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«Warrior» «Cleric» «Rogue» «Paladin» «Wizard» «Ranger»

Only these six «Classes» could obtain a «Subclass», which practically doubled their overall potential. A person needed at least three «Aspects» to obtain one of the «Classes», but most of the population were only born with one. If you were extremely lucky, you could be born with two. Gods often gave the third or it was gained in some mystical, legendary fashion, such as eating the heart of a dragon. Those that had a Heroic «Class» often left marks on history, which was why they were called Heroes.

Lydia told me that most people were born «Classless», and even she, who could launch fire from her hands, only had two «Aspects». She said one of them was «Dragonheart», but she immediately dropped the topic and dismissed me.

The poor thing must have been exhausted and my interrogation probably didn’t ease any stress lines.

I joined Anna in the jockey box but neither of us were in the mood for a conversation. Anna was concentrating on driving, and I figured she would have a sleepless night. We needed to clear as much distance as possible to avoid any follow-up encounters with the Separatists.

I decided to finally open my «Status» and read what all alerts were about.

Status

Name

???

Level

3rd

Class

Ranger

Subclass

None

Health

39

Mana

39


I leveled up after killing those soldiers, huh? That’s morbidly interesting. Nothing else went up aside from my «HP» and «MP». How do I increase my «Attributes»? Lydia confirmed my theory that the average person had a 10 in each stat, so I guess any additions to my «Attributes» would be a major upgrade. Some of my values are pretty high already.

I recalled how fast I gunned down those seven soldiers.

All of my hits were clustered headshots with only 5 centimeter margins at worst. Even world competition shooters would have trouble hitting seven human skulls dead-center in two seconds.

From an Earthling standard, 14 «Dexterity» was obscene. But why was my «Intelligence» and «Wisdom» so high? Did it compare my modern education to this world’s standard? Illiterate, medieval peasants were most likely the majority in this world, so any intellectual deviation would reflect in a much higher Attribute rating. While higher was always better, they were obviously casting stats - virtually useless to me unless I could learn «Spells».

Even so, I wished I could redistribute some of them into my physical parameters.

None of my «Aspects» or «Skills» changed. I assumed improving «Aspects» was far more difficult than leveling.

A series of light red dots appeared on the corner of my «Map» and dragged me out of my theorycrafting. I’d never seen that color before, but the two horses, Lydia, and Anna were all yellow, so I assumed that meant neutral or something similar. If my «Skills» were molded from my experiences, then red meant hostiles.

“Anna, speed up if you can, we’re being followed.”

“I cannot drive the horses any harder or they will collapse, «Ranger» Levin, please-”

So Anna was eavesdropping? Well I can’t entirely blame her for being cautious.

“I’ll take care of it,” I answered with a grim tone and jumped back into the wagon. My heavy footfalls jarred Lydia awake. I took one knee and braced my rifle on the edge of the carriage’s half-height rear door. Then I turned the knob on my scope and maximized the magnification to get positive target identification.

“What the fuck?” Was my reasonable reaction.

“«Ranger» Levin? What’s the matter? What do you see?” Lydia groggily scooted across the wagon bed to reach me. She tried to peer into the darkness for any sight of what I was looking at.

“A pack of giant, black wolves with glowing, red eyes.”

“«Barghests», summoned by Lord Cedric Hastings.” Came Lydia’s confident answer. “He is a «Summoner». But I didn’t think he would be so desperate. Each Barghest is an expensive investment. How many are there?”

“Ten.”

“Oh? Ten? I am quite flattered that my ex-fiance spent a king’s ransom on me. Should I take this as a declaration of true love?”

“Well, he’s chasing down a Princess, so the amount fits,” I quipped then swallowed air after realizing my faux pas. Lydia leveled a glare at me but otherwise said nothing to confirm or deny my claim.

“Can you vanquish them, «Ranger» Levin?”

“If they’re bulletproof, we’re screwed”

“Bulletproof?” Lydia parrotted. “You have an exotic vocabulary, «Ranger» Levin.”

“I’m a riot at parties,” I answered with a smirk. Now that Lydia’s not-so-mysterious identity was revealed, it felt like the wall between us had broken somewhat.

“I do not condone civil disobedience.”

“It was a joke-”

“I know, «Ranger» Levin. I wish you good hunting.”

From the way she sounded, I assumed Lydia knew my combat style revolved around ranged weapons like bows and arrows. I wondered if the «Marksmanship Aspect» was a universal requirement for the «Ranger Class».

“Open your mouth and cover your ears,” I warned. Lydia gave me an incredulous look but did as I instructed. Hopefully, my rifle wouldn’t damage her hearing too much. My ears were still buzzing from the last firefight.

I let the «Barghests» get closer. The road was bumpy and I needed my aim to be as steady as possible - I stopped my train of thought and recalled my experiments on the squirrel and activated «Select Fire». I designated one of blazing red eyes of the closest «Barghest», chose semi-automatic, then squeezed the trigger.

A yelp followed the rifle’s bark as the first «Barghest» tumbled in a dead and broken heap after taking a bullet straight through it's right eye socket. The monsters were now close enough to see without my riflescope and Lydia’s expression was priceless as she watched the monster die.

“With a single blow!?”

I didn’t answer and instead repeated the same tactic until all the «Barghests» were left behind to decompose on the road. I didn’t bother to ask Anna to stop and confirm the kills because the red dots on my «Map» had turned gray and remained still until they finally faded from my detection range.

I frowned as I checked my magazine again. Five rounds left. I burned through almost all my ammunition in a single night.

“Is your s-staff spent?” She asked while watching me check my gear.

“It’s a rifle,” I corrected and then nodded. “Yeah. I can only do that five more times.”

“A rifle," she repeated, the word obviously foreign to her. I wondered how it translated into her native tongue.

"I think that will be the end of our pursuers for a good while. I do not think Lord Hastings expected to lose all ten of his summons in the span of a few seconds. So this is the power of a Hero. I am in awe, «Ranger» Levin.”

“It’s fine, really. I’d prefer if you kept it a secret. Uh, you can just treat me as «Classless» in public, I don’t mind, really.” I said when she looked completely aghast at the notion.

“Y-you do not know how to leverage your exalted status, do you?” Lydia declared more than asked.

“You’ve got me dead to rights, Princess,” I frankly admitted. “I’m a foreigner with no idea what the geopolitical or socioeconomic situation is. Honestly, it’s a miracle I can even speak with you.”

“Geopolitical? Socioeconomic? I see. You are also of noble birth. This explains your extremely literate way of speaking, however crass it can be at times.”

“Yeah. W-wait, no. I’m just a common soldier, not a noble.”

“Your country reduces Heroes to mere infantry!? How blessed must your nation be!”

“Uh, yeah. It’s a pretty amazing place, America.” I gave up on trying to correct her for now.

“I must ask you again for more assistance, «Ranger» Levin. Though I may take advantage of your power, goodwill, and, frankly, your ignorance of regional affairs, I have no other choice: will you become my champion?”

“T-that’s a tall ask, Princess.”

“I apologize. It was in bad taste. Rest assured, I shall treat you as I would any of my guardsmen. At least, until we part ways.”

“I’m afraid that may be sooner rather than later,” I sat across from her again and inspected my rifle out of habit.

“Your rifle, correct? It is almost spent and you have no way to replenish it. Will Magic Crystals not work?”

“Unless you can create 5.56 out of thin air, then no.” I removed the magazine and showed her the rounds remaining.

“You refer to the tiny, metallic arrows your rifle uses? Creating lasting objects out of Mana requires «Conjuration» or «Alchemy» - I sadly do not possess either «Aspects» and neither does Anna.”

“I can still throw rocks.” I said with a bit of encouragement, although Lydia looked amused.

I recalled how my «Skill» could punch deep holes in trees. It was better than nothing.

“Give me your hand, «Ranger» Levin,” Lydia demanded. I obeyed and she pressed the ring around her neck back to my palm.

“You must rely on your «Skills» to t-throw rocks effectively, I suspect. How powerful is it?”

“I can kill a squirrel.”

“Fantastic.”

Lydia soon fell asleep after I slew the «Barghests» so I rejoined Anna in the jockey box to give her some sense of privacy. My «Constitution» was really working - despite two firefights and all the mental and physical stress I’ve gone through in the last few hours, my mind was as sharp as ever and my body was just as lively. I wondered how long I could go without sleep or rest. In contrast Anna was pale and had a harrowed look. Her cheeks were swollen from the abuse earlier. I was afraid she would snap, physically and mentally.

“Ma’am, I can take over.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, but maintaining the wagon at this speed takes more skill than a novice would have. When we cross the border, I will teach you properly and we can take shifts.”

Unlike Lydia, Anna was much more direct. If she weren’t so busy and stressed out, I would have enjoyed a conversation with her.

“Sure. How close are we to the border?”

“We should make it by dawn, «Ranger» Levin.”

“You can just call me Levin, Ma’am.”

It seemed Anna was too tired to stand on ceremony so she just threw me a smile.

“Levin it is. Please, call me Anna.”

We didn’t have much else to say to each other. Unlike Lydia, Anna couldn’t spare any time for questions and I didn’t want to break her concentration, so I retreated back into my «Status». I leveled up. Judging by what Lydia implied, those «Barghests» were pretty strong, so leveling twice after killing ten of them was somewhat disappointing.

The EXP curve must be really high after the 2nd or 3rd Level. What is the world's average level? It must be somewhere in the single digits.

Status

Name

Levin

Level

5th

Class

Ranger

Subclass

None

Health

65

Mana

65

Attributes

2 Unspent Attribute Points
1 Skill Upgrade Available

Strength

14

Wisdom

16

Dexterity

14

Intelligence

16

Constitution

16

Charisma

12


More «Attribute Points»? Should I just pour them all into «Dexterity»?

It was honestly a tempting idea. If I could shoot fast with 14, just how quick would I be with 16?

“Anna, where did you spend all your «Attribute Points»?” I asked, half-focused on my «Status» and the other half on my «Map». I wanted to avoid an ambush.

“Y-you can choose?”

I turned to face Anna to see a shell-shocked expression plastered across her face.

“You can choose?!” Lydia repeated, poking her head between us from out of the wagon cover. Did these two like eavesdropping on each other’s conversations?!


“I take it that’s not normal.”

“No, Levin,” Anna answered.

“What Level are you, Anna?”

“Levin… that is a very rude question. But I am 1st Level.” I learned now Anna was far colder than Lydia, so I dropped the subject.

“You can see your «Status» without a Divination Orb, Levin?” Lydia pressed. I also noticed she dropped my title.

“It was a gift from the Gods.” My tone was playfully ominous. I was hoping a half-truth would satisfy them.

“Ah, I see. That does make much more sense,” Lydia squeezed her way into the jockey box, making for a tight fit for the three of us. She really was a whimsical princess.

“It does!?”

“Yes. You are a Hero, Levin. It stands to reason that the Gods favor you.” Anna nodded along, as if also accepting Lydia’s explanation.

“Rarely do the gods bestow blessings, even upon their most devout and faithful, but it is not unheard of for them to grant special abilities to select individuals. Some high level clergy even gain an «Aspect» from their God, after a lifetime of devoted service. I think the Archbishop of the God of Protection received one recently. My father sent him a congratulatory gift two months ago.”

“Which God do you worship?” I prodded, curious about the culture.

“The «God of Dragons, Dragon-King Bahamut».”

Now that was one hell of a title.

“Where does «Goddess of Balance, Seras» stand among her peers?”

“Seras? Is that who blessed you?”

Shit, I walked right into that one. Lydia just smirked. Even Anna cracked a wry smile.

“She’s exactly in the middle, where she should be. But her standing and influence can increase or decrease due to her role as a mediator. If there is too much good or evil in the world, she tips the scales in one direction or another.”

“You’re really well-versed in this.”

“I’m a Princess, Levin.”

“Her Royal Highness has no siblings, so she was groomed as the Heir-Apparent,” Anna preened, no small measure of pride colored her tone. I had no doubt Anna was instrumental in Lydia’s upbringing; she sounded like a parent parading her child.

“Do you want to learn more about our religions?” Lydia asked. I shook my head.

“No, not right now. I think I’ll need a full day to digest all of it.”

“Ah, of course; your «Attribute Points». «Dexterity» is favored by many ranged combatants. It improves their shooting speed and accuracy. Make it your highest «Attribute» if you want to focus purely on combat, Levin.”

I saw Anna return her focus to the horses when the attention shifted away from her.

“Yeah, that's pretty important, all things considered.”

“Yes, it’s the best choice,” Lydia agreed. She was obviously dependent on my combat prowess for survival, so she had a vested interest in increasing my lethality.

I played it safe and put one point in «Strength» and the other into «Dexterity». «Dexterity» might have helped my accuracy and shooting speed, but what about the other factors that went into combat, such as violent, explosive motion? There was more to a battle than shooting good.

1 Skill Upgrade Available.

I licked my lips. Now this was something worth theorycrafting. I chose «Select Fire» and whistled at the options available. It was like picking rifle mods at a gunstore, but I decided to forgo any upgrades to it for now.

«Familial Bonds» was only followed by a series of question marks, which probably meant upgrading that «Skill» was unpredictable.

All of my other «Skill Upgrades» were useful in one way or another, but one stood out; one that would be far more beneficial to the three of us as a whole.

Are you sure you wish to upgrade the Movement Tracking System?

I mentally confirmed my choice and read the following addition to the «Skill» description:

Map data is now shared across the entire Squad.

“Lydia, Anna, how do parties work?”

“I assume you are not referring to a social gathering or a gala. But a «Party» dedicated to some kind of task?”

I nodded. Lydia was really, really sharp. She reminded me of Rebecca. Then again, everything was reminding me of Rebecca.

Damn, I’m really getting homesick.

“You must formally declare your «Party» before any consecrated altar and dedicate your actions to that deity. This allows a «Party» to receive «Quests».” Lydia answered with a shrug. “Those tend to be a rare occurrence. Most parties are informal and are more like a band of comrades and friends. But they don’t gain any divine benefits.”

“So what about a «Squad»?”

“A squad? As in a military element? Sorry, I am not a general, that falls outside of my purview.”

“Hm. I’m going to try something. Do you trust me?”

“Levin, you’ve saved our lives. Twice. I trust you. Anna?”

“For all his strangeness, you mean us no harm, I can tell that much.”

I grinned at Anna’s more analytic answer, then I turned my mind inward, activated «Telepathy (Group)», and targeted both of them.

Lydia was the first to react. She stiffened in her seat then eyed me as if spotting a shiny new toy.

“Is this what you see, Levin? It’s indescribable.”

“Are you talking about the «Map»?”

“Yes, among other things."

Now I was confused. What else could she see?

"This «Map» is a tad annoying, but overall, this is revolutionary. I've never heard of such a convenient and comprehensive wide-range detection «Skill».

“It's annoying? Oh is it at the center of your vision? Just think about moving it out of the way.”

Lydia sighed in awe. “If I had this, I don’t think I’d ever have to worry about assassins ever again.”

“That was one hell of an ominous statement.”

While Lydia admired the «Map», I was focused more on the additional function. It shared data, so did that mean I could access her «Map»? Judging by what she said, her limit was also 300 meters. I managed to open a second window containing her version of the «Map», but it looked identical to mine.

Well that’s both useful and disappointing. I sulked.

“Oh, it’s very useful, Levin.” Lydia replied. I blinked. Who was she talking to?

"You, Levin." She clarified.

"You can read my mind?!"

"No. I think this is just a side-effect of whatever «Skill» you used."

“This could get annoying, real fast,” I grumbled. I had no idea how to partition my thoughts to prevent them from reading my mind and experimenting would just prove -

“Rest assured, Levin. I am a «Dragon Mage», so I have to practice mental exercises on a daily basis to control my magical energy. «Classless» people like Anna can’t reverse your own «Skill» against you like I can. But you need to be careful when sharing it with those you do not trust. I can teach you to shield your mind so your innermost thoughts don’t get sent out so easily.”

“Wait - how much did you see?!”

“The United States of America is an amazing place.”

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Tyonis

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