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1 The Curse

Skill Activated:

Demolition

You can destroy buildings by paying in Mana.

Do you want to destroy the building Crooked House?

Cost: 500 Mana

Yes | No

Helial sighed. This was one of the numerous attempts he had made to build a home for him and his sister.

"Yes", he whispered.

The moon was casting its light on a house with such slanted walls that it would have soon fallen on its own, even if Helial hadn't decided to de-molish it. Some of the bricks were too wide and stuck out at weird angles, giving the building an awkward, clumsy look. He selected "Yes" and that architectural nightmare started tumbling down.

Demolition reached Level 2!

You are now able to destroy two-story buildings up to 100 yd2.

You earned 300 Exp from the demolition of "Crooked House"!

"Adding insult to injury", he snorted. However, besides his clear disappointment, there was a mischievous smile on Helial's face. He glanced at the uneven bricks now lying on the ground and he walked towards one of the biggest ones.

He walked unhurriedly. At a first glance, the boy didn't seem strong enough to build and demolish even a single house, but he had already done that process at least a hundred times. The resulting buildings though could hardly be defined as houses.

He was striding confidently across a grassy clearing. Suddenly, Helial shut his eyes and frowned slightly. He took a deep breath.

Skill Activated:

Perception

You can clearly detect every Aura within a 1000 yd radius.

Cost: 70 Mana/Sec

Helial opened his eyes and gave a sigh. There was no one around.

He crouched to pick up the brick. It had to weight around 220 pounds.

He firmly grasped the bottom of the brick and very slowly started to straighten up. The huge effort was written clearly on his face. Soon he turned bright red with sweat dripping down his forehead.

He was wearing a frown, but his movements were slow and dispirited, because of the strain of too many failed attempts.

Nonetheless, behind those listless and deflated movements, there was a kind of obsessive rigor, that went mostly unseen. Every single movement – from lifting the bricks, to moving them and finally arrange them – had a deeper meaning.

An inattentive onlooker, however, would have just seen a clumsy brat who was trying to build a house using badly cut stones that were way too heavy for his thin body.

Actually, it didn't look like he was trying to rebuild the house at all, he seemed more like one of those athletes who, in competitions, manage to lift weights thanks to technique rather than mere strength.

On the ground, there were lines forming a square, probably indicating the perimeter of the house.

Even though he possessed Construction Skills that would have let him automatically erect walls and wooden scaffoldings, Helial persisted in wanting to build everything by hand and on his own.

He put down the brick in one of the four corners. For the next half hour he kept moving the blocks, without stopping even for one second.

Now sweat was not just dripping from his forehead, but had also completely soaked his wrinkly tunic. The fabric had been mended several times, with tiny stitches made by small hands. Here and there, near the seams of that faded purple fabric you could see tiny burgundy stains.

You earned 1 Strength point!

You earned 1 Vigor point!

Helial looked at the sky. The stars seem so far away… Our loved ones watch over us from afar, but until now they have never protected us. Are they testing me? Don't worry, I'm not going to give up, he thought angrily, with a bitter taste in his mouth.

Fshhh!

Helial felt a shadow swoop in on him from behind. His Perception Skill had been activated all this time, but he hadn't felt anything approaching. Had he missed something?

Only two things could have happened: either the attacker had crossed the 1000 yards covered by Perception so fast to go undetected, or he could mask his Aura in such a way that Helial was unable to perceive it. Both were upsetting scenarios – he could not but be alarmed by the presence of someone in a place like that, so secluded and far from the village. Plus, a person whose presence was impossible to detect was indeed someone at a very high level.

The only people who were able to hide their own Aura in such an efficient way were those who had already reached the Second Phase, above level 100.

Without thinking, Helial turned around but he wasn't planning to attack.

A metallic flash ripped through the darkness and Helial felt the chill of a blade pressed against his neck.

Dagger. Assassin. Am I still alive?! Thought Helial surprised that the steel had only barely broken his skin.

You lost 20 HP!

"Dead", the shadow burst out laughing.

Helial glanced around from the corner of his eye to check if more people had arrived, but it was just the two of them, or so it seemed. Perception wasn't detecting anything, but at that moment it didn't matter.

The person in front of him was unrecognizable: he was using an Assassin Skill, Umbra Nigra. It was said that once one reached the complete mastery of this skill, they could blend in with darkness and dematerialize, traveling swiftly through the shadows.

The torso and legs of the shadow were very blurry, but if it hadn't been wearing that black hood, Helial could have easily recognized who it was.

"Who are you?" asked Helial with a steady voice that showed no trace of fear.

Hearing Helial's tone, the stranger said: "We have a brave boy here. Brat, if I wanted to kill you, you wouldn't even notice you were dead. I was wondering what you were doing… I have been watching you for ten minutes. Were you trying to increase your Stats with mere physical exercise? Dude! How much Strength do you need to build a house? Or do you have something else in mind?" It seemed like the shadow knew a lot.

Helial was surprised at the Assassin talkativeness. From the stories he had heard from the mercenaries at the tavern where he worked, he knew that Assassins were used to lying in wait for hours, even days in order to kill someone without leaving traces. Usually, that constant need to disguise and blend into the crowd called for unobtrusive and introverted people.

How unusual, thought Helial.

Seeing how unimpressed Helial was with facing his death, the shadow sighed. "You and that other madman are truly brothers."

Hearing that, Helial widened his eyes and all the hair on his body stood up.

It's him, he thought.

"Let's cut to the chase, I have better things to do than babysi you", said the shadow in an arrogant tone. "I'm here to deliver something."

The blurry shape withdrew the blade. The small amount of blood that stained the shiny steel disappeared as if by magic. He took a step back and opened his Inventory. His arm disappeared through a translucent window and reappeared some seconds later. His fist was closed around an object bundled in fabric with weird runes on it.

Helial was not an expert in Runes, but he had seen some of those symbols before on some crates. It was a seal and judging from its complexity, it must have been a quite powerful one.

The shadow tossed him the thing. Helial took a step back. He knew he shouldn't trust an Assassin, especially one that was friend of his brother. The object and the fabric covering it fell to the ground.

"What are you doing, running away? Are you scared now?" it seemed as if the Assassin did not like Helial's reaction. "It's really true that doing good it's always a bad choice. Take it, it's a gift from your brother to you. He said that nowadays it is dangerous to live on the fringes of the Nation, so close to the battlefields. You'd better learn to defend yourself."

The shadow stopped talking and smiled scornfully.

This is a dangerous situation. Helial knew well what kind of person his brother was, and he wasn't the kind to send surprise gifts. He sighed. He did not have much of a choice. The man in front of him could have easily forced him. He chose the path of caution.

Helial crouched to pick up the object. It was very long, even taller than he was. Its width and shape were not clearly discernible because of the cloth that covered it. Nonetheless, Helial was not an idiot and guessed what it was right away. A Longsword?

His brother had always liked showy things and he always wore luxury clothes and eye-catching Equipment, even at the detriment of Effects or Stats. Helial glanced at the shape of the Longsword and muttered: "Typical… I couldn't have expected anything better from him."

He made a move to grab the hilt, still covered with the cloth, and raise the sword, when the Assassin interrupted him: "Take away the covering, don't you want to see what kind of amazing present you've just received?"

The whole business was rotten to the core, but Helial couldn't do much about it. He heaved a sigh and removed the fabric with the Runes. What he saw left him speechless.

Before his eyes was a huge Longsword, completely black from the hilt to the blade. He didn't pay much attention to the details and picked it up, holding his breath.

Malus Received: Curse of the Demon

Curse Activated:

You won't be able to wield other weapons as long as you are the owner of 'Curse of the Demon'.

No surprises there, I was expecting that, thought Helial, sighing.

"Hahaha! Mission accomplished, goodbye!" The shadow disappeared into thin air, without giving him a chance to ask questions or get clarification on what had just happened.

Damn it! You're always trying to ruin my life. Wasn't it enough to leave me stranded in a village at the fringes of the Nation, getting all the honor and glory for yourself?! In just ten years' time you passed level 240, you are one of the best of your generation in the entire Nation, what do you want from me? Brooded Helial.

Ten years had passed since the time his brother and him first started traveling. Ten years earlier, his brother had been enrolled in the Mana Congregation, thus gaining access to dozens of mysterious Skills. Then he founded a Guild and found Dungeons that no man had visited before, where he discovered tons of treasures. Probably that Assassin too was a member of his brother's Guild.

Helial glanced again at the huge sword he was holding in his hand. It must have been six feet long.

"Scan the object."

Curse of the Demon

Type: Longsword

Consumption ???/???

Level: ???

Damage: ???

Effects: ???

"What the fuck is this shit?" growled Helial.

He fell backwards, his butt crushing the grass and shouted: "SHIT!"

He got up again, furious. He had had that Longsword in his hands all the time, but only now he noticed, probably because of the shock, that the weapon was very light. It weighted maximum 5 pounds. He stayed quiet for a moment, wondering how it was possible that an object that big could weight that little.

He walked towards a tree. He had a bad feeling about this.

Skill Activated:

Mana Scan

Lv: 2

Gives information on the status and Skills of things and people.

Cost: 300 Mana

Exp 54.3%

He tried to use the Skill to know more about that Cursed weapon. He felt the Mana flowing through his Meridians to cover the Longsword, as to probe it, but suddenly he felt an oppressive force coming from the sword creep back through his arms, where his Mana had been flowing.

Boom!

Suddenly his hands stiffened and got flooded by an absurd amount of Mana Energy, that almost shattered the Meridians in his arms.

"SHIT!"

He immediately recalled the Mana and dropped the sword. Various capillaries on his arms burst and broke the skin. Blood started running on his fingers, dripping on the ground.

You lost 150 HP.

Skill Failed.

"You don't say?!" complained Helial. "I'm liking this thing less and less."

He sat on the ground and formed a seal with his hands.

Skill Activated:

Mana Reflowing

The Mana power flows through your body and heals minor wounds.

Cost: 20 Mana/Sec

When his wounds were healed, he stood up again. He grasped the Longsword and approached the same tree. This time he used the Mana Scan Skill on the tree.

Young Oak

Type: Tree

HP: 100/100

Diameter: 3 ft

HP Regeneration: 0.001/sec

Physical Defense: 30

Resistance to Magic: 0

Your Perception Skill gained 0,1% Exp

"Let's see what you can do…" whispered Helial.

He grasped the Longsword tight, going into a fighting stance. He relaxed his shoulders, closed his eyes and then reopened them after a moment. He swung violently at the oak, believing that he could cut it clean.

Dong!

A low sound rang out, while Helial's arms started trembling because of the recoil. He stared at the tree in surprise. There was only a small cut, maybe 2 inches deep. The area that he had swung at looked like it had been hit with some kind of mace rather than with a sword.

Young Oak lost 7 HP!

When the notification window appeared, Helial didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
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