The Only Thing I Can Upgrade is Strength chapter 105

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We split off from the caravan after arriving at the border town, Ruxtol. The instructions from Sgar said to head uphill into the woods… during the day. Once we came across the stream, we were to continue following that until we reached the cabin.

When Sgar had mentioned someone who lived on the border, I had assumed he meant in a city on the border… but apparently Khyrmin lived in a cabin in the woods. Having just passed through many cities with large walls… someone living by themselves away from the city seemed crazy. Maybe it was somewhere with a low chance of monster attacks… but that didn’t seem good enough.

“Hmm…” Kantrilla looked around, “Are the trees getting bigger?”

“I don’t know…” the trees were large… but most trees were pretty big. I hadn’t really thought about it, but once it was pointed out I could see it. “They do seem to be getting bigger… and they’re different kinds. These are umm…” I shook my head, “I don’t really know the types of trees all that well.” They were coniferous trees with thick bark. That didn’t particularly stand out, but as we continued for a few miles the trees kept getting bigger. I’d seen a lot of kinds of trees in my life without knowing the names for most of them, but as we continued deeper I could only think of one type of tree. “They seem like giant sequoias.”

As a kid I had visited the giant sequoias. They were huge- big enough to drive cars through. I had visited a few times… both while I could walk and after. It was nice to have something that made everyone feel equally small. The current trees weren’t that big for the most part- maybe five feet in diameter and a couple hundred feet high. Don’t get me wrong, they were still huge, just not drive-your-car-through-a-tunnel-in-them huge. As we continued on they continued to get steadily bigger- though there was quite a variety of sizes among them.

We had been hiking for hours with Kantrilla leading the way. If Halette were around I would have trusted her sense of direction more, but since we were still walking basically uphill, Kantrilla picking a direction couldn’t hurt. Either we would run into the stream we were supposed to follow or reach the highest point around and look around from there. It occurred to me that Sgar’s directions were pretty useless… but he’d thought they were good enough.

It was starting to become late afternoon and I was wondering if we’d made a stupid mistake. We hadn’t seen any aggressive monsters… but that didn’t mean we were prepared to spend the night outside. It wasn’t like we could climb up a tree to avoid monsters. Well, I probably could if the bark held, but there were no branches or anything anywhere near the ground.

Then I heard it, “Finally, there’s the stream. Let’s head toward it.” Almost as soon as we started off in that direction, I spotted the cabin. We were supposed to use the stream to find the cabin but in theory finding the stream should have been far before. On the other hand, wandering in such a way that we saw the cabin at the same time as the stream wasn’t a surprise with Kantrilla’s luck.

It was a log cabin… the kind people imitated for an old-timey look, or that you could find on artificial syrup bottles… but it was real. That made sense, because they were originally built because it was a relatively simple design. The cabin even had a chimney and little windows… but those features seemed strangely small. Once we got a bit closer, the door was very small as well…

We kept getting closer and closer and then I realized… I was expecting logs that were perhaps a foot thick. Instead, they were made from local trees. “Are we actually meeting a giant?” I asked casually. Of course, the door size gave it away. The door only as tall as a single log was wide… a good six or seven feet. For this part of the forest, that made them some of the smaller trees.

“I guess we should knock?” Kantrilla asked, then proceeded to do so.

We waited a good half a minute before I heard movement, then the door swung open. “Yeah? Whoozit? Whaddya want?” The voice that sounded like they ate gravel for breakfast didn’t fit with the person at all. I’d almost thought we’d come to the wrong place but… it was an elf. Thin, almost whispy limbs, pale skin, and pointy ears. Except the fact that her shoulder length hair was black, she could fit the image of a stereotypical elf. Then there was the voice. “You lost?”

“Umm, no, we’re not lost. You are the Duelist Khyrmin, correct?” Kantrilla bowed properly. “We were hoping you could teach Llyr Return Weapon.”

I fumbled around in my bag, “I have a letter of introduction from Sgar…” I held it out to her, but she ignored it and looked me over.

“Not a duelist… or a spearman.  A Martial Adept?”

“Umm… just a Martial Apprentice, actually.” Martial Adept was what the class would be called after class advancement.

“Yeah?” With one smooth motion she stepped forward and drew the rapier at her side. The letter from Sgar disintegrated in my hand and the rapier pointed at my neck. I stepped back at the sudden movement, but I wouldn’t have been fast enough to do anything if she had actually meant to stab me in the throat. “Weapon out, kid.”

“Which one?” Khyrmin stabbed toward me in an exaggerated fashion, and I retreated while at the same time pulling out my heavy mace. It probably wasn’t the best weapon for the situation, but it was the one I was most comfortable with. I held it out in a proper stance, trying to be ready for what came next.

I wasn’t.

She stabbed forward… and then her rapier twisted around my heavy mace like a snake. At least, that was what it looked like… but I didn’t have long to observe it as my weapon was wrenched out of my grip. I hadn’t been holding it lightly either… but I saw my heavy mace fly over twenty feet away. “Terrible,” she said, turning around and sheathing her weapon before stepping back into her cabin.

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