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A note from Belgianfri

I've rewritten a large part of this chapter, since I wasn't really satisfied with how it turned out. Clearly, neither were you guys :). I had an exam this morning, so in my rush to write and study at the same time, the chapter turned out to suck. It happens sometimes. On a good note, the exam went great!

Rewrite is now up. The rewritten part starts after the funeral. Tell me what you think.

The next morning I was woken up by the sound of birds chirping. Luckily it hadn't rained that night, exposed to the elements as I had been, I would've been soaked. I got up off the porch and stretched a little. My terrible sleeping posture hadn't done me any favours, my back was killing me. After my stretches I went back inside to wake up Michael. I found him sleeping on the chair I had left him on the day before, still clutching his late father's staff as if his life depended on it. His eyes were still swollen, supposedly he had cried himself to sleep. I gently shook him awake, speaking softly.

"Little buddy, the funeral is today. Wake up."

He woke up, slowly blinking his eyes.

"Huh? Mister hunter?"

He looked down at the staff he was holding and seemed to remember what he had learned the day before because his demeanour turned more serious. He nodded silently and got up, leaving the room and entering an upstairs bedroom. I went back downstairs and waited at the dinner table with some bread and dried meat I had bought the day before. After a few minutes, Michael came downstairs and started eating with me.

"So, what will you do now? Where are you going to go?"

Hearing my question, he got a determined look on his face.

"I want to join the witch hunters' guild."

His reply caught me off guard. After all this, I had expected him to dislike the idea of my guild, since we were partially involved in his father's death.

"I want to stop people like that killer from continuing to do what they did to my father. That's what dad would've done."

"Revenge is a dangerous path to walk, kid. Most only destroy themselves in search of it."

"Even so, I want to do this. I'm gonna stop them."

I hummed a little. Michael seemed determined enough, but he wouldn't awaken for another 6 years at least and I didn't know how the guild handled cases like these. I supposed I could take him with me and ask the guild master about some possibilities. I turned back to the kid.

"Do you want to come with me when I leave on my journey back to Reito? I'm warning you, being a witch hunter isn't for the faint of heart."

Without a single moment of hesitation, the kid nodded.

 


 

The funeral was a sad affair. Around several graves, families could be seen mourning. Some graves didn't have anybody mourning for them. Michael and I took the time to pay them proper respect ourselves. When we got to Michael's father's grave, we took some more time to do so.

Funerals in Roa were held by the families of the deceased. The eldest direct family member that had enough strength would do the rites and say the memorial message, as per tradition. In some other kingdoms funerals and marriages were done with the grace of Helios, but Roa had its own customs to abide by.

The father's grave had a small message written on it, in reference to his class.

 

In honour of Maron,

A father, a son,

a fire,

birth and death,

under the sun.

 

Class references on gravestones were somewhat uncommon, though most people that reached tier 2 or higher would receive such a marking. Because he had been a [Fire mage], fire and the sun were mentioned. Michael had asked me to carry out the rites, which were a verbal version of the grave's reference. I went down on both knees on top of the grave and placed both hands on the headstone, careful not to cover up the words inscribed upon it.

"You were given life, you gave back. You were given a son, you gave back. You were given fire, you gave back. You were given death, you gave back. You were given the system, you gave nothing back.

"We now give you rest, not expecting you to give anything back."

 

As I spoke those words, I dug my fingers into the stone, using all of my strength. When I stood up again, my fingers had dug 10 holes into the headstone. The grave was now marked and would retain all of the system granted strength inside of the grave. That was the idea, anyway. Personally, I thought that to be just superstition. After death, corpses would keep their strength and toughness for a while, but eventually, everything decayed. Even the corpse of a tier 7 wouldn't remain forever.

When we had paid our respects to the rest of the victims, Michael and I left Ralston.

On our way out we passed some stalls selling various snacks. The locals had tried to give their relatives the last goodbye by continuing the summer solstice festival, the final one the deceased would be able to be part of, in a way. I had no doubt this greatly pleased that greedy mayor, but it didn't matter to me all that much. We bought some meat skewers, before heading to the gates.

When we arrived, we found a merchant asking for guards for his caravan. He was shouting at the top of his lungs that anyone who qualified could earn 50 silver and free meals if they signed up. I could already see a number of people that had done so, ranging from a ranger with a bow, a few men carrying swords and a large man with a two-handed axe on his back. It honestly seemed a little unwieldy to me.

After my latest job, I had gained a sizable fortune, but considering that I was heading back to Reito anyway, there was no harm in gaining a bit more money. I would probably have to bring some meals for Michael, but so be it.

I walked up to the merchant and introduced myself as a witch hunter, showing off my token in the process. Immediately, the fat man accepted my offer, rubbing his hands greedily in the process. I had never gotten used to those merchant habits.

A few hours later, the caravan of 5 carriages left Ralston, accompanied by a total of 13 warriors with various classes. A little much, for such a small caravan, I thought. Still, if the merchant wanted to overspend, it wasn't my place to reject.

When Ralston was about to disappear beyond the horizon, Michael and I gave it a final wave, before starting our journey back to Reito.

 


 

The journey had been easy so far. Michael followed my instructions without question and read his books diligently. I had stored all of his father's things inside my spatial bag, which was now close to full. This included a number of books and theories on fire magic. If Michael wanted to follow in his father's footsteps, he would have to study diligently. Mana couldn't be accessed before the awakening as far as I knew, so practicing magic was out of the question.

Fortunately, Michael had an interest in magic beyond his wish to succeed his father, because unless I physically pulled him away, he wouldn't stop reading.

Like that, we travelled. Every night I would practice my swordsmanship, while Michael studied his father's notes and books. During the daytime, we would walk for hours. Sometimes the kid would rest by sitting inside one of the carriages when he got tired, since walking for a few days straight required quite a bit of constitution. I kept [Battle Meditation] active the entire time so that I could continue progression on my core skill. Sadly, there wasn't much time to practice my other skills, since I didn't want to reveal anything to the other members of the caravan.

 


 

Halfway through the journey, I started noticing the other guards staring at me occasionally. It couldn't really be described as an occasional stare, to be honest. All of the guards seemed to have some kind of problem with me, that they didn't bother to mention to my face.

They hadn't interacted much with us, apart from a few instances of small talk about the weather and all. Even so, they seemed to have a strange interest in me. Had they figured out I had a spatial bag? Michael had been reading books for a few days now, which might have seemed suspicious to them...

Still, there was no way those warriors would have shared that knowledge with each other right? Why would they share the treasure? That meant they were after something else. I searched my mind for any possible cause that I had done that could create enemies like this, but couldn't think of anything. I hadn't had any enemies in my hometown, and I wasn't even an official member of the witch hunters' guild yet.

That left one option. Someone I had met recently, in Ralston, had asked these guards to pay attention to me, possibly worse. Did the necromancer have a friend? I didn't think it likely. There was something called 'honour among thieves', but there wasn't anything like a code among madmen. Any friend or ally the necromancer might have had definitely wouldn't bother taking revenge if they didn't gain anything from it, let alone go as far as to hire assassins to finish the job.

After a while, I had gone over all the possible enemies I had made, yet found only one that had both the means and the motives. The mayor. Perhaps I was just being paranoid, but it made sense. There was no way the mayor would let me report his mistakes to the guild unscathed. He would, without a doubt, lose his job if that happened.

After realising the possible danger Michael and I were in, I started to plan. I wasn't really worried about what those mercenaries could throw at me. At most they would be tier 2, the mayor had only had a few days to scrounge them up after all. I could handle a few tier 2s. The bigger issue was Michael. Out of guilt, I had invited him along, but I hadn't stopped to think about the amount of danger I had put him in. Even worse, as long as Michael was nearby, I would have to protect him and fight off my opponents at the same time, which just wasn't feasible.

That night, I took Michael a few minutes into the forest to explain the situation to him.

"What's going on? Why did you want to talk to me over here?"

I looked him in the eyes and tried to muster a smile of confidence. I didn't think it came out right, because the kid only seemed even more uncomfortable.

"Listen, kid. This might be paranoia talking, but I think we're in trouble."

He got a slightly fearful look on his face when he heard my suspicions.

"What are you talking about?"

"Those other guards have been watching us for a while now. I noticed because of my sensory skill. From their behaviour, I'm pretty sure they're up to something, which is why I want you to leave."

"Leave? What do you mean leave?"

"I want you to head out into the forest, on your own."

"B-but I don't know if I can make it to Reito on my own, Arthur."

"Don't worry, I have a plan. For it to work, I just need you to disappear into the forest a few hours before I set it in motion. Can you do that? There aren't that many monsters in this forest. If it's just a few hours, you shouldn't encounter any. Aren't you a brave young man?"

"I-I can do that! I'm not a coward!"

"Good. To help you along, I'll use a special skill to keep the monsters away from you. I'll have the skill make rustling sounds in the bushes that I want you to follow the direction of. I want you to head out and look for a hiding spot by following the sounds. My skill will then lead me to you when I'm done here. Just stay in the first hiding spot you find and wait for me, alright?"

He nodded bravely, though I could see his lips quivering and his eyes watering. I didn't really want to do it like this. Leaving the kid alone in the middle of nowhere just didn't sit well with my conscience. I would send Revan to accompany him without showing himself, but that wouldn't settle his nerves. Well, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Chuckling, I patted him on the shoulder. It was about time we returned to the caravan. If we were gone too long the guard might have gotten suspicious.

 


 

The next day, when evening fell, I found the perfect opportunity to send Michael away. It was starting to get darker, so the dark-aligned mana would become more prevalent. With a scared smile, Michael waved at me as he trudged into the forest. I took special care to make sure none of the other guards noticed him leave and summoned Revan from behind some foliage, ordering him to stalk Michael and kill any monsters that got near, while not showing himself to the kid. There was no reason not to play it safe, after all, even if this forest was generally safe.

With my business settled and my safety firmly back under my own control, I could finally find out what was really going on. Still, I intended to let Michael walk for a few hours, so that he had a head start on any possible pursuers.

 

After the encampment had been set up, all of the caravan's personnel gathered to eat the food that our traveling cook had prepared in a big pot. It was normal porridge, like it had been for the past few days. A mostly tasteless meal. After an hour or so, one of the guards approached me. He was a bald older man, one of the guards that used a normal short sword.

"Hey, hunter, where's the kid gone?"

I smiled a little.

"No idea. I thought he was with you guys?"

He squinted at me, and replied in an angry tone.

"You just let a kid wander off like that? Where's your conscience? I suppose I shouldn't have expected better from a witch hunter."

This time it was my turn to get a sadistic smirk on my face. It was time to test the waters a bit.

"Maybe he left on his own. He might be hours into the forest by now."

Staring at me with wide eyes, he realised the jig was up. Either that, or he really hated neglectful parents. He didn't even bother responding, instead drawing his sword and thrusting straight for my heart. He must have used a skill, because his sword glowed a dull purple as it sped towards me beyond even my own attacking speed, signifying that he was at least tier 3.

I had kept my sword at the ready before I had replied, which is why I had my sword drawn to block almost immediately, but I still only partially succeeded. The glancing blow left a deep cut into the side of my torso, leaving a dull purple glow behind. I made some distance, realising a moment later that he had poisoned me. Before I could retaliate, the entire camp was drawing their weapons. Not only the guards, but even the caravan members and servants. Even the cook and the merchant were carrying weapons, all pointing their blades at me. It seemed the mayor had been even more generous in his spending than I thought. There were now twenty men and women looking at me like I was fresh meat.

I could handle 20 people any day of the week, though.

With a roar, I charged into the mass of enemies.

 

Two sword wielders were the ones to meet my charge head-on. The bald man had made some distance. I guessed he was waiting for me to tire out or something. I ignored the poison for now since I could just heal it later, catching the enemies by surprise with my augment at the same time.

I engaged in combat with the two sword wielders and went blow for blow with them. Thirty seconds later, I realised I wasn't getting anywhere. Each time I swung my sword, one of them would move to block, while the other countered. They were clearly a well-practiced duo. Each time I came close to dealing a fatal blow, an arrow would fly at me, forcing me to dodge.

Something was strange about this situation though. I was fighting three people to a stalemate, yet the other mercenaries weren't bothering to attack me yet, just standing around. Were they really expecting me to get tired?

I grunted. There was no point in worrying about it. Since the fight wasn't going anywhere, I decided to show my hand. It was time to end this. With a cry of frustration, I activated my augment and mana gathering skills at full blast, only to be interrupted by a sharp inhale of pain.

When I tried to move my mana through my body, it felt like molten iron rushing through my veins, even my augment couldn't stop the soul-splitting pain I felt. The bald man laughed from the front of the crowd.

"It's too late! The poison will have spread by now! Still, you're impressive, kid. That dosage is enough to suppress a tier 4 warrior's mana! I guess the mayor wasn't wrong when he said you would have a few tricks up your sleeve. It's the end of the line, though. This ends now."

The entire group of enemies charged at me, weapons drawn. They weren't going to give me any more time.

Despite the immense pain I was in, I could still use a part of my augment. I wasn't as strong at it would usually be, but it had been enough to heal my wound. The poison itself wasn't being purged though. It had mixed with my mana, infecting even my core.

I used as much mana as I could without passing out and defended myself from the attackers. They came at me, slashing, thrusting and tearing into my improvised defense. Each time one of them had finished using their skills, they rotated places with another member, as if I was a dungeon boss.

In the beginning, my wounds were healing faster than I gained them, but after a while the amount of mana I was using to do so was starting to become too much. After a few minutes, my core was nearing empty.

Sensing my weakness, the leader of the group came to gloat at me one final time.

"Looking a little tired there, buddy. A tier 4 [Mana poison], and you're still standing. Leave some pride for the rest of us! But it looks like you're out of mana. By now, the poison will have gotten into your core. Even if you survive this, there's no way you'll ever use mana again. Just accept death like a hero. Don't you kids all want to be heroes these days?"

 

I was gasping for air, trying to grasp onto any mana left in my body, but I couldn't find any. My body was filled with cuts and stab wounds, tired from the fighting and out of mana. Was this it? The end of all my efforts? I saw parts of my life flashing by as the tier 3 approached me, sword raised. My family, Garrett's party, the guild,...

I felt frustrated. I felt fury. I felt determination.

I wouldn't die here, at the start of my life. Even if I had to sacrifice everything. I pushed all of my mana out into my veins and struggled to keep it moving. My mana felt like it was burning through my core, but I kept going. I started spinning my core faster and faster to increase its pushing force like I did when I overloaded, and bit by bit the mana started moving again. Sensing that it was working, I spun it even faster, improving its speed bit by bit. Eventually, though, I reached my limit. It still wasn't enough.

I had only one option left. Break my core and use the residual mana to activate my augment one final time. This would cripple me and prevent me from using mana in the future, but it beat dying here to these mercenaries.

So I did. I spun my core so fast that cracks started appearing on its surface. Eventually, it shattered like glass. With it, a giant wave of mana erupted from my body. My augment activated and finally I felt my strength return. The strength I felt right now couldn't be compared to anything I had done before. My augment had overloaded purely because of the mana from my core, and that mana was now rushing through my body without control. I had destroyed whatever kept the mana in check, and as a result, I felt what a real [Death Knight] without a core would feel. For the first time, I realised that augment was meant to be used like this. Like an uncontrollable storm.

This all had only taken a second in the real world, because by the time my strength was returning to me, the assassin was already bringing down his blade. He cut halfway through my torso, nearly splitting my body in half with his skill, but to his great surprise, I stood up. With his sword still in my gut, my shoulder started to close its wound. By the time I was fully standing, I was mostly healed.

The assassin was so shocked to see me return from the dead that he just stood there, his mouth hanging open. I readied my blade and attacked.

To the tier 3's credit, he recovered quickly after that. He wouldn't be able to pull his sword out of my body without being gutted himself, so he retreated in some kind of blurry dash and took a weapon from another mercenary, who protested.

It didn't matter anymore, though. Their strategy, their teamwork, their skills or equipment, none of it mattered anymore.

With my augment stronger than ever before, I rushed at my opponents, cutting them in half as I went. Most simply weren't able to react in time. The two swordsmen that had tag teamed me tried to run, but were cut down after I apparated behind them. Before long, the rest started dying one by one as well.

The tier 3 noticed the way the winds were turning and tried to run as well. With a sadistic smile, I let him go. I would keep him for last. Without their tier 3, the leftovers were helpless. They were crying and begging, but deserved no mercy.

Only the bald man was left. I ran after him into the forest, and caught up a few minutes later. He tried to counter my attack, but failed, since I just shrugged it off.

I threw him to the ground and stepped on his leg, keeping him in place. With a grim sense of satisfaction, I pulled his own blade out of my gut, organs spilling out in the process. The wound healed right after, not even leaving an internal wound.

"Let me live! Please..! The mayor ordered me to! I have a family, you have to forgive me!"

I smiled and raised the sword above my head.

"I can give you money! I have a lot of it! I've worked with the mayor for years, I know where he keeps his own treasures!"

"Did you think I would let you live? Fool."

With a Cheshire smile, I swung down and cleaved him in half the same way he had attempted to do to me.

 


 

A few minutes later, I was following the direction Michael had taken off in. At this point, my mana was starting to run out again. Soon enough, my augment would stop and my core would collapse entirely.

 

Eventually, I found him walking along a path, grasping his staff fearfully. I approached him and called out.

"Hey kid, I see that you lived."

"I did! I wasn't even scared!"

"Listen, Michael. Those bastards had some kind of poison that messed with my mana. I need to tier up if I ever want to use my core again."

"Follow me, Arthur. There's a perfect place nearby that I found."

I nodded a little and followed him to a small encampment.

"I-I need to r-recover. Don't disturb me."

I had come up with an idea. While my core had been destroyed, the general layout was still there. It, too, would disappear in a few hours, unless... I tiered up, right here. Tiering up could heal even fatal wounds, and I had heard of it healing broken cores as well. This was my last option.

I sat down in the lotus position near the end of the cave for added safety, and opened my system notifications.

Ding! Combat finished. Max level reached. Increase class tier to gain experience. Experience is not awarded retroactively.

Rather than the first, it was the second notification that caught me by surprise.

[Dark augment](100%)

Tier 4 skill.

You possess the ability to suffuse your body and weapon with dark elemental mana from your core. This increases all of your physical abilities and increases the sharpness and durability of any weapon you hold.

You heal rapidly while augmented.

You ignore pain while augmented.

Your body can withstand far more dark mana while augmented.

Tier 5 upgrades

[Dark Revival]

As long as your existence receives dark mana from a bonded necromancer, you will revive.

[Dark Phantasm]

Turn augmented items or body parts intangible at will.

Turning (partially) intangible has an added mana cost and will continue to drain mana while active.

[Dark Form]

Dark augment becomes a passive skill.

 

Somehow, because of me breaking my core and flooding my body with mana, my augment had finally reached the tier 5 threshold. Gaining a tier 5 skill in tier 1 would surely increase the power of my tier 2 class. I suppose even that ambush had a silver lining. Once again, I wondered if I was the luckiest, or unluckiest tier 1 alive.

I would first have to choose a tier upgrade for my [Dark augment], and then tier up.

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A note from Belgianfri

Discord: https://discord.gg/YHZFB4HMHD

Don't worry about the core, I have something planned for it during the tier up.

What option would you pick?

Extra explanation: 

-Intangibility makes one immune to both physical and mana-based attacks. One can only be hit by attacks of an element one is weak to. Arthur-> can still be hit by holy/light element. 

-Revival will recreate the body, as long as there is even a bit of dust left of the original.

-Passive skills do not require mana.


Support "My class [Death Knight] is just barely legal..."

What skill upgrade should Arthur choose? (Extra info in authors note)
[Dark Revival]
[Dark Phantasm]
[Dark Form]

About the author

Belgianfri

  • Your holiness

Bio: I like fries. The belgian kind.

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