Chapter 39

“This is serious, Paige! It’s unprecedented! This affects us immensely! Affects everything!? The gods are dead, Paige!” Zenith shouted hysterically as she paced the living room. They had been able to move Nick from the bedroom so that they could all discuss Zenith’s revelation. “Think about the ramifications that entail! People’s classes are no longer limited to what the gods decide, they have their own free will to choose!”

“At least you know why Tyler and Lily didn’t particularly enjoy that subject, especially the earlier classes. It even explains why they have such a poor understanding of symbology and magic circles.” Paige shrugged as she held Markus, who was quite dead to the world as he laid fast asleep in her arms. 

Zenith stopped and thought about her lesson plans. She had indeed transitioned from theology to symbolism. “Magic circles are highly dependent on symbology. If they don’t know what the relevant symbols correspond to…”

“Then it’d be a toss-up of what to expect. Even I know simple circles could kill you if the combinations were terrible, much less interlocking magic circles.” Nick supplied from the side, a light sheen of sweat shone off his face. “Not that Ranger Command had a lot of magic circles, but you’d be surprised how often criminals and cultists had access to magic circles. Even simple privacy wards were a pain to deal with.”

“How far did your class go, Zenith? I only remember you going into basic magic circles and how to check for one. I know for sure I taught Tyler and Lily how to create a basic concealment magic circle. If the creation of magic circles is a secret…” Paige said worriedly. Nick nodded his head too. “I know I taught a simple tracking magic circle.”

“You know how to create magic circles too, Nick?” Zenith said with a hint of surprise.

“Our pendants are based upon the idea of a tracking spell. Each one is linked to a magic circle back in Ranger Command headquarters. We also have specialty pendants for tracking known criminals, if we can get a sample of their blood.”

Zenith thought hard about where she ended her lessons with them. She had gone over it twice, the last time far faster than before. “Well, I did teach Lily how to create up to Tier two spells, but those are mostly only good for ambushes. I hardly doubt she will have the chance to showcase that at school.”

“That still doesn’t sit well with me. We need to come up with a plan for how to explain it. Should we make some forgeries outlining magic circles? No, that won’t do much. Or maybe we should tell them to use it with discretion. And only in life-saving emergencies.” Nick thought aloud as he judged the feasibility of it.

“Okay, magic circles aside Zenith, we have a bigger problem,” Paige said quietly as she laid Markus down on the padded, wooden couch. Patting his head, Zenith could hear her whisper quietly, “Good job, Markus. You should always stand up for what you believe in.” Standing up, Paige quietly looked over at Zenith, her expression worried. “I don’t know why people think the Gods are dead, Zenith since we can still hear them in the party creation. But I can tell you definitively that the Gods aren’t dead.”

Zenith traded looks with Nick, who was equally just as confused. “How can you be certain of that, Paige? Gaining recognition from the gods was the hardest part of getting a Class.”

“I have two concrete ways of knowing that Zenith. The first is something we all know about. The blood sacrifices. Tyler confirmed that the previous capital, Terpii, had still been razed to the ground, all of the citizens killed. According to his notes, the Healer Hall confirmed that all the citizens that could not get to their walls in time were ritualistically slaughtered. The power from the sacrifices is still going somewhere, Zenith. That altar was not something a mortal could construct by themselves. The second way I know is because of this,” Paige drew a deep breath and released her mana, a milky white cloud of mana floated lazily around her. As Zenith watched, Paige’s mana quickly changed from the milky white to a golden sheen of color, which quickly disappeared as Paige withdrew her mana. “I still have access to Divine level mana. This isn’t something that can be replicated either.”

“Divine mana? What kind of mana is that?”

Paige hesitated as she started fidgeting with her hands, “Divine mana is something that you can chance upon if you know where and what to look for. I thought I used the rest of my stockpile when I gave you the subclasses, and when I broke through the Mausoleum’s defenses. But I actually have quite a lot again. I mean, some is still missing bu-“

“What does it do, Paige?” 

She stopped and took a deep breath. “Well, in general terms, it augments my skills and spells and lets me do things that I normally couldn’t. Like messing with the Party Creation, or overtaxing my mana. Even Blessings are a form of divine intervention.”

Zenith stared at Paige and her mind ran through what she had said, and what she had not. “What about Classes then, Paige? How do you explain the Class acquisition without divine intervention?”

“That one is harder to explain, but not quite as hard. If a person can gain the Hero class by undergoing some worthy tribulations, who’s to say that a person can’t train to become a Warrior? A Vanguard? But I would have to assume once you choose a class, it is permanent. Did you look into that? Or Class consolidation?”

Zenith blushed. “No, honestly I didn’t. I came straight back after dealing with Senior Guardsman Albecki. I’ll go back tomorrow and research it. And I’ll send a letter out to Tyler and Lily so that they don’t disclose anything we’ve taught in regards to magic circles.”

“Good. That’ll probably be for the best. Hopefully, Tyler will have some new information about the impasse at Evidia.”

Nick cleared his throat. “Paige, I think it’s time we move from Alcudia and Evidia and focus on other areas. Like what happened to me. I’ve made a name for myself here among the Guild Hall, and I’ve been getting some inquiries from Leit, according to Kate anyways. If they’ve started noticing my bows, then I may be able to trade information with Ranger Command. Many concessions can be made for a good bow.” 

“…true, but we still have at least two years before you can head that way yourself. Tyler won’t know how to contact the Rangers without being overly suspicious. So we might as well use this time to try and find the rest of the Demon Lord’s party. As far as we know, they haven’t traveled back to Evidia. So Isabella is still somewhere here in Alcudia. Zenith, what are your thoughts?”

“I agree with Nick. I think we should start transitioning Tyler back this way, Paige. Travel time to the borders is two months there and back. After your harvest started and he’s been able to travel without worry, he’s barely been back six times in the last three years. We can do much better with him around here. Leit is hardly two weeks away, and Appealte is barely a week of travel. Besides, Markus will be starting school soon in four years, so Tyler should be around us more often instead of doing everything alone.” 

Paige sighed. “Okay, he’s scheduled to start heading back in a few weeks anyway, so we’ll start transitioning his route back this way. Your right about Markus too. He is getting older too, so we should all start thinking about what we should be teaching him.”

“Do you think he remembers any of his past, Paige? The guardsman said he was using sword techniques, but as far as I know, none of us have ever taught him that.” Paige choked on her water, and she tried unsuccessfully to stifle her coughs. 

“I, uh, might have been using some Warrior skills to augment my farm production. You both may not know, but correctly doing the motion for a technique can sometimes cause the same effect as though you had used a Skill. It makes it slightly weaker and it is nonreliable in battle, but I’m pretty sure both he and Tyler figured out how some basic moves and seismic skills from watching me.” Paige sheepishly said, looking embarrassed. 

Zenith frowned, her brow furrowed as she thought. “Yeah, once it becomes a habit, the body instinctively remembers and uses a minuscule amount of mana to achieve the necessary effect. Fine, that explains some of it. And sword techniques?”

Paige chuckled nervously. “That’s a funny story too. You know I’ve traveled a few places throughout the kingdom. And I, uh, may have used some farming tools from other parts of the empire. Because, you know, why not use the best tool for the trade.”

“I know. That’s why we let you modify the water wheel so that it could be used for a variety of uses. So?” It didn’t take a genius to know Paige was obviously trying to evade the question. Zenith raised her brows and waited for Paige to continue on.

“Well, you’d be surprised how many weapons started from a farming tool.” Paige picked up her hoe and as Zenith watched, it quickly morphed into a large butcher’s cleaver, then into a wooden sickle; two tiny poles; a long, pointed dagger; a pitchfork; finally reverting into a hoe. “Gathering rice, butchering livestock, threshing wheat, moving produce; there is a farm tool for everything. And the farm tools can easily turn into weapons. I may have been showing off. Just a bit.”

Zenith and Nick looked askance at Piage.”Okay, so maybe more than just a bit. But a slash is a slash. I’m not going to use bad form when I am swinging my farm tools. I sometimes, sometimes mind you, use the corn and wheat fields as enemies when harvest time comes around. I mean, why not? Why would I waste a perfectly good chance to show off a bit…” her argument faltered slightly as she looked away. “But I have not taught him anything formally, so it’s just intuition. Or maybe he is just a genius. I’ve seen far too many people like that to not count it out.”

“Oh, Paige…” Zenith sighed. “Okay. I can work with that. I’ll get it cleared up with the guards and start looking into the side effects of Classes. I’ll take Markus with me to town too.”

“Stay the night in Cidala, Zenith. Kate should have some of these supplies, but you may have to contact an Alchemist in Nespe to get some of the medicine for Nick, since he didn’t exactly have his guard up when it happened. His condition is stable, for now, but I would feel better if you could get some poultices made.” Paige said.

Zenith looked over to Nick, who nodded in response. “I can manage for now. But I don’t want to be bedridden for weeks like last time. Paige, you really should make a field for medicinal herbs.”

“Poultices and raw herbs work fine, usually. It’s too much work defending common medicinal fields, as there are too many things that like to nest near them. Not to mention their maturation time is too long, even with my Skills. Let someone else deal with that.”

Before Paige could continue her rant, Zenith interrupted. “Okay. I’ll send Sara over if I need to wait a few days. I’ll be back as soon as possible though.”

“So, barring the whole issue of the Gods, what did Tyler choose to study in school? My bet is he ended up going on the Vanguard skill path.” Paige asked with a knowing smile. “If I was his other tutor, and I wanted him to focus on offensive skills, I would not tell him that Lily can choose a defender. So…”

“He did choose the Vanguard skill path in the end, and he really enjoyed the Party Plate you and Tyler made. But that was the other issue Paige, your gift forced him to choose a class. When he chose the guard handles, he received his class. I confirmed it myself after the fact. He is an Apprentice Vanguard.”

Paige frowned, deep in thought. She mumbled lightly to herself, “Well, the whole point of that little tradition was to make sure you focused on one aspect of your class. Offensive, defensive, technical. Nick, Zenith; there had to be some type of tradition you guys did too. Every class has it’s own quirks and history.”

Nick was already falling asleep, but he focused slightly at the question. “…we had to practice hitting a target in the forest. Once we could curve an arrow at will, we were basically ready for true Ranger missions.”

“Nick, rest. I’ll get the medicine for you. You’ll get better, soon.” Zenith laid her hand on Nick until he fell asleep. Paige just sat there and waited until Nick was asleep.

“We only had one tradition, and that was creating our first magic spell. But that was usually after we became an apprentice, not before.” Zenith and Paige thought for a moment, trying to figure out the mystery.

“Paige, how many specialized classes did you go through before you became a Warrior?”

Paige frowned at the question. “I, uh.. I went through all of them. You don’t really get the True Warrior Class without going through all of the specializations.”

“So why didn’t the God’s advance your class to Warrior as soon as you mastered one specialization?”

“Well, I knew there was a True Warrior Class, so I actively strove for it. I didn’t want to settle for less.” Paige stopped and thought about that line of thought. “Once I learned as much as I could, one day I naturally got the True Warrior Class. Hmmm… when you go to the library, get me some books on famous Warriors. I can try and glean the class advancement rules as much as I can based off of their stories. I have some ideas already, but we’ll talk about it after I get some more facts.”

“But there’s… there’s a reason why I hadn’t taught Markus or Tyler sword skills, Zenith.” 

“Hm?” 

“I still can’t use a sword, Zenith.” 

“You just had one in your hand, Paige. That cleaver is pretty much a sword.”

“No, I mean I can’t use a sword Zenith. I’ve been experimenting a lot with my leftover weapons, like replacing the blade of my spears with the hoe blade, and I can still use it just fine. But when I pick up a true weapon…” Blinking in confusion, Zenith watched as Paige took out a simple iron sword from her ring and frowned. “Watch,” Paige simply said as she grasped the sword.

Nothing seemed to happen, or at least nothing dramatic like Zenith thought would have happened. She knew that Paige wouldn’t have informed her if it was not a big deal though. Staring at the sword, she soon realized that the blade was vibrating. No, not the blade. Paige’s hand. Was it glowing as well? Unless… “Thanks for showing me, Paige. You can put it away. Weapon Dissonance? But you’re a High-Class Warrior? I could understand that if you were an Apprentice or something, but for your body and mana to react just holding a weapon…” 

“I can’t use any of my main Warrior equipment in a fight. Bodysuit, shield, sword, spear. And it’s not because of the mithril. I tested that by replacing the core of my hoe’s shaft with my mithril spear, and I can wield it just fine when there is a hoe blade. It’s just when I am holding a true weapon that I have problems.”

“Well, it has to be because of the magic circle… You said you didn’t want to be a Warrior. Just a Farmer, which is what you became.”

Paige nodded. “Yeah. I can still do the forms and the stances; I just can’t use them personally in battle. You probably couldn’t tell, but I was pushing my mana hard, Zenith. It’s not until I was about to use a sword skill that the weapon dissonance happens.”

“…I don’t think it’s that simple, Paige. I think you still don’t want to be a Warrior. You were fine holding a shield when you were training Tyler, after all.” Holding up her hand to forestall Paige, Zentih continued on with her hypothesis. “Even though we don’t know the full breadth of the magic circle, we can already guess by observation that our wishes are factored into the very fabric of the spell. Wishes and intent, otherwise how could you explain everything thus far? I’ve been keeping track of Tyler’s changes, and although he was initially overweight, now that he is in shape he is getting back to what he looked like before, body wise. If he wanted to be a self reliant merchant, I could see someone his size looking that way, especially if they never worked out or took care of their health. Barring myself then, only your change was minimal, all things considering.”

“You think that so long as I don’t truly wish to become a Warrior again, I won’t?” Paige asked, her face pensive.

“You have to figure that out yourself, Paige. I’m going to get some rest, Paige.” Zenith left it at that. Some problems couldn’t be solved with just a simple analysis. This was something that Paige would have to deal with on her own.

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