Okay, now we are caught back up and on schedule. Sorry about that.
“Get up. It’s time for training.”
“But I don’t want to train! I want to read books! I -”
“ENOUGH! YOU WILL TRAIN UNTIL YOU FALL!”
“Hey Markus! Is Miss Paige around?”
“YOU WILL LEARN HOW TO FIGHT! UNTIL IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE!”
“MARKUS! WAKE UP!”
Markus awoke in a fright, his arm swinging reflexively upward to his enemy. “Ouch! Markus be careful! I swear, you better move that arm before I start hitting you.” A scary voice sounded above him. He blinked the stars out of his eyes and saw a girl standing over him. Her dark green hair was flowing slightly. His arm was pushing Lily’s chest, a place he probably shouldn’t be touching if Lily’s twitching eye was any indicator. Strange, since Auntie Zenith didn’t mind Uncle Nick touching her like that…
“YOU IDIOT!” Lily said as she used her wooden staff like a club.
“Ouch! Stop it; I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Markus yelled in fright, curling up to protect himself. “It’s an accident! It’s not all my fault!”
“Don’t try to shift the blame to me!”
“Umm, Lily. You did startle him though.” Tyler said hesitantly while watching from the side. “But everything is still his fault,” he said quickly as Lily turned to him.
“Whatever. I’ll settle the odds with you later. Where is Miss Paige? She was supposed to take us on another adventure today!”
“But, but I thought the guards said no more adventures?” Markus said quietly as he rubbed his bruises.
“No, the guard captain merely stated more monsters were roaming the fields than usual. But Miss Paige said that we’d be fine so long as we had one protector with us. Maybe we can find Boary and have him take us into the fields. And I think Boary counts as a protector!” Lily pumped her hands as a large smile appeared on her face. “This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened! Adventures every week, monsters to fight, learning how to use spells, getting away from the awful house. It’s my dream come true!”
“Lily, hush! The guards will find us at this rate!” Tyler whispered as he looked through the wooden slats of the barn. “We have about two minutes before they rotate their positions again. Miss Paige says the best time to move is while they are on the move too.”
“I wanna come!” Markus’s eyes brightened at the sound of an adventure. Usually, Auntie Zenith was very particular about where he went in the forest, especially alone. Auntie Paige, not so much; so long as he stayed in sight and he was definitely forbidden from leaving the woods.
Lily and Tyler hesitated, clearly thinking it would be a hassle. Markus quickly came up with a reason. “I’ve never been out of the woods before. Can we find Boary and go on an adventure. Pleeeaasee. Auntie Paige wouldn’t mind!” he quickly lied about the last part. He knew full well that the adults would be furious if he left the woods. It was almost like they were scared of leaving, but that can’t be true. He saw Auntie Paige kill an Elder Elk with just a hoe last week!? So how could she be scared of leaving the woods?
Lily and Tyler whispered quietly and Markus was making sure to act pitifully whenever they glanced at him.
“Okay. Miss Kate and mother are coming here to pick us up later today, so how about we go and meet them on the path just outside the woods? That’s relatively safe, and we’ll have a wide range of vision.”
Tyler nodded. “John and Xavier aren’t here anyways, so chances are Markus would follow us anyways. Boary should be able to keep us safe, at least from the monsters around here. Hunter Sara said elder boars like him are hard to kill and dangerous for most monsters to fight.”
Lily turned and stared hard at Markus. “You have to promise to listen to me since I am the Party Leader!”
“Good. I, Party Leader Lily Thompson, hereby request Markus Ederite to join my party!” Markus watched as Lily released her mana; the vivid green flowing swiftly like a summer breeze. Markus released his mana like Auntie Zenith had taught her and watched as the two swiftly combined. A voice echoed in his brain, “Do you wish to join the Party?”
“Yes. I accept!”
Lily nodded as Markus said yes aloud. “[[Status]]” Markus watched as Lily closed her eyes and quickly opened them. “Okay, you are now an official member of the Cidala Heroes! Come on, let’s go find Boary.”
Markus followed after them as they quickly evaded the watch of the bored guards. He bit his lip though, as he thought of his own status. He had the feeling that something was missing from it; that there should have been more to it than he could see. Was he really just a Commoner?
Name: Markus Ederite
Class: CommonerSkills: [Trail Finder], [Craft Modification – Farming, Bows], [Green Thumb], [Natural Explorer], [Empty Handed Strike], [Basic Swordplay], [Seismic Slash]
Party: Cidala Heroes: Temporary
Markus sometimes wondered though, who was he, really?
Lily looked back at Markus as he struggled to keep up. Honestly, why she agreed to let him follow was a mystery. She should be having an adventure with her best friend, Tyler. Instead, it seemed that her kindness had been taken advantage of (in her own opinion). “Markus! Make sure to keep up with us. Boary is usually in one of Miss Paige’s hidden farm plots, so we have to search throughout the woods. Tyler, have you found our previous trail markers yet?”
“Nope. I think she scuffs them out every time we leave. I know this is the spot we visited last time. Let me pull out my map.”
“Why would Auntie get rid of your marks?”
“She likes to see us suffer,” Lily said in a lifeless manner. “Her idea of training lately is throwing us in the woods and finding our way back before we can eat. Luckily Mister Nick told us to always have extra supplies ready, or we’d probably be lost and hungry in the woods.”
“It’s her version of training. All practical training with consequences if we fail. We even have to wear armor every time we come into the forest, just in case.” Tyler said quietly as he scanned the surroundings. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be wearing this leather armor. I think she may have reinforced it with iron plates. It’s almost as heavy as my sword and shield combined.”
Lily saw Markus nod his head after hearing the soft thud that emanated from Tyler’s armor.
“Even mine is pretty stiff. Miss Paige said it would get softer with age, but honestly, it still feels pretty terrible. But she said I can’t modify it since she doesn’t have the materials on hand. I hope Mister Tyler can get the additional leather to fix my equipment the next time he visits. I hear he was able to find a person who has [Craft Modification]. A person with that Skill can literally create anything they have ever seen before, so long as they’ve done it manually before.”
“Oh. So that’s what [Craft Modification] does. Auntie crafted the armor by hand for you both.” Markus said offhand, causing Lily to frown. She had read more than enough books to realize the importance of [Craft Modification] to skilled workers like Armorers or Blacksmiths. Even Mister Nick might have [Craft Modification], though she had only seen him creating bows by hand. Carve something, yes; but not molding the material like putty into its final form. So why would Miss Paige have a skill like that?
“…I thought Miss Paige bought these from Mister Tyler?” Lily asked suspiciously.
Markus blanched. “Umm. She did! She bought the material from Uncle Tyler for your equipment. I think Auntie was complaining about the material that was available in Cidala.”
“Uh-huh. Just the right size too.” A loud snoring sound broke Lily’s concentration, her eyes lighting up with delight. She noticed Markus sighed in relief out of the corner of her eyes. ‘I’ll check in on that later. There’s no way a Farmer could know something as advanced as [Craft Modification]. But Paige is different than every other Farmer I’ve met.’ “BOARY! We need a favor!”
Pushing forward into the bushes, Lily walked into the clearing as a large boar lay sleeping. The brown boar snores rattled the bushes and caught her leather tunic. His tusks were still jagged, but instead of blood, it was lodged with dirt instead. Looking around, she soon found out why. “Boary! You ruined another clover patch! Miss Paige is going to beat you up again!”
The words hardly left her mouth before the boar was up and looking around. His dilated eyes focused on her and her breath stopped. She had forgotten just how big Boary could be. His head was at the same height as her own, which spoke volumes about how massive the boar was compared to children.
“Sqaeauk.” Boary yawned tiredly, looking for more clover to eat. Lily backed up as Boary walked closer, sniffing the ground for food.
“Boary, we need a favor! Can you bring us to the plains and protect us while we play? Markus had never left the forest yet, and I think it will be fun.” Lily stated her case, hoping the boar would approve. Unfortunately, her initial plea did not work; judging by the lack of enthusiasm from the boar. Time for her next plea. “I can bring you some quality hay? The same one we give to the warhorses.” The boar stopped, his eyes swiveling toward Lily. “How about half a bay of hay for bringing us out? The boar shook his head, pawing the ground twice. Lily knew she had him. “How about three quarters to take us there and back and to protect us from harm.” Boary stared and thought for a moment before walking away from the children. “Fine! One and a half bays of hay. And we’ll help you level the ground before we go! But no more than that you lazy boar!” Boary turned and seemingly grinned as he laid back down on his side; his view of the clearing unblocked.
“…Lily, did you just lose a negotiation to a boar?” Tyler asked quietly, his eyes never leaving the boar as he started patting the ground level. Markus went and joined him as Lily stood looking flushed.
“I didn’t lose! You have to make concessions sometimes to make a long term deal stick. The trick is just knowing when to stop. Clearly, the boar is smart enough to know he holds the upper hand in this situation” Lily flushed in response and started hitting Tyler with her staff. “Besides, it won’t take us long. Miss Zenith taught me a spell! Just watch, I’ll be done in a minute. Now go!” lily said as she pushed Markus and Tyler out of the clearing. Boary blinked, stood up and stepped out of the clearing as well as the wind gathered around the clearing. She closed her eyes and felt her mana within her core. ‘Good, I still have all of my mana. Add in the mana from the environment, and I should be able to pull off this spell.’ Drawing a long breath, Lily started chanting slowly, prolonging the spell as much as she could. “Oh, blustering winds, gather around me and force the wind down onto the earth. Strike the earth with your mighty gale.”
The wind slowly spun around the clearing as she chanted, gathering up into an almost physical manifestation of power. ‘Zenith said that magic is a representation of the user’s wishes. So what I want is to go on an adventure. And to do that I need to level this clearing. I can do this!’ [[Air Hammer]]!” She felt her ears pop as the pressure rapidly changed in her surroundings as a mighty gale slammed vertically against the ground.
“Hah, hah, hah. See. I, hah, told you I could do it.” Lily panted heavily, beads of sweat started to form on her skin. She was thankful for the leather armor now, it would be mighty embarrassing to be seen wearing damp clothes.
Tyler and Markus nodded, looking at the mostly leveled clearing. It was still in rough condition, but many of the potholes had at least been filled. Now, whether Paige would be happy with it was another question entirely, one that all four of them had conveniently forgotten. Boary nodded his head in approval and walked over to the now panting mage. Lowering his body, he squealed and jerked his head, trying to tell Lily something.
“I think he says you can ride on him while we walk,” Markus said after seeing blank stares from Lily and Tyler.
“I know that Markus! It’s just he’s never let me do that before now. Hmmm, my power and grace must have made a difference.” Lily nodded her head confidently. Tyler nodded as well after hearing Lily’s statement, but Markus had a skeptical look on his face.
“I think the boar wants to get his part of the deal over with.”
“Hmph. You just don’t know a genius when you see one. Boary, let’s go! Onward to the main path.” Lily pointed off into the distance in front of her. The boar turned his head to look at the girl, then moved in the opposite direction.
Tyler sighed and told Lily the bad news. She felt her cheeks reddened as Tyler looked at her with pity. “Lily, the main path is the opposite way…”
“Stupid Tyler. Stupid Markus. Stupid stupid…” Tyler was regretting his word choice as he heard Lily cursing him from above. Their grand adventure was quickly going south, he realized. Neither of their parents knew that while they are taught three times a week by Miss Zenith, typically the last week of the month Mister Nick or Miss Paige would take over and teach them small tricks or tips to be an adventurer. They never quite explained how they knew what they did, but Tyler didn’t pay it any mind, especially since they were close to finishing their tutoring within the next year and a half anyway. He knew that Lily was suspicious of the two adults as well, but perhaps in fear of not getting to go on adventures like this, Tyle wasn’t sure if Lily had ever brought it up with her mom or not. Probably not.
Even Markus was an anomaly, he thought to himself. Markus, John, and Xavier were all around the same age, but Markus acted very differently. Tyler had taken Lily’s frustrations in stride and allowed her to hit him until she was tired since his leather armor stopped most of the blow. But he had seen how Markus twisted with the blow and fell to the ground. He was dumbfounded when Markus punched himself in the cheek and turned to Lily, tears streaming from his face from the seemingly rough blow Lily had dealt him. Lily profusely apologized and offered Markus a ride on Boary, leaving Tyler in charge of clearing the path for the large boar. ‘I should ask Miss Paige how Markus evaded like that. And I bet she also taught him how to fake an injury,’ he thought to himself as he stared hard at Markus. The young boy just gave a toothy grin and waved from up high while he clung to Lily for balance.
“Lily, I know you said we could meet our parents in front of the path, but we could go a little farther out. Maybe to the halfway point? There are plenty of people there, and most would recognize us from a distance. Boary can just run back to the forest from there.”
“Yeah. Markus has never been out of the forest before, so we might as well make it something special. I’m sure Boary wouldn’t mind going a bit further out anyways. Does that sound good to your Markus?”
“Yeah! That sounds great!”