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I kicked the body of the necromancer one final time and decapitated him, taking his head as proof, before moving to inspect his workstation and equipment. He turned out not to have any artefacts at all, other than that burned-up book and a cauldron, still simmering with an unknown liquid inside. I filled a glass bottle that I had found nearby with a little bit of the dark blue substance since I intended to have the guild take a look at it. It was evidence, after all.

I then drained the rest of the liquid onto the cavern floor, not wanting to leave any of it for others.

I did find a small pouch left on a table, which turned out to be a spatial pouch! These things were incredibly valuable. They were sold for up to 50 gold when they were auctioned off. Even with the mission rewards from this quest, I wouldn't have been able to afford one. The pouch was filled with alchemical materials, which I could sell back in Reito. I stored the now empty cauldron and the decapitated head inside. Right as I was about to burn the rest of his belongings, an assortment of tier-less clothes and equipment, as well as some furniture, I noticed a complete corpse rotting nearby. Not having expected anything but skeletons, I went over to inspect it and found numerous wounds across the body of this person. Inside his torn robes, I found an alchemist guild badge.

It turned out that the alchemist was just another victim then. Did the necromancer kidnap him and use him to brew something? But what was the dug-out lab doing beneath the alchemist store then? Was it used for something else before the necromancer got there? Or was the alchemist a willing party who eventually got cold feet? So many questions, so few answers. The witch hunters' guild would most likely send a team to investigate when they heard how complicated matters had gotten over here. I just didn't have the necessary training to find out what was going on on my own yet.

I decided to put my mind off of it and focus on my new gains.

 

I took a seat on a rock that was just the right size and opened my system notifications, ready for another session of skill upgrades. This would be the final time I tiered up skills before my class evolution.

Ding! Combat finished. Congratulations on reaching [Death Knight] level 25!

Stat points allocated. 3 free stat points per level up awarded.

 

Name: Arthur
Titles [Dark prodigy]
Class: [Death Knight] LVL 25
Strength 104
Constitution 100
Dexterity 100
Intelligence 25
Wisdom 50
Affinity 299
Free stat points 8

Skills:

Passive: [Overloading Dark core](9%), [Dark sight](8%), [Berserker Swordsmanship](11%),

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

[Mental resistance](N/A)

 

Active: [Dark augment](78%), [Shadow apparation](46%), [Battle meditation](16%)

 

I groaned when I saw my skill progression. [Dark augment] had only increased by 19% throughout of that entire fight! Even after overloading so much, I hadn't made nearly as much progress as I'd hoped... I wondered why. I had repeated the strategy that had given me that much progression in the first place, why didn't it work as well the second time? Still, with the speed of my progress, it wasn't impossible to tier it up before my class, which reignited my hope of doing so. I would just need to find another source of dark mana so abundant it could be described as near infinite...alright, maybe it wouldn't be so easy after all...

At least [Shadow apparation] made great progress. There was no way I would tier it up before my class tier up though, I didn't want an assassination-based class.

My tier 2 skills had also made some progress, although not much. I supposed this was just the nature of tier 2 skills, they wouldn't grow as quickly as my tier 1 skills did, after all.

 

Next, I took some time to inspect my stats. My physical stats had finally reached 100 each, which meant that I would have to choose between some skill options in a moment. My affinity had risen by quite a bit as well, it had finally stopped stalling in its growth. Hopefully, that trend would continue for a while. 299 though? Was that a coincidence, or was something going on there?

Finally, my eyes hovered over my free stat points. I had gained another three points since the last level up... oh. Before the battle, I could have gotten another milestone....

Doran was to never learn of this. He would kill me if he found out. This was a secret I would have to take with me to the grave. Shit, I made the same mistake twice in a row now. I was starting to think another jackass could have done a better job with my class than me, at this point.

Mentally, I broke out of that line of thought, focussing on the future. Milestone skills weren't that impactful in battle in the first place. That was still stupid of me though.

 

TIER 1 MAX LEVEL REACHED

Advance to tier 2?

 

Ah, there it was. The message I had expected to see. The guild master had told me not to tier up outside of the guild, so I wouldn't do it right now, but the moment I returned to the guild, I would initiate the tier up. It felt good to reach this stage. It hadn't taken a long period of time, per se, but so much had happened since I left home.

I met new people, was about to become a full member of the guild, and had gotten into multiple fights that were a challenge. Ever since I awakened, everything felt so much more real.

What that necromancer had said about affinities had still left me a little rattled. While I didn't have any skills that worsened my condition, I was still affected by the instinctual desire for power that my affinity fed into. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but if that desire was isolated from my other desires and became my sole driving force... It would spell the end for the person named Arthur, and give birth to a person that had no emotions beyond that search for strength.

All of the complex emotions, behaviours and wants, that made up a human, formed a complicated network of interactions that kept a normal person sane and complete. If you took a single element and magnified it to such a level that nothing else played a role then only an empty husk would be left.

For all of the brutality, insanity and cruelty that the necromancer exhibited, he was a simple person. There seemed to be only one side to his personality, nothing more. No complexity there. No regrets, no shame, no fear, no satisfaction or humour. Could you still call that being a human? So many things that gave our species value were missing.

The fact that the system would create something like that on purpose, left me with many questions. Questions that couldn't remain unanswered.

There was no point in thinking about that now, though. I would have to slowly find out what was going on.

Mentally, I opened up the next notification.

 

[Flexibility](N/A)

Tier 1 skill.

All of your body parts become flexible.

Increase dexterity to the next milestone to increase skill tier.

Tier 2 upgrades

[Flexible senses]

You can increase or decrease the sharpness of your senses up to half. All senses are increased or decreased similarly at the same time.

[Great flexibility]

A direct upgrade of [Flexibility].

Your body ignores the limitations of joint and bone structure. Your body parts can now move in any direction.

[Extendable limbs]

Your limbs can extend up to twice their own length. Strength is divided over the new length.

 

[Great flexibility] might have made my swordsmanship more unpredictable, but I wasn't sure how much more unpredictability I needed when I already had [Shadow apparation]. At the same time, my current swordsmanship style probably wouldn't synergize with the skill. Beyond that, it didn't seem to have much use.

[Extendable limbs] seemed almost useless. Again, I didn't need even more reach and the caveat of spreading my overall strength over the new limb didn't appeal to me.

[Flexible senses] was the most appealing option. It wasn't anything amazing, but I could think of several cases in which it could be useful, not to mention that it would continue to grow in power as my dexterity stat rose since it increased or decreased based on percentage, not a flat bonus. I lacked a perception-based skill at the moment, and [Flexible senses] might have the potential to take that role in the future. The next milestone was at 300 stat points, which meant that it would take a while to reach tier 3 on the skill, but it was better to plan for the future. With some luck, I would be able to reach that point before even reaching tier 3 in my class.

 

[Flexible senses](N/A)

Tier 2 skill.

All of your body parts become flexible.

You can increase or decrease the sharpness of your senses up to half. All senses are increased or decreased similarly at the same time.

Increase dexterity to the next milestone to increase skill tier.

Normally people would tier up skills after tiering up their class. Only people that wanted to improve their next tier like me would spend time trying to evolve them before then. Milestone skills were an even better example of this. The only reason that I reached tier 2 milestone skills before my class tier evolution, was that my aberrant class gave far more stat points than other tier 1 classes.

 

Mentally, I picked [Flexible senses]. The skill settled in without any change. If I squinted my eyes a little and concentrated, my eyesight became sharper. The bloody smell of the cave was unfortunately also enhanced, making me turn the skill off again.

When I looked at my status, I noticed that [Flexible senses] had moved over into the active category of skills. It made sense, I supposed. I decided to move on to the next skill.

[Novice lifespan](N/A)

Tier 1 skill.

Increase the lifespan of the holder by 50 years.

Increase constitution to the next milestone to increase skill tier.

Tier 2 upgrades

[Increased lifespan]

A direct upgrade of [Novice lifespan].

Increase the lifespan of the holder by 150 years.

[Drain lifespan]

You can use dark mana to drain the lifespan out of other humans with an efficiency of 1%.

[Growing lifespan]

You gain 1 year of life for every 2 points in constitution you possess.

 

[Drain lifespan] was a definite no. It would basically make me immortal at the cost of others. It went against all of my beliefs and would ruin whatever tier 2 class I had built until now. Furthermore, it was horribly inefficient. For draining one hundred years from another person I would only get one year. It was absolutely not worth it, considering most higher tiered people eventually evolved their skills to stop aging anyway.

[Increased lifespan] was a basic upgrade, albeit a little boring. An extra 100 years was a great improvement compared to the last skill, though.

[Growing lifespan] was the most interesting option. It would have a lower pay-out this tier, only reaching 150 years by the time it reached tier 3, but if it evolved into a more efficient skill at tier 3, giving me one year for every point in constitution for example, it would retroactively double my lifespan, which made it worth it.

There was one big risk to it, though. It didn't say 'increase' lifespan. It said 'You gain 1 year of life', which meant that it would effectively cancel out my current lifespan and replace it with a deadline of fifty years. If I didn't increase my constitution or tier up the skill within the next fifty years, I would drop dead. I supposed this was why I hadn't heard of lifespan skills like this.

Still, I was confident my next class would still increase my constitution at each level, and if absolutely necessary, I could spend free stat points on it. In the end, I decided to go with the high-risk, high pay-off skill. I picked [Growing lifespan]. I didn't feel any changes to my body after picking the skill, but that wasn't so unusual, considering the skill didn't teach me anything or change anything about my body.

[Growing lifespan](N/A)

Tier 2 skill.

You gain 1 year of life for every 2 points in constitution you possess.

Increase constitution to the next milestone to increase skill tier.

 

Name: Arthur
Titles [Dark prodigy]
Class: [Death Knight] LVL 25
Strength 104
Constitution 100
Dexterity 100
Intelligence 25
Wisdom 50
Affinity 299
Free stat points 8

Skills:

Passive: [Overloading Dark core](9%), [Dark sight](8%), [Berserker Swordsmanship](11%),

[Growing lifespan](N/A), [Mana physique](N/A), [Mental resistance](N/A)

 

Active: [Dark augment](78%), [Shadow apparation](46%), [Battle meditation](16%), [Flexible senses](N/A)

 


 

Having finished my notifications, I stood up to leave. Right as I was about to leave the chamber, I noticed the sword-wielding skeleton, hunched over near his resting place. I raised my guard a little, mentally cursing myself for relaxing near a possible enemy.

I walked up to it and poked it with my sword, but it didn't react. It didn't have the dark mana that kept skeletons animated surrounding its body any more, so I figured it died with the necromancer. The pile of bones was still holding the exquisite sword in its hands. I wrenched its scabbard free from the skeleton's grip and inspected it. There weren't any visible enchantments present and imprinting the sword didn't seem to work. It rejected my mana for whatever reason. I would have to have it appraised back at the guild.

That skeleton had surprised me though. It had ignored the commands its master gave it and instead sat there calmly, waiting for its second death. This warrior had kept his sanity somehow. Did that mean that my hypothesis about strong beings keeping parts of their being after death was somewhat accurate? I decided to ask Doran when I returned. As a tier 4 himself, he would know.

I took some rags from another skeleton and wrapped the scabbard, hiding its expensive-looking decoration. I didn't want to deal with bandits on my way back after all. My current look as a wandering vagrant had kept me out of trouble for now.

Then I remembered my spatial pouch and simply stored it inside. That would eliminate the problem regardless. I also took the caster skeleton's fire staff. I wasn't sure of its value, but it might sell well.

I thought about burying the skeletons in the chamber's loose dirt, but felt that these villagers and warriors should be buried under the sun. I would head back to town and convince the mayor to help me out with that task.

Having finished my business in the cave, I summoned Revan, and we finally left this place of death and pain behind. On our way out, I picked up the enchanted hammer that I had left there. I had nearly forgotten about it, but remembered it just at the last second. Ten or so minutes later, we were greeted by sunshine reaching us through the trees. Ralston was visible on the horizon. I mentally prepared myself for a verbal battle with the mayor.

 

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Belgianfri

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