Jerome and Jameson watched the door close as Mr. Erickson took Jerome’s armor into his forge to “prepare” it.
Then they looked at each other.
“500 coins?” Jerome said as he scrunched his brow together.
“So cheap!” Jameson said with a sigh. “Like I said, I don’t think he has spent much time around people for a while.”
“The so-called ‘Hermit Master’?” Leaning back, Jerome looked up at the dark clouds above.
Jerome’s precious Level 55 armor that he had passed onto Erickson was something that he had only been able to purchase after gathering 1200 coins over the course of almost 6 months. During that time, Jerome lived on gruel and water.
With the armor, Jerome hoped to be able to fight against higher Leveled monsters to speed up his journey to Level 50. As it was… it was extremely slow going.
But even with armor… the rest of Jerome’s Squad wasn’t at a Level that they could keep up with him. And these days, it was very rare to find a monster that was possible for one man to tank. The common groupings of monsters were either a bunch that traveled in a pack or a single entity that was two stories tall. So despite the investment, experience continued to trickle in at a very unsatisfactory speed.
But when Jerome saw the shield that Jameson was selling… there was one particular line that caught his eye.
(Skill Level Limited by Item Level)
Eyes flashing, Jerome pressed his hands into fists. This man had killed beasts at Level 62 and 71. Likely he was part of a larger party, but there were very few groups in the world that were so capable that they could casually toss aside the bodies of their victims for chump change. Plus with the name of Erickson…
Jerome quickly devolved into a daydream about summoning an impossibly tall wall of emerald flames in order to isolate his enemies into reasonable numbers. Jamison wondered if he could obtain another windfall as he had earlier in the day while being filled with a deep fear of the man’s burning emerald eyes when he had demanded that no more people come to bother him.
But only 30 minutes later, Erickson returned out of his hut with a confused expression as he looked at Jerome’s armor. For several long seconds, the two men waiting outside couldn’t understand what was going on. Then, they both came to the same conclusion.
Instantly, it was like the floor fell out from under Jerome. He felt a flash of panic as he stumbled to his feet. The fact that Erickson returned so quickly could only mean one thing-
“It’s done,” Erickson announced.
“...eh?” Jerome blinked.
Erickson offered him the armor and he took it almost reflexively. Blinking slowly, Jerome looked down at the armor.
Wasn’t the short time frame more in line with a failure? Jerome almost had a heart attack thinking it was possible that the Mana Engraving had damaged the armor. There weren’t many Engravers in Donnyton, but there were enough that Jerome was familiar with the advantages and disadvantages.
And for most people, the benefit of twenty or so stats from the Engraving wasn’t enough to outweigh the cataclysmically bad loss he would experience if the armor was damaged. It didn’t happen often, but it was possible. Just a few critical failures while the Engravers were gaining experience was enough to sour most of Donnyton to the prospect. These days, very few armors were engraved not by the maker of the armor.
But the armor in his hands…
Masterwork Plate Armor ® Lvl 55: A powerful centerpiece of a suit of armor designed for a knight. Increases the effectiveness of Knight related Class Skills. Also vastly increases the wearer’s physical resistance. Purified Steel II. 1001 Hammering Technique I. Skill Lvl 55: Sea of Emerald Flames (Skill Level Limited by Item Level)
Sea of Emerald Flames ® Lvl 55: Conjure a sea of emerald flames around the user. The amount of flames conjured by the user increases with Skill Level(NA, growth impossible). User can manipulate the flames to form both defensive structures and attacks. Control and capability increases with Skill Level(NA, growth impossible). Allies within the Sea of Emerald Flames will increase the Health Regeneration by a moderate amount. Effect increases with Skill Level(NA, growth impossible).
“It isn’t exactly what I set out to create, but… I did try to expand the effect.” Erickson said, shaking his head. “You are a knight yea? Hopefully, this will help you reach Level 50. Now, now the coins?”
Jerome’s eyes were as wide as plates as he stared at the same notification that had been present in the other armor. Skill Level Limited by Item Level. Did that mean that this man had the ability to Engrave at Levels above 55…?
Then a crazy thought occurred to Jerome and he froze. Slowly, a picture began to form in his mind.
Emerald eyes, short black hair, those training spears casually stuck into the ground…
Transcendental crafting Skill… here in Donnyton…
Randidly Ghosthound frowned at Jerome. “What is it?”
Feeling pleased that the strange High Knight had insisted on paying him double the quoted price for the result, Randidly returned to Engraving. For the rest of the night, he continued through a routine of Engraving, testing out his Leveling Engravings, training his images, and the Engraving solo Skills onto items.
Unfortunately, most of the equipment he made for himself in the hut was only in the high 40s or low 50s. Without a specific blacksmithing Skill, high-quality equipment was impossible to just make out of thin air.
Honestly, Randidly suspected most people would be as shocked as the High Knight had been that he could just casually make items at the level. Still, Randidly clicked his tongue at this rather annoying limitation. But he knew learning blacksmithing now was not the answer; he had already wasted more than enough time working on his own engraving.
Besides, the morning meant a shift in his focus. This had been a break. After this, he had to prepare for his meeting with Donnyton’s leadership. In addition… this shift would mean the announcement of his presence in Donnyton
And that would mean that his movements would be restricted and travel made more obnoxious.
Dawn was just rising over the waking town of Donnyton, bathing it in a golden light. Therefore, Randidly planned on heading into the city and spending the money he had earned to get more materials. After all, things would… change soon.
But as he made to walk down the path toward Donnyton, Randidly paused.
One of his Riders had just died.
It wasn’t one of the original two that wandered away, but one of the three that he had sent after the first two the prior morning. In addition, Randidly noticed that the Level of the Skill had crept up four more Levels while he had been working through the night.
What the hell was going on with those Riders?!?
But then he shook his head. Well, regardless of what happened he was gaining Skill Levels. Hopefully, they weren’t marauding across the countryside for experience…
So Randidly proceeded down the dusty trail, through the outskirts of the Production District, and then into the Northern portion of Donnyton.
There he found a crowd of wide-eyed group of people silently waiting. At the head of the group was a certain very nervous butcher. Randidly froze, cursing himself inwardly. Because his mind was on the deceased Rider, he hadn’t been scanning his surroundings at all. It was only due to that he had walked right into this waiting trap.
For several seconds the silence stretched. Randidly considered his options. Running just seemed… immature. But he knew that very soon-
“Mr. Ghosthound,” A portly woman toward the front of the crowd said hesitantly. “I… I don’t suppose I can have your autograph? I’ve admired you and Donnyton for as long as I can remember…”
At lunch, Randidly recounting the events of the morning had Donny snorting into his meal. “Honestly, I’m more surprised you managed to keep your presence a secret for that long! Three days? Ha, what a record.”
“It’s just because so few recognize you,” Regina said with a nod. “But now your likeness is being spread everywhere. I doubt such a thing could happen again.”
Randidly dourly stared down at the tender filet in front of him. He sniffed it: musky and sour, yet extremely tender. Then he sighed. Most of his appetite was gone after awkwardly speaking with people the entire morning. They continued to gather and mob him, content to shake his hand and tell him their Class and touch Acri or Sulfur and speak about their dreams…
It was strangely innocent, almost childlike. But Randidly could feel fragments of their images slowly sinking into him as they pressed closer to him. Those small fragments gathered into the heavyweight of hope and expectation.
Pressing his eyes closed, Randidly finally released the tight fist of his unwillingness that had constricted slowly around his heart. Although the morning had been lost, he had truly gained something else.
Something heavy and unwieldy, but he knew that weight would come in handy someday. He forced himself to relax and accept the gift given to him. Slowly, his body and soul complied.
As his heart calmed, Randidly’s eyes opened. Time for business.