Going a month without doing any adventuring work was actually not as relaxing as it sounded. I still needed money, though I had no trouble finding temporary work. Not that many people had 450 Strength outside of adventurers. The harder part was avoiding much contact with experience. That meant working less with materials from monsters and less spending time with other adventurers.
I was glad my party was very accomodating. If we didn’t get along so well, I might have had to move along to a new party for taking more than a month off. In the case of Halette, she was busy spending time trying to get her new egg to hatch. It would take a couple months total, but she wasn’t sure how long it had been in the nest. Alhorn took the opportunity to train in healing- he could still earn money that way and having him more able to heal in emergencies was good. Kasner spent most of his time looking into where he might find a druid with the ability to regenerate his leg.
If the rest of the party had continued on adventuring, I would have still been subject to a decent amount of experience from spending time with Kantrilla. I had no intention to spend less time with her, especially since we had just officially become ‘together’. She still worked as a healer and was inevitable in contact with adventurers, but third hand experience was much less. It would be good enough to get an idea of what was happening, in any case.
Of course, I wasn’t the only one with problems. Since I had access to the ear of the Great Sage, I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask about druids. At most, he would say he didn’t know any, or that their location was secret. So, I took the opportunity to visit him and asked. “Do you know any druids who can cast Regeneration?”
“For your friend?” I hadn’t told him about Kasner, but it made sense that he knew. “I do. None of them live in Othya. The one most likely to help would be the hardest to find. He likes to wander the world through various dangerous places. He’s an eccentric gnome named Orston Wibblebrook. If you ever find him, though, he would likely lend his assistance.” Sage Norwood ran his fingers through his beard, “The second is a half-orc who once visited Escait.”
“Is it Vasant?” I’d heard about him, at least.
“No, he goes by Zotur. It is possible Vasant can do it as well, but I have not heard such. Zotur merely caused a stir in Escait on the one visit I know of, and beyond that his location is questionable. He was also not deemed the most helpful of sorts from what I’ve heard.”
“Oh. Well, I’ll keep looking.”
“You might as well, though I do know where one actually resides… more or less. In Fepresil, the brother of the current guild leader- Ehlark Olokas. However, he’s a hermit, and he doesn’t much care for non-elves. His sister is likely the only one who knows where he is, but while she’s a decent person she is not so easygoing as Timmy. You’d have to find some way to get an audience with her, convince her to help, then get to him and convince him to help. However, he doesn’t need money and can likely get anything he wants for himself.”
“That… doesn’t sound very encouraging. However, at least we can try.”
“If you can get someone who speaks elven to come with you. Preferably an actual elf.”
I spoke to the rest of the party about what I had learned.
“Hmm…” Alhorn said, “My father would have been quite helpful here… but he’s been dead for five years.”
“Ah…” I didn’t know what to say to that.
Alhorn shook his head, “That’s something of the past. I do apparently have an aunt who lives near Sradena.”
“What? The duelist you trained with?” Alhorn blinked, “I… don’t know. I only recently managed recoup my father’s possessions. It only mentions that she lived near there.”
“Well, it would be a pretty big coincidence if it was her,” I shrugged.
“Not really. There aren’t that many elves in Othya. Not even in Sradena, which is right on the border.”
“Well,” I sighed, “She didn’t seem particularly keen to have anything to do with Fepresil. If you’re Lucky, your real aunt is someone else and willing to help.”
“Perhaps. What was her surname?”
“Uh…” I tilted my head, “I don’t think anyone ever told me.”
“That also doesn’t mean much…” Alhorn lowered his head to think, “Is there any way to contact her?”
“She’s not much of a talker. I doubt anyone would deliver her letters, and I doubt even more that she would respond.” I thought about the introductory note Sgar had left me which had been disintegrated by her sword.
“Then we’ll have to go to Sradena at some point. Either to find my real aunt… or to talk to Khyrmin, if it is her.”
The month passed quickly enough. In a way, every day was more like one of the off days from adventuring. I wasn’t doing nothing. I was working, moving heavy things mostly. Training. My Strength grew at a rather terrifying rate, even though the base was already quite high. Soon enough I might pass 500 again… assuming I didn’t ‘level up’.
With the end of the month I went to visit Sage Norwood again for more tests. Or maybe the same tests again. I was given the same foul tasting potion, or at least one very similar.
“Well, the good news is… your proximity to experience isn’t the problem.”
“Does that mean the bad news is that you have no idea what the problem is?”
“Why, I’m offended. I have some ideas. Just not that can be easily put into a full explanation. How’s your Strength training going?”
“Good. Great, even. It’s even easier than before. I guess the Blessing helps more than the class bonus… actually, everything that wasn’t a class attribute has been a bit easier to train.”
“Hmm… interesting,” Sage Norwood ran his fingers through his beard, “Are you rather busy?”
I shook my head, “Just working to pay the bills.”
“In that case, you can work for me. I recall that I haven’t yet compensated you for lowering your level… and I rarely get the chance to study the attribute growth of people at low levels. Negative… absolutely never.”
“Do levels make a difference?”
“That is the question, isn’t it? The answer is yes and no. Classes most certainly do. Nobody who is higher than level 5 doesn’t have a class, and by the time they are able to contribute to a study most people are already level two or three at minimum, just from age.”
“Right. Well, I’d certainly be willing to help out.”
“Great! There are so many theories I’d like to test… but we can’t try everything. Not unless you want to devote your entire life to it, anyway.”
“Umm… probably not,” I shook my head.
“I didn’t think so. Well… this is a great opportunity for us. I can’t spend all my time on it, but if we have you come in every other day it should suffice. We’ll see how that works out.” Sage Norwood smiled. If it were a bit different, that smile might have made me nervous. I was glad that Sage Norwood acted more like the kindly scientist than the mad kind.