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A note from puddles4263

13/21

Thump.

Alice Wilde looked up from her danish, rather annoyed at the sudden interruption to one of her very few moments of peace. She was currently monitoring entrants and exits to Donnyton’s Dungeons and there was no one scheduled to enter for a while, so she was enjoying a rare moment of peace.

Honestly, playing babysitter with the Dungeons was one of her least favorite duties. Assholes usually liked to hang around after they cleared a Dungeon and brag about their accomplishments. Despite the fact that they could clearly see Alice’s emblem that indicated she was in the 20th Squad of Donnyton, and therefore eminently capable, most seemed to hope that she had slept her way into joining the Squad and treated her appropriately.

Still, they were just polite enough that Alice couldn’t justify reprimanding them. Or dragging them into a Dungeon and beating the shit out of them. As a frontline tanker, Alice packed more than enough punch to knock idiots like this on their assess.

But polite upbringing prevented her from crossing that line as long as they didn’t. So it was an endless parade of sludge that she was forced to slog through. One that she had believed was blissfully over when the System arrived but had very quickly reestablished itself after society managed to get back on its feet.

Such was human nature.

But it was due to these concerns that Alice valued her time alone so much-

Alice blinked. Groaning, the body that had collapsed outside of the Dungeon portal rolled onto her back. She spat blood to the side and then just lay there. A sharp dagger of guilt ripped Alice open from hip to shoulder.

After another blink, Alice dropped the danish in the dirt and hurried over to the wounded woman. Thank god it’s a woman. “Are you alright?”

She immediately realized how dumb the question sounded, but Alice couldn’t help herself. It came out like a reflex. Cursing her idiocy, Alice raised her hand and used Mending Touch. Very quickly, the worst of the gashes across woman’s upper torso knitted back together. The wounded woman released a relieved breath.

“Thank god,” She muttered as she sat up and spat out a fat glob of blood.

Alice put her hand on the other woman’s shoulder, inwardly marveling at how soft and clear her skin was. Probably not the time to mention that... “Ah… careful. This is my fault, I knew you had been gone for a while, but…”

Alice trailed off. Probably not a good idea to say that she had lost focus because a friend had brought an absolutely delicious danish from a cute little bakery that was becoming popular recently. Instead, Alice drank a Mana potion and used Mending Touch once more. It didn’t actually restore Health, but it would remove all of the wounds and the associated debuffs that would lower a person’s natural regeneration.

“Holy shit, no, no stop looking at me like a stepped on puppy. I’m just glad it turned out like this.” The woman said as she stood and stretched. “Thanks for that, by the way. Real convenient that you know healing magic.”

“Yea well, usually people wounded enough for it to matter can’t escape the Dungeon, so…” Now that the wounds were gone, Alice recognized her. Her name… was Helen right? The one who had come earlier and demanded entrance to the Dungeon. Since the woman had money and no one else was scheduled to use the Level 50 Dungeon Alice had allowed it, but…

Then Alice froze. Wait a second… if she had been gone for almost two hours in the Level 50 Dungeon… Didn’t that mean that Helen had been alone in the Dungeon for almost 3 months…?

The Level 50 Dungeon?

Alone?!

“Ah… you should…” Alice started, but then she trailed off. Aether Sickness was a problem that no one could avoid. What help could Alice give but go find a bed, and quick? If you spent too much time in a Dungeon, you simply weren’t able to function in the relatively thinner Aether of Earth. You would be bedridden for weeks.

“Right, wouldn’t have been able to try again if it wasn’t for you. Thanks again,” Helen said briskly. Then she walked right back up to the Dungeon and disappeared.

“You…” Alice tried to stop the other woman, but she was already gone.

“Crazy…” Alice said, looking down at her bloody hands. Then she looked over at the danish, lying discarded in the well-trodden dirt. After sighing, she said. “Seriously…? Why I am surrounded by so many weirdos…”

*****

Even with Sam’s very full complement of equipment, forging the metal that Randidly had created was difficult. Even he had a hard time believing how resilient the ingots he provided turned out to be.

When Randidly had given Sam the ingots, the other man had just grunted sourly, fiddled with one, tested their weight, and then nodded his head. As they got deeper into the creation of the molds for the arm and the shaping, however, Sam’s idle interest quickly sharpened to a viciously sharp point.

Very quickly, it was obvious that the heat produced by a normal forge wouldn’t be enough to melt the ingots. Not even close. Even when placed in a compression furnace, the process was slow to the point of being aggravating. Randidly was forced to show his hand and use his own Ignition of the Emerald Essence to rapidly heat the metal to the point that it would melt.

And even he could only cut the time in half; the metal stubbornly resisted all other influences.

Still, it was a lesson for Randidly that he shouldn’t take his Skill for granted. The fact that there was such a stark difference in the heat of the flames meant that his Skill was improving.

There was a moment in the midst of the sweating struggle that was the process of melting the ingots into the molds when Randidly could feel Sam, standing behind him, carefully considering the pile of ingots. Then Randidly felt Sam’s gaze shift to Randidly, where it remained for quite a long time. Even as he continued to exercise tight control over his flames, Randidly gritted his teeth.

Ultimately, Sam simply turned away without saying a word about the metal. He had chosen to go a different way.

As I thought. Sam… won’t accept this shortcut. He will find his own Path forward, Randidly thought as he bowed his head. Not that he could blame Sam; after all, Randidly had chosen the same path. Randidly just had the benefit of a very extensive headstart.

Luckily, Sam didn’t need much of an explanation for the details of what they were doing. A few seconds looking at the plans and the other man had been already on the move, gathering the materials they would need. While Randidly handled the treatment of his ingots, Sam prepared the molds that they would use to create the pieces of the arm.

As Randidly had discovered, the arm was to be made by layering hoops. Specifically, hoops which possessed outside edges which were slightly raised. Then these different sized hoops would just need to be slid inside of each other. The inner hoops were slightly smaller, so they couldn’t fit all the way through, and would protrude some distance forward. In this way, with an increasing number of hoops, the arm would slowly be built outward.

There were some complications due to the presence of a working elbow and the fingers, but the solutions created by the troublesome Spriggit Head Engineer were relatively clever and simplistic. Randidly was honestly impressed by how well Wendy was able to design when she had looked like a zombie.

Once the arm was assembled, all Randidly would need was a stop on the back, to keep any of the parts from falling off. That would be at Randidly’s shoulder. Sam already had rigged up a basic leather harness that would tie around his torso and act as the base to attach the arm to Randidly.

Perhaps due to his plans to create equipment for Randidly… Sam didn’t need to measure Randidly at all. And when the leather harness was thrown toward him, Randidly was surprised to find that it fit perfectly.

Randidly decided not to dwell too much on that strange fact.

Another benefit of this particular design was that, in theory, the arm could be “retracted” by pushing all the hoops back into themselves. The arm itself would be hollow which would allow the rest to slide neatly into place. In theory, at least. Randidly didn't think it would be so easily accomplishable in practice. Especially considering the hand and the elbow...

Still, that didn’t matter. Most of the control over the arm would fall on the runes Randidly would add to the metal later. So it was enough just to make sure the thing was mobile before Randidly started to plan out the runes in earnest.

The whole matter of “forging” the arm was something of a letdown. Once they had the molds, all they needed to do was pour the molten metal into them. Sam didn’t even bother with a sophisticated extraction method; due to the hardness of Randidly’s metal he felt confident enough to just smash the molds to pieces with a hammer. It was a bemused Randidly that watched Sma clear the entire set of molds with several devastating blows with the hammer.

It also made Randidly remember that very soon, he would fight against Sam. The challenge against Donnyton was a message meant for Sam as well.

At first, Randidly winced. But very quickly, a pile of elaborate hoops made of the silvery grey with emerald and crimson speckles appeared. In terms of efficiency, Randidly couldn’t deny that Sam’s methods achieved results.

In the end, the two men look at the scattered pile. Sam picked up a hoop and flicked it lightly.

Tingggg…

The clear ring of metal echoed throughout the workroom.

Sam couldn’t resist in allowing his face to break into a wide smile. “Good metal. Whoever made these plans… you owe them a favor. For all that the concept is a simple idea… the execution should be a bitch. Some of these hoops should be structurally flawed so that they could fit into a cohesive whole. Most of that weakness should be made up by combining a bunch together, but you should never be able to completely rid the inherent flaws. But these plans…”

Gesturing helplessly at Wendy’s scrawls, Sam grumbled. “But somehow, this guy manages to do exactly that. The slight alterations to shape in each iteration of the hoop… it's very precisely calculated. Combine that with the material… and well…”

Sam trailed off as he stared toward the horizon. Seeing that he was lost in his own thoughts, Randidly swept up all of the pieces into his ring. Next would be the Engraving, which may or may not be the most difficult portion of the entire project. It would take some experimentation to find out.

“...it’s given me some ideas though. For your armor. What you look like. What you are…” Sam said slowly, pulling Randidly’s gaze back to him. Randidly tilted his head to the side.

Putting out his hand, Sam grinned like a wolf. “Look forward to it. With this stuff in mind… I’m going to transform you into a monster.”

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puddles4263

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