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A note from puddles4263

2/17

The Village inside the fortification was now neatly organized, which showed that when the reorganization happened, Mrs. Hamilton had a powerful influence in the way it turned out. The whole thing stunk of redundancies and planning. Randidly looked from Raina’s picture to the actual valley below.

She had done a great job of splitting the fortified area into the housing, the storage, the kept Dungeon, and the market quarters. It was absolutely swarming with people in real life, but in the picture, it was a pristine and empty world. Strangely beautiful, in a way, if surreal.

Beyond the main part of Donnyton was more training grounds, and then the armor and weapon industrial complex, that had become perhaps the most sizable portion of the town. From the plateau to the quarry, everything had been transformed into a materials processing and forging area.

While they didn’t really have any “industry”, as the discussion about how big to make their electricity generator, and how to do it, was still ongoing, there was a precision and efficiency in construction that spoke for Samuel Hoss’ very methodical planning. This area would serve as the basis for Donnyton’s strength, even if other locations passed them in other areas. Plus, with the support with the rare mine location, the products would be a level above anywhere else.

Donnyton was the foremost leader in equipment for the Zone. So much so that there wasn’t really anywhere that was in 2nd place.

It was a good thing too. The draw of access to this level of production and materials would pull talents from other locations. Merchants would cluster around Donnyton like flies, bringing their small wares from other locations, desperate to obtain the treasures that were routinely produced here, to take back to their home Villages and sell for a huge profit.

“It’s perfect,” Randidly said, surprising himself with the awe in his tone, still studying the drawing. The different locales of the picture were drawn in different styles, really emphasizing the different flavor of each zone. It was… honestly, less a map, and more a piece of art.

“Do you like it? You can have it, if you want. I don’t do it everyday, but I like drawing Donnyton, so it’s not like these sort of drawings are rather rare, so…” Raina said, shrugging and ripping off the page to offer it to him. Randidly took it, carefully rolling it up, and then placing it into his ring.

At some point he would find a home, even if it was a small hut, just like his old one. And there, he would proudly hang it on the wall, showing the world what he had started. Not every stone, or even a significant portion, had been laid by him, but he had set everything in motion. Inciting Action, as he was named by Lyra.

He felt a small pang of worry for her, because she really hadn’t turned up, even after a day, but a few things set his mind at ease. First, if she died, something bad would have happened to the Village, and everything appeared to be running as normal. Second, she was strong, stronger than most people gave her credit for. Most people got stuck on her beauty, or the sharp, acidic edge of her tongue, and very few people could see past that, to the person she really was. After the time they spent together, even influenced strongly by the System, Randidly believed that he had peaked a little behind the curtain, and what he found was stubbornness and steel.

Finally, because she said to trust her. It didn’t help his stomach sit well, but it was enough for him to do his best to relax. All he could do for now is wait.

“...you asked me what I thought about Donnyton.” Raina said slowly. “I think… I think that up until now, we have almost been in the honeymoon phase with it, like a relationship. Everyone started from nothing, and we all worked together to build it to this. It’s a beautiful thing. Here we have hot water, we have alcohol, we have the best Squads to push back the monsters…”

There she paused, and Randidly could feel the air becoming filled with the smell of fear. “But beyond every honeymoon is the real world, and that’s work. There has already been some friction between us and Franksburg. Some tension regarding the fact that Lucifer was the one who slew the first Tier III Raid Boss. Craftsman from other locations come to Donnyton and are laughed at, because they don’t know about using a method to forge. There is no real location for the travelers to stay, so they camp out beyond the Safe Zone, paying Donnyton for use of a Squad for protection. It… hasn’t become anything yet, but…”

Randidly frowned. Portions of those issues were in Mrs. Hamilton’s reports, but mostly, she dealt with hard facts and logistical problems. This was… this was more spiritual. What was needed was not really a solution, but a change in attitude. And honestly…

Randidly spared Raina a glance, but remained quiet as she continued speaking.

“The big projects have sustained us for too long, as well. The economy is.... well confusing. I take deals I know are bad all the time because there is no real money, and I’m not sure someone else isn’t going to come along and do something similar to me, and I’d lose all my business just like that. And beyond the basic necessities, there is too much demand for some of the high end products. And holy shit, we need fucking restaurants!”

Now she gave Randidly a pointed look, and he chuckled, almost in spite of himself. He drummed his fingers on his legs, thinking all of this information over, combining it with the things he had learned from Mrs. Hamilton. He still had the letters he had made, intending to hand deliver them, but it was a good thing she had insisted on this, because Raina’s words changed what he thought about the situation. He would be shifting the focus, somewhat…

“Raina…” Randidly said slowly, calculating times. He closed his eyes and sighed. This would definitely cut into some of what he wanted to do. But again, prioritizing the long term was smart, as long as it didn’t jeopardize the short term. And in the meantime, Lucretia continued to help his inner world digest those huge shards of Aether, that had constituted the Creature’s construct. Slowly, that was pushing his Aether Manipulation up passively, but it was mostly benefiting his Living Aether Skill.

All in all, he could afford for his attention to be divided.

“...would you like to help me throw a party?”

Raina blinked. “Eh…?”

*****

Thea spat out a mouthful of blood, collapsing. All four of them lay on the ground, groaning, while Alana stood above them, her expression bright.

“Haha! Truly, there is nothing better than some light exercise.” Alana said, looking truly refreshed. She grinned around at the others, who were in various stages between exhaustion and death. “So I suppose this is as far as you can manage. Still, an excellent effort. I was serious, by the end.”

Alice groaned and shifted, using her shield to attempt to stand. She failed, and just collapsed. Learning from her mistake, the other three people remained on the ground, just panting and trying to gather their wits.

“So, what did we learn about Skills?” Alana asked, looking around at them all.

Thea pressed her eyes shut. What she mostly learned was that she needed more Skills. It seemed that Alana, and to a lesser degree the three others around her, possessed at least 4 active Skills each, which raised their attack power. Thea had Heavy Blow, but using it was almost second nature at this point. Beyond that, she had Bear’s Fury, that gave her bonus Stats, and Retribution Strike, that did extra damage based on damage that she had taken, but neither held a candle to the strikes and charges that other people had.

It made her profoundly sad, and left her feeling slightly unlucky. After all, she had almost 100 PP saved up, Thea just wasn’t sure what sort of Path she should choose. Now, however, she was going to put some more points into her Brawler II Path, in the hopes she would obtain something powerful at the end.

“You have them,” Doug said sarcastically, managing to get up to his knees. Alana rolled her eyes at him.

“Other than that, of course.”

Alice hesitated, then said. “Well… it seems like you have multiple Skills for each action. And a Skill to use in the face of different eventualities. Basically, everything we threw at you, you had a Skill to counter it.”

“Ah good! That’s a start.” Alana said, accepting a bowl of soup from a man who walked around, offering them. The four’s soup just sat on the ground next to them. Thea’s stomach contracted, too bruised to suffer the presence of the food. “But of my Skills, what do you think made the most difference.”

“That light that improved your strength and speed. Absolutely broken…” Doug muttered.

Alana just laughed.

“Well…” Thea said, surprising herself. “Taking care of those bursts was doable, because it's pretty easy to notice… but the Child of the Sun Skill… its constant right? Just blinds the opponent a little constantly. That’s what annoyed me the most.”

“Ohoho, smart too, bear girl?” Alana said, but her voice was pleased. “Yes, that’s more on the right track. That also boosts my combat ability by the smallest margins, and my senses and predictive ability. Small across the board, but it adds up. It’s why keeping Physical Fitness and Fighting Proficiency and your individual weapon proficiency high are important; those are the things you don’t notice, but slowly edge out the opposition.”

“So those are the strongest Skills?” Thea asked, somewhat surprised. Her focus had been so much on the active Skills, she hadn’t really considered the passive ones. But it made sense that it would have a huge effect over time on their strength.

“Well, there is disagreement on that front for sure,” Alice pointed out, looking at Alana for confirmation. After she nodded, Alice continued. “...for example, that Skill of yours is indeed powerful. And Glendel’s Lvl 30 Skill… We’ve all seen him execute a Tier II Raid Boss with it, and extract it’s essence.”

“Glendel… is a special case. His Class is incredibly rare. But take for instance Lucifer. Do you know what his highest Leveled Skill is?”

When everyone said nothing, Alana smiled a small, bitter smile. “It’s called Tenacity for Life. It’s one of the only Rare ranked Skills on record. And it gives him a boost at… living. For whatever activity he deems fit for living, he’s just a little bit faster, stronger, better at it. And everytime his life gets close to ending… that Tenacity he has grows. Some say he’s almost Lvl 100 in it, and that’s why he is so strong. That’s why he treats his life so carelessly, so it grows more quickly.”

Then Alana shrugged. “But that’s just two very stark examples. You may choose whichever path you think is correct, but both of those individuals were blessed, in a way, and are far beyond what most people can hope to achieve. Just be aware of these issues, and use them as a guide, going forward.”

Thea nodded seriously, the wheels in her head slowly turning.

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