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The next morning, we departed the village in hopes of finishing the final leg of the journey. Garrett had a headache so bad he was still complaining five hours into our journey to Reito. He could hardly stay on his horse without barfing, so Melinda decided this would be a good opportunity for me to learn how to ride.

To be honest, I had no interest in horses, but if I could tame my future undead lizard, I would be able to ride it right away. This made learning to ride a creature priority number one. Well, it wasn't quite that urgent, but since Melinda offered, who was I to refuse?

During our mid day break, Melinda took me and the horse to one side. "Alright, lesson number one: never stand behind a horse. They might kick you on purpose or by accident, but you'll be dead either way. Lesson number two: The horse will react to your emotions. Show confidence. Lesson number three: the straps are for your feet. Congratulations, you now know how to ride a horse. Get on and let's practice."

I looked at her incredulously. "Wait a minute, Melinda... I'm not sure..."

"Shut up and get on. Do you want to learn how to ride or not? You can recover from your wounds by yourself, can't you?"

To be fair to Melinda, she made a good point. I was still stuck in my previous way of thinking and didn't take into account how people with classes live their lives. I had skills that made this level of danger pointless! The thought was intoxicating. To rise above the average, to supersede the normal...

"Hello? You okay there kiddo? You seemed lost in thought there for a moment." Mel interrupted my train of thought.

Damn affinity, making me think like a stereotypical bad guy again...

"I was just thinking. Anyway, let's give this a shot."


I did give it a shot. Quite a few in fact. In the beginning I just sat on the horse while Melinda pulled me along, but after a while she told me to do it by myself. The partnership between me and the horse worked well for an hour or so, when Garrett's warhorse abruptly decided to introduce me to the taste of dirt. Clearly the horse preferred a hungover Garrett over me, a healthy young man. Damn jaded old animal.

Repeated practice paid off, however. By the end of the day I could ride the horse semi reliably. This was also when Garrett had gathered enough of his senses to get back to riding himself, which made me retire back to the carriage. Luckily I had gained some valuable experience from all this. I had kind of expected to receive a skill for my efforts, but was sorely disappointed. Nestor had explained why.

"Skills don't just refer to every action you take. When the system designates something as a skill, it means that this particular action can't really be replicated without the system's interference. Skills do things that are not humanly possible normally. Some of the more obvious examples are core affinity skills, which allow you to generate mana by yourself, while some more subtle examples are weapon skills. These give you some kind of superhuman instinct and talent when it comes to wielding that weapon. The ability to instinctively know how to use a weapon without ever having held or even seen it before is beyond what normal humans are capable of.

To summarise, while a dragon rider might have some kind of riding skill, or a cavalier might have a skill that strengthens himself and his horse while riding, there isn't actually a skill representing the action of riding a creature itself. Unless, of course, it works similarly to a weapon handling skill and provides instincts instead."

Nodding along to his explanation, I realised that skills probably aren't that easy to acquire. I had only gotten the milestone skills and the meditation skill through my own efforts, after all.

 


 

A few days later, our routine of travel-train-sleep was finally coming to an end. In the distance I could see large walls towering above the horizon, clearly built to hold off all kinds of evil monsters and dungeon breaks. Reito was in the North of the Kingdom of Roa and as a result, it didn't share any borders with other kingdoms. Instead, there was a natural border in the form of the Empty forest, which was known to not be empty at all, due to its high monster population. I figured 'Monster forest' would have been a better name. Less disingenuous.

The monotony of the walls was broken by the occasional wizards' tower poking through and a large cathedral decorating the skyline. Finally there was a large castle present as well, made for the local lord, I supposed. The Roa kingdom had a normal feudal society and a big city like Reito would have at the very least an earl ruling over it. In actuality, all territories surrounding Reito were part of one feudal territory belonging to Duke Rass. Duke Rass was known for being an old hermit that liked to keep to himself. He had gained his noble title through his own strength in a war with a rival kingdom 150 years ago. That was ancient history by now, so people didn't really pay attention to those stories anymore. Regardless, I had respect for a man who seeks his own fortune through strength.

 

As we approached the gates, Garrett passed the carriage on horse-back and got off in front of the guards.

"Register the entrance of a witch hunter party of four and one hanger-on entering the city. We're silver ranked hunters and the young one is a new prospect for the guild."

The guard looked at Garrett for a moment, before he started registering our entrance. "Names, please?"

"Garrett, Melinda, Barnold and Nestor of the silver ranked Steel Will party and Arthur, unaffiliated."

The guard answered with a monotone voice. "Welcome to Reito, don't cause any trouble. I'm sure you'll enjoy your stay."

Garrett couldn't help but reply in a sarcastic tone. "Oh sure, we will."

A moment later, we rode through the gates. My first impression of Reito was how busy it was. There were crowds of people everywhere. We had to slow down every few paces because of passersby. As we waded through the locals, I noticed how clean Reito looked. My old town had been reasonably sanitary because of the water mages washing away most of the filth, but Reito was positively shining. On the sides of the roads were plants of all kinds and all of the houses looked like the type of building you would only find in the more expensive districts elsewhere. I asked Nestor about this, and he explained that enchantments could be used for near enough anything. Clearly, Reito wasn't sparing any expense to maintain its reputation as the trade capital of the north.

 

After passing through some cobbled streets, we arrived near a large wooden entryway. Melinda looked over at me. "Welcome to the guild district, rookie."

Sure enough, the guild district didn't disappoint. The three main guilds were represented by large stone buildings that represented their wealth comparatively. The adventurers guild looked like a large manor with expensive decoration. It wasn't quite as gaudy as the nearby crafters' guild or wizards' tower, but it wasn't a far-off thing. The mercenary guild just looked like a giant, run down bar. I could hear the ruckus going on inside, a mix of shouting, fighting and laughing. Considering it was the middle of the day, this must be them at their quietest.

Finally the witch hunter's guild's branch building came into view. It looked like a bland, square fortress. Of all the guilds, it spent the least amount on decoration and the most on functionality. The party announced their arrival to the guild's guards and entered, bringing me along. When we were inside, Garrett turned to me. "Alright kid, I'm gonna leave you with the guards here. Behave and don't cause trouble. Us four are going to report to the branch guild master, while you stay here. Guards, keep an eye on him, will you? He's a good kid, but he attracts trouble like it's his class or something."

"Sure thing, Garrett, just don't make us babysit all day, we have better shit to do."

I felt a little offended at being left behind like this, but I understood that Garrett really didn't have any other option. He would either have to leave me here or temporarily lock me up in a cell, while they reported the situation. This was clearly the better option. After twiddling my thumbs for a while, I decided to make conversation.

"So what do you guys do around here?"

One of the two guards nearby looked at me funnily. "What do you think, kid? Feed the chickens? We're guards, so we guard the place. The guild doesn't need much guarding, mind you, but better safe than sorry."

"How did you decide to become a guard? Isn't it more fun to do quests and missions?"

"Adventuring and questing isn't for everybody, kid. And those that do enjoy it often retire once they reach a certain age. Most become guards like us, while the stronger ones might become a branch manager of a guild. I have a family, kid. I retired when my wife became pregnant and settled down here in Reito. Working as a guard allows me to see my kids grow up, while still earning good coin."

Having found a conversation partner, I continued talking with him for a while longer.

 


 

Pov Garrett:

Me and the party were walking through the fortress' cold corridors, making that familiar trip to the guild master's office. That old son of a bitch was a tough one who didn't stand for any of the bullshit that other bureaucrats spouted. He was the type of man I could get behind. Sadly, that also meant that I couldn't quite know in advance how he would react to Arthur's situation. I'd grown a little attached to the kid during the short time I'd known him. I'd rather he join the guild without issue, but ultimately that would be up to guild master Andros.

As we approached a set of two wooden doors, we could hear an aged voice coming from the other side. "Come in."

The guards parted and opened the miniature gates for us. A moment later all four of us were standing in front of the guild master's desk as he scribbled away. Eventually he put down his pen and raised his head to look at us.

"I've been notified that some complications arose on your latest mission? Report."

I spoke up. "Yes sir. The dungeon we were sent to investigate and clear had a peak tier 3 duo boss in it. One of the two bosses was a dark caster and the other was an undead."

"Classes?"

"[Dark Goblin Shaman] and [Enraged Undead Pseudo-Drake]."

"Hmmm. A reanimated drake corpse?"

"No, we believe it to be an evolved undead komodo variant."

"And how did you manage to defeat such a powerful duo boss? They aren't exactly known to be easy."

"Well sir, that's where it get's a little complicated. Nestor is a [corrupted life mage], so he took care of the minions quickly. After that we were fighting an uphill battle, however. We couldn't really hurt the drake as long as the caster was alive. The caster itself had created a self sustaining shield made out of dark mana. No matter what we did, we couldn't break it. To make things worse I was then taken out of the battle by a curse-mark infused tail swipe."

"Sounds like a dead end, and yet I have files on the boss' corpse right here on my desk. What turned the tides?"

"Well, sir, we were aided by an outside source. A young fellow that had a...particular skillset that allowed him to take down the barrier and kill the caster."

"You let an outsider interfere in guild business?!"

"Forgive us sir, we never intended to!"

The old guild master sighed. "How did you meet this person? Start from the beginning."

And so I told the story of our initial meeting and how we asked Arthur to scout ahead. The guild master's mood clearly improved when he heard that Arthur wanted to join the guild from the start. After a while, we got to the part about the barrier.

"And so, out of nowhere, Arthur rushes forward and blocks the attack to save Nestor. Problem is, he's absolutely radiating dark mana in the process."

The guild master looked startled when he heard that. "What?! He was a dark caster all along?! How in the bloody hells did you survive an ambush like that?"

"Well you see, surprisingly, Arthur was still on our side. He rushed toward the barrier and started sucking out the mana faster than it could regenerate. After a few moments, the barrier collapsed. He turned into a shadow and reappeared above the caster, after which he killed it with a downward thrust. He must have exhausted himself breaking that barrier, however, because he passed out right after."

"So what did you do? Did you kill him?"

"I thought about it, but since he saved all of our lives, the party held me back. We gave him a chance to explain himself. Apparently he has a dark physical class typically reserved for mindless undead. He claimed that he doesn't have any skills affecting his mentality."

"So what did you do? Did you just let him go? A class like that is unheard of! Do you know how many lives we could save if we brought him in?"

I answered in a quiet voice. "Well, he said he wanted to join the guild, so I brought him here?"

The old man looked like he'd seen a ghost. "What? He's here?"

"He's right outside. I think you can see him if you look out of the window behind you."

He stood up to go look, almost falling out of his chair in the process. Hopefully that was a good sign.

Name: Arthur
Titles [Dark prodigy]
Class: [Death Knight] LVL 23
Strength 89
Constitution 92
Dexterity 87
Intelligence 25
Wisdom 25
Affinity 223
Free stat points 51

Skills:

Passive: [Simple dark core](59%), [Elementary dark sight](38%), [Novice Swordsmanship](43%),

[Novice lifespan](N/A), [Perfect physique](N/A), [Flexibility](N/A)

 

Active: [Dark augment](56%), [Shadow apparition](12%), [Meditation](62%)

 

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Belgianfri

  • Your holiness

Bio: I like fries. The belgian kind.

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