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A note from puddles4263

16/17

In a surprisingly short manner, Randidly looked at everything and selected the winners, ordering them cleanly and in a manner that Sam could find no fault with. Second place ended up going to a pair of eyeglasses that increased Mana Regeneration, Perception, and Reaction. Compared to them, the Ghosthound didn't put so much stock into the powerful weapons that were entered into the top 10. He gave the rewards to those that added bonus functions through the ritual of production, rather than straight Strength bonuses from powerful materials and larger weapons.

Although there were some extremely dissatisfied expressions, no one dared speak out, and Randidly calmly explained every decision that he made. Those expressions faded somewhat, but they settled into stubbornness, as the dissatisfied contestants squinted at Randidly. They surely had opinions, but it appeared that his succinct manner of delivery and his aura of majesty as the Ghosthound was enough to silence them.

It made Sam want to snort. No man should accept criticism of his work simply on the basis of the status of the speaker. It went against the pride of the craftsman. Not really his problem, however, but he would note those who probably had a good case for arguing for a better position in the ranking

Not that any of them was weak. But Sam was tired of constantly be growled at by surly smiths. A note over who would back down would be useful, to use as blackmail down the line. Sam’s mouth curled. Hehe, let these assholes dare complain before him in the future, after rolling over before the Ghosthound so meekly… he would see how strong their nerves were…

The process portion of the Production Assessment proceeded in a much more typical way. Not that the processes weren’t impressive and useful, just that there were less shocking than the prepared works. Which is how it should be. Sam would have been very disturbed if two hours of work would have been able to surpass the level of several weeks of toil.

There was a method for weaving some of the newly acquired Marrow Silk into very powerful and lightweight armor, there was a method of making “chainmail” from over-large loops of metal (only possible due to the System enhanced levels of strength), there was a fermentation method for quickly making pickled vegetables, and also a powerful fire strengthening ritual that could be added to most weapons post-forging, which would give an extra 7 to 10 points in his stats.

The fire strengthening ended up being the victor, due to the fact that someone was willing to give away their fire strengthening technique which would improve metal weapons across the board. Sam privately thought it was foolish to reveal the secrets, he applauded the sentiment, and publicly spoke words of thanks.

What he was surprised by was that Randidly stepped forward to speak.

“This… you could have kept this and made a lot of money, couldn’t you? It means a lot that you chose this… come here.” The Ghosthound extended his hand.

The man’s name was Callo, an overweight Italian man, and at first he seemed at a loss of what to do. But then, as the Ghosthound remained still, standing there, Callo stepped forward, allowing the Ghosthound to touch his shoulder.

The contact was brief, and then quickly broken. The Ghosthound’s hand fell to his side. “Consider it a gift. I think you’ll find… your future hard work won’t be in vain.”

Blinking in a daze, the man simply nodded, before he was lead away by his friends. The Ghosthound stared after him a while, and Sam stepped forward, going to his side.

“A reward?” Sam asked.

The reply was only a small smile, and a shrug. Sam wondered what it could have been. Then something clicked: the Ghosthound had made a connection similar to what that Sam himself enjoyed.

Interesting. So he had that ability… it also made sense. The greatest benefit that Sam had been able to intuit from his experience with the Blessing of the Ghosthound was that he could very easily develop and learn Skills. More than that, it was very easy for him to create Skills involving his specific processes, shaping the Skills in a manner that he wanted. If Callo could develop skills relating to the creating of forging processes… or the process itself…

His potential just skyrocketed, meanwhile the man was lead away giddy with the fact that he had been chosen as the winner. Well, one of two winners for the Production Assessment, but both would be awarded the maximum amount for their contributions. After all, Donnyton felt no compunction over shamelessly pushing most of the people towards production Classes.

Scratching his beard, Sam walked over towards the pre-prepared product winner. Long had he struggled inwardly over what he should give towards the Ghosthound, in terms of equipment. And for the first time in a while, he had the seed of an idea.

****

Unfortunately for Randidly, this was not exactly the sort of rest that he had in mind when he put off choosing his Path. This was simply busy work. So after the Production Assessment was finished, he disappeared, sneaking away while nobody was looking.

In a way, he felt a sharp stab of disappointment he hadn’t chosen to go the route of Disguise as the chosen Skill. It would have been much more useful in terms of allowing him to move through Donnyton without being harassed.

After the the constant struggles and studying, followed by the strange roller coaster of emotions with the Yggdrasil Skills, Randidly didn’t want to really focus on Aether. Also, although the fight against Alana was enjoyable, it wasn’t enough. Training his Skills, in a similar way, was not what he wanted at all. In fact, of all the things he could do, what he wanted was….

Randidly blinked, and then smiled.

****

Razor Fleetfoot, official embassador between Kith Klark and the Donnyton, wandered through the stalls in Donnyton’s market, licking his fingers greedily. After the initial friction between the two towns when they first encountered each other, over the past 6 months the two Villages had settled into a very mutually beneficial trade.

With the help of Donnyton’s superior numbers, Kith Klark was able to eliminate the Raid Bosses in the surrounding area, and put themselves in the position to secure a dominant presence in its Zone. As they were naturally very secretive and suspicious of the humans, most of the people of Kith Klark were content to allow the humans to handle things on their side, provide them with weapons and armor, while they supplied raw materials.

However, Razor was different. He found the human’s strength fascinating, especially because, by all accounts, the level of gains they obtained through their Class was so much smaller than theirs. In addition, they didn’t have access to Soul Skills like the denizens of Kith Klark did, through their animal totems. Yet at the same time…

It seemed like the flexibility and growth of the human’s skills surpassed anyone’s expectations. Especially….

Razor stared down at the item in his hand, which glistened when it caught the light. Truly, kebabs were the epitome of culinary delight…!

After ripping the meat off the skewers and licking the grease, Razor wandered to other places, looking for food. Most everyone was in festive spirits because of the Assessments that were going on in Donnyton, and they had set up dozens of special shops based on people who had made production items, and hadn’t won the competition.

And to pander to those people… the food had arrived. It was currently between the final two Assessments, and the area was filled with a throng of people, laughing and buying and exchanging the newly established Donnyton currency. It boggled Razor’s mind that none of his people wanted to enjoy this. They just wanted to sit in dusty rooms and extol the virtues of stoicism and the superiority of their tribal spirits.

Yet here there was-

Razor’s nose twitched, and instantly his eyes narrowed. This smell… this unfamiliar smell… and yet… his taste buds were already watering….!

Already his Discerning Nose Skill had reached Level 61, which allowed him to accurately move through the crowd and pick out any foods of interest. It was a point of pride for Razor that often times, the shops and stalls that he stopped at were soon swarmed with people, as he was the barometer of taste in Donnyton, despite the fact that he wasn’t a native.

His rabbit ears twitched, and he isolated the source of the smell, focusing intently. There were clangs… cracks… sizzles…. These noises were highly indicative of superb flavor…!

Spinning around, Razor utilized his unearthly grace and speed to rush through the crowd the 20 meters to the source. When he arrived, he passed a youth who was walked away with a cheeseburger on a wooden plate.

There was only a single man tending the small fire, over which there was a simple iron grill. To one side he had several bowls of spices, to another he a pile of ground up meat. In a low metal tray nestled in the coals there was an iron dish, in which a variety of root vegetables popped and sizzled merrily. As Razor arrived, the man was adding a sprinkle more to the mixture, and he looked up at Razor’s arrival.

Razor opened his mouth, then closed it.

The man was wearing sunglasses, and a bandana over his mouth, as if he was a notorious killer, trying to hide his identity.

“May I help you sir?” The man asked, straightening.

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