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ScarletSabre

Isekai Story

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Heya everyone, I've amazingly not been completely avoiding/too depressed to write while I've been inactive on the forums, and one of the projects I've been writing is an isekai story, mainly because I've been watching a few isekai anime with my friend, who's got a huge fondness for them. He's been my only alpha reader thus far, and it's mainly been a way to practice and entertain him, but I'm curious if anyone here would be interested in reading it too?

 

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Just looked that term up - sounds interesting :-) There is no harm in posting that, and I think that wound be cool to read :-) Go ahead!

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Well, hopefully you all enjoy it ^^ Most of this is a first draft, so please be kind, but please let me know what you think

Prologue - Honestly not too happy with this compared to the rest, feels very cliche

Spoiler

Prologue

The empress of demonkind grinned to herself, the balls of flame that hovered above the tips of her horns flaring as her magic surged through her. Her eyes glowed a deep violet as she smoothly rose from her throne. Braziers lining the room surged with flames as she descended the dias, the shadows of the pillars dancing in time with her swishing tail.

The talons on her scaled feet clicking against the gold-trimmed tiles as she slowly inspected the perimiter of her circle. She nodded to herself as she passed her prisoners, her tail slipping under their chins as they whimpered through their gags. Twelve of the most powerful mages she could get her hands on, each one powerful in spacial spells and time magic, their mana pools massive, their positions in their kingdoms high and respected.

And every single one of them sobbed like a child, broken under her touch. The sound was music to her ears and made her purr as a shiver ran down her spine, making her tail vibrate. Their tears pooled on the floor around them as they struggled weakly against their bonds, but it was no use.

Her servants had done good work with those, their faces were pulled back, facing the ceiling as they knelt, making sure that their tears didn't smudge the still cooling circle of blood before them.

She giggled to herself as she flicked a finger towards one of her servants, the flaming-eyed skeleton pulling on a hidden chain as she strode into the centre of the circle. Above, the domed ceiling opened like a flower bud, revealing the cloudless night sky. The moons were all out, even the smallest one, it's ring of debris making it shine the brightest.

As the symbols beneath her feet were illuminated by the glow, the empress looked around her prisoners one more time with a smile. Each one's staff had been embedded in the tiles before their kneeling form, their crystalline heads glittering in every colour.

As she began to draw upon her own mana, flowed through her body like a current of lightning, and she let it flow through each staff, the orbs and shapes atop them glowing from within as they amplified her power. Reaching through their own equipment, she made her mana latch onto each mage, adding their own reserves to hers.

Each pool of power was amplified through the staff as it flowed through to her, and she closed her eyes, feeling each rush of distinct magic as it clashed with her own. It swirled and condensed, the air humming with power and a low rumble causing the whole world to tremble.

She opened her eyes, arms outstretched to bathe in the glow of the moons, and she could see beyond them, to the twelve planets that had aligned this night. With this much power she felt like she could reach out and pluck one from the sky.

"I AM THE EMPRESS OF DEMONKIND." she intoned, her voice resonating with twelve overlapping echoes of power. The very fabric of reality seemed to ripple at her words, the wails of her prisoners falling away. There was nothing but her, the power, and the universe.

"I HAVE LIVED FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS. IN THAT TIME I HAVE SEEN MY POWER DWINDLE. MY LOVE TAKEN FROM ME. MY LANDS DIMINISH." she continued, her words shaping her mind as her will shaped the power. The runes drawn within the circle began to glow, first red, then golden, then pure white. The staves around her, and the mages formed a twelve pointed star as they began to glow as well.

The heads of each staff flared more intense colour as the magic stressed the crystal to the points cracks began to form across them, each one more brilliant than the moons or the sun. The mages' bodies began to smoke and flicker as more and more power was pulled from them, more than their mana pool could give, more than their bodies could give. The magic, the life, the power that made up their very souls was being used in this spell.

"I WILL SEE THIS RECTIFIED. MEN AND GODS WILL TREMBLE BEFORE ME." she continued, forming and shaping the spell, her words giving her mind focus as her will struggled against that of the universe. She would not be denied. "I WILL HAVE A CHAMPION. I WILL BRING FORTH SOMEONE TO WHOM THIS WORLD'S STRUGGLES AND RESISTANCE IS BUT A GAME."

She threw her will and every ounce of the power thundering through her against the wall that was everything... and she felt reality bend.

The light that had been dwarfing the moons and stars pulsed out from her, spiralling upwards in a column of pure, white hot power that lit up the sky. Everything rippled around her as the power began to disperse. The heads of each staff shattered, the wood and metal warping and snapping. The runes in the circle stopped glowing, the blood that had made them up evaporating into a fine, red-tinged mist.

She could feel her palace shaking as the ripple progressed outwards. No, not just her palace. She could hear a rockslide in the mountains nearby, the far off rumble of damage from an earthquake.

Glistening with sweat and chest heaving, she smiled, then began to laugh. The laughter filled the air and the silence left behind by the now dead husks of her captive mages, and the clatter of the broken bones that had been her nearby servant. It rang out into the night as the last tendrils of blood and power drifted out of the hole in the ceiling, and into the still trembling sky.

Chapter 1

Spoiler

1.

I opened my eyes a crack and winced at the sunlight. Ugh, had I forgotten to close my curtains fully? damnation south-facing window... I grumbled and squeezed my eyes shut again, turning my head to the side to nuzzle my pillow and try and fall back asleep. It was warm, though the breeze was nice, and the grass under my cheek was surprisingly cool.

Wait, grass?

My eyes opened blearily and I sat up, head fuzzy and making my upper body sway unsteadily. I raised my hand up to rub the sleep from my eyes and almost knocked myself out with the gauntlet I was wearing. I blinked stupidly at my hand, encased in red, gold-trimmed metal, turning my hand over and over.

I held both armoured hands in front of myself, staring at them and flexing my fingers. I jumped when  I flexed the wrong way and a long golden blade sprang out of each forearm plate, jutting out past my fists and almost taking my head off!

Carefully, I flexed and fiddled until the blades retracted, then finally looked past my hands at my surroundings. I was sitting on a grassy verge atop a hill, overlooking rolling fields and a swirling river. The sun was bright overhead, making me squint painfully to look up at the cloudless sky, but I could see mountain ranges in the distance, and what looked like a medieval walled city down the river.

"Okay, I've finally gone insane." I muttered as I looked around at the remnants of some old stone walls, and down at myself. I was wearing a familiar set of armour. Very familiar- I'd helped an artist friend design it!

I adored that armour design, he made it look fantastic, and I'd managed to recreate it almost perfectly for my character on NPCQuest, which had a lot of customisation options.

But this... this was it perfectly. It was amazing. And it was very strange. Not just the fact that I woke up wearing it, but how light it was. I'd worn armour before, and I could feel some padding beneath most of the plate, but nowhere near as much as there should be, and the armour barely felt heavier than wearing a coat.

Slowly, I stood up and tried to get my bearings. I seemed to be alone. Good. Gave me time to think. "All things considered, I'm holding myself together pretty well..." I thought aloud as I tried not to panic.

The last thing I could remember was sitting on my bed, idly grinding on NPCQuest... I had several characters on there, but I was trying some new PVP strategies with my max levelled character and wrapping up a couple of sidequests. I must have dozed off while playing. Wouldn't be the first time that happened...

But waking up somewhere other than my room afterwards was a bloody first.

I rested my back on the tree I'd been shaded beneath, and took several long, steadying breaths. It helped, at least a little. I took a tentative step forwards, and my foot bumped against something with a hollow clang. I had to scramble and dive forwards to keep the helmet of my armour from going rolling off down the hill.

"Well, that's undignified." A voice said as I inspected the helmet, still on hands and knees.

I looked back over my upturned backside and saw a tall, slender woman with long, raven black hair stepping out of a small column of light that outlined her with an ethereal glow.

She wore a deep purple dress with a blue sash around her waist, and in her hand a staff with a glowing ruby the size of my head floating over the silver-trimmed top.

Her eyes were a deep red matching the ruby, and glittered with amusement as she raised an eyebrow. She chuckled and smiled at me. "You can close your mouth now."

I blinked, realising I was slack-jawed. I honestly hadn't believed that could happen to someone without them noticing until now. But yup, a woman with a magic staff stepping out of a beam of light would just about do it.

Her raised eyebrow continued upwards just a bit as I stayed where I was on all fours, and I slowly, cautiously, got to my feet, brushing a few blades of grass from my armour with awkward clangs.

"Well." I said after a moment. "If this is some kind of trick, it's bloody convincing."

"No tricks, only magic. " she said as the ruby topping her staff spun lazily like a thrown D-20.

"Right." I said slowly, biting the inside of my cheek and fighting a wince. Nope, that pain was real. And while I'd had weirder dreams than this, I think there'd only been about four. And none had been quite this detailed, or made as little sense.

"Yes. Do you remember anything about your summoning?"

"Summoning?" I said, wracking my brain to think if I'd been doing anything that would tempt fate, or the gods of whatever planet or dimension this was, to summon me anywhere. Nothing came to mind.

"Yes, you were summoned to this world by the Empress of Demonkind, but that much mana being used was detectable even from this continent, and while I wasn't able to prevent the summoning, I was able to redirect where you were summoned to." She frowned to herself as she looked around. "Not with enough precision, obviously..."

"Wait wait wait." I said, holding up a hand. "Someone was using enough magic-"

"Mana. Mana powers magic, which are the spells themselves." she corrected, with the calm patience of someone educating a child. I recognised that tone well, and had forgotten what it was like to be on the receiving end. It was rather patronising.

".... enough mana." I continued. "That it could be felt on another continent, for a spell that bent time and space and the laws of physics and reality. And you redirected it."

She nodded patiently, clearly letting me vent and get everything out of my system. Honestly, given the situation, it was quite considerate of her.

"And you know it was the Empress of Demons that was doing this." I said, my tone flat and dry. "Presumably to get some kind of ally or advantage or something."

"Yes...?" she said, frowning slightly, clearly not seeing where I was going with this.

"And you came here alone to check on me?! What if I'd been some ravenous monster or unstoppable killing machine?!" I swept my hand towards the walled town in the distance. "You're lucky that place isn't in flames!"

"I have more than enough mana left for binding spells and teleportation. None of my archmages can teleport as far as I can, so they couldn't come with me." She sniffed, somewhat indignant. "If you had been in the middle of indiscriminate slaughter, I would have bound you, teleported you back, had them kill you, then brought some clerics with me to assist with healing."

"Still a risk." I pointed out, not willing to concede completely. "How long dd it take you to find and get to me?"

"I redirected a spell powerful enough to pluck you from your own world and bring you here, from another continent, and didn't teleport you into a wall, underground, a mile up in the sky, or into lava or underwater." she said, eyes flashing sternly, ignoring my question. "I think that's rather the best that can be hoped for, even if you ended up half a country away from me."

"Fine, fine." I sighed, dropping it."You're just lucky the spell summoned me and not some heartless bastard."

"You'll forgive me if I don't trust your word so quickly." She rolled her eyes as she walked over towards me, inspecting me up and down like a car she was considering buying. If she started kicking my shins or examining my teeth I might get annoyed.

"Your armour is very regal." she commented with a little undertone of approval. "Are you nobility where you come from?"

I snorted. "I may have that kind of voice, but nope." And saying my armour was regal was an understatement. The only word to describe it accurately was royal, and was damned gorgeous.

I crossed my arms, trying not to drop my helmet. "And now the questions I probably should have started with... Who are you, and where am I?"

Tall as she was, the woman was still almost a head shorter than me, and I'm rather broad shouldered, a fact only added onto by my armour's shoulderplates. I knew how to stand and intimidate someone, but she didn't even blink.

"The world you're on is Eldan, the continent of Rasen, the country of Londal, and about a mile away from Isenwall." she said, nodding towards the walled town downriver. "And I am Lornel, the Master Mage of-"

"Rendala." I finished for her, nodding to myself, mind swirling with thoughts. I hadn't made a mage character yet on NPCQuest, so I wasn't too familiar with the questlines and important characters there outside of the quests they'd been mentioned or made cameos in. But the other names were familiar.

Rasen was the main continent of NPCQuest, and Londel one of the five countries that could be explored. Hell, I brought one of my other characters through this area a month ago - No wonder it had looked familiar! Of course, the graphics of the game were nothing like this.

"So magic exists... Clerics can heal and call on holy powers... Oh bollocks, that means gods exist here too." I said aloud, glancing up and half expecting a divine thunderbolt. My voice sounded calm, but my mind was reeling. This was too much to take in, how was any of this possible?

I could feel my breath getting a bit choppy as anxiety started gripping my stomach with an icy fist. I knew I was even paler than usual, and I had a sudden urge to just crouch down and hold my head between my knees. A thought struck me and I latched onto it, pushing the rest of it away for the moment. I glanced at Lornel, feeling a bit more in control even as my voice wavered slightly. "Wait, are... are levels a thing here as well?"

She raised an eyebrow at me again, and raised a hand, palm outstretched. A pair of translucent rings of white light appeared in front of her hand. The space between them filled with runes that spun and pulsed gently around the circle of air. A similarly translucent screen appeared in front of the array, hovering in front of Lornel's hand as text appeared on it.

The status screen was about the size of a tablet, and she moved it through the air with a lazy finger and turned it towards me. "Of course, don't you have them on your world?" she said as I glanced at her stats.

"Level 67..." I said, taking it in. How did that screen work? What was it made of? Magic? Or mana, she would probably correct me. Probably not the best thing to focus on, but I was a nerd, the question just jumped into my head, and since it was one of the less existential ones swirling around my brain, I let it settle at the forefront.

"Indeed. The highest of all mages in this country, and one of the highest in the continent." Lornel said with pride. I was barely listening as I looked her stats up and down.

Unlike NPCQuest, there were no health or mana bars, or at least none that I could see on her sheet. The other stats were the same though, Strength, Dexterity, Agility, Endurance, Resistance, Intelligence and Faith.

She made her status window blink out of existance and looked at me expectantly. "Well?"

"Hmm?" I glanced up from gazing at the helmet in my hands. The slight tremble of my fingers against it's ruby-hued surface had faded.

"It's only good manners to introduce yourself in return." she said pointedly. "And I shared my level as well, you should feel honoured."

"Oh, I'm Robert." I said simply, my mind still racing.

She looked at me expectantly. I sighed and rolled my eyes a bit, then cleared my throat. "Robert... Scarlet." May as well use the name I wanted here. I made a sweeping, exaggerated bow. The motion, and banter helped me feel more like myself again.

"Apt." she said, eyeing my auburn hair, which I knew would be glowing an orangey-red in the sunlight, and then at my crimson armour. "Well, Mr Scarlet, let us be off. I'll teleport us back to Rendala, and we can figure out why you were summoned, and how to get you home."

I hesitated, but nodded, stepping towards her. It wasn't like I had anything to lose, and while I was wary of telportation, knowing how it worked back in my world, if magic existed here, I could hardly pass up the chance to experience it.

We both froze as we heard a distant scream carry across the silent fields. Turning towards the town in the distance, I could see that there were several carriages between us and the wall of the town.

One was on it's side, wheels spinning in the air. Another was on fire, smoke beginning to rise, and the final two were surrounded by what looked like bandits, several guards in chainmail fending them off as best they could.

I looked at Lornel, and she looked back at me. A moment passed where she seemed to hesitate, and I rolled my eyes. "I'd say ladies first, but I doubt you'll want to turn your back on me." I said over my shoulder as I skidded down the grassy slope and began to run.

Behind me, I heard her dignified voice say something that sounded rather like "cocksucker", and heard her pick up her dress to hurry after me. I grinned, heart thundering in my chest.

And if anyone wants to see the awesome, regal armour in question... It's based on this FANTASTIC Stand an artist helped me design ~

And chapter 2, with a bit more action and hopefully entertainment ^^ I have a few more chapters written, so if you'd like me to post them please let me know!

Spoiler

2.

I skidded my way down the hillside, flexing the hand that wasn't holding my helmet. I kept making fists and angles until I figured out the mechanism for releasing and retracting the blade hidden in the forearm.

I kept on doing it, letting it spring out it every few steps as I ran, the clicks and thunks satisfying and slightly calming, keeping my mind from racing too much.

'Relax.' I told myself. 'You'll do fine, you've had a decade and a half of practice in the dojo.' But that didn't stop the niggling doubt I'd always had that I might subconsciously pull my punches out of habit.

It was a doubt that'd been fading in recent years, but as I drew closer to the sounds of grunting, metal clashing, and a woman screaming and squealing, it crept up on me again.

But I did have an actual mage with me, and my confidence in my skills always did get higher when I had someone with me. Probably because I wasn't overthinking my moves to focus on protecting them, but I also knew it was partly because showing them off was fun.

So when we got to the carriages, I knew I was going to be in my element. The ground was hard packed beneath my feet and gave me better footing, and surprisingly, I wasn't even out of breath from my sprint.

I could hear the bandits on the other side of the overturned carriage, and pressed my back to the side of it. After almost falling through the door that was hanging off it's hinges, I looked back to Lornel, who'd been right behind me.

She was still a little ways off, huffing with exertion, face flushed and glaring at me as she held her dress in a tight grip, probably holding it up higher than intended. I just nodded at her and motioned for her to stop and get her breath back as I took a deep breath through my nose. I held it for a moment, and then slowly released it from my mouth, trying to calm myself.

Then, before I could overthink anything else, I turned around the corner of the carriage and threw myself forwards into the fray.

The bandits were dressed much the way you would expect, mismatched pieces of mostly leather armour that were ill fitting in some places. Their faces were sweaty and greasy, twisted into leers and sneers. I'd been expecting that, and even most of them them being in mostly, if slightly malnourished, good shape, muscles defined and bulging on some of them.

What I hadn't considered about being in this world, was the smell. I was used to the scent of sweaty bodies from the dojo, but this hit me like running face first wall of stale odour, making me stumble a bit as I instinctively gagged.

I think I recovered well though, since as the man closest to me started to turn to see what the noise was, I stepped forwards with a powerful stomp. I put not just my hips, but my whole body into the punch I aimed at his ribs, his chestpiece helpfully leaving them exposed on the side closest to me.

My fist connected with his lowest rib, the easiest to break, and with a punch like that, wearing a gauntlet with solid metal knuckles? With the roar of everyone around and the sounds of battle, I felt more than heard the crunch as his rib splintered, then broke completely, my knuckles sinking a good inch into his flesh.

The suddenly pale man collapsed, trembling and gasping as he weakly clutched at his side. I stared at him for a moment, fist still outstretched and trembling slightly as well. I'd used my martial arts skills on people before, but never broken someone's bones intentionally until now. I knew exactly what I'd done as well, his lung and other organs were most likely going to be pierced by shards of bone, especially if he tried moving around.

That moment of hesitation and sympathy almost cost me, since the bandit beside him had turned when his friend collapsed, and swung his axe down at my head with both hands.

My helmet dropped from my left hand as it came up to block. It was a stupid move, I knew even as I did it. I should have stepped to the side and redirected the attack, but I was still in the solid, commited stance from my first punch, and I moved on reflex when I saw him move from the corner of my eye.

I got lucky though, and my forearm and wrist caught the shaft of the axe just under the head, instead of on the blade.

The force of the attack still should have shattered my wrist, or at the very least forced my arm down and let the blade continue to split my head open. I knew my blocks were strong and solid, but not that strong, armour or not.

And yet, the axe stopped where it was, quivering above my head as my whole body was pressed into the ground, the soles of my boots embedding themselves in the hard packed earth slightly. My wrist didn't even hurt from the impact!

The bandit and I both blinked stupidly at each other, looking from our surprised expressions to the axe still resting upon my wrist.

"MOVE." a voice came from behind, making me turn my head as my new friend with the axe instantly released his weapon and leapt backwards.

Behind me stood what could only have been the bandit leader, since he was easily seven feet tall and three feet wide, and wore only a pair of fur-lined trousers and boots to better show off every bulging muscle. Though as his fist swung towards my face, I did think I saw a bracer on the arm attached to it...

I threw myself to the side, trying to dive out of the way, but it was too late. The wall of muscles apparently had enough brains to tell his ally to move after starting his haymaker.

My feet barely left the floor when his fist, easily the size of my head, connected with my jaw. My head jolted to the side, and the roll I'd been attempting to throw myself into suddenly had a lot more power behind it.

I felt my body soar through the air, crashing through the overturned carriage's base and out of it's roof, skidding to a halt on the grass on the other side, one of my armour's shoulderpads having left a groove in the ground.

I heard the sounds of the battle die down a bit as the leader's guffaw bellowed out of him. "See that lads?!" he jeered. "Twenty feet, easy!"

"Aww, y'coulda got thirty, boss!"

"Yer, I pulled me punch a bit since Darel wus in the way." the leader snorted, and I could hear the sound of a meaty hand slapping someone's back hard enough to make them fall flat on their face.

"Mr Scarlet?" Lornel's voice said from closer nearby than I'd expected, echoing and overlapping itself oddly. "Are you okay?"

In response, I started to laugh.

It started out almost crazed, maniacal, and then slowly transformed into a pretty damnation villainous laugh as I started to get control of myself.

That punch, and crashing headfirst through two layers of four inch thick wood, designed to take the weight of multiple people, hadn't hurt. At all.

My laughter had silenced the bandits, and even the sounds of fighting. All that could be heard aside from it was the crackling of the fire, the weak moans and gasps of the injured, and the wind.

That just made me laugh harder.

After a good minute, I slowly started to sit up, cracking my neck one way and then the other, dislodging shards of wood from my hair.

I'd been too distracted by everything happening at once to properly realise what everything had meant. This... this was going to be amazing. I just wished I had equipped my helmet to get the proper eff-

A softly glowing white outline of my helmet appeared around my head, colour filling it in an instant as the slight weight of it settled on me. I blinked, then laughed even more. So THAT was how that worked... good to know.

The facemask of the helmet made my laughter echo even more than before, making it slightly metallic, a little deeper, and most importantly, sound badass.

"T-The storm?!" the one who'd tried to split my head open gaped. "He's awake after yer punch?!"

The others looked similarly stumped. "I seen the boss' punch knock out a boar once!" one muttered, the sudden silence making his voice carry. "I saw 'im kill a guy with one! He din' even fly ten feet, neither!"

The boss was staring at his fist with his eyebrows knitted together, lips pursed as if he was wondering if it was broken. 'Give me a minute, and it will be.'  I thought to myself as I stepped forwards slowly, purposefully, taking my time and thinking of the best way to word this, and the best image to give.

The bandits quite kindly gave me time to think it over, too, every single one staring at me and flinching with every step I took. I saw the bright red glow of the flames being reflected in my armour, adding colour to many of the pale faces, and grinned wider behind my helmet.

Oh yes, I was very happy I'd gotten my helmet on. The golden crown that was part of it's design was going to add to this perfectly, and I saw more than one of them shade their eyes as the flames caught it.

There was a flash of white light behind me, and I glanced over my shoulder to see Lornel lowering her staff, eight small columns of light appearing around her as several wounded guards, and three people in rich clothes, slumped and fell out of them. So that's what she'd been doing; getting the people trapped inside the final carriage out. Well, good tactics for a mage, having someone else take aggro.

Speaking of which, I'd gotten to the overturned carriage, looking at the bandit leader through the holes he and I had made in it.

He was still frowning at his fist, but looked up when moans from the injured guards who'd suddenly been moved came from behind me, and one of the men spoke up.

"Mistress Lornel? Wuh-what are you doing here? I mean, thank you for saving us, but-"

"She ain't saved shite!" the leader bellowed. A shaky, but heartfelt cheer of "Yer" went up from his lackeys. "Yuz are still a mile away from the walls, an she ain't got the magic to stop us all!"

In response, I finished the testing I'd been doing while he spoke, and lifted the carriage in front of me over my head with one hand.

"She doesn't need to." I said to fill the slack-jawed silence that followed, the rust-eatingest of grins on my face. Thank the gods my helmet's face mask covered it, it would have spoiled the effect.

The carriage felt no heavier than a dumbell in my hand, but I still had to hold it directly over my head to not lose my balance, so I tossed it to the side. It landed at an angle and two of the wheels snapped with a CRACK loud enough to make birds in the forest take flight.

It seemed to break the spell, at least for the audience behind me. "M...Mistress...? Who is that...?"

I half turned towards them, watching their stunned, petrified faces. Lornel was gripping her staff in both hands, lips pressed together as circles of runes started to appear around her.

I grinned, making sure to direct my words to the bandits as well. "I... am The Scarlet Emperor." I announced, spreading my hands wide and letting the sunlight and flames both dance on the red, gold, and occassional silver of my armour. The words hung in the air, booming and echoing as I projected my voice like a proclamation.

"And you." I said, turning to address the bandits fully as I started to walk towards them. "Are stormed."

I attacked.

 

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Cool :-) I'll give a more full critique later if you like, but not bad. Is NPCQuest a real world game, or an in-setting game?

In brief, I like the questions raised, the idea that this person was brought to that world by a villain, so does the villain think they will help willingly, or has some means of forcing them to obey, or they thought that Robert would be willing but has mistaken his motives? The setting matching rpg mechanics is also a cool one, and Robert slowly realising his abilities is also fun. I do have some negatives, but also more positives, and I think this could be a fun story :-)

By all means, post more chapters! I'm interested to see how this goes.

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Please, by all means do! I'm glad to hear you're at least being somewhat entertained by the story ^_^ As for NPCQuest, it's an in-world game, and a reference to another of my projects, it's the working title for my story of the classic hero's tale - farmboy to king etc... told from the point of view of the beleaguered shopkeeper who's having to deal with all this when he just wants to make money and be left alone. 

As for the other questions... they'll be answered eventually, when I write more chapters, haha! I've only got a few more written at the moment, so what I'll do is post them one at a time so you, and anyone else who might want to read it, can give your thoughts on it ^_^ By all means critique, but please let me know if it at least entertained you a bit! 

 

Chapter 3 - Apologies for the difference in formatting, copied this chapter from the Google Doc version rather than the USB the others came from

Spoiler

3.

Afterwards, I sat cross-legged on the carriage I had tossed aside, my armour removed to reveal the leather jerkin, white laced shirt and simple black trousers beneath. I rolled the sleeves of my shirt up past my elbows, enjoying the cool breeze on my slightly sweaty skin. Sprinting while fully armoured hadn't left me out of breath, but the fighting had left me slightly flushed, at least by the end.

I was very glad that equipping and unequipping the armour was as easy as a mental command, because the thought had been niggling at the back of my mind. There were no visible straps on my armour, only layers of plates, so how was I supposed to take it off? Though that also begged the question of why I woke up with my helmet just removed...

Curious, I started experimenting while the bodies lay around me, being collected and inspected by the guards who weren't injured too badly to move.

The bandits groaned feebly, if they were able to draw enough breath through shattered ribcages and sternums, or force words through almost-crushed throats. I felt a bit bad now that the fight was over, though fight probably wasn't the most accurate term to describe how I'd crashed into them like a meteor.

I felt a little bad listening to the guards mutter about their broken bones, twisted and beaten bodies, and hearing the groans of the bandits and gasps of pain as they were moved. Perhaps I'd been a little too enthusiastic about my strength...

But it'd been too much of an oppourtunity to have fun and just use them as experiments for the effectiveness of my martial arts. The whole thing had been rather cathartic, almost theraputic. Besides, they HAD tried to kill me, and the guards. The one with his left eye closed by clotted blood seemed to share the feeling, since he had no issue dragging one man by his broken leg.

"Ah-HA!" I said as I pulled my helmet, the only piece of armour I'd equipped, from my head, looking down into the expressionless facemask and crown. Something on the inside around the jaw and gorget - apparently it and the helmet counted as one piece of armour - had unlatched enough for me to remove it, and I nodded to myself. One more question answered. Only about six thousand to go.

Over by the other carriages, the merchants were discussing what to do about their carriages, since the one I was sitting on was buggered, and the other one intended for passengers was now a charred, smokey husk. That only left the last two they'd retreated to, but they were stuffed with the goods they had used as a shield to make the bandits hesitate attacking. Of course, it was all academic since the horses had long since ran off.

They were probably just trying to muster up the courage to ask Lornel to teleport them and their carriages the last mile or so to the town. Though while they hesitated to even look at the tan-skinned woman, they absolutely refused to let their gazes get anywhere near me.

Lornel herself was watching me as I held my hand out, frowning at it. She still gripped her staff in a white-knuckled grip, but aside from that her appearance was... well, not quite serene, but composed, if intense. "I have... never seen leather a shade of green like that before." she said as she approached, watching the guards clean up out of the corner of her eye.

"Hmm?" I glanced down at my jerkin, and chuckled. "Oh, I made a point of dyeing it because I knew it would annoy my best friend."

She nodded slowly, trying to clamber up the overturned carriage with some kind of dignity. "I see... It's an impressive work, I couldn't tell it was dyed." I nodded absently as she used the hole in what had been the roof as a foothold and stepped up to stand behind me.

After a moment of watching the guards struggle to lift the bandit leader's huge, unconscious form, she turned to face me fully. "I've also never seen someone pick a man up by his leg, and use him as a weapon to beat his leader." she said flatly.

I snorted a bit. "Yeah, I just couldn't resist it when he tried to kick me in the bollocks." I said with a chuckle as I continued to focus on my hand, and the air in front of it.

"It was ridiculous." she sighed, though I could see her lips twitch into a smile out of the corner of my eye. "If... somewhat amusing..."

She sobered up as the guards passed us. "I thought you said you were not nobility in your world. And your strength... it was not norm-okay, what are you doing?"

I was flexing and splaying my fingers, pulling them back to push my palm out over and over. I even tried wiggling them back and forth. "Trying to figure out... Ah, there we go."

A tingle flowed through my arm and seemed to flow out of my palm as the same rings and runes that Lornel had created appeared before my outstretched hand, glowing with a soft golden light.

A screen of my own appeared, and I grinned as I looked it over, struggling not to break into more maniacal laughter, especially when I heard the choking noise come from the suddenly pale mage behind me.

"L... Level three hundred?!"

I was too busy grinning at the status screen to respond. Unlike Lornel's screen, there was a health, mana and stamina indicator on mine, at least to my eyes. Oddly though, the health one simply said 100% on the bar rather than give an actual number as the other two did.

I frowned at the comparatively tiny blue bar as I looked over my stats, sighing inwardly and half wishing I'd been grinding with my spellsword character when this happened.

 

Robert Scarlet

Strength - 320

Dexterity - 311

Agility - 237

Endurance - 285

Resistance - 143

Intelligence - 58

Faith - 16

Lornel was gaping as I looked over my stats with a nod, unable not to grin at the familiar numbers. And that was WITHOUT the boosts of my armour, which I had made sure to enchant to make my build even more OP. Oh, this was going to be interesting.

While I inspected how the screen in front of me moved around with my hand, Lornel brought up a trembling hand and began to pull up her own stat sheet.

I was too focused on trying to figure out how I'd brought it up in the first place to pay much attention to her. Waving my hand through the screen made it fuzz for a moment, and then snap back into place, a tingle almost like static electricity running up my arm from the touch.

So this was mana, or magic, or energy or... whatever. It had rushed through my arm in that brief moment, and I could tell it was energy from that. Touching it had felt like.... like... well, the only thing I could compare it to was the time I'd accidentally stepped on an exposed wire and felt electricity run through my leg, making it seize up.

But if this display was just made of, say, light, shouldn't manipulating it mean that technically this could be made into a laser, or invisible from one side, or something? And the 100% for health... was this a reflection of my own perception of my physical state, or the perception of some god? Or the universe itself maybe?

Plus, I knew my intelligence stat was only high enough to give me a relatively small mana pool and semi-decent mana regeneration, but I didn't know any spells, so why could I even make this? Was it just mana manipulation?

There were just SO many questions, and laws of physics and logic that seemed to be being broken over my head, that I felt it threatening to overwhelm me again for a moment. What if this was some kind of Matrix situation, and I was in some kind of simulation with wires being poked into my brain?

No, I couldn't think like that. If this was all some kind of hallucination or simulation, I'd just make myself paranoid trying to figure it out, and if I was crazy... well, I'd rather assume that I'm not.

Thankfully, Lornel finished opening her own sheet, and her expression as she looked over her own stats helped me focus again. I hadn't noticed the numbers before, too focused on the fact she basically produced a hologram and that she actually had a level, but this time I made sure to look.

Lornel Arsana

Strength - 15

Dexterity - 48

Agility - 30

Endurance - 26

Resistance - 81

Intelligence - 114

Faith - 42

She looked up from her screen to me, her normally tan face the colour of slightly-off milk. "H...How?" she croaked, voice hoarse.

"Oh, don't take them too seriously, the stats aren't properly reflective of what they represent."

"They aren't?" she frowned, looking to the screen in front of my hand again.

"Of course not." I nodded. "I'm much smarter than that intelligence stat implies."

She blinked, then gave a shaky chuckle. "Arsehole." she said, visibly relaxing a little.

I chuckled back, glad I had distracted her from the question she had asked. "In my world, your world is a game, and expansion packs expanded the level cap twice" probably wouldn't have been a good answer. It'd have been an interesting one, certainly, but I didn't want to even think about tackling that kind of conversation just yet.

I turned my attention back to the screen in front of me. It looked very similar to the status screen of NPCQuest, and now that I looked at it without focusing on the stats, or what the hell it was made of, I noticed it had two tabs, one to either side of it.

I tapped one of them with my finger. 'If there's some kind of Log out option I think I'm going to lose it.'

There wasn't, which my fraying sanity was thankful for. It was an inventory, laid out in a grid with images of all the items I was apparently carrying.

My armour was there at the top in what appeared to be a favourites bar, while a few weapons, shields, and a couple of other pieces of armour and clothing made up a portion of the grid. The rest was filled with potions, buff items, crafting and upgrade materials I'd been farming... and quite a lot of gold, silver and copper.

The three coin images sat unassumingly in their boxes, the numbers beside them showing just how many of each type I had. I whistled at the sight, having forgotten about that.

Equipment and inventories weren't shared between characters on NPCQuest, but money was, and so grinding out high level quests and raids and selling items with my strongest character to power level and equip my weaker ones had the side benefit of making me - if the prices for items were at least similar to what they had been in the game- obscenely wealthy.

The downside though, was that apparently the items that my character had put away in storage rather than the inventory, weren't accessable. I frowned a bit. That seemed rather arbitrary, considering the inventory itself was a bloody hammerspace... but there was no sense in worrying over it. I had kept my favourite things in the inventory for a reason, and even without the extra 999 in the storage, I still had literally hundreds of potions.

Not trying to withdraw anything from the inventory for now, I tapped back to the status screen, and then over to the other tab. It was a list of the skills and spells that my character, and now I, had. Though in my case it was all abilities and skills.

I looked over the list, eyes widening at the thought of being able to do some of these attacks for real. Once again I half wished I'd been levelling up my spellsword, but banished the thought as I looked over the skill list. I was going to have to experiment with those, they'd been fun in the game, and now? I almost burst into laughter again just at the thought.

I nodded to myself, then focused, and dismissed the screen, making it blink away. A tingle that'd been running through my hands while it was there, so soft I hadn't even noticed it, vanished. I was going to have to experiment with those and figure out how they worked.

Looking up, I saw that Lornel was watching me intently, eyes calculating, her grip on her staff no longer white knuckled but still tight, and the fingers of one hand drummed against it seemingly without her noticing. She'd definitely been looking over my shoulder at more than just my stats. I almost took offence, but I couldn't blame her.

When I met her eyes, she had regained most of her composure. "Well, the guards have gathered the miscreants." she said as she looked over to the other carriages, where the bandits had been laid out in a line.

"Shall we be off? I will teleport us all into Isenwall, ensure that these miscreants are taken in by the proper guild, and by then my mana will have recovered enough to make teleporting myself and you to Rendala."

"You're not gonna heal them?" I said, nodding to the injured guards, two of which were sitting with their backs against the carriage wheels.

"Healing is most effective through Miracles and Blessings, and though I do know several healing spells, they are all mid-levelled ones and would drain my mana enough to delay the teleport unnecessarily. Better to wait until we're in the town."

Made sense to me. I shrugged. Besides, the bandits were a hell of a lot worse off, and none of them looked like they'd die, at least in the immediate future. "So, do we all need to cluster up or...?"

"That would help." she nodded as she looked for a dignified way of climbing down from the carriage. "The more items and people I have to teleport, and the further the distance between them, the more strain on my focus and mana."

"Handy that they grouped up when they were surrounded then." I pushed myself off the edge and landed lightly, turning and offering a hand. She leaned down and took it, hopping down and dusting herself off as we strolled over to the merchant carriages.

Their hushed conversation died as we approached them, and one of the three merchants almost fainted when they were forced to look at both myself and Lornel side by side. The other two paled, and tried to not let their eyes drift from the mage as they trembled slightly. The guards weren't much better. More stoic, but gripping their weapons tightly. I tried not to chuckle, or give in to the urge just yell "Boo".

"Mis-" one of the men squeaked, then coughed. "Mistress Lornel." he said, overcompensating and making his voice ridiculously deep.

"We wish to thank you, and your... associate..." his voice cracked again. "For our rescue... Our goods will bring a much needed influx into Isenwall, and these bast-" He coughed again, blushing as he averted his eyes from Lornel. "-reprobates knew that. They wished to keep the town guard understaffed and stretched thin so they could run rampant."

"How nice of them to exposit all of that to you." I said, hands in my pockets. He flinched at my words, but managed to keep his voice from shaking, though he refused to look at anything but my left shoulder.

"Yes, they... they were rather proud of it... a couple of them used to be guardsmen, I believe. Turned traitor to get a steady source of food through pillaging... and tax free gold."

"Well, the local bastard infestation seems dealt with, so now they just have to worry about understaffed jailers." I shrugged.

"The solution to that is simple." Lornel smiled, voice composed. Now that she was dealing with someone in awe of her position, her confidence, serenity, and slightly patronising undertone, had returned. "We only heal them enough to prevent them from dying or getting worse, and leave them to heal the rest of the way naturally. By the time they are strong enough to mount any kind of resistance or escape from their incarceration, the guardsmen's numbers will be replenished."

"Wise as always, Mistress." the merchant said, bowing his head in reverence. "We can only thank you for your timely intervention, and of course, offer you whatever may catch your eye from our goods in recompense."

"Before any talk of that, we should get your guards healed, they risked themselves valiantly against a much greater force and continued to protect and serve even when injured." Lornel said, making the guards puff their chests out in pride, one wincing at the motion and clutching a gash in his chainmail. "If you would be amenable, might I offer my magic and teleport us into Isenwall?"

"O-Of course!" the merchant said, pulling a silk handkerchief from his coat and dabbing at his sweaty brow, looking very relieved at not having to be the one to ask the strongest and most respected mage in the country to give them a lift. "It would be an honour!"

Lornel smiled, and held her staff out in front of her, the ruby at it's head spinning a little faster and beginning to glow. Her eyes glowed to match as she chanted something under her breath, voice overlapping itself and echoing once again.

White circles of light filled with runes appeared beneath our feet, spinning like buffer circles as they started to glow brighter and brighter. Oval shaped ones appeared around the laid out bandits, outlining them almost like police outlines for a moment, before expanding and beginning to spin.

A large one appeared beneath each carriage, and Lornel finished the chant, bringing the end of her staff down onto the grass before her firmly. "[MASS TELEPORT]."

The circles flashed, and columns of light swallowed us all. There was a stretching sensation and a rush of energy throughout my body, and my stomach felt like I was going down a rollercoaster, but instead of dropping downwards, it was dropping upwards, the way the rest of my body felt like it was being stretched, pulled from a point at the top of my head.

After a long instant, the light faded, and we were inside the town.

 

 

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It is entertaining :-) a more full critique will be coming in a few days. Also level 300 is OP :-P

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Glad to hear it ! And yes it is, that's the point ^_^ Can't wait to see the critique, and in the meantime, enjoy the next chapter! 

 

Chapter 4 - Another one I'm not entirely satisfied with bits of, but it's a first draft after all

Spoiler

4.

As the light faded, Lornel sighed, relaxing her grip on her staff. The fatigue on her mind from using so much mana at once, in such rapid succession, began to hit her. Her eyes felt tired, as if she'd spent hours upon hours reading intently.

She sighed and rubbed them with her finger and thumb, wishing she'd thought to bring a mana potion with her. She had thought it would only be a short trip there and back, and so her inventory was all but bare. She still found that requirement for aiding the effects of the rings she wore irksome at times. Thankfully her position meant she hardly needed to even carry coinage nowadays.

She sighed and released the pressure on her eyes. Her mana regeneration would alleviate the mild headache soon enough.

"Blehh..." a voice shuddered beside her, and she blinked, looking down. Mr Scarlet - Robert- had dropped into a low crouch, paler than he normally was, one hand on the ground to support himself as he panted softly, eyes closed.

"Motion sickness..." he panted out in response to her raised eyebrow, and she chuckled a bit to herself. He'd almost started to seem invincible -or at least stupidly overpowered and cocky-  in her mind after seeing that ridiculous stat sheet, not to mention the violence he'd inflicted without any apparent qualms.

She mentally chided herself. She of all people should know about putting people on a pedastal. Besides, the sight of him almost vomiting from a simple teleport had distracted her enough that the headache that'd been forming had faded, and her mood improved.

She'd brought them to the Warp Platform, which was located in the middle of Isenwall, and guards trickled out from the barracks that flanked it. Lornel wasn't surprised, a large scale teleport like that was flashy, and usually meant the arrival of someone important to greet.

The long line of groaning, and in more than one case, unconscious bandits was likely not the kind of guests they were expecting to go through their customs system.

The merchants deferred to her as the guards paused, looking confused, and she stepped forwards. "I'm Lornel of Rendala." she told the man with the golden marks on his vambraces. "Send for a team of clerics to report to me, and send a runner to the local inn to reserve two rooms for myself and my companion."

As expected, the men scurried off to do as told, and she turned back to the merchants, who were huddled behind their chosen spokesman. "I cannot thank you enough, Mistress." the rotund leader simpered, smiling up at her as he dabbed at his forehead, apparently not noticing that his handkerchief was already sodden, and he was just adding more moisture to his pate.

Lornel smiled. "Oh, it was nothing, assisting you assists this town, which assists the country. Once your guardsmen are healed, I'll leave instructions with the clerics, collect the bounty from the local guild, and we shall be off. I trust your goods will be enough to recoup your carriages."

It wasn't a question, and the smile seemed a little forced on the man's face as he nodded. "Of course, of course! And your reward... please, by all means, take whatever takes your fancy from our goods! A necklace or shawl perhaps? Having something worn by your mage-nificance"- behind them, Robert, slowly standing up, snorted with laughter. - "would be an honour!"

'And provide you with a lot of business when you pointed it out to prospective buyers.' Lornel thought, not letting her expression slip from the warm smile. "Of course, I'll peruse as soon as your men are seen to."

That mollified them, and they seemed to remember that their guards were injured, one of them actually helping one into a sitting position as they checked on them. Lornel was a little surprised by the checks they gave their guards; she hadn't thought them callous, but she had expected them to treat the guards more in terms of their value to the convoy than as people. It was refreshing to see that after all the time dealing with politics in the capital, she could still get something like that wrong.

Her eyes fell on the redhead who was now standing and looking around with a frown. 'Now, hopefully I won't be wrong about him as well.'

She stepped over to him and smiled. "Something troubling you?"

"Hmm?" he blinked, having been staring off into the middle distance at an alley, and turning back to her. "Oh, just thinking that this place is much bigger, and different than I remem-er, imagined."

Lornel narrowed her eyes a bit, but didn't press the issue, merely filing it away for later. There would be plenty of time for the interrogation and her multitude of questions for him when they returned to Rendala. Though given that insane level of his, perhaps interrogate was the wrong term.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I mentally kicked myself for the slip as Lornel eyed me like that. It was true though, this was very different to what I'd been expecting. Isenwall, when I'd been playing NPCQuest, was nowhere near as big.

Sure, it had had the sprawling alleyways, and the marketplace I could see through that alley seemed similar to what had been in the game, though much richer, full of the hustle and bustle that was familiar to me.

I may be antisocial and an introvert, but I was also well aquainted with the heartbeat of a packed city centre, and while the chatter of the marketplace was nowhere near that kind of roar, it was familiar enough to be almost soothing.

Turning away from the alleyway I inspected the guards that were coming out of the barracks, and then the platform itself. It was much bigger than it had been in the game, a single piece of rock shaped like a coin, three feet high and at least sixty feet across, easily more than wide enough to accomodate all of us and the carriages.

Rings of runes were engraved in the slate gray surface, getting smaller and smaller until they became an intricate, gorgeous looking circle in the centre. I guessed that they decided where larger things were teleported, since the circle of runes was right below the carriages, which hadn't been in the centre before we teleported.

"So, where's the guild?" I asked as I looked around, honestly not sure. The layout of the town was different than I remembered, and I was starting to wonder whether or not I'd been transported to some world that NPCQuest had been based on, or something. After all, the planet of NPCQuest had never been named, so far as I knew...

Banishing the thoughts for now, something I was getting more and more used to doing to stay relatively sane, I hopped down from the platform. My right ankle twinged a little, and I sighed, lifting the foot from the floor and rotating it, letting it click, crackle and pop. Ligament damage was a pain in the arse, but something I was-

I froze, foot still off the floor as Lornel walked down a set of portable wooden steps that one of the guards had wheeled out and put against the edge of the platform. She frowned and tilted her head as she finished giving instructions to the guard and looked at me. "What are you doing?"

I finished poking my teeth with my tongue. Yup, there was the chipped front tooth, the flatness of the edge familiar.

I blinked at her question, and panicked internally, feeling my face flush a little as I tried to think of something to say. I didn't want to have to explain that I'd just realised I'd been transported to this world in my actual body, rather than the body of my character.

It was another slip I kicked myself for. I should have realised it before - detailed or not, the character creation of NPCQuest hadn't been able to put in details like that.

"Just, ah... stretching my ankle." I said, deciding to tell part of the truth. "Ligament damage from an old injury."

She raised an eyebrow. "You didn't get it healed?"

That made me pause.

Could I get it healed in this world? Or my tooth? Did I want to? They were part of me, and sure, while my ankle could be a little weak at times, it didn't hurt me anymore...

Again, I told part of the truth. "Healing works differently in my world."

She nodded slowly. "I see... Well, it's likely too late to heal it now regardless. Healing works best when the injury occurs."

"Why's that?" I asked, finally putting my foot down.

"Too long afterwards makes it ineffective, or more likely to leave scars and things like that." she explained as she started to walk down a street, leading me along.

I was impressed by the way she casually acknowledged and dismissed the guard who'd brought the steps for her without even looking at him. And the man even looked proud, puffing up his chest and swaggering off to the rest of his duties.

I followed Lornel through the alleyway, letting the sights distract me from the multitude of questions that sprang into my head from these latest revalations, and slowly relaxing mentally as I fell into step.

"So, why are you collecting the bounty for them?" I asked as we stepped from the side street onto a main one, Lornel's very presence clearing the way as several people recognised her and bowed or curtsied to her. "I mean, I'm assuming that as the head mage, you're not exactly skint."

She responded to every single one with a smile and soft nod or wave. "I don't need it myself, but I can get it sent to the Royal coffers and the Academy as well, to fund our projects."

I nodded thoughtfully, half wondering if officials in the government were encouraged to hunt bounties and missions to get money from the guilds to funnel it back through themselves, since I thought that the guilds had to be sanctioned by the government... If that part was like NPCQuest, and I remembered rightly. It probably also served as a good recruitment tool as well, headhunting the most talented adventurers.

"So, why are you coming to the guild hall?" Lornel asked as we turned down another street, stepping past an incident involving two carriages colliding. Lornel paused for a moment to mutter an incantation, and a white circle of runes appeared under the culprits, moving them to a nearby alleymouth so the drivers of the carriages could try and disentangle the wheels. It also had the added benefit of putting the two mating horses out of sight.

Chuckling and shaking my head at the sight as we passed, I shrugged in response. "No reason, honestly. You're probably the best chance I have at figuring out how the bloody hell I got here, so I'm sticking with you for the time being. And I'd probably get bored waiting back with the bandits and having everyone's eyes on me."

She just hummed in response as she nodded to the thankful carriage drivers and led me into another street that was helpfully named Adventurer's Alley. We passed shop after shop and I had to fight the urge to pause and head into every single one we passed that had weapons or armour for sale. I knew I had the kinds of weapons I wanted in my inventory, but I couldn't help but want to go in and admire and test some of the ones on display.

There'd be time for that later though, since Lornel had seen my gaze and chuckled. "When we get to Rendala, there will be much more impressive wares for sale."

I let that be enough for me as we walked through the streets, just trying to memorise this new layout. There were a few familiar buildings, a clock tower and inn, but for the most part everything was completely new to me.

"Ah, here we are." she said at last, and I turned my head away from a rather interesting looking flail that seemed to have retractable spikes and an extendable chain, and turned to see the guild building.

It looked very much like it had in NPCQuest - a large, blocky, three storied building with a sign above the doors. The sign simply said "Isenwall Adventurer's Guild", but the blue, stylised sword that underlined it, and the blue frame of the sign itself, added the only bit of colour on the otherwise bland, white-plastered bricks.

"Well, let us not dally." Lornel said, leading the way in. I followed at a relaxed pace, though I had to speed up after a moment to keep up with her determined stride.

The ground floor was one large room, one side of which was taken up by a bar, the rest of the floor a lounge area. Boards hung from the columns supporting the ceiling, and apparently the members of the guild enjoyed a game of hangman and noughts and crosses as much as they did darts, since there were more than a few chalkboards with half-finished games on them.

The outside of the building had seemed rather plain, but the inside was bright and airy for the most part, the wooden floors and borders of the walls a light beech rather than dark oak, and the vibrant blue carpeting drew the eye towards the stairs, where the sound of chattering and rustling papers could just faintly be heard.

The lounge was mostly empty, with a few girls in sky blue aprons polishing tables or dusting booths, only the occassional chatting adventurer relaxing on the couches or having lunch. The bar, however had a few committed drinkers there, who weren't waiting for the sun to start setting before drowning their sorrows, a few flashing surly looks at Lornel when she turned away from them.

I raised an eyebrow at that, but said nothing as Lornel finished taking the floor in and nodded to me. "You may as well wait here, I shall speak to the guildmaster alone."

I shrugged my assent and wandered over to the bar, taking a seat on one of the stools and eyeing the other people there, and the broken chair that'd been swept to one side, the wood splattered with small bloodstains here and there.

I followed the trickles of blood with my eye. They lead across the floor from the pile of splinters and timber to the door into the back room of the bar, and as I leaned over the edge of the bar and craned my neck, I noticed it was ajar.

"Y'know." I said as the bartender came over with a smile, a beautiful blonde girl with her hair pulled into two long ponytails that she wore swept over her shoulders and tied with bright blue pieces of fabric, drawing the eye to the low cut of her dress. "I've never actually seen a real barfight happen."

"Oi." a voice said from above and behind me, a shadow suddenly blocking out the light. I looked up and into the upside down face of a huge man, almost as big as the bandit leader, and built in a similar way, a huge slab of bunched up muscles with a face poking from in between.

I turned my head so I could look at his face right side up. It wasn't an improvement, hell, he might have looked better the other way up. His face was scrunched up and his lips pulled back in a scowl, revealing he had less teeth than fingers, and a scar ran across his shaved head from the top of his skull to his left eyebrow. One missing ear and one that looked like it had had most of it bitten off completed the effect. "Yer sittin' on moi coat." he rumbled.

"Oh, sorry." I said, shifting and lifting my arse from the coat, which I hadn't noticed. I had no idea how I hadn't noticed, since the thing was the size of a small tent.

"S'alroight." the man said, taking his coat and heading towards the stairs.

"Well, you're lucky you didn't piss off Big Jim." the bartender said with a chuckle as she leaned her elbows on the bar. "You'd have seen one if you did... For a few seconds before he tried to use the stool like a hammer to nail you into the floor."

"Ah, that's what happened there?" I said, nodding to the booted foot that was propping the door behind the bar open.

"Never you mind." she said with an exaggerated shrug, definitely once again trying to distract me with her cleavage. Feeling my cheeks pinken a little, I made a point of ignoring what was in my peripheral vision. "Now, what'cha want, stranger?"

"If you're lookin' to join as an adventurer, I'd recommend making a Party first... wouldn't want someone messing up that cute face." she said, winking playfully at my slight shyness and reaching out to ruffle my hair.

I blushed a bit more, but grinned and chuckled. "You realise I'd have tipped you large regardless, right?"

"Good to know." she winked again and chuckled back at me, dropping some of her playfulness and seeming far more relaxed and natural. "So, what'cha want?"

"Don't suppose you'd have blackcurrant juice?" I said hopefully.

"Hmmm.... Nope." she said after a moment's thought. "Got apple and orange juice, but those we'd have to ship in... could have some eventually if you'd be willin' to pay though!"

I sighed, but didn't lose hope. At least it wasn't impossible to get. With what was probably my blood at this point denied, I just asked for the only other thing I drank. "Just water with ice please."

She blinked in slight surprise, but smiled. "Comin' up."

As she prepared my drink, heavy footsteps on the stairs caught my ear, and I turned to see a man in dark gray armour moving quickly backwards down the stairs, a grin on his face even as his hand gripped the sword at his waist.

"Now Jim, there's no need for this!" he said as he backed down into the lounge, taking a second to glance and grin at his audience. Glancing at them myself, I saw most were rolling their eyes and shaking their heads as they returned to their meals and conversations. Apparently whoever this was, this was business as usual for him. Or maybe just for the guild?

"Oi told yew." Jim growled as he strode down the stairs, so wide he had to turn at an angle to fit on the staircase and not get his bulk caught in the bannisters. "If yew di'nt stop taking moi quests, oi'd break yer."

"But Jim, you just always happen to choose the quests I want! And being so big, you're a bit slow... oh bugger." the man said, his grin slipping a bit as he realised what he'd just said. "I-In taking them!" he tried to clarify, but it was too late.

"Stop implyin' oi'm dumb!" Jim snarled over the man's attempt at defusing the situation, and swung a fist like a sledgehammer. The man brought his sword up in front of him, sheath and all, to try and block, but was still thrown backwards from the impact, and crashed through a table.

He rolled with it and got to his feet, holding his still sheathed sword in both hands now, letting a small sheaf of paper flutter from his grip. He crouched as Jim strode towards him, fuming, and face as red as my armour.

"[Swift Soles]..." the man muttered softly enough that I was probably the only one who heard it. A soft white-green light outlined his boots for a moment, then he leapt forwards as Big Jim closed the gap between them.

No, he didn't just leap forwards, he leapt OVER Jim's fist as it came for his head again, tucking into a tight ball as he flipped over and over... then, as he soared over Jim's surprised head, his sword lashed out in a downward blow with all of that momentum behind it! "[Spinning Strike]!"

Of course, he was upside down as he did it, so the sword actually swung upwards, but it still connected with the back of Jim's skull with a brain-rattling THUD right where the skull met the thick wad of muscles the man had for a neck.

Jim's whole body vibrated from the impact, and his eyes rolled upwards. He toppled forwards, hitting the ground chin first with enough force to make the floor vibrate and my drink, which I'd just been handed by the bemused bartender, spill an icecube.

His foe fallen and definitely out for the count, the blonde man tried to complete his flip, and probably would have looked a lot more graceful if the strike he'd just performed hadn't changed his angle. Instead of rolling in the air and landing smoothly on his feet, he'd pushed himself downwards slightly, and landed with a crash on his back, skidding across the floor in a heap at the foot of the stairs he'd just backed down.

He grunted in pain as the clambered to his feet, laughing off the good natured laughter and calls about his performance that came from the lounge. "Okay, okay, that could have gone better..."

He dusted himself off and walked towards the bar, looking around the floor for something. He caught the bartender's eye and smiled ruefully. "Uh, Mer, did you see-"

She cut him off by tilting her head towards me as I looked through the papers I'd picked up. I'd sat at the bar on the stool nearest the front door and stairs, so the papers had fluttered towards me with the wind of Big Jim's fall.

They were a request for someone to exterminate an infestation at a manor, and on the page with the contact information, I coudn't help but notice that there was a picture of a rather beautiful young lady. The reward wasn't anything special, so I guessed why the man in front of me had taken the quest.

He held his hand out towards me as I looked up. "Gordon Graves. Mind passing that back to me? I've already got to carry one person, I don't want to have to do it to another."

He nodded towards Big Jim, who nobody had moved to help, though one of the girls who'd been polishing was sweeping the broken table towards the other one in the corner.

I raised an eyebrow and reached out, grabbing his hand, shaking it rather than handing the paper over. He blinked in surprise as I easily pulled him towards the seat beside me. "Robert Scarlet. Let's chat a bit, I think we might be able to help each other..."




 

 

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Okay, so here is my critique. Please note that I am not a professional, this is taken as the views of someone who enjoys sci-fi and fantasy stories, and mysteries, and so my opinion is biased in certain ways, and so you should only really take note if what I say matches something you already think, or if several people agree with my points :-) This is mainly focused on the story itself and how it is told, rather than sentence level stuff, which is rather good.

 

So, starting with the good: Interesting hook at the beginning, with the villain summoning the main character. Making him so strong that no-one else so far can hope to challenge him, but also having him be unsure of how to fully use his abilities at first also makes it fun, so the initial struggle being him learning how to use his abilities, while no-one else can harm him, is a fun twist, and I am looking forwards to seeing how much more he has to learn. The fact that the skills he has in real world training also adds to it, that this is a skill - both in computer games and martial arts - he normally can't put to use, but now has a chance to use is also enjoyable. And the summoning being redirected, the skill and implied power needed also makes Lornel an interesting character as well, someone who could be a guide and conscience to Robert, while at the same time she is nervous about his motives and how dangerous he can be. The interactions between Robert, Lornel, and the queen could be very interesting, their attitudes and arguments to one another as to why they should or shouldn't do things could flesh them all, each richer and more interesting because of their relationship with one another. And also, having Robert now beginning what looks like a traditional rpg, only with a max level character, can be an interesting exploration of what those mechanics could be like if they really did work the way implied, how it affects society and those who live in it. Robert wanting to help Gordon - assuming it is help - also helps make him more sympathetic, but more on that below.

Now some negatives: The use of certain terms, like PvP, D20, etc., could throw some people off if they aren't aware of what those terms mean. I do know, and I haven't ever actually played an MMORPG or a tabletop rpg, but that is mainly because I've spoken with people who have. The stat screen is less an issue, as most people could figure out the implications, but unless this is intended to be read by people who are already familiar with computer or tabletop rpgs - which it might well be - a little explaining could help a lot. Robert having both strength and real-world training can also be a little bit of a tight rope - I'm not entirely sure what Robert's life was like in the real world, having both experience playing computer games and practising martial arts, it feel like he fits the role a little too well, and what does being in the setting give him that he didn't have outside it? Also, the perspective switch in chapter 4 is a little odd. Usually, with the exception of interludes or bookends like epilogues etc., the style should be consistent, as it can confuse readers for a sudden shift from first to third person to take place. I wasn't confused here, but that might be because the serialised form the story is being told as ;-) I hope to be descriptive, rather than proscription, but I think if you put the third person narrative into its own unique font or section, so framed as an interlude, that could mitigate this issue if anyone else finds that throws them.

Lastly, some minor notes: I know you didn't intend this, but the site changing some swears to other words actually made some sections feel very unique. I generally don't like swears, but rust-eating worked rather well :-) At the moment, Robert is coming across as a bit of a psychopath. I assume this is intended, and that this will play into his character arc, but I just want to be sure this is what you intend to convey, that this character has found himself in a world which in which they can automatically dominate, were confronted by villains that couldn't hurt them, and then decided to relish punishing them. That might be blood knight tendencies, the thrill of battle, and from the looks of it, Robert's real world life includes martial arts training but no opportunity to fully exploit it, so this could look like the character is just enjoying a good fight where they can fully unleash themselves, mitigating the point I made about about him already being an accomplished fighter. His eagerness to hurt them is creepy, though, and implies that this might be something he has wanted to do to real-world people. I'm assuming that this is in part what the main villain hopes to use to control him, and so - if his arc is about how these are still people even if they are from a world that matches a game he knows - he will surprise her.

I'm also interested if NPCQuest does end up being a game in the real world you end up making, but I also think it could be fun to have a cross-over of your other shopkeeper project with this one - as its name is NPCQuest, having fleshed out and notable NPC's could fit in well.

 

On the whole, this is a fun and entertaining story, and I hope you continue to enjoy writing the other chapters, as I will enjoy reading them!

Edited by Ixthos
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3 hours ago, Ixthos said:

Okay, so here is my critique. Please note that I am not a professional, this is taken as the views of someone who enjoys sci-fi and fantasy stories, and mysteries, and so my opinion is biased in certain ways, and so you should only really take note if what I say matches something you already think, or if several people agree with my points :-) This is mainly focused on the story itself and how it is told, rather than sentence level stuff, which is rather good.

Haha, thank you for taking the time to give it, I really do appreciate it ^^ Hopefully someone else might chime in with their own thoughts, since so far it seems like you're pretty much the only one reading it! (Oh, and speaking of sentence level stuff, if you spot a few run-on sentences, I do have a bad habit of those I'm trying to curtail, at least in writing projects like this xD So they might creep in here and there)

3 hours ago, Ixthos said:

So, starting with the good: Interesting hook at the beginning, with the villain summoning the main character. Making him so strong that no-one else so far can hope to challenge him, but also having him be unsure of how to fully use his abilities at first also makes it fun, so the initial struggle being him learning how to use his abilities, while no-one else can harm him, is a fun twist, and I am looking forwards to seeing how much more he has to learn. The fact that the skills he has in real world training also adds to it, that this is a skill - both in computer games and martial arts - he normally can't put to use, but now has a chance to use is also enjoyable. And the summoning being redirected, the skill and implied power needed also makes Lornel an interesting character as well, someone who could be a guide and conscience to Robert, while at the same time she is nervous about his motives and how dangerous he can be. The interactions between Robert, Lornel, and the queen could be very interesting, their attitudes and arguments to one another as to why they should or shouldn't do things could flesh them all, each richer and more interesting because of their relationship with one another. And also, having Robert now beginning what looks like a traditional rpg, only with a max level character, can be an interesting exploration of what those mechanics could be like if they really did work the way implied, how it affects society and those who live in it. Robert wanting to help Gordon - assuming it is help - also helps make him more sympathetic, but more on that below.

I'm glad you enjoyed the opening hook, it felt very cliche for me on a reread, but of course this whole project WAS inspired by me watching Isekai anime with my friend, so that probably plays a part, haha! I'm glad you think Lornel is an interesting character and her interactions are good, since I quite like her myself, and I think you and anyone else reading might like what I have in store. ^^ And yup, he's Max Level for NPCQuest, which transferred to this world, but I haven't specified what the maximum level in the world itself is, don't forget...

4 hours ago, Ixthos said:

Now some negatives: The use of certain terms, like PvP, D20, etc., could throw some people off if they aren't aware of what those terms mean. I do know, and I haven't ever actually played an MMORPG or a tabletop rpg, but that is mainly because I've spoken with people who have. The stat screen is less an issue, as most people could figure out the implications, but unless this is intended to be read by people who are already familiar with computer or tabletop rpgs - which it might well be - a little explaining could help a lot. Robert having both strength and real-world training can also be a little bit of a tight rope - I'm not entirely sure what Robert's life was like in the real world, having both experience playing computer games and practising martial arts, it feel like he fits the role a little too well, and what does being in the setting give him that he didn't have outside it? Also, the perspective switch in chapter 4 is a little odd. Usually, with the exception of interludes or bookends like epilogues etc., the style should be consistent, as it can confuse readers for a sudden shift from first to third person to take place. I wasn't confused here, but that might be because the serialised form the story is being told as ;-) I hope to be descriptive, rather than proscription, but I think if you put the third person narrative into its own unique font or section, so framed as an interlude, that could mitigate this issue if anyone else finds that throws them.

Your point about the terms is true, but I don't think it's too much of a barrier, since they're rather common phrases, and PvP in particular, at least to myself, is an easy enough thing to understand in the context of a game, or with even a cursory knowledge of games ^^ I'll bear it mind though!

As for Rob's previous life and his experiences, that's a very good point, this project was originally just written for my friend to enjoy, and he's much more familiar with Rob, so I didn't feel the need to expand on his backstory yet as much as I might have if I'd gone into this intending to write it for everyone to see from the start.

Though with your point about the tightrope, it's actually not as bad as you might think, a lot of people who practice martial arts or bodybuilding are huge nerds, there's actually a rather surprising amount of people you'd find in a gym who were inspired by and are huge fans of/nerds for Dragonball Z, for example. Though I do recognise that this can make him a bit Gary-Stu-ish, and don't worry, I'll be remedying that later, when I do expand a bit more on him. (And as a martial artist nerd myself, I can testify that myself, and quite a few members of my dojo, are huge nerds who love games and reading/writing ^^)

And as for what the setting can give him that he didn't already have... it's a question Rob will seriously consider going forwards, but first off, a very awesome set of regal armour, super strength and durability and skills literally straight out of a video game, tons of money and a fantasy world to explore and experience. So he has quite a lot of things to explore and exploit in the future !

Regarding the perspective switch, I can see how I should make it a bit more clear, I'll definitely make sure I do so going forwards. I'm intending there to be Rob's first person perspective as the main POV, but a smattering of other characters' third person ones here and there, so I hopefully have a better way of distinguishing it going forwards. Thanks for the feedback there, I need to be consistent! ^^

 

4 hours ago, Ixthos said:

Lastly, some minor notes: I know you didn't intend this, but the site changing some swears to other words actually made some sections feel very unique. I generally don't like swears, but rust-eating worked rather well :-) At the moment, Robert is coming across as a bit of a psychopath. I assume this is intended, and that this will play into his character arc, but I just want to be sure this is what you intend to convey, that this character has found himself in a world which in which they can automatically dominate, were confronted by villains that couldn't hurt them, and then decided to relish punishing them. That might be blood knight tendencies, the thrill of battle, and from the looks of it, Robert's real world life includes martial arts training but no opportunity to fully exploit it, so this could look like the character is just enjoying a good fight where they can fully unleash themselves, mitigating the point I made about about him already being an accomplished fighter. His eagerness to hurt them is creepy, though, and implies that this might be something he has wanted to do to real-world people. I'm assuming that this is in part what the main villain hopes to use to control him, and so - if his arc is about how these are still people even if they are from a world that matches a game he knows - he will surprise her.

Haha, that's true, I did spot them when I posted it here, but I thought I'd leave them to give a good sense of both my writing style and how I use profanities, which of course aren't for everyone, but the worst of them will be caught by the filter and you can know the meaning/intent regardless ^^ Plus I personally thing "rust-eatingest of grins" is a damnation fun phrase ~

As for Robert coming across as a bit of a psychopath... I honestly hadn't intended for that, or expected it XD Again, probably a problem of this being originally intended for my friend, who knows Robert and his backstory and personality already, causing me to not expand as much on his motivations and thoughts. Of course I can always remedy that with another draft, and I was intending to clarify more going forwards in future chapters regardless, but good to know how you see him! The blood knight tendency and thrill of battle were definitely intended though, I'm glad that came across ^^

Though I wouldn't say he had an eagerness to hurt them so much as protect people (and show off a bit) with his skills, though the two were definitely intermingled somewhat... he wanted to see the effectiveness of his skills for real, in a situation where he could use them to the fullest, and with super durability to be able to tank hits and just use them as experiments, he reveled in it, and didn't feel as bad as he probably should have for the men he hurt afterwards. When it comes to fighting, he can be rather ruthless/callous.

And don't forget, he didn't know about his super strength or durability before he jumped into the fight, so he didn't start off knowing he'd be able to treat them as playthings/test dummies ^^

4 hours ago, Ixthos said:

I'm also interested if NPCQuest does end up being a game in the real world you end up making, but I also think it could be fun to have a cross-over of your other shopkeeper project with this one - as its name is NPCQuest, having fleshed out and notable NPC's could fit in well.

 

On the whole, this is a fun and entertaining story, and I hope you continue to enjoy writing the other chapters, as I will enjoy reading them!

NPCQuest as a game itself would be a fun project, certainly, considering some of the ideas I have for it, but considering this is an in-world setting based on the game I don't know how SOME of what I have planned would work in an actual game, haha! And a crossover with the other project is certainly possible, if improbable, since the worldbuilding of that one is quite different, and wouldn't use the same kind of stats or magic system, at least at the moment. I may reuse some of the characters though!

And I'm very glad to hear you find it fun and entertaining ^__^ It means a lot that you've read it and given it such a thoughtful critique, and would enjoy reading more ! I've not been in the right mindset/mood to continue the project lately, but I have another chapter (and half of an unfinished chapter), as well as lots of notes and plans, so until I get to writing more here's the next chapter!

Chapter 5

Spoiler

5.

When Lornel came down the stairs, she was greeted with the sight of myself and Gordon sitting in a booth in the lounge, a blackboard taken from one of the columns between us.

I noticed her from the corner of my eye as she came over, and held out a hand to stop her when she opened her mouth. "Shhh, it's ten all, this is the decider."

She raised an eyebrow, but said nothing as I put down what was sure to be the winning X... only to have Gordon place his O, and make me realise I'd missed his trap. "Bugger." I sighed, not bothering to place my next X, since he'd win either way.

Gordon Graves guffawed, then grinned gallantly, the gormless git. Chuckling and opening my Inventory, I withdrew ten gold coins, watching them materialise in my palm with small flickers of light, and plonked them on the table between us in a little stack.

"Thank you kindly." he grinned, scooping them up and bouncing them in his palm.

"I see you've been making friends." Lornel said dryly as she primly took a seat on the couch beside me, across from Gordon.

"I like how you've not even known me a day, and you already know that's unusual for me."

She rolled her eyes and held something out to me, a small metal card, white with a blue rim, and my name underlined by the same blue stylised sword that had been on the sign outside.

It was roughly the size of a credit card, with the sword and rim embossed and my name engraved, and on the right hand side there was a large, serifed "A", centred within a circle of slowly spinning runes.

I blinked after a moment, having been slightly transfixed by the card. I raised an eyebrow at Lornel as I toyed with the card. "You know, as the Scarlet Emperor I take mild offence at this flagrant use of blue. I'm not the Cobalt King."

In the back of my head, I made a mental note to make a few more sets of armour as amazing as my Scarlet Emperor armour. They'd just be pallete swaps, but they'd still look damnation amazing, and I was already thinking of several names for them.

"Well, highness, you'll have to settle for this for now." Lornel said. "I've been meaning to ask you about that anyway, but in order to give you your share of the bounty I had to register you with the guild."

I was surprised by that. I guess she must have used her position to fudge the paperwork, since I doubted I could have answered the question "birthplace" honestly... or birthDATE for that matter, depending on how the calendars worked here...

Several coins slipped out of Gordon's hand, landing on the table with a rattle that drew my, and Lornel's gaze back to him. One bounced off and rolled away towards a nearby waitress, who bent at the waist and plucked it from the ground between two fingers, all without breaking her purposeful stride to the bar, but nobody but me seemed to have noticed.

Lornel was looking at Gordon, who was pointing at me, eyes wide. Or rather, at the card in my hand. "Rank... Rank A?"

I looked at the card in my hand, which I'd been spinning around to inspect the designs on the back, and then back to Gordon. "...yes?"

"How the bleedin' hell are you a Rank A, and didn't know how to use Skills? I assumed you were a newbie from how you phrased it! And you know Mistress Lornel enough to be so casual with her?" He looked from me to her, and blushed, averting his eyes. "A-Apologies, Mistress."

"None are necessary." she said with a small smile. "He IS a newbie, however I used my position to arrange him a higher rank. Therefore when a job is posted to assist and guard me on an indefinite basis, and he takes it, nobody will bat an eye."

I raised an eyebrow. "And who says I'll take that job?"

She frowned at me. "And what else are you going to do?"

"Well, I am rather wealthy." I pointed out, taking one of the coins that Gordon hadn't picked back up yet, rolling it between finger and thumb. "I was planning on renting or buying a house somewhere comfortable, hiring several redheaded maids, and then relaxing while you figure out how the bloody hell I got here."

Lornel blinked. "I... had not expected that." she admitted. "I assumed you would wish to test your power, take on missions and requests for the guild for fame or prestige.."

"Why?" I asked with a chuckle. "I know I'm the strongest thing around, I have nothing to prove. Though any tournaments coming up might be fun... I’ve always wanted to enter one. Bloody typical the first chance I get I’m damnation OP…" I muttered the last part to myself with an inward sigh.

"Well, that would certainly alleviate my worries..."

Gordon cleared his throat. "Putting aside the fact that a newbie who can't use skills is apparently going to be your bodyguard, a job I would absolutely want... What do you mean, how you got here?"

I blinked. Whoops. I'd almost forgotten he was there. Dammit, another slip like that... I sighed and looked to Lornel, standing up. "You explain, I'll be right back."

Before they could reply, I walked out of the front door, stretching my arms. I had a little experimentation to do...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lornel sighed as she watched Robert flash her a half apologetic, half smug grin over his shoulder as he vanished around the door. 'Arse...' Oh well, at least she would know where he was if he tried to leave her... unless he'd spotted the rune she'd placed on the card, but she doubted it.

His Intelligence stat hadn't been high enough, and he had no associated Skills for something like that... that she'd seen, at least. There was always the chance he had something from his world that could do it...

"Umm... Mistress?"

"Hmm?"

"You're scratching the floor with your staff."

Lornel blinked and glanced down, noticing for the first time she'd been tapping the end of her staff with enough force to leave slight, but noticeable scratches on the wood of the floor thanks to the angle she was holding it.

She also noticed a couple of the serving girls and barmaids giving her reproachful, if mostly hidden, looks from the corner of her eye.

"My apologies. I'm sure that this will make up for it though." she said with a smile.

She plucked one of the spilled coins from the table and flicked it towards the barmaid, who caught it deftly. "Very generous, Mistress."

The man sitting across from her looked down at his pile of winnings, realising that it was now quite a bit smaller than it had been just a minute ago. "Oi!"

Lornel looked at him cooly. "Yes?"

He faltered, blushing. "I... I just realised that I never introduced myself."

He coughed, and then performed a surprisingly passable seated bow. It didn't detract from his swept back blonde hair, which looked as if he'd just gotten out of bed, but Lornel appreciated the practice he'd clearly put into it. "Gordon Graves, Adventurer Extraordinaire, at your service."

"A pleasure." she said politely. "And to answer your previous question, Mr Scarlet is... a traveller from a distant land, I've not been able to determine how far yet. He was brought here via teleport unexpectedly, which I sensed. I've been helping him... adjust."

"I see..." Graves nodded, looking thoughtful. "Well he certainly picked up the common tongue quickly." Lornel decided to change the subject.

"So, you wish to become my bodyguard?"

Graves blushed a bit again, but nodded. "Of course! It's one of the most prestigious positions possible!"

She smiled knowingly. "And one of the best paid?"

He grinned back at her amicably. "Well, of course. At least I hope it would be..."

Lornel chuckled back. His honesty was refreshing. "Well, what rank and level are you?"

"Rank B..." he admitted after a moment, but then spoke with pride. "And level 42, I just levelled up last week when I finished a mission."

Lornel nodded thoughtfully, considering. "Impressive... though I'm afraid it would be seen as weakness if I attended functions with a bodyguard of a level less than fifty, so I cannot allow you to become part of my personal retinue."

Graves sighed and nodded in understanding, slouching back in his seat.

"But I'm sure I can still find a place to make use of you, if you'd be willing to come with me to Rendala." she continued, holding back a chuckle when he perked up and actually fistpumped before catching himself.

Feigning a cough to try and compose himself again, he still couldn't hide his grin. "Of course I'd be willing to! I've been meanin' to head towards the capital anyway to help me level and rank up... Plus the seasons are changin', so when the competitions and festivals start coming back to Rendala, I want to be there."

"Oh, good point." Lornel nodded. "Hopefully the vendors are better than last year, I miss some of the snacks they used to have."

Graves nodded in agreement. "Oh, absolutely, the blight in Silverpool was no excuse for the lack of Hornmeat."

Lornel raised an eyebrow. "You know that dish is illegal in many parts of the kingdom."

Graves grimaced. "All too well. I got ejected from a hotel for asking for it once."

"Oh? That doesn't sound too bad."

"It was from the sixth floor window."

"Ah." Lornel could barely muster enough sympathy to sound genuine.

"Now come on." he said defensively, holding up an objecting finger. "I know the rumours about it corrupting your soul, but I know a Cleric in Ars Lansel with a fondness for it, and he only lost the ability to give ONE blessing."

Lornel raised an eyebrow, but Graves rambled on. "And besides, I've never been hit by divine thunderbolts for asking for it. I personally think that the stigma the gods are said to have for the dish are entirely basel-"

He was cut off by the BOOM that shook the building, shattering every window on the ground floor, and from what Lornel could hear over the ringing in her ears, those on the upper floors as well!

"What happened?!" someone shouted as people staggered to their feet.

"If that was a god aiming for me, they missed!" came Graves' voice from behind the overturned couch his legs were poking over. Rather than answering, Lornel rushed towards the door, leading the charge as all of the other adventurers who'd been in the lounge and upper floors joined her.

Whatever had caused it, it wasn't just the guild building either, the shops on either side of it had all of their own windows shattered, as had the buildings on either side of those, and those across the street. There was an overturned carriage beside a street light, it's driver halfway across the road, and the horse bolting down the cobbles.

The epicentre of the sphere of sound and destruction seemed to come from the alleyway directly aside the guild building, and Lornel held her staff out, mumbling incantations as she turned the corner. Or at least she thought she was, until her ears popped and she realised she was saying them loudly and pointedly.

She lowered her voice, covering her mouth with the sleeve of her robe as she strode through the cloud of dust, hay and grit that was swirling through the alleyway.

She would need to save mana, so she increased the glow of the ruby atop her staff with a word, rather than dispell the cloud. Behind her, she could hear the footsteps of Graves and the other adventurers.

Whatever had caused this would have no chance against her, especially with all of the guild members literally at her back.

She stopped as she neared the end of the alleyway, a silhouette appearing through the smoke and dust. Lornel frowned. It was slumped against the wall of the guild, looking more like a drunkard passed out than a threat... or a corpse. Had something attacked someone?

"[Force Blow]!" a voice came from behind, and Lornel glanced backwards, readying a teleport. But it was one of the adventurers, a tall, black haired man with huge gauntlets.

As he spoke, he pulled his fist back, the air bending and bulging around his fist, as if it was wearing a nearly-invisible boxing glove over it's already large gauntlet. The aura flew from his fist as though flung by a catapult as he punched, expanding and becoming a head-sized ball of clear, rippling force that displaced and cleared some of the dust ahead of Lornel, creating a channel of clear air and sight.

She nodded her thanks to the man, then turned back to the figure in front of her. The cloud had dispersed almost completely from the waist up, and she could see that the slumped figure was... Robert? Dust clung to his sweat-slickened skin, and he was shaking with coughs, shoulders heaving up and down.

Lornel gaped, instantly preparing her teleport and shielding spells, ready to use [Incant Skip]. She spun to point her staff at both ends of the alleyway, both hands gripping her staff with white knuckles. What could have put a level 300 in such a state? Was there a holy dragon in the city? A demigod?

She almost tripped over Robert's legs as she backed towards him, and only when she was that close could she hear him over the sounds of people pushing and stomping past each other, and the calls of questions and for help from some people injured by the exploding windows.

He was laughing.

Coughing and spluttering, but still laughing softly to himself.

Lornel frowned and looked down at him, and he, one eye watering from the cloud of dust and grit still tickling his chin and thickly covering half of his face, grinned up at her, panting softly.

"Sorry... 'bout... that..." he wheezed, shakily putting a hand underneath him and getting up in a strange way, spinning his body around his arm to get his feet beneath himself. He stood up and leaned against the wall, sighing and closing his eyes. "Was... NOT ready for that stamina drain..."

Lornel frowned. What was he talking about? Could he...

"Did you do this?" she asked, motioning to the cloud of dust and the destruction that it hid.

"Yeah." he said, voice sounding stronger after only a few moments. With one final sigh he pushed himself off the wall and stood upright, rolling his shoulders and neck.

As the cloud of dust and grit began to dissipate, he looked at the alleyway, full to the brim with adventurers. Some had weapons drawn, some had runes hovering around them or auras of power, some merely looked confused rather than wary or suspicious. All of them though, were looking at him.

"Huh." he said after a long pause. "I did not think this through, it seems."

He turned to Lornel and spoke softer, though with the relative silence of the alley, aside from those chanting incantations or asking those in the front of the crowd what was happening, everyone could hear him.

"Um, Lornel, mind helping smooth this over? I could beat them all if need be, I suppose, but I've done enough damage to the buildings, going by those sounds..." he said with another smile that was half apologetic, and half... trying not to laugh?!

Lornel felt her eye twitch. She pointed her staff right at Robert.

"[Teleport]!" she declared, using [Incant Skip]. The insufferable man vanished in a flashing column of light.

There was a moment of silence as the adventurers looked at one another awkwardly, glancing around to see where Robert may have been teleported to, a few muttering about having unsheathed their knives for nothing.

Everyone tried to avoid Lornel's heated gaze as she stared at the spot Robert had been standing, breathing in slow, controlled breaths to regain her composure and force away the headache that the mana drain of the long range teleport was bringing on.

Finally, Graves stepped forward, clearing his throat as he sheepishly sheathed his sword. "Umm.... mistress?"

"Yes?" she said, voice sharp as a whip.

Graves flinched. "I... I was just wondering... since you teleported him away..."

He gestured to the patch of cobbles where the redhead had been standing, the grit and dust that was finally settling noticeably absent in the circle where the Teleport rune had been.

"Who's going to pay for all the damages now?" he finished, addressing her left ear.

Lornel blinked, and then looked past the crowd, to the people sweeping up broken glass across the road, to the man being healed one of the adventurers, to the horse that she could hear biting the poor person trying to reign it in...

"Bugger bugger bugger, tits poo arse." she muttered under her breath, echoing the surprisingly catchy string of vulgarity that she had heard Robert himself muttering at one point.

"Mistress?"

She turned her gaze back to him, and smiled. He swallowed at the sight of it. "Well, mister Graves, since you are to work for myself, and have recently come into enough money to cover a majority of the damages incurred, I do wish to thank you for your generosity."

She patted him on the shoulder as she passed him, the crowd of befuddled adventurers parting around her like a set of jaws, which then closed around Graves behind her. The large, burly man who had helped clear the worst of the dust clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Oh aye? Golden Graves has his luck in? The guild'll be happy t'hear that! Been meanin' to redo some of them windows anyway, but stained glass is a roight bugger t'get..."

As Lornel made her way through the alleyway and out onto the street, she heard Graves splutter and stammer, then sigh and groan in defeat and looming poverty.

She chuckled to herself, her headache starting to subside as she headed back into the guild to let her mana regenerate again. Now, how was she going to clean herself of this dust…

 

 

 

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