Perhaps I was too quick to trust the Great Sage, but if I wasn’t going to put trust in him at all there was no point in coming to him for help. Being an otherworlder didn’t really give any points toward or against being trustworthy- people were people, after all. Still, Father Thomas didn’t have anything bad to say about him, nor had I heard anything negative elsewhere. Well, except that he might have been a little crazy.
“You know…” the Great Sage looked down at me as we walked up the stairs, “Nobody else has mentioned the sign since I put it up all those years ago. Perhaps they all ended up far away.” Even though he was old, he still stood up straight… and that meant he was taller than me. There was nothing to be done about that.
“You didn’t exactly leave your name… how would anyone know it was you?”
“You figured it out.”
“Well, I guessed,” I shrugged, “I didn’t really know.”
“That’s how everything works, until you find out the guess is right. Then you know. Ah, here we are.” For some reason I had assumed we would be going to the top floor of the tower, but instead we pulled into a sitting room on the third floor. The Great Sage turned to look at Kantrilla, “Is there anything you don’t wish to say in front of your friend?”
I shook my head. “Kantrilla already knows everything. Unless I just forgot to say it, anyway.”
“Oh, Kantrilla?” the Great Sage stroked his beard, “Would you be the young one Father Thomas picked up?”
Kantrilla nodded, “Yes, sir. Do you know him?”
“Indeed I do. He was- and is- one of the best clerics around. Both for his power as well as his heart. Oh, but where are my manners? I am Norwood Sorenson. You are?” He looked to me.
“I’m Llyr Merrick, sir Great Sage.”
“Bah, Great Sage is for formal settings. It sounds pretentious, but I didn’t pick it. You can call me Sage Norwood, or Mr. Sorenson if it strikes your fancy. How long have you been in this world, young Llyr?”
“Approximately a year. A bit more, I suppose.”
“Well, you seem to have managed so far. Did the sign help?”
“It did… though it is somewhat related to my current predicament.”
“Oh my… tell me about it,” he leaned forward in his chair.
With that, I explained about the “All In” skill… and how I had accidentally acquired it.
“Fascinating. That is the sort of skill that would be basically exclusive to otherworlders. I have heard of others who put all of their bonus points in a single attribute, but it hasn’t had that result.” He once again stroked his chin, “It could be related to how much you wanted Strength. Passion often drives skill acquisition. There’s no way to tell if a non-otherworlder could get the same skill. Nobody stores up points for ten levels without using them. Though maybe…” he shook his head, “That’s for another time. I appreciate you bringing this fascinating tidbit to me… but I sense you are not done.”
“Right. Well, it worked out for me pretty well until… do you know the guildmaster?”
“Timmy? There’s literally no way I could not.”
“Right… anyway, he can vouch for me here… Anyway, things were fine until I was in Ekralas and forced to take a deleveling potion. Then I became level -10 and had 0 bonus attribute points.”
“Ah, that makes sense,” Norwood nodded seriously. “I had postulated that could happen, but there weren’t exactly any volunteers… and any otherworlder who has had such done to them has also been executed for whatever crimes they had committed. They weren’t in a good state to contribute to research. Still, an unfortunate situation… but it seems not unsolvable with a bit of adventuring and level ups.”
“That’s the problem… I got more experience and… I leveled down. To level -11. At which point my bonus points automatically took away from Strength.”
“That… is fascinating. That brings up quite a few questions. Is it because of the All In skill, or would something similar happen to any otherworlder? If it was someone without All In, would they have negative attribute points to spend or would they automatically be distributed in similar proportion to how they had been doing so with their positive points? Or perhaps just the bonus 100…”
At that point, he was barely even talking to me anymore. Instead, he was just thinking out loud and I happened to be around. “I don’t know,” I shook my head.
“Of course you don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t need me. Well then… I can think of quite a number of possibilities for how to solve your conundrum. Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee the success of any of them. In fact, I would bet that things will get worse before they get better,” he shrugged, “Though you can just cut yourself off from much contact with monsters and adventuring and live a fairly normal life.”
“I really want a solution… or at least a way to make things not worse. Though maybe quitting adventuring is really the best option.”
“It’s the safest option,” Norwood nodded, “It is always the safest option. It’s not, however, necessarily the best option- either for the individual or society. I am very interested in this situation,” he folded his hands in front of him, “If you will give me the chance, I promise to do my best to find a way to reverse your issue. However… my first request would be to go fight monsters until you level up… or down… again. If you choose to work with me, I can even pay you- for the knowledge and the personal risk.”
“I’ll… need to think about it.” I looked over at Kantrilla. Adventuring wasn’t always good for the adventurers themselves. I could already imagine how things might go… my Strength decreasing and decreasing until I had nothing left.
“Take your time,” Norwood nodded, “It’s not such an easy decision to make. Even with your cooperation, I can make no guarantees anything good for you will come of it. While I am personally curious… that is not particularly important.” He pulled out a card- one that looked similar to a guild card. “Inject mana into this to make it recognize you. It will let you come see me freely, whenever you make your decision- or if you have other questions before you do so.”
“You’re welcome, young man. In return, I thank you for providing some fascinating information. Regardless of your choices, I wish you Luck in your future.”