a pose, sticking one leg forward with one hand on his hip. He lifted his chin as he faced the girl who had spoken up.
"I don't know what Melissa has told you about me, but surely whoever had done whatever exploits she regaled you with couldn't possibly be any less dashing than this," Reivyn moved his free hand from his head to his waist like he was displaying goods to a customer. The three girls froze, eyes wide, and the one who had initially spoken up burst into laughter.
"He's funny, too," she said. Melissa glared daggers at him for a moment before stepping in close to him.
"I know I said I would introduce you to other people of similar standing to me," she whispered, "but could you please try not to seduce them. Reign in the flirting a little. You just met them." Reivyn pulled his head back in surprise as he looked at Melissa.
"Flirting?" he asked, pointing to himself. "I thought I was just being a narcissist. You know, trying to fit into the group," he winked as he replied to Melissa. She rolled her eyes and then stuck her tongue out at him.
"Hahaha, I like this guy," the girl said, stepping forward with her hand held out, palm down. "My name is Alisia." Reivyn looked at the hand and recalled the lessons on etiquette his mother had given him. He gently grabbed her hand and bent down to place a kiss on her knuckles, most of it centered on his own thumb.
"A kiss directly on the back of the hand is to show that you're standing is higher than the person you're greeting," his mother had told him. "A kiss on the back of your thumb, and only your thumb, is a sign of being subordinate. To display that you're an equal, you would kiss the knuckles and your own thumb, both, and to be polite you would mainly focus on your thumb. If you want to show that you're interested in a lady of equal standing, you graze your thumb and focus on the knuckles.
"There are a lot of little subtleties to it, but because of who you are, you should greet everyone you meet as an equal. You're technically higher in status than everyone here, but our empire is gone, so we're adrift. Never show subservience, though, not even to the local royal family. If there's any fallout from your actions, don't worry about it. Your father and I will settle it for you."
"The pleasure's all mine, Miss Alisia," Reivyn responded, coming back to the present. He stood up straight and smiled at the girl who grew a slight blush on her cheeks at his actions. Reivyn glanced over and saw that all of the other girls were staring at him, even Melissa and Larissa, with open mouths.
Uh oh, Reivyn thought. Are the rules different here? Did I just put my foot in my mouth? Before he had time to get nervous, though, Melissa came out of her stunned state and introduced the other two girls. She walked over and placed her hands on their shoulders as she introduced them.
"This lovely lady is Miss Erin Greene." Erin gave a shy smile before looking down at her feet. Melissa moved over to the other girl. "And this friend of mine is Miss Haylen Cayn. These three young ladies are my best friends."
"Nice to meet you," Haylen said with a small smile. She did not extend her hand as Alisia had.
What does it mean?! Reivyn was freaking out just a little bit. His mother had mentioned that her empire was considerably further away, and he knew that his parents hadn't interacted much with the upper echelons in this particular Region. Well, the damage is done, either way. Let's just keep going with it.
"And this is Reivyn, Teilon, and Kimberly," Melissa continued with the introductions, indicating each of them in turn to the new girls. Teilon was on good behavior, so he just smiled and waved when he was introduced, and Kimberly stepped forward and gave a friendly handshake herself to each of the new girls.
"C'mon," Alisia said, stepping forward. She looped her arm in with Reivyn's as she turned them to the stairs. "You'll sit next to me," she said, looking up at Reivyn. Reivyn noticed Melissa frowning at the development, and he felt a headache coming on.
Please don't let this be a repeat of the Count's Victory Feast. I definitely don't want to be a reason for a schism in their friendship, either.
Reivyn didn't have to worry about the situation as he had feared. The meal had been rather pleasant, and Alisia had backed off from making any other kinds of overtures after they had been seated at their table. Melissa also didn't seem to be interested in fighting with her friend over him.
Either she doesn't want to compete with her friend for whatever reason, or she's backed off a little after the meal at our house, Reivyn thought as they sat around and continued to talk about various things. Mom did tell me that she let a little of her power leak through when she met Melissa. I don't know how she took that, but everything seems to be normal on the surface.
"So what's the issue with this supposed 'event' that Melissa mentioned," Teilon finally asked. Reivyn could sense that his anticipation had been building the entire meal as nobody had brought it up. They had spoken about their time in the conscripts, the Dungeon Town, and the city defense while the other girls had given them some stories about their time in the Academy.
"Oh, right!" Alisia perked up. "Supposedly, one of the Princes of Eldiar is coming to the Magic Academy this semester." She seemed to be very enthusiastic about the notion. She glanced at Reivyn and gave him a small half-smile. "Rumors are that he's quite handsome. I bet he might be just a little less dashing than you are."
"Impossible!" Reivyn exclaimed. "I mean, you can see me, can't you?" He held his arms out to the side in a manner to invite inspection. Alisia and the other girls giggled at his display. Melissa just shook her head with a smile. Yeah, she's definitely backed down from her previous strategy, Reivyn noted.
"Ok, but what does that mean?" Teilon spoke up. The girls all looked at him in confusion. Teilon raised his hands in question. "What's Eldiar? It's my first time hearing of it."
"O~h," Alisia said in realization. "I guess it makes sense that you haven't heard of it. You guys are new to The Capital, after all. Eldiar is the Tier 2 Kingdom that this one is sworn to. The prince that's coming is one of the first cousins to the royal family, ahem," Alisia coughed into her hand. "Even so, his rank is above everyone else's here, so it's a 'big deal.'" She said that last part with air quotes.
"Huh, but why would he come down to this Academy? I thought the goal of most of the students attending was to go up to theirs," Teilon said.
"Well, it's partly an inspection - of the Academies themselves, the teachers, and the students - and partly because of the new Dungeon you guys already explored," Alisia answered. "This new Dungeon is apparently Tier 3 from the second floor down, and the Dungeons in their kingdom are obviously Tier 2 Dungeons. It would take a lot more time and effort to send him up to the Tier 3 Region they're sworn to than it would be to come down to one of their vassal kingdoms."
"That makes sense," Reivyn said. "That second floor boss room, on hard-mode, gives a lot of Experience. Do we know if he's bringing an entire entourage to help him run the Dungeon?"
"There will definitely be guards," Melissa said. "But he's probably going to recruit a Party from the Magic and Knight Academies. That's one of the reasons we chose this restaurant today. His supposed route is going to lead him down this road, and we might have the chance to show our faces. If he sees us, he might be more likely to remember us when the time comes for him to finally make a Party to go to the Dungeon."
"We just came from there," Reivyn pointed out. "I'm not necessarily opposed to going back and running it again, but the semester is just about to start, and it's not exactly around the corner."
"Don't worry," Melissa replied. "He'll probably choose to go towards the end of his visit, and he might use faster transportation. You'll have plenty of time to experience the Academy properly if he chooses to add you to the Party."
"Shh, shh," Alisia said, holding her hands out and moving them up and down to silence the people at the table. "Do you hear that?"
Reivyn cocked his head and utilized his Perception Stat. He could hear the faint sounds of the crowd growing in the distance now that he paid attention.
"Speak of the devil..." Alisia said. "Let's get to the window and get a look."
They had reserved a table on the edge of the room for the very reason that Alisia just brought up, so the girls simply got up out of their seats and turned around to look through the window. Reivyn wasn't that interested in looking at this prince fellow, but he shrugged and joined them in looking out.
They were on the second floor of the restaurant, and even the first floor was raised up above the level of the road, so they had quite the vantage to look down. The glass was crystal clear, and the windows were quite large, so they had a good view of the street.
They stood and watched as a procession finally came into view, the pedestrians being herded off of the street to the sides. The crowd gathered to witness the scene as it grew and grew, and Reivyn finally spotted a young man around their age on a white horse, surrounded by the rest of his guards and other attendants.
He wore splendid, shining garments, and he had a small, unassuming crown on his head.
He held his hand up and said something to one of the closer guards, and the procession came to a momentary halt. The prince looked up at the window Reivyn and the other girls were at before smiling and resuming his trek through the streets.
"Ahhh, he looked at me!" Haylen called out, fanning herself. The other girls were almost as excited as she was, but Reivyn saw that Alisia and Melissa rolled their eyes at their friend's outburst.
Reivyn frowned, though.
He wasn't looking at Haylen or the other girls, he thought. He was looking at me.