COTE Vol.2 Complete: 12/20 chapter written
Chapter 13: 5% written
Editors: Templar, Jack Vanatis, Orang
Author’s notes: Fifth and final chapter being released! I had also wanted to to finish writing chapter 13 today, but after such a long journey of editing, I can only do my best tonight! I have also brought back the completion percent at the top of the most recent chapter, so at least you should have a rough idea of where I’m at, and when-ahem-if I’m slacking ^.^
For now, enjoy!
Chapter 12 – Soul
That night, Regal and his four squad members returned back to their villa to sit down and make their plans for tomorrow.
“I want everyone to go to the market tomorrow to buy second order skills, one per person. I will be working with the crafters on the community wall, so use that time to practice your new skills,” Regal calmly says to the group
“Is there any skills in particular we should get?” Aqua places her trust in Regal and asks.
“No, I don’t know what skills they will have. I leave it up to each of you to decide what skill suits you and will help the squad the most.”
Second order skills are skills which have a level requirement of 20 or above. There are also third order skills which have a level requirement of 40, fourth order skills at level 60, and so on.
Regal removes several of his own second order crafting skill books from his inventory and learns them one after another. These are all the intermediate stages of his crafting skills. Each new skill adds a Tier 1 Divine Art that increases the number of ways he can process materials and craft new items.
‘Carpentry – Intermediate’ has ‘Enhanced Constructing’, which is similar to the original ‘Beginner Constructing’ except it gives Regal knowledge of more advanced construction techniques, as well as allowing him to use more advanced materials, such as rare woods or ordinary metals.
‘Compounding – Intermediate’ has a massive upgrade with ‘Essence Extraction’, a unique skill to extract the essence of a crafting material, which can then be fused into another material or even a finished product. Of course, there are many combinations that will not work and a failure results in all items used being destroyed.
‘Cooking – Intermediate’ is ‘Dish Buff’, which is the simplest new Divine Art of them all. ‘Dish Buff’ adds effects to a finished dish that will provide a temporary enhancement to stats, resistances, weapon damage or many other things depending on the food used and combination of herbs within a dish.
‘Forging – Intermediate’ has ‘Enhanced Smelting’ which increases the quality of metals that can be refined and enhances all other previous forging Divine Arts.
‘Tailoring – Intermediate’ has the unique ‘Leather Compression’, which has a wide range of applications. Many higher levelled mutant beasts have extremely thick skin which can’t be used in crafting, but ‘Leather Compression’ will press them down to a size that can be used. The skill can also be used to fuse different leathers together, creating various products that are on par with higher levelled materials for both defense and flexibility.
The only second order skill Regal doesn’t learn is ‘Masonry – Intermediate’. His beginner skill is still only level 12 as he hasn’t had much time to train his proficiency in it. Because of this, he even didn’t bother picking up the intermediate skill book for Masonry.
Regal’s spends the remainder of the night in his workshop producing Blood Flint Bullets because he won’t have any time to do so while working with the Community Defense Crafting Team over the next three days. In order to prepare for their next dungeon trip, he needs to use up all his nights crafting explosive bullets.
The following day, Regal heads out early to the outskirts of Greyhorn Townsend where all the members of the Community Defense Team are gathering. They have already created the first group of several bronze plates and short iron springs to enhance the city wall. Regal works alongside several experienced blacksmiths as they attach the iron springs to the existing wall through welding them on, before lining up the bronze plates along the wall in a seamless formation.
Each bronze plate is about ten feet tall and five wide, but the experience crafters are strong enough the easily handle them. After half a day, a large amount of the heavy bronze plates have been added to a small section the wall, creating an armor like appearance.
“How about we test it now to see how well it works?” Seref, the most cheerful crafter, claps his hands and asks everyone.
The decision to test it is unanimous and several crafters line up with large cannon like rifles pointed at the wall while the rest line up on top of the wall to discern the impact and damage dealt. The first test is on an unmodified section of the wall upon which the attacking crafters fire their weapons without any hesitation. Any damage done to the wall will be repaired by them anyway, so they hold nothing back in the attack.
Regal is one of the crafters standing on the wall. When the rounds hit the wall, the ground beneath his feet jolts from the sudden impact, nearly causing him to lose his balance. The wall beneath him also forms several cracks and large dents can be seen on the outside of the wall.
Some guards rush over in a panic after hearing the weapons fire, thinking the community might suddenly attack, but the crafters quickly explain the situation and dismiss them.
The next testing location is the new armor plated section of the wall. The same crafters once again fire a round of ammunition at it, and the crafters atop the wall are jolted again.
This time is a little different from previously. Rather than an instantaneous impact like previously, the wall’s shaking this time lasts much longer. Not only that, but the wall remains completely intact without any cracking at all, showing that the iron springs did their job of displacing the impact across the wall. The bronze plates are dented and lost a considerable bit of durability, but they are much easier to replace compared to repairing a broken section of the wall.
“It’s a massive success,” Regal says with a soft voice as he breathes out a sigh of relief. He was nervous about this idea, as it was him who came up with it. If it had failed, he would have been greatly ashamed.
“By my estimates, it is approximately forty percent stronger, this is no small amount,” Seref, who mysteriously appeared behind him, speaks with confidence and praises Regal after overhearing his relieved sigh.
Regal, surprised by the sudden appearance, jump away in instinctual panic. He didn’t even hear Seref approaching him, and secretly wonders if Seref should change his profession from crafter to rogue.
Just as Regal is about to respond, his Transmission Plate causes a notification window to appear in front of him. He quickly takes out the reflective plate and, after taking a few steps away, uses it to talk with Aqua, who should currently be training her skills.
“What is it?” Regal curiously asks.
Aqua’s voice replies from the Transmission Plate, albeit with a slightly metallic undertone, “It’s about Piora. I heard back from father’s investigation just before contacting you.”
“What did he say? We need to find Piora as soon as possible.”
“He investigated Lord Solace, and said that there was nobody born inside Theore with that name. It took so long because father contacted the other kings of the grand cities, but they also returned that there has never been anyone with that name.”
“Then doesn’t that mean…?”
“Yes, Lord Solace is not his true name, only a false identity. This also makes it nearly impossible to know his history though unless we can find his real name.”
“Let’s give up on that for now. We are not here to expose the lord if we can avoid it. We just need to find and save Piora. If the Lord is behind this, then we can deal with it later, but Piora comes first.”
“Understood. Also, there’s something else, about where she may be held. Although it isn’t recorded down anywhere, father investigated the community itself and despite its small number of residents, the size of the town is large enough to have a prison.”
Regal knew exactly what a prison was. It is a place where those who have committed crimes are held. It is usually captured bandits or thieves, but the decision lies in the noble or king as to who gets locked away and for how long. Once inside a jail, a person cannot die and even if they do, they will only come back to life inside the jail, not the rebirth pond they are connected to. It is a place that also cuts off those inside from the outside, preventing any and all communication devices.
Alchemy or anything that uses mana is also unusable, so escape is nearly impossible unless you have other means. If Piora was locked away in a prison, she would indeed be unable to contact anyone or have anyone contact her.
“She disappeared near the Lord’s mansion, so there may be a prison there.”
“I understand, we will investigate in two weeks. I know we need to hurry, but we can’t be reckless.”
“Who are you talking to?” Seref curiously asks and gets closer to Regal, attempting to overhear what he is saying.
Regal quickly puts his Transmission Plate away and says to Seref, “My squad members are focusing on training their skills and want to spend some money on supplies out of our squad funds. I just confirmed with them and gave them the okay.”
Seref nods to himself and accepts the explanation without any suspicion. He and Regal then turn their attentions back to the walls. Now that the test is a success, they are all planning on increasing production of the plates and springs. Regal also learns that the Lord has already sent for miners to come to the mine from a distant community, and they should arrive within the next two weeks. He sighs in lamentation that he will only have a few more chances to keep thirty percent of any mined iron. The Lord truly does act fast, whoever he may really be.
At the end of the day when the sun is sitting low on the horizon, the crafters of the Community Defense Team all gather at Silverstone Tavern, a large tavern in the center of the community which is a hub of social interactions. Inside is a vibrant music and patrons already lining up to get their drinks.
“Regal, your idea truly gave us a great inspiration, your drinks are on me tonight!” Rancor says strongly while stroking his thick beard and using his fingers to remove knots at the same time.
Several other crafters quickly shoulder those words as well and demand to buy Regal a drink, who can only feel gratitude that he doesn’t have to buy so many drinks with what little money he has.
The tavern becomes extremely loud, as not only the crafters get drunk and start singing, but off duty town guards and even ordinary residents enter and join the commotion. Regal was fine at first, smiling and interacting with the others while keeping a safe distance from the loudest people, but everyone keeps buying him drinks and approaching him.
As soon as Regal finishes one drink, another jug of ale or beer is shoved into his hands by someone and he is forced to drink it. This heavy drinking lasted an hour before Regal’s mind grew fuzzy and his reasoning was sinking with proportion to the daylight outside. Very soon, Regal, as the star of the show, was forced to the center of the room where people were singing along to a tune so loud even Regal’s ears became sore.
Regal tried joining in with parts of songs he felt he could do, as any imperfections were easily drowned out by the voices of others.
Not long after the song, the drunk crafters told tales of Regal at the top of their lungs. Even if they were complete nonsense, it only added to spice up the atmosphere. Some of the now drunk residents also spun tales of their own, even some who had never met Regal before.
“Regal dove into the ground like a fish in water and used his bare hands to rip the earth asunder and expose all the hidden ores underground, including our most recent iron mine,” one story from a crafter as he winked at Regal as if his ridiculous embellishment was Regal’s greatest honor, the latter of which who was now drunk to the point he just laughed while his mind was preoccupied with struggling to stand straight.
“… He cast overlapped multiple alchemy Divine Arts to create heavenly punishment, instantly slaying the monster in a single move,” another story from a random resident went. Overlapping multiple Divine Arts does interest Regal in experimenting with the possibility, but he doubted it would have such an amazing effect.
The stories became more and more unbelievable as each one is told, including how he slayed a calamity monster when he was still three, but everyone was having fun so nobody cared about the truth.
In his drunkenness, Regal turns to Seref who he feels the closest to amongst the crafters and asks, “Theref, I won’t be shaying in this communishy forever. I will be making my own communishy. Would you come joing my communishy?”
Seref stops to think, whether it is indecision or trying to comprehend Regal’s slurred words, it isn’t clear which. Eventually, he sighs and much clearer than Regal, says, “In some ways, I would, but I can’t. Me and the others have built so much here, and want to continue building. We can’t just leave what we have created, I am sorry.”
Regal pesters him a couple more times and even a few other crafters who he feels close to, but everyone denies him for practically the same reason.
The night grows late and many of the people in Silverstone Tavern have already left, even the music has come to a stop. Regal finally leaves as well to return home, the exhaustion of the night still heavy on his mind. The walk home is a fair distance and it allows him to refresh his head somewhat in the chilly night air. Once he arrives at his villa, he is surprised to find everyone still up, playing card games in the dining room to pass the time while they wait.
Seeing Regal stumble in through the door, Aqua is greatly surprised. Regal recalls letting her know early in the night that the crafters dragged him to drink and celebrate the success of the community wall’s armor, and he didn’t know when he would be back.
Despite how late he was, Aqua, Astore, Kilde and Veronica all stayed up and waited for him. He didn’t think there was anything that couldn’t wait to talk about until tomorrow, so he couldn’t understand the situation.
“You all waited, is something wrong?” Regal asks while forcing himself to have a moment of complete clarity.
“No, nothing’s wrong. Veronica was waiting for you so the rest of us decided to wait as well. This way we can talk about the new skills bought today,” Aqua says patiently before yawning.
Regal mind begins to wander from the alcohol, but he still glances at Veronica puzzled. Whilst looking at her, he sees complex emotions showing on her face without hiding much. Aqua, the only non-Soulless here, doesn’t seem to notice, so Regal puts it down to his sight being affected by the drunk state he is in.
“What skills did you all get?” Regal asks as he sits down at the table and resists placing his head in his arms to sleep.
“It was only Kilde and me who got skills,” Astore says calmly. “We could only afford two second order skill books, as they were in lower supply and cost up to ten times more than a standard skill book. As Kilde and I are the most proficient in our skills, it is only best that we get the two books that suit us best.”
Aqua has a sour look on her face, which causes Regal to understand how today went. Aqua most likely really wanted a second order skill, but because of Astore and Kilde’s logic that they were better suited to get started on new skill, which Veronica would have also agreed on, Aqua could only give up. While Regal understands that it is the best option, as a leader that needs to keep his squad together, it isn’t one that he would have made.
Regal notices that Veronica is looking guilty toward Aqua, and can’t help but be taken aback and thinks to himself, ‘Isn’t this a blatant show of emotion, the likes of which Soulless are famous for not having?’
While he never believed such words as he always knew he indeed had emotions, it is true that until that one eventful day that they were always subtle and within reasoning. There were some that were originally missing, but they developed later when his previous emotions grew at an explosive rate.
Regal questions if Veronica had such a moment, but his was not something that cannot be induced, so he can’t believe that something like that would happen to her.
If Regal had known that his growth of a “Soul” was the result of an event where his Mind Bubble in reality had fallen and nearly broken, and his death probability had been above 99 percent, he would have definitely known Veronica did not go through such a thing.
With his drunk mind, Regal attention wavers and instead of addressing Veronica, he asks the squad, “So what skills did you get? Astore, explain yours first.”
“I chose Seismic Alchemy, an earth element alchemy specializes in dealing with large numbers of enemies over a wide area. It can also trap a target if it is too fast as the wide area it covers allows for no escape.”
“Except for targets that can fly,” Regal flatly says, immediately guessing the type of Divine Arts it will have.
Regal’s words are true and Astore nods his head, “Indeed. At later proficiency levels, some Divine Arts can be used against flying targets, but it is still a weakness.”
“I chose ‘Presence Concealment’,” Kilde blandly states, activating the Tier 1 Divine Art ‘Visual Key’ which causes his body to become slightly transparent and difficult to follow with the naked eye.
Compared to Astore’s explanation, Kilde is much more to the point and demonstrates his skill so anyone can immediately understand. Regal is immediately excited to see it and exclaims loudly.
“That is excellent! It isn’t the most useful in battle, but outside of which, it can become extremely important. Especially at this moment when Piora has gone missing. I wanted to wait two weeks, but now we may be able to do it in one!”
Everyone looks at Regal curiously to ask what he means, so he continues to elaborate.
“As we have recently found out, there is a good chance Piora is being held captive in a prison within the town. She went missing somewhere around the Lord’s mansion, so if there is a prison, it is most likely around there somewhere. I had wanted to wait until getting stronger and explore the area as long as possible before storming out as fast as possible, but that is no longer necessary. Kilde, I need to you focus on training your new skill, and as of next week, start snooping around the Lord’s mansion to see if you can find a prison.”
“If you can, I want you to sneakily save Piora without alerting anyone. If you can’t, then rush back with the news and I will devise a plan. Is that understood?”
“Yes!” Kilde acknowledges strongly.
“If that is all, go to bed everyone. Surely I’m not the only one extremely tired at the moment.”
Regal feels his head spinning and tells everyone tonight is over, especially for him. Aqua, Astore and Kilde leave for their rooms to sleep while strangely, Veronica stays. Veronica stares at Regal intently and despite everything in front of him moving from side to side, he looks back at her with unspoken questions on his mind.
Before Regal can open his mouth and say anything, Veronica is already in front of him as she wraps her arms around him, pressing her face against the side of his. A lock of her hair teases his nose but he suppresses the urge to sneeze and asks her, “Veronica, is something wrong?”
“…Yes,” Veronica hesitates before replying so.
“What is it?”
“Didn’t you use to ask me, what it is that I want?”
“Yes, I used to ask you that. I’ll still ask it. What is it that you want, Veronica?”
“…I want more…”
“What do you mean?”
“I know I said that I was mistaken, that I actually only loved you as a brother. But this isn’t right! I don’t like this! That’s why, I want more!”
Regal can feel dampness from Veronica’s cheek, and can tell that she is truly overflowing at this moment. Regal also wraps his arms around Veronica, holding her tight against his chest as he gives in to the feelings he thought he had buried.
“Veronica… There’s still your emotions. I’m sure you understand what I mean.”
Veronica gently shakes her head, causing her wet cheeks to rub against Regal’s face even more as she says, “I don’t understand. I don’t want to understand. It started a few days ago, and I’ve been feeling like I’m being torn in half.”
“…I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
Veronica doesn’t have anything further to say and neither does Regal, so they both remain silent in each other’s embrace within the dining room of the villa. Eventually, Regal soundlessly picks up Veronica in a princess carry and take her up to his bedroom.
Placing Veronica down on the bed he then lies down himself, moving Veronica into his embrace at the same time. Veronica wiggles around to do the same but before she realizes, the sound of Regal’s breathing becomes steady as he enters a deep sleep.
Veronica smiles wryly to herself as she holds Regal tightly in her arms. A sense of peace and satisfaction nestles within her chest. Holding Regal gives her a feeling of ‘completeness’ which tells her that despite all her worries, this is indeed the correct choice.
She is aware of the growth of her emotions, and is actually surprised Aqua and the others haven’t noticed. Veronica wonders if it is perhaps because they have spent so much time with Regal they don’t pay much attention to it, but she knows her situation is indeed different from what Regal’s was.
While lost in these thoughts, Veronica also gradually enters the dreamy abyss with Regal as her mind falls asleep.