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The evening after I met Doran, I decided to send a letter to my parents, like I had promised. It would take a week to arrive and another one to be answered, so it was best to do this early, since I might not stay in one place for long once I become an official member.

 

Dear mom and dad,

The past week and a half has been pure chaos for me, but in a good way. I told you about how I wanted to join the witch hunters, right? Well I met a party of hunters inside of a at the entrance of a dungeon. They allowed me to watch from afar as they slaughtered the monsters inside, even agreeing to let me travel with them to join the guild in Reito! We got here yesterday and I officially became a provisional member of the guild! The people here know about my class, but were still willing to give me a chance. Well, most of them anyway.

How has it been back home? Is the bakery doing well? Aren't you two lonely without me?

I'll come visit next time I'm passing by Rolla, okay?

Love, Arthur

 

Short and sweet, Just how I knew they would like it.


 

The day after, I decided to finally get to taming that undead lizard. I asked Doran for advice, but all he had to give me was that I would have to 'show it my strength' and 'beat it into submission'. That was easier said than done, since I didn't want my komodo to be scared of me. Still, I had to start somewhere. I lifted the amulet and channelled some dark mana through it. After a while more mana flooded out of the amulet and gathered a few paces away from me.

A moment later the mana coalesced and formed into some bones, which came together to form a dog-sized komodo lizard.

It looked at me and tilted it's head slightly, clearly confused at its new surroundings.

At first I was a little disappointed that it was too small to ride, but considering it was only tier 1, I supposed I should have expected it. The little reptile didn't seem to be too impressed with me either, because it ran at me a moment later, jaws wide open.

I dodged its first attack and waited for it to make another move. A second later it came in for a second bite, which I punished with a pommel strike this time.

Our back and forth continued for a little while, however the lizard didn't seem to be responding to me yet, intent on just trying to kill me. Its bones were starting to break after some time, so I just unsummoned it.

I felt that it would probably be a good idea to make beating it a daily routine, because taming an undead might be a slightly taller task than I had anticipated.

 


 

For the next week I followed Doran's training schedule. Swordsmanship and meditation made for a great training combo, since swordsmanship mostly tired me out physically, while meditation mostly required concentration. As a result my skills progressed swiftly.

My skill progression wasn't as dramatic as it was during the boss fight, but it made a difference all the same.

All went well until a few days in, Doran and I butted heads again. We disagreed about my augment skill's progression.

"That skill is basically my bread and butter! I understand that I don't need to tier it up to get a great tier 2 class, but why wouldn't I?"

"Tiering up a tier 4 skill to tier 5 is an entirely different matter as compared to tiering up a tier 1 skill, fool! I myself, a tier 4 [Paladin], only have a single tier 6 skill, despite the fact that much like you, I was considered a prodigy when I was younger. While it would no doubt count towards your tier 2 class, the time it would take to reach tier 5 is far longer than you might think."

"I've already gotten it 58% progress, though. It has progressed at almost the same rate as my other skills."

Doran seemed stumped at that. "And do you remember where you got the lion's share of your skill progression from? As far as I have heard, you used your skills to overload yourself with dark mana fighting that boss with Garrett's party. Do you intend to replicate such a feat? Why do we not just go and find another tier 3 undead caster to serve as your training dummy? Such an action would not just be dangerous, it would be downright suicidal."

"Surely there are other options? Even if there aren't, what's stopping me from trying that? My augment will heal me anyway."

At this, both of us fell silent. Doran didn't even bother replying. I supposed my earlier comment had struck a chord with him for some reason. A moment passed before he replied.

"Some wounds cannot be healed from at all. You would do well to remember that. I have been a personal witness of one such occasion."

"I...sorry. If you don't want to talk about it..."

"It is none of your business. Let us hope it stays that way."

 

With that, both of us abandoned the argument and continued training in silence. Sometimes I wondered what Doran was even doing in the witch hunters' guild. I had always attributed [Holy Knights] and [Paladins] to the church. An exiled member perhaps. But what could the straight-laced Doran ever do that would get him exiled? We weren't close enough for me to ask. Maybe I could ask for his story in the future, if the opportunity arose.

 


 

Another week later Garrett, Melinda, Barnold and Nestor came over to visit. They would be leaving on a quest in a few days and had spent as much time with their families as possible since their arrival to Reito.

I showed Garrett how much progress I had made with my swordsmanship by sparring with him a little.

[Swordsmanship](87%)

Clearly my skill with my weapon of choice had grown immensely, because this time I could actually fight Garrett properly, lasting a few minutes before a strike got through my guard, each time. After some more sparring, we sat down under a tree and shared a drink.

"Hah! The little brat is growing up, huh! I remember when you couldn't even block a single strike of mine!"

"That was like....two weeks ago."

"Exactly! You should be proud of your progress, kid. Roa wasn't built in a day. Proper skill takes practice and practice takes time. I'm sure you're sick of hearing these words by now, but you've got potential."

"The system is fucked up, kid. It allows the strong to become stronger, while the weak stay weak. Luckily for you, that tendency works in your favour as long as you keep pushing yourself."

I hummed noncommittally. I wasn't used to people having such high expectations of me. My parents had always asked me to settle for less, while the people around me currently expect me to keep going. It was starting to become a struggle to figure out what I wanted. My goals and dreams until now had been superficial. Become a Royal guard, become strong, become free, yadayadayada. At some point I would have to find my own path.

"Say Garrett, what's your life story? How did you get into the witch hunters' guild in the first place?"

Garrett hummed a little, sipping his drink while looking into the distance.

"Have I mentioned what most guild members start out as?"

"Uh...no. I just always thought that thugs and thieves became witch hunters when they started trying to stay on the straight and narrow."

"Close, but not quite. Outcasts. Those are the ones to join the guild. There's some ex thugs and thieves, certainly, but really all kinds of people join. People that have always had the short end of the stick looking for some companions and a home. This place isn't perfect, but it's a damn sight better than the alternatives for most.

I was a guard for an auction house here in Reito. I was set to become the next guard captain, but a young family member of the owner got the job instead, fresh out of tier 1. Despite this, I stayed. But when the new captain began treating me like shit and eventually framed me for a theft he committed, I got sent to prison. I spent a few years there. My family suffered from my absence and the stigma. My kids weren't old enough to notice yet, luckily. When I got out, I joined the guild, met the other members of the Steel Will party and started my life over. Everything's been going well ever since. Nestor, Barnold and Melinda have similar stories. This world isn't fair, kid. Those that got fucked over need some place to go. The guild is just one of those places. It's not perfect, but it's home."

 

I realised that the whole 'second chance' thing was more apt than I had previously thought. Honestly, I didn't regret how things had turned out until now. I had joined a guild that I was starting to respect and gained a class that gave me the strength I needed to prevent this unfairness from happening to me, as well. I could figure all that goal stuff out in the future. For now, I was happy.

Melinda walked up to us, Nestor and Barnold in tow. We spent the rest of the afternoon conversing and sparring. It was a good reprieve from my monotonous training. Helios, I don't remember how I could ever stand that boring training I did when I was a kid.

 


 

Three weeks into my training, it was starting to look like I would tier up soon. My skills were progressing slowly but surely and had all passed the 95% progression mark. I was still bitter about my augment hardly progressing despite my daily spars with Doran, but so be it.

The routine that I had grown used to was broken by a letter I received that day.

 

Dear Arthur,

We've both missed you terribly. The bakery has been doing well, thankfully, but the house feels empty without you there to cause a ruckus. Me and your mother are both worried about you, but we're happy to hear you're no longer going about this alone.

Don't trust too many people with your status, Art. All kinds of troublesome people would come for you if they found out.

That being said, we do have some happier news that came at the perfect time. We didn't want to inform you like this, but with your sporadic visits, we felt it better that you at least don't have to find out by yourself.

Your mother's pregnant! Apparently she's 6 or so weeks in, because she didn't have her moonblood last month. We visited the priest and he confirmed our suspicions.

We don't know how long it'll be before you come visit, Art, but at least come by once your little sibling is born in 7 months.

Until then,

With love, mom and dad.

 

I reread the letter several times, I almost couldn't believe it! My parents had tried for a second child since I had been out of my diapers, with no success. And yet, right as I leave the house another little one joins the family. Bugger.

I was interrupted out of my thoughts by a knock on my door. A servant called out.

"Sir Arthur? Sir Doran has requested to meet you down at the training yard."

"Tell him I'll be over in a minute."

"Very well, sir."

The servant left in a hurry, no doubt not wanting to displease a resident tier 4 of the guild, of which I had learned there were only 10 in our local branch. The guild master was the only tier 5 we had.

A few minutes later, I stood in front of Doran.

"Your preliminary training is nearly finished. I felt it prudent to educate you on what will happen when you tier up your skills."

"Oh, right! I'm listening."

"Let me begin by saying that you cannot choose your class when you awaken. You can also not choose what class you will tier up into. You can, however, influence what class you get by choosing certain skill tier ups."

"When tiering up a skill, you will be presented with 3 possible upgraded versions of that skill. Depending on which you choose, the system might give you a class more suited to using those upgraded skills. So, in a way, it is possible to affect what class you get. The decision will ultimately be up to you, I will not influence you or give advice, unless it pertains to a system term that you do not understand. Now then, let us complete the final stretch of your skill training."

 


 

Over the next few days all of my skills reached the tier up progression percentage. With that came a dilemma. I had seen all of the tiering up options, but hadn't made a decision yet. I couldn't always pick what sounded like the best option, for fear of negatively impacting my tier 2 class. Grumbling, I opened my [Simple dark core] skill.

[Simple dark core](100%)

Tier 1 skill.

You possess a dark core filled with dark elemental mana. The core allows you to use dark-aligned skills.

[Simple dark core] provides a small amount of extra power to dark-aligned skills and reduces their mana cost by a minimal amount.

Absorb ambient dark mana into the core to increase skill proficiency.

 

Tier 2 upgrades

[Dark core]

A direct upgrade of [Simple dark core]

[Dark core] provides a moderate amount of extra power to dark-aligned skills and reduces their mana cost by a small amount.

[Undead Core]

This core brings you closer to the existence of an undead.

[Undead Core] provides a moderate amount of extra power to dark-aligned skills that utilise the [Undead] property and reduces their mana cost by a moderate amount.

[Overloading Dark core]

This core allows more mana to course through it and reduces the negative effects of mana overloading to the body. The core takes longer to progress than usual.

[Overloading Dark core] provides a large amount of extra power to dark-aligned skills and reduces their mana cost by a minimal amount.

 

Closing it again, I decided to postpone my troubles until tomorrow.

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Belgianfri

  • Your holiness

Bio: I like fries. The belgian kind.

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