“Why didn’t he come himself?” Mrs. Hamilton asked quietly. Her hands were tightly folded in front of her, and Helen had the distinct impression that the other woman was only doing that to hide a tremor.
Helen didn’t know what to say to the question. She had some theories, but sharing them would be more painful than helpful. Instead, she ignored the words and walked over to the long wooden table in Mrs. Hamilton’s workshop. Helen had planned to grandly sweep every away, but when she approached the things she found there gave her pause.
Row after row of vividly colored liquid gleamed before her in streamlined tubes. Only after staring for a half-second did she realize that these were all potions. Seeing so many varieties of concentrated potions was a little shocking, even for Helen, so she settled on carefully moved the fragile glassware to the side before depositing her precious cargo on to the table.
Less dramatic, but Randidly’s orders hadn’t included any specifics; Helen was just a courier.
After waving her hand, four ripe fruits sat on the table. Immediately, the air in the workshop changed dramatically. In spite of herself, Helen breathed deeply inward as soon as she saw the fruits. Their rich aroma spiraled into her nostrils. From just breathing in their released energy, Helen felt a queer state of peace settle over her.
If she had looked at her Stats, Helen was sure that her Control and Focus had increased by a few points.
Mrs. Hamilton’s brows scrunched together as she took several short steps to approach the table. She didn’t immediately attempt to inspect the fruits. Instead, she removed a small walkie-talkie from her interspatial ring and spoke into it. “Beryl? Make sure my private workroom is sealed.”
“Got it,” Came the crackling reply. In the next few seconds, Helen felt another change to the air in the workroom; the small flows of circulating air ceased.
Helen raised an eyebrow at Mrs. Hamilton. She had seen walkie-talkies and cell phones before, but mostly they were used by low-Level Squads. Seeing Mrs. Hamilton use it, when the messaging function provided by the System was so much more convenient, seemed rather strange.
“There’s someone in Donnyton who can interfere and change with System messages,” Mrs. Hamilton said lightly. “We are still trying to track down him or her… but suffice to say, there have been a few inexplicable disappearances of rare products recently. Not enough to motivate a full-scale investigation, but we have our feelers out.”
“...Isn’t it even more simple to overhear something using those devices?” Helen asked.
Chuckling, Mrs. Hamilton nodded as she cautiously reached down toward one of the fruits. “True. But then wouldn’t we know exactly where this mysterious person was going to strike? Anyways… these are…”
“A gift,” Helen said lightly. Which was all the information Randidly told her to pass on to Mrs. Hamilton. Not that Helen knew much more than that, but she had her own guesses after seeing Randidly’s pale face after he made these. One she witnessed him condensed, but the others…
Randidly had already had those. And based upon the energy that was wafting away from the original three, these were a type of treasure that would grow more powerful as time passed. Although they were just fruit, Helen licked her lips greedily. Undoubtedly, eating them would be delicious.
Of the four fruits, the one Mrs. Hamilton lightly touched was a brilliant emerald color. Reflected by the thick energy around it, it was one of the original three. It was squat and plump, like a tomato. There was also a dusk colored banana, a golden acorn, and a crimson apple laid out rather casually around it.
Rather than picking them up, Mrs. Hamilton took an action that mystified Helen; she chopped sharply with her hand and split the emerald fruit in half. Juice splattered on the table as the two severed halves rocked back and forth. The sweet flesh of the fruit released an even more dense cloud of wafting energy. The air was practically abuzz with it.
But with glowing eyes, Mrs. Hamilton picked up the two halves and inspected them closely. Curious, Helen followed her gaze.
“So, there are seeds,” Mrs. Hamilton said softly. Helen nodded. Because as she looked at the two halves of the fruit, she sensed a specific flow of energy in the flesh, guiding energy toward those two seeds. Under the nourishment of the fruit’s energy, those seeds were covered with densely packed golden runes, too tiny and bright to read.
Randidly doesn’t casually give gifts, Helen thought with a little bit of awe.
With a wave of her hand, Mrs. Hamilton stored away the fruits. Surreptitiously, she then ran her finger along the juicy top of the desk and brought a bead of the fruit's nectar to her lips. After tasting, Mrs. Hamilton didn’t appear happy. In fact, her expression became guarded and grim as she considered the messy work table.
For several seconds, Helen was somewhat at a loss of what she could do. But then Mrs. Hamilton spoke again.
“Make sure you tell him… he is welcome to come back anytime. What happened at the challenge… is being dealt with. It will not happen again.”
Shaking her head, Helen walked toward the door. With her mission accomplished here, it was time she returned to Randidly’s side. “Doesn’t something like this only need to happen once, Mrs. Hamilton?”
Randidly massaged his temples, trying his best to figure out how to best utilize his large pile of PP that now filled his Path screen. Even after accomplishing the 3000 PP Path, Randidly still had a little over 4k PP to split between all his available Paths. But completing the Raiment of the World Tree Path had added two new choices to Randidly’s available Paths: Cleaver of the World Tree ??? and Weakness of the World Tree 0/500.
Things that come in sets of three… have meaning. They are bound by karma. Randidly thought with a frown. But while the Cleaver of the World Tree would probably give him a boost related to his offensive abilities like Raiment had boosted his defense, it was difficult to justify putting points into Weakness of the World Tree.
Because it was hard to see it as anything but a way to put a weakness directly into his Yggdrasil image. Could you lose stats from a Path? Could you obtain a passive Skill that impacted you negatively? If not the former, the latter was definitely possible. The fact that it was part of a group bound by karma meant that it wouldn’t be completely useless, but…
It was a dangerous prospect.
Shaking his head, Randidly looked again at the Paths he could choose.
Heretic XXIX 0/???, Nexus Traveler Cohort 5 0/50, Experimenter I 0/50, System Transgressor 0/1, Friend to Humanity 0/100, Mantle of the Patron 0/500, Metallurgist 0/300, Aether Convergence II ???, Perfect Soul Bond 0/1000, the Bell of Doom Tolls 0/600, Growth of Yggdrasil III 0/2000, Fiery Sharpshooter 0/350, The Ashes of Ulaat, Patron of Ash 0/1000, Order Ducis: Font of Guidance ???, Humanity’s Torch 0/500, Bearing of a Teacher ???, Puppet Master 0/100, Mana Lich 0/500, Pain Immunity I 0/250, Physique of the Grim Chimera 0/1000, Chimera’s Grudge I ???, Cleaver of the World Tree ???, Weakness of the World Tree 0/500
Heretic obviously would finish itself in good time, so Randidly had no reason to put points into it. But the rest of the Paths were on the table. With so many PP at his disposal, finishing off some of the easy Paths wouldn’t require much at all. Meanwhile, at the other end, Randidly was definitely looking at some of the higher cost Paths in order to improve his own personal power.
Yet Randidly’s gaze kept returning to the tiny Paths that he had never taken, even after all quite a lot of time of having them. Specifically, Nexus Traveler Cohort 5, Experimenter I, and Metallurgist. More than hoping for anything that would give him a powerful Skill, they would provide Stats and satisfy his curiosity. All told, these three would require only 400 PP to finish, and he would FINALLY know what rewards the provided. Especially the first two.
But still, Randidly cautiously looked at the other available Paths. There was no rush in choosing. In terms of Skills, Randidly suspected that he would get a useful harvest from Fiery Sharpshooter and Ashes of Ulaat. Mana Lich was another possible choice for a new Skill, but it seemed more likely he would just receive another large boost to his Mana pool and Regeneration. Not that such a thing wasn’t valuable, but as Randidly’s focus shifted more toward images, Mana had diminishing returns.
Growth of Yggdrasil III still was greyed out, but Randidly sensed that obtaining a couple hundred more Stats would open it up for him.
That thought immediately made Randidly wince. It seems I’ve really come far if suddenly obtaining a couple hundred stats seems like an easy feat… but with the aid of four thousand PP, it really shouldn’t be difficult…
Then Randidly shrugged. If his goal was to at least to unlock Growth of Yggdrasil III and get a solid start on finishing it, that probably meant he should save fifteen hundred of his gathered PP in order to dump into it. Although it was a lot to ask for several hundred stats from a few Paths, Randidly figured spending 2500 or so PP would get him there.
So, in order to satisfy his own curiosity, Randidly finished the three smaller Paths almost immediately. From Nexus Traveler Cohort 5, Randidly received one free Stat point every 5 PP spent, which was truly a harken back to the good old days. Experimenter I gave 1 Reaction every 5 PP, which also fine. Finally, Metallurgist gave 1 Control every 5 PP, which added quickly up after spending 300 PP on it.
Congratulations! You have completed the Nexus Traveler Cohort 5 Path! Although you were born on a lower Cohort, you have transcended your initial world to begin to explore the System! Although there exists a strict hierarchy within the System, such ambition will always be rewarded. So continue to ascend, moving on to higher places and larger rewards! Above, the Nexus awaits!
Congratulations! While on Cohort 5, you shall gather a small amount of bonus experience on every kill! It will be slightly easier to raise your Skill Levels!
Congratulations! You have completed the Experimenter I Path! By combining Skills and materials in strange ways, you have been able to understand that the rigid structure of the System is simply a guide; what you can do with it is only limited by your imagination! This Path takes many strange turns, but by the same token, it reveals the secrets of this wondrous world. Perception +20. You have gained the Skill Creator’s Luck Lvl 1!
Creator’s Luck Lvl 1: When combining disparate elements, there is a slightly increased chance of being successful! Effect increases with Skill Level. When combining disparate elements, there is a miniscule chance of an unexpected reaction occurring! Effect increases with Skill Level. When combining disparate elements, there is an almost nonexistent chance to create something truly special! Effect increases with Skill Level.
Congratulations! You have completed the Metallurgist Path! As the extracted bones of the Earth have been insufficient to meet your needs, you inevitably began to modify and enhance the materials around you. By walking this Path, the knack for creating something truly special will slowly emerge. Your familiarity with all forms of metal increases. Wisdom, Control, and Focus +20. You have earned the (Unique) Skill, Touch of the Ghosthound!
Touch of the Ghosthound (U): When you create a material, it will be permanently improved based upon a percentage of your own stats. The enhancements will be related to the type of material created. The specific percentage of your touch displayed will be based upon the Rarity of the created piece of equipment, when it is made. Higher Rarities will bring out more of the latent potential of your touch. Common: 1%, Uncommon: 3%, Rare: 5%, Ancient: 7%, Runic: 9%, Legendary: 10%, Mythic: 15%, Transcendental: 20%, Pinnacle 25%.
Randidly twitched very slightly. Immediately, he was punished for waiting so long to go through the Cohort 5 Path. The small amount of stats he gathered while finishing it was fine, but the reward was practically useless to him at the moment. Meanwhile, since he had spent several years on Tellus in various forms, the extra experience and Skill proficiencies would have been extremely valuable at the time.
To get it now just felt like the System was taunting him…
Meanwhile, the bonuses that Randidly got from the other two Paths were more pleasant. The Creator’s Luck didn’t have any direct effect, but it would likely help him as he returned to Erickson Steel to make metal or when he was working on Engraving. And due to the text, it seemed possible that it would also give him bonuses when adjusting Skills or perhaps even images.
Considering that Randidly still was in the process of figuring out the exact shape for his Yggdrasil Skillset, it would be valuable to push the Level of that Skill up some before he finally attempted to consolidate this core Skillset.
The bonus from Metallurgist was even more powerful. It had been quite some time since Randidly had received any Unique Skills, so he was immediately excited as he considered the effects. And since the bonus it gave was based upon his own stats…
Although a Pinnacle Rarity item was probably a long way away, it would mean that Randidly could create an item that would give the user an extra 250 or so Control…? Even if the item was the limit of Sam’s current abilities, a Legendary item, that was still a boost of 90 Control, should the bonus be the Control variety. That was in addition to any effects that the item would already possess.
...maybe I should spend more time working on creating metal in the upcoming days...