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A note from puddles4263

7/7

Grimly, Randidly peered through his water vapor at the monster that had managed to get a sucker punch in on him. I suppose that’s what I get for underestimating something that had surmounted Level 70… But what the hell is up with that arm…?

Being punched had hurt, but it wasn’t to the point where Randidly was seriously injured. The reason that Randidly was hesitating now was that his scan with Aether Detection ended in failure. When he saw that the name was hidden, Randidly initially didn’t care much. But after seeing how quick and powerful that extra arm was, as well as how hard its exoskeleton was, Randidly was intrigued. So he activated his Skill with the monster as the target.

Yet he found himself blocked when he attempted to scan it. Well, blocked was the wrong word.

It wasn’t some runic construct in the way, like occurred with Ajax, but instead… it was somewhat akin to driving on a familiar road home and suddenly encountering a minimall directly in the middle of the road. There was clearly something there, yet it… shouldn’t be there…?

Randidly could get some information from it, but it was arranged in a format that he didn't recognize. Information was flooding in but he couldn’t recognize what it was. And because the information was arriving at a strange place, Randidly wasn’t sure how to follow the information deeper to its core.

To do so, he would need to stop fighting it and study the flow of its Aether.

The Aether scanning was done mostly by feel, and the feeling was strange and unwelcome. And with this huge deluge of information screening his way deeper into the monster, he couldn’t find the information he was used to locating.

Honestly, it seemed like this monster had another entity entirely taking root in its chest…

Well, it will be much easier to investigate after I kill it, Randidly thought.

His feet blasted the water in the surrounding area away as he accelerated directly toward the boar monster. Surprisingly, it seemed to detect him by sound and twisted slightly so the side of its body with the maroon arm was leading. So it favored that arm? Something to remember.

Spear Advances, Ash Trails

Randidly’s speed rose even further, and Acri thrummed in glee as they shot forward toward the foe. Before it could even respond, Randidly’s charge crashed against the boar’s side.

BOOOM!

The force was deafening, even for him. Grimacing, Randidly avoided the long bone spikes from its back and sidestepped around to avoid the maroon arm. Plus, the counteract came quickly as well. Even if it wasn’t blessed with troublesome Skills, this defensive barrier was more than enough to leave Randidly frustrated.

He had left another crack in the bone exoskeleton, but it was so small that it would be easy to miss if you weren’t aware of what you were looking for. It would be difficult to pierce through to the vulnerable parts within without targeting one area several times in a row.

That vicious arm smashed its fist downward where Randidly had just been standing. The wave of dirty water from the blow was about as high as Randidly was tall, but with his Aether Perception, he could ignore his screened vision. Even though he didn’t understand what Aether Detection was telling him, he could still feel its presence.

Instead of advancing again, Randidly raised his hand and fired off several Verdant Bolts. Again, the emerald flames pierced through the water with soft hisses, cracking into the monster without any warning. The boar screeched in pain and stumbled backward as the heat penetrated through the exo-skeleton and to the vulnerable flesh beneath.

It was a roundabout method, but at least it was showing results.

Activating Eruption of the Blazing Leyline, Randidly lowered his stance and carefully watched the boar. Huge gouts of flame belched upward, submerging the boar’s body in fire. Once more, it danced to the side to avoid the flame that came out of the ground, but it was a bit too slow for Randidly’s taste.

Frigid Ash, Extinguishing Storm. The freezing flecks of energy spun outwards, chilling the surrounding water. Then Randidly put his image behind it and pushed. Advancing rapidly toward the boar, Randidly aimed to slow it to the point that he would be able to really smash a hole in its armor. Then, perhaps, he could get a handle on what the Aether was telling him...

Despite the restrictive nature of Randidly’s Skill and the previously inflicted fire damage, the boar nimbly danced to the side. Quickly too, which put Randidly directly to the monster’s right. The maroon limb clenched into a fist and swung to meet Randidly. At this point, there was little he could do, so he gathered Mana to himself for the counter-attack and braced himself for the impact. With his determined glare, Frigid Ash, Extinguishing Storm seemed to spin out even more quickly.

Small raindrops froze as they fell closer to Randidly, causing small snowflakes to spin away from him in a mesmerizing pattern. If the temperature had fallen that far, there was no way that the Skill hadn’t begun to work on the boar. Yet at the last second...

The boar stepped to the side, and Randidly and the maroon fist passed cleanly by each other. Randidly was shocked enough that he stumbled.

Immediately, Randidly swore inwardly. This thing was smart. He readied himself for its follow up blow, but it looked like… the maroon arm was furious. It flailed left and right and then slapped the boar upside the head, stumbling the monster. Blinking, Randidly considered this.

The boar shook its head and then gave Randidly a long look. As if seeing something within his shocked gaze, it turned and blurred into motion as it retreated out of the mist and zipped across the countryside. As the boar fled, the maroon arm seemed to realize what was happening and switched its target from its boar carrier to Randidly.

As the strange being disappeared out of sight, the fist shook itself in fury at Randidly, visibly swearing its eternal enmity. Although Randidly believed he could have overpowered it if he forced the fight, Randidly let the strange monster go. There were too many mysteries associated with it. Plus…

The look that the boar gave Randidly at the end was very clear: I do not want to fight you.

The boar was intelligent. And smart enough not to want to fight. But the arm had. Fascinating. Perhaps it was some sort of parasitic monster…? And that was the reason that he couldn’t read its Aether…? Were all monsters that reached Level 70 intelligent…?

Questions for later… For now, we need to keep moving.

As Randidly pondered it, he returned to Shual. “Alright, we are leaving.”

Shual poked his head out. Randidly almost felt bad to see how relieved the young frog looked. “Oh, you killed the monster?”

“No, I didn’t,” Randidly remarked. Then he turned and stared after the monster. His face twisted into a frown.

The direction it had fled was South. A coincidence?

*****

Two squirrels paused on the long branch of a nearby oak tree and considered this strange human. Ignoring them, Sam cracked his knuckles and ran his hands lovingly over the marble and gold table that made all of this possible.

Workbench of the Dawn Smith (L) Lvl 64: The seat of power for the Dawn Smith. A workbench that sits in the open air that will absorb the sun’s rays and grow in power. After a sufficient number of dawns pass, it is possible for the item Level to increase. While working on items on top of the workbench, the items will be enhanced by a fraction of this workbench’s power. Will slightly increase the chance of creating items at a higher rarity. Adds an extremely small chance to include bonus stats in an item. Control and Focus +20. Fixture Array II. Dawn Cocoon III. Toward the Final Sigh II.

Fixture Array II: This workbench is part of an array that will absorb an extremely small amount of energy from the surroundings. Effect increased on energy from the sun. As such, power in the surrounding area will concentrate here.

Dawn Cocoon III: While the Dawn Smith makes use of this Workbench, some of the gathered energy will fill the surrounding area and create a warmer and stabler environment. Adds a bonus 3% to crafting Skill Levels while using the Workbench.

Toward the Final Sigh II: Always dawn will come… until it won’t. This item will possess an increased resistance toward outward attacks that will grow until the sun no longer appears in the sky. Each Dawn sees its Endurance increase a minuscule amount.

The secret that Sam had discovered while testing out Form, Function, and Image as the correct approximation of the categories was thus: they had thought too simplistically about their ability to create “equipment”.

Furniture could give options too.

And the only reason he stumbled upon this delight was that Sam struggled for a long time to identify items that possessed various forms and functions. It was hard to think of weapons that varied overmuch from a central shape for reason other than material constraints. Well, that wasn’t true. Yet Sam felt bound by his own perfectionist nature. In his mind, there was one way to make the best longsword. Another way to make the best lance.

What he needed was an item that could be made with different forms and still have the same function. And these variations couldn’t be due to what the main material was. And he also didn’t wasn’t to simply add superfluous additions to a perfectly good weapon. What he needed was something a little… different.

Which was why Sam eventually arrived at furniture. Furniture was an area that had seen of innovative explosion immediately prior to the System. A lot of those designs had survived, demonstrating their value. And often the function would remain constant.

At first, Sam was dubious that he could create a piece of furniture that could possess stats. But he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why he believed that was true. It seemed like the only reason was that it hadn’t been done. Plus, all of the System buildings that assisted forging had special focuses that were all pieces of armor or weapons. No word of a carpentry station.

Likely this truth would have been discovered eventually, as the supply of furniture they were able to harvest from old warehouses around Franksburg ran dry. But that might not be for a while.

Which meant that Sam had an edge on the whole Earth. Likely even on Randidly. He was the only person who knew this possibility.

“It is a good feeling,” Sam said smugly, rubbing his hand lovingly over the workbench he had created. It was in an area a little bit distant from his usual workshop, in a deserted clearing that Sam sometimes wandered to in order to think. It stood in the midday sun, glowing greedily as it absorbed the energy in the surrounding area and grew more powerful.

It was a squat and heavy thing, made of carved marble with gold accents. Overall, it was relatively simple, almost austere. It was covered with simple engravings that would increase its resistance to physical blows, so the marble could actually withstand forging of more troublesome metals. Sam wasn’t as adept as Randidly, but he was probably the best Engraver in Donnyton at the moment. Creating the engravings hadn’t been a problem.

And it seemed that his plan to attach the array to the surrounding area to power the workbench was a success; hopefully, it would grow fast enough that Sam wouldn’t catch up to its capability to withstand force.

Humming to himself, Sam reached into his interspatial ring and seized the elemental incarnations that had been sent down from East End. Now that he had the capability and the materials… Sam supposed it was time to show off a bit.

We may not be the strongest… but you can bet we will catch up. No matter who attempts to triumph over us. Sam thought as he massaged his shoulders and sat back down at his workbench.

The array instantly activated, and a warm veil of light spread to cover his position. It felt extremely comfortable within that light. So comfortable that Sam laughed with delight. Then he coughed awkwardly and glanced around.

Luckily, no one was around to notice his unfiltered glee.

Thank god, Sam thought darkly. If Ed saw that… I would never live it down.

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