"The call it is made,
So we fight in the shade
If we live then we cry,
We sing when we die
When our duty is done,
We go off to the Sun
To serve our Goddess is my duty I stand
March on to the battle by Heavens command"
"That song is terrible," I spitefully mumbled having been arisen from my slumber on the downstairs couch.
"This song is passed between all Knights who serve the Church and we sing it with pride." Benjamin defended feeling I had insulted his honour.
I rolled over planting my face firmly into the soft makeshift bed.
"I'm starting to see why the Goblins hate the Church."
It had been eight days since the First Wolf War had ended and since then I had accomplished basically nothing. The extent of both my brilliance and laziness had meant I had a money making system which now no longer really needed any input from me.
With Goblins mining Iron ore and loading it onto a cart which, either Benjamin or Eliza, transported into town to my business partner, there was very little I had to do. I was the manager of a successful business and as any successful manager I was not required to do anything.
In fact I hated to admit it but I was getting bored now. It's not like I particularly wanted to go on a massive adventure or even fight the Second Wolf War against any other dens of the beasts hiding nearby, but I did want something to do.
The only thing which came to mind which needed done was going to see the book keeper, Claudia, and having her teach me how to read. Everyone should know how to read but I had put off actually doing this simply because my early success in taking control of this mine rendered needing to understand literature redundant. Why would I need to know how to read a contract or quest board when I was making money without the ability to read?
But then again I was bored so I might as well go to town.
"Which one of you wants to come with me to town?" I asked aloud. The many Goblins in the building ignored me as they had come to understand that none of what I ever said was directed towards them.
There was only silence so I asked the question again. Only now did one of the Goblins decide to interact with me.
"All your friends left" The short creature informed me politely.
"Huh? But Benjamin was just here" I asked confused.
"You went sleep after Church boy sung his horrible song. So he went out"
So Benjamin's song was so bad it put me to sleep. I really need to invent an alarm clock, or at least get one of the Goblins to wake me up if I go to sleep in the day time.
Rising from the coach and trying to straighten my bed hair which I could feel with my fingers I grabbed a small sack of coin and made my way to the door. "Then I'm going out. The female one is in charge while I'm gone"
Leaving my home I departed for Harkenhill. The trip was not a very long one and with the sun shining brightly above the trees today was a pleasant day to be outside. I appreciated this weather as in the UK rain was usually on the menu not counting the random heatwave which had decided to strike before my untimely demise.
Reaching the edge of the forest I exited out into the large opening which housed Harkenhill.
It was a lovely town surrounded by forest with roads leading off into different directions.
It was the type of place I would find it hard for many people to want to leave if they started here. I remember an old MMO where players began in a picturesque city with a lush green countryside that formed the prologue of the game and some players simply refused to leave that place and progress the story because it was just such a nice place to be.
That was the feeling which I was experiencing here. Harkenhill to me was a great place to be and I could not think of any good reason to leave it. For a starting town it had everything you could need and even calling it a town was being modest. A town in an RPG was usually small but this place was roomy and with builders going about their business it seemed they were still looking to expand. So long as the Wolves had no complaints.
Entering the town I used my knowledge of my previous visits to navigate to the book keeper store. The sign was still there and the door unlocked, inviting to those who wished to visit.
Opening the door and heading it the shop I saw the familiar maid girl was sitting on a chair engrossed in a book. The words on the paper reflected upon her glasses as her eyes darted from left to right as the pages turned.
"Am I disturbing you?" I quietly whispered as though I were in a library.
Claudia closed the book but not before placing a feather inside to mark the page she had gotten to.
The woman smiled at me, "Not at all, this is a shop."
I pulled out the small sack I had with gold in and handed it to her. She received the sack and opening it onto the table began to count out the coins carefully stacking them into different stacks for her to easily remember the total count.
"Yes this should be sufficient for the books which will be needed." She gathered up the coins and dropped them into the pocket on her uniform. "Please take a seat and I will go and make the arrangements,"
Doing as instructed I made myself at home. Within reach were a number of books which I pulled forward and glanced through. I could not understand a word in them of course but some did have illustrations in them. One seemed to be a book of medicine based on the annotated drawing of the Human body and another I assumed was covering different species of aquatic life based on the images of fish and sea monsters.
Claudia soon returned holding a stack of book in her arms. They were too heavy for her and she had to slam them down on the table quickly as she was close to dropping them on the floor.
"That was quick" I expressed surprise. When she has described the process of how transferring knowledge from books to me I had thought it would be a long process but that couldn't have been more than 3 minutes. I'd dare argue she already had the books ready to begin with.
"So how does this thing work?" I asked.
"Close your eyes please." Claudia instructed as she laid out each of the books in front of me.
I happily obeyed and closed my eyes leaving nothing but darkness. Both of my hands were grabbed and placed on the table with the palms facing up. Soon I was overcome by a warm sensation throughout my body as my mind began to flash word after word I it. What before were words from this places language, which my mind merely recalled as pictures, now turned English. With each word of the new language which appeared a comparable word in my native language was assigned.
The process went on for what felt like two hours until Claudia finally gave the go ahead for me to open my eyes. When vision returned the books before me were now nothing but ash but more importantly Claudias black hair was right up in my face.
"A little close aren't you?" I cautioned, slowly backing away from her.
"The process needed close proximity. In the past it required rather intimidate physical contact to work but advancements in this magic field were made."
I raised my eyebrows. "Intimate physical contact?" I dared ask.
"This field of magic was originally made for lovers to transfer memories to each other and as such required physical contact such as kissing." Claudia seemed to blush at the thought, "Mages doing research into the field then discovered better ways to transfer knowledge, along with the ability to rip words from paper.
I'm rather glad for that advancement. Having to make out with Claudia for three hours was not exactly something I had set out to do today. While it wasn't that I didn't swing that way at times, I wasn't the type of girl to just do that sort of thing with anyone. Especially not someone who looked identical to my best friend.
"You will be able to read now, go on, try it out" Claudia suggested while gesturing towards the books while I had previously glanced over.
Now the titles of the books were clear and my brain could process the words. I had been 50% right. The second book was on sea life, but the first was not a book on anatomy but was in fact a book on the best ways to cause damage to a person with annotated drawings for each of the various races and the places you would need to punch, kick and stab to bring them down. Very appropriate reading material to just be laying around for anyone to see.
The pair of us sat quietly for a few minutes both unsure as to what to do next. I felt slightly weak from having sat in one place for so long and Claudia had no pressing business to attend to.
Looking for something else to read I pulled out the document I received from the church which established my status as a Demon as I could understand all of the information on it now.
"Hey Claudia, you seem quite knowledgeable have you heard of any reason Holy magic would work on me?" It was an odd question to ask but it was one I had wondered about for some time.
Claudia extended out her hand requesting the piece of paper which I held and with no reason to refuse I passed it over. She examined what was written on it and gave it back to me.
"So the Church thinks you're a Demon. I never expected that." She muttered to herself.
"Oh forgive me. I was just thinking out loud that it never dawned on me that your unique personality might be because you are a Demon." She apologetically stated.
"But I'm not a Demon," I refuted.
"Well the answer to your question is that Holy magic only harms Demons, so if it harmed you. You must be a Demon."
(And if the woman, who is tied to a chair, and thrown in the lake, shall float, she must be a witch")
More time passed being in this store with Claudia and true to her appearance as a maid she happily served me beverages of different liquids each tasting better than the last. With the lack of customers coming in it became hard for me to take serious her claim to be a Book Keeper and not just some genuine maid who happened to be looking after the store while their master was away.
Maybe reading wasn't actually common here. In the past not everyone could read yet at the same time they could. Common words were passed down to children and their children and children's children yet putting a book in front of them and asking them to read from it and they couldn't. It could be the same deal here, all the books in this store possessing vast knowledge only appealed to a few people with the luxury to understand the words printed upon them. In which case I'd have to ask why you would open a book shop here and not somewhere where there were actual customers. Unless your goal was to have a place you could read books undisturbed while pretending to be working, in which case, well played Miss Claudia.
Knowing I could not stay in the store any longer lest I overstay my welcome or get ordered to actually buy something, which would be difficult what with me having exhausted the money I brought, I decided to give my farewells to Claudia and leave.
"Do not insult me like I am some crazy woman, boy"
Oh great Tabitha is back, and starting on Benjamin no less, just what I wanted to come home to.
The shouting could be heard even on the outside of my home and considering the noise made by the Goblins going about their work that was an indicator to just how loud she was being.
"Then stop screaming about things which make no sense" Benjamin shouted back at her.
I really should go inside and smack both of them. Haven't they heard that you are not meant to disturb nature? Tabitha, Benjamin, think about the neighbours, all the lovely creatures, and not so lovely ones, in these woods who don't want their business interrupted by your loud voices.
Yeah I should go inside and get to the bottom of this before a police officer shows up or something.
"Hello, mommy's home" I announced entering the building.
Tabitha and Benjamin stood square in the centre of the room, horn in horn with each other.
"Okay what are you idiots fighting over?"
"You deal with her, I'm going to Church." Benjamin ordered with a huff and pushed by me. Yup, he was pretty mad even by the usual standards. So this must be entirely Tabitha's fault then.
"What did you do?" I asked her.
"About time you got here, that little boy would never understand." Tabitha took a deep breathe trying to calm herself down. It looked like it was working, but I was ready to apply some "physical therapy" to calm her down for a few hours because screw giving her a massage or a hug.
"You remember the Overseers Network I told you about?"
"Yeah you mean the thing you got cut off from for being bad at your job"
Tabitha gritted her teeth but decided to let that jab slide.
"Well I thought I was cut off but a few hours ago it worked for a moment"
"But doesn't that thing only activate if you say your name in your head Miss Herenfia, you mean to say you recite your name over and over all day long?" I should really stop with the casual jabs, she was trying to be serious.
"I'm going to ignore that and carry on. So as I was saying, the Network worked for a moment earlier. It was strange though, it was like the network was in its most basic form, like if you had an old DOS and were running dial up through it and powering it with a hand generator."
Her explanation was stupid and the fact I understand what she was sort of saying made me hate myself.
"The network is working but it's like it barely is with someone trying to keep it quiet. It also appeared to be localised."
So if the Overseers Network was a Submarine it was in silent running mode. But didn't you only do that if something was hunting you? In which case why? Aren't the Overseers meant to be a powerful race of Aliens. Why act like you're hiding from something?
"I'm no expert with your Aliens but that seems odd doesn't it?" I wondered.
"Extremely odd, I thought the reason I could not access the network was because I was cut off but it actually seems like the network itself is just not functioning at all. Except for this short time."
I was getting very interested now although it was mostly because Tabitha being able to use her quote, unquote "special powers" would be extremely useful to me so getting to the bottom of this was something which would be worthwhile looking into.
"Any reason your lot would shut it off?"
Tabitha shook her head violently left to right clearly confused and mad by this. "No, there's no reason to ever do this. Every world has Overseers watching over the world to keep things in order and Overseers have Observers who act as their eyes and ears on the ground. Without the network functioning the Overseers would be blind and the Observers powerless to do their jobs"
"Random thought, your race isn't at war by any chance are you? Like with another race of Alien Gods?" I pondered.
"My race has never encountered another race which has mastered the technology we have. In fact Earthlings would be among one of the more advanced races we've ever met if that would give you an idea."
Awww Tabitha, you flatter me, and Humanity. We're the best the universe has to offer.
Wait, that actually makes me sad now. I feel like I need to go back to Earth and scream to NASA "there's nothing out there," so we can focus on other things.
"Okay I can see we're getting nowhere with this line of thought so how about a change indirection. You say the network came online for a moment, so why did that happen?"
Tabitha now gave a smile of pride. "That was actually my first question when I realised what happened so I checked the usage before it went down."
"What you guys have access logs or something."
The fact she started nodding gave me my answer and I guess that did make sense. Even Aliens were smart enough to keep track of who was doing what, that probably was how those Internal Security folks were able to figure out what Tabitha had done when she screwed up.
"The usage shows that in the short time the network was up a request was sent and approved for the production of a number of items."
So basically someone spawned stuff into the world. That's actually a pretty cool ability and if this event ever occurred again I'd tell Tabitha to quickly spawn in as much useful stuff as she could like a crate of M16's or a nuclear reactor. Wait why would I want a Nuclear reactor, I'd probably kill myself with something like that and it wouldn't do much good anyways.
Pizza, that's what I'd tell Tabitha to spawn. A huge stack of pizzas, but nothing with Pineapple on because then even I'd have to kill her for the sake of Humanity.
"So what items got spawned then? Cool swords like Excalibur? Power Armour? A fleet of sports cars?"
"Actually it was some books." She answered immediately.
"Tabitha, get your things."
"You open this door right now" I yelled at the top of my lungs while kicking at the door repeatedly. It had been barred shut.
"No because you're angry." Claudia whimpered from inside.
"Of course I'm angry you lying toe rag, don't think I won't kick the door it."
"The door is reinforced, you'd never get through it" She assured herself.
"You have windows you bloody genius, I'll just put those in."
"Oh yeah, I forgot about those" Claudia then unlocked the door and I charged in as she rushed for the back of the shop.
"You are Jill, I know you're Jill so stop lying" I accused as she waved her hands in a last ditch effort to deny it and protest her innocence that she was the pure, innocent Claudia.
It wasn't working on me. Putting two and two together was easy. At the same time I was getting "Claudia" to teach me to read the Overseers Network fired up and some books got made. I knew it seemed too fast for her to have had the book sent away and copied because it was. She simply spawned in the books she needed after I gave her the money.
So not only did this woman with glasses pretending to be pure lie to me but she actually scammed me, she didn't need my money as she could have cloned the books she needed to begin with.
"Confess." I jabbed my finger into her chest.
"Okay I admit it I'm Jill." She cried
"Tresta Etrunia" Tabitha chimed in.
I gave an audible "eh?"
"The name of the person who accessed network, it was Tresta Etrunia" She explained.
"That name sounds as stupid as yours," I noted.
Ohhhhhhh it dawned on me.
"So you're an Overseer too then"
"No, she's with the Observer Corps, she's lower in rank than I was." Tabitha corrected. "I thought I recognised the name from somewhere"
Tabitha started to unusually giggle.
"You were the one who filed a formal complaint when I got promoted. Then you told the bosses I only got my position because of my father."
Claudia, or should I say, Jill, or was it Tresta? Now dropped her act and pointed hysterically at the smug red head.
"You did, how else does an idiot like you with no actual experience, no education and no anything, get to be an Overseer of Earth. I saw your service record when you were one of us, you did nothing on Earth but lounge around, playing games and eating junk food."
Tabitha you surprise me, I have more respect for you than I previously had for you. Truly you are more of a lady of true culture than I gave you credit for. Tabitha, a girl who got paid to do nothing but be lazy managed to work her way up to being an overseer of a planet like Earth.
Now that I thought about it I was slightly more sympathetic to Claudia, Tresta, Jill's (Clautresil's) point of view because it totally sounded like Tabitha got her job due to shady dealings.
I raised my hand and patiently waited for the two bickering women to acknowledge me. "I have a question if you two don't mind. I understand why Tabitha is here but why are you here?"
"Punishment" (Claustresil) answered.
This is getting annoying, I better nib this in the butt now.
"Actually before I continue can we all agree on a name for you?"
The woman of three different identities adjusted her glasses while thinking on it. While she did I wondered if she needed glasses anyways. Jill never needed to wear glasses on Earth unless she was cosplaying but I hadn't seen the Jill of this world without them.
Maybe this version of her needed them?
I had no idea how these Aliens worked and trying to wrap my head around it was making my brain hurt.
"It would be best to just go with Claudia. That was the name of the woman I took over, if I go by other names people might ask questions."
Wait what did she mean "Took over?"
I glanced at Tabitha in confused
"Observers are usually inserted into worlds by having them override an existing Actor and assuming their life while simply changing the appearance. It's easier than creating new lives and all the stuff that's needed for it. Birth certificates, education history, people saying "I've never seen you here before. Most of the real people never bother to notice."
That actually sounded needlessly complicated if I was being truthful. Changing an character in a game right at the end of development seems like it would take more effort than just adding a new person in. I'm getting the idea Tabitha's entire race might just lack common sense.
"So what Claudia is saying is there once was a woman named Claudia, a sweet young innocent woman, who lived alone in a book store in out of the way town only wishing to be left in peace and now she's gone?" I exaggerated slightly but the point remained the same.
"If you want to put it that way then yes, the Claudia who was an actor is gone and she won't be coming back until I leave"
"Tabitha go get the priest, were having an exorcism"
Claudia (Evil Alien Imposter) gave a look at me making clear how annoyed she was with my behaviour right now.
More and more of her Jill personality was showing although I guess this would be her Tresta personality, or for arguments sake, her "real" personality. I'm really glad I didn't get to know "Claudia" too well before this revelation or the sudden shift from cute innocent maid book keeper girl to Alien mega bitch might have took me by so much shock that my head exploded.
Wait, I'm getting distracted by all this.
"What did you get punished for?"
"Erm, before I answer that I need to know, do you have a weapon?" Claudia was now being evasive.
"I carry a dagger and Tabitha can give you a singe on command"
The answer put Claudia on edge and was making more now more interested in what the hell she did to get sent here.
"Well I had a plan to get Tabitha fired so I could get her job and it backfired so I fled here before Internal Security figured out just what I did and now I can't go home"
Tabitha probably out of the fact that this whole business was aimed at her beat me to the punch. "There's more to this than your letting on. What exactly did you do."
"I kind of sent you a Trojan horse for your first reincarnation" Claudia gave me a side glance which I barely caught sight of.
But wasn't I Tabitha's "first" person?
"Oh you didn't" I gritted my teeth while giving the strongest death glare I could at my so called best friend.
"Well that would explain Amelia's unusual circumstances for dying." Tabitha mumbled
Claudia made a run for the door but I was faster, a perk of not wearing a dress. Grabbing the woman I pressed her head against the book shelf as a concerned Tabitha looked on.
"How did you do that?"
"Why would you do that?"
I asked in succession.
She pushed back against my grip but her body wasn't all that strong so putting slightly more force behind me kept her in place.
"You remember that ice cream I bought you?"
I did actually remember it. Strawberry and cream, it was a hot day and as I was going to be inside playing games I asked her, Jill, to fetch me some in if she wasn't too busy.
(Yes I'm la\y so what?)
"Well I messed around with the attributes of it so the more you ate the more dehydrated you became without realising it"
So she poisoned me with ice cream. Man the powers of these Aliens were frightening when put to sinister use. Who knows what these people would get up to with their powers if there wasn't something keeping them in account? That being said Jill had still murdered me, even with the Internal Security I hear about, existing.
"It's not that I didn't have a plan in place here. You were meant to die, screw over Tabitha and then when I became Overseer I would bring you right back to Earth none the wiser but with a new powerful buddy watching over you to make sure you had a nice life"
Okay pretty conflicted here. She did murder me but if she was being truthful then had everything went off without a hitch I'd be back home with Jill being an ever present God able to grant me whatever I wanted like new video games or the winning lottery ticket.
"So what exactly went wrong then?"
Claudia raised her arm up which I quickly grabbed thinking she was making some sudden move. She pointed a free finger in the direction of Tabitha who I saw with a puzzled look on her face as she too pointed at herself unsure about anything.
"She screwed up more than even I thought was possible."
(Yeah you're dealing with Tabitha, that's a given)
"What idiot tries to undo reincarnating a person in the wrong place by trying to delete that entire living person from existence?"
I remembered Tabitha did actually do that didn't she?
"Her tampering with protected files, i.e you, a living breathing person, drew the Internal Security in rather than just her boss and next thing I knew they're all over the place discovering my plot."
The balance of guilt was rapidly falling against Tabitha here if this was accurate information.
"So next thing I know she's been hauled off somewhere, your data is now missing meaning no one knew to bring you back to Earth, and I'm forced to flee to this world."
In reality then Claudia, you never actually got punished if you thought about it unless this is punishment in the self-inflicted way. You actually got off scot free as far as whatever pass for law with your race was concerned.
I released my grip on Claudia and let her free. I doubted she was going to attack me and I was sure I'd be able to win even if she did.
At this moment in time I honestly felt like just taking out these two Aliens and being done with it. I had Benjamin and Eliza, my Goblins and source of income so just cutting all ties with this Overseer and Observer via my dagger was a tempting plan. But I couldn't do that, I'm not murderer and that wouldn't be something their race might overlook.
"Okay as of this moment in time, Tabitha, you are staying here. I don't trust either of you right now because the two of you, one way or another, have tried to kill me in the past and both of you succeeded"
I made my way for the door but stopped for a moment to grab two books off a shelf. They looked interesting and I was in need of some good reading material back home.
"You really plan to leave me alone with this woman." Both girls replied at the same time.
"Yes so play nice" I snickered as I left.
"Where's Tabitha at?" Eliza pestered me as I was busy losing myself in the pages of this novel.
It was an adventure book about a warrior who went to slay Orcs to save a village. Or maybe a historical retelling of an actual event, it's hard to tell in a world like this but at least it wasn't boring.
"She's been reassigned to our town branch" I half heatedly replied licking a finger to my lips and turning the page.
The Elf wandered over from the kitchen area carrying a bowl of strong smelling soup. "I wasn't aware the business had expanded."
"Well you'd be surprised what can happen over a couple hours"
Eliza may have been the newest member of the party but she was quick and realised not to push the matter any further. I guessed her people skills came with experience and age. Through casual prodding a couple days ago Eliza had revealed she was 72 years old. For a 72 year old she actually could be mistaken to be in her mid 20's and she was mother to boot. I had at one point been tempted to blurt out MILF but restrained myself.
The door flung open and I was actually going to lob the book at the person who entered under the assumption Tabitha had violated my instruction and returned here, but it was Benjamin. The young boy was carrying a bundle of papers and headed towards me.
Please don't drop those all on me, I thought
"What are these" I asked him while Eliza placed her bowl on the table and took some of the papers from him.
"Quests from the Church." He informed me passing over three of the papers while carefully holding onto the others.
((DESTRUCTION OF WOLF DEN ORDERED))
((WANDERING WOLF PACK HARASSING MERCHANTS, ERADICATION REQUIRED))
((A WOLF CUP IS GETTING TOO NEAR TO CHILDREN PLAYING, EXTERMINATE IT))
Man the Church really didn't like Wolves did it? I thought Benjamin said that the powers that be were negotiating on whether to live in peace with the Wolves but it looks like based on this, and the other papers I assumed were similar, that negotiations had broken down.
"All the Knights are being given their own stack of these quests to complete or see to them being handed out to people who will do them."
"Benjamin, we have a good thing going on here. We have money coming in, warm shelter and now I've even managed to get rid of Tabitha. Why do you want us to actually do something like killing Wolves?" I kicked my feet up on the table.
"We have to do at least some of these quests. The Church loaned me to you for exactly this reason." I advised me
It bugged me but he was right. I had liberated Benjamin from a prison cell against his will to hunt Wolves but now abandoned that mission to pursue my business interests. Sure Benjamin was reluctant to fight Wolves but considering his attitude right now it seemed this was a big deal for him. A direct command from his beloved Church and one he had no power to complain about.
"Okay we can do one of these quests, but we better be prepared, and if we're doing this there's something I want Erik to make me"
I returned to my book flicking through another page as a fired up Benjamin, who looked as though he was ready to charge out the door sword in hand to go do battle, suddenly found his expectations falling short.
I glanced up at him,
"Yeah, we're waiting until tomorrow genius"