Beatrice rattled off her skill options. They sounded pretty exciting, actually. However, they were very different from the ones I had received before. Broom Proficiency, Prayer Leader, and Intimidation.
Intimidation seemed valuable for avoiding conflict. I had even used it once. Not the skill, of course, but I had intimidated those outside humans pretty well. I wasn’t sure I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t deny its utility. Still, I wasn't convinced that Beatrice would need it. Sure, it might help her to avoid some conflicts and continue about her day uninterrupted. However I wasn't sure how effective it would be for such a small human. Simply put, she wasn’t very intimidating to begin with. Maybe this skill would fix that, but then would she also be less nice? If not, I don't think she would be able to intimidate the larger humans that had caused a fuss a couple days ago, no matter how hard she tried.
Prayer Leader I really wasn't familiar with. Not just the skill, but also the concept. I thought I had an idea of what it meant to pray. I think it meant to wish really hard for something, kind of. I also had an idea of what it meant to be a leader, but to put the two of them together… A Prayer Leader would lead someone in prayer, yeah, but that didn't tell me anything about what the skill would do. It seemed risky to choose something so uncertain. Maybe Beatrice knew more about it and could explain.
The first option is what I was leaning toward, though. Broom Proficiency. That would be something useful that could last as long as the need to clean floors did. Which was to say forever. Beatrice had worked with a broom reasonably well already, but who knew what extra abilities this proficiency would give her. Would her dust piles be neater? Would she be able to wield the broom better? Would it give her broom a larger area of effect like my mop did?
Before finalizing my decision though, I think I needed to ask Beatrice more about Prayer Leader. I gave two monotone beeps, then added on a long ascending note to indicate a question. Beatrice seemed to consider my meaning. "Are you asking about the second option? Or are you telling me to choose it?"
I beeped once.
"I'm going to assume that means the first thing I said."
I gave an affirmative beep.
"All right. Prayer Leader is a skill that I'm not super familiar with, but based on the class guide I found it’s related to Devotee. It would allow multiple people to gain experience from worshiping something when I led them in prayer. That’s even if they don't have a class that would normally get experience that way. I don't think I get experience from praying myself, though, so I’m not sure how that would work."
I assumed that experience might be related to the levels, upgrades, and mutations that were so common around here. If that was the case, this skill would help people get stronger more quickly. Just as long as those people weren’t Beatrice. That sounded pretty useless right now, considering that Beatrice was the only friendly being - human or otherwise - that I had met so far. Maybe she could help me level faster, but that seemed like only a shortcut. I had to be a good example and get stronger through hard work. Taking an easy path would just be selfish, especially since I was already stronger than her.
That confirmed it. Broom Proficiency was the best choice. It seemed to fit her needs best. While the others might be useful in some circumstances, she needed a good baseline skill that she could always fall back onto. Working with a broom would provide that for her.
As I made my choice, I let out a single monotone beep. Showing her that she should choose the first option.
"You think Broom Proficiency?” Beatrice paused, looking thoughtful. “I guess proficiency skills are always good. It's nice to have at least one, though I feel bad about missing out on intimidation. Though I think I can live with it. It’s hard to be intimidating right now, and I didn't know if I wanted to go down that route anyway…” She gave an odd smile.
"Prayer Leader I had mixed feelings about. It just didn't seem like my type of Devotee would normally pray. It’s more about acts of service, so far. That’s why when I’m serving your ideals, I get extra experience.”
She hesitated slightly before continuing with a question. “Actually, I still haven't figured out what your ideals really are yet. Maybe you can help me understand?"
My Ideals? I wasn't sure why that would matter, or why she would try to serve them. I supposed if it helped her to know, I could try to explain. I would do my best to clarify if she asked the right questions.
Beatrice let out a breath before continuing. "I know I get experience through cleaning. That part seems pretty obvious. Organization and order seem to be your core values. What didn't make sense though was why I got any amount of experience from carrying you up and down stairs.” I waited for her to continue. “See, my class shouldn't get experience from directly serving you. It should only get experience through serving the ideals you stand for. So what ideal am I serving by carrying you up and down the stairs? You didn't seem to value sloth or deference or anything like that."
I was still waiting for a question I could answer, but I was starting to understand what Beatrice was talking about. I don't think I had a class, but it sounded like a job. And her job let her get experience for doing it. So she got job experience through cleaning. That made total sense. However, she was saying that she gained experience through something that didn’t make sense. So how could I have an influence on that?
Beatrice scratched her head for a moment, before seeming to have an idea. "So I guess my question is, what are your ideals, other than order? Just beep when I list one-off." Beatrice began to list things as we continued down the hallway."Service, Reading, Knowledge, Honor, Valor, Piety, Grace, Chastity…"
Nothing seemed to fit. Order and cleanliness were the main things I really cared about, but we had already covered them. As she went on, she got more and more detailed. Even a little desperate if I was hearing right.
"Fear of heights? No, that's not an ideal. Hatred of stairs? The natural order of the world?"
Wait, that was something. I beeped.
"The natural order of the world?"
No, not that. I rotated side to side and answered negatively.
"Hatred of stairs?"
Yeah, that one!
"Oh," Beatrice was silent. There was an unfamiliar look of frustration and disbelief warring across her face. "Well… Okay. I don't think that Prayer Leader would work for me then. I think that I'll have other options down the line for class skills. Broom proficiency it is."
We continued onward. I was right and the tunnel continued to curve so we were underneath that first cavern. It seems that if this pattern continued, the whole catacombs would be mostly contained within the walls of the castle and go straight down rather than sprawl out under the mountain behind. I wasn't sure of why it was made like this, but it didn't seem to matter very much. I was just glad they were using ramps instead of stairs. Who would have thought they'd make the catacombs so cleaning friendly?
It seemed like the only thing down here besides us was skeletons. They were still barely armed and often not armored. Beatrice stopped trying to experiment as much and worked really hard perfecting the “push them over and smash until destroyed” technique she had gotten so good at. For now, that would do, but she would need to learn how to use a broom properly if she wanted to make it her go-to tool. While her current skills were good for these skeletons, I wasn’t sure how well she would do with another human or one of the demon mess makers upstairs.
Her first actual test was when two skeletons came around the corner at once. Beatrice glanced at me and I beeped some encouragement. I thought she could do it. Neither of these skeletons was particularly armored. One had a dagger, and the other was just holding a wooden stick. I wouldn't even call it a club; there was no thick weighty part. She would have a massive reach advantage, and skeletons hadn’t been giving her trouble for a while now.
When she leveled up, she became stronger and faster like me. A single skeleton was no issue at this point. Two, though, might give her trouble. If they worked together.
And it did appear that these skeletons understood the concept of teamwork. They spread out to come at her from two sides. As much as the hallway would allow, at least. It was relatively narrow, so they were still only about six feet apart. But that still meant she couldn't face them squarely at the same time. As her opponents approached, Beatrice made a decision I thought she should have made long ago. She placed the light orb behind her on the floor. It gave her enough light to see by, but allowed her to wield the broom with both hands.
Since she had received Broom Proficiency, her abilities had improved noticeably. Models indicated that she was at least 107% more efficient at taking down her enemies, even discounting her push and smash method. The broom looked more natural in her hands, and she could strike with more force than she rightfully should with one blow. There were times when I thought the broomstick might break from the amount of force she put into it. However, it never cracked or even groaned. Still, that metal broom was a good idea. As she got stronger, it didn't matter how proficient she was at the broom. She probably would eventually break it.
Taking the broom in both hands, she settled into a low stance. I was excited to see what she had in store. This would also be a new set of data to add to my models. She swished the broom a few times experimentally as if getting used to its weight. The bristles made an odd whistling noise as they passed through the air, followed by the whoosh of the handle.
Not waiting for the skeletons to come closer, Beatrice charged the one with the dagger. The other was still close enough to cover his buddy before she got too close, so it didn't really have the same effect as it could have, but it was better than letting them come to her at their own speed. Her most considerable advantage was her weight. She had more than twice the weight of the two skeletons combined. So even though she was much smaller than them and not nearly as strong, it still let her carry them off their feet if she got a clean hit.
These skeletons seemed slightly more intelligent than the previous ones though. Perhaps it was the fact that they were together, perhaps that they moved a little more smoothly, but they seemed to be aware of her intent. The dagger skeleton backed up against the wall to take the brunt of the force. She hit its ribcage at an angle, but with the additional support from behind it was able to stay standing. The stick skeleton came at her from the side, forcing her to quickly step back to block a swing with the broom. She angled the bristles upward to catch the incoming stick while simultaneously pulling back the blunt end of the broom. As the stick impacted, she smashed the handle into the face of the pinned skeleton. I let out a chirp of excitement.
Holding the broom in two hands gave her some massive advantages. She had a perfect blunt force shield with bristles that could easily block and tangle up limbs or weapons. That worked very well against skeletons so far. The other side was terrific for precision strikes. She could use it to hit exact joints trying to damage or dislocate them. I feel like this part was actually underused right now compared to what it could be against a more squishy opponent. The bristles were just too good down here.
I settled back and watched Beatrice fend off the duo. My student had come so far. I no longer felt the urge to step in and help her. Recently she had very rarely struggled in any of her fights. It was a little sad because I didn't get to practice against the skeletons at all. Still, the pride I felt in seeing my disciple improve outweighed the joy I would get from participating.
I just hoped that some of this broom practice would translate over to cleaning and dusting more efficiently too.
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Bio: After reading pretty much everything I could I figured I would try making some of the stories that I wanted to read.