The Collectanea
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Keaton Ark walked away from the lingering battle occurring in the streets of LA, his cracked sword hanging limply by his side in its sheath as he put a hand on a nearby wall to stabilize himself. The wall which he stabilized himself had a window so he quickly checked his reflection and winced.

If any professional hero saw him right now, they’d have laughed at his sorry state. His sword was barely holding itself together with the number of cracks the blade held and not to mention his armor looked horrible! The steel chestplate which he had painstakingly saved up for months was completely dented in several places and he didn’t have enough money to repair it either. Even his body wasn’t saved as his arms had several bruises and his face was covered in grime and blood. 

Thankfully, the blood wasn’t his, a monstrously large wolf had attacked him during the battle and it bled on his face. It wouldn’t stop his parents or his twin sister from worrying about it, but at least he didn’t actually have a head injury. 

A knock on the window shook him out of his thoughts and he quickly reached for his broken sword before he realized it was merely a man who motioned for him to come inside. 

Well, if he’s offering,’ Keaton thought to himself and walked inside, still keeping his hand on his sword if it turned out to be an ambush. However, it turned out it was just a simple bookstore of some kind. 

These kinds of stores were very rare nowadays as most of humanity was focused on trying to slow the tide of monsters appearing all around the world as opposed to listening to music and reading. And what was the point of reading about those things in a book if you could just do it in real life? Reading about a knight saving a princess might’ve been cool before the portals showed up, but when you had the ability to do so in real life, it makes it seem less appealing. 

And what use were textbooks if you had mages capable of writing grimoires that could simply transfer skills to its reader or getting an apprenticeship for hands-on experience?

It doesn’t matter what the store sells anyway, if he’s offering to let me rest here, I’ll rest here.

On the left and right several bookshelves teetered with books that looked like they would fall down if any more weight was put on them. Keaton could make out the text of some of them and they were… very strange.

Wandering of the Dark Angels by Azazel

3D Printing 101 by Rylian Lee

An Idiot’s Guide to Courier Work by Raven Void

What strange names those guys have. 

Directly in front of Keaton lay a counter with a cash register and… some kind of futuristic-looking computer that glowed a variety of colors.

The man who beckoned him to come inside sat at the counter drinking a green soft drink of some kind as he interacted with the computer, his fingers quickly moving from different keys on his keyboard as the image on the computer changed alongside his finger movement.

Taking the opportunity, Keaton took in what appeared to be the owner of the store’s (as no other worker was there) appearance. The man was almost completely average in every way, average height, average build, black hair, etc. You’d almost certainly lose him in a crowd if not for his eyes, which like the computers changed colors almost every second, the effect was almost hypnotic.

“Are you going to say something or are you just gonna stare at good ol’ me?” 

Keaton pulled his sword out as the man spoke without even taking his eyes off the computer. The man's voice was sarcastic and realizing he still was doing something on the computer instead of attacking him, he prepared to respond before the man interrupted him.

“Quite jumpy are we? I haven’t even done anything to you.” 

“I just came out of a battle, it was just down the road, didn’t you hear anything?”

The man finally stopped interacting with the computer and after a few more clicks, turned it off entirely before focusing the entirety of his attention on Keaton. 

“I was simply too engrossed with my video games to pay attention, but you’re probably not lying because of how beat up you are,” The man’s eyes looked Keaton up and down and he blushed as he remembered his current state, “May I know your name? I’d very much like to have a name for a face, helps with remembering customers.”

Keaton hesitated before responding with his name, the man repeated his name under his breath before replying, “Well, then Keaton, you may call me the Archivist.”

“People with titles are usually very well known, yet I’ve never heard of anyone with your title before,” Keaton said with a raised brow and crossed arms. 

“Hmm, that’s because I’ve stayed on the down low for quite a long while,” the Archivist clapped  his hands together as a small grin appeared on his face, “Now, let’s move on from the boring stuff, do any of my wares interest you?”

Looking around, nothing truly caught Keaton’s eye except for one of the stories that Rylian guy wrote called Simple Repairs Even Questors Can Do! If he could repair his chestplate on his own instead of going to a dedicated blacksmith, then it would do wonders for his bank account, not to mention he could repair his future equipment as well!

Pointing to the book on one of the shelves, the Archivist smiled at Keaton’s choice and went to grab it. 

“Not bad, I expected you to go for one of the fables on combat, but you seem to have a good head on your shoulders if you want to try and repair your… chestplate.” The Archivist looked over his chestplate once more and his smile turned into a grimace.

“Yeah, I know, just…how much will the ’fable’ cost me?”

“Just a crisp ten silver coins.”

Keaton’s face morphed into one of incredulousness, since monsters dropped items such as copper coins and artifacts, the world decided to use those items as a worldwide standard currency, it made things much easier to keep track of and the dropped coins couldn’t be replicated or damaged in any way. However... “Ten silver coins! That’s a whole gold coin! I could buy a proper grimoire with that kind of money!” 

The Archivist let out a small smirk, “My fables are better than those simple grimoires, especially for its price.”

Keaton muttered a few curses under his breath and promised to get his money back if it wasn’t worth it before reluctantly handing over the coins and grabbing the 'fable' from the Archivist’s hands after the man wrote Keaton’s name in it and left the store in a bad mood.

As he exited, he never saw the ‘fable’ in his hands glow a soft blue and the Archivist’s face turning from smug to wistful.


When Keaton arrived home bloody, bruised, and with a ‘fable’ in his right hand and a bag full of tools and materials in the other it caused an almost near instantaneous smothering from his mom and warnings from his dad to be more careful. Thankfully, his sister wasn’t home as she was still busy apprenticing under an alchemist.

Although, if she was home then she would most definitely have thrown a potion at him for being ‘an idiot'. She did it the last time he came home like this, and the one before that… Pretty much every single time he came home like this while she was there, she’d throw a potion of varying quality.

He still felt cold in some areas from that failed potion of fire resistance she made.

Anyways, currently, he was studying in his room upstairs using the ‘fable’ he bought from the cheating Archivist, who probably wasn’t a cheat because as soon as he opened the 'fable', a light blue glow appeared and coalesced into a man with blond hair and blue eyes. 

After some attempts to punch the blond-haired man and said man being very amused by said punches, he finally introduced himself as Rylian Lee. The man who wrote the fable that Keaton had purchased and after Keaton introduced himself, the pair started to work together on repairing Keaton’s chestplate… or more like Rylian gave out advice while Keaton repaired the chestplate as Rylian couldn’t really interact with anything since he was a spirit of some kind.

Yipee.

Normally, he would’ve still wanted a grimoire instead of a spirit guide as he could’ve instantly known the skill he wished to learn, but this might be more useful in the long term. Rylian said that so long as Keaton’s name was in his ‘fable’ Rylian would stay and help advise him whenever he requested his presence. 

And… while the ‘fable’ didn’t immediately force the skills of a blacksmith into his head, whenever his hand picked up a blacksmithing tool that the Rylian recommended, he held it in his hands with a faint fondness despite never touching it before.

“It’s called the Emotional Resonance of Storytelling, the more you read my fable and sympathize or understand me better, then it’ll become more prominent. Unlike these… grimoires that force skills into your head, this is a slow transfer,” Rylian explained to him, the man looked entirely natural while doing so as if he taught someone else before. He even pulled glasses out of nowhere and assumed a lecturer's pose, “While forcing the skills immediately into your head is useful in certain circumstances, you lose a lot of the intricacies that each skill has.”

Keaton hummed as he continued to repair his chestplate, “So these fables teach a higher quality skill, but do so slowly?” 

Rylian nodded, “Pretty much and by the way, just three more swings of the hammer to finish remaking the shape and you should be done.”

“Got it, and… are you alright? You don’t seem so happy right now.” Keaton asked Rylian since Rylian’s face when looking at the chestplate always showed disappointment. He originally thought it was because of how damaged it was, but he still had disappointment written all over his face. 

“Yeah,” Rylian sighed, “It’s just that this thing, even when repaired, isn’t very good compared to my own creations.”

“I just bought a generic chestplate because I couldn’t afford any of the enchanted ones, you can’t expect me to have the best quality chestplate around.”

“...I suppose, I just… compared to where I was from, this is quite bad even for generic items.”

“What, Did you guys have exosuits or something?” Keaton jokingly replied, no one could make exosuits anyway, it was much more efficient to train mages to buff people and the technology didn't exist yet.

Rylian remained silent.

Keaton slowly turned to face Rylian who was avoiding his gaze, “I was joking, you actually have those? Wait, do you know how to make exosuits?” Keaton said incredulously. As Rylian stayed silent, Keaton’s eyes widened.

“You do know how to make exosuits!”

Rylian snapped toward Keaton, “Quiet down or your parents will hear you,” he whispered and as Keaton put his hands over his mouth, Rylian continued speaking, “Yes, I do know how to make exosuits amongst other things. But, you got a book on basic repair techniques or advanced technology in regards to right now,” he pointedly looked toward the boxy computer on Keaton’s desk as he said the last bit, “You probably won’t be making exosuits anytime soon even with my help if you do want to learn then you best start saving up for one of my other fables.”

Keaton groaned, it always came down to money, didn’t it? But still, his head perked up as he quickly inspected his repaired chestplate, in the future, he could be wearing an exosuit or futuristic power armor! And if he sold one, that might let him retire comfortably when he got older. 

After seeing that everything was good to his standards or acceptable to Rylian’s high standards, he closed Rylian’s fable, dismissing him at the same time, and went to bed with dreams of power armor.

My other story has hit a roadblock due to me struggling to describe fight scenes, so might as well work on something else while I try to figure it out. This story is also somewhat connected to the other story albeit in a very loose sense, but you don’t need to read the other story to understand this one.

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