Chapter 67 — Smoking Pipe
The first gleam of dawn gently showered the village with light and warmth. The village was in tatters. Although the villagers managed to recover a decent amount of supplies and food from the fire, they had been unable to put it out and could only let it burn. Plenty of houses had been burnt down, leaving patches of scorched land and rubble.
The tired-looking villagers were still gathering the bodies of those who had lost their lives in the night raid. Sobs and cries could still be heard within the village. Despite the grief and pain the night had brought, it had also made the villagers grow stronger and tougher overnight. The survivors of the militia now looked like warriors; it was as though their cowardice had been completely swept away. They guarded the village vigilantly, keeping an eye out for lizardmen and monsters. Given a bit more time, they would become true soldiers.
Soran was smoking on top of a scout tower. The guard captain had given him a smoking pipe and some flake tobacco; it was a cheap tobacco which probably cost only a Silver Derahl for a pouch, but Soran did not mind. He stuffed the tobacco into the pipe, then lit it and took a deep breath. Lost in thought, he gazed far into the distance. The brutal battle last night reminded him of the Times of Troubles; it was just a glimpse of what was to come. In the future, battles and wars of even larger scales would be common occurrences, and there would be merciless slaughter everywhere.
The injury on his arm tormented Soran. He had removed all the rotten flesh, and his arm was slowly recovering. Despite having the Rebirth ability, he estimated that his wounds would still take a while to completely recover. At the very least, he could not engage in strenuous exercises for a day or two. Due to the pain and itchiness from the wound, he had a slightly distorted expression. He took another deep breath from the smoking pipe, arms trembling. There were no over-the-counter painkillers in this world, and he could only distract himself by smoking. Even though his stats could be represented numerically as if it was still a game, he was susceptible to real pain; it was not a game, but reality after all. He had of course trained to endure pain back in the game, but the sensation was much more vivid now.
The militia captain, who had red puffy eyes, walked over and gave him a bottle of liquor. He was probably mourning the death of his family members. Even so, those who lived in remote villages in the wilderness were all tough people; the harsh environment had strengthened their minds over the years. They would not fall so easily, at least not to something of this degree.
Soran gently shook his head and rejected the liquor. He picked up the smoking pipe and took another deep breath, then replied, "Sorry, I don't drink."
It was Soran's principle to never drink liquor.
One of the militia captain's arms was now disabled. He sat down with a bit of difficulty and took a sip of the liquor, then said, "Thank you. We wouldn't have made it through the night if you weren't there."
Soran remained silent.
The captain took out a sack and a book with great effort and shoved them over to Soran. The harsh sound of coins jostling against each other could be heard. He then said, "I know you're an adventurer. The scroll you used last night was your trump card, right? We lost too much last night, so we can only offer this to show our gratitude.
"I was once a soldier who fought in the south. This is the book of the White Raven Style, or the first half of it to be exact. I hope you will find it useful. There's also some money. Although it's not much, please accept it."
Soran slowly placed the pipe down and picked up the book. It was a handwritten manuscript; there were descriptions and some drawings that were slightly difficult to comprehend, but he could still roughly understand the techniques recorded. Soran shoved the pouch of coins back toward the captain, then picked up the pipe to smoke again.
"I'll take the book, but you should keep the money. You'll need it for the winter to come. Collect the items from the dead lizardmen, and the village should be just able to make it through."
Soran stood up using the lizardman blighter's staff. He turned to look at the few villagers who'd collected while he and the guard captain had been speaking, then slowly said, "You guys better leave today. The lizardmen won't give up so easily. Something huge happened in the deep wilderness, so rebuild the village somewhere far away. As long as you're alive, there's hope."
The tender leaf on the tip of the withered vine staff fluttered in the wind.
Soran sighed, then smiled as he continued, "I'll consider the smoking pipe my reward. It's about time for me to leave now. You should also make up your minds quickly."
Just like the wind, Soran silently left the village. Only a handful of villagers had noticed him leaving and watched his back as he disappeared into the distance. He had no intention of staying and helping them. In the end, they were only strangers whom he had met by chance. Soran did not know their names, nor did the villagers know his; all they knew was that he was a rogue who could use magic. He was a rogue; there was no need for flowers and gifts. He would do what he wanted, then proceed to start his next journey.
Soran headed back to Whiterun along the main road. The route was getting more and more dangerous; the lizardmen had attacked the human settlements near the Dark Swamp, and it would only be a matter of time before they approached the outskirts of Whiterun. If they did not stop expanding their territory, a war was inevitable. The stockaded villages near the wilderness did not have to pay taxes, thus the city officials would not care too much about them. However, if the villages in the outskirts that paid taxes were attacked, the officials would most likely mobilize the guards and army. It would be good to return to Vivian before that happened.
In any event, the results of the battle for Soran were as follows:
"You have successfully defended against the lizardmen’s night raid! After a hard fought battle, you have improved your skills considerably!"
"Use Magic Device +10, Concentration +5, Listen +3, Search +3, Evasion (Rolling) +2, Evasion (Body-shifting) +1, Diplomacy +1, Parry +1, Heal +2, Spellcraft +2."
"You have gained a better understanding of the ability Spell Control."
The lizardmen gave Soran plenty of Slaughter EXP. The normal lizardman warriors were each worth 200 EXP, the two lurkers together were worth 1200 EXP, and the ogres and lizardman blighter combined gave him almost 2000 EXP. The total amount of Slaughter EXP gained was roughly 5000.
More importantly, his skills had improved greatly, and he had even received an ability alert, which was beyond his expectations. One might receive an ability alert under special circumstances, and the person would be able to slowly grasp and eventually obtain the ability through training, without spending any ability points. This meant that Soran had saved himself precious ability points; this was especially important as he would only receive his first ability point from the Wizard profession at Level 3.
Soran's combat prowess did not change too much after multiprofessioning in Wizard; all he got was four Level 0 spell slots and a Level 1 spell slot. He would receive spell slots for spells of other levels based on his own level, and an additional Level 0 spell slot for every level. As such, high-grade wizards and sorcerers had so many Level 0 spell slots that they rarely expended them all. It was also because Level 0 spells were very weak with limited uses; they were commonly called cantrips, and some did not even consider them proper spells. Unless one was as talented as Vivian, there was little use for Level 0 spells in combat.
Due to their low practicality, most wizards did not bother copying down Level 0 spells. They had simple spell circuits, some of which were so simple that they could be instantly cast without chanting, such as the most commonly used Mage Hand. Soran's spellbook did not contain Level 0 spells either, thus he would have to buy scrolls from magic stores in order to learn them. They were relatively cheap, costing only one third as much as Level 1 spell scrolls because they were generally used by apprentices.
Anyway, Soran had been walking for a day. He was lucky he did not encounter any enemies; although he could now move his arms without much difficulty, it was still hard to fight. He found a tavern in the nearest town and decided to stay there for the night. Due to the roads being blocked, there were few merchants and visitors, and the town was a bit somber. The townsmen were grumbling that they paid plenty of taxes, yet the city could not even handle such a "small" problem.
Soran told the owner of the tavern not to disturb him, then entered his assigned room. He had to level up his wizard profession and start learning his first Level 1 spell. It would take some time and effort, and he could not be disturbed during the process.
If he had not told the owner beforehand, the female bartenders might have knocked on his door to offer him special night-time services. He was a half-elf with 16 Charisma after all; despite his cold gaze and expression, he was quite the handsome guy. Plenty of girls would gladly embrace him in bed.
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