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Taylor’s parents weren’t bad people in any meaning of the word. They just didn’t get along.
When Taylor decided to pursue a career in music, her parents weren’t particularly supportive. They thought it would be an uncertain career, and they wanted to make sure Taylor got a degree that she could use to make enough money to live. Taylor had always been headstrong and independent, and she was not interested in anything they wanted to say. The problem was her parents were the ones that were paying for the college. Her solution was to drop out altogether and make it on her own.
Naturally neither of her parents were happy with that, but they couldn’t do much about it. Taylor was an adult, and their sway was limited. They both knew that if they pushed Taylor too hard, they would lose her altogether, so they did what they could to be supportive of her choices even if they didn’t agree with them. This strained their relationship, but I had noticed it slowly improving since we had known each other.
Cindy ushered me in the door and sat down in her luxurious chair, giving me time to take in the new apartment and its occupants.
The first thing I noticed was the size. The doorframes were both particularly high and extra wide, making them very easy to walk through without worrying about my horns and wings. The ceiling was about ten feet tall, a bit higher than I was used to. Similar to before, it had an open plan, and featured a single long hallway stretching back into the building that I knew would hold all of our rooms. I did, however, see three extra doors leading to additional bedrooms, and another open space at the end of the expanse.
Occupying the living room, Kaitlyn and the demonkin child from the police station sat comfortably on a large L-shaped couch. Adjacent to them in a tucked-away nook, Cindy lounged in her chair reading the D&D 5th edition players handbook. The dining room table was occupied by an uncomfortable looking Taylor, James, her parents, and a young man I recognized as Taylors younger brother. It looked like Taylor’s family had also become beastkin, as both parents had round fuzzy ears tucked on top of their heads. For some reason, though, her brother was ear-free. Was he a superhuman? I thought race travelled in families, except for beta testers. They seemed to be chatting amongst themselves, and I didn’t want to invade their privacy, so I moved into the kitchen.
On the stove was some left-over lunch, a pasta in a red sauce with some kind of cubed and pan-grilled monster meat spread on top. It smelled divine, so I made myself a plate, and decided to join Cindy. I sat down in a matching chair across from her and started liberally shoving pasta into my mouth.
The pasta seemed rather normal but the sauce, while still made from tomato, seemed to radiate mana and vitality. The meat itself though was a different story altogether. It was extremely rich, and tasted reminiscent of pork, but it had added sweetness that clashed beautifully with the tangy tomatoes. Cindy had outdone herself with this one.
After I had eaten my fill and gotten comfortable, I settled down with a nice cup of coffee. It didn’t feel like it because I had been so busy, but I hadn’t actually seen or spent time with Cindy for six weeks now. I had a lot to catch up on.
“So, Cindy, what’s with the getup? You seem a bit overdressed for a relaxing afternoon off.”
With an annoyed sigh, thankfully not directed at me, the fey set her book down.
“Vic, when you finally max out your archetype, make sure you pick something that fits you.”
“What does archetype have to do with anything? I’m guessing you maxed yours out, right? What happened?”
Cindy adjusted her posture and began to spin her tale.
When I isolated myself at the ranch to work on my class, Cindy also decided to take some time off. While she did, she explored a newly constructed village and met the people there. Something about seeing the way the village leader talked with his villagers gave her an idea about how to advance some of her skills, and maybe max out her archetype.
Cindy had been stuck in the eighties of her archetype skill, ‘Hidden Royalty’, for around two weeks. I remembered back to the very first day of the transformation. Cindy had already reached level ten with her archetype while I was stuck at level three. She had learned that by acting out the archetype, it’s level would increase drastically. Just recently though, with the new insights into leadership she gained, she reached the level cap for the skill.
When it finally happened, she received the chance to upgrade her archetype to something better. Her options for this choice were either ‘Guild Leader (tier 2)’ or ‘Royalty (tier 2)’. It was a tough decision for her to make, but because she was working on improving multiple facets of herself besides just being the guild leader, she chose ‘Royalty’.
Unfortunately, the change was more in-depth than she expected. The new skill incorporated some of the bonuses of her previous version while removing others altogether. The new bonuses, though, were staggering. Supposedly her previous archetype gave her extensive 25% charisma bonuses both for deception to hide her identity, and for commanding people who were her subordinates. It also gave her skills that allowed her to maintain composure in stressful situations, making it invaluable to her work.
The new archetype removed the deception ability, but in exchange gave her powerful insight into other’s actions, functioning almost like telepathy. To top it off, the bonus to charisma for subordinates had DOUBLED, and that was only on the first level of the skill. However, that was where the problem lied.
From asking around, she was able to figure out that archetype skills were rather easy in the first form to level up. Everyone had an archetype, and while getting it to 100 was a time-consuming process, it wasn’t particularly difficult for anyone to accomplish.
Things got crazy though with the second one. The options offered for a new archetype had to do with your actions while under the influence of the old one. In this way, they were more catered to the individual. They were, however, far more specific in their leveling requirements. You could no longer level them by being vague in your actions. You had to actively act out what they wanted you to do if you wanted their bonuses. Cindy was simply acting out the part; dressing in fancy clothes and acting with poise.
“Isn’t that a little bit unfair? Now you have to act all prim and proper if you want to level the skill. It feels so… forced.”
Cindy raised her eyebrows and looked thoughtful.
“I disagree, Vic. The second archetype is a choice, plain and simple. The bonuses it gives me are situational at best but are powerful enough to be desirable. No one forces me to act like this, just like no one forced me into choosing Royalty over Guild Leader. To be perfectly honest, this isn’t all that much of a stretch from how I acted before. Now, though, I can be more obvious about it.”
She did have a point, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. It just felt like the system was forcing her to act out some fantasy. What would happen if someone got a bad archetype, like ‘bandit’, or Kaitlyn’s ‘tsundere’? Wouldn’t they be forced to act out their positions? It felt almost like playing into H.G.’s hands.
It must have shown on my face, because Cindy let out a chuckle.
“Not convinced it’s harmless quite yet I see. Well, maybe when you get your archetype upgrade, you’ll understand. You’re bound to have some interesting choices no?”
I surely would. I couldn’t even imagine what they would be, though. Monster Queen? Spider Murderer? Or maybe something horribly cliché like Antihero Protagonist? I would see what the change brought. Lone Wanderer was at level 78, so the max level wasn’t too far out of sight.
Cindy could see that I was starting to get lost in thought again, so she picked up her book and continued reading. While she did that, I decided to continue my practice of using One Body to understand my rank up.
Proprioception was a strange ability. It was a true sixth sense, perhaps even more so than electroreceptivity or thermal vision. As the level of One Body increased, the sensation became far more profound, and I was starting to the intricacies of my insides more than ever before. Where before I had a vague understanding of where my limbs were, or how my digestive system was working, I now had intricate knowledge of how far my muscles were contracted, or how fast my heart was beating.
I was meditating, trying to sense the bones connecting my wings to my spine with I felt someone brush past me, and sit down.
Opening my eyes, I saw an exhausted looking Taylor drinking a glass of red wine. Looking around the room, I could see that her parents had left. Now that I was out of meditation, Taylor turned towards me, and Cindy put down her book yet again.
“Hey Taylor. It’s been a while. How have you been?”
“I can’t really complain, sweety. I’m just tired, you know? It was already a long day when my parents decided to show up.”
I nodded in understanding. I could sympathize with her. Having an off day was nothing new to me.
“You want to talk about it, or are you done talking for the day?”
She shook her head, then let out a brief smile.
“Talking with friends sounds… nice.”
Taylor was sitting on a love seat, so I moved to join her, wrapping my wing around her shoulder.
“So, what’s up? What did your parent’s want?”
She leaned against me, and rested her head on my shoulder, snuggling into my feathers before answering.
“They actually came to ask for help, believe it or not. They needed jobs and hoped I could help. My dad worked as a manager for a grocery store, right? My mom worked in an accounting firm. Neither of their companies have been able to get back on their feet, so they are out of work.”
“What did you say to them?”
“I told them the truth. I have been making wooden furniture for people and creating cheap lumber. It’s a solo operation though; it isn’t like I have a company to run. I just do it on the side while I work on my music.”
“I’m guessing they didn’t like that?”
“You guessed it in one. No, they didn’t like that. Dad wanted me to make him my manager or something and start a furniture business. I could make mom a secretary and take my brother in to do odd jobs. He talked about expanding into bigger business and hiring more dryads.”
“Hmmm. I guess that doesn’t sound so bad, as long as you could still do your music and go adventuring.”
“And that, right there, was the problem. He seemed convinced that I couldn’t do any other work on the side. Neither of my parents wanted me to learn fighting, and both of them were pretty pissed when I let them know that that ship had already sailed.”
“What happened then?”
“I didn’t think it was possible, but it somehow got worse. My brother said he wanted to work as an adventurer, and then my parents went all quiet. They were NOT into that, but he didn’t let them change his mind. He had already signed up with the guild before coming here and joined a decent party.”
“Jeez. That’s got to feel bad, but I’m happy for him.”
For some reason, Taylor started belly laughing.
“Heh. Yeah. I’m happy for him too. Anyway, I gave mom and dad a couple of gold coins and pointed them in the direction of a guild recruiter. I told them that if even if they couldn’t work as adventurers, the guild had positions open for anyone. They didn’t answer though. They just took the money and left.”
“Well damn. What happened with your brother?”
“Oh, Travis? He’s in my room right now, changing.”
She immediately started laughing again, and quickly rose. Still laughing, she grabbed my hand and yanked me up to stand.
“Come on, Vic. You need to see this.”
We went down the hall and went to the very last door on the right side. This must be hers.
Unceremoniously, she threw the door open, and shouted,” Travis, I’m coming in!”
From where I stood, I couldn’t see inside yet, but I did hear a cute yelp followed by some panicked shuffling. Did Travis bring a girl inside while I was meditating?
Peeking around the frame, I witnessed a confusing sight. Taylor stood, helping a lithe girl pull on a t-shirt. The girl had small mousey ears matching Taylor’s parents, but I knew she had no sisters. Could this be…
“Is that girl there, perhaps… Travis? I’m Vic. It’s nice to meet you.”
Taylor laughed again and received an angry scowl from Travis. The problem was his face was so downright cute it just made the situation worse, sending Taylor into another fit of laughter.
Taylor spoke up first.
“Sorry about that, little bro. Yeah, Travis here won the cuteness lottery. He and the family became dormouse kin, but as far as he can tell, his physical changes were a head and shoulders above my parents. He’s been hiding his appearance with a natural glamor skill. Despite his looks, he’s definitely still male. I was still shocked that my younger brother had the ‘trap’ archetype, so I decided to save that juicy surprise for later. That’s some hilarious shit.”
I had expected to find a trap sooner or later, so I wasn’t surprised in the least. In a world where we had edgy antiheroes and Tsundere a dime a dozen, what was one or two traps? It was rather par for the course.
I turned towards Travis.
“That’s pretty rough, I guess. Sorry that it happened. I remember you were pretty dang tall before, so it must have been a weird experience.”
I thought he would be annoyed, or at least a little bit bashful, but Travis just shrugged.
“It’s not that big of a deal honestly. At first adapting to the changes was hard, but I’ve just gotten used to it. My archetype levels just from me walking around, and I can get into all kinds of places without problems. To top it off, the adventurer party I got into is all women. I even let them know I was a guy right out of the gate, but they were all over me. Plus, my dick is like three inches longer, so can I really complain?”
Yep. Definitely Taylor’s brother.
I left the siblings alone to talk amongst each other and went back to join Cindy. It was around three now, and I wanted to talk about the capital building sooner rather than later. I planned on visiting it tomorrow, and I wanted some backup.