After their encounter with the thief, Jake knew even the iron-hard defence granted to him by his refined body was not enough to hold up against all forms of weaponry, and he would need something stronger. Fortunately, once more a manual lay upon his bed, a book instructing in the creation of a protective layer of Qi over the skin of its user, allowing them to ward off all forms of damage, from blades to spears to blasts of magic. Once mastered even the strongest of foes would struggle to harm him. Jake once more sat in meditation, letting his Qi flow through him, guiding it through his pores to sit just above his skin, and allowing it to gather, and harden. The metallic nature that served as the primary attribute of his Qi solidified the barrier faster than expected, the inherent nature of his Qi combining with the enhanced aptitudes of an adventurer to allow him to settle his Qi into a strong, yet flexible shell that he could call upon at the slightest notice, the flow of Qi settling into a steady pattern that he could maintain for up to an hour. The only thing left was to test his honed might. Jake set out in the small hours of the morning, delving into the depths of the caverns of Corumare, until he chanced upon one of the mushroomfolk he encountered in an earlier quest. The small creature followed Jake on his journey, until they encountered a large, reptilian beast, with slathering fangs and wicked claws. Jake charged, his gauntleted hands capable of turning aside almost any blade, and the creature failed to land a single hit before its skull was shattered by Jakes fists, and the mushroomfolk rammed a dagger into its heart. After carrying the corpse back to his home and butchering it, two particularly large claws were claimed by the mushroom creature and Jake sold the rest.
The forest is calm tonight, the gentle evening breeze rustling the leaves of the trees all around a small camp made for two. They sit on logs, conversing idly about their travels and previous adventures. One talks much more though, a broad, muscle-bound man who calls himself Xiang Lu, loudly reminiscing about crashed parties, blackout drinking, and (most importantly to his audience) tales of adventure and danger. Lohse, a tiefling woman, plucks at her lute, adding a little bit of melody to his story, though quiet enough not to interrupt. It's been a little over a week since the pair met and began to travel. Fast friends, they make, though Lohse prefers to act as though that isn't the case. Xiang has rationed his alcohol consumption on the road, so he has been a bit more lucid than before. His stories remain the same, though, tales about a damn-near abusive teacher who he calls Sensei. Stories about his old friends and their dangerous exploits trying to survive their tutelage. He points to scars on his chest, arms, and legs, recalling where and how he got them. No, Xiang is not a terribly knowledgeable individual about books or magic, but he knows a lot about himself, as he has forged his instincts in the flames of constant danger. He learned countless lessons through slamming his head against them, perhaps one of the many reasons why it doesn't appear that he has so much going on up there.
"Lohse, stand up with me, I want to show you a technique," He says, reaching to the drinking gourd at his hip.
"Don't blame me for the hangover you get tomorrow," she says, watching as Xiang takes a long gulp of his high-quality “wine.” She's tasted it before, more like poison it is. Surprising he can stand straight after taking such large mouthfuls, though she's had her suspicions about how much he actually drinks in the first place. After his long swig, Lohse sees his legs beginning to shake. She raises her eyebrow at him, unsure of whether to help or stand back and watch. He begins to step forward, unstably swaying from side to side. His wine has spilled down the sides of his mouth onto the side of his robe, leaving a darkened stain to join the countless others.
"I want you to hit me," he says with slurred words, mouth pulling up into a dazed grin. "Come on, it'll be easy, right? Hit me!" He starts turning, looking out and up towards the trees and towards the stars, beginning to him a melody in his throat.
Lohse leans down to grab a rock, then tosses it at him. Xiang steps just out of the way, stumbling to his right with a little laugh. "Oh, what? You call that a throw? I could do better and I'm *hic* tipsy." Lohse reaches for another one, slightly heftier this time, throwing it with a little extra juice. This time, Xiang directs the rock away from his body, using the back of his hand and his forearm to deflect the projectile to the ground. "Wow! You're a weakling, Bahahaha," he taunts, taking another step forward.
Lohse grits her teeth, "Yeah, and you're drunk, go to sleep," she says before strumming a fiery chord. Three blue fireballs ignite around her, outlining her in a cobalt glow.
"What’re ‘a gonna do with that, huh? Light me on fire?" Xiang says, taking another stumbling step forward. He reaches out lazily, and makes a "come here" motion with his hand.
"Your funeral," Lohse says as she plucks the lute three times, sending the scalding projectiles towards Xiang. That dull, inebriated expression suddenly changes to focus as the blazes swirl towards him. He steps forward, twisting his body back and to the left as the first fireball streaks past where he would have been standing just milliseconds ago, though this seems to put him into an unstable position. His leg muscles twitch as he leaps up from this awkward stance, cartwheeling with one hand in a backwards flip to dodge the second flame. The third attack comes swiftly afterwards, targeting the center of his abdomen. He goes limp, dropping straight to the ground in a plank, the back of his robes left with specks of black burns as the final fireball speeds past him into the forest. He looks up at Lohse with a confident grin before using his arms to throw himself back up to a standing position, directly from horizontal to vertical, a small puff of dirt emanating from where he pushed off.
Xiang begins to laugh madly, smacking his belly a few times. "Oh, wow, that was really close, remind me not to piss you off too much," he says, strolling jovially back to his spot next to the campfire. "The Eight Drunken Masters are unpredictable, and easy to underestimate. Their strength not only comes from here," he points to his arms, "but also how they get into there," he points to Lohse's head. She takes a few steps forward, mostly in disbelief of his trained athleticism. "'Woe to fools who believe the Masters' movements to be unstable, for those who underestimate their opponent are sure to receive swift punishment.' That's what Sensei said... He said a lot of things, really, he even tried to get me to stop drinking!" he shouts with a laughter, "What do you mean that we're not actually supposed to be drunk? Why's that the name then??"
Lohse shakes her head, taking her seat across the campfire from Xiang. "If that's what keeps you standing, then keep drinking big guy."
"Aha! Don't need to tell me twice!" Xiang says after taking another swig from his gourd.
The flames lapped at his core, scorching his insides with every breath. Ever since his return from the quest two months ago, his Qi had experienced a potent change, only growing stronger with each passing day, and he could hardly bear the relentless hunger of his internal fire, still lashed by the forge within him, but only contained, not controlled. The near limitless well of energy now seemed as much a curse as a blessing, his body no longer able to sink into the sweet release of sleep every night, his needs for food and water no longer potent enough to drive him past the pain, all he could do was try to focus, hone his concentration into a powerful blade and cut away any distractions. Finally, the new manual arrived, a technique for furthering the bodies refinement, to further forge the iron of his flesh into a perfect form. All it required... was exposure to strong, magical flames. Jake was struck with an epiphany as to why he struggled so with his Qi, he had unwittingly skipped a stage in his training, and was trying to use an advanced technique without proper guidance, but no longer would he have to suffer. The new manual contained instructions for the proper control of the fire-enhanced Qi, allowing him to direct it and even generate controlled ignitions within a short distance from his body, the flames rapidly growing, but nowhere near to the intensity of the ones which had first reforge him. As he looked upon his body, finally completing the next stage of its refinement, he seemed to notice, an slight increase in size, as well as a deepening of the hue of his skin.
So while I was helping a Tabaxi named Sellyteth get customers for a potion shop, I was approached by a vampire by the name of Drussilla, who wanted to hire me, Yu, and Selly to protect some workers, while they build a house In Fervola, and she would pay us handsomely. I accepted the deal, as did Yu and Sellyteth, and we were all paid in advance, with the threat that if we ran, we would be tracked down, and killed for running and abandoning the job like cowards. After making a deal to take a detour to the potion shop Sellyteth wanted customers for, and all of us making preperations for the journey, including food and supplies. after a few days of trecking through the damp, humid swamps of Humilia, we ran into Mask's shop, the shop Sellyteth was trying to get customers for, and Drussila and the workers proceeded to clear out Mask's inventory of healing potions, and Drussilla proceed to reccomend to Mask that he prepare more stock next time, so it seems he might have some consistent customers soon. we then continued on our journey to Fervola, and we set up camp there, and the constrution workers prepared to start building a home there, when a voice from the woods, which were later revealed to be the voice of a Fay, spoke to us that we were not welcome here, and proceeded to threaten to kill us. I considered running after the voice revealed themselves to be a Fay, as you do NOT fuck with the Fay. Drussilla threatend us to stay, and after a tense argument, which I had to desclate at some points, Drussila admitted we needed to go back, and we all went our seperate ways, after Drussila told me that the Shadow pine was in a different realm, so Ill still need to make the journey to Cognerous.
Once Jake was returned home, the next manual was where the oil lamp once sat. Inside was detailed the most basic of the techniques for circulating Qi throughout his body that he would be learning, finally allowing him to understand the true nature of his transformation. The manual detailed the rhythm in which he would need to breathe in order for the circulation to be properly maintained, the focus necessary for it requiring Jake to meditate constantly to maintain it, but as he meditated, he could feel his Qi breath new life into his metallic body, revitalising minor bruising and sore muscles from his training routine as his metallic skin began to gleam, as if polished. He could practically feel the meditation technique synchronising with the earlier techniques, working together to amplify the effects of one another to new heights. As he practiced his meditation, he could already feel the nascent forms of further techniques beginning to gestate within him, the properly commanded Qi gathering and growing and flowing as he willed it to, making him feel stronger with every breath. It would take further manuals to properly apply this nascent power as true techniques, and even with the accelerated growth from these quests he undertook, it would take him years to understand and master the true depths of his techniques, the untapped potential only truly revealed as they acted in tandem, physique being augmented by training, which was supplemented by the regenerative and enhancing properties of Qi. All in due time.
After completing their first quest, Sowdiebop and Jake had to make their way home on foot. Given the little Kobolds injuries, Jake thought it only right to carry the talkative little creature back to town himself, the route they had taken to get to the heart of the swamp only slightly less dangerous from their earlier passage. Once the little Kobold was safely home, Jake remained for a drink of Sowdiebops much beloved invention, sowdie, and some polit econversation, before returning home to resume his training. Once he finally arrived, the journey fortunately less arduous than his earlier quest, he found the promised payment for his job sitting just inside of his home, the next manual in the set for training his martial arts. The next stage of training of the 'Iron Body Technique' involved forging ones body in extreme heat, tempering it to become similar to forged iron and becoming a living suit of armour, as well as granting a moderate increase to the practitioners physical strength. Setting up the appropriate training area for the technique was a time consuming task, requiring him to haul lumber to build a pyre and gather water enough to fill a massive cauldron. The training manual gave instruction that the heat should be gradually increased as the practitioner adapted, and gave a set of breathing exercises to do while the body was forged to properly complete the technique, though it would take him many months to hone it to perfection. Once he was ready, Jake climbed into the cauldron and set the pyre alight, having only added a small amount of wood so far, and waited for his body to be forged. But something odd happened, an energy buzzing just beneath his skin since the completion of his quest, one he had mistaken for an adrenaline high and disregarded, seemed to react to the process, cycling through his body in a pattern that the training manual had said would take months to achieve. Jake leapt from the cauldron, stacking more wood into the flames before leaping back in, having to repeat this process several times to keep pace with how rapidly his training progressed, and within a mere 3 days he emerged no longer a normal man, but a true martial artist, with a body like iron and Qi circulating within his veins.
A high fantasy world full of all kinds of wonder, magic and danger. It is set in a middle ages type time, so there is *almost* no technology. 96% D&D ported to the contract.
Magic is very common in this world. Many creatures and people are inherently born with magic, but an impressive feat is still an impressive feat.
Those who employ contractors on games can take many forms. Any remotely powerful being, be it a wizard, a deity, a lich, an archfey ect can deploy people on missions and reward them with powers or magical items. Contractor types aren't particularly rare either, many people seek power from gifted beings.