Paige was standing outside in her field when she noticed that Zenith was searching anxiously for something. Paige winced internally as Zenith strode up to her. “Paige! Help clean up a bit! Quickly!”
“Why? We just cleaned up last week. Can’t you tell I’m busy farming?” Zenith stared as Paige. She wouldn’t call what Paige was doing farming. No one probably would. All she had been doing was walking the fields with her wooden hoe as usual. “Besides, nothing special is happening today that I know of.”
“Paige, remember that we are having guests. Have you seen Markus? I was going to ask for his help too.” Zenith asked worriedly. She fidgeted with her hands as she looked around the field for Markus. They had all underestimated his age by at least a few months to a year, placing him squarely within the toddler age group. Although unsteady on his feet, he was able to move around pretty fast. Usually, Paige would have Markus in the morning and he would be toddling around the field, but she couldn’t see him anywhere.
“Guests? Is that tax collector coming back again? Or is it that Hunter?” Paige stopped and counted the days since either of them had visited. “No, neither of them should be coming this soon.”
“I’m teaching three times a week, remember? Please just make sure you don’t do anything…weird. We have a bad enough reputation already as it is,” Zenith sighed. “Not entirely your fault, since we didn’t know that other people can only feel the effects of the mana dispersion fog but not see it. But it is what it is, I suppose. But Paige, I can’t find Markus!”
“He went with Nick when he went to go get wood. They’ll be back around midday or so, don’t worry.
“But with all the recent monster sightings, will it be safe with just the two of them? Maybe you should go and look for them. Or better yet, maybe you should clear the forest path.” She said nervously.
“Relax Zenith, I read the contract you signed when that shopkeeper first visited. It clearly stated that Cidala’s Town Guard will escort them to the forest. They can take care of a few monsters, just like Nick can. Barring Direwolves, nothing in a forest will be able to beat a Ranger,” Paige stopped, idly wondering what could kill a Ranger in a forest. “Well, not without cheating or helpers at least.”
“Okay. All of the families are coming to meet me. Please, please, please try to make a good impression Paige! I do want to teach someone. I feel absolutely useless right now.”
“I’ll make sure they stay safe. Just for you Zenith.” Walking away, Paige flashed through the forest, arriving right at the edge of the forest path. Holding her hoe out, she tested the boundary once again. “Tch, another half a foot farther than last time. It’s progress, I guess, but not great progress.”
Paige sighed lightly as she sat down off of the main path. “Not that I want to leave, but I wouldn’t mind heading to a city or three to see some old friends. Or, new friends I suppose. If the queen doesn’t remember me, then no one else in this country will either. Probably shouldn’t tell people what my last name is though.”
‘Hm? Ah, here they come.’ Paige watched in silence as they came closer. The three guards were lacking in discipline, she noted idly, watching as the Guard Captain, if that was his rank, flirted with one of the women in the cart. The other two women, one dressed in a long blue dress and the other in a well-made cotton sundress talked about mundane things such as what was in style right now. The kids were fully lacking in manners, the two oldest, a boy and a girl, complained about the trip and how long it was taking. The other two boys, probably a little older than Markus, were whining about the weather.
Frowning, Paige watched as the party passed by, completely missing her sitting there. ‘They have bad perception if they can’t see me standing still. To be fair, I did have a lot of practice hiding from Assassins. But have the standards fallen so low for Guard Captain that he can’t even see a Farmer hiding in plain sight? Have I not lost my Skills? Or is my class hiding me from [Danger Sense]?’
“Something to test, I suppose,” Paige said clearly. The woman in the blue sundress stopped speaking for a second and looked around as if she had heard Paige.
“Something wrong, Miss Emilia?” The guard captain asked politely.
“…No, I thought I heard something. Pay it no mind,” Emilia said while looking in Paige’s direction with a frown. ‘At least someone has a good head on their shoulders..’ Paige waited in silence until she was fully out of earshot.
“Curious. It’s hard to sneak past a Guard Captain at a checkpoint because they are so familiar with their surroundings, so they intuitively know if something is wrong. A Farmer in a forest sticks out, but perhaps not in a field…or maybe it’s the fog. Hrmm, bah. I guess I’ll bring it up to Zenith later.”
‘Anyways, last time that Hunter was here she said that there were fresh monster tracks heading back into the forest. But so far I haven’t seen any dangerous monster tracks. A few Elder Elks, some local variety of magical boars, maybe a Gryphen or two, some Death Snakes. But nothing too terrible for a Warrior.’ Paige stopped and sighed once again. “For a Warrior. I’m supposed to be a Farmer. I could kill them myself, but then how would I sell the spoils?” This conundrum bothered her greatly.
“Wait a minute, who says Zenith doesn’t need magic cores. She shouldn’t have forgotten how to process monster parts. Maybe she could use them to create some magic gear for us. Or her new pupils…” Paige smiled wickedly. “Yes. That’s what I’ll do. I get to practice fighting monsters, and Zenith gets the monster parts. Nick probably wouldn’t turn down monster cores either. Everything works out.” Laughing, Paige slowly followed one of the monster trails, one that she noticed was heading straight for her usual training grounds…
‘Well, this is just great.’ thought Paige as she strode into the ruined clearing. It had taken her weeks to clear out the forest by hand before realizing that she could be using her Warrior Skills instead. A few [Seismic Steps] here, a few [Boulder Palm Strikes] there, and what had taken her weeks turned into a few hours at the most. Afterward, she planted the rest of her clover seeds, thinking that there needed to be a few pastures for the animals to graze at. A nice, quiet place away from the settlement that could double as a practice field if she was feeling…antsy.
But now instead of the soft green clover field, she found a field of dirt, complete with a tiny boar sleeping in the middle of the remaining clovers. The boar’s large tusks made quick work of the rest of the pasture, not even sparing the roots of the clover.
“Of all the!” Paige yelled angrily, springing forward and kicked the boar hard.
The boar in question, a rather young boar, roughly four feet tall and twice that in length, was sleeping peacefully before the kick, finding that his usual tree and rock infested feeding grounds had magically changed into heaven. Or, what he presumed heaven would be for a boar. Soft clovers begging him to eat them; the soft, tender roots, asking him to rav-“.The kick promptly awoke him from his dream and shattered his pride to boot as he rolled continuously across the clearing.
The boar was not happy. Paige was not happy. Thus the two fought.
“Tch, a standard physical enhancing mana stone, not even a good one at that. It’s not even worth it for me to kill you and extract your core. Why couldn’t you be something tasty, or something more useful. No, instead I get an oversized pig who is slightly stronger than normal,” Paige said as she kicked the downed wild boar. The boar indignantly squealed in response, his mighty form being humiliated by the person in front of him. “It took me days for that clover to grow! Days! And then you ate up the roots as well. How are they supposed to regrow now? Are you an idiot?!”
The boar stopped squealing, his mind whirling into action. His heavy exterior and squealing concealed an intelligence not fit for a wild animal. He was just biding his time before attacking again. But the words, “days to grow”, repeated endlessly in a loop. He knew what he had to do. The boar stared hard at Paige, his snorting growing anxious. “Squaaaaaalll”
Paige stopped kicking, looking blankly at the boar. “Hrm?” She watched as the boar got up and slowly used his snout to patch the holes in the now ruined field. The boar quickly and efficiently patched the ground, returning it to its former state, albeit without any clover. “…You may not know, but wolves will sometimes imprint themselves onto someone if shown a good deed. So what’s caused you to be all…caring?” Paige said suspiciously, knowing that the boar could at least partially understand what she was saying.
The boar went over to the remaining clover patch and pawed at it, then turned around and started doing the same in different spots, looking over at her to see if she understood what he was trying to show her.
Paige scoffed. “You want me to plant for you? What do I get out of this deal?”, not entirely convinced it was worth the effort. The boar blinked and fell to the ground, squealing loudly. He got up and repeated it again and again. Paige stared at the beast. “This is new. I don’t usually play charades with wild animals. But fine. I get to…beat you up regularly?”
“Squaal, ” the boar ‘happily’ responded.
“… well, I’ve had worse deals I suppose. Fine. You get clover, I get a practice dummy.” Paige walked up to the boar, patting its head. “You need a name. How do you feel about the name Boary?”
Paige walked back to the clearing in a good mood, a smile plastered on her face. It seemed that their guests were ready to leave, judging by the conversation she could hear. The woman in the plain cotton sundress was reading over the contract while the other bowed slightly toward Zenith. The kids were hovering around their parents, seemingly wanting to head back to the village. “Are you sure you’ll be able to teach this many children, Teacher Zenith? I can always find a different babysitter if need be.”
“No, no. It will be fine Miss Kate. I can handle two pupils and three babies. Besides, It’s only three times a week. I have help as well, so it’s not a big deal. And I should be thanking you for letting Mister Tyler borrow your cart. Sara told us the last time she stopped by with meat.”
“Kate is fine. Are you sure your husband is fine with watching the kids? I’d hate for it to interfere with his work.”
“Paige is here too, I’m sure she’ll be happy to help,” Zenith said with a smile. “She loves playing with Markus, so it should be fine.” Paige didn’t like the sound of that too much. Children are fun to play with in small bursts, not babysitting entire days.
“Paige? Is she the Farmer? Is she around; we haven’t introduced ourselves yet?” Kate politely asked as she looked around the clearing.
“You all haven’t met Paige? I thought she went to greet you all at the entrance to the woods?” Zenith asked politely, a little perplexed at the situation.
“I did. Then I went and planted some more clover seeds while you entertained the guests.” Paige said as she leaned against the house, startling everyone in earshot. The kids screamed as though they had seen a ghost.
“Paige! Don’t scare them!” Zenith said abashedly.
“Sorry kiddos. didn’t mean to scare you. Surprised you, didn’t I?” Paige said as she knelt to the children’s level.
“I’m the Farmer here, so I’ll be in charge of cooking and … with helping Zenith out while she teaches. It’s a pleasure to meet you all.”