Wrenched from my dreams by the temple’s bells, I woke up covered in sweat and with a heart beating as if it was trying to escape from my chest.
What the hell is going on with these nightmares… I thought as I wiped my forehead.
Every time I woke up my memories of them became foggy, leaving me with a sickening feeling of dread in my stomach that seemed to grow stronger every morning. All I knew was that they were related to my early years, to back when I was still living with my birth family.
That alone was a good reason to be thankful for the fact that I couldn’t remember them, but it had me wondering “why”. Why would I dream of that period of time in particular? Why now?
They did say that childhood trauma is never truly dealt with, but this seemed… unnatural. I had buried my demons long a-
Burying. Ikun Omi had said something about that.
Our meeting in the mindscape surely had not helped my mental state. This could all just be the way for my stress to make itself known. With a sigh, I got up and started to get ready for the day.
I was planning to go hunting real monsters, after all. No matter how numb I wanted to believe I was, that had to also somewhat affect me at a primal level.
After completing my ablutions, I headed toward the main hall with a breakfast consisting of the usual tongue numbing porridge. I still had much more enticing food in my inventory, but figured it would probably be wiser to save it for times when there would be no free food around. Me being broke hadn’t changed… and I sadly couldn’t think of it changing in the foreseeable future.
I need the kid to tell me how things usually go during those hunts… The guild might have some requests I can fulfill.
While her response to my own request had been odd, I was ready to dismiss any reservations Lima had about me going with her. I needed more ether and, more importantly, Tamie needed monster cores for my weapon.
I had to go.
Which was why I was going to the main hall early. My plan was to change her mind as soon as she came down from the dorms.
I was expecting to eat breakfast by myself for a while and was surprised to find Bo sitting at my usual table.
He was staring at an untouched bowl identical to my own, with vacant eyes, lowered ears, and an inert tail. The puffiness of his eyes hinted at the sleepless night he undoubtedly had to go through.
The sound of my bowl hitting the table as I sat down startled him.
“Oh, h-hey,” he blurted out.
“Hi,” I said calculated nonchalance. “Long night?”
“Um. yeah,” he nodded. “I did not sleep. At all.”
“Yeah, being nervous does that,” I smiled between two spoonfuls. “Do you know how early Lima gets up when she has to go hunting?”
He looked at me with confusion.
“Lima,” I repeated, with a wave of my spoon toward the door. “I have to go hunting with her, but she doesn’t seem to want to for some reason. There’s-”
“No,” he interrupted. “I heard what you said. What I don’t understand is why this is what you want to talk about now.”
I shrugged and pointed my spoon at his hands, “I’m not seeing any piece of jewelry at your fingers, so I was just waiting for you to give it back or broach the subject.”
“It’s because the rin-it freakin’ disappeared as soon as I put it on!” he whispered through his teeth.
“Oh,” I said with a raised brow. “Really? It left nothing?”
“Nothing,” he showed me his right hand and I frowned at the sight. “It… it did work though,” he added.
“Show me your hand,” I said, extending mine.
He did as asked and took a closer look.
There was a blurry circle around his ring finger, and a line that went from it to another circle at the center of his palm. The ring itself had disappeared, but there definitely was something. Some markings of some sort…
… He just can’t see them.
I figured that it surely was a good thing. Some people were obviously aware of the existence of rings of bestowal, and no matter how unlikely it was for one of them to find Bo and suspect him to have one, it was convenient that they wouldn’t have any easy way to confirm it.
Realizing I had been holding his hand for more than just a moment, I let it go and went back to my food.
“Just be careful around anyone that might be able to see invisible stuff,” I said.
“Really? Can-” He leaned closer to me. “Can you… see it?”
“Alright,” he muttered, leaning back, “I will be careful.”
I was slightly surprised by how fast he got over his curiosity, but then again he had been awake the whole night.
“So,” I said after a moment. “How does it feel to be a warrior? Is it everything you’ve ever wanted?”
He chuckled and shook his head.
“It’s strange but… I do not feel any different, for now at least. I guess it will change when people will know, or when I become stronger. What’s really weird- and I know it really does not sounds like much, but… it’s the new categories and information in my status.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s just that… it had never changed before. My status has always been the same, all these years. It’s just… bizarre, to see new stuff.”
“Uh, I see.”
I could understand the sentiment. Forsaken people probably stopped looking at their status at one point. However, I was curious about one thing.
“About your status. What does your class say?”
“Hmm, the first notification described the Blazing Sword Dancer as a warrior whose passion can ignite their soul,” he mused. “I thought it was cool, did yours say the same?”
All of a sudden, the bench felt slightly uncomfortable.
“Mine… is a bit different,” I said. “What about skill trees?”
“I have two! Can you imagine?” he said with a big smile that soon became an embarrassed sigh. “Of course you can, the class comes from yours.”
“Don’t be so sure,” I said with a tap on his shoulder. “My sword dancing class only has one skill tree.”
His eyes got wide.
“Really,” I nodded.
I wasn’t particularly worried about an injustice though.
Assuming the logic is consistent, I mused, each of his skill trees must be related to one of the two rhythms that form the Sunken dance.
That meant that he would have to master both of them separately as individual styles.
Unless he somehow finds a way to merge them on his own, he will be stuck at that tier.
That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. From what I had seen until now, it seemed that every style was a lesser version of another. It was possible that they all came from a single one.
“You can tell Ardos you need a weapon,” I said after a moment. “He knows about the ring, he’ll have an idea of what’s going on. Matter of fact, you should just go train with the fighters later so that you can get an idea of what you can do. You can take it easy and earn ether at your own rhythm.”
“I am not sure about taking it easy,” he said as he stretched his arms, “but I was planning to talk to him anyway. He usually gives advice to the new warriors.”
The shuffling sound of young people moving past us reminded me to look around the main hall again, but Lima was still nowhere to be found.
She sure is taking her time.
“Hey,” Sarn said as he sat down on Bo’s side.
Yawning and with golden hair still damp from his shower, he put a steaming plate of food that couldn’t have looked more appetizing than ours and made a few heads turn.
“Bo, did you also have problems sleeping because you got used to Edward’s bed?” he said. “You were tossing and turning all night.”
“Are those… eggs? How did you get them?” Bo said with disbelief.
I had to admit that I was curious too.
“I made a friend in the kitchen,” he said with a mischievous smile. “She said that she had made too much and that I could take these. Also, do you guys know why Lima-”
“I know I’m half asleep, but that does not make any sense,” the dog boy interrupted as he rubbed his eyes. “How does a cook even make too many eggs? Who is it?”
“Sheila, you know, one of the girls who came with the nomads last year,” he shrugged. “Maybe she just started working as a cook. Do you guys want some?”
“Sure,” I said, mildly amused at the perspective of a girl having a crush on the boy. “But you were about to say something about Lima, right? I’ve been waiting for her.”
He looked at me with confusion.
“I-I was about to ask if you guys know why she’s leaving withou-”
I jumped from my seat before I could hear the rest and ran out the hall, sprinting toward the temple’s exit.
Goddammit, I should have seen this coming.
An incoming torrent of young children suddenly came out a hallway, forcing me to slow down enough to not hurt any of them. Which basically meant that I was tiptoeing with frustration when I heard my name.
“Edward!” Tamie called from the end of the hallway.
I was ready to wave at her that there were pressing matters I had to deal with, but made a b-line in her direction when I saw what was was sitting on her lap. A rifle.
“I didn’t think you’d have the time to make it,” I said as I picked the item.
“Morning to you too,” she said with a tired voice. “I could not sleep last night, so I figured I would pass time doing something useful. The faster I level up the sooner you get the thing you want, right? Take these too.”
Did any of them even sleep? I wondered as I studied the weapon.
It was incredibly light, and while I was aware that it was due to my improved attributes, it made it feel more like a toy than a real weapon. I could tell from a few golden parts that the brass rifle had been used as a base, but the end result looked somewhat more… “modern” in my eyes.
Rectangular and mostly made of black steel, the weapon reminded me of a longer NS2000 shotgun. The stock still had the empty glass compartment that filled itself with blue light when my fingers touched it. At the same moment, a quarter of the bar representing my mana disappeared.
I didn’t even notice it took anything last time, and back then I didn’t even have that much of it.
Tamie presented the other items, a small white cube and what looked like a part of the rifle’s barrel, except it was as just as long as the weapon itself.
“The cube is just a light source, but it’s my specialty and will consume very little mana for hours of usage,” she said, before raising the barrel, “And this, is the most important part of the riffle. I really wanted to see it in action, though… It’s mostly my work, so I can’t tell how reliable it will be. But it’s essential that you use it so that I can raise the related proficiencies faster.”
I took them both, not really sure what to expect from “the most important part” of my temporary weapon.
“What can you tell me about it?” I said.
“I call it Sun barrel, you mount it on the rifle by sliding it in,” she said with a prideful smile. “Since I don’t know much about firearms I kept a lot of the dwarven theory for the riffle, like the design of the bullets and the inner mechanisms, but as you can see I made a few changes in preparations for the.. real thing. The bigger one was the firing mechanism, I used goblin tech to-”
“Sorry, I need to go so we should hurry,” I said as I put the weapon in my inventory. “How many bullets can I shoot per charges? Caliber? Cyclic rate? Maximum effective range?”
She blinked, then looked away with a nervous laugh.
“Oh. Um, wh-what?”
I’m wasting time.
“Never mind, I’ll figure it out and make sure to use it as much as possible. Thanks.” I said as I turned around.
“Wait! I wanted to say thank you, for yesterday. I mean it. I know it was stupid, but for a moment… I thought of the worst.”
I looked for what felt like the first time since our conversation started.
Even though there hadn’t been any opportunity for us to talk after the incident with Ormidillio, I had assumed she was fine. She had been born and raised in this world, after all. Then again, I was starting to understand that while the idea of violence was mundane, only a few groups were directly exposed to it and they were glorified for that very fact.
I held her hand.
“Don’t worry about it, I’m sure you would have been fine no matter what,” I lied. “Get some sleep later, and try to forget about the whole thing when you wake up.”
For a fraction of a second, she looked confused and it made me think that maybe I had misunderstood what she was talking about. Maybe what had scared her the most wasn’t the drunk boy who had threatened her, but me, the one who got to show actual cruelty.
But then she smiled.
“You’re right,” she simply said.
I waved as I left, weaving through the flow of barely awake residents as I did my best to dismiss the useless thoughts and focus on what was important.
The sun was barely peaking over the horizon when I came out of the temple, and most of the dew covered valley was still wrapped in shadows. But as I peered down from the hill, the first rays of light revealed something that would have been hard to miss for anyone born on Earth.
The sight of a green-skinned girl jogging at a moderate pace toward figures waiting for her on the other side of the valley.
With a grin, I started running down the hill. Slowly at first, so that I wouldn’t trip on something. Then fast enough to hear the wind howl in my ears.
It had been a while since I had physically pushed myself, and this was a good opportunity to test my new limits and the very first skill I had gotten from my classes.
What was its name again? Kinetic charge?