Chapter 19 – The fourth Scholar
Lotus wasn’t entirely sure what was happening but Dawn suddenly collapsed into her arms. It happened not long after Dawn, Dima and Oak tried to get closer to the empty throne.
As they walked into the room and got closer to the shiny seat, the rest of the group stopped to stare intently at it. Sure, it was a very pretty and valuable thing, but how were they planning to get it moving? It was a solid block of metal and rock, it wasn’t going anywhere. As they stared unmoving at the empty seat, Lotus looked around the room. The room was oddly clean, no dust or dirt, and bright, despite having no lighting. It was as if the white stones of the wall absorbed the outside light and filled the room with a perfectly even level of lighting. It wasn’t uncomfortable, it may have even been the most comfortable level of lighting she had seen, but it was discomforting in the sense that it felt entirely unnatural. It felt like an old game and that no shadows were being cast also fed that impression.
When the three started to walk up the stairs, their faces seemed strained by the first step and resigned by the second. Oak managed to touch the third, but soon after, her shoulders slumped and her light drooped low in her head. She wanted to know if the light thing had a name, like ‘eye’ or ‘nose’, but was worried that might be rude. She hoped Dawn was equality curious and would cave in and ask before her. When they came down, they seemed weak and tired and started to fall asleep on the spot. She managed to catch Dawn and Dima and Oak caught each other. Lying Dawn down on the fur bedding, Lotus started to look for clues to the cause.
She knew the cause couldn’t be gas base since Oak was infected and didn’t breathe. She hadn’t seen any cuts, darts or needles, so that also didn’t seem likely. She also didn’t think Oak could bleed, or what poisons worked on her. Dawn and Dima both wore shoes with sturdy souls, so skin contact was also unlikely. Given the rapid onset and uniform effect, it was probably a magical effect of some kind. That diagnosis was bad. As an alchemist, her treatment options tended towards the arcane and treating purely magical effects required very specific plants.
Her options as a druid weren’t much better. From what she could tell, her magic seemed to amplify existing effects rather than create new ones. When she grew plants, the plants had their growth rate amplified and supplemented nutrients with magic energy. The same thing happened when she used magic to heal; the cell regeneration rate of a body was amplified. Wounds that were impossible to ever heal, and diseases like cancer, couldn’t be treated. Things like a magical effect, where there was no physical reason or response from the body, weren’t treatable either.
Looking into the room to the right of the entrance she found that the simple wooden door opened smoothly, without sound or effort. The room inside was filled with stacks of leather bound books of various size and colour. In the centre of the room, sitting on a stone day-bed, was an incredibly old man, with skin like the books he surrounded himself with and a blank look in his eyes, like the world itself had betrayed him and he had nothing at all to live for. He wore a moth-eaten grey-brown robe with a simple sting belt. With his outfit and age, he had the look of a medieval monk, locked away to write copies of the bible for the whole of his life.
As he turned to look at her, a small glint of hope seemed to appear in his eyes. He seemed to take a few moments to discern if she were real, then took a few more to remember how to speak. Above his head the two lines of text that floated there read, ‘???, level 3 Scholar of the 4th World’ and ‘Leth’s Slave’. Lotus was surprised by almost everything about the man’s texts. His level was really low, but she couldn’t Inspect his name. His title also indicated that he was a slave; she had no idea that slavery was a thing in that world. Furthermore, he was the first other person she had met with ‘world’ in their class name, and it was a class she hadn’t heard of. Was a scholar similar to an author or loremaster? Was it somehow completely different? As she thought that, a pair of system messages displayed.
‘Player Lotus Crane has encountered the lost class scholar; the class in now available for all players.’
‘For unlocking a new class, you have been granted that class’s starting skills, research and lesser book affinity.’
From what she could tell, research seemed to be a skill similar to herbal lore, except it told her the general contents and key information of books rather than plants. It also seemed to translate game texts. When she walked into the room, the books seemed to be written in languages she hadn’t seen before, but after getting the skill they appeared to be in English. It was a very useful skill in that particular situation, but she hadn’t seen a single book not written by a player before. Since texts written by players, and words spoken, seemed to translate automatically, the skill seemed like it was only useful for NPC texts.
Games that translated weren’t uncommon, but the level of detail that that game went to was extraordinary; it somehow replicated the voice of the speaker. They wouldn’t have noticed that they were each speaking a different language if not for Oak asking Dima about his hometown. It turned out that he lived in a remote town in Russia. From his perspective they were all speaking his language. Apparently it also seemed natural enough, and they’re lips synchronised with the sounds, so he thought they also lived there.
With that skill being of questionable worth Lotus looked at the other one. Lesser book affinity was the downgraded version of the author and loremaster ability that let them use ability books to use other class skills. If an author could use an ability for three quarters of its max than she could use it for half; that was what the skill granted. Those numbers were also variable; the exact amount depended on the skill level of both the reader and the writer. Thankfully, she knew a reasonably competent author, who used to spend a lot of time on that skill, so the obscene cost of books could be reduced slightly. That was if she could get her to wake up.
As she looked through the skill the old man seemed to have worked up the effort to speak.
“Plea… Please… kill… me…”, though the words were spoken no louder than a whisper with a voice that was like the personification of dust, in the silent book filled room there was no way that it couldn’t be heard.