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Cain did know where the main security room was, and from there it wasn’t hard to shut down the power in the facility, with the help of my handy sword. It lacked finesse, of course, and resulted in us having to take endless sets of stairs to get out. But thankfully all the escape doors could be operated mechanically, either with ‘simple’ one-way door handles, or crank wheels, so getting out hadn’t proven to be an issue.

And in the commotion we’ve created inside the facility, the guards at the cordons were more focused on evacuating employees than checking if anyone was sneaking over their walls.

We had blocked the emergency staircase that we’d taken, making the employees evacuate through a different route.

As I rushed down the slope of the mountain, taking shortcuts through the forest, rather than following the car road I’d taken to get here, I could see two large helicopters flying towards the facility. Thankfully Cain accepted to be picked up, albeit begrudgingly so, so we had reached a large road by the time several fire trucks, an ambulance, and military vans rode up the hill.

From there, we headed to the nearest village, where after a quick change of clothes on my part, I called an Uber to get us closer to the airport. I had put my jacket around Cain, and although he did look somewhat strange, the Uber driver didn’t seem to care enough to ask questions. What did surprise me was that Cain didn’t ask any questions either, and fell asleep in the backseat of the car.

He didn’t fully wake up when the car stopped, and I had to carry him to the airport, where I had to shake him awake to activate the teleportation items. After crushing the small yellow gem, Cain immediately returned to slumber. For a second, I was worried that if he were unconscious, something might go wrong with the teleportation, but since we were using it at the same time, we both materialised in Paris, safe and sound.

It was only when I was fiddling with the lock of my apartment door, that Cain finally woke up.

“Put me down.” He groaned, in a half-awake voice.

I finally managed to open my door, and happily obliged. Cain wasn’t that heavy, but after carrying him around for so long, my non-existent arm muscles felt tired.

I watched as he ran into my flat, as I took off my shoes, and threw my stuff on the kitchen counter. He hadn’t gone exploring or tried to run away. Instead, he ran up to the window, and stood there, as if frozen in place.

It was early evening at this point. The sun was no longer high up in the sky and had begun its descent towards the horizon. The tall buildings neighbouring my apartment had begun throwing long shadows onto the street beneath. Another quiet day was coming to an end in Paris.

I left Cain to his devices and headed to my bedroom to quickly change clothes.

“Do you want chicken nuggets?” I asked once I returned.

He hadn’t moved from his spot by the window, nor did he react in any way at the prospect of chicken nuggets. I wasn’t sure what kids liked, but when I was his age, I’d only eat fries and frozen chicken nuggets (the fresh ones just didn’t taste the same). Then I discovered instant ramen, and it was only when I moved to university that I started eating properly.

“Are you hungry?” I rephrased my question.

That did seem to have provoked some emotion, as Cain ran up to the kitchen area, and took a seat at the table. He looked at me expectantly.

“If you’re not up for chicken nuggets, I also have pasta, with carbonara sauce, and probably some bolognaise somewhere, but I’d have to look for that. Lentils, some cured salmon, vegetables,...” I trailed off as I listed what food I had on hand.

None of the items listed got any reaction out of Cain.

“Eggs, American sandwich spread, yoghurt,” I continued, as I opened the fridge to check its contents.

“Do you have soup?” He asked, with a tone he failed to make sound un-annoyed.

“I can make soup.” I nodded. “What do you want in it? Chicken nuggets?” I joked.

His expression turned into disgust and I couldn’t help but smile. Despite everything, he could act like a kid sometimes.

“It’s gonna take a while, so how about you get settled in in the meantime?” I said. “Feel free to explore the apartment, the door on the right is my room, the other door is the bathroom and toilet, and the room behind the curtain is where you’ll be staying.”

That second room had previously been used as a living room by the original Laura, and as a storage room by me. With some minor rearrangements, it made for a decent guest room.

“I’d rather watch.” Cain said in that mildly annoyed tone I had started to associate with him.

I shrugged it off and started preparing food.

“So, what do you want with me?” Cain asked once he deemed I was distracted enough with my task.

Thankfully I was prepared for something of the sort, otherwise, I might have dropped my knife in surprise from the calm tone and the word choice he used. If he was smart enough to understand the situation, I saw no reason to come up with lies he could easily unravel. After all, the foundation of every good relationship was built on trust.

“You might have just about noticed, but I’m not all that good in combat. I need someone to keep an eye out, in case I get into a dangerous situation.” I explained.

“And what do I get out of it?” He asked.

“Free housing, free food, free schooling, if you want to.” I said, as I turned towards him and leaned on the counter, anticipating a response.

Truth be told, there was nothing stopping him from walking out the main door right this instance. Well, he was still wearing those blood-stained clothes which had once again been exposed after he threw my coat onto a kitchen chair, so he wouldn’t go far, but still. The possibility was there.

I wanted to say that I had done everything in my power to make him stay, but that would have been a lie. I had tried my best and had to improvise in complicated situations. There were a lot of things I could have done better, but overall, I felt as if the odds were in my favour.

“How come you’re so weak anyway?” Cain asked, changing the topic.

I scoffed. For some reason, his reaction didn’t even surprise me.

“I’m not weak, I’m only half a rank below you.” I told him. “I just have a lot of passive skills, that are virtually useless in combat.”

He gave me a weird look, as if he wasn’t buying any of that.

“No, look.” I said, as I displayed my ESW before him.

Laura Dubois

She/her

23

Rank not displayed

Courier

Sub-class not displayed

Skills not displayed

Luck

1/100

MP

0/100

Strength

11

Dexterity

17 = 11 + 6 (class benefit)

Constitution

8

Intelligence

14

Wisdom

9 = 13 – 4(unexpected side-effect)

Charisma

11

 

I cringed when I saw my own stats. Truly, it was a miracle I had survived with so little luck and no MP.

Cain didn’t seem impressed.

“I’m an S ranker, social stealth sub-class.” I explained with a small hand gesture. “It’s not displayed here because if I show it to people they don’t want to hire me for jobs.”

“Because you’re weak.”

“No-” I rolled my eyes and shook my head. “I just specialise in very niche skills. Specifically, those that aren’t combat-related.”

He looked at me as if he didn’t understand what I was talking about.

I swore mentally, as I decide that gaining his trust was worth watching all those embarrassing YouTube tutorials all over again. So, I said:

“If you give me half an hour, I can change that System Window to show all my skills, so you’ll know what I’m talking about.”

“Right.” He scoffed again. “You’ll just lie.”

“No, I can’t.”

He gave me a look of disdain.

“No,” I continued in a more serious tone, “you can’t make up skills. Everything else, yes, but not skills. Nor rank, or class for that matter. You can only choose to display them in a certain way.”

His expression told me that he had no idea what I was talking about.

“Your external system window, you can customise it, but not lie on it.” I further explained.

“That blue window?” He asked, gesturing in the direction where my Window had appeared.

“Yes.”

Suddenly a realisation hit me.

“You do know about system windows, right? That there are two types, one that only you can see, and one that you show to people.”

He slowly shook his head ‘no’.

“Right…” I trailed off, as I scratched my head. System windows were very intuitive, albeit hard to edit, for me. But maybe that wasn’t the case for everyone. “Think about showing me your system window. If you can’t visualise the concept, think about showing me your skills. If you’re struggling with that, try saying it out loud-”

Thebes Blackwood Withermore

-

-

S+

Shifter

Pluriform

S+ Shift [Ac]

S+ Regeneration [Pa]

S+ Fravashi’s guidance [Ac]

S+ Strike [Pa]

S Beelzebul’s touch [Ac]

S Fear [Ac]

S Prometheus’s liver [Pa]

S Primal hunger [Ac]

S- Shadow puppet [Ac]

S- Phoenix [Pa]

S- Wondering mind [Ac]

luck

68/250

MP

26/150

Strength

16 = 12+ 4(skill benefit)

Dexterity

13 = 9 +4(skill benefit)

Constitution

19 = 8 + 11(skill benefit)

Intelligence

15

Wisdom

9

Charisma

6 = 8 – 2(shabby physical appearance)

 

“Fucking hell.” I couldn’t help myself but mutter under my breath. Cain wasn’t just way stronger than what I had expected (I had forgotten his exact stats from the book), he was almost ground-breakingly strong. Luck and MP usually capped at 100 each, and it was rare for high rankers to have more than 5 ‘S’ ranked skills.

I also didn’t fail to note that Cain’s name wasn’t Cain. But by the time I registered that (having stared at his skills for so long), the System Window had already vanished. I noted that I needed to use my 'memoire' skill to check that once I’d regained some MP after a good night’s sleep.

“Alright.” Cain said and hoped of his chair, snapping me out of my thoughts.

“Huh?” I asked, not sure what he was agreeing with.

“I’ll stay.” He said. “You should go back to making food.” He added, before heading towards the corridor that connected the kitchen to the rest of the apartment.

I watched him leave with my mouth wide open. Why did he decide to stay after showing me his skills? It couldn’t be out of some sense of superiority, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, pity, could it? So far, he’d acted very mature for his age, and his high intelligence score only confirmed that he must have had some reasoning behind this.

I shook my head and decided that I shouldn’t look a gifted horse in the mouth, at least for the time being. If he’d start acting strange, then I’ll look more into it, but for now all that mattered was that I had successfully acquired myself an overpowered bodyguard.

With that thought, I returned to preparing dinner for myself and my new, hopefully permanent, resident.

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