On the way back to the inn, I talked with Kantrilla. “So, what do you think?”
“I think it’s great that he might be able to help! I really had no idea what to do.”
“Right…” that wasn’t exactly what I had meant. “What if I quit adventuring?”
“Well, that could be alright too. There are many jobs that need strong people. You grow strong so fast you’d make a great blacksmith with some practice, and there are many other things you could do too.” Kantrilla smiled, “You don’t need levels, and even when you later level up… or down, it won’t matter too much that way.”
“Why would I level up if I’m not killing monsters?”
“Well, it just happens. Especially if you work with monster materials… like most are. Plus spending time around adventurers has some effect too.”
“…Right.” I’d forgotten about that. Not that it should have mattered. It wasn’t like I would level up every day, or every week. Even adventuring it might be a week or two before I became level -12, assuming negative levels took the same amount of experience as positive ones. In that time I could certainly improve my Strength more than 10. Eventually levels would come even slower, so it wasn’t like I was in any actual danger of suddenly becoming weak. Even so, becoming weak again was a frightening thought.
Kasner was the only one around when we got back. Since I planned to talk with everyone at some point, I told him basically what I had been told. “So what about you?” I asked, “When are you planning to head back to your village?”
“Well…” Kasner tilted his head, “Truth be told, I don’t know if I want to go back. It’s nice there and all but…” he thunked his icy leg on the floor, “I was mostly upset about this. I still don’t like it, of course. While I was there… a monster attacked,” Kasner shrugged, “It wasn’t much. Just a dire badger that dug in under the wall. The next village over lost a cow to a wolf or something. It just made me think… my village is in one of the most peaceful places in Othya. Other places have it way worse. Sometimes, they don’t have enough people who can fight monsters that appear. Not everyone can fight… but I can. They don’t need me to help with the fields. People can handle that. However, though it seems like there are so many adventurers, there are barely enough to deal with all of the real problems. Even if everything gets done, having someone arrive a day earlier can save lives. I could be that person… though maybe I’d be there a bit faster with my leg.” Kasner actually managed a grin, unpleasant as the topic was.
I sighed, “And here I was, thinking about quitting just because of a little fear…”
“Hey,” Kasner said, “I’m just talking about myself. You can make your own choices, but you don’t have to take my reasoning.”
“I do if it’s solid, and it is.” I shook my head, “Besides, giving up isn’t better for me, either. Maybe adventuring isn’t what I should do, but quitting right away would just be giving up. I have to at least see how things go. What are Alhorn and Halette up to?”
“They’re standing guard on the wall construction. Nothing glorious, but it’s got to be done. It’s also far safer than going anywhere without a full group.”
“Right,” I nodded. That was both a general insight and a reprimand to me for running off instead of trying harder to contact the others. “Well, I might not be up for adventuring for a bit… but soon.”
Before I got back into adventuring, I had to do something more important. It wasn’t practicing a skill or magic or even trying to deal with my negative level situation, but something even more important than that. It was also much harder, and I had nobody who could guide me.
“Ughh…” I muttered to myself, “How do I say it?” I paced back and forth in my room. How had anyone ever done this before? It seemed like it was an impossible task. Let alone the fact that I didn’t even really know the customs in this world. Then I heard a knock on my door. “Who is it?”
“It’s Kantrilla!” Her voice was enthusiastic, as always. Well, not quite always- especially lately- but I wanted it to be always.
I walked over to open the door. “Come on in.”
“Okay. Actually, I was wondering if you wanted to go out.”
“Yes!” That was it. It was so simple, “Go out with me!”
“I… just asked you that. So… dinner?”
“Yes! No. Wait. That’s not what…” I took a deep breath, “I would love to go to dinner with you. But… as a girlfriend. Will you be my girlfriend?”
“Oh!” Kantrilla’s face turned to one of shock. “I mean… I wouldn’t mind… but… I thought… are you sure I’m not too tall?”
“As long as you don’t think I’m too short… I don’t care.”
“Then… absolutely!” she grinned and pulled me into a hug. I enjoyed that, but I tried not to enjoy it too much. I still don’t remember whatever it was we ate later.
“About time,” Kasner said. “Some people get married within a year, you know.”
“Hmph,” I said, “I don’t see any of you making any progress.”
Alhorn shook his head, “I didn’t have someone I felt that way about around every day. That applies to you too, Kantrilla.”
Halette smiled, “I’ll have you know I have a fiance. Well, had a fiance.” She shrugged, “I went back and beat that idiot in an archery contest. It’s better than me having to sic Socks on him. I never wanted that marriage anyway.”
“Umm…” Kantrilla spoke gently, “I don’t think that counts. Breaking up with someone you don’t like isn’t the same thing… though good for you.” Socks barked in affirmation.
Kasner rolled his eyes, “Still, an entire year though?”
“What about you?” I asked.
“What? Have you seen any halfling ladies around here?”
“Really? Where?” Kasner scratched his chin, “Maybe they were behind someone else… Can’t see over stupid tall folk…”