Chapter 40 — A Small Town
The merchant squad arrived at a small town named Golden River Town in the afternoon. The town got its name from the gold grains appearing in the nearby river, and it had flourished for a period of time by collecting and selling those grains. That did not last forever though, and the town began to decline when the gold mines located upstream were completely excavated and abandoned.
Before the merchant squad reached and entered the town, alarms could be heard from within,and horsemen were dispatched to inspect the incoming personnel. After the horsemen confirmed they were indeed merchants, they were granted access to the town while people asked them about the goods they brought.
In towns relatively far from the city, people would often sell their products to travelling merchants for a lower price, and the merchants would then resell the products in the city for profit. The townsmen would also buy some products from the merchants and sell them in nearby towns that the merchants did not go past. Typical merchants would not deal in long-distance trading due to the dangers of travelling afar; only merchant squads which could afford to hire large numbers of guards—the Northern merchant squad Soran was travelling with, for example—would do so.
Vivian was rather energetic today, perhaps because she had been staying still and quiet when travelling in the cart. As soon as they reached the town, the young girl hopped off the cart and looked around curiously. The head merchant guard informed Soran that they would be staying here for the day, and he was free to walk around as long as they returned to the inn near the East Gate by nightfall.
The entire town was protected by a sturdy wooden wall. The wall was built with two layers of solid logs, each roughly twenty centimeters in diameter. Both ends were sharpened so one end could be embedded into the ground, while the other prevented intruders from climbing over. There were archer towers along the wall, approximately one hundred meters apart from one another, that could be accessed with ladders. Two thick and heavy gates were located in the East and West walls, making the small town look like a small fortress. The main purpose of such defenses was to defend against gnolls and bandits; the walls stopped them from assaulting the city in broad daylight, and night-shift guards were stationed at the archer towers to prevent them from sneaking in at night.
"Big brother, look!" Vivian happily said.
She was looking around when nearby shouts got her attention. Getting curious, Vivian tugged Soran's arm and had him follow her lead. As they approached the two shouting men, they realized the men were undergoing training. The two men looked alike, one middle-aged and the other a young man, most likely father and son.
"To your right!" The middle-aged man shouted, then said, "When an enemy attacks from this side, you have to use your shield like this.
"Look carefully. Keep your arm away from your body when blocking incoming attacks. That way you can move around freely. Don't make exaggerated movements when using the shield. The weapon which can deal fatal attacks is the sword, not the shield. You only have to make the opponent lose their balance with a shield bash and stab him with your sword."
The two were training seriously. The middle-aged man did not care about the siblings who were observing them, but the young man was distracted ever so slightly and was sent flying by a shield bash.
"This is the second thing I want you to learn. Never get distracted in battle. Get up and continue."
The young man got back up on his feet with a determined look. Perhaps the two observers nearby ignited his competitiveness, because he began launching more powerful attacks.
The middle-aged man remained calm and continued to instruct his sparring opponent while blocking and parrying the incoming attacks. "Look carefully. Your shield isn’t your only defense. You have to learn how to use your weapon for defense as well.
"Hacking attacks travel vertically. If you can't dodge or use your shield, you have to block the incoming attack with your sword. Just like this!"
The middle-aged man blocked the incoming strike with his sword, then charged at the young man and rammed him with his shoulder.
"Shields and swords are not your only weapons either. Your body is a weapon in itself."
Such a relentless and harsh training method.
Soran noticed the two streams of blood flowing out from the young man's nostrils; it was only then that he began to pay close attention to the training session.
The middle-aged man glanced at the siblings but did not pay them much heed and continued, "If someone tries to stab you, it's best to dodge instead of blocking the attack. Stabs are hard to block, but they can be easily avoided with simple movements.
"However, stabs are often used as the start of a chain of attacks. Pay close attention to your opponent’s shoulders when you try to read their moves. They will have to move their bodies in certain ways in order to bring out their power when using different type of attacks, and by reading their subtle movements, you can know what they are trying to do. Just like this."
The middle-aged man dodged the incoming stab and twisted his waist, sending a counterattack at the attacker's wrist. The wooden sword dropped onto the ground, and the discouraged young man sat down without bothering to pick up his training weapon.
The middle-aged man looked up to the sky and slowly said, "Let's end the day here. You have lots to learn if you want to become a warrior. Relying on brute strength in battle is simply wishing for death."
He wiped the sweat off his face with the sleeves of his shirt, glanced at the curved sword hanging from the watching rogue's waist, and said in a stern voice, "Foreigner, I'm the captain of the militia stationed here. The city doesn't reject outsiders, but we don't especially welcome you guys either. Don't even try to cause trouble in the city." 【Intimidation】
The captain's tone gave off an oppressive feeling even though his expression was neutral.
"I don't like to cause trouble either," Soran smiled and calmly said, "but if someone tries to provoke me, I will make him regret his actions. We're just passing by anyway."
The captain nodded. "That is fine." 【Intimidation Failed】
The captain was a Grade 3 warrior and most likely a relatively well-known adventurer in the past. Soran noticed that the man could not move his legs freely; he probably suffered severe injuries that caused the bones in his leg to shift into awkward positions, making it difficult to move around. This was a common occurrence for adventurers though, with many being forced to retire and return to their hometowns due to injury.
"Big brother." Vivian picked up a thin branch and continued, "That man looks strong, but his student is so stupid that he can't remember something so simple. Look!"
Soran looked at Vivian, who was waving the branch around weakly with her fragile arms and had no stance at all, and patted her head. "They look simple, but those are really practical skills, you know? Of course, he's not as smart as Vivian.
"Let's go, I'll buy you something tasty to eat."
When Soran turned to leave, rows of words appeared in his view:
"You learned combat skills when observing others' training!"
"Parry +1, Block +1, Evasion (Body-shifting) +1."
Even Soran did not expect this to happen. Just like that, he had obtained two new basic skills. Soran thought that he would only learn these skills when he started training in parrying and blocking in the future, but that did not seem to be the case.
However, having 1 or 2 points in a basic skill was pretty much useless. At the very least, 10 points were required for the user to show improvement in the aspect affected by the skill, and considerable improvement would only occur when it reached over 50 points. For warriors, they would reach professional levels of using shields only after having over 100 points in Block.
Most people only devoted time to raising the basic skills related to their profession, as related basic skills would grow at higher rates than unrelated ones. They seldom invested valuable skill points into other unrelated basic skills and would simply disregard them and let them grow on their own.
Using Soran as an example, he already had 6 points in Evasion even though he did not undergo or receive legitimate training. If he underwent training related to Evasion (Rolling) and Evasion (Body-shifting), his evasive basic skills would quickly reach over 20.
For roughly every 50 points in evasive basic skills, the person would receive 1 point in Dodge, a passive skill which allowed the user to dodge and evade attacks instinctively. Only a handful of combat abilities like Danger Sense, Improved Evasion, and Evasion Proficiency could also improve one's evasive instincts. They were difficult to acquire and level up, but the effects were a lot better than those of basic skills as well.
Basic skills, as the name implied, were rather basic compared to Profession Abilities, Personal Abilities, and Gifted Abilities. Of course, theses three types of abilities were harder to obtain and may even have prerequisites before one could obtain them.
Combat Expertise, a combat ability derived from the basic skills Block and Parry, required 100 points in each as a basic requirement. Shield Bash, another ability derived from Block, required 150 points in Block before one could learn it.
Basic skills were easier to improve when having below 50 points, but raising them further than that would require one to have the talents and skills of a professional. A good example of such skills would be Diplomacy and Appraisal for merchants and Taunt for barbarians.
Back in the game, players who picked the profession Barbarian all liked to show off their muscles to the enemy and then speak in an arrogant tone, saying things like "bunch of noobs." Witches were also the same in that regard. There were some players who trash-talked so much that their Taunt ability had already reached over 200 when they were merely Level 6 in their professions. Being too proficient in taunting had side effects though; people would feel pissed off and angered just from looking at you.
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