Diana had wanted to visit the Adventurer’s Corner, but upon realizing how exhausted both Kira and she were from that simple excursion, she decided to head home. While Kira rushed to put away some of their new purchases away into James’s workplace, Diana decided to examine her new skill |Protector of the Innocent|. Rushing up the stairs, she finally changed out of her frivolous dress (putting the three new dresses she’d bought along the way at Kira’s preferred shop, the Skillful Seamstress, into the empty wardrobe) and donned her armor. Feeling its comfortable weight on her frame, she hefted her sword. Then, she realized she had forgotten something. With a yell that resounded through the house, she shouted, “Kira, where’s the Castle training grounds?” She remembered that Kira had mentioned that that was the only place to get in some real training.
“Why? I’ll take you there tomorrow. Sorry, I’m a bit tired today!”
Diana sighed in frustration, responding, “Well, I wanted to try out a new skill I recently received.”
Kira came up the stairs and entered their room. She asked, “Oh, why don’t you just use Howard’s stuff?”
Diana paused. “I thought you said there wasn’t any stuff besides for the city?”
Kira laughed. “Sorry, that’s a misunderstanding. I thought you meant like actual training equipment. No, of course, we have some basic stuff for you to test out a few skills. It wouldn’t make sense for us to have to go all the way to the city every day for training. Just go to the garden.”
Diana was already out the door before Kira could finish her words.
Marching over to the garden where Howard had set up some practice dummies for his own training, she unsheathed her sword. She tried to remember the feeling she had felt upon gaining the Skill. After all, more complex Title-like Skills tended to need a certain emotional state as well as a proper form.
Activating |Protector of the Innocent| within her mind, she tried to thrust her sword at a dummy. She frowned. There was a slight boost in the speed and strength of her attack but nothing special. It looked like this one required a specific situation to work. Judging from its name, she’d have to actually protect someone from danger… With a sigh, she began practicing her |Knight’s Skills|, which were really just a family of basic skills every [Knight] automatically had, as well as her basic forms.
After showering and catching up on a bit of sleep, James came downstairs to find Kira starting dinner. Although interested in the fragrant aroma, he steeled his resolve to head to the church in order to talk about the gathering. He opened his front door to find Diana standing on the gravel path between his house and the road. Just past her were the four adventurers from yesterday. They were lying on the ground. He put his palm to his forehead and cursed softly, “God damn it, Diana!” He moved to take charge of the situation. “By the four heavens, what happened?”
Diana started, surprised that James was angry. Kira popped out behind him to see what was going on. Diana said hesitantly, “Grandfather said he needed to do something in town, and I was just training in the garden anyway, so I offered to watch his post till he got back. He said I could challenge anyone who approached, and I wanted to test out a new Skill I got.”
She pointed at the four adventurers. “Actually, I just finished sparring with them. Don’t worry; they’ll be fine. We had a really interesting talk about the local Adventurer’s Guild. Apparently, I can pick up some extra Seedz by doing a few missions. After all, I’ve been running low on funds, and I don’t want to borrow from my grandfather.”
James walked past her and checked on the four one by one. All four seemed bruised and were unconscious. “Kira, I need a full revive set here.” Kira came out carrying a box with a red cross on it. Setting it down and opening it revealed various potions. After using a revival potion on each of them, the adventurers each got a health and mana potion to restore them to top condition. Diana knew these potions could not have been cheap. James spoke to the leader, “Apologies, she is a guest. Give me a moment. I’ll bring what you wanted.” James went back inside and came out with a lantern and a pouch.
“I hope you do not hold it against her. Here’s your order for the lantern. It was meant for another client, but I’ll give it to you for your troubles. I also added three power cores for it. Don’t worry; they and the lantern are all free of charge.” Their leader scrambled to his feet with Kira’s help. He looked surprised about being rewarded for getting his a** kicked.
“That wouldn’t be fair. We just came to deliver the materials and pay the fee.”
James considered it or rather, acted as if he did. “I understand. I will take what you will give and forget the rest. Take the lantern and power cores. The other client is a good Tom, and I will sweeten his deal in compensation for the added wait.”
Diana was not sure what had happened as the four thanked James for the lantern and handed over several iron and copper ores, some thunder crystals, and a bag of Seedz with a label indicating they formed a grand total of just over twenty thousand. James handed Kira the stuff he received, and she returned inside while James considered Diana as the four left. “Look, he clearly never told you what his job is. He is actually only meant to keep people from stealing my stuff, not beat them up. See the iron wrought fence? Everything it bounds is mine.”
Diana glanced around. A bright chest near the entrance caught her notice. “Why is there a treasure chest on your lawn?”
James smiled. “Part of my agreement with the church is that I keep a donation box. All the locals know what it is, so they put money in too if they want. It is easily accessible by a Father to take the money when they come to collect it. Makes my and their lives easy. I usually throw in my extra Seedz left after drinking in town, yet almost every time some new group comes by, they take the money out. Now, the same new people that do that usually come up here wanting to do business with us, so your grandfather confronts them about it.”
James waited for her to ask the next expected question. “Then, why not post a sign saying it is a donation box?”
James said nothing, and she turned to scrutinize the box more carefully. Right beside the treasure box was a small sign. She had completely missed it because she had entirely focused on the glowing treasure box.
“Now, look on the wall of my shop.” Diana carefully reread the rules that she had earlier asked Kira about.
After reading them she had another question, but James started talking before she could speak. “The things I make require a certain amount of intelligence and skill to operate. Howard is not easy to defeat in combat, but he is rather aged as well. He assesses my new clientele. If they can beat him, then they’ve got the skill needed. After that, I negotiate and see if they are intelligent enough. It is a complicated system, but it works.”
Diana took a moment to put all the pieces together. First was the treasure chest. Most adventurers would loot it without a second thought due to instincts engraved from dungeon runs, which gave valid cause for Howard to intervene. Instantly, they would be portrayed as the bad guys thieving church donations. A sign right beside the chest gave the adventurers no excuse. Because Howard was a guard of the shop, they wouldn’t harm him, but they would fight and reveal their skill at arms to him. Depending on how they performed, they would move onto the next step where James would negotiate with them. Then, he could point out that they had stolen from the church and that they had fought Howard. James would then hold them at an instant disadvantage. He could ask almost anything for what they desired and not be in the wrong for doing so. It was a clever use of the laws.
Bonus: Diana’s Skills
Basic: These can be used in repetition and only exhaust the stamina of a user.
Knight’s Skills (ie. Kick, Sprint, Thrust, Stances)
Passives: These are skills that are always in effect.
Enhanced Strength: Passive strength enhancement
Aura Sense: Allows users to sense danger as well as a hint of other’s intentions.
Warrior’s Awareness: Provides insight into opponents
Learned Skills: These are skills that must be developed or learned. It also includes skills which require certain situations or bloodlines to be invoked.
Rigorous Strike: The first form of the Howderwhit family’s famed Evolving Strike-Skill. It moderately enhances the strength and speed of a strike.
Protector of the Innocent: Appears to slightly increase speed and strength.
Sword of the Howling Wolves: ??? (Known Heirloom Skill: Hidden)
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