37. What a smell
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It was nice of us to plan a raid to the former capital, but with no supplies it would be only an one-way trip, that meant shopping! “Hey Kat?” Katherine was absentmindedly swaying to a tune only she could hear, and there was no response from her, and she strode without worry onwards. “Kat? Hello?” I tapped on her shoulder.

Like a waking up from a hangover, she twisted slowly and tilted her head to the side. First rays of sun illuminated the top of buildings and it somehow got reflected on her face, so she shielded her eyes with a hand. “Ye?”

“We need supplies and maybe someone to help us. I’m thinking about a dps, so a mage, or a bow user.” Although I didn’t want to split the spoils, the less the better. One more. “I know about two. Lisa’s out, so I’ll ask Lucas. What about you?”

My questing sent her into deep thinking; her eyebrows danced again. “Lisa and Dmitry. Ya don’t wanna him tho!” What? She knows Dmitry? “Nah, just us. That’s fine!”

I wanted to ask her about him, but something stopped me. It was a memory from the mall when she was shopping with her boyfriend. At that time I was drowning in disappointment, but after she mentioned him… Yeah, it could be him. “O… okay, Kat. Let’s go for supplies.” There will be plenty of time to ask her later.

[Your friend Lucas is offline.]

Why was everyone gone? It was only midnight! My former fierce spirit vanished as we reached one of many shops. Katherine kicked the door open and barged in; with me just a step behind. Powerful smell of spices attacked my nose the moment I stepped inside, and almost forced me to sneeze. “What?” I let out a surprise yell.

There was just 3 feet of space in front of counter, well a long board, with over 15 feet of space behind it. Young girl was sitting behind, and all around her were shelves full of goods, so it was more like a warehouse than a store. She jumped down from her chair and grinned while her green eyes scrutinized us. “Welcome to my shop! What do you need? I have everything!”

“Thanks! I’m Charlie, this is Katherine.” I took the initiative before Kat could ruin our image. “Do you have an explorer’s pack?”

She sprinted towards the left shelf. “I’m Trix and I sure do!” As a monkey she climbed up and threw a plain gray sack in front of me. “There’s everything you’ll ever need during exploring, only for ten gold!” She pushed the sack closer to me and pocketed my gold. Because of her energetic mood, my desire to haggle vanished. That would be only a hassle.

“Anythin’ else? Scrolls? Potions? Armor? Swords?” Trix placed her small hands on the counter and puled herself up, to level our height difference. “I’ve got everything!”

She had a good point; we might need something strong to clear the walls. That was, without a mage’s support, almost impossible. “Do you have fireball scrolls?” The strongest clearing power on my level, classic, or maybe flashiest spell.

“Yeah! Ten gold each!” Perhaps I wasn’t the only one in need of these scrolls, because she only reached under the counter and pulled a handful of different ones. Even at the glance I could see they weren’t from one wizard, but a mix. Trix watched my frown, and she raised her hand to stop me and said, “Wait, wait! They are good! The best quality, trust me!”

“I trust you, don’t worry about it,” I said, and followed with a slight smile. Perhaps haggling could work? “I heard in the city you can get one scroll for five gold and they still make a profit.”

Trix’s smile vanished as if I criticized the quality of her whiskey. “In a city, maybe, but we are here. The price’s ten, not even a copper less!”

Why it backfired? Katherine snickered next to me, and an urge to hide somewhere almost overwhelmed me. “Fine, fine! There you go!” I emptied my purse - ninety gold - on the counter and snatched the cursed scrolls. “That’s all, thanks Trix, let’s go.” Before she could entice me to buy something else, I grabbed Katherine’s hand and ran away.

“See ya soon!” Trix words made me shiver as I gasped outside with hands on my knees, taking the morning’s air in.

“Whatcha doin’?” Katherine asked me, and the mocking tone was eating the last drops of my pride. “She’s smoll girl.”

“To be honest, I do not know. She pulled money out of me like a leprechaun!” Every breath was calming me down. “Please, let’s move on. Do you know if there is a trainer?”

“Hm, ‘kay. I’ll buy next time. Ya so noob. Trainer?” She glanced towards the tall building sticking out of the surrounding small homes. Tall in the scope of this village. “There. Next to barrack.”

 

The reason I was looking for a trainer was something I wanted to smack my head for and roll it in the mud. How could I be so stupid? Sadly, I forgot about inherent skills, and wasn’t working on any. Dammit! We made our way to the barrack - quite impressive, albeit wooden, two story building, with a drill area next to it.

As per usual the palisade enclosed the drill area, and we strode right in without getting checked - there weren’t any guards. That was why I couldn’t suppress a slight chuckle, because if this happened under my command, everyone would curse me to the oblivion while running around with an additional weight on their shoulders.

“Lassies, what can I do for you?” someone said, waking me up from my internal pondering. Abruptly stopping, I noticed a short man in a blue robe preventing us from going any further. Perhaps a guard?

“Sir, I-” I said, but then a horrible stench reached my nose, and I lost my other words in a hard coughing. “What? No-”

That stupid, smelly elf laughed at me, even smacked his enormous belly and said, “Aren’t you a flower like Lily? This is a true smell of manhood!”

“Stinky!” Katherine joined my complaining. Is she playing on a hundred percent as well?

“Well, well, what are you searching for here?” He switched his tone to a serious one, but the amused undertone was still there. Mocking me. Stupid mage, if I had my sword right here, I would teach him a lesson!

“I want to learn inherent skills,” I said while backing at least three steps. “We don’t have any.”

At the mention of skills, Katherine's face brightened. “Wat’s ‘tat?”

“You are in the right place, lassies!” The man adjusted his robe, and it was baggy enough to cover his belly.

A door on our left swung open and a lady with a large frame had to lower head to squeeze through, but she popped out and boomed, “Maidens, anybody can master inherent skills, but they demand your concentration! Without focus, we achieve nothing.”

“They are free skills outside the basic five,” I whispered to Katherine's ear.

“I’m Lily and I’ll teach you all about body, mind and magic skills!” Lily said, although slowly, as if she was explaining it to somebody who already had a few drinks. “You can flesh out these three simultaneously, but no further until you grasp their secrets.”

“Great, miss Lily. I’ll want to learn a block!” I sent magic to my shield and smirked. Finally, at least I could learn one useful skill. Without a warning, Lily jumped up and kicked at me. Somehow - well, thanks to my honed reactions - I put my shield in front of her attack, but her kick sent me flying right into the wooden palisade.

[Block successful. Mitigated amount of damage: 4, other damage halved. Suffered amount: 20]
[Congratulations! You are learning an inherent skill (body): Block. To unlock a block, block an attack: 1/10000]

“The frick, you stupid flower?” I healed myself as I scrambled back up and glared at her. She was now ignoring me and staring at Katherine. The smelly guy, on the other hand, strode towards me. Great.

“You aren’t doing magic properly. Your healing spell was lousy, and you wasted a lot of time.” All I could do was to stare at him, but I couldn’t fight back. Why? He was right, and I knew it. That was the reason an anger boiled inside me and I only wished to smack his belly. “What do you want to learn for a magic?”

“Chain lighting.” Even if I wasn’t a mage, I read a few guides and almost anyone agreed this spell was the most useful to train as an inherent skill.

He dropped his smile and nodded. “Yes, excellent decision, watch closely.” After creating only one rune, I already could feel a build-up of energy. Then he finished the second and all the energy surged at a pole behind me! The spell was slower than lighting, but too fast for me to dodge. It struck the pole, then the next one next to it, but for the last target only I was in its path. When it hit me, I felt like inside a bass speaker, or perhaps if drunken Scotlanders on gigantic horses walloped over me.

[You lost 15 HP.]

“You filthy mage!” The anger got the best of me and before I could control my body, my whip surged towards him. There was only a smile on his face as he created a shield in front of him, and the attack slid over it without harming.

“It’s your fault you stood there. Now, come here, and watch again.” With clenching my fists, relieving my stress, I reluctantly joined him, trying to ignore the smell. Ugh, no way.

Although he showed me the runes twice more, I couldn’t even reproduce it. The system didn’t want to help me with inherent skill and drawing it from memory? Impossible. The smelly man thought of me as a big dummy, which was a kind of truth, so he drew the runes slowly to fuel my anger and trashing my pride even further.

It took me over thirty tries to even learn that stupid thing. Katherine was already waiting for me, and her amused half-smile worsened my learning aptitude. As I cast the first rune, the buildup of static energy rose around me, then I cast the second one! Finally! And nothing happened?

The mage clasped his hands, barely holding his laugh in, and asked, “What were you thinking about?”

“Is it important?” I had to make a funny face, perhaps full of question marks, because he erupted in an insane laughter and hadn’t stopped before I slapped him. With a satisfying snap and slapping him on his other face for a good measure. My pride as a man, and a warrior, is tarnished. This is a nightmare I won’t wake up from.

“During a spell you need to focus,” he said in between his laughter, and calmed down. Eventually. “Because magic will take the form of your thoughts. If you think about dinner, the magic won’t create a lighting. Runes are here only to help you, guide you, they aren’t the way of casting.”

Why am I hearing this only after twenty years of playing? I was internally doubting this game was the same, but I focused on the spell again. It took me only five tries to create the first rune, but imagining the lighting was hard. Until I imagined it hitting the mage, and then I let it out with a second rune.

[Critical hit! Target lost 1HP]
[Congratulations! You are learning an inherent skill (magic): Chain lighting. To unlock a Chain lighting, practice it: 1/1000]

Oh yeah, it will do only chip damage before I learn it. Great.

“Again. Thousands times.”

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